Let’s have a Cleo Skirtalong!

It's time for a Cleo Skirtalong

Sewalong schedule

The skirtalong will start on Wednesday (August 9) here on the blog. You can also follow it on Facebook or Instagram. Here’s the schedule:

Day 1: Get ready (measure and choose size, wash and press fabric, trace pattern)
Day 2: Cut out your pieces
Day 3: Attach pockets and sew side seams
Day 4: Attach waistband
Day 5: Elastic and hem

How much time will it take?
I’ve divided up the schedule so that you should be able to do each “day” in about 1/2-1 hour, though if you’re a beginner you may find that it takes a bit more time than this for some of the steps.

Below is a VERY generous sewing schedule for making Cleo, from start to finish. I’ve doubled the time it takes me personally to complete the sewing and cutting steps, since I want you to relax and take your time. You’ll be less likely to make mistakes! But know that once you’ve sewn Cleo once, it will go much, much faster.

A sewing plan for Cleo

Get inspired!
First, you’ll need to choose your fabric and decide which view you’d like to make. Check out my Cleo inspiration post, my Lovely Skirts Pinterest board, the #cleoskirt tag on Instagram, or the Cleo Showcase Roundup (Part 1) for some really good inspiration.

Get ready!
You will need:

  • a copy of the pattern, either in print (see: Cleo print stockists) or PDF format
  • woven fabric (see the Cleo page for yardage / fabric recommendations) and coordinating thread
  • 1.25″ wide elastic (the length needed is half your waist measurement)
  • a small piece of fusible lightweight interfacing.

If you’re using the PDF pattern, go ahead and print it out at 100%  or send your file to your local copyshop!

Read more: How to print and assemble a PDF pattern
Read more: How to use a copyshop file

I hope you’re as excited as I am for the sewalong!!

Go to Day 1

How to print and assemble a PDF sewing pattern

how to print and assemble a PDF pattern

It still surprises me sometimes to discover that many people have never used (or even heard of) a PDF sewing pattern. Occasionally I’ll get an email from someone who has purchased one of my patterns and needs some assistance figuring out what on earth to do with it once they’ve bought it.

So here’s a step by step primer to help you get from purchasing to sewing with your PDF sewing pattern! Even if you’ve used a PDF pattern before, you might pick up some pointers in this post.

Step 1. Download and save your pattern file
After you purchase a PDF pattern, you’ll be directed to a download link, you’ll get an email with a download link, or both (this is how it works in my pattern shop). Click on the link to download your pattern file to your computer. Once you’ve downloaded the file, open it from your downloads folder and save it in a private folder where you can find it again later (usually this requires going to “File -> Save As” and selecting a different folder or creating a new folder).

The beauty of a PDF pattern is that you can use it over and over and it never gets worn out. But it is not the responsibility of the pattern maker to hang on to your pattern for you. And…it’s a bit of a hassle to have to email the designer later to ask for a resend, right? SO TAKE A SECOND AND SAVE YOUR FILE!

Once you save your file, you can bring the pattern file to a copy or print shop (drag it over to a USB drive, or upload it to the print shop’s website) to be printed on wide-format paper. If you go the copy shop route, be sure to read my post: how to use a copyshop file. If you are printing at home, continue!

Step 2. Print a test page
First, open your file in a PDF reader such as Adobe Acrobat or Preview for Mac. Do not print directly from the browser window after you download the file; instead, reopen the pattern in a PDF viewer before printing.

Then set your printer to print just the first page at 100% (or “No Scaling” or “None” for scaling). This step is OH SO CRITICAL. If you print the pattern at the wrong scale, your garment will not fit!

Here’s a screenshot of what the print preview (in Preview for Mac) looks like for me:

print-at-home PDF pattern

If the percentage is a number other than 100%, change it to 100%!

Step 3. Check Scale
My newer patterns have scale marks along every pattern piece page borders at 1-inch intervals (a few of the older ones have a scale box with labeled dimensions) so you can check the scale of each page. Place your ruler or use a cutting mat to check these marks. In the photo below, they line up nicely. Another way to check is along the length of the page: the long edge should be exactly 10″ or 254 cm.

Print and check scale

Step 4. Print the rest of the pattern
When you are absolutely sure the scale is right, choose the remaining pages indicated for the size and version of the pattern you’re making, and set the print dialog again to print at 100% (I always forget the second time!) and print the rest of the pattern pages.

Step 5. Trim Edges
Now use scissors or a paper trimmer to remove the print margins on the TOP and LEFT edges of each page.

Beatrixalong Day 1

Step 6. Assemble the pattern
Place the pages together as shown in the pattern assembly diagram so that the circles in the corners (or in some patterns, the black triangles) line up nicely. If you go from left to right and top to bottom, like you’re reading a book, each page you set down will cover up the print margin from the previous page.

Beatrixalong Day 1

Step 7. Tape it together
Finally, tape it all together, making sure the edges stay straight! For very large patterns, I often tape each row together first, then tape the rows together to assemble the entire pattern.

Beatrixalong Day 1

Now your pattern is ready to trace! I always recommend tracing a pattern rather than cutting into it. Take a look at my How to trace a pattern post if you need a quick how-to!

This post is part of my Building a Handmade Wardrobe Series, a set of posts to help you get from start to finish with one of my patterns.

Cleo Summer Showcase, Part I

It’s time to take a look at the Cleo Summer Showcase so far!

Update: here’s Part 2

I’m so inspired by all of the amazing skirts that these lovely women have made and posted already this week. And honestly, overwhelmed and honored that so many people agreed to be a part of this little showcase. Thank you to everyone who has participated so far!!

Let’s start with a roundup from Monday’s showcase guests:

Cleo Summer ShowcaseVicky of Sewvee, top left, made this colorful and cheerful Cleo. I love that umbrella too. See more pics in her blog post!
Erin of Hungie Gungietop right posted this lovely pink Loominous skirt and styled it with a cute aqua belt. See more pics on her blog.
Natalie of Hungry Hippie Sews rounded up all of her Cleo skirts on her blog, including this beautiful rayon version that she made (bottom left). Natalie was one of our Cleo testers and has made a bunch since the pattern launched!
Teri of Fa Sew La (bottom right) added a fantastic waist tie to her cheerful floral rayon Cleo. Head over to her blog for more details.

Here are the Cleo skirts from Tuesday’s showcase guests:
Cleo Summer ShowcaseTori of the The Doing Things Blog posted TWO absolutely lovely Cleos, top left and bottom left. More pics on her blog!
Kate English, top right, added some width to the waistband (love it!) and styled it to perfection.
Meredith of Olivia Jane Handcrafted, bottom right, chose a large-scale gingham and cut the pockets and hem bands on the bias for a great self-contrast effect. See details and closeups on her blog.
Lindsay, bottom center, shows how a slightly heavier fabric (canvas!) works nicely for Cleo too!

Finally, here are the Cleo showcase posts for today:
Cleo Summer Showcase
Julie at Nurse Bean Sews (above) is so prolific that this is actually just a part of her entire Cleo skirt collection! Head over to her blog to see the rest of her Cleos and to see how she styles them with her handmade tops!

Cleo Summer Showcase

Melissa at A Happy Stitch made a couple of versions (top left, bottom right), which you can see more of in her blog post as well. Sidenote: I love how Cleo keeps popping up in Loominous fabric…it really is a wonderful fabric for clothing. And Lauren of Lauren Durr Design used a brilliant border print for a stunning effect (bottom left, top right). I love how she used the hem band to extend the yellow area of the print.

The variety of skirts and styles represented here really speaks to the versatility of this pattern. I really enjoy seeing how different people can create completely different looks with the same pattern, don’t you? We’re halfway through the showcase, so stay tuned for even more Cleo loveliness!

Posted in Cleo
Leave a comment

Cleo Summer Showcase

I’m very excited to announce that next week I will be hosting a Cleo Summer Showcase here on the blog and on Instagram to feature the Cleo pattern for summer! A bunch of fantastic people, including Cleo pattern testers, Instagrammers (is that a word?) and bloggers are going to to help me to show off this lovely summer skirt pattern.

The Cleo Summer Showcase will be followed by a Cleo Sewalong, which will coincide with the launch of the print Cleo pattern (yay!!!). I’m so excited to add Cleo to the list of print patterns we offer at independent shops, so look for the announcement and list of shops in my newsletter next week (you can sign up here if you aren’t already subscribed).

Here is a list of the makers and bloggers who will be participating in the Cleo Showcase next week:

Cleo summer showcase

july 31
vicky / @sewvee / sewvee.blogspot.co.uk
erin / @hungiegungie / hungiegungie.com
natalie / @sewhungryhippie / hungryhippie sews
teri / @teridodds1 / fa sew la

august 1
tori / @thedoingthingsblog / thedoingthingsblog.com
lindsay / @lindsayinstitches
meredith / @thefooshe / oliviajanehandcrafted.com/blog
kate / @kate.english

august 2
melissa / @ahappystitch / ahappystitch.com
julie / @nursebean82 / nursebeansews.wordpress.com
lauren / @laurenddesign / laurendurrdesign.com

august 3
fleurine / @mariefleurine / sewmariefleur.com
bettina / @stahlarbeit / stahlarbeit.ch
allie / @indie_sew / indiesew.com/blog
darci / @darcialexis / darcisews.com
emily / @mycraftylittleself / mycraftylittleself.blogspot.com

august 4
whitney / @whitneydeal / whitney-deal.com/blog
sienna  /@notaprimarycolor
amy nicole / @amynicolestudio / amynicolestudio.com
kim / @pitykitty
kten / @jinxandgunner / jinxandgunner.blogspot.com

I’m so very grateful to all of these lovely people for participating in our Cleo pattern showcase! It’s going to be so fun to see all of their inspiring Cleo makes. I hope you will enjoy it too!

You can find the Cleo sewing pattern in my shop.

Posted in Cleo
Leave a comment

How to take body measurements

how to take body measurements / made by rae

The very first thing that every single person should do before they sew a piece a piece of clothing for themselves is take out a tape measure and get some good, honest body measurements. In this post I’ll go over how to take the four body measurements that you’ll need to choose the right size to sew with one of my sewing patterns.

The problem with body measurements
Unfortunately, many of us would prefer to skip this step. It seems easier just to pick a size, maybe guess a little bit based on the size chart. We’ve also learned to associate measuring ourselves with negative feelings about our bodies instead of seeing the measuring tape as an empowering tool that can allow us to custom-tailor our clothing to fit and flatter our beautiful bodies. While I can’t instill a sense of love for your body — only you can do that — I hope I can impress upon you the importance of viewing your measurements as the first step to sewing something for yourself that you can be proud of. One of the great things about sewing your own clothing is that you don’t have to put a size tag in the back of something you make. No matter what size pattern piece you use, making yourself a piece of clothing that fits — not too tight, not too loose — feels empowering, no matter what your size or shape.

Can’t I just skip this and use my ready-to-wear size instead?
OK, let’s say you decide to pass on measuring yourself completely. That means you’ll need to guess what size you need using the size labels on the pattern pieces instead of your body measurement and the size chart. This is risky, considering every pattern maker uses their own measurement chart; a size large for one of my patterns might be different from a size large somewhere else, including the ready-to-wear clothes you might have in your closet. Hypothetically now you’re in a sewing no-man’s-land: you’ve jumped into your project completely blind, hoping you’ll accidentally end up with a piece of clothing that fits.

Are you ready to get out your measuring tape and find your body measurements? OK!

A few general guidelines

  • If possible, measure in the morning; by the end of the day, gravity has taken its toll on your body and you are not only shorter, but wider.
  • Wear your best-fitting (and ideally, supportive) undergarments when measuring. This is SO IMPORTANT!
  • If possible, have someone help you take these measurements. When your arms are relaxed at your sides instead of trying to hold up the tape measure, you’ll get a more accurate measurement.
  • Do not pull the tape measure as tight as it will go. The tape measure should fit as loosely around your body as possible without falling down.
  • Wear tight-fitting clothing such as leggings and a tank top, or just your undergarments, rather than loose-fitting or thick clothing.

Start with your upper bust. Place the tape measure around your torso, right under your armpits and over the top of your bust. The tape measure should form a loop that is more or less parallel to the floor, but if it’s angled up a little in the front to clear the top of your bust, that is fine. Write this measurement down.

Now measure your bust. Place the tape measure around the fullest part of your bust. Write this measurement down. 

It is helpful to have both bust and upper bust measurements whenever you are sewing a pattern that includes a bodice, such as a dress or blouse. In my sewing patterns, I include a “Choose your size” section that explains how to use these two numbers to help you choose your size, to decide between the A/B and C/D bodices (such as in Gemma, Josephine, and Beatrix), and to help determine whether a bust adjustment is needed.

how to measure the waist

For your waist, place the tape measure around the smallest part of your waist, and write this measurement down. It’s important to note that this measurement is usually taken WELL ABOVE THE BELLY BUTTON, and that unless you wear high-waisted pants, this is not where the waistband of your pants are. Most pant waistbands sit at the “low waist” which is different than the “natural waist” that you are measuring right now. 

If you’re pear- or hourglass-shaped like my assistant Melissa (shown in these pics), your natural waist should be pretty easy to find. If you’re apple-shaped or banana-shaped (like me) or carry a good deal of your weight around your waist, though, it may be a bit harder to locate, and may actually be larger than your hip measurement. In this case, measure between your lowest rib and the top of your hip bones.

how to measure your hip / made by rae

The hip measurement can also be a bit tricky to find/take, because the location of the hip on the body varies from person to person, making it hard to nail down an exact location for the hip measurement. The other thing that makes everything more confusing is that the hip measurement is usually NOT at your hip bones, which are (again, usually) much higher on the body, closer to your low waist, where you might find the waistband on a pair of low-rise jeans.

The hip measurement should be taken around the widest part of your booty, below your hip bones. Write this measurement down.

Once you have your measurements, write them down in a notebook so you can refer to them later. Remember that if you gain or lose weight, start or stop exercising, or have other changes to your body, you’ll want to take them again!

Now you’re ready to choose your size and make a muslin!