26 February 2013

In Which I Rediscover Magazines

My friends, I've fallen back in love with magazines! Now, fear not, this doesn't mean I love blogs any less. Believe me, I love the blogosphere more with the dawning of each new day :) But after years of thinking that the authenticity of blogs was the only thing worth reading (apart from books and newspapers, you understand... oh and street signs etc), my faith has recently been restored and I'm WELL back into mags! Here are a few publications I've been enjoying recently which I thought you might like too...

First up is Peppermint, which does a fantastic job of balancing design and substance. The mag is beautifully produced and covers all sorts of things from fashion to food, but what's really interesting is that every article has an environmental and/or ethical slant. What's more, they include refashions, such as this shirt to top tutorial above, and their website has free sewing patterns to download.

I've mentioned Frankie before and I'm not ashamed to mention it again. I'm in love, y'all. Just LOOK at that embroidered cover! It's actually textured. And the back of the cover looks like the back of a piece of embroidery. I just can't express how much joy this brings me.

Behold Betty. It looks amazing. It feels amazing. It even smells amazing. A Moonrise Kingdom-inspired fashion shoot on one page, how to make mackerel pate on the next. Bliss.

And finally, Cloth. I always liked Cloth, and their recent rebrand is really interesting, as they seem to be repositioning themselves towards the mainstream. Doesn't that "top trends" spread, for example, remind you of fashion mags? For a sewing magazine, I reckon this can only be a good thing. Wouldn't it be awesome if young women accidentally picked it up in the newsagent thinking it was a fast fashion mag? And became inspired to get out the scissors and thread and make some stuff themselves? Are we about to see sewing taking off big time?

Oh, wait, there's one more thing...

For it is I, included in their cover mount about bloggers! Eep! Thank you so much to Jane and all the other lovely sewing peeps who gave me the heads up about the piece :)

[Soundtrack: 'Soft as Chalk' by Joanna Newsom]

24 February 2013

Your Mathilde Blouses: Part 1

Can you hear me squeal with delight every time I see a photo of a Mathilde Blouse made by you? I'm just blown away by how lovely they're looking! Here are a few recent makes by you...

Kirsty made her stunning blouse in a floral Liberty tana lawn - check it out in its fully glory on her blog. Kirsty says:
"I bought the Mathilde Blouse the moment I saw the pattern. It is such a cute and stylish blouse with gorgeous detailing. I knew it had to be part of my wardrobe. I was a little intimidated by the 7 buttons and the tucks at first, but Tilly’s online tutorials were so comprehensive, that it made sewing it an enjoyable experience. The fact that each of the steps is separate helps break up the sewing into manageable pieces, for those like me who need to spread the sewing out over a period of time. Oh and I loved being able to tick off the steps on the checklist! My Mathilde is a real 'romantic stroll in the garden' blouse."

Marie's version is seriously elegant. Tucked into a skirt this would look very Mr Selfridge-chic, non? Marie was kind enough to test out the pattern before it was released, and wrote about her experience here. She reports:
"Mathilde is so dreamy - with irresistible details like back buttons, frothy sleeves and tasty tucks. For my version I wanted to do right by the pattern by creating a chic and romantic look, so I knew immediately that it was destined to be paired with some delicate 1960s voile from my stash. And I'm delighted with the result! I would encourage anyone wanting to try Mathilde to go for it - Tilly's detailed instructions and complimentary blog posts expertly cater to varied abilities."

We jump from the Edwardian era to the present day with Karen's very modern, super cool blouse. Karen made a feature out of the yoke, making it in a sequined edge fabric - take a closer look. She tells us:
"For me, the Mathilde pattern represents a perfect combination of creative freedom and technical discipline. Creative freedom: customising the yoke and having fun choosing button and fabric combinations. Technical discipline: getting those tucks just right and making sure the button bands match up! Oh, and there's a tick list - instant gratification for my inner list-maker."

Jo's blouse started out as a muslin (test version), but she loved it so much she's now wearing it for real. Take a peek at her hilarious photos! Jo says:
"There are so many things that I love about this blouse. The instructions... The tick boxes are genius... As for the pattern itself - I love that it is simple enough for a beginner to put together but has those little touches, in particular the tucks and the buttons, that stop it looking like it has been made by a beginner, even if you are one. The sleeves are fabulous. Finally I love that this pattern is so versatile. It is modest enough for work, looks great with jeans and is dressy enough for evening wear depending on what fabric and embellishments are used. The buttons can blend in or be a feature, and it can be tucked in or lengthened to tunic or dress length for a totally different look. You could even leave off the sleeves for a summer top. I am just about to cut out another, and as soon as I can justify buying new fabric I'm going to make a bright pink version. And after seeing Solvi's I think I need a black one as well."

Orange buttons is starting to become a trend! My beautiful friend Mai lives hundreds of miles away from me in Scotland, but the Mathilde Blouse can bring us together (sob!):
"I love the Mathilde Blouse! It's such a beautiful design and unusually versatile too: it can look casual, cute, romantic or super dramatic, depending on what fabric, colour and pattern choices you make. The instructions are really clear and engagingly chatty, and the construction is simple, but it encouraged me to strive for something like perfection (those tucks!). I chose quite a flamboyant iteration for my first version, with a big bold graphic print and contrast buttons. I'm planning a red wool pencil skirt to show it to its best advantage. Note that I refer to it as my first version; there will be more..."

Check out more gorgeous blouses in the Maker Gallery. If you're feeling inspired to make your own, you can buy the pattern for just £7. Use the insanely detailed step-by-step photo instructions to guide you through every stage, or take a workshop with me at Ray Stitch sewing school.

Have you made a Mathilde Blouse? I'd LOVE to see! Submit your bestest photos to the Maker Gallery by leaving a link to your blog / Pinterest / Twitter / Facebook, or send me an email.

22 February 2013

Coppelia in Red

Look what I made! It's the Coppelia cardi by Papercut Patterns, in a fire engine red wool jersey from Simply Fabrics in Brixton. I really enjoyed making this, firstly because it was a relatively quick make, secondly because I'd been coveting Lauren's version, and thirdly because it's always great to try out an indie pattern company for the first time (noooo, of course I'm not hinting at anything...).

Winnie just wrote a great post asking what steps people add to a sewing project that aren't listed in the pattern - it's so interesting to read about different people's approaches. For this pattern, a couple of steps I added were to stay stitch the seams that were cut on the bias and apply stay tape to the side seams to help prevent the knit from stretching out of shape.

When I first finished this, I declared it a wearable muslin* because I wasn't totally happy with the fitting...

... the neckline seemed to be sticking up by about a mile, which I put down to my narrow shoulders...

... or if I pulled it down to fit my shoulders the cardi gaped at the bust. So I was planning a refitting operation involving pinching out triangles of fabric at strategic points and redrafting the pattern to fit me...

... but then when I wore the cardi properly for the first time, I just did the wrap bit up a bit tighter, pulled it a slightly different way, and tada! It didn't seem so bad after all. Do you ever have that when you stare at a project for too long and blow little niggly things out of all proportion? In the meantime, however, I'd emailed the lovely Katie Papercut and she offered to produce a photo tutorial on the fitting. How's that for customer service? Pretty awesome, if you ask me!

Have you sewn a Papercut Pattern pattern? I'd love to see! Check out my interview with Katie Papercut, then get yourself over there.

[Soundtrack: 'Flutes' by Hot Chip]

*a test version of a sewing project to check the fitting, but that can also be worn around the house when no one's looking

19 February 2013

Come Sew With Me!

Hey pals, great news! I'm now signed up to lead two different workshops at Ray Stitch sewing school in Islington, London over the Spring. My professional background is in learning and skills, so it's brilliant to be able to apply that experience to sewing!

Make Your Own Pattern and Skirt
Saturday 20th April 2013, 1.30pm - 6.30pm
or Saturday 1st June 2013, 1.30pm - 6.30pm

Learn to make this gorgeous gathered button-down skirt with practical pockets – aka the Picnic Blanket Skirt! The class starts as a gentle introduction to pattern making, guiding you through drafting a simple pattern to your own measurements. Then we’ll sew the skirt, learning techniques, tips and tricks along the way, including gathering, constructing a waistband, stitching pockets, forming buttonholes and finishing it all off neatly. You should already be comfortable with using a sewing machine and basic stitching. Please bring along 2m fabric and 8 - 10 x 20mm buttons. Choose a medium weight cotton or linen – the skirt looks great in plain colours, gingham, polka dots, florals, cats, bicycles… you name it!

I'm also excited to be running a Mathilde Blouse workshop over two Saturdays for those of you who need a bit of hands-on IRL guidance with techniques such as tucks, sleeves and French seams:

Mathilde Blouse
Saturday 2nd March & Saturday 9th March 2013, 2pm - 6pm (two days)

Learn to make this cute, versatile button-back blouse, which can be dressed up with a pencil skirt or dressed down with skinny jeans. The pattern designer will guide you through each step of construction, including creating beautiful tucks or gathers, setting in puffed sleeves, and finishing it all off with elegant French seams. You should have already made at least one garment, be comfortable with basic sewing construction techniques, and be ready to take your sewing to the next level. This is a digital print-at-home pattern - you will receive the pattern by email and will be asked to print and assemble it before the class. Please bring along 2.5m x 115cm fabric (or 2m x 150cm) and 7 x 15mm buttons. Choose a lightweight, drapey fabric, such as cotton lawn, voile, lightweight chambray, silk or polyester crêpe de chine, habotai or charmeuse. Please avoid anything too slippery!

If you fancy learning some new techniques, sewing with like-minded people, having a laugh and a currant bun, sign up on the Ray Stitch website. I'd love to see you there!

17 February 2013

FINAL STEP! Attach the Cuffs

Mathilde sewing pattern - How to attach the cuffs

Last part of making the Mathilde Blouse, y’all! You excited? I am!

As you will have no doubt noticed, the sleeve hem is a lot bigger than the cuff band. By gathering a large sleeve into a small cuff band we’ll be giving the blouse an elegant puff. Let’s do this…

Mathilde sewing pattern - How to attach the cuffs

Your cuff pieces should have already been interfaced. Stitch the short ends of each cuff together, right sides together. Press the seams open.

Now fold each cuff in half lengthways, wrong sides together. Press the fold line to mark it, then unfold it again.

Mathilde sewing pattern - How to attach the cuffs

Slip a cuff over the edge of each sleeve, with the right sides together. Start by pinning them together at the seam lines and notches. Pull on the gather threads at the sleeve hem until the fabric has gathered up to fit the cuff. Then you can use your fingers to spread the gathers out evenly. Once the sleeve hem fits the cuff and the gathers are spread evenly, pin them in place. Use lots of pins - pinned at right angles to the edges - to help keep those gathers even.

Mathilde sewing pattern - How to attach the cuffs

Stitch the sleeve hem to the cuff. If you sew with the sleeve turned right side out, and the wrong side of the fabric directly under your needle - as shown - you can keep an eye on the gathers and readjust them as necessary (mind your fingers!). If you’re super earnest and want to make extra sure your gathers are really even, you could tack (baste) first using long stitches that you can pull out later. Take your time here to get the gathers even - there’s no hurry.

Mathilde sewing pattern - How to attach the cuffs

Trim the sleeve seam down to reduce some of the bulk. Unpick the gather stitches.

Press the cuff away from the sleeve. Now turn the sleeve wrong side out. Fold the bottom edge of the cuff under by 1cm (3/8in), wrong sides together, and press. Fold it under again along the fold line that you marked by pressing earlier, and press again. The inside of the cuff should just overlap the seam line.

Mathilde sewing pattern - How to attach the cuffs

All that’s left to do now is attach the cuff to the inside of the sleeve. My preferred method is to "stitch in the ditch" - in other words, stitch on the right side of the sleeve, with the stitches hidden in the seam line where the cuff joins the sleeve hem. Make sure the other side of the cuff is caught in the stitching and that the raw edges are tucked away neatly.

If you prefer, you can hand stitch the cuff instead :)

Mathilde sewing pattern
Mathilde sewing pattern

Ta da!!! You’re done. You’ve made a beauuutiful Mathilde Blouse!

Wanna show us what you've made? Tag us on Instagram @TillyButtons using the hashtag #SewingMathilde so we don't miss it. Can't wait to see!

16 February 2013

How to Insert a Sleeve

How to insert a sleeve - Tilly and the Buttons

I’m going to show you how to insert a sleeve into an armhole using a classic method which adds fullness at the shoulder. I'm going to demonstrate on the Mathilde blouse sewing pattern - you can use the same method on many other sewing projects.

The theory

The reason we’re adding fullness at the shoulder is to help the fabric curve over your shoulder where it sticks out from your body. A sleeve head is often at least 2cm (3/4in) bigger than the armhole - on the Mathilde blouse it's even bigger to create more visible gathering as a design detail. This excess fabric is gathered in so the circumference of the sleeve head and armhole match when sewn together, creating volume in the fabric to accommodate your shoulder.

In case you’re interested, not all sleeves are inserted this way. Some sleeve heads don’t have any ease at all. An alternative method - often used in shirt-making and on jersey t-shirts - is to insert sleeves “on the flat”, in other words, stitched flat against the armhole before the bodice side seam and sleeve underarm sleeve are joined.

Anyway, that’s the theory over – let’s get on with the sewing!

The practical

How to insert a sleeve - Tilly and the Buttons

While the sleeves are still flat, we're going to start by adding gather stitchers - or "ease stitches" if the sleeve is less gathered - on the head. Thread up your machine in a contrasting colour, set the stitch length to 4-5mm, and lower the thread tension - this will make it easier to identify, pull on and rip out these stitches later.

Stitch three rows parallel to each other on the top of each sleeve. Your pattern will have either gather markings or notches showing you where to start and finish the stitching. I usually sew my first row 5mm (1/4in) from the raw edge, and then each subsequent row 7mm (1/4in) from the previous one. That way they don't overlap the seam line 15mm (5/8in) from the edge, so they're easier to unpick later. Don't back tack, and leave a few inches of thread at each end so you have something to pull on when it comes to gathering.

How to insert a sleeve - Tilly and the Buttons

If you’re making the Mathilde blouse, it also has gathering where the sleeves meet the cuffs, so stitch three rows of gather stitches at the sleeve hem too, beginning and ending about 25mm (1in) from each side seam.

How to insert a sleeve - Tilly and the Buttons

Stitch the sleeve underarm seams, finish and press. On the Mathilde blouse you can use French seams here if you like.

Now we’re going to align the sleeve and armhole. The way to check you’re putting the correct sleeve into its corresponding armhole is to look at the little notches you cut from your pattern (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, check the pattern again). The front of the sleeve and armhole will have single notches; the back will have double notches.

How to insert a sleeve - Tilly and the Buttons

Align the sleeve and armhole, with the fabric right sides together. This can be a little confusing the first time you do it, but really all you need to do is hold the sleeve right sides out and turn the garment wrong side out on top of it so the right sides are matching. Then line up the two raw edges of the sleeve and armhole seams.

Pin the sleeve and armhole together - with the pins at right angles from the raw edge and the heads sticking out - at the following points:

- Where the sleeve underarm seam meets the bodice side seam
- Shoulder seam and central point on sleeve
- Sleeve and armhole notches (those single and double snips we were talking about earlier)
- Below the gather stitches (don't pin on top of the gather stitches just yet)

How to insert a sleeve - Tilly and the Buttons

Pull on the gather stitches – gently tug on a trio of threads on one side of the fabric only to bunch up the fabric. Keep doing this until the sleeve fits into the armhole up to the shoulder, smoothing out the gathering as you go to spread it nice and evenly. Repeat on the other side of the shoulder.

How to insert a sleeve - Tilly and the Buttons

Now stick as many pins in as you think you’ll need to help keep the gathers even. (Lots is good.)

If you’re super confident, or if the pattern you're making only has a bit of ease, you can go right ahead and stitch. If you're less confident, or if there are lots of gathers, it's a good idea to tack (baste) first though to check you’re happy with your gathering. Tacking basically means sewing a practice run with long stitches (4-5mm) which are easy to rip out if you want to try again. Thread up your machine in a contrast colour so you can see the stitching easily and thus whip them out quickly. Lower the presser foot pressure slightly to avoid squishing the gathers. 

Tack just within the seam allowance - about 12mm (1/2in) from the edge - so your real stitches don’t end up directly on top. When stitching, start at the underarm seam. Sew nice and slowly over the gathers so you can keep them evenly in place as you go. Come full circle to meet your starting point, making a couple of overlapping stitches to secure. 

The aim is to end up with even easing or gathering, with no pleats or puckers. If you find any, you can unpick and re-stitch a short length of stitching around that area.

If you need more help with sewing in sleeves, you can watch a detailed video on our online workshop, Sew Your Own Shirt or Shirt Dress.

How to insert a sleeve - Tilly and the Buttons

Once you’re happy with your tacking, rethread your machine in matching thread to your fabric, reset the stitch length to normal (2.2 - 2.4mm) and sew your real stitches. Now you can unpick your tacking and gathering stitches with a seam ripper.

How to insert a sleeve - Tilly and the Buttons

All that’s left to do now is finish your seam with zigzag stitch or an overlocker, and press it. When pressing the armhole, turn the garment inside out and press along the seam. If you want to you can press the seam in towards the sleeve, but try not to press the shoulder area, otherwise you’ll lose the fullness you’ve created with your gathers.

How to insert a sleeve - Tilly and the Buttons

Admire your hard work. Hooray! You set in a sleeve!

PS. If you'd like to get more tips and watch an up-close-and-personal video of a sleeve being sewn in, sign up to our online workshop, Sew Your Own Shirt or Shirt Dress.

15 February 2013

Add Buttons and Buttonholes

Mathilde blouse - add buttons and buttonholes

Now comes a particularly monumental stage of making the Mathilde blouse – sewing on the buttonholes and buttons! You’ll be able to do the blouse up, y’all!

Mathilde blouse - add buttons and buttonholes

Before you start stitching, double check the placement of the buttonholes. The buttonholes go on the right back opening and the buttons go on the left back opening. (My pattern cutting teacher once told me the mnemonic, "Women’s clothing does up right over left, because women are always right." Totally sexist, admittedly, but I remembered it!)

If the buttonhole markings have rubbed off your fabric, get your pattern out and mark them on again. Line up the edge of the opening with the "fold line" marked on the pattern, and position the top edge of the pattern 15mm (5/8in) above the neckline to account for seam allowance.

Right, now let's get stitching...

Mathilde blouse - add buttons and buttonholes

Stitch the buttonholes on the right back opening. Depending on what sewing machine you have, you'll probably do either a four-step buttonhole if it's manual, or a one-step automatic wizzy one if it's computerised. Read about sewing one-step buttonholes, or take our Sew Your Own Shirt or Shirt Dress workshop if you'd like to watch the process for both in videos and get lots of helpful tips and tricks :)

Open up the buttonholes carefully with a seam ripper. To avoid ripping right through them, make an incision in one end, gently rip towards the centre, then do the same in the other direction.

Place the right back opening over the left one as if you were doing the blouse up, then pin in place. Push the tip of a chalk pencil or washable pen through the buttonhole to mark on the button position, 3mm (1/8in) down from the top, to mark the button positions on the left back opening with a little dot. It's best to mark the buttons here rather than in the centre of the buttonhole, as buttons will naturally want to pull towards the top of vertical buttonholes.

Mathilde blouse - add buttons and buttonholes

Sew the buttons on by hand, centring them over the little dots you just marked. Tip: If you find yourself frustrated by your thread knotting up, invest in some thread wax which will keep things gliding along more smoothly.

Et voila! It's starting to look like a blouse now!

Catch up on the rest of the Mathilde blouse sewalong.

PS. Want some more help sewing buttonholes? Sign up to our online workshop, Sew Your Own Shirt or Shirt Dress, to watch up-close-and-personal sewing videos with tons of tips and tricks!

14 February 2013

Sewing the Back Opening and Hem

Sewing the Mathilde blouse - back opening and hem

Making the Mathilde Blouse? In this post I'm going to show you how to sew the back opening and hem.

Let's get started...

Sewing the Mathilde blouse - back opening and hem

Turn the edges of the back openings inwards by 6mm (1/4in), wrong sides together, and press. (NB. If you pressed down the top edge of the back openings when pressing the neckline facings down, fold them up again for this bit.) Stitch the edges down using a 3mm (1/8in) seam allowance.

Fold the back openings inwards along the fold lines (or the edge of the interfacing), right sides together.

Stitch across the top edges of the back openings, at the same level as the neckline seam.

Sewing the Mathilde blouse - back opening and hem

Stitch the bottom edges of the back openings, 1cm (3/8in) up from the bottom edge. Cut a rectangle of fabric out of the interfaced part of the bottom corner to reduce bulk when you turn it right sides out. Don't cut right up to the stitching line though – the interfacing will help form a nice, neat corner when you turn it through.

Now you can start on the hem - check it's evenly balanced all the way around, then finish the raw edge of the hem using zigzag stitch or an overlocker. If you prefer, you could turn the raw edge under by 5mm (1/4in), press and stitch in place - we'll then turn the rest of the hem allowance up a bit later...

Sewing the Mathilde blouse - back opening and hem

Turn the back openings right sides out. You can ease out the fabric at the corners so they look more like right angles (read more about folding a neat corner). Press.

Sewing the Mathilde blouse - back opening and hem

When you turned the back opening out, you will have turned the rest of the hemline up too. Press the rest of the hem up neatly to the same level as the bottom edge of the back opening.

Stitch the hem in place, close to the inside fold or the finished edge.

Sewing the Mathilde blouse - back opening and hem

Topstitch (or "edgestitch") a rectangle all the way round each back opening, 3mm (1/8in) from its edges. Be sure to catch the edge of the neckline facing in the stitching.

And that's it for today! We'll do the buttonholes next...