Linen, Liberty and Nell

Linen, Liberty and Nell


A Verb for Keeping Warm is a new-to-me pattern line from a yarn, fabric and dying bricks-and-mortar shop of the same name in Oakland, California.  Their about page explains more:

Spinning, dyeing, knitting, felting, weaving, and sewing are all verbs used to describe how communities have created cloth, garments, and other fiber-based goods. Such acts embody love and creativity. And such objects provide protection from the elements and keep us warm. Our company honors these traditions by offering a wide range of textile related raw materials, such as fiber, yarn, and fabric, along with classes to instill the skill and practice of creating your own clothing and warmth. 

To me, that just sounds like one big, long hug from a dear old friend.


Enough of the warm and fuzzies, I’m here to tell you about the Nell Shirt.  I can’t remember how I stumbled across this pattern (there are very few versions of this shirt on the internet or social media) but the interesting collar and cuffs drew me in.  I purchased the paper version of the pattern from Caitlan at Indie Stitches.

The Nell Shirt Pattern - DOWNLOAD

The sizing of the pattern is a little different to what I’m used to… it relates to the bust measurement of the finished shirt.  I made the size 39″ (which allowed for 2.5″ of ease) and I’m happy with the fit.  This is one of those rare pattern that fits me out of the box without any alterations!



Let’s talk fabrics.  The grey linen is a remnant (yes, another remnant!) from Tessuti and the Liberty is from my stash.  Although grey is a colour I can wear, I tend to lean toward brighter hues, so for this make (and I was aiming for a wearable muslin) I added a splash of Liberty to brighten things up.  To say I’m a little pleased with the outcome is an understatement.  After I finished my Nell Shirt I tried it on and I didn’t want to take it off.


The pattern is well drafted, and it came together nicely, but at times it did seem like a labour of love.  It’s fair to say that I often sew simple patterns with only a few pattern pieces that can be sewn up in a few hours.  This is not one of those patterns, and I must confess that I got a little shock when I was working on the front bib lining and the instructions said ‘finish by hand’.  Perhaps sewing patterns including hand stitching should come with warning labels for lazy bones like me?


On reflection, I actually really enjoyed being challenged, and dare I admit, a little out of my comfort zone with this make.  For the first time in a long time I had to read, rather than skim, the sewing instructions.  The instructions are grouped into sections and are easy to follow, but they do assume a certain level of skill.  I did find it a little confusing how to sew the v-front, but the lovely Lara talked me through her way of doing it and it worked a treat (yah for sewing friends!).  One super small thing that was missed in the instructions… please add ‘back lining armhole edge’ to the list of pattern pieces to be overlocked or zigzagged before you begin sewing.

Speaking of the back lining, I also deviated from the pattern to sew down the lower edge of the back lining.  I have a ‘thing’ about unfinished raw edges on necklines with facings.  Sewing them down helps me sleep soundly at night (sad but true)!


One tiny disappointing thing about my shirt is that I followed the instructions on the pattern piece and cut the back lining from the main fabric without reading the cutting information.  Those cutting instructions on the inside cover were a little more detailed and suggest you cut the back lining from either the main fabric or the lining fabric.  The back lining would have looked better in Liberty (see photo above) but it’s not a deal breaker.

Nell instructions 2

Nell Instructions 1

In my opinion, it’s all the little details that make the Nell Shirt a winner.  The gathering at the bottom of the front bib and the sleeves, the interesting collar (both front and back), the cuffs and the shirt-tail hem.  The contrast collar and cuffs are right up my alley and didn’t disappoint.


I can definitely see more Nell’s in my wardrobe.  I might even dip into my Nani Iro stash for version number two.  And as a reminder for myself for future versions:

  • Understitch the collar and cuffs seam allowances to the main fabric (I will always wear the shirt with the linings on show)
  • Hem the front and back pieces before joining the side seams for an neater shirt-tail hem

After success with Nell, I’ve just ordered the Uptown Top Pattern.


Pattern:  A Verb for Keeping Warm’s Nell Shirt (paper (US readers), paper (Australian readers) or pdf
Linen remnant from Tessuti & Liberty from the stash
Sewed down the lower edge of the back lining
Accessories:  Boots from Florsheim


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  • Haha a little warning about handstitching would be nice 😊 What a lovely top! I actually really like it grey with a splash of colour. No mods is a rare thing!

    • No mods is a very rare thing for me Jenya and a welcome change. How many of these do you think I can have in my wardrobe before people cotton on that it’s the same pattern?

  • Ohhh, I like it!! 😉 All those little details are gorgeous, and you chose a simply perfect Liberty contrast. Thanks (I think) for introducing me to a new pattern company 😉

  • Very nice! I like the contrasting collar and cuffs the best! Perfect details. I’ll have to check out that pattern.

  • Cute shirt, your fabric combo is lovely and another new to me pattern company!

    • Thanks Barbara. There are so many independent pattern companies these day it’s actually hard to keep on top of. Making this shirt felt like a gamble, as there aren’t many examples online, but it was a gamble that paid off and that I’m pleased I took.

  • Love it . Just ordered it . Thanks for the post

  • A very lovely top with great attention to detail. The Liberty lining is marvellous.

  • Wow, beautiful! I’m so impressed with those cuffs – a beautiful detail.

  • A tunic with some lovely unique details. Just beautiful!

  • Anna, you did a fabulous job on this pattern. Using Liberty as contrast really adds sparkle to that top where the details could’ve been lost! I have two of their older patterns but have yet to sew them up. I prefer to have lots of visuals in my instructions and there were barely any so that’s put me off. But I think you’ve sold me on this top! Looking forward to see what fabrics you’ll use next!

    • I must admit I go a bit blank myself when there are lots of words without diagrams or photos. I think the design and drafting of this pattern line if great and we might just have to over-look the wordy instructions. Looking forward to seeing you makes.

  • Very nice indeed- more fitted than your ususal look, but it really works! In fact- I’ve had to buy the pattern. Whoops!

  • This is my favorite Nell I’ve seen so far. Your choice of fabrics is perfect and the fit is really nice. A Verb for Keeping Warm is one of my local businesses (support Oakland business!). Their selection is small, but beautifully curated. The ladies who run the place are warm and friendly, and they even have a basket of toys for my kids to play with while I browse! So yeah, I’m there quite a lot!!!

    • Oh Inder you are so lucky to be able to pop into what looks like a wonderful shop. Yah for local crafting businesses! Thanks for your lovely feedback about my shirt. I’m thrilled with the result and predict a couple more Nell’s will join my closet soon…

  • I like this one a lot Anna. I would have gone with grey on grey cause the shape itself is so interesting, but that’s just me being beige. The liberty suits you perfectly!

    • I think we both sew to our strengths with regards to patterns, fabric and style and that’s a good thing. No point making you look like a rainbow and dressing me dark colours from head to toe… it just won’t be right. And you are far from beige…

  • That is a great shirt. I have a low budget and have bought no indie patterns as I think they are not very original. I love the collar and cuff details on this. This is the sort of original detail I expect in an indie pattern (really is there anything really original nowadays?). I love the grey linen and I think you could make heaps of these in so many fabrics and not many people will cotton on! Hey see what I did there! Go forth and multiply!

    • I have to agree with you that this is a original design… well it stands out as being different to the current offerings from the big pattern companies and the little ones. Oh I love a pun… I have some brushed cotton and cotton shirting put aside for my next two versions. I might even cut them out today!

  • I saw this pattern a while ago and on their sample photo thought the fabric looked ‘bunched up’ between the shoulders and bib so gave it a miss thinking – if they can’t get it right then I have no chance!

    Well you have done it again Anna – it’s wonderful and with no bunching in sight, so I’ll add this pattern to my wish list 🙂

    • I must admit, this was a gamble sew and thankfully it payed off. It’s interesting how fabric can really change a garment. I’m expect the sample was sewn in a medium weight linen or cotton. So yes, another new pattern for you to sneak into in your sewing room (sorry!).

  • Love all the details in this make. I hear you about sewing simple things and then deciding to tackle something more fussy. But it was worth it! And quite frankly I think yours should be used for the product photo – there’s something funky going on with the bib front on the modelled pattern shot – perhaps a good pressing would have sorted it out 🙂

  • I just got mine in the mail today. I’m going to visit old friends in the Bay Area this month and it’s one of the shops I wanted to see, and I was surprised to see this pattern there — I hadn’t heard of it either and NOBODY is sewing it and, for me, that’s a nice suprise (I hate when everyone is sewing the same thing). I really love this and I wanted to sew it from a double gauze but I have plenty of great stuff in my stash including a beautiful piece of blue brushed cotton….yes! I love the idea of liberty, which I might do myself. You look great in yours! Last weekend I sewed the Merchant & Mills Top 64 and I had the same reaction: I don’t want to take it off. I hope the Nell goes the same way and I think it will!

    • We must be doing a swap as I’m currently sewing Merchant & Mills pattern… The Fielder. I haven’t seen many of those in blog-land either. I agree that it’s refreshing to see new-to-me patterns sewn by others rather than the same same. Although, I am a terrible repeat pattern offender as when I’m onto a good thing I like to milk it for all it’s worth!

      • oooh, the Fielder looks so cozy. I really did love sewing the M&M pattern– it was so easy to understand and everything fit together perfectly. I, too, love making the same thing and these are the sort of pieces that will really take to so many different fabrics! Have fun! One more thing: the selling point for me on the Nell was the cuffs and the collar…they are so beautiful! I am thinking of fooling around with it to make a plain (bibless) pattern so the collar is emphasized….down the road of course.

  • […] in July this year,  I blogged my linen & liberty Nell Shirt.  I loved this make.  The pattern had some great design features and the shirt felt very […]