Pattern Review and Upcycle: Cleo Pinafore

This is arguably one of my faourite makes of 2019 so far – the upcycled cleo!


  • Pattern name: Cleo
  • Variation/Style: Knee length
  • Design House: Tilly and the Buttons
  • Size I made: 4


I made this completely out of two pairs of size 16 jeans which were gifted to me the other year.  I had my sights on transforming them into a pinafore towards the end of the year but Sewisfaction’s Great British Sewing Bee challenge brought it forward.

The denim of the jeans is lovely and thick and and as a result it is a real treat wearing this pinafore.  Best of all is that it doesn’t crease – yes!


The pattern is beautifully simple.  I did not have to make any adjustments as it is loose fit, but you may wish to grade between sizes if your measurements vary.

The most challenging part for me was topstitching as I wanted to use a contrast thread colour and I struggled to get the tension right on my machine.  If your fabric is thick and your machine is not suited to heavy weight materials, you may struggle going over seam bulk.  However, I found that using a denim needle for the sewing up and a top stitching needle helped, along with the trusty walking foot.

The hardest part was cutting out all the parts from the jeans.  I am not convinced that I cut the front sections perfectly on the grainline, and unpicking the seams took hours!


As I have mentioned in other TATB pattern reviews (and many others have said the same), the instructions are very clear and guide you step by step.

Design and Fit

Cleo is a loose fit garment and as a result, is easy to fit.  If you use buckles and don’t stitch down the straps, it even leaves room for adjusting in this area at any time.

I decided to put the front slit at the back.  I think a slit is needed for the knee length version or your walking gait might be a bit restricted.  I really like the hip pocket detail as well.  I was tempted by the bib pocket but it seemed a shame to not use two of the ready made back pockets from one set of jeans!

Time Taken

It is really difficult to evaluate how long it took me to make this garment.  The sewing up was pretty quick and didn’t take long.  The main time sink was unpicking the original jeans construction as they are made so well!  However, if you made these from a piece of fabric it would not take long at all, especially as the pattern is designed for use with stable woven fabrics


I have always had reservations about the Cleo.  Like many of the TATB patterns, I’ve always felt that I like the look of them but that they might not suit me.  However, having made it and worn it many times, I am really happy I went ahead with it.  It has soared to the top as my favourite pinafore to wear and I really feel that repurposing the jeans has made it such a satisfying make to wear that is likely to last a long time.  The fabric of the jeans is so substantial and feels so nice – I suspect it would have cost me fair bit to find the equivalent in a fabric shop!

In particular, I love the blend of the two jeans.  They are a similar weight, but I like the fact you can see the medley of the two types of denim.

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Upcycling jeans – the sewing pinny!

One of the projects I made during #miymarch16 was the upcycled pinny from an old pair of jeans.

jeans before
A very creased pair of old jeans!

I got these jeans for my 21st.  I’m a bit of a hoarder, and while they had a tear in them where the fabric was so thin and worn out, I hadn’t had the heart to chuck them away.

When I met up with my mum and sister in March, they suggested cutting them up into something new.  Due to the location of the worn out section, a skirt was not suitable!  However, we came up with making a tool belt.

jeans initial cut

One of the best parts of making something from something you’re prepared to throw away is that it doesn’t cost you anything and you have a lot of freedom to just go for it!  I simply placed a ruler over the jeans roughly where I thought the length would be good and took a rotary cutter to it!


As you can see, I curved the back to make it more apron like, but also so I could keep the back pockets.  Jeans lend themselves to being a belt because of all the pockets!!  I added some patches to the back pockets and then added a pom pom trim and ribbon border.


I wanted to add more decoration, and following my recent addiction to free machine embroidery (which I will go into more detail at some point in the future), I drew out some sewing related appliqué onto bondaweb!

pinny complete

Et voila!  Here is the end result!  I added some random buttons to the front pockets and stitched additional detail on the appliqué.  Now I put my scissors on a bungee rope so they’re always with me but I do think I need to add a scissor holster to it to improve it.

Continue ReadingUpcycling jeans – the sewing pinny!