Which sewing machine should I get?
You're in luck, I've written a whole blog post to answer this question!

Which sewing machine do you use?
In the studio we sew on and teach with Janome DKS100, which is a fantastic mid-range digital machine. At home I use a Janome 6600P, a higher end professional digital machine, with super strong guts and lots of flashy features. You can read more about them - as well as my first (mechanical) sewing machine - here.

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 a great investment once you get serious about sewing. 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.

What tools do I need if I'm just starting sewing?
Don't worry about getting everything at once, just focus on the essentials - here's what I'd suggest.

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. If it’s an ongoing problem, best get your machine checked out by a professional :)

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 and the Bettine dress are PERFECT first garment projects for beginners - easy to make, easy to fit, with no fiddly zips, buttonholes, darts or set-in sleeves. 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. Read more about what to look for in a beginner sewing project.

Is seam allowance included in your patterns or do I have to add it myself?
All our patterns include a 15mm (5/8in) seam allowance - no need to add it.

I really want to take one of your workshops but I'm not in London...
We hear you, and we've recently launched our first online workshop, taught through videos, which you can take whenever and wherever it suits you! Watch the trailer for Learn to Sew Jersey Tops and find out more.

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:
Are the Coco/Mathilde/Miette patterns included in your book?
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.

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).

I'm coming to London! Can you suggest some places to go fabric shopping?
Yes I can - read this!

I'm in 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... 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!

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.

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 you can repost 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 like to Pinterest as long as they link back to the original source :)

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!

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. Unfortunately I very rarely review books or other products because of limited time and editorial space. And 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, we create all the content for this blog ourselves.

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.

If your question is about a pattern, workshop or something else shop-related, please read this. Thanks!


  1. I have the following issue: I'm a size 18 in my bodice, but a size 22 on the bottom, can you demonstrate how to blend lines from an 18 to 22, I'm never sure that I'm doing that very well.

    1. Hi Ola, I've posted about blending between different pattern sizes here. Hope this helps!

  2. Hi Tilly. I inherited a sewing machine recently and thanks to your guidance I can now use it with reasonable proficiency! I have only made some cushion covers so far but am pretty pleased with them. I'm now seeking my next project but am unsure where to look. I have in my head embroidered cushions or stuffed toys to give to friends and their children. Any tips for some good blogs to look at, I'm coming across lots of skirt and blouse patterns but need some more unisex ideas.
    I will of course keep following your super blog too!
    Many thanks,

    1. Hi Ben
      Hooray! So glad the blog has helped you get sewing! I wrote a post about easy sewing projects with links to some things to make. I don't make cushions or toys myself so I'm not the best person to ask for recommendations, but I see things like that popping up on Pinterest all the time so perhaps that would be a good place to look for projects that inspire you?
      Happy sewing!

  3. Hi Tilly, In your post on Fabric Shopping in London (which was in equal parts amazing and dangerous, I went to Walthamstow last Saturday and afterwards understood the need for granny shoppers!) You mention buying lots of fabric online, there's certainly lots out there, but I wonder if you have any particular favourite sites?

    1. Hi Annie
      See the right hand side of the blog for some of my favourites -->
      I'm preparing a post on online fabric shopping too, so watch this space...

  4. Hi Tilly! I'm new to sewing and officially obsessed. Started sewing due to the fact that i'm very petite, and spent 30 years buying ill-fitting clothing. No more of that! Do you have any idea where I can purchase an extra small dress form online? Thanks for any guidance. (Love your blog!)

    1. I bought this one from Amazon. It's vital statistics are 33"-23"-34". Hope this helps!

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  6. Hi Tilly
    Loving GBSB. On the show you mentioned that you use Swedish Tracing Paper. I can't find anywhere in the UK to get it. Where do you get yours?

    P.S I remember you as blogger of the month in sew magazine - the same month I won the star letter for my day trip bag and jacket.

    Louise Robinson

  7. Hello!

    I need help, do you have any tips on cutting fabric to a pattern and/or the correct size? I'm sure it is super simple but I have so many issues when I measure and cut (using a rotary cutter) only to discovered its wonky.


  8. What are your favourite fabric websites. I see the places you recommend buying fabric in London but I live too far away to go that often. It seems a minefield out there and of course you can't touch them online! I'm looking for the cheaper end of the range. I would love to make an a line skirt in white stuff/fat face kind of influenced fabrics. Just can't seem to find them online. Loved you on the Great British Sewing Bee by the way, your creativity is inspiring!

    1. Sue, do you have a branch of John Lewis near you? They often have a very good haberdashery department with great choice of fabrics which aren't over priced.

  9. Hi Tilly

    I'm loving making the mitte skirt, but am a bit sad as it's nearly finished so am looking for project number 2! I love the Mathilde blouse, but as I'm a bit busty can't wear a straight across neck as it makes me look a bit matronly..can Mathilde be (easily) adapted to a v neck or can you suggest an alternative 2nd project for absolute beginner... I also love picnic blanket skirt but am a bit worried in case it's too advanced.

    Thanks in advance for your help,


    1. I'm in the same boat as Alice here! I quite fancy using an old shirt of my husband's to make a Mathilde (or adaptation of), but am concerned there'll be a huge expanse of fabric between my chin and chest!

  10. Hi Tilly I just want to say a huge well done on getting on the Great British Sewing Bee and I think they sent you home way to early. I met you last year at the Start up Saturday event with my husband Matt Storey from Crofton Myers Training and you were wearing a lovely top you had made yourself which was stunning - the chocolate button up the back one. You have amazing sewing talent. Good Luck for the future Samantha Storey xx

  11. Hello Tilly, I am a newbie sewer, I've done some patchwork and quilting and sewn a couple of simple dresses for my granddaughters but never attempted anything for myself. I love the look of the Miette skirt and Mathilde blouse, so I think I'll treat myself to one of them.
    Just wondering if the pattern includes seam allowances or does it need adding before cutting?
    BTW loved watching the Great British Sewing Bee, I've been inspired.

  12. Hi Tilly,
    I love the mathilde blouse but am wondering if you're offering a plus size version? I'd be happy to test it out!
    Tanks elli

  13. Hi Tilly, enjoyed your blog+website.
    I live in Dubai. Mu husband shall be visiting London soon and am interested in finding out where he can pick up sewing machine accessories for me, specially things like fabric strip cutter and gauge marker scale. thanks for help

  14. Hi, I wanted to buy the Mathilde blouse pattern but I the price is in pounds. I was wondering how much it is in dollars. It is a beautiful blouse and I want to make it over the summer to wear for the fall.
    Thank you very much

  15. Hi Tilly any thoughts about using a basting gun in dressmaking?

  16. Hi Tilly,
    I love the blog, it has inspired me to get back on my sewing machine and have some fun with it. I have been sewing for a while but I still consider myself as a begginner. Do you have any advice on what I can do to improve my skills. I live in devon so there arn't any workshops that I can find close to where I live, is there anything else I can do to get better at sewing?
    Thanks :-D

  17. Hi Tilly, I'm a huge fan and I wanted to see if it was alright if I used your sewing machine diagram pic in a post I am doing on my blog. I will credit you and link back to your site. :)

  18. Do you have to be a really good artist to make your clothes? Or do you just envision it in your mind?

  19. Lovely website and I enjoyed watching the Sewing Bee and you! I am searching the internet, looking for (I am no seamstress) fabric to create historic ruffs and collars. They were made from linen lawn in the 17th century, but that is very hard to find nowadays (any ideas?). Cotton lawn has the right transparency but is so floppy and soft. If anyone has ideas where to get a more stiff but very fine lawn, I would love to hear it. Otherwise its a matter of gallons of starch....;)Thanks.

  20. Hi Tilly, I seem to be having a fitting malfunction :/ My shop bought clothing size is usually 12 for skirts & trews and 14 for tops if theyre stetchy as my measurements are 44-32- 41 which means off the peg dresses are an impossible dream and I´m often stuck with T-shirt type tops..boring! I´m confused about what pattern size I would need. Could you help me with this please?


  21. Hi Tilly
    I note you use a Janome 6600P machine - how do you deal with cuffs etc when this machine doesn't have a 'free arm'?

    1. Hi Pauline, I prefer to sew cuffs and other circular parts with the side to be stitched facing up - sewing inside the loop, if that makes sense. I find it easier to manage the fabric like that. I think that's how professionals sew them...?

  22. Tilly
    (this may be a double-post, sorry). How come when I measure myself, and put those measurements down on material and cut what I need... the material doesn't go all the way around? I am a big girl, if that makes any difference. Please help. It happens every time I try to make something, it's getting me down. I must be doing something really basic wrong here!
    Many thanks.

    1. Are you adding a seam allowance? And ease? Generally it's a good idea to add an inch or so to the waist and hips and a couple of inches to the chest for breathing and movement. I hope this helps!

  23. Do you use a serger/overlocker. If not how to you fifsh your seans to minimise that"homesewn" look?

  24. Hello! I've just happily stumbled on your blog. I was wondering if you could help me with a question. Can you recommend an easy-style starter dress to make? I would like to make my daughter's communion dress and have 5 months to complete the task. She's 8 years old and wears a U.S. size 10-12. I've made plenty of skirts, pillows, tote bags, bunting, bowties, tea wallets, capes, baby pants, costumes, but never a shirt or dress, and have never used a store-bought pattern. I figure I ought to make a simple dress before tackling anything fancier. Thank you in advance for any advice you can offer!

  25. Hi Tilly!
    I have bought your pattern for the Mathilde blouse and I have seen this beautifull and expensive fabric online but it's 140cm wide (I'm french (this explain my poor english), we use the metric system!). Do I have to buy 2,2m lengh or can I buy less?
    Thank you for your wonderfull blog!

  26. Hi Tilly,

    I have recently bought my first sewing machine and am loving your blog!

    I am having my bridesmaid dresses made (not making them myself!) and I am struggling to find the right material. They are a Tiffany prom dress style by Dig for Victory. I am finding it hard to find the right weight and type of material to suit the structure of the dress, especially as I need it in 6 different colours. What type of material would you recommend for this?

    Thank you!

  27. Hello Again Tilly,
    Firstly thank you for mentioning the tables that we make. We have recently made one with storage shelf and will be adding it to the variations available shortly.
    I was interested to learn that you don't buy online especially as there are so many excellent suppliers. I have personal knowledge of a very competitive company ~ Tissu from whom I have had NO problems. They do a really good range of fabrics and I have been especially delighted with the fleece that they sell at 1/3 of the price of identical fabric sold in a local store also Terry's fabrics for curtaining etc. They have a good range of Clarke and Clarke very keenly priced. I feel very strongly about purchasing from and supporting local stores appreciating that many have really high overheads. Nevertheless when selling for charity, which I try to do, I go for the option which will give me the best margin.
    Keep up the good work with your words of wisdom which are such a good read even to a pair of retired Design Technology Teachers [ I taught food and fabric and my husband resistant materials and graphics ]
    Thanks a lot.
    Mami and Papi Designs

  28. Hello Tilly. I have bougtt your pattern for the coco dress, but I forgot to write down my email adress. What to do.

    Many regards from Marianne.

  29. Hello Tilly after reading your blog I was so inspired I bought a very simple pattern and material of a basic pair of trousers and I have a silly question, can I stitch it by hand? I am happy with a needle and thread and realise it would take much longer

    1. Tilly, I made friends with my sewing machine! only the hem to do on a basic pair of trousers, going to get some more fabric on Saturday, can you recommend an apron pattern

      kathryn (shawl lady)

  30. i am dying to start sewing and would like to buy a dress form. I have a short body so wondered do they alter so the body length is shorter and can you recommend a good one? thanks for the inspiring blog :)

  31. Hi Tilly, I've just started a sewing blog of my own and I'm dying to use some of your patterns! Do you mind me sharing pictures of things I have made from your patterns on my blog? Obviously with links your website and such :) thank you!

  32. Hi Tilly, could you tell me, is it possible to simply join front pattern pieces to side front pattern pieces and then cut the material as a single piece? Thereby eliminating the side front seam? Any advice or info you could offer me would be greatly appreciated!! Thank you :)

  33. Hi Tilly, I just received your book for my birthday and it's amazing! I am pretty much completely new to sewing apart from the very little I learned at school so your book is exactly what I need, it's fantastic. I have inherited a box of sewing bit and bobs from my grandmother; I noticed that you mentioned to use polyester thread but the grand majority of her thread is 100% cotton. What would you recommend for projects? I have read a few conflicting arguments for both and am a bit undecided. Thanks!

  34. Hi Tilly,
    I am very excited about your workshops, especially as they are just down the road from me! :) I'm just wondering if I could pay for one with a gift voucher?

    1. Great! Yes, you can use a T&TB gift voucher on anything in the shop, including workshops.

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  37. What cup size are your patterns drafted for? I looked in all your FAQs and couldn't find it.

    1. Hi Lisette, they're drafted for a B cup.

  38. Thanks for posting this faq, very helpful. My wife is going to start a sewing blog (apart from one she's already managing - reviews on college essay writing services), and I thought that the information presented here would be a great help for her, especially it concern nice collection of sewing books that you've kindly shared. Many thanks.

  39. If I buy the book or patterns and find that my measurements go slightly above an 8 for some designs is there a way to adjust the patterns to accommodate for this?

    1. Hi Melody, you can find tutorials online for grading a sewing pattern to another size. Good luck!

  40. Wahey! a new T&TB pattern. I am very new to sewing but have quickly become obsessed as over the last few months have made the pyjamas, a Coco, two megan dresses and am now going to attempt an Agnes, wish me luck :-)

  41. Hi Tilly,
    I just bought the Bettine pattern. I am a new sewer and am excited to try to make my own dress! I found a fabric that I LOVE, but its a bit see through. Can I line the dress using the pattern? Would I just cut the lining using the pattern and sew them together? Or, do you have any other suggestions so that I can use this sheer fabric?

    1. Thanks Jenna! Hmm... I haven't tried lining Bettine but I suspect it'd become a bit complicated attaching the lining at the waist channel. The easiest way would probably be to baste the two layers together and sew them as one. Or wear a slip!


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