So last week, I asked on my Instagram for suggestions for my second blog post. @taylorsews suggested I talk about my first make, which sparked a little idea. Now, a little disclaimer, my very VERY first make was a questionable purple satin dress with one diamante shoulder strap for my GCSE Textiles project (17 years ago!) It was a very ambitious project, given that it had boning in the bodice and was made from a very slippery material. But actually, other than the hem, it turned out pretty well, and I was only 1 mark off an A* grade so it must have been pretty decent! However, this make is not what I’m going to talk about in detail here. I’m going to talk about the make that kickstarted my dressmaking journey earlier this year and my love for the pinafore style dress.
Now I’ve been a fan of pinafore/dungaree dresses for a good while now. I’m not sure exactly what it is that I love about them, but I definitely enjoy a relaxed style of dress that I can pair with my favourite shoes (trainers or flat boots). I also love layering pieces and pinafore dresses are perfect for this. For this reason, they can work in any season – layered over a t-shirt with bare legs in the warmer months or with tights and a polo neck/knitted jumper in the colder months. Perfect!
So I already owned three ready to wear pinafore dresses, two of which were very cheap dungaree style and the other is an absolutely beautiful Laura Ashley pinafore that my mum bought me for Christmas. This is a special dress that I will always treasure, but the dungaree dresses didn’t fit particularly well and when I saw online that Tilly and the Buttons had released a dungaree dress pattern, it was the inspiration I needed to begin my dressmaking journey.
My first Cleo
The Cleo is a gorgeous dress pattern that enables you to mix and match between a variety of options (dungaree buckles or button fastenings, mini or knee length, different pockets etc). I opted for the mini length dungaree style and off I went to the haberdashery section at Boyes to find some suitable material (This was before I discovered the wonderful world of online fabric shopping!) I went for a simple black corduroy. I thought this was a good choice as a) it would be very forgiving if I made mistakes, given that it was my first foray in to dressmaking since my GCSEs, and b) Black goes with everything, so perfect for layering over any number of tops. I ordered the pattern and dungaree clips directly from Tilly’s website and I was good to go! Now, admittedly, it did take another few months to pluck up the courage to get started, but I needn’t have worried. The pattern was an absolute breeze and as I’m sure you all know, Tilly’s instruction booklets are INCREDIBLE. The step by step, clear instructions along with detailed colour photographs are perfect for beginners. I made one slight error in the making process (I’ve now come to accept that a make isn’t a make if you don’t make one mistake along the way) which was that I accidentally top stitched down the centre front in navy thread instead of black (The lighting in my sewing room isn’t great!) However, this really isn’t noticeable so I’m ok with it. Once I’d completed my dress, I was absolutely delighted. My first make and a very successful one at that, but I couldn’t help thinking I wanted to personalise it in some way – make it more ‘me’. So I had a look in my stash and found some gorgeous little heart buttons, which I proceeded to sew on to the front bib pocket and the back pockets. I love this detail and always receive compliments on it!
My second Cleo
After successfully completing my first Cleo, I just had to make another. I went to my amazing local fabric shop, 1st for Fabrics and chose some beautiful mustard denim along with another set of dungaree clips. I love the colour mustard and it has been ‘on trend’ for quite a while now. I went for a sewing day with my lovely friend Maria and helped her make her very first Cleo (in a gorgeous baby blue cord, again from 1st for Fabrics) while I made my mustard denim version.
I had the confidence to personalise this dress too, by facing it in a beautiful floral cotton from Sew me Sunshine . Unfortunately I ran out of thread before I had a chance to hem it and it stayed this way for a few months. Well I finally finished it off earlier this week and now I’m annoyed that I’ve missed out on wearing it all this time! I’m really pleased with the result. The fabric was a dream to work with. I used a denim needle and my sewing machine coped with it wonderfully. I think I’ll get a lot of wear out of this in Autumn, layered over black long sleeved tops and with thick, black tights.
I know some people struggle with the shape/sizing of the Cleo, but it works really well for me. I made a straight size 4 with no alterations and have found it to be a great fit. If you haven’t made one already, I’d highly recommend it. I’ve got two, but I’m definitely going to be adding to my collection.
The Bibi pinafore
I had some lovely jersey in my stash that I thought would make the perfect Bibi (from the Tilly and the Buttons Stretch book.) After finally plucking up the courage to tackle sewing with stretch fabrics, I whipped this up in less than two hours using a combination of the zig zag stitch on my Brother Innovis F420 and my overlocker (Brother Lock 3034DWT). I made a size 5 and the only adaptation I made was to add a couple of buttons on the front bib for extra detail. I love the result, it’s super comfortable and perfect for work. I’ll definitely be making another, but next time I’ll reduce the width of the bib slightly.
So there you have it, my collection of me made pinafores which all happen to be patterns by the very amazing Tilly and the Buttons. I’ll leave you with some inspiration I have for further pinafore makes that I’m sure will be on my sewing machine very soon.
Pippi pinafore by Jennifer Lauren Handmade
I fell in love with the Jennifer Lauren Handmade Pippi after seeing The Stitch Sisters’ versions in their you tube video review and also Amanda from I Sew A Lot. They’re all gorgeous but I especially love Rachel’s pink version.
Ivy pinafore by Jennifer Lauren Handmade
Another by the wonderful Jennifer Lauren Handmade which I was immediately drawn to when I saw this version by @roisinmuldoon and is definitely on my ‘to make’ list. I love it layered over those bright stripy tops, just gorgeous!
And finally, the York pinafore by Helen’s Closet
I was unsure when I first saw the York pinafore by Helen’s Closet and wasn’t sure if it would be for me, but then I kept seeing the gorgeous Mel of Handmade by Ditsy Tulip’s versions and couldn’t stop thinking about it. I now LOVE this pattern and will be making my first version very soon. It’s so versatile, has AMAZING pockets, is great for layering and it also now comes with an apron expansion pack, which is very cute! Mel has recently made a you tube video showing her four different versions of this dress, all of which are gorgeous!
Thanks for reading, have a lovely weekend and happy sewing.