I’m the last person to make a Cleo and I love it!

Well, them.

As I mentioned in my round-up of Me Made May 2018, I made a couple of Cleo dresses and I have worn them both loads – I don’t know why I waited so long to make this pattern, which the entire sewing community already loved.

I made both Cleos in the size 3, based on my measurements and I squeezed each out of around a metre of fabric, so this is a great stash buster/ #sewingleftovers pattern.

This mustard denim was from Sew Me Sunshine and she only had 1.5m left when I placed my order. I’ve already used the rest to make my mute bags. But she has it back in stock, so we can be Cleo twins if you like! I’m actually wearing this one while I type this.

I really like the topstitching, which makes the design details stand out. And it’s good practice for when I finally get around to making jeans!

Despite the fact that I made the 2 Cleos exactly the same, the mustard one ended up a few inches too long so I cut some off the hem to make them the same length, which contrary to what they look like in the photos, is just above the knee.

The buckle things are a little wide for the straps, but they were the only size my local sewing shop stocks. And I like them anyway, and they make the dresses look pretty professional, if I say so myself!

The little dimple you can see on the pocket is from wearing my pink coat club pins – I love them so I don’t care if they’ve made a permanent mark.

And now onto the navy blue one! The corduroy was from my local sewing shop and I bought it quite a few months ago. It’s the only fabric I’ve bought from there because mainly they’ve got quilting cotton and novelty prints. They did have this corduroy last Winter, though.

I really like how they look from the back – I like the shape of the straps and the cocoon-y shape of the skirt part.

I think these will definitely be a staple of my Summer wardrobe – and will be great for layering with tights and jumpers in the Winter.

Here I am demonstrating the existence of the pocket and the fact that it is fully functional! Though if I put my phone in it, it’s a bit heavy and drags down the front of the dress.

And here’s another close-up of the straps, buckles, pocket and topstitching.

There were lots of outtakes from these photoshoots, so I thought I would share some of my favourites – enjoy!

I mean, wtf!?

This is the stoned version of my silly happy face!

So am I the last person to make a Cleo or is there anyone else who has yet to jump on the bandwagon? I thought it wasn’t really my style, but I’m so glad I made these. It’s particularly good because I don’t have to be as smart at my new job, so I can wear these to work as well as at weekends.

Summer 2018 Sewing Plans

Since I’ve been writing fewer posts, and sewing at a slower pace, it seemed silly to write monthly posts outlining my sewing plans, so I’ve decided to do it seasonally instead.

Apparently in the UK we are going to experience a 3-month long heat wave, which some people would call ‘Summer’ but that’s not a normal Summer for us – usually it’s warm for a week or two, then cold again for weeks. So since it’s going to be consistently warm for a couple of months, I need some clothes to keep me feeling cool.

My first plan is to make an Acton Dress, probably out of this turquoise viscose I bought online ages ago. I slightly went off is as soon as it arrived, but I’m digging the idea of a floaty Summer dress. I don’t know which view of the pattern to make either, yet.

My other option of fabric for the Acton is this blue cupro which I originally ordered as a lining for my coat, but which was too dull a shade of blue to work with the wool.

But I’ll probably use the curpro for a pair of Nina Lee Portobello trousers. I think it will be perfect for a Summer pair of trousers.

And speaking of Nina Lee, I’ve got plans for a Carnaby Dress made from this deco-ish style fabric from Sew Over It. I bought the fabric on a total whim, because it was almost sold out, and I’m so glad I did! I’ve already got this dress cut out, so hopefully I will actually get this one made. And I can probably wear it with tights and a cardigan in the Winter too.

And speaking of shift dresses, I’m giving the Colette Laurel another go, with the ruffled sleeves, which I now like, a year after they were in fashion! I made a couple of Laurels a few years ago but I got rid of them both as they were a bit snug and uncomfortable, so I’ve gone up either one or 2 sizes, I can’t remember which.

My final Summer dress plan is for this turquoise cotton drill (I think) Inari Tee dress. I actually cut this out last year and never got around to making it, so fingers crossed it happens this year. The fabric is years old – I bought it on one of my first trips to Goldhawk Road, when I knew very little about fabric.

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t plan to make another shirt. I bought this peach skin from Fabric Godmother a couple of months ago and I think it would make a great Blaire Shirt by Style Arc. I might try to play with the direction of the pattern in the fabric, given that the seam lines are begging for it, though stripes would work better. Maybe the next one!

One thing I definitely want to make time to sew is a kimono from this Simplicity pattern I got free with a sewing magazine, I think Love Sewing. I have this lovely cotton lawn from Sew Me Sunshine, which I snapped up as soon as she got it in stock because I had tried to buy it last year but everyone was out of stock. I think this will be the perfect Summer cover up for when it does get a bit chillier.

Another buy from Sew Over It is this navy blue checked crepe, which I think will be the perfect fabric for a pair of Mercury trousers.

If you’re still reading at this point, you may be thinking that this is a lot of things to make for a Summer which has already started, and you’re probably right – I wouldn’t be surprised if this Salle Jumpsuit gets bumped again to next year. It’s already been sitting around, cut out, for a year, with the Inari Tee Dress.

I’m going to end this post with a plea – what can I do with this beautiful crepe (I think) from Sew Over It? It has a gorgeous drape, but I don’t want to make another dress as I already have probably too many planned as it is. I fear it is too jazzy for me to reasonably wear as trousers, so maybe some kind of top? I’ve got 2m. Suggestions very welcome!

Black Simplicity Trousers

After making my first pair of Simplicity 1696 trousers last April, I finally got around to making my second pair – or third if you count the pair I refashioned from my dad’s suit. I’ve worn these loads already, since making them back in May.

I made them in the same size as last time and made some of the same adjustments I made last time, namely to take in the legs on the outside seam. Last time I took them in on the inside leg seam too, but this time I didn’t. I’m happy to have a quite loose pair of trousers in this heat wave we’re having in the UK!

They do look a bit loose around the crotch area, but I’m not particularly bothered. I did actually completely finish these and then I unpicked the waistband and took them in a little more than I had before that. They were sitting too low on my hips, so the crotch was even lower and it bothered me too much. Usually once I’ve finished something, I can’t be bothered to fix things, but I did this time and I’m so pleased I did!

I left off the fake welt pockets on the back of this pair because they don’t serve any purpose and they don’t look great because I didn’t do them very well!

The fabric is some black twill I bought in Birmingham a year ago when I went for a meet-up with some Bristol-based sewing buddies. I initially bought it with a 60’s style dress in mind but I figured trousers would get more wear so I took the plunge and cut it up. And it’s not like black twill is difficult to find if I ever get around to making the dress!

This is my kind of outtake from this photoshoot – which is the result of me not quite getting into the shot after setting off my timer!

I don’t really have too much to say about these trousers except that I love them and have worn them multiple times per week since finishing them! I could do with another pair or two of good trousers to give myself more choice than just ‘navy or black’, though that’s pretty much always been the case for me!

Next time I share some trousers, I’m sure I’ll make them from a different pattern so I might have more to say!

 

 

Fashioned From Nature Exhibition

A couple of weekends ago I went to the Fashioned From Nature exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It’s on until January next year and if you are able to, I would really recommend you try to make it to see it. It’s in the same place as the Balenciaga exhibition but for some reason I thought it would be smaller, but I was really amazed at the scaled of the exhibits and the accompanying information. I think we took longer to look around this one than the Balenciaga one!

Fair warning, this post is very photo-heavy!

The first half of the exhibition was a little depressing if I’m honest – it was about how we have exploited the world throughout history to make clothes. The first dress had a whole map and explanation about where all the different components came from.

There was a section and garments relating to each thing used to make clothes which came from/comes from animals, like silk.

This lace was truly a wonder to behold, given that it was all made by hand – some of it by bobbins and some of it with needles!

I’ve always kind of liked whales, I think since I did a project on them for a Brownie or Guide badge so it makes me sad that they were used in clothing and accessories, as much as I can admire the carving of this walking stick.

I love how the x-ray of this corset shows the whalebone inside.

Even hats had whalebone in, to keep their shape.

The things made of fur were also a bit sad. It’s a tricky thing because it makes sense that in the past people didn’t have synthetic alternatives (which come with other problems) to enable them to keep warm, but of course suddenly killing lots of the same animal means there will eventually be a lot fewer of them.

Wool seems like one of the less evil things we’ve made clothes from – at least the sheep is still alive once it’s been sheared.

It’s amazing that these colours have lasted as long as they have, given that the book is over 200 years old!

I couldn’t believe how tiny the coat on the left was! I can only assume it was for a teenage girl.

Cotton obviously has been responsible for a lot of evils in the past, but it must be one of the most used fibres ever for clothes.

Cotton opened up a whole load of possibilities of colours, and designs.

I love how even in the 1780s people refashioned clothes to make them last longer or make them more up to date with the changing fashions.

These hand made buttons were teeny tiny – I don’t even know how someone would make them!


I love the combination of patterns on this dress – there are 2 different designs of flowers on the different parts of the dress.

I think I found the feathers possibly the most upsetting because there were multiple things with whole dead birds on, which is just creepy – I don’t know how it was ever fashionable to wear a whole dead bird as earrings or on a hat.

I love this photo of a group of men protesting against the killing of so many egrets for fashion. Not to stereotype, but they don’t look like a group of radical protesters!

Also I found out that ‘mad as a hatter’ as a phrase came from the fact that milliners used mercury and actually went a bit mad.

With the advent of synthetic dyes, a whole new world of possibilities opened up in terms of colours, but then, as now, the impact on the people and the environment was less than perfect.

I loved this diagram of how the below dress was assembled.

A slightly nicer part of the exhibition was the part about how the Victorians got all into nature and so painted/embroidered images of the natural world on their clothes.

I’m sure it was on an episode of No Such Thing As A Fish (a brilliant podcast) where they talked about the Victorians’ obsession with ferns, and that was definitely in evidence in the clothing in the exhibition.

These are silk flowers!

 

I like how even in the past, people experimented with using unusual fibres to make clothes, like this dress made from pineapples.

This dress, rather creepily, is decorated with beetle shells.

One thing I didn’t really consider as coming from animals was mother of pearl, but of course it comes from the inside of shells.

All of the below things are made from spun glass, which somehow was woven into fabric. I don’t know how strong it is, but it’s pretty impressive!

The second part of the exhibition (upstairs) was much more hopeful that the first half – it was all about new developments in sustainability and designers looking for better ways of making still beautiful garments.

This dress was one of my favourites in the whole exhibition. It’s made from strips of cellulose acetate stitched into silk and decorated with artificial pearls. And it’s from 1936! It looks like it was made last year!


This dress from 1920s Paris is made from Bemberg silk, which is made from cellulose.

This 1980s dress is designed to stretch over people of any size, which means the manufacturer doesn’t have to make multiple sizes, which means less waste from the sizes which remain unsold.

I love this ‘suitcase’ made from a suit – I should have had this idea during The Refashioners! I like how they’ve retained the look of the original sleeve and pockets.

This dress was stunning – it looked like a leopard skin draped on the front of it, but it’s all made from beads!

I love that the depiction of nature is still a thing that is done now.

I love the underwater scene on this Zac Posen gown.

 

Since I found the real feather so creepy, I really liked the simplicity of the fake feathers on this dress.

I was very excited to see No Patterns Needed and a shout out to the growing group of people who make their own clothes.

I’m not totally sold on this look but I can see the merit of the idea of using parts of crochet that no-one wanted to create a new garment.

Apparently John Malkovich is a fashion designer, who uses flax as his preferred fibre, as it uses less water than other fabrics.

I was quite excited to see this outfit that Emma Watson wore to the Met Gala a couple of years ago as you will already know I love her style. And I remember her wearing this outfit, which is made from 3 different components so she could wear them again in different outfits. The fabric was also made from recycled materials – I like how she uses her very high profile to shout about sustainability and to support movements like the Green Carpet Challenge.

I found it really interesting to see that the stitching on the ties was white and not black. It was quite difficult to see how the outfit was assembled as it was a little dark.

I enjoyed the exhibition so much I treated myself to the book, which I will get around to reading (and maybe reviewing) at some point in the future, when I magically have loads of spare time!

This exhibition really inspired me, along with the Love To Sew Podcast episodes on sustainability to be more mindful about my consumption of fabric and the kinds of fibres I use. I always look in charity shops for fabric but they never seem to have anything good, but I’ll keep looking. I also want to try to buy fabrics that are a bit less evil for the environment and the people who live where they are produced.

Do you think you’ll make it to the exhibition?

 

 

Make It: Mute Bags

If you follow me on Instagram you may have gleaned that in January I restarted playing the trumpet/ cornet and joined a brass band (Cirencester Band in case you’re interested) and a swing band (JJ’s Swing Band). I also invested in a full set of mutes, which I never used when I played at school, but which are really needed in the swing band and are used in quite a few of the brass band pieces. I spent about £150 on 4 mutes (Harmon, Straight, Cup and Practice in case you’re interested) and when I started carrying them around I worried that they would get scratched and dented by bouncing off each other, so I decided to make some little draw-string bags to keep them protected.

Working out the dimensions for the circle at the bottom of the bag and the rectangle for the sides took quite a bit of maths – maths which I hadn’t used since GCSE!   Πr² and all that.

Height Circumference Radius
Practice 18cm 21cm 4.8cm
Harmon 13cm 29cm 6cm
Cup 18cm 36cm 7.1cm
Straight 15cm 29cm 6cm

I added a 1cm seam allowance and then used the circle formulae (c = Πr² and r = (c÷2Π) to figure out the final measurements I needed. In retrospect I should have added more to the height of the side to allow for the drawstring and the bunching of the fabric, so if you use this tutorial, I would all a couple of centimetres to the height of whatever it is you want to put in a bag.

Radius Length of side Height of side
Practice 4.8cm 32.2cm 22cm
Harmon 6cm 39.7cm 17cm
Cup 7.1cm 46.6cm 22cm
Straigh 6cm 39.7cm 19cm

I used several things which were in my stash: leftover mustard denim from one of my cleo dresses, the scribble striped jersey (which I used to make my Marianne Dress and my cropped Inari tee) and some thick mystery fabric my friend gave me after making me a knitting needle case. The letters are made from a tiny bit of navy twill I had lying around.

The first thing I did was to stitch on the letters, using a narrow zig-zag stitch to stop them from fraying. I sewed the letters onto only the denim, so the stitching wouldn’t show on the inside.

The next thing I did was to sew the lining fabric (the stripey jersey) and the padding layers (the turquoise mystery fabric) together for each bag base and side, so I could treat them as one layer when stitching them together.

I then stitched the side rectangles into tubes, right sides together. I did this for the doubled up lining layer and the outer denim layer.

The next thing was to stitch the tube to the base of the bag – I’m not going to lie, this was really fiddley with the denim because it has no stretch at all. I marked the quarter points on the circle and the tube to help distribute the tube evenly around the circle.

At least I knew my maths worked!

I repeated the step with the lining pieces – it was way easier because the jersey obviously has stretch and the turquoise mystery fabric has enough stretch to help ease the 2 pieces together.

I trimmed the seam allowance down on the lining pieces because it was really bulky with the padding layer.

I then put the lining bag inside the outer bag – you don’t need to turn the lining bag the right way around as it is the opposite way around to the outer bag. I folded the 2 layers down by 1cm (the seam allowance I added), sandwiching the seam allowances between the 2 layers so the raw edges are all hidden.

I topstitched the 2 layers together a few millimetres from the top of the bag, and then did another line of stitching at a 1.5cm seam allowance to make a channel for the drawstring, which I bought from my local sewing shop.

I had to unpick just the lining between the 2 layers of stitching to allow me to get the string into the channel – because the side seam has been sewn over twice, I figured it wouldn’t unravel completely.

And here they are! I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out – they do make my mutes a lot more bulky to carry but I’m not constantly afraid of destroying them, especially given that they were fairly expensive.

This is the harmon (or wah-wah) mute, which is used for jazz mostly. It has a plunger in the middle, which you can adjust or remove – if you remove the plunger you get a sound like Miles Davis.

This is my cup mute, which muffles the sound more than the straight mute

The straight mute muffles the sound but it has a pretty sharp sound.

This is my practice mute, which completely deadens the sound, so I can practice without making my neighbours hate me!

Do you play any musical instruments? Will you make these draw-string bags for storing other things?