Recycled Denim Cleo

Plus some newbie pattern hacking!


This style of dress has the most names I have ever encountered. Overall dress, dungaree dress, pinafore… I grew up calling it a jumper, so that’s what I’m going with here.

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This is my second version of this pattern. It’s the first pattern to receive the high honors of a repeat project. Though I do wonder why I need two jumpers in my closet, but something just screamed at me that these two are both incredibly worth it. Is that a sewing gut instinct?

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The Inspiration

I was totally enamored by this denim jumper from ASOS I found while perusing the internet.

I was like, oh my god I could make that out of jeans.

So I did. Shamless copy.

The Pattern: Cleo Dress by Tilly and the Buttons

This is an amazing pattern. It’s already all over the internet. Just google it.

The Hack

Okay hacking this pattern was actually more complicated than I thought it would be. And I didn’t take many pictures… lame. I’ll do my best to describe the process.

The most difficult part was the diagonal section on the front of the dress. To create a pattern piece, I traced the pattern on a roll of large paper. I basically created the front piece of the dress as if there were no center seam (I subtracted the seam allowance from the center). I drew two diagonal lines to create my new pattern piece. I then cut these out and traced them again to add seam allowances (important step).

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I did a similar process with the back, but since I kept the center back seam, the process was a little easier. I took one picture of this part 👍🏼

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I followed the instructions as written, making sure to stitch up my extra pieces before joining the center seams.

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The Fabric

I deconstructed three pairs of jeans for this jumper. All were around a US size XL. I first took my seam ripper to the pockets. Then I cut off the waistbands of each pair of jeans. I then cut around each zipper (saving it… for something?). I then cut the crotch seam apart. Finally, I seam ripped up the outside leg seam on each leg. This left me with four usable leg pieces.

I didn’t use interfacing in this dress. Mainly because I haven’t found a reclaimed alternative. My facing pieces are from the same denim and I found it provided a nice amount of stiffness.

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Final Thoughts

This pattern is great for recycled fabrics. I especially like the button option; it’s much easier to come across used buttons than used overall buckles. Plus, the no-sew buttons on overalls and jeans are rather impossible to reuse. If anyone has found a way to do this, let me know.

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This is my new favorite workshop dress. It’s sturdy, tough, and I can imagine myself wearing it all year long. I’m already dreaming about this dress over leggings and boots in the winter.
P.S. Shoutout to Kyle for the photo cred.

 

An Orla Affair


The Orla Dress is my first fitted bodice dress. After scanning the internet for free dress patterns to use as skill builders, I came across the #anorlaaffair sew along on Instagram. The organizers had such a supportive schedule that I felt confident someone on the internet could lend a hand if I got stumped. So I jumped straight into sewing.


The Pattern: Orla by French Navy

As a beginning sewist, free patterns are so helpful. I love the chance to jump on the opportunity to test out a new pattern without much investment. It’s also a great way to keep the cost of sewing down while gathering skills.

The instructions on this pattern are basic: like sew the side seams or insert the zipper. I’m glad I had constructed a few garments before jumping into this one. 

This pattern has darts in both the front and back bodice pieces, as well as sleeves, a back zipper, and a gathered skirt.


The Fabric: Vintage 1960’s(?) Cotton Bedsheet

I love the pattern of this fabric. Mid-century florals, who could go wrong. The recommended fabric for the Orla Dress is viscose or rayon, or fabric with drape. This sheet is quite stiff. Also, it’s see-through… But I thought this would give me the chance to line a dress bodice. So I grabbed another old white bedsheet and watched about five videos on youtube and declared myself a lining expert.


A note about fitting: I have athletic shoulders. I’m a regular rock climber, which has added a lot of muscle to my shoulders (specifically the latissimus dorsi for those anatomy geeks). I always find that choosing a size on my bust measurement will lead to tightness in the shoulders, especially underneath the armscye (sleeve opening). But, I don’t have broad shoulders. The actual distance between my shoulders is quite proportional.

So, to avoid tightness in the Orla bodice, I used my upper bust measurement to determine my size. That meant I had a lot of extra room in the waist. Even though I made a muslin, after completing the construction for my Orla, I realized I didn’t like the extra room in the waist with my fabric choice (more on that below). So after some playing around, I took in 1/4 from each dart (including the lining…). No idea if this was the right fitting method, but I’m happy with the results. I would be happy to hear if any sewists with strong shoulders have any suggestions.

I also added pockets to my Orla following Anna Zoe’s instructions. This is one of my favorite features of this dress.

 

I love the basic silhouette of the Orla. It’s quite adaptable to different fabric types, which makes it great for using reclaimed fabric. My first Orla is so sweet, almost too sweet. I call it my Easter dress, because it seems like it would fit in so well at a pastel garden party with dainty pastries and tea. While I do love all those things, I am a little more rambunctious in my everyday life. It’s also mainly a white dress, and I am guaranteed to spill marinara sauce on every white item I own. But, despite it’s dainty-ness and gleaming white fabric, this dress might be miraculous and find regular rotation in my closet. I am already planning to make another version of this dress from a light chambray fitted sheet, definitely with pockets, and maybe try to stretch my skills in some more pattern hacking.

 

 

Mountain Gods Vest


This is a special project. My wonderful Mother-in-Law, Barb, gifted me this yarn on a family trip to Arizona. I love the vibrant colors and the luxurious yarn. I never thought I would knit a vest… in new (unused) fingering weight yarn. It just wasn’t on my mind as a knitable possibility. But the delightful yarn shop ladies encouraged me to try on a sample, and maybe it was their sweet compliments, but I fell in love with this vest. I was most interested in the options a vest like this creates in my wardrobe. It’s a perfect transition garment. I plan to wear it over a t-shirt with jeans and even a few dresses. It seemed like a great summer knitting project, not too heavy, but still substantial enough to keep my interest.


Not everything I knit is reclaimed. If I have the chance to support local yarn shops and indie designers I jump on it. I like the challenge of knitting with reclaimed yarn, but I don’t want to create impassible boundaries for myself. This yarn is a treat, it’s special and it’s from my mother-in-law; goodness like this doesn’t happen all the time.


The Pattern: Mountain Gods Vest by Suzanne Nielsen.

Overall I liked this pattern. The center back lace pattern is the most striking feature. I love that it can be worn upside-down as well, giving the vest a fuller look. That also means there is a ton of room to play with color. The pattern has a hem on both the top and bottom. That’s a nice feature, but I find that my hems always roll up toward the right side of the garment, even after blocking. It would be easy to do a stretchy cast on and bind off to replace the hem.


The Yarn: Zen Yarn Garden, Serenity Silk + in Flamingo, Frosted Teal, and Garden in Delft.

The Garden in Delft color-way is part of Zen Yarn Garden’s ARTWALK series. Every dye-lot is based on a piece of artwork. You can learn more about the yarn and inspiration painting here. All three yarns are a merino, cashmere, silk blend. I have never worked with yarn like this before, and it was delightful. Definitely slippery yarn… I will be reaching for something woolier for my next project to make up for all the sliding, but my wooden needles came to the rescue and I never rarely dropped a stitch.

Also the color of this yarn is amazing. So vibrant, so saturated, that middle section is so speckled. If I had to choose a favorite it would be the pink section. That pink… that variegated-ness… I just keep staring!


This project kept me company while visiting my family in Minnesota and enduring the extreme heat of St. Louis. I love that it can be worn two ways (though flipping it can be a struggle… as captured above). This is a perfect summer project and a great wardrobe builder.

My Every Day Dress

I love this dress

Okay: time to actually stop swooning and talk about this beauty.

The pattern: the Peplum Top by In the Folds. It’s a free pattern from Peppermint Magazine. It’s a loose fitting peplum top great for warm weather and those heat waves. You can grab the pattern here.

The instructions were so simple to follow, the back has a great v-neck detail and the shoulders have these cute separate panels. As a beginner sewist I managed this pattern with ease.

I lengthened my peplum pieces to hit just above my knee. After checking the total length measurement on the pattern, I held a tape measured at my shoulder and let it fall to the ground. I found the desired length. Then I subtracted he bodice measurement from that new measurement to get my peplum pieces.

The fabric: this was a cotton king sized bed sheet. It might even me a California king… that’s how big it was. That’s all I know. It also has slight bedsheet stripes where the weave of the fabric changes direction. It doesn’t come across as obvious bedsheet though, and isn’t even visible in the photos. Sheets like these are everywhere at thrift stores. And most have tags that reveal fiber content.

I did a burn test to identify if it was a natural or synthetic material. Natural materials like cotton or wool are great for natural dyes – which is exactly what I was hoping to do with this sucker.

The dye: INDIGO!

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This was a very successful resist-dye. I chose to dye the entire sheet… which was a massive undertaking. I basically twisted it from the corner, wrapped it with cotton yarn, and rolled it over a broom handle to make it more manageable.

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Indigo is an amazing dye material. Maybe one day I’ll devote more time it’s glory, but for now I’ll point you to The Modern Natural Dyer for a guide to all things indigo.