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Making My First Dress: Cleo by Tilly And The Buttons

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So I have been sewing for quite a while now, making smaller projects like bags, cushions and patchwork but something I have never properly ventured into is making my own clothes. It has always seemed a bit daunting because of the accuracy involved to make things fit and the need to sew neatly which isn’t my strong point (despite my best efforts!)

However, lately I have been really determined to have a go, we have so many lovely fabrics in stock that I would love to use to make myself some clothes with.

I wanted to share with you my progress as I start my dressmaking journey and hopefully this time next year I will have a whole wardrobe of handmade clothes!

Cleo pattern by Tilly and the Buttons

So the first project I decided to make was the Cleo dungaree dress from Tilly and the Buttons. I had actually bought myself a denim dungaree dress just before they released their pattern last year so I already knew that style of dress suited me and I loved wearing it in the winter with woolly tights.

The pattern requires a medium weight fabric so my plan was to use one of our Japanese cotton/linen blend fabrics however as this was my first project I thought I had better start with something that didn’t matter if I messed it up! I found some black needlecord that I’ve had in my stash for years so I decided to use that.

This is the first time I’ve measured myself for a pattern and according to the instructions I was between a size 14 and 16, I’m usually a 10 at the top and a 12 at the bottom in the shops so this did confuse me a bit but I decided to go with the measurements the pattern told me. I’m very much a pear shape and not wanting the dress to be too tight on my hips I opted to cut out the size 16 for the hip measurement and shape it down to a 14 on the waist.

The instructions in the booklet that comes with the pattern make sewing this dress so easy. There are colour photos all the way through that show you every step with clear instructions so I found it really easy to follow.

When it came to the interfacing I did make one mistake though as when I started to iron it on I realised that I hadn’t used interfacing, it was actually fusible webbing for appliqué! I had forgotten that interfacing didn’t have paper but I soon realised because it was sticky on both sides when I pulled the paper off and I knew it wasn’t right. I also noticed that it hadn’t gone stiff at all. Luckily when I bought myself some interfacing I was able to iron it on top of the webbing so it didn’t ruin it in the end.

Also when I was sewing my interfaced piece into my dress, one piece was slightly larger than the other and they didn’t quite lay flat together so I ended up with a slight gather, it’s not too noticeable but I was doing so well up until that point! I think I may have made one of my pieces without a big enough seam allowance so it made it the wrong size slightly.

Kirsty's Cleo dress

I was really pleased with my dress once I had finished it, I hadn’t quite been brave enough to do a contrasting top stitch and I just opted to use black thread so overall it looked really neat.

When I tried it on though it was a bit too big, it fitted well on my hips but around my waist it was quite baggy. It doesn’t look too bad as it is quite a relaxed fitting design and I would rather it be too big than too small, however I know it could have done with being more fitted on my waist. It was really comfy to wear though and I wore it out all day whilst Christmas shopping in Cambridge. I paired it with some purple woolly tights and a pink long sleeve top to brighten it up a bit.

I really enjoyed making this Cleo dungaree dress, I’m quite proud of how my first dress turned out, I find the shape of it really flattering and comfy to wear. I already have plans to make a second one, I’m thinking of using one of these two cotton/linen fabrics designed by Ellen Baker for Kokka but I can’t decide which colour yet! (Maybe I could make both!)

Flowers in Blue from the Paint collection by KokkaFlowers in Yellow from the Paint collection by Kokka

I’m glad I did a test run first though as I think next time I will size it differently and cut the 16 for the bottom and go down two sizes to a 12 for the waist. That’s the great thing about making your own clothes though, you can learn what works for you and make your clothes to fit your body shape.

I’m looking forward to making my next outfit, I will definitely be making more clothes using Tilly and the Buttons patterns as they are great for beginners! I will keep you updated with how I get on next time!

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