When I started sewing, I used a Janome J3-18, which is a basic, low cost mechanical model. It served me well for over three years, doing everything I wanted it to do, and I would recommend it for beginners if you're not sure you're going to be sewing forever or for those on a budget. In the studio we teach with Janome DKS100, which is a mid-range digital machine. I really like this model - it has more functions, is much nicer to use, plus it has a lovely turquoise facing (what?!). I'd definitely recommend this one if you're serious about sewing or looking to upgrade from a mechanical model. I also use a Janome 6600P, a higher end professional digital machine, which I LOVE! It has super strong guts and lots of flashy features - great for if you're sewing every day.
Should I get an overlocker/serger too?
An overlocker/serger is great for creating a neat finish to seams, sewing stretch fabrics and more. I didn't get one until I'd been sewing for a year - they're certainly not essential when you're starting out. But if you do decide to take the plunge, they're brilliant for creating professional looking seams. I've got a Brother 1034D at home, which is a great value machine to start on, plus we teach with Janome 6234XL in the studio.
I'm just starting sewing - can you recommend an easy sewing pattern for beginners?
Yes I can! I designed my own line of sewing patterns with beginners in mind - the clothes are easy to construct, with jargon-busting instructions and the printed patterns include photos of each step so you can see what you're supposed to be doing. The Miette skirt is the PERFECT first garment project for beginners. It is easy to make, easy to fit, and has no fiddly zips or buttons. If you want to make your first dress, try the Francoise dress. Also, my book, Love at First Stitch, is written for beginner dressmakers and includes lots of lovely patterns from easy peasy pyjama bottoms through to skirts, dresses and a blouse.
Is seam allowance included in your patterns or do I have to add it myself?
All my patterns include a 15mm (5/8in) seam allowance - no need to add it.
I’m looking for a particular kind of fabric – where can I get it?
This post lists the places I usually buy fabric in London. I’m not an expert on who stocks what though, so if you're desperate to find something in particular, your best bet is to give a few of the shops a call and see if they have what you’re looking for.
Can you recommend a good sewing book?
Well, I hear that Love at First Stitch by Tilly Walnes is pretty good! It takes you from the absolute basics of threading a sewing machine through to creating a wardrobe full of clothing you'll be proud to say you made yourself. I also love these books:
- Fabric for Fashion: The Swatch Book by Clive Hallett and Amanda Johnstone - absolutely priceless for finding out what different fabrics actually feel like - reviewed here
- Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing by Gretchen Hirsch - the adorable Gertie guides us through couture techniques and gorgeous vintage-inspired patterns
- DIY Couture by Rosie Martin - refreshingly down-to-earth approach to sewing without patterns - reviewed here
- Complete Book of Sewing by Chris Jeffreys - super useful reference to millions of sewing techniques
- Design-It-Yourself Clothes by Cal Patch - simple and accessible pattern making projects
- Pattern Cutting by Dennic Chunman Lo - drafting explained in an intuitive manner - reviewed here
- Sew U Home Stretch by Wendy Mullin - overlocking made easy
- Colette Sewing Handbook by Sarai Mitnick - pretty projects in a beautiful book
- Pattern Magic by Tomoko Nakamichi - pattern play to make you go "woah!" - reviewed here
- Metric Pattern Cutting for Women's Wear by Winifred Aldrich - pattern style reference
No - Love at First Stitch features all new patterns. They're called Brigitte, Margot, Delphine, Megan, Clémence, Mimi and Lilou. Oh là là!
Do I have to download / scale up the patterns in your book?
Nope - they are full scale, multi-size paper patterns included in a pocket at the back of the book. They are printed on both sides of the sheets so be sure to trace them off before you cut them out.
I'm coming to London! Can you suggest some places to go fabric shopping?
Yes I can - read this!
I'm coming to London! Can we meet up for coffee?
I love meeting up with other sewing enthusiasts and crafty business owners. However, the down side of running my own business is that I don't get out much... I hardly have time to see my friends and family these days so, unless we're already buddies, alas I probably won't be able to get away from the studio. Sorry :(
Can you recommend some online fabric shops?
Some of my favourite online fabric shops are featured on the right hand side of my blog. Here are some tips on online fabric shopping.
Which dress form/tailor's dummy do you have?
I have a Lady Valet adjustable dress form, which is great as you can adjust it to your size, plus it looks really nice.
What was that sewable tracing paper I saw you using on the telly and where can I get some?
It's called Swedish tracing paper and you can find it here.
I really like that vintage sewing pattern featured on your blog. Where can I get a copy?
You can source vintage sewing patterns on eBay, Etsy and specialist online shops, as well as at antiques and charity shops. While you may not find the exact same pattern, similar styles come up all the time. Good luck!
Will you help promote my product/business?
If you run a small sewing-related business that my readers would love to hear about, you might consider becoming a sponsor. If your sewing business is larger, please get in touch to discuss how we might work together. I occasionally review a sewing-related book or fabric if I love it and think my readers will too. Unfortunately I have to turn down most review offers simply because of limited time and editorial space. I don't promote clothes shops - I'd rather readers made their own.
We would like to contribute an article / guest post to your site...
Sorry, I create the content for this blog myself.
Help! My sewing machine is playing up!
Ooh noo! Alas, I’m no expert on the mysterious mechanics of the machine. If it’s a minor issue, you might be surprised how often you can find the solution just by Googling it – chances are someone else has had the exact same issue and written about it online. Hurrah for the interwebs! If it’s an ongoing problem, best get your machine checked out by a professional.
Can I buy the clothes that you make?
Sorry, I don't sell the clothes that I make. My aim is to teach you to learn to sew clothes yourself!
Can I pay you to alter some clothes for me?
Sorry, I don't offer an alterations service.
Can I sell garments that I have made from your sewing patterns?
Sorry, purchasing one of my sewing patterns allows you to make garments for yourself or as gifts, not to sell them to others.
Can I teach a sewing class using your sewing patterns?
Yes, you can! Each student will have to buy their own version of the pattern as they are for personal use only. If you plan to repeat the class, you might prefer to place a wholesale order for patterns. Please be sure to credit the pattern to Tilly and the Buttons and use the pattern's correct name. You're also welcome to teach classes using the patterns in Love at First Stitch if you buy one copy of the book for each student and credit it accordingly - please contact the publisher to place a wholesale order. Thank you.
Does sewing run in your family?
Yes! My great-grandfather was a tailor and my mum was a knitwear designer. They didn’t teach me to sew though...
How did you learn to sew?
I started by taking workshops, reading books, following sewing blogs and trial and error. Later on I took some courses in professional sewing techniques and pattern drafting at the London College of Fashion. If you want to learn to sew, my book offers a great introduction, or if you're in London you could come to one of our workshops.
I've started my own blog. Can you give me some tips on building an audience?
You can watch a video of my 'Craft Your Blog' talk which I gave to designer-maker businesses at Folksy Summer School here.
I want to start my own crafty business... Can you give me some advice?
Sure! I wrote a post sharing my tips on turning your hobby into a business. Good luck!
Which sewing blogs do you read?
Squillions - far too many to list! And I'm finding new ones all the time. Just a few of my favourites are: A Sewing Odyssey, Did You Make That?, Dixie DIY, Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing, Handmade Jane, Lazy Stitching, Lladybird, My Happy Sewing Place, Nette, Paunnet, Sew I Thought, So Zo...… the list goes on! I also enjoy reading blogs on craft, food, business, life...
Can I use a photo from your blog on my website?
The content of this website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Licence. What that means is that I’m happy for you to use an image so long as it’s for non-commercial purposes, you don’t alter it, you credit www.tillyandthebuttons.com and link back to the original post. Please don’t reproduce tutorials in full and please request permission if you want to use more than one image.
And I’m more than happy for you to post as many images as you want to Pinterest as long as they link back to the original source. In fact, I'd encourage it!
How do I leave a comment on your blog?
Thanks for chipping in! To leave a comment, you'll need to sign in with some kind of account (Google, Yahoo, AOL, Wordpress... etc). If you're commenting on a post that's older than a couple of weeks, your comment won't show up immediately as I monitor these ones to filter out spam (some of which is pretty hilarious).
If your question is about a pattern, workshop or something else shop-related, read this. Thanks!