28 March 2014

Come to Blogtacular!

Have you heard about Blogtacular? It's an awesome new conference for design, craft and lifestyle bloggers, and I'll be speaking at it on Saturday 10th May 2014. You should come!

What is it?
In the words of the organisers...

"Blogtacular is a place for bloggers whose hearts beat with creativity to come together to meet, share and inspire. This is a place for people who create vibrant and original content to discuss their work, fill their minds with new ideas and to collaborate with fellow bloggers. No matter what you blog about; if you love great quality content and beautiful design you’ll find yourself at home at Blogtacular. 

Blogtacular brings together some of the hottest talent from the online world. We’ll have a schedule packed full of innovation, inspiration and mind blowing points of view. At the heart of our business we’re guided by our principles: we value talent, we create great content and we work with nice people."

Sounds awesome, non? Other speakers include Joy Cho from Oh Joy!, Anne Ditmeyer who is a columnist for Design*Sponge, Kate Carter who is editor of Life & Style at The Guardian, Lara Watson who is editor of Mollie Makes, and more!

What will I be talking about?
I'll be sharing my experience and tips on turning your blog into a book - from how to make your blog appealing to publishers, through writing a book proposal, to managing the process of writing so that you actually enjoy it and don't go completely nuts or miss your deadlines! The session will also include insider input from the world of publishing and literary agents.

The deets
The conference will be held at the Royal Institution in Mayfair, London. It starts on the evening of Friday 9th May with a drinks reception and the keynote talk (I might do a book signing that night, TBC), and then runs all day on Saturday 10th May. Take a look at the Blogtacular website for all the details and to get your ticket before they sell out.

I'm so excited about Blogtacular, not only to be a speaker, but to be a participant at such a fab-sounding event all about one of my fave ever topics - blogging! I could literally talk about blogging all day, so to be at an all-day event talking and listening to other people talk about blogging will be awesome. Hope to see you there too.

Be there or be square!

25 March 2014

More of Your Cocos! (part 2)

Wow. Just wow. The Coco party last Friday was SO MUCH FUN! You guys totally overwhelmed me with your amazing versions of the Coco sewing pattern and brilliant party photos. The internet's great, isn't it?

Diana + Camille
There was socialising...

Sue + Lucinda + Under Alteration
... there was dancing...

Cocos by Stephanie - swoon!
... lots of Instagramming...

Rosie Wednesday and Tea for Two
... we had cheese and wine...

... Nadia arrived fashionably late in this amazing Coco made by David, but we forgave her because she looked so ruddy fabulous...

Nikki + Renee
... there were party hats and bunting...

The Red Carpet Project + Jennifer's kitty cat
... even the pets got involved!

Oh yes, and there is one more person worth mentioning. I promised to send a signed copy of my book when it's out to one of the guests, and after much deliberation and soul-searching, I've chosen someone who has made no less than four Cocos, all totally different, and all absolutely adorable...

Janet! Yay!

There were loads more guests at the party with lots of amazing Cocos - I'm sorry there isn't room to mention everyone, but do go and look at the gallery to see what they've made. You've given me so many ideas for more Cocos!

Cheers everyone!

21 March 2014

Coco Party Time!

PARTY TIME!!! You guys, I'm so excited to see y'all at the internet #SewingCoco party! 

I'm wearing my latest Coco top, whipped up last night using some leftover striped fabric from one of the pattern sample tops, topped off with a lovely hot pink textured fabric for the yoke and sleeves (both from Simply Fabrics in Brixton). Looking at the photos, I'm not 100% happy with the shape of the armhole in these photos - I stitched it a little tight at the bottom on this one, making the top scrunch up a little bit (NEVER drink wine before sewing!). Howevs, it's such a minor thing and doesn't really bother me - overall, it's love! Back to the party...

Loads of guests are at the party already, including Renee, Winnie, Camille, Diane, Nikki, Ornella, Janet... and more! We're having a great time, bopping along to this gem submitted to the party playlist by DJ Découd-vite...

Come join us! Post a photo (or lots of photos!) of yourself wearing your Coco top or dress on your blog / Twitter / Instagram / Pinterest anytime today. Use the hashtag #SewingCoco so we can all find each other and tweet me or leave a link in the comments on this post so I can see and help share some photos! I'll do a round up post next week, and I'll send a signed copy of my book as soon as it's released to the party guest who makes me shriek the loudest with glee (whether it's for the design of their Coco, jaw-dropping sartorial wisdom, photography skills or whatever).

We've really gotta bump Camille off the decks. What do you want to add to the playlist? My own party song suggestion is 'I Wish' by Skee-Lo - tunage!

In other news, I've revamped the Coco sewalong page with pretty pictures - check it out! Loads of posts to help you make Coco, and more to come...


19 March 2014

A Day in the Life of Guthrie and Ghani

It brings me great pleasure to introduce the next interviewee for A Day in the Life - a woman whose ambition and drive I admire greatly, and who I am grateful to call a good friend - Lauren Guthrie. Lauren and her husband Ayaz have invested a crazy amount of work into turning a derelict building into their beautiful Birmingham-based haberdashery, Guthrie and Ghani. If you've been lucky enough to visit, you'll know what a special place it is, full of sewing and knitting delights, with a beautiful space upstairs for workshops. Let's hear from Lauren what a typical day is like managing the business...


"Hello Tilly and the Buttons readers! It’s so great to be here and sharing my day with you, so thanks a million for inviting me, Tilly!

The alarm usually goes off at about 7.30am, I wake myself up then have breakfast at home while catching up on BBC news. It’s easy to so caught up in things and forget about the outside world sometimes so I try to tune in when I can. I always have a bowl of muesli and honey and a coffee. It keeps me going for hours as I don’t usually have lunch till later in the day. Pretty much every day I’m wearing at least one thing I’ve made, but I’m one of those peeps who are always cold, so I usually layer up.

I head over to my shop about 8.45am to get there for 9am where I meet Lucy, my assistant. At the moment we are building a house behind the shop so eventually my commute will be even shorter! We have half an hour to set the shop up, warm the coffee machine, turn on the lights, tidy up and sort out the to-do lists for the day. At 9.30am we open up the shop. We’ve got such a huge big bay window at the front of the shop and the light just floods in, even on a dull day.

The first jobs for the day are to pick and pack the online orders and get them sent out. We also have to log the workshop bookings placed online in the diary too. I then try to get on top of my emails while Lucy makes sure the shop is looking lovely and well stocked. Every day is different, sometimes I might work on blog posts which is great fun. Other days I’m planning or teaching workshops. Other days it's more organisational things like liaising with different tutors or designing some of my own workshops that I teach. Some days I have to just knuckle down and deal with the paperwork side of the business like paying bills, figuring out stock levels and placing orders. Working out what to buy and order for the shop and, most importantly, how much to order is a constant learning process for me. When I first opened the shop I found the choice of goods to stock a bit overwhelming so I had to just go with my gut and order what I liked myself. I found it gets easier with time as I learn what my customers like and what is more popular.

Some days I’ll work in the studio above the shop where we hold all the workshops. It’s a really big spacious room and the light floods in there as well. I’ve now got my own little book shelf there with all my books and fabric stash so it feels like part of my home really. I’ve always got a least one sewing project on the go, but I do try and finish one thing before getting really stuck into the next.

If there is no evening workshop, I usually leave the shop around 6pm and head home. I might go out for a run or go to a class at the gym, or just try and chill out while doing a bit of knitting. My new rules are to try and switch off from the business in the evenings, but it’s easier said than done, so I might check a few more emails or work on a blog post. The evening workshops usually finish between 9.30 - 10pm so quite often I leave the place a bomb-site to clear up in the morning to head home and crash out.

I used to be a physiotherapist in the NHS, working regular during the week hours so my routine is completely different now. Its easy to loose track of what day it is and you lose that end of the week ‘Friday feeling’ a bit but on the other hand, I don’t ever get that Sunday night feeling either! I’ve always had a passion for being creative, not just in sewing but lots of different crafts, and although my initial career path didn’t take me down that route I always dreamed of doing something creative full time. At first I didn’t really know what it would be. A few years ago now, I joined the online e-course called Do What You Love. Over 6 weeks the course took you through a series of daily tasks or activities aimed at helping you figure out what was important in your life, what you dreamed of, what you were scared of…. all the soul searching stuff and it really put things into perspective for me. It made me realise that working for myself and being creative in my job was so important to me that I would have to change career completely.

Still not really knowing what to do, Ayaz (my husband) and I had another situation going on with a building that we owned. It’s a long story but the building was pretty much derelict and we didn’t really know what to do with it. That’s when we had the idea to turn it into a shop and creative studio, solving two problems at once. I would get my career change and the building would be saved. And so the rest is history! After almost 2 years of planning and renovating, we opened the shop and launched the website and online shop in April 2013.

As if we weren’t busy enough, during that planning phase I had the amazing opportunity to be part of the BBC’s The Great British Sewing Bee. I made so many lovely new friends, learned so much about how I could push myself and challenge myself and by complete coincidence, honestly, the timing of the show coincided perfectly with the shop opening.

Lauren and Tilly on launch day
So really there is no set routine anymore, everything is changing, every day is different. Sometimes its scary, sometimes its stressful, sometimes I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing and have to figure it out as I go along, but most of the time it’s lots of fun and that makes up for everything else. Owning your own business means that work will never end, the to do list is never finished, there will always be something to sort out or deal with, no-one else to take up the slack or pick up the pieces. You really need to try and get over that feeling that you’re not skipping school when you have a day or afternoon off.

In terms of what’s coming up, I’m really looking forward to the next year! Now that the business is up on its feet and I’ve got more of a handle of looking after it, it will be easier to branch out and be involved in some other projects. I’m hoping to be part of some of the sewing and crafts shows, and in September I’ve got the launch of my first book. I really can’t wait for it to come out! I’ve been working really hard on that over the past 6 months and not been able to share the details so it will be a really exciting time!

There is no doubt that running your own business takes more work, energy, time, motivation, drive, determination, bravery and risk-taking that you can ever realise before you start. People will tell you it’s challenging, but really you don’t understand until you are in the situation. That said, there is something about working for yourself, on something that you are passionate about that is totally different from any job that’s working for someone else. So as long as you have that passion and drive and confidence you just have to go for it, there is no one to stop you!"


Very well said - keep up the good work, Lauren and Ayaz! Readers, if you liked this, you might like to read more A Day in the Life interviews...

17 March 2014

Your Cocos! (part 1)

Wow! You guys are making such gorgeous creations with the Coco sewing pattern! I love the fact that they're all so different - it's fantastic to see how you interpret the design and it just goes to show how versatile a sewing pattern can be. Here are just a few of the Cocos popping up around the internets...

I wonder whether Adey could hear me screaming from Singapore when I saw her incredible nautical chic Coco? Eeeeeeeeep! Toooo cuuuuuute!!!

Rachel has made not one but two Cocos (so far?) - the first out of a snuggly upcycled blanket, the second with two-tone sleeves. So creative!

Lynne made a beautiful emerald green Ponte dress (I might just have to copy this idea). French Seams paired her classic Breton Coco with her denim Miette skirt - perfect outfit, if you ask me!

I'm not the only one to try colour-blocking Coco (my version here). I love what Cheryl has done with her smart grey Coco dress. Dressing the Role made the hem and cuffs in a contrast colour - I'm itching to make one just like this, maybe in black and white. And Lauren made contrast colour pockets - this version has me dreaming of wearing short sleeved Coco dresses all summer long.

But you don't have to go wild with Coco. LaurenJanene and Kirsty have all made super simple, super chic versions of the funnel neck top. Just add capris and ballet flats. Very Audrey, non?

Many of you have commented on how fast and satisfying Coco is to sew. Joanne pulled herself out of a sewing funk with her speedy animal print Coco, and Karen's helped her get over her jet lag! Don't say I don't ever do anything for you...

Keep them coming, y'all! There are more Cocos (and RTW ideas for Coco variations) on the Pinterest gallery. If you want to show me what you've made, you can leave a comment on the blog with a link, or you can tweet me or post to Instagram or Pinterest using the hashtag #SewingCoco.

And don't forget that this Friday is the Coco Party! Post a photo (or lots of photos!) of yourself wearing your Coco top or dress, even better with a cocktail/mocktail/party paraphernalia, on your blog / Twitter / Instagram / Pinterest any time on Friday. Use the hashtag #SewingCoco so we can all find each other and make new sewing friends, and tweet me or leave a link on my blog so I can help share some photos! And, in your post, feel free to recommend a tune for the party playlist! I'd better make a start on the sausage rolls...

14 March 2014

Getting a Craft Book Deal

I’ve had a few emails from people who dream of turning their passion for craft into a book and want to know how to go about getting a publishing deal. I am by no means an expert on the subject of book publishing – while my first book is coming out in May, I’ve only got the one deal (so far, fingers crossed etc!). But what I can share is the story of my own book and how it came about.

When the prospect of writing a book first arose, I was totally clueless, so I spent some late nights doing online research and asking friends in publishing how it all worked. There wasn’t a lot of information out there on writing a craft book, but I really valued the advice that I did find. So I’m writing this in the hope that it will add to the conversation and help some other people to follow their dream… You only live once, after all!

Now be warned – this is a reeeeally long post, so if you’re interested in hearing the story, grab yourself a cuppa or a cheeky tipple. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin…

For me, it all started a looooong time ago, nearly two years ago in fact, back in the summer of 2012. One day, I opened my emails to find a message from an editor at a major publishing house saying that she’d been reading my blog for some time and wondered whether I’d be interested in writing a book. Well of course it sounded like a very exciting opportunity to turn what I loved doing into a real life, printed book that my mum could put on her coffee table – crazy good, in fact! We had a very positive first meeting, along with a member of the marketing team, and I was asked to write a brief outline of a couple of concepts we’d discussed, to be shared with the rest of the team.

And then I waited.

And waited.

Trying to block it out of my mind, and trying but failing miserably to not get too excited too soon… and then feeling the disappointment of rejection creeping in. When eventually I heard back from the publishers, it was with news that the editor had since left the company, and that the team were focusing on an existing sewing book and didn’t think there was room for another one. Boo ☹

But then a couple of months later, I received an email from another publisher. This time, they already had an idea for a book that they wanted to publish imminently and thought I’d be a good person to write it. The concept was well up my street, and I loved the other books that they published, so despite myself I of course began to get excited again.

Again, but for a totally different reason, this one didn’t work out either.

A second false start. But in the meantime, I’d been making progress in another way. After getting approached by the second publisher, I realised that this crazy idea of writing a book might actually happen one day, possibly very soon, and that I knew absolutely nothing about the process of securing a deal, the terms of a publishing contract, who I should be working with, how much it would be worth etc etc. I’d heard about some bad experiences that other authors had had and I didn’t want to end up with a contract that wasn’t worth the many months of work I would put into writing the book or with some small print that led to frustration further down the line. Having handled my blog solo for years, I decided that now was the time to seek expert help – I wanted to get a literary agent.

Now, I know many craft authors have channelled the spirit of DIY and successfully secured book deals on their own, and I really admire them for that. For me, however, getting a literary agent was one of the best decisions I’ve made. Yes, they take commission. But for me it’s been sooooo worth it in terms of their knowledge of the industry, the contacts they have, the way they champion their authors, the negotiation skills they bring to the table, the questions they know to ask, their fine-print scrutinisation skills, and the moral support and hand-holding they can offer throughout the whole process, from writing a proposal to release. Oh and it’s in their interest to ensure that you’re paid properly for the hard work you put in!

So how do you find an agent? To be honest, I don’t know. All I know is how I got mine. One night, I fired off a short ‘n’ sweet email to an author I admire, who specialises in a totally different subject (so neither she nor her agent would consider me a competitor or conflict of interest), expressing my admiration (hopefully without sounding too much like a creepy stalker) and asking whether she had any advice for me on whether to get an agent or go it alone. (Tip for emailing a busy person: keep it brief and easy to answer!) Knowing how many emails she probably receives, I didn’t expect her to reply, let alone send me the email address of her agent, but that’s exactly what she did! Wow. I am extremely grateful to her for that!

I’m not suggesting you do the same – authors get squillions of emails and giving out your agent’s email address to strangers could totally get you on the wrong side of your agent! But if there’s an author whose career you admire and who writes about a totally different subject to you, have a look at the acknowledgements in the back of their book and you may find the name you’re looking for. Then write a brief note to the agent explaining who you are, an introduction to your idea, and why you want to work with them.

Okay so again I have no idea if that’s what you’re supposed to do, maybe you’re supposed to send them more or less than that, I don’t know – that’s just what I did, and then we met, got on really well, and agreed to work together.

So, literary agent on board, I knew immediately that I was in safe hands. My agent suggested I pretend that the concepts I’d been discussing with other publishers didn’t exist for a moment, and start from scratch. What would my dream book be? What did I feel strongly about? What would I be happy spending six months of my life writing? And out splurged a proposal.

These are the original sketches I included with my proposal
(some of these designs may or may not have made it into the final book!)
So what do you put into a book proposal? What I included was:

  • a suggested title
  • the concept of the book
  • an introduction to who you are and why you’re the right person to write this book
  • your “writer’s platform”, ie. anywhere people might know you from already (eg. blog stats, social media following, press, accolades, other work you may be known for, such as teaching gigs or business ownership…)
  • a draft contents list
  • extracts from the book (alternatively you could submit a full sample chapter)
  • any photos or illustrations relevant to the book (I included a mood board of photos to express the look I wanted for the book and sketched out design ideas for the garments).

The most important thing here is the concept. Do you have a strong idea that fills a gap in the market and for which there is a growing interest? For example, I had a strong gut feeling from blogging about sewing and from listening to my readers that there was a real need for a modern, fun and friendly beginner dressmaking book that takes you from the absolute basics of threading a machine to creating a wardrobe full of stylish handmade garments. I then consolidated this gut feeling with research – which basically entailed sitting on the floor in the craft section of Waterstones Piccadilly, going through all the books and noting what was already out there, what was missing, and how my idea would fill a gap on the shelves.

The process of writing the proposal is a good test, not only of the coherence of your idea but also of your enthusiasm and thus ability to write it. Do the words spring forth with passion and ease? If you find writing the proposal a struggle, you’ll probably find writing a whole book on the subject really tough – so maybe take a step back and rethink what you would really enjoy writing (cos it’s gonna take over your life!). My concept felt totally right to me, and the words filled the pages with ease since it’s basically what I’d been trying to do on my blog for years already. If it feels right, it probably is right.

Proposal written, my agent then submitted it to her Dream List of publishers. Pretty soon, we were liaising on the phone regularly setting up meetings, and I then spent an incredibly intense and fun couple of weeks zipping around London meeting publishers. It was a really interesting process as they were all very different, with different ideas for how they would approach publishing the book.

By the time the meetings had started happening (yes, the process took this long!), The Great British Sewing Bee had begun airing on BBC TV and the secret was out that I was in it. A (brief!) TV gig plus having my face plastered all over national newspapers obviously helped heighten interest and get more meetings with my agent’s first choice of publishers than I may have had otherwise. Obviously not everyone is going to get the chance to get on the telly, and obviously it’s not a requirement of getting a book deal. If you want to write a book I hope you’re heartened by the fact that I’d already had publishers approach me well before I’d even won a place on the show. I believe what was really significant about the Sewing Bee was the fact that it both shone light upon and further fuelled the UK’s growing interest in sewing. Suddenly sewing was hot! Is there is a growing market for the subject you want to write about? If so, that’s going to stand you in good stead when it comes to sparking publishers’ interest. And if you’re writing about craft, the answer is probably yes!

Remember my old blog design?
What can also really help get the attention of publishers is having a blog. Firstly, because a blog showcases your work on a public platform and makes it easy for publishers to see what you can do and what you're about. Secondly, if you can build a readership for your blog, that’s going to reassure publishers that you can build a readership for your book. It’s not just the editorial team who are going to make the decision on the offer – they will probably consult the sales and marketing department too. A third - and very important - reason why having a blog is important is because it gives you practice in writing and designing projects. You’re going to need to be able to do it quickly and consistently when it comes to writing a whole book. So if you want to write a craft book, my advice would be to write a blog, to keep writing a blog, to be professional (never slag anyone off online), to have a clear and unique identity, and to develop themed content on the subject you want to write a book on. Because you never know who is reading and who might email you one day!

Okay, so those are my tips, now back to the story. I’d had lots of meetings, and then began the nervous waiting game as I had to sit tight and hope that some offers would come in and my agent could get to work ensuring I got the best deal. Sitting at my day job, with one eye on my phone hoping it would ring, I was asking myself whether it was really going to happen this time, third time lucky – or was I an idiot to even think it might?

A few very excited email exchanges with my agent ensued, and then I remember rushing out of the office after work one evening, my agent on the phone with some very good news about the outcome of the negotiations. After some discussion and mulling over who would be the right publisher for me and my book, I went with Quadrille. An expert in craft publishing, with the likes of Liberty and Cath Kidston in their catalogue, with strong ideas for the book that matched my own (including the importance of having full scale printed patterns in the book – which I know you lot will appreciate!), I knew they were the right fit for me.

So that’s the story of how I got a craft book deal. Are you still awake?! I hope it was helpful to hear my story, but remember it’s certainly not the only way of going about it. It didn’t just “happen” – it took a long time, a lot of work, and I experienced setbacks and disappointments along the way. But if you dream of getting published and have an idea that feels right, pursue it! It’s an exhilarating ride.

And of course getting a book deal is just the beginning. Then you have to actually write the ruddy thing!

Update: Love at First Stitch was published in the UK on 8 May 2014. Order your copy from UK Amazon or order a signed copy from our shop!

Not in the UK? The book has also been published in CzechDanishDutch, FinnishGermanNorth American English, Norwegian and Swedish.

12 March 2014

My First Knitting Project!

Guys! I knit something! (Knitted? Knit?... [quick google later]... "Knit" is fine.) A scarf, to be precise. And just in time for Spring - erm... good work me!

I'm rather proud of my first knitting project. There are a few dodgy bits, as evidenced by the photo above - including one area where, looking at it now, I guess I must have stopped a few stitches into a row, got distracted, and started knitting back the other way. Nice one! I only actually noticed when I looked at this photo though. Dodgy bits are part of a knitting project's charm, non?

I really enjoyed making this project. Learning a new skill feels so rewarding, and it's exciting to be right at the beginning when I don't know anything... I don't even know what I don't know. I got the same feeling working on this scarf as when I made my first ever dress - I had no idea what I was doing, but loved the anticipation of achievement. The thing that bothers me though is the same thing that bothered me when I began sewing (and which I'm trying to rectify with my patterns) - why oh why are knitting patterns so difficult to understand?!

To help me decipher this whole new mystery world of knitting, I got my mitts on this book, Learn to Knit Love to Knit, written by Anna Wilkinson and published by Quadrille. It's seriously gorgeous, packed full of lovely, colourful projects, including some beautiful jumpers and polka dot socks, as well as tips on getting started. (In fact, seeing this book was one of the reasons I went with Quadrille for my own book!)

The only thing is, seeing as spring is around the corner, I don't really feel like making a wooly hat or wrist warmers as my next project. What does one knit for spring/summer? In London? That's easy-ish? And nice? I've been hunting through Ravelry, and naturally, I have my eye on some tops of the striped - one might even say "Breton" - variety - including this, this and this. (Let's face it, you always need a jumper in London in the Summer.) No idea whether they are achievable on my very limited skills, but I'm always up for a challenge. I've also discovered the wonderful designs of Andi Satterlund. This lady designs absolutely beautiful knitting patterns that are right up my proverbial street, and has great taste in pattern names to boot (she's got a Mathilde hat and a Miette cardigan!). They look like they might be a bit too ambitious for my next project though. Anything else you can suggest that I might like to make next?

Thanks for your help!

[Soundtrack: 'Prince Johnny' by St.Vincent]

10 March 2014

Make It Your Own: Contrast Yoke Coco Variation

Meet my new favourite dress!

Breton tops and dresses with a striped bodice and contrast colour yoke and sleeves (or shoulders) seem to be all over the shops at the moment. And with good reason - they're absolutely gorgeous! Inspired by what I've seen all over Pinterest, and in an effort to use up the small amount of lovely striped fabric left over from my Nautical Dress, I thought I'd make a contrast yoke Coco dress... and show you how to make one yourself with a cheeky bit of pattern hacking.

You can make the yoke and sleeves - or just the yoke - in a contrast colour, or how about playing around with contrast prints too? Boden has some really cute striped tops with polka dot yokes... mmm... stripes and polka dots... Whatever your design, it's a good idea to pick fabrics that feel similar to each other in terms of thickness and stretchability.

You will need:
  • Coco sewing pattern
  • Large paper, pencil and ruler
  • Two different fabrics
  • Other Coco supplies as listed with the pattern (fabric, thread, sewing machine etc)
How to make the Contrast Yoke Coco:

1) On the Front Bodice piece of the Coco sewing pattern, draw a horizontal line, perpendicular to the grainline arrow, where you want the yoke seam line to be. I positioned mine about an inch above the bottom of the armhole. Add in a notch line about half way along this line - a small marking that will help us later when it comes to pinning the yoke and bodice together. Repeat on the Back Bodice piece if you want the contrast yoke on the back of your Coco too.

2) Trace off the Yoke and the Bodice pieces in your size lines on separate pieces of paper. (To trace, you can either lay semi-translucent paper over the pattern; or you can put a new piece of paper underneath the pattern, run a tracing wheel over the lines, and then go over the indentations the tracing wheel made on the new piece of paper with a pencil.)

Label the pieces so you'll remember what they are when you find them again in your pattern pile (eg. "Contrast Yoke Coco, Front Bodice, Size 3 etc"). Add in the notch lines and grainline arrows.

We need to add seam allowance to the seam lines that join the yoke and bodice. Draw a line 15mm (5/8 in) below the bottom edge of the Yoke piece(s) and join it up with the rest of the outline. Draw a line 15mm (5/8 in) above the top edge of the Bodice piece(s) and join it up with the rest of the outline. Move the notch lines so they are on the new lines you've just drawn.

3) Cut out your fabric, cutting the Front and Back Bodice pieces in one fabric and the Yoke and Sleeves in the contrast fabric. When it comes to sewing Coco together, begin by pinning the Front Yoke to the Front Bodice, with the right sides together, matching up the notches. Stitch and press the seam to one side. Repeat on the Back Yoke and Back Bodice if you're making them contrast too. Then follow the rest of the steps in the Coco sewing guide to complete the garment.

Lovely stuff! See y'all at the Coco Party!

7 March 2014

Come to a Coco Party!

You guys, I'm loving seeing the gorgeous tops and dresses you're making with the Coco sewing pattern. So much so, I reckon we should have a party! An online party, that is, chez le internet, so everyone can come. Woop!

You are cordially invited to the (virtual) Coco Party, taking place all day on Friday 21st March. That's two weeks' time, so you've got plenty of time to order your pattern and make your Coco if you haven't done so already (it's such a speedy project!).

If you'd like to join the party, simply post a photo (or lots of photos!) of yourself wearing your Coco top or dress, even better with a cocktail/mocktail/party paraphernalia, on your blog / Twitter / Instagram / Pinterest. Use the hashtag #SewingCoco so we can all find each other at this party and get socialising, and tweet me or leave a link in the comments on this post so I can see and help share some photos! I hope this will be a nice way for us all to have fun and meet some new-to-us sewing peops online.

Update: In your post, you might also want to recommend a tune for the party playlist!

Now, this isn't a competition, it's purely for the sake of fun and conviviality, but I may just pick out one person whose photo makes me shriek the loudest with glee (whether it's for the design of their Coco, jaw-dropping sartorial wisdom, photography skills or whatever) and send them a signed copy of my book as soon as it's out.

I'll also pull out some of the pics for a dedicated round-up post of the Coco Party. Partaaaaaay!!!

Oh and BTW, I'm now on Instagram! Basically I got bullied into it by Christine, Rachel and Alana. I'm not quite sure what to do, so if you have any tips on using Instagram, please do share. Are there any image editing apps you recommend? Should you re-Instagram stuff like you'd retweet something? What kinds of things would you like to see me post on there?

See you at the Coco Party!

Sewing Coco 5: Add the Pockets

Ready to finish Coco? Let’s make some pockets!

The pattern comes with two different sizes of pocket piece – you get to choose which size to add, how many to add, where to add them, or whether to leave them off altogether! I’ve added one small pocket to the chest of my Coco top, and two large pockets to the hip area on my Coco dress. You could choose matching fabric or a contrast colour or print – how about adding a pretty floral pocket to a bold top, or rotating the direction of the stripes on the pocket?

Once you’ve cut out your pocket or pockets, fold the top edge of each piece over by 15mm (5/8 in), right sides together, and press. Straight stitch down either side of just this folded edge.

Now to turn this fold right sides out. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that I prefer to fold corners rather than snipping them, as they’ll be stronger, sturdier and less likely to form a hole. Fold one of the seam allowances along one of the short lines you’ve just stitched towards the flap you've just folded (see the picture). Holding it in place with finger and thumb, turn the corner right side out. Do the same on the other side.

If the corner doesn’t look much like a corner, you can use the tip of a pin to very gently ease the fabric out into a right angle (be careful not to poke a hole in the fabric).

Fold and press the remaining three edges of each pocket piece under by 15mm (5/8 in), wrong sides together.

Now you can try your Coco on and choose where you want the pocket(s) to go. Pin each pocket in your chosen position on the outside of the garment, the wrong side of the pocket against the right side of the garment. Take the garment off and check the pockets are symmetrical and straight.

Leaving the top edge unstitched, and being careful not to sew through the back of the garment (doh!), straight topstitch the other three sides of each pocket to the front of the garment, 5mm (1/4 in) from the edges (I like to use the edge of my presser foot as a guide). At either end of the stitching line, sew a small triangle shape – this will help strengthen the pocket opening.

Now give everything a final press and…

Voilà! Bust out the cocktails, you’ve made a lovely Coco!

I hope you enjoyed this sewalong. If you want to catch up at any time, the steps will remain on the Coco page. And if you have any questions, do ask in the comments.

And now I’m itching to see what you’ve made! Please leave a link to a photo in the comments or tweet me using the hashtag #SewingCoco. If you share your photo, it may end up on the Pinterest Coco gallery or featured in a future post on this blog (large, light, focused photos preferred!).

Can't wait to see!