28 December 2018

2018 at Tilly Towers

Behind the scenes at Tilly and the Buttons

Looking back on another year, I can't quite believe everything that has happened at Tilly and the Buttons HQ! As the business owner, it's been a very different year from previous ones as I've been working part time so I can look after my little boy, who is now 15 months. The juggle is a struggle and, while I looooove being able to spend time with my son, I do often find myself frustrated that I can't get more done at work. Yet looking back on everything we achieved this year, I feel proud of myself and the team for what we managed to do - in terms of product launches, events and growing the team behind the scenes.

Behind the scenes at Tilly and the Buttons
Behind the scenes at Tilly and the Buttons

Over the year we had four new stars join the team - Sales and Communications Manager Louise (who previously worked here in a different role), Sewing Pattern Developer Serefina, Office Manager Kate and Product Manager Nikki. They are all amazing at what they do, bringing ideas and enthusiasm to help the company get better bit by bit. Plus we had another baby Buttons arrival, Katie's daughter Posey - awwwww!

Mila dungarees sewing pattern

In January we launched our 19th standalone printed pattern, the Mila dungarees. On any day approximately 50% of Team Buttons are wearing dungas at their desk, so we just had to make it into a pattern. We had our lovely friend and talented textile designer Zeena Shah model them. Sssshhh don't tell anyone but we all have girl crushes on her ;)

Tilly and the Buttons award-winning sewing patterns
Behind the scenes at Tilly and the Buttons

In February, the team was so proud to win a number of industry awards for our work. We won a few titles at the British Sewing Awards, including 'Best Independent Pattern House', which was a huge honour. We also scooped up the 'Sewing Designer of the Year 2018' at the British Craft Awards. These awards are voted for by the public, so thank you so so much if you voted for us. It really does mean a lot to myself and the team to have our hard work recognised in this way.

Tilly and the Buttons at the Knitting and Stitching show Olympia Feb/March 2018
Behind the scenes at Tilly and the Buttons

We worked at a flurry of events at the start of the year, which meant that behind the scenes our office was a mess of packing boxes. In Birmingham we exhibited at CHSI Stitches trade show, where we got to talk face-to-face with some of the lovely shop owners who stock our patterns and get some new ones on board. We also did the public Knitting and Stitching Show in London, where we met lots of inspiring sewists who had braved the snow to get there.

Tilly Walnes new book - Stretch: Make Yourself Comfortable Sewing with Knit Fabrics
Behind the scenes at Tilly and the Buttons
Behind the scenes at Tilly and the Buttons

March was a big month for us as it saw the publication of my second book, Stretch! Make Yourself Comfortable Sewing with Knit Fabrics. We had a party at the Village Haberdashery to celebrate with the book team, family and friends. The real fun has been to see so many dressmakers using the book to get stuck into sewing with knits. The Freya pattern proved to be a firm favourite, with so many makers whipping up a whole collection of them.

Tilly and the Buttons South London studio
Tilly and the Buttons South London studio

At the end of March, we got the keys to our new studio. When I signed the contract on our first studio in 2014, there was just me and one part time team member and it seemed enormous. I'm not naturally a massive risk taker so it was out of character to be paying for a space that was bigger than we needed (read: expensive). But I trusted that if I took a large space it would give me the impetus to grow the company into it. And we did! A few months ago it had got to the point where I didn't have a desk and we were tripping over each other, as well as boxes and boxes of stock... So I marched down to the manager's office and asked them if they had a bigger space in the building, and signed the contract on a much larger unit shortly afterwards. Take a look...

Tilly and the Buttons handpicked knit fabrics pop up shop
Behind the scenes at Tilly and the Buttons
Tilly and the Buttons handpicked knit fabrics

When we released Stretch! we wanted to make it easy for readers to find drop-dead gorgeous knit fabrics to make the projects with. So we got in a batch of beautiful jerseys, sparkly sweater knits and snuggly sweatshirting which we sold on our online shop, as well as at a pop up shop at our studio one Saturday in April. A stream of eager shoppers came along to build their stash, sip fizz, scoff cakes, meet the team and chat to other sewing lovers. Yep, it really was a perfect day!

Seren sewing pattern by Tilly and the Buttons
Stevie and Seren sewing pattern by Tilly and the Buttons
Behind the scenes at Tilly and the Buttons

In the Summer we launched two more sewing patterns, the Stevie tunic and Seren dress. We had Zeena Shah back to model them, along with our lovely customer and now friend Alexandra Bruce. If you know these ladies on Insta or IRL, I'm sure you can imagine the fun we had at the shoot! Our talented office assistant Jenny made this awesome video all about the day. Speedy sew Stevie quickly became our new bestseller and starting popping up all over Instagram. We are addicted to seeing all your lovely makes!

Tilly and the Buttons sewing patterns new look

The launch of Stevie and Seren also saw the reveal of our new patterns covers. The freshly updated patterns feature our real-gal models on the front, and look pretty as a picture!

Tilly and the Buttons reach 100k on Instagram!

August saw a "pinch me" moment for us as we hit 100,000 followers on Instagram! It is so exciting to think that there are so many people out there involved or interesting in the DIY dressmaker way of life. Social media sometimes gets a bad rap but it's inspired lots of us to get more creative and make connections with people we wouldn't otherwise get to mingle with.

Tilly Walnes Handmade Fair super theatre session with Kirstie Allsopp
Behind the scenes at Tilly and the Buttons

In September, we did our favourite show, the Handmade Fair at Hampton Court Palace. This year I was asked to join Kirstie Allsopp on the Super Theatre stage to to a live demo sewing a Freya top from Stretch! while sharing tips and tricks for sewing with knit fabrics. Naturally I was nervous beforehand, but as soon as I got on stage all I felt was happiness to be able to talk about sewing with a crowd of smiling faces. My mum is devastated that I didn't get a picture with Kirstie, but I did get one with my little lobbus who came to visit!

Tilly and the Buttons at the Knitting and Stitching show Ally Pally 2018

A few weeks later we did our fourth show of the year, the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Pally for the first time (and not the last), and chatted to more wonderful sewists while enjoying being in the grandest show hall yet!

By the way, occasionally we get asked why most of the shows we do are in London and not elsewhere in the country. The reason why is that exhibiting at shows is verrrry expensive, and to add hotel rooms for the team and long distance transportation to the budget would mean we'd be losing money. I would absolutely love to do more shows in other places one day, but sadly it's just not viable at the moment. If you do decide to travel to a London show to see us, we will give you a special welcome!

Behind the scenes at Tilly and the Buttons
Nora sewing pattern by Tilly and the Buttons
Ness sewing pattern by Tilly and the Buttons

October saw another pattern duo drop, the Ness skirt and Nora top, which together make the perfect outfit. The stunning fashion blogger Harriet Hutton modelled for us (heart eyes). Super speedy Nora can be whipped up in an afternoon, and Ness takes your dressmaking skills to the next level, with denim inspired details like a zip fly front and topstitched mock felled seams.

Behind the scenes at Tilly and the Buttons

Towards the end of the year, we launched our Sew a Xmas Sweater contest, an idea I dreamed up last Christmas and have been looking forward to ever since! I cannot tell you how much fun we've had cooing over the incredible creations people made. It really was a humbling experience seeing all the effort people went to. It put my version to shame, hahaha!

Behind the scenes at Tilly and the Buttons

To top off a fantastic year, we've just had news in that we have won four gold prizes at the British Sewing Awards:
  • Best Independent Pattern House 
  • Best Sewing Book 2018
  • Best Sewing Blog
  • Best Instagram
Thank you so so much to everyone who voted for us. What a way to round off a very brilliant year : )

Wishing you all a very happy (sewing-filled) new year and can't wait to bring more to you in 2019!

PS. You might also like to look back on the best posts from the blog in 2018.