28 April 2013

Guthrie and Ghani is Open for Business!

OMG you guys, yesterday was one of the best days EVER!!!! Lauren opened her Birmingham haberdashery, Guthrie and Ghani, and the place was MOBBED! Talk about roaring success, this was unbelievable!! Lauren has worked so hard refurbishing the building, getting the stock in, sorting out workshops - it's so wonderful that it's all paid off.

When I told Lauren I'd come along to the first day, I expected it to play shops a bit, hopefully a few people would turn up and need serving, maybe have a cup of tea and a catch up with Lauren and the gang... err, no chance! As the taxi drew near 169 Alcester Road, I was keeping my eyes peeled in case I missed the building... again, no chance!

Me: "161, 163, oh... umm... I guess it must be that building there with the QUEUE OF PEOPLE DOWN THE STREET."
Taxi driver: "Woah. What IS this place?"
Me: "Umm... it's a fabric shop."
Taxi driver: "Err... okay. [WTF?]"

This was the moment I jumped onto the cutting table and told everyone to wave to the camera

Embarrassed to be labelled a diva, I slipped past the queue and squeezed my way through the crowds to be reunited with Lauren and Stuart. The next five hours were spent signing autographs (crazy, non?!!!), being photographed, cutting fabric and writing out till receipts. Quite a few of my lovely blog readers were there (so great to meet you IRL!), and so many people were kind enough to say that we'd inspired them to get into sewing, from shy, giggling 5 year olds to pensioners. Debi and David flew in from Scotland especially, and one family had driven all the way from Devon as a surprise birthday treat for their young daughter. The queue outside was long, and the queue for the till was even longer - it went along three walls of the shop! But there was such a wonderful atmosphere in the place, everyone chatting, smiling, laughing, snapping shots and talking fabric, that people didn't mind hanging around for 3 hours or more to be part of it.

Having a giggle; and Lauren wearing her Miette skirt

At one point as I was head down cutting, I heard a familiar voice say across the crowds, "You'd better cut that right!", looked up to see gorgeous Sandra who'd come straight over from her cleaning shift at the hospital. Ann popped by too - I'd forgotten how much I missed her warmth and energy.

It was seriously inspiring to see the impact that the show has had on people's interest in sewing. Furthermore, it was incredible to see Lauren realising her dream. I must admit at one point I totes welled up and nearly started blubbing from excitement at her success (I don't think she spotted that!).

Huge congratulations to Lauren, and thank you to everyone who came along and made it such a special day. Best day ever?

23 April 2013

Your Mathilde Blouses: Part 2

I'm still jumping up and down every time I see a new version of the Mathilde Blouse. You guys are just so creative! Definitely time to celebrate what you've been making and find out about the inspiration behind your designs...

First up is Lauren! Lauren was one of my pattern testers and this is her second version of the blouse.
"The thing I love most about the Mathilde Blouse pattern is the crisp clean lines of the tucks at the front. They were a little tricky to get right but the detailed instructions were fantastic at taking you through step by step and I couldn't have done that bit without all the clear pictures.
There are so many options for customisation as well. I wanted to highlight the division between the yoke and front bodice and I did this by choosing a contrasting piping. I also edged the sleeves with the same contrast fabric as I think it breaks up the print a bit more and adds a lovely detail. Choosing pretty buttons also allows you to put more of your personality on the blouse and make the back a feature. I love little capped sleeves, especially as its coming into Spring so I aimed to keep mine a little puffy and full, like the sleeves in the original design. It's one of those patterns that makes you think of so many variations, but at the same time, you wouldn't feel like you were wearing the same blouse all the time."

Mai made a second version in a beautiful ballet slipper pink sandwashed silk - swoon!
"I chose the fabric because I wanted a complete contrast to my crazy blue and black abstract version, and I wanted it to look more like a vintage piece, slightly faded and 1930s, and the perfect companion for some wide-legged trousers. I wanted a tiny splash of colour for the buttons, but still quite muted - though they all look different, they're all made from the same small square of cotton fabric. I've never worked with sandwashed silk before, and I discovered that 1. the suede-like surface marks really, really easily, so you may well need to give it a gentle wash at the end of the making process to freshen it up! 2. use the lightest, gauziest interfacing you can find 3. the beauty of the silk makes it all worthwhile!"

Shivani was my first ever customer, and a blouse aficionado, so I was itching to see her version - and it didn't disappoint:
"The moment I saw the Mathilde Blouse, I had to have it. It's everything I could ask for from a blouse. It's perfect for dressing up a pair of jeans, and there's so much scope for personalisation - I already have ideas for a contrast yoke, shorter sleeves, sleeveless for summer, gathers instead of the vertical tucks. The instructions are genius: I love the tick-box approach - it's so satisfying to tick things off as you along, and it really helped break down the sewing into manageable stages (an ideal way to manage sewing over the week, when you have limited time). Cotton lawn is my fabric of choice, so I'm delighted it works so well with this pattern. This is the first of many Mathildes."

And last but not least, gorgeous Zoe in her gorgeous animal print design!
"In recent years I've tended to opt for fitted retro-style blouses, so I was a little concerned how I'd feel in the blouse, but I totally love it! The beautifully drafted bateau neckline and subtly gathered sleeve heads are my favourite features. I'd love to see some versions with contrast fabrics used on the yoke and cuffs, or with lace or ricrac inserted in the yoke seam. I was thoroughly impressed by the amount of work and attention to detail Tilly put into making the pattern, instructions and everything else that went along with releasing it as flawlessly and user-friendly as humanly possible. IMO, she has seriously put some of the well-known sewing pattern companies to shame in these regards!"

Gah!!! Aren't they all gorgeous? And there are plenty more in the Mathilde Maker Gallery and Pinterest gallery!

21 April 2013

It's Lauren!

Say hello to Lauren! Lauren has been sewing nearly all her life, making bags and clothing which clearly reflect her pretty, feminine style. But don't let the florals give you the impression she ain't tough - she's a marathon-running, hammer-wielding hardcore woman, turning her dreams into reality! Let's find out more...

Hi Lauren! Tell us - what are your favourite things to make for yourself?
"I love making little tops and blouses, they are relatively quick to stitch up (compared to a jacket or a men's fly that is!) and don't use a huge amount of fabric. I like spending time adding lots of little details to them, I think it's a great way to show off your style and personality and I'll rarely follow a pattern exactly. I like changing the neck line, altering the sleeves or adding darts."

What are your top sewing tips? 
"I'm not a very technically accurate sewer! I tend to just think things through and figure it out as I go along, thinking about what order I need to stitch things in first. Sometimes I'll have to pin or hold seams together and turn things out the right way to check it's all going to work out. So I guess my top sewing tip is to just take things a step at a time and think it though before you sew."

What would you say to anyone who has seen the show and is thinking of learning to sew? 
"Don't be put off by how perfect we were all trying to be to impress the judges. In real life, no one will be that particular, so just go for it. The rewards are huge!"

Lauren's Miette skirt

How did you find taking part in the show? 
"It was really challenging but I feel so lucky to have been able to take part. I've met such an amazing group of people and the challenges that I managed to get through have hugely increased my confidence in being able to make more different types of clothes."

What was your best moment on the show? 
"Apart from meeting amazing new friends, in terms of the challenges, the best moment was when I got the number one slot on the child's dress. I felt like I had been close so many times so I was really chuffed they picked me."

Your worst moment? 
"The worst moments were having to say goodbye to my new friends each week as they were sent home. I wished we could have all stayed to the end and they just decided the winner that way. The long filming days were really hard too. After one long-almost 18 hour day, I can remember bursting into tears because I couldn't find one of my bags. It didn't take much to push me over the edge at that point, it was pretty exhausting."

Your funniest moment? 
"There are so many! The whole thing seems like one funny moment when I look back on it. Between Stuart's one-liners and Claudia's silly comments and dances, there was always giggling going on."

Your fondest memory of taking part? 
"Meeting the most amazing bunch of people ever. I've never had close friends that are as passionate about sewing as I am and I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to meet these people and stay friends with them afterwards."

What are you doing now or what plans do you have for the future? 
"I have a bit of a fabric addiction and have always dreamed of just being surrounded by fabrics, ribbons, buttons and trims. Over the past year, my husband and I have been working really hard on renovating a 19th Century Mock Tudor building in Moseley, Birmingham, and on Saturday 27th April I'll finally get to live the dream and open my own haberdashery, fabric and yarn store, Guthrie and Ghani. It feels so surreal that its actually happening. I'm so excited to share my passion with people and inspire them to be creative and see what they make. We also have a gorgeous studio above the shop where I'll be able to share my sewing skills by teaching workshops. I can't wait to spread the sewing bug. I'm addicted, and it feels good and I want other people to feel the same!"

So excited for Lauren that the doors to her dream haberdashery will open next weekend. I'll be there on Saturday morning - come and say hello!

18 April 2013

It's Jane!

She's alive! She's well! She's making handbags! A few of you were thoughtful enough to express concern for Jane's welfare after she made an unfortunate exit from episode one... there was even a rumour circulating on Twitter that I'd eaten her, but let's not discuss that... Where were we? Yes, Jane. Jane of the car print mini skirt fame. She's well! And she's here!

Thanks for joining us, Jane. Tell us - what are your favourite things to make for yourself?

"I love making handbags best."

What are your top sewing tips?

"Do not rush. Enjoy the time and effort." [Isn't it funny how contestants have come to think of taking your time as the secret to successful sewing?!]

What were the best and worst moments for you on the show?

"The best bits for me were, firstly, going from first reserve to being a contestant on the show, and then seeing my sports car on the TV. The worst moment was being sick, I would have liked to have stayed longer."

Funniest moment?

"Reading about myself in The Times."

Fondest memory?

"The fondest memory for me was meeting a good crowd who all enjoy sewing."

What are you doing now or what plans do you have for the future?

"My girlfriend and I have started our own handbag business, Sentimental Bags. It's going very well! Taking part in the show has been fun, I have made a hand bag of the same fabric as my skirt, with the classic cars print fabric. Many people have recognised it!"

Aw thanks Jane - and good luck with the handbag business!

16 April 2013

Out and About...

My friends! I hope you're having a good week. The last couple of weeks for me have been a bit of a whirlwind, my head is spinning, but it's all very exciting. I've reduced the days I work at my day job in order to free up a bit of time to take up more sewing-related opportunities. I've worked so hard on this blog for the last three years, all in my spare time (read: no social life), so it's wonderful to be able to take up some of these new opportunities to collaborate with others and share the sewing bug in different ways. Some day soon I'm going to take a day off (phew!), but until then let me share a few dates coming up that may be of interest to some of you...

Thursday 25th April 2013 - Learn to Sew: Tilly's Bow Belt
I'll be teaching a beginners' evening class at The Village Haberdashery (West Hampstead, London). This class will introduce novice stitchers - or those who need a refresher - to the basics of sewing, from threading the machine to stitching curves and corners. After getting to grips with the sewing machine, we will make a gorgeous 1950s inspired bow belt for you to take home. I'm so excited to teach this class!

Saturday 27th April 2013 - Guthrie & Ghani grand opening
Lauren is opening a fabric shop in Birmingham! She has worked so hard for nearly a year now renovating the premises, and I have no doubt it will be beautiful. I'm so proud of her! I'll be there from about 11am to early afternoon to help her out on the first day, cutting fabric, serving customers or whatever she needs. Yes, I'm going to play shops. No, I haven't grown up yet. Come along!

Sat 25th to Sun 26th May 2013 - Make a Mathilde Blouse
If you've sewn a few things before but are scared of sewing the Mathilde Blouse on your own, or if you just fancy having a giggle sewing with other enthusiasts, come and spend a weekend at Ray Stitch (Islington, London). I'll guide you through each step in the construction of this button-back blouse, including creating beautiful tucks or gathers, setting in puffed sleeves, and finishing it all off with elegant French seams. And we'll eat some cake.

Saturday 1st June 2013 - Make Your Own Pattern & Skirt
Learn to make a gorgeous gathered button-down skirt with practical pockets – aka the Picnic Blanket Skirt! Also at Ray Stitch, the class starts as a very 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. This is a great class if you are comfortable using a sewing machine and looking for a nice Summer project. (I'm also looking forward to teaching this class in April too, but it's sold out!)

Saturday 15th June 2013 - Beginners' Dressmaking: Miette Wrap Skirt
I'll be back at Lauren's shop teaching my Miette sewing pattern. This is the perfect class if you know how to use a sewing machine and are looking for an easy project, even your first. Miette is a gently flared wraparound skirt that ties at the front in a delightful bow, with optional large patch pockets. We’ll cover the basics of using a sewing pattern and constructing a garment, from making a waistband to finishing seams and hemming.

That's all for now - phew!

14 April 2013

It's Mark!

Here he is, the man himself! HGV mechanic by day, sewing enthusiast by night, Whitby Goth Weekend fanatic all day long... yes, it's Mark! He may have only sewn four zips in his life (two during the shoot), but Mark's sewing arsenal is clearly vast. Just look at what he's made!!! Over to Mark...

What are your favourite things to make for yourself?

"18th Century clothing. Apart from the underwear, far too uncomfortable - no elastic!!!"

Do you have a favourite sewing pattern?

"Yes, a 1720s frock coat pattern."

What are your top sewing tips?

"Don't rush things, and if it doesn't go right, go have a cuppa, then come back and start again!"

What would you say to anyone who has seen the show and is thinking of learning to sew?

"Go for it, don't be afraid to have a go, what have you got to lose?"

How did you find taking part in the show?

"Very tiring, I had loads of fun and it was great meeting everyone."

How did you find watching yourself on television?

"Can't believe I was really that grey and managed to get my hands nearly clean!!!!"

What was your best moment on the show?

"It's got to be 'The Dolly Spotty Dress'." [Voted star piece in episode 1]

Your worst moment?

"Bloody zips!!"

Your funniest moment?

"Claudia's secret moments!"

Your fondest memory of taking part?

"Meeting everyone for the first time and having such fun."

What are you doing now and what plans do you have for the future?

"Well I have now made three pairs of 1840s trousers with button flies, fully lined; with matching waistcoats made from patterns drafted from myself, all lined and quilted; two 1840s frock coats - one single breasted, one double breasted - all fully lined and quilted. Plans for the future... who knows where we go from here... Hollywood???"

I'm sure Jerry Bruckheimer will be on the phone soon! Thanks Mark, and special thanks to Donna too, Mark's lovely wife seen in the photos above (tough luck, ladies, he's taken!).

9 April 2013

Souvenir Blouse

Look, I made myself a souvenir! When I left the show, Claudia tried to stuff an overlocker into my bag, but I assured her some leftover fabric would do just fine. I whipped up a blouse for myself similar to the one I made for my model (yup, whipped - I can speed sew now!). Some of you may have recognised the pattern I was using on the show as similar to the Mathilde Blouse - it was actually an early incarnation of what was to become the pattern I published earlier this year (with a few slight differences in shape, size, sleeves etc). The version I made for my model had red fabric-covered buttons, but for mine I went for yellow for a change. Oh and of course the version I made for my model had only one cuff a choice of sleeve styles hehe!

The fabric has a lovely drapey quality that works really well with the elegant puff of the sleeves. It looks really elegant tucked into a pencil skirt, but can also be worn smart-casual with jeans. Crikey, I think this might be one of my favourite self-made garments ever, y'all! If you want to make your own, you can download the pattern here. Take a look at this tutorial if you want to omit the tucks.

7 April 2013

Miette: How to Hem the Skirt

Miette skirt - easy sewing pattern for beginners

Last step in making our Miette skirts - hemming!

Catching up? Order your sewing pattern and read up on the previous steps in the sewalong.

There are various fancy ways of sewing a hem - the method I’m going to show you is super simple for beginners...

The skirt is 57cm (22 ½in) in length from waist to hem, with an extra 2.5cm (1in) hem allowance. You might want to shorten it if you're little like me (that's not me in the photo, I'm much more mini!!). Pin the hem up by 2.5cm (1in), try it on, and adjust to your preference. Once you’re happy with the length, press the hemline to mark it, and trim if you need to. Make sure the back openings are exactly the same length.

How to hem the Miette skirt - Tilly and the Buttons

Fold the raw edge under by 12mm (½in) and press. Then fold under another 12mm (½in) along the hemline you pressed earlier, press again and pin in place.

Little tip - if you place the pins in the direction shown in the photo above, it'll make it easier to whip them out by the pin heads as you're sewing :)

How to hem the Miette skirt - Tilly and the Buttons

Stitch the hem in place close to the inside fold, removing the pins as you go.

Miette skirt - easy sewing pattern for beginners

Give everything a good press, and you’re done! You’ve made a super lovely Miette Skirt!

I'd LOVE to see your finished skirt. Share your pictures on Instagram, tagging us @TillyButtons and using the hashtag #SewingMiette so we can find it! Alternatively you can email us a photo. We'll share some of these pics in the Maker Gallery on Pinterest.

Just catching up? Download the pattern and take a look at the previous steps.

6 April 2013

Miette: Attach the Waistband to the Skirt

How to sew the Miette skirt - Attaching the waistband

Right, let’s get the waistband onto the Miette skirt so we can do it up. Catching up? Download the pattern and check out the previous steps.

Pin the (interfaced) waistband to the top edge of the skirt, right sides together. The centre panel of the waistband spans the front skirt (both pieces) - align the centre panel side seams with the skirt side seams. The gap in the waistband should go on the right side seam (if you’ve put it on the left, it’s not the end of the world).

Note that the back edges of the skirt are not meant to match up with the seams where the waistband joins the waist ties (see pic below). And don’t worry that the waistband doesn’t lie flat on the skirt, as the waistband is straight, while the top of the skirt is slightly curved – just make sure the edges are aligned.

Stitch the waistband to the skirt along this top edge that you've pinned. Take care that the pressed down seams don’t fold the wrong way as they move through the machine – you can hold them flat either side of the needle, minding your fingers!

Now press the waistband up and away from the skirt.

How to sew the Miette skirt - Attaching the waistband

Place the facing on top of the waistband, right sides together, matching side seams. Pin the raw edges together (the raw edge of the waistband should now be at the top) and pin all along the ties. Make sure the gap in the waistband seam lies exactly on top of the gap in the facing seam.

How to sew the Miette skirt - Attaching the waistband
Stitch all the way around the waistband and ties from the point where the bottom of one tie meets the skirt, to the same point on the opposite side, pivoting when you reach 15mm (5/8in) before the corners of the ties (read this if you need to brush up on pivoting a corner).

How to sew the Miette skirt - Attaching the waistband

Before we turn the waistband and ties right sides out, we need to get nifty with the scissors and iron so we end up with a nice, smooth-looking finish from the outside. If we leave the seams as they are, they’ll feel (and possibly even look) a bit bulky from the outside of the garment and won’t lie flat. So the aim of the game is to reduce some of that bulk.

Trim both seams down, leaving one of them slightly wider than the other so the raw edges aren’t lying directly on top of one another.

Snip off the corners of the waist ties. Be really careful not to cut through your stitching. You may want to reinforce the corner with some extra stitching if you’re concerned about it coming apart later.

How to sew the Miette skirt - Attaching the waistband

Clip the seams down shorter above and below the gaps in the waistband and facing, taking out a little rectangle if you need to, so the seams don’t show through the gap when the skirt is turned right sides out.

Press the trimmed seam open. This will help define the seam line and make it look a bit smoother on the outside.

How to sew the Miette skirt - Attaching the waistband

Now we’ve done the prep, we’re ready to turn the waist ties right sides out. My method of doing this is to use a long stick with a smooth end, such as a chopstick or knitting needle (don’t use the sharp end or it could pierce a hole in the fabric). Hold the smooth end of your chosen implement against the end of the waist tie, then gradually smooth the wrong side of the waist tie over it.

It’ll bunch up more and more, and feel like a bit of a chore for a while, but eventually you’ll see the end of the waist tie emerge out of the top of the tube. (No giggling now!)

Grab this end, discard the stick, and gently pull it through (don’t yank it too hard!) so it’s right side out and looks a bit like a deflated snake.

Use a pin to gently ease the fabric out at the corners of the waist ties to make them look more right angled.

How to sew the Miette skirt - Attaching the waistband

Press the waistband and ties to flatten and neaten them.

Where the skirt joins the waistband, press the seam up towards the waistband.

Where the waistband joins the facing, press the seams open on both wrong and right sides.

How to sew the Miette skirt - Attaching the waistband

Fold the facing to the inside of the skirt, wrong sides together, rolling it a couple of mm further so the facing won’t show on the outside, and press it down. Tip: You can use the steam of your iron, without touching the iron to the fabric, to soften the seam a little before rolling it with your fingers – this will make it a little easier to mould.

Press the raw edge of the facing under by 15mm (5/8in), wrong sides together. Pin it to the inside of the skirt, ensuring the fold line overlaps the waist seam.

How to sew the Miette skirt - Attaching the waistband

Stitch the facing to the waistband at this seam. You can either slip stitch it by hand if you have the patience, topstitch it by machine if you don't, or try "stitch in the ditch", which I'm going to show you now. This method requires a bit of precision, but is quite fun when you get the hang of it.

Insert some pins in the right side of the skirt, exactly within the seam line – then look at the inside of the skirt and check that the pins are holding down the seam on the other side. If they’re not, adjust, press and repin as needed.

Carefully stitch from the right side, exactly within the seam line (the “ditch”) so that the stitching is hidden, catching the pressed up waistband on the other side. Once you're done, check the waistband is stitched down from the other side - you can always unpick a bit and try again.

How to sew the Miette skirt - Attaching the waistband

Reinforce the gap in the right side seam by sewing a rectangle around it. You can do this by machine or by hand, it’s up to you. Just double check that your hole is big enough for the waist tie, when folded in half lengthways, to pass through it.

Phew! That was a long post. But you're so nearly there! All that's left is the hemming...

We'd love to see what you're making - share your Miette skirts on Instagram, tagging us @TillyButtons and using the hashtag #SewingMiette so we don't miss it!