31 December 2012

A Moment of Reflection...

Warning: This post contains a fair amount of gushing.

It's that time of year when, like many people, I look back over the past twelve months, reflect on what I've made of my time, and set goals for the new year. Dreaming on trains is a great way of gaining perspective, so that's exactly what I did yesterday, with a day trip out of London planned especially for that purpose. 

For me, 2012 has been... intense. Throughout the year, this blog has been a welcome constant in my life. The discipline of committing to writing two posts a week has kept me focused and grounded no matter what else has been going on in my life - both at times when I've felt blue and needed lifting, or times when I was on cloud nine and maybe needed bringing back down to earth a little :)

Favourite makes of 2012

Moreover, as well as keeping me focused, being part of the online maker movement has brought me SO MUCH JOY. The authenticity and unpredictability of blogs makes them so much more interesting to me than reading a lot of mainstream media. Looking at the beautiful things people make themselves brings me so much pleasure. I love the internet, y'all!

Favourite spam comment of 2012, man

And producing blog posts myself is soooo satisfying, bringing me just as much pleasure as making my own clothing. Tomorrow marks my three year blogiversary. I am so happy that three years ago I took a risk, clicked "publish" and began contributing to such a wonderful community.

So I just wanted to say a huge THANK YOU to all my readers who have supported me and spurred me on to keep up my blog. Your encouraging comments and emails really mean so much to me. And a big virtual hug to the other bloggers of the world who brighten my days with their creativity, wisdom and humour. You guys are the best :)

Most unexpected comment (which is actually quite cool)

And you make me want to make this blog better! I have some exciting (well, exciting for me at least) things up my proverbial (homemade) sleeve to share with you over the coming weeks. The first is a blog design makeover which will go live tomorrow to coincide with the new year. I hope you like it!

Wishing you all a very happy new year!

Love from Tilly xx

28 December 2012

Ooh Look, I'm Moving... Yes! It's a Video Blog!

I'm talking! And moving! Yes, I've broken the ice and produced (that sounds a bit grand, but you know what I mean) my first video blog post. Feeling a little nervous uploading this (do I sound like what you expected? do I look funny when I talk?) but - deep breath - gonna do it!

SPOILER ALERT! The patterns I mention in my post are:
Veste Pavot by Deer and Doe
Thurlow Trousers by Sewaholic (available in the UK from Fabric Godmother)
Ginger Skirt by Colette Patterns (available in the UK from Sewbox)
Coppelia Cardi and La Sylphide by Papercut Patterns


24 December 2012

Wishing You a Merry Stitchmas!

Just a little note to wish y'all a wonderful time over the festive season. May your days be merry and bright... and may Santa bring you that sewing pattern you've been coveting.

I shall be chillaxing to the max. Since finishing work on Friday, all the muscles in my body seem to have collapsed into an exhausted heap from what has been a rather intense year. Just typing this is a struggle! But I soldier on, fuelled by hot spiced apple juice and a box of lebkuchen biscuits (mmm...). I'm silencing the workaholic in me and for the next few days will be mostly sitting on the sofa, eating cheese and... err... that's probably about it!

One thing I have managed to do is make a start on tidying up my sewing shelves. If my body wakes up, I may even crack open a new project, who knows...

Have a good one, y'all!

20 December 2012

A Day in the Life of Sarah Norwood - Ohhh Lulu

"Ohhh Lulu..." Isn't that such an enticing name for a business? The business belongs to the next interviewee in the Day in the Life series, Sarah, maker of beauuuutiful underpinnings and more recently patterns allowing you to sew your own. Hurrah! Sarah recently took the plunge into running her business full time, so let's find out what her new lifestyle is like...


"Like many fashion design graduates, I had big dreams but after graduation I had a hard time finding work in my field. I changed jobs a lot, working retail, alterations, a little in the interior decorating and textiles industry, ultimately ending up in administration. None of those jobs were quite right for me, and I found myself in a number of jobs that I just absolutely despised. In 2010, I decided it was time for me to put my real skills and talent to work, and I started my business, Ohhh Lulu Lingerie & Apparel. For the past two years, I have been juggling being a full-time office manager while growing my online Etsy-based business, and just this last October took the leap into full time self employment!

Working two jobs, I've learned that having a structured routine really helps you stay organized, disciplined and on track, and this has really helped transition me into my self-employment routine. My husband starts work early, so we both get out of bed between 6.00 and 6.30am. After having a few sips of coffee, the first thing I do is answer any emails that have come in throughout the night. The amount of time it takes really varies by the day. Now that I have the extra time to devote to Ohhh Lulu, I’m finding myself spending a lot of time in front of the computer! From coordinating photo shoots, to sourcing wholesale suppliers, some days it’s hard to tear yourself away from the computer. My little dog, Oliver, usually gets up around 7.30am, at which time I put down my laptop and take him for a stroll around the block, or down to the park. We live in the loveliest little town in Ontario, Canada, full of old Victorian houses, beautiful parks, and a gorgeous waterfront.

I try to structure my day like a normal day at work. After walking the dog and checking emails, I get dressed. Even though often I won’t see another soul during the day, I like to wear a nice outfit and do my hair nicely to make me feel a little more motivated. Before getting down to business, I do a quick tidy of the kitchen, make myself a smoothie, wipe up any bread crumbs my husband leaves from his breakfast, basically try to eliminate any distractions!

My routine varies slightly day to day. I try to give myself weekends ‘off’, so on Mondays I will have extra emails and customer inquiries to attend to, and will also do administrative things like paying bills, sourcing notions and fabrics, editing photos, and updating all of my social media outlets. The administrative side of running a business is definitely not my favourite part, so I try to get it out of the way first thing during the week! The rest of my Monday usually involves cutting out all of my orders for that week. Cutting is another job I’m not really keen on, so I get it all out of the way in a big batch.

The rest of the week is much more fun. Around 8.30am, the first thing I do when I start my work day is make myself a cup of tea, and switch on the radio. I listen to CBC (Canada’s BBC) radio compulsively! Once I have my cup of tea and the radio switched on, I sit myself down in front of my serger and do all of that days serging in one big batch.

My studio is set up on the main floor of my house, in our open concept living room / dining room area. The space is big and bright, and on days when my husband is home, it is nice because we can still feel like we are hanging out when I am working. Having a studio in your main living area seems kind of strange, but it really keeps you motivated to stay neat and organized!

I take a lunch break around 12.30pm, I let my dog out, heat up some leftovers, and give myself a few minutes to walk around and stretch. Sewing all day can be really hard on the back, so I often get out for little walks with my dog. Being able to spend the whole day with my dog one of the best things about working from home. I am absolutely nuts about my dog!

My lunch is normally short, about twenty minutes or so before I’m back to sewing again. I sew in an assembly line style, so once all of my serging is completed in the morning, I move over to the sewing machine for the afternoon, applying elastic, finishing seams, etc... After about two days of sewing, I usually have several orders ready to pack up and walk down to the post office. Post office days are full of excitement and nerves for me! I’m always excited for a customer to receive their order, but in the back of my mind I’m always wondering, 'Did I trim all my threads? Did I tie my bows neatly...?'

I purchase my fabrics in small amounts which means items can sell out quickly. I often have to be adding new items, aside from my seasonal collection changes, to the shop to keep it stocked and fresh. Designing new pieces is one of the best parts of my job. I love selecting fabrics, adding embellishments, and seeing a design really come to life! It’s something that gives me a great sense of fulfillment. In the winter months, I need to really make good use of my time because daylight hours are limited and I like to use natural light for my photographs!


Around 4.30pm, I take a break from sewing, tidy up the studio, then get dinner in the oven for when my husband comes home. One of the things I am enjoying the most about working from home is having the time and flexibility to cook a proper meal each night. My husband gets home shortly after 5.00pm and we sit and have dinner together. Immediately after, I usually spend about an hour or so answering emails again, editing photos, or posting new listings.

By 7.30pm I usually call it a day, and try to wind down. I like to end my days with a bubble bath, then snuggle up with my dog and my husband on the couch, read a book, knit, watch a movie, and catch some well-needed rest. I am loving having weekends back in my life again, after 2 years of working Monday to Friday at my office job, then Saturday and Sunday from home. I often spend my weekends hanging out with my family, or fixing up our old house.

It can be difficult to know when the 'right' time is to take a business full time, and for my husband and I, the biggest factor was financial. It wasn’t until Ohhh Lulu had consistently proven to be as stable as my regular job, that I decided to give my notice. The last year has been really challenging with my workload, but incredibly rewarding. In hindsight, I had to put many things to the side to build my business while also working full time, but for us, it was the best way to do it. I am also incredibly lucky to have a husband who has encouraged me from day one. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and have had the aesthetic and philosophy behind Ohhh Lulu floating around in my head for years. When I first started seeing my husband, I told him about my ideas and he really encouraged me to pursue it. With that extra push, I started designing some garments based off of vintage pieces and patterns, drafting my own original designs, and together, we came up with a name, using my nickname Lulu.

Aside from my made to order collection, I am slowly also working on a small collection of PDF Patterns. Nearly a year ago, I decided it would be fun to share some of my patterns with other sewing enthusiasts, so I began digitizing some of my hand drafted patterns. My first pattern, the Betty High Waist Panties Pattern was far more successful than I ever anticipated and I have had so much fun seeing how everyone has used the pattern, tweaked it, what fabrics they have used. Expanding my PDF Pattern Collection is a goal for the coming year.

For me, being able to work from home is one of the best feelings. I get to do something I love every day, and feel like I’m really investing in my future. Being self employed can also be scary, especially when you have very little business background! There are a lot of challenges to being self employed. You need some serious self discipline, work ethic, and most importantly, you can’t be afraid to fall flat on your face and pick yourself right back up again!

If you are considering starting a clothing line or design company, I have three pieces of advice. The first is to have a clear picture of how you want your ‘brand’ to look. This might change and evolve over time, but having a consistent, clear look has helped me make Ohhh Lulu recognizable! The second is to have some financial flexibility when you start up so you can take risks and invest in equipment and supplies. Whether you work a ‘day job’ while starting your business, or are able to save before starting your business, having a little extra cashflow makes life much less stressful. The third, and perhaps most important, is make social media your friend! I have met so many great contacts through my blog; it has really proven to be an valuable source for me.

So, that is a basic day in my life! It’s a lot of work, sometimes stressful, but incredibly rewarding! Through my job I’ve had the opportunity to get to know so many amazing people; I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to do what I am doing. For me, this is a life-long dream come true!

I really want to thank Tilly for inviting me to participate in this amazing series; I know I’ve gotten a lot of inspiration from reading previous A Day in the Life posts. I’ve followed Tilly’s blog for a long time now, since I first started Ohhh Lulu, so it’s truly an honour to be here!"

It's an honour to have you, Sarah! Wishing you lots of success and happiness with your wonderful venture! (And readers - check out her blog.)

16 December 2012

Polka Dot New Look 6000


Thank you so much for all your suggestions about what colour buttons I should sew onto this dress. The comments had me oohing and ahhing - particularly the colour combos I'd never have thought of myself. Navy with green? Oooh... Navy with orange? Ahhh... In the end, however, I just couldn't choose one single colour so left the buttons off altogether. Sorry! But now I can wear whatever colour tights I want with it. Mmm... coloured tights...


The fabric is a really lovely stretch cotton courtesy of the Fabric Godmother (thanks Josie!) and the pattern is New Look 6000. I made the skirt a bit wider at the hemline, since I've decided to be a bit more honest with myself about what style of clothes I'll actually get the most wear out of. Pencil skirts may look pretty hot, but I don't look too hot running for a bus at half a mile an hour with my knees locked together, or sat at my desk wriggling around trying to get comfy. So yes, wider hem it is!

And I love it so!

Want more New Look 6000? Check out loads of gorgeous version's on Scruffy Badger's blog.

[Soundtrack: 'Here I Am (Come and Take Me)' by Al Green - oh yeeeah!]

13 December 2012

What's On My Sewing Table...

Mmm... wooden buttons...

Lovely chambray...

Steam! (There's no need to be afraid!)

Lovely tucks...

I lurrrrrrve what's on my sewing table right now. All will be revealed soon, I promise.

What's on your sewing table, please?

[Soundtrack: 'Corrina, Corrina' by Bob Dylan]

9 December 2012

And the winner is...

Crikey! There were 720 entries to the Stitcher's Dream Christmas Giveaway. 720! Understandable, I guess - who wouldn't want to win tons of fabric, patterns and other stitchy goodies?

But, as they say, there can only be one winner.

And the lucky stitcher is...

... [drum roll] ...

... [ooh I'm feeling nervous!] ...

Wow! This will make a seamstress verry happy! I went to the Sewbox website and discovered the Eliza M pattern line, I had never heard of it before and they have an adorable retro look! Thank you Tilly :)

F√©licitations Camille / Mamie!!! Enjoy your goodies... ooh and don't forget to show us what you make!

6 December 2012

Dear Santa...

I don't know whether Santa reads sewing blogs, but I'm going to try my luck and hope he's reading. For this is what I would like to get in my stocking this year please:

I've been coveting this mug for aaaages. I don't know what it is about sewing and tea, but the two seem to go together hand in hand.

After seeing Lauren's gorgeous version, I've decided to get over my fear of trousers. Santa, are you listening?

It's about time I got one of these. My thread spools are spilling all over my sewing box. Plus they just look so pretty!

"Rozsika Parker's re-evaluation of the reciprocal relationship between women and embroidery has brought stitchery out from the private world of female domesticity into the fine arts, created a major breakthrough in art history and criticism, and fostered the emergence of today's dynamic and expanding crafts movements... Parker uses household accounts, women's magazines, letters, novels and the works of art themselves to trace through history how the separation of the craft of embroidery from the fine arts came to be a major force in the marginalisation of women's work. Beautifully illustrated, her book also discusses the contradictory nature of women's experience of embroidery: how it has inculcated female subservience while providing an immensely pleasurable source of creativity, forging links between women."
Sounds good to me.

I know most sewists also knit, but not I. I did try. But I'm impatient. And it makes my hands hurt. Oh and I was rubbish at it. But anyway, all that is irrelevant when you behold the beauty of this beginners' knitting kit. Swoon!

Or more realistically, designing a snood and having a Granny knit it for me could be even better! I squealed with joy as I watched this video explaining the concept behind this marvellous venture.

My yellow tape measure just doesn't compare to the sophistication of this monochrome gem. If I draped this one round my neck it would go with everything!

I'm not really a magazine person. I find blogs written by real people so much more interesting. But recently I got into Frankie magazine, which is soooo beautiful and foregrounds crafts. I think it was a feature on a Chutney Club which got me hooked. And the latest edition has embroidery on the front cover. Yes.

And finally, French pattern designer Deer & Doe's Pavot jacket was high on my list... and it turned up in my mail box the other day! My sister-in-law got wind of it and sent it over. My first Chrimble prezzie! Hooray!

What are you hoping to find in your stocking this year?

PS. For more Christmas gift ideas for crafters, check out DIYcouture's round up.

[Soundtrack: 'Blue Christmas' by Elvis Presley - my second favourite Christmas song!]

3 December 2012

Stitcher's Dream Christmas Giveaway!!!

Have you been a good stitcher this year? Do you deserve to win lots of lovely prezzies? Yule (sorry) love this MASSIVE pre-Christmas giveaway!

One lucky reader will win ALL of this:

* Three digital sewing patterns of your choice from Victory Patterns *

* 2m of fabric of your choice from Eternal Maker *

* Sewing-themed fat quarter fabric bundle from Frumble *

* Lace peter pan collar kit PLUS £15 of fabric of your choice from the Fabric Godmother *

* 3 100% linen tea towels, perfect for embroidering, from Ada & Ina Natural Fabrics *

* The Betty High Waist Panties sewing pattern from Ohhh Lulu *

* Christmas-themed fat quarter fabric bundle of your choice from Dragonfly Fabrics *

* £30 voucher to spend on fabric/patterns/haberdashery of your choice from Sewbox *

You're welcome!

To enter the giveaway... The giveaway is now closed

With thanks to all my lovely sponsors who have donated prizes.

Good luck to you, my friends. I wish I could enter myself, quite frankly!

[Soundtrack: 'Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)' by Darlene Love - my favourite Christmas song EVER!]