27 September 2013

Selling Your Handmade Stuff

Have you ever thought about selling the stuff you sew? I know that many readers are interested in starting a own handmade business, so I invited Sinead Koehler - who, along with her husband Stephan is the brains behind the awesome Crafty Fox Market - to write a guest post sharing her tips on getting started selling your handmade stuff. 

The Crafty Fox Market has become the go-to destination for emerging designer makers in London - it's the kind of event that is helping make craft cool again. If you're in London the weekend of 5th and 6th October, come along to the Autumn market at the Dogstar in Brixton. The line up of makers is seriously amazing. How do I know? Because I was one of the guest curators! Start saving up your pocket money now, seriously - you'll want to buy everything.

But for now, over to Sinead...

Terri Leahy Designs
"Have you ever thought about turning your passion for sewing into a business? Taking that leap can be daunting but also very exciting. Running a craft business alongside a day job or other commitments is time consuming so the first question to ask yourself is whether you realistically have the time to spare. It is also a good idea to think about your motivations – are you aiming to simply sell a few things for fun or do you aspire to one day turn your craft into your primary business? I’m going to list some key things to think about for anyone looking to start their own handmade business.

The Name Game
Your fledgling business will need a name. Choose carefully and do some research. You will need to make sure the name you choose isn’t already in use. Short names tend to work better although there are exceptions. I can’t help but smile every time I hear from the imagination of ladysnail – one of the traders at our Autumn Markets. You should use the same name across the internet - blogs, online shops and social media...

Photo of Stuffed Nonsense by Martha Loves
Visual Identity
You will need a visual identity to create business cards and a banner for online shops. Think about the colours, font, logo and graphics that you want to use. If you don’t have much expertise in this area, stick with something very simple and you can develop it over time. Printers such as moo.com have useful templates that can help you to produce professional looking business cards.

What are you going to sell? Think about how your existing product line can be developed, for example, using different fabrics or producing different sizes. Try to find a niche – it’s a crowded market place and it will help you to get noticed if you are focused on a niche. Aim to develop a cohesive range which has a common thread running through it. This will help you to look more professional and will help your range look more appealing to the eye.

Don’t undersell yourself! Put considered thought into pricing rather than simply plucking figures from the air. Remember to charge for your time – this includes time spent sourcing materials and selling as well as making. Look around to see what others are charging for similar goods, but be confident in your own pricing.

Make it practical as well as pretty. Do your items make good gifts? Beautiful packaging can really help you to make sales. If you plan to sell online, you will need to develop packaging that will protect items in the post. Think about using recycled materials where possible.

Photo of Crafty Fox Market by Rodography
Where to sell
Do you plan to sell online or in person… or both? Websites such as Folksy and Etsy are good places to start as they are easy to use, low cost and already have a customer base. You will need good quality photography which shows off your products to their full potential. Markets provide an excellent opportunity to meet your customers, solicit feedback, develop a mailing list and network with other makers."


Thanks for sharing your tips, Sinead! Readers, do come along to the Crafty Fox Autumn market if you can to support the makers who are there selling their handmade goodness. I'll be there at some point, so if you see me, please don't be a stranger - I'd love to say hello!

24 September 2013

The Breton Tunic Dress

So this dress isn't perfect but omigawd I love it sooooo much! An experiment in drafting an everyday, slightly A-line Breton tunic dress, I knew there was a good chance it'd end up in the "wearable toile" category, but I have a feeling I'll be wearing this wearable toile every day. You know when you put something on and you think, "Right, I'd better get this in the wash early this evening so I can wear it again tomorrow"... or is that just me?

Moving swiftly on, the part I'm not totally happy with is the neckline. As explained earlier, I'm not a massive fan of neckline bindings so, in an effort to create a classic marinière look, I tried simply overlocking the raw edge, turning and topstitching it down. It seemed fine at first, but when I put it on, the neckline just wouldn't behave itself. To get it to sit still, I had to turn quite a bit of it over a second time, resulting in a wider and deeper shape than the beautiful boatneck I had in my head.

Slightly deflated, yet determined to make the perfect Breton tunic dress at some point, I called it a day and resolved try something else on the next version. Yet when I eventually put the dress on, you know, with tights and accessories rather than just for a fitting, I ruddy loved it!!! I'm super happy with the shape of the dress - it's easy to wear, the stripes don't make my hips look huge, and it's got a gorgeous modern 1960s chic aesthetic going on.

I'm not usually one to stress out over the details, as IMHO life is too short and I've got better things to do. But for some unknown reason I went to the trouble to match up the stripes on the armhole and side seams - but not so well on the sleeve seams, as by that point I'd almost lost the will to live. Check it out!

Now I'm on the look out for similar stable striped knit fabrics to make myself a wardrobe full of these...

[Soundtrack: 'Jessica' by Major Lazer]

20 September 2013

Draping: The Complete Course

First of all, I'd just like to thank you SO much for your kind and thoughtful comments, tweets and emails about my book announcement. I'm so touched, and it means a lot to me to have you cheering me along :)

I recently got sent this AMAZING book, nay, tomeDraping: The Complete Course, written by Karolyn Kiisel and published by Laurence King. Over 300 large pages plus video tutorials on DVD teach you draping on the stand, a practice of designing clothing and patterns whereby you mould fabric directly on the dress form to create the silhouette of your dreams.

My own method of pattern drafting is the flat version, in other words, beginning with technical drawing on paper, which is transferred to the stand afterwards. I've always enjoyed both maths and drawing, and I love working out the logic of how to turn a flat piece of paper into a 3D form. But I can't wait to dive into learning draping too, as it'll be a great complementary skill which allows a lot more freedom and experimentation playing around with the fabric first. As the author puts it:

"When a designer is aspiring towards an innovative silhouette, they need to experiment with focal points to create emphasis and attitude, and work with proportions and scale to sculpt a shape that evokes a specific emotion. To create something truly fresh and new, the intimate, hands-on relationship between designer, toile and mannequin is invaluable in facilitating the expression of the designer's personal vision."

Draping: The Complete Course begins with the absolute basics, such as understanding the draping properties of different types of fabrics and grainlines. It then takes you step by step through tons - seriously, tons - of projects, illustrated with plentiful photos. It begins with a simple tunic from Ancient Greece, through iconic styles such as Katharine Hepburn trousers and the Chanel jacket, to contemporary couture such as Kate Middleton's wedding gown and Rihanna's tuxedo. The startling juxtapositions really make you consider the evolution of style and silhouette - and show you how to recreate some incredible designs that we all recognise.

Once I've finished the old you-know-what, I'm looking forward to getting stuck in to a new skill...

PS. Speaking of learning new skills, there's a massive sale on at Craftsy at the moment, ending tomorrow, so if you're interested in taking an online video class in sewing, knitting, photography or another craft at a hefty discount, take a look at what's on offer! I've signed up for a couple of classes myself and will report back in due course...

17 September 2013

What's On My Sewing Table... Exciting Announcement Special!

Well, the truth is that I have 25 things on my sewing table right now, because... [drum roll]... OMG I'M WRITING A BOOK!!!


I'm seriously excited to be joining the likes of Cath Kidston and Liberty on Quadrille Publishing's craft list, working with a truly fantastic Dream Team of people who are helping to make this book the best it can be. The story began over a year ago, and now it's full steam ahead, with weekly deadlines and only a few weeks to go until final submission (eek!) and, quite frankly, I can't keep it a secret any longer! The book will be out in Spring 2014, which seems like a looooong time to wait, but apparently is a really fast turnaround for publishing.

So what's the book about? Without wishing to give too much away (you want a surprise, non?), my book aims to make DIY dressmaking appealing and accessible to complete beginners. And for those of you who are already confident in making your own clothes, there are lots of lovely projects to add to your handmade wardrobe. It's practical, encouraging and gorgeous - basically it's the book I wish had existed when I started sewing, and I believe it fills a real gap on the bookshelves.

The other exciting piece of news is that I quit my job! I'd been dreaming of being my own boss for a while now (I blame these inspiring ladies) and being able to spend my days on my passion for making stuff and helping other people to make stuff. I feel incredibly fortunate that getting this book deal has allowed me to do just that. Hooray! I'm working my derrière off - harder than I've ever worked before - writing, designing, drafting, sewing, preparing for photo shoots... oh and keeping up the blog of course, as it's what underpins everything I do and has brought me this wonderful opportunity in the first place. While part of me can't wait to have a break after my deadline, I am feeling SO fulfilled and absolutely loving every second of it! I keep breaking into spontaneous dances of excitement (yes, on my own).

Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who has been reading my blog and encouraging me to continue, as you've helped to get me into the seriously awesome position of being able to do what I truly truly love for a living. I feel so lucky to be part of such a creative, friendly and supportive community :)

[Soundtrack: 'Once in a Lifetime' by Talking Heads]

13 September 2013

A Day in the Life of By Hand London

By Hand London have taken the sewing world by storm with their range of super trendy sewing patterns. It's been so inspiring to watch how the budding business, founded by friends Charlotte Hintzen and Elisalex De Castro Peake and later joined by Victoria, has set down its roots and blossomed in the past year. If, like me, you're curious what it's like to start a company with friends, you'll love reading their Day in the Life. Plus, as always, we find out what they eat for lunch. What's not to like? Over to the BHL ladies...


Victoria, Charlotte and Rachael (shiny new intern helping us out! Read all about her sewing adventures). Grabbing a second in between filming a tutorial video (hence the juicy cerise backdrop)
to go over a pattern in the works
"So, this has actually been a little more difficult than we imagined and caused quite a lot of discussion! Basically, in the last nine odd months since our first patterns, there has been nothing resembling a 'normal' day - and we're pretty sure all of the other ladies featured here would agree! Anyway, we'll do our best and try to tell the story of what kinds of things keep us running around and over excited on a daily basis.

Our early mornings are all pretty different. Elisalex is getting her young son ready for school, Charlotte is clutching coffee and scheming and Victoria is making her odyssey to the studio from where she lives far far away (due to move in with Elisalex soon though! By Hand boarding house...). Depending on what we're doing, the studio is either Elisalex's sewing room (for sampling and general sweat shopping or designing) or Charlotte's studio apartment (photo shoots, video shoots and master plan constructing).

Time to pack some orders! (yesyesyes, we will get that label maker working one day)
When we're all together, cue the first hour disappearing in a flurry of coffee, high speed chatter and some cackling laughter as we catch up and talk about what we wanna get done that day. One of our favourite things to catch up on is any new examples of our patterns that we've spotted online. All the creative women out there supporting us, making each garment look so completely individual continues to quite simply blow our minds. The rest of the morning is then typically spent planning DIY tutorials and blog posts, press hustling, going through progress reports on sewing patterns in production and posting out orders. If we're lucky though, we'll get to spend the morning blowing some of the budget fabric shopping...!

Lunch is something we really stop for and value. There is something wonderfully peaceful about all just sitting down over a meal and taking some time out together. Particular favourites at By Hand HQ is a scrummy charcuterie board selection of hams, cheeses and hunks of fresh bread or overdosing on Jamaican takeaway. Truth be told though, this is definitely a beginning of the month scenario - towards the end of the month fish fingers is more likely!

Elisalex working on some sketches for a new dress design
In the afternoon, to a soundtrack of Choice FM (Victoria), Destiny's Child (Charlotte) or old-time country music (Elisalex) we set about actually getting things did. This may involve sewing up samples of a pattern, preparing DIY or sewalong tutorials for the blog or checking over pattern packaging and instructions for the gazillionth time. We could also be in the super exciting early stages of making the first toiles and blocks for a new pattern! One thing's for sure though, somehow, at around 2pm, between trying on all the samples and checking fit, we all end up a little naked - and we've come to call this tradition 'Naked Hour'!

Over the last few months, one thing that has been taking up a significant chunk of our scheme time is 'Our Next Move'. It's still in the early stages, but well underway and we cannot WAIT 'til we're able to share our new product with the world! For now though, we shall say no more...

Gone our separate ways for the day and post dinner, we shouldn't, but totally do, get straight back to work and finish off admin-y things or some sewing, passing out around midnight. If we've got something to celebrate though, it's all about donning our finest handmade garms and our highest heels for a night of dancing all together!

If anyone is reading this and thinking about starting their own business, ummmm, DO IT! And, we also absolutely cannot recommend enough setting something up with pals. The whole own business shenanigan is tough and it's totally been a bit of a baptism of fire at times, but to all of us this is by miles and miles the best thing we have ever done.

Elisalex, Victoria and Charlotte in a still from a video tutorial.
Yup, this really is one of the better photos we have of the three of us...

Thanks for reading our story!"


Thanks for sharing your day with us! Can I come round to play, please?

Want more where this came from? Catch up on TWO YEARS' worth of A Day in the Life!

10 September 2013

What's On My Sewing Table...

Autumn sewing is well and truly underway, as evidenced by the #SewingSocial chat which basically hijacked Twitter the other night. So lovely to chat to you guys! Autumn Sewjo firmly established, I cut out a simple everyday Breton dress - inspired by this one but slightly more fitted. The fabric is a stable knit, which I'm pretty sure I got from Simply Fabrics in Brixton. I drafted the pattern, using the bodice from my beloved Nautical Knit Dress as a vague starting point, lowering the sleeve crowns to make them look more casual and lengthening the bodice into a slightly A-line dress.

Well, that's Plan A in any case. This dress is a bit of an experiment, and if it looks rubbish on me, Plan B is to cut it into a simple Breton top.

I haven't yet decided how to finish the neckline. I'm not a massive fan of neckline bindings, so I'm thinking of either simply overlocking the raw edge, turning it in by a few mm and topstitching it, OR making a facing and topstitching both the top and bottom edges to the bodice so it doesn't roll out. Maybe even a contrast facing as a feature? Or perhaps I should wait and see if it works first! Do you have your favourite method of finishing necklines on knits?

PS. In other news, I was super excited to see my column in this month's edition of Crafty magazine! 'Tilly Walnes' Sewing School' will be a regular-ish feature every few issues, introducing beginners to DIY dressmaking. This month I took the opportunity to encourage people to buy indie sewing patterns...

PPS. ...speaking of supporting indie sewing pattern businesses, Colette Patterns, in case you hadn't heard, is currently running at second place in the Martha Stewart 'American Made' contest. They would love to have your vote, so if you'd like to support them, vote here.

PPPS. (The final PS, promise!) At the end of the Twitter chat on Sunday, it was suggested firstly that we make them more regular, and secondly that we use the hashtag #SewingSocial in between chats whenever we want to connect to our fellow stitchers in a tweet. Perhaps you want to share your latest creation or ask a question about a particular technique. Try using the hashtag and our virtual sewing circle may well come running! So yes, that also means we should all make an effort to look up #SewingSocial on Twitter every so often and see what's going down. Awesome!

[Soundtrack: 'Palaces of Montezuma' by Grinderman]

6 September 2013

Sewing For Your Style: Hints and Tips

Learning to make your own clothes opens up such a wonderful world of sartorial possibilities. No longer reliant on whatever happens to be on trend right now and available in the shops, home dressmakers can dream up an outfit - any outfit - and get to work creating it.

Yet sometimes the sheer number of different combinations of colours, fabrics, patterns and embellishments can become overwhelming. When I first started sewing, I got a bit overexcited at the possibilities that were suddenly available to me. Many of the things I made back then sadly no longer get worn - they just don't feel totally me. These days I have a much stronger sense of my own style and make more of an effort to make things that will fit that style. As a result, I am dressing handmade nearly every day and feeling very much myself in my wardrobe.

I once remarked to a friend of mine that she always looked stylish and so very "Rachael". She divulged that she considers the way she dresses (black and gold, modern, grown up, sexy - my words, not hers) to be part of her personal brand, alongside her website and everything else. Initially I was taken aback as I'd never thought of clothes in this way, but the more I thought about it, the more it made absolute sense. Why not make the way you dress distinctive? Carrying her branding through to what clothes she turns up to events in has contributed to Rachael's brand recognition, which particularly important in her work as a freelance consultant, but also just... well, I just think it's really cool!

While I'm not suggesting we should all match our blouses to our marketing brochures, I do think that having a signature style can make you feel more comfortable, confident and authentic. Some of you asked me to share some tips on developing a signature style, so here goes, and do share your own tips below...

1) Define your look
Being able to articulate your personal style is a strong step towards building a handmade wardrobe that you're excited to wear. Maybe you don't yet dress like this all the time, in which case, what is the ideal look that you would like to achieve? For example, I would describe the style I'm aiming for as classic, preppy, Nouvelle Vague chic, a hint of sixties mod and a large serving of seventies denim, shaken up into a cocktail of modern wearability. If you're not sure about your own signature style, have a think about who your style icons are and what kinds of looks make you swoon. Set up a Pinterest board or IRL scrapbook to document these looks, and over time you should be able to see a theme emerging. When choosing your next sewing project, ask yourself whether it matches your signature style. After all, there's no point spending all that time making something if wearing it doesn't make you really happy.

2) Develop a colour palette
Walking into a fabric shop, all the colours of the rainbow are before your eyes, and it's easy to get overwhelmed. Books such as this one will guide you through choosing shades and tones that complement your skin, eye and hair colour, and thus make you look amazing. But choosing a colour palette isn't only about looking good - it's also about feeling like yourself. What colours do you love? Furthermore, what colours will work well together? My own colour palette is red, blue, yellow, navy, teal, black and white. I'm not saying they're the only colours I'm going to sew from now on (watch out for a pink coat that I'm dreaming of making in the next few months), but focusing on these colours makes it much easier both to pick out fabric and to get dressed in the morning.

3) Choose prints wisely
I lurrrrve browsing fabric shops - both online and IRL. The prints! The prints! It's so easy to set out wanting to achieve a sophisticated-sexy look but get overexcited and end up making a dress with badgers on it. If woodland creature chic is the look you are going for, then that's great (and why not? Elks are in right now). But if not, have a think about what prints will work for your style. Geometric? Floral? Quirky? Abstract? And don't forget solid colours - so often neglected by home dressmakers, yet they are so wearable and will show off the style lines of a garment so well. If you're still excited about the badgers, you can show your love in other ways without turning it into a dress. For example, you could make a cushion out of it, or again, give props on Pinterest.

4) Sew for your lifestyle

I love dresses, don't you? Especially dresses in bright red with big skirts and fancy details. Yet I hardly ever wear things like that - unfortunately my life isn't one big cocktail party. One of the most important lessons I've learnt about dressing handmade is to sew clothes that I will actually wear on a daily basis. Do you spend most of your waking life sitting at a desk, holding small children, presenting at power meetings, digging flower patches, standing behind a till, schmoozing clients...? What kinds of garments will make you feel comfortable in that situation? As Tasia so eloquently puts it, sew more cake and less frosting.

5) Be yourself
Cliché alert! But a cliché worth mentioning with images of clothing abounding on the interwebs and competing for our attention. It's easy to find yourself influenced by what other people are making or to get caught up in the frenzy any time a new sewing pattern is released. But catch your breath and ask yourself whether the project you are considering making matches your signature style. If it doesn't, and you still really want to make it, well that's great! We all need some diversity in our lives... go wild! But if you're keen to build up a wardrobe full of handmade garments that will make you swoon on a daily basis, then make sure that whatever you spend all that time sewing makes you happy and feels you.

The image above is a mood board put together by Breanna, the lovely and talented designer of my new logo, bringing together some of the images I chose to reflect my style and the look I wanted for my brand. Every time I look at this mood board, I feel a bit gooey inside and want to do a little dance - I just love it so much! It perfectly reflects the signature style I'm aiming for. Why not try making a signature style mood board of your own?

Over to you... How would you describe your signature style? Whether dream or reality! And who are your style icons? I'd love to hear...

PS. Don't forget to join us for the #SewingSocial Twitter chat on Sunday!

PPS. In other exciting news, my genius brother Joe has just launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund his latest invention - a slim, wireless flash that takes great photos for the iPhone without the harshness of regular flash lighting. It's such a great idea! You're in safe hands here - one of my earliest memories of Joe is him aged about seven taking apart any household appliance he could get his hands on and rewiring it to work better, go faster etc. As a grown up, he went on to help set up Google's London office and develop web and mobile products, before emigrating to Chicago to write code I'll never hope to understand, and spending his weekends tinkering away at his amazing inventions in the basement. And this one is gonna be big. So go on, pledge all your money and tell everyone you've ever met :)

3 September 2013

Sewing Social Twitter Chat no. 4

You know what we haven't done in a long time? Had a Sewing Social Twitter Chat! Not since last November in fact - rubbish! I've been feeling well jell of the IRL sewing meet ups that I haven't been able to attend because of too much work or because... erm... I live on the other side of the planet. But that's what the internet is for! Anyone fancy an online chat with other dressmaking enthusiasts in a series of 140 character sentences this Sunday? If you haven't participated before, they're a great opportunity to meet new people who share our passion, engage in the real time dialogue that's missing from blog posting and commenting, gain inspiration to fuel your future dressmaking and generally have a giggle.

Sunday 8th September 2013
8 - 9pm London / 3 - 4pm New York / 12 - 1pm LA etc

The lovely Inna will be hosting the Asia Pacific version on the same day, Tokyo 2 - 3pm / Sydney 3 - 4pm / Auckland 4 - 5pm / Singapore 1 - 2pm

On Twitter using the hashtag #sewingsocial.
My Twitter name is @TillyButtons if you want to follow me ready for kick off.
Tip: Tweetchat is a really useful platform for following hashtag threads such as this one without having to refresh the page or remember to add the hashtag yourself (it does that bit automatically).

What shall we talk about?
Previous Twitter chats have seemed to work well by focusing on a particular discussion topic, at least to get things going. How about we talk around the loose theme of Autumn/Fall sewing? Whether that means patterns you're planning to make, resolutions you'd like to keep, what you're looking forward to most about Autumn sewing... or whatever Autumn sewing means to you.

Will I be Tilly No Mates or will you join me? Hope to tweet you then!

PS. In other news, I've given my blog a bit of a makeover! Do you like my new logo? It was designed by the talented Breanna Rose.