Stripes, Sanity, and the Sound of Music!

Hello! I’m Mags – mum of four and lover of all things crafty. You can find more of my musings over at Sunbeams and Sass. I am thrilled to be contributing to the #sewstripes season here on the Sewcialists page, and sharing my stripy make with you.

First of all, I have a confession – I have never sewn with stripes before! This minor detail didn’t stop me from jumping at the chance to blog about sewing with stripes, although my sanity has since taken a bit of a beating!

Since this was to be my first stripy self-made garment, I thought it best to use a pattern that I’d already had success with: the Tilly and the Buttons Cleo dungaree dress. Loose and comfortable, this dress is a versatile staple for any wardrobe. Team up with woolly tights and a long sleeved top in colder weather, or sandals and a vest for those rarer (in the UK at least) warmer days. I’d previously used a plain black denim, shot through with hot pink, and found it a fairly simple make. The instructions are clear and concise, with photographs for each stage.

Once I’d decided on the pattern, I had to (had to) go fabric shopping. This proved to be a bit trickier than I’d originally thought, the main reason being the lack of striped fabric in a suitable weight. I considered buying a lightweight fabric and lining it, but didn’t want to make things more difficult for myself for this particular project. The lovely sales lady came to my rescue, and suggested some of the curtain ticking. It was stripy AND heavy enough to hold the Cleo shape. It also made me feel like Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music, making clothes out of the curtains!

As I started to cut out the pieces (whilst warbling out a version of My Favourite Things) I started to have second thoughts on my choice of fabric. Whilst the stripe pattern seemed easy enough to pattern match (insert mocking laugh here) it looked too much like a butcher’s apron. Knowing that I probably wouldn’t wear it made it harder to go on with, and when I eventually attempted matching up the stripes on the two front pieces…well, let’s just say a lot of tears were shed and new expletives learned! I may also need a new seam ripper…

Determined not to let those dastardly stripes get the better of me, I decided that I needed some new fabric, as well as a new approach to the pattern. I trotted off to Ikea, where I found some bold fabric in a black, white, grey and mustard wonky horizontal stripe.

The main body of the Cleo dress is made up of two front pieces and two back pieces. There is also a front interfacing piece, a back interfacing piece, and two straps. There are optional front and back pockets, as well as an optional bib pocket. I decided to make my version with just the front bib pocket. I also decided to hack the pattern, and instead of using four pieces for the main body, I used two. To do this, I had to fold over the fabric, selvedges together and trim off the seam allowance on one side of the pattern piece. Then I pinned the front and back pieces on the fold and cut them out.

This approach meant that I didn’t need to worry about matching the stripes on the front and on the back, thereby preserving my sanity for one more night. Due to the nature of this particular fabric, pattern matching would have been near impossible. Doing it my way not only gave me less seams to sew, it meant that my front and back pieces were perfectly matched. I could then concentrate on matching my bib pocket and ensuring that my straps were evenly matched.

I like the way the bib pocket has a slight 3d effect. You can also see from the photo that my strap matching took more than one attempt! Sewing is a never-ending learning process, and each make brings something new to the cutting table.

Once I had all my pieces matched and cut, all that was left to do was thread the needle and rev the pedal! I did have a falling out with my Toyota when it was time to topstitch the straps, but in the end, I decided that the topstitching wasn’t worth the quarrel with my machine, so I just did without it. A quick press with the iron and voila! Here is my hacked Cleo:

I even managed to match up the side seams, which I am immensely proud of!

Sewing with stripes was a game-changer for me, as not only did it take me out of my comfort zone, it showed me that I can adapt a pattern to best suit my needs/abilities. I would love to eventually draft my own patterns, so this is a huge step forward for me. My final message to you all is that if you fancy giving something a go, just jump right in and do it. Find your own way with each of your makes and don’t be afraid to mix it up a bit!

A huge thank you to the Sewcialists for letting me share my make with you all. I definitely feel I’ve earned my stripes – how will you earn yours?