Success despite myself!

Morning! Hope you’re enjoying this unseasonable warm weather; I’ve just got back from dragging myself and the girls to Junior Parkrun so am obviously tucking in to a cafe latte and a chocolate chip cookie bigger than my head…..

Since finishing my coat, I’ve felt the need for a few quick and easy makes to bulk out my winter wardrobe a little.  I’ve made 3 Agnes’ so far, which I may well not blog at all since I’ve done so many other versions.  I have a new cardigan to show you but first, let’s talk about the catalogue of disasters that was my latest Tilly and the Buttons Cleo dress.

A few weeks ago, I spent a day and a half at the Great British Sewing Bee Live, which was amazing.  I was there on my own on the Friday and then with Sally and Pecia on Saturday and both days were fantastic. Walking around there was rather like watching my Instagram feed coming to life and I met so many very lovely people in real life.

I very sensibly assigned myself a budget and took it out in cash in advance, rather than getting giddy with my credit card, so I was pretty good whilst there. I did impulse buy some black sweatshirting with pink glitter unicorns on, but I am only human!

One of the things on my shopping list was black denim to make another Tilly and the Buttons “Cleo” dress from; I wear the brown one I have almost weekly so wanted another. I found the perfect red selvedge denim from Fabrics Galore; it’s amazing quality but it was really narrow so worked around £25 for enough fabric for a Cleo. Pretty pricey but still way less than I’d pay for a dress in the shops so I was OK.

So what went wrong?

Let’s start with the cutting.  I found my amended pattern pieces from last time, where I had cut a length between the two lengths provided on the pattern pieces and consider it to be perfect for me.  I took them out of the envelope, whacked them on the fabric and cut away.  I have done this before, this is easy, minimal thought required.

Until you come to sew back and front together and realise that you’ve cut the back a LOT shorter than the front. On both the denim and the lining fabric I decided to use.

Well done, Becca.  Nothing for it but to cut both to the shorter length and then move on.

Let’s talk about lining for a minute.  This is a dress I always wear with tights.  No one needs to be seeing my knees these days without some form of covering! So I  spend a fair amount of time when putting the brown one on finding a slip to wear under it.  Which is a faff. So when Jane mentioned that she’d fully lined her latest version, light dawned! It’s so obvious!

I’ve had this fab lining fabric probably for a couple of years now. I picked it up at The Shuttle, one of their very cheap rolls.  It was something like £1/m but you had to buy at least 3m. Real hardship, right?  Previously I’ve fully lined dresses by drafting a pattern piece that’s like the full dress piece minus the facing, but for this one I decided to do what Jane had done and just replicate the front and back dress pieces and sew them in as well as the facing.  The relative bulk of the denim meant that the lining fabric really wasn’t going to make much difference, so the easy route appealed.

Anyway, on with the errors.

I currently have a nasty flu like bug which is apparently decimating the girls’ school; so nice when children share, don’t you think? I normally spend a few hours on Fridays whilst the girls are at school doing housework but I couldn’t face it, so decided to do some nice, steady sewing instead.

Should have stuck to the ironing!

The seams on this dress are sewn on the machine; you then trim on side of the seam down to half its depth and the other side you finish the seam allowance and then sew it down in a faux flat felled seam.  So I’m there, blithely overlocking the side seam, and I realise that I’ve managed to get the front of the bib involved. To quite a considerable degree.


At this point, I was ready to throw it in the bin and start something else.  I actually stopped and went to cut out a muslin for my next project and started marking it up.  But thankfully I’d shared my woes on Instagram, where someone very sensibly pointed out that the bit I’d hacked a great hole in was not in fact critical; narrowing the front bib would probably serve to rescue the dress.

Thank goodness for the sewing hive mind!

So I trimmed the front bib, still unsure but of the opinion that it was better to try and fail than just bin the expensive denim. I trimmed the facing to match. I zigzagged over the rip for strength.  I then pinned the whole thing together, main dress to lining to facing…… thankfully I realised at that point that if I sewed it together like that, the lining would be above the facing.

I did call it a night at that point!

However, I pinned it together properly the next morning and stitched away.  I was sewing in my pj’s so when I tried the finished dress on , basically the bib pulled my pj top nice and tight to really emphasise my nipples!!! 😳😳😳This is not a look I’m keen on, I’ll be honest!

Anyway, fully clothed (including a decent bra!) the dress actually looks fine (if still a little boobier than the normal version!).  I wore it out shopping in Leeds yesterday and actually got a bunch of unsolicited compliments from various shop assistants, which was lovely. However, the “No Regrets” seam ripper pin did seem appropriate!

The moral of the story?  You might be the best seamstress in the world, but failing to engage brain when sewing is likely to result in a cock up! Also, sewing when ill is not always a smart idea.

Here’s hoping my next project goes rather more smoothly!


Becca x



Pattern: Tilly and the Buttons Cleo dress

My measurements: bust 35″: waist / torso 30″: hip 40″

Size cut: 4 on top grading to a 5 at the hips

Adjustments made: narrowed the bib by around 1 1/4″ on both sides thanks to totally stupid overlocker error!

Fabric: about 1.7m of japanese red selvedge denim from Fabrics Galore

1m of polyester lining from The Shuttle

Future adjustments:  consider taking it in further at the waist; there’s quite a large gap at the moment

Make again: Yes, hopefully with fewer noddy errors!

11 thoughts on “Success despite myself!

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  1. What a great save!! Your Cleo is lovely. I have to say that I absolutely terrified of the blade on my overlocker, and always put the blade down unless I really need it. Learnt that the hard after cutting a hole in the lining of a By Hand London maxi Anna…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is pretty much the first time I’ve done this, which I guess is a minor miracle! Think I may well be slowing down a little when using the overlocker for a while!!


  2. You know whilst I’ve admired others enthusiasm for the Cleo it’s not been doing it for me. Personally I feel it hides people’s real shapes-something that never works for a chub like me. Yet your hacked version shoes more of your real figure and I think is a massive improvement on the cleos I’ve seen. Well done for persevering!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I continue to be surprised by how much I like this dress; as you say, not really the most flattering outline in the world. But I always seem to get compliments? And it is so comfy, especially with the lining!


  3. So glad it all worked out in the end! I’m not sure I’d have immediately spotted the narrower bib if you hadn’t mentioned it! Denim Cleo and a striped Gable. A perfect combination!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Well done, Becca, for persevering! It’s so nice you got an item you like in the end.
    P.S. I loved meeting you IRL at GBSB live so so much! Really gutted my trip to Leeds is not happening in the end. And I’m not going to Sew Brum after all, but hope to see you again soon, and next time with alcohol!!

    Liked by 1 person

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