24 December 2019

Tilly and the Buttons Turns Ten! The Story So Far...

Tilly and the Buttons turns ten! The story so far...

On 1st January 2010, my ex-boyfriend dared me to start a sewing blog.

And then he double-dared me, and of course no one can resist a double-dare so I opened up Blogger and typed in the first blog name I thought of. “Tilly” as it’s my name, and “the Buttons” as it gave a nod to both sewing and typing a blog – plus it sounded like they could be my sixties girl group backing band.

That blog is now turning the ripe old age of ten years old next week and, a decade on, I’m typing this from my studio in London, surrounded by a team of awesome women, with our own line of sewing patterns up on the shelves, our third book currently at the printers and our first fabric collection about to hit the shops :)

Back to ten years ago, I really had no idea that any of this was on the cards. Least of all because I was hungover after a new year’s eve party the night before. I had a career I loved in the world of indie cinemas, and never imagined I would ever want to own my own business, let alone leave the film industry. I thought this blogging thing could be a bit of fun but in all honesty didn’t know how long it would last and didn’t think anyone would read it apart from my mum.

So why did I start? I’d recently got into dressmaking in my spare time and had stumbled upon a few blogs written by other women around the world who made their own clothes. As none of my IRL friends shared my hobby, I thought it could be fun to chat to people who understood my interest in seam techniques and love of fabric, and document my own makes to keep me motivated to carry on sewing.

Tilly's first dress - Tilly and the Buttons

For my debut post, I shared some photos of the first thing I’d made, a shift dress from a McCalls pattern in a yellow floral cotton bought from The Cloth House. Back then, there wasn’t the thriving indie pattern scene which we are lucky to have now, and I wouldn’t have known where to find fabric online. On the plus side, the sewing bloggers I “met” online were so kind, creative and resourceful, and we banded together to navigate the sewing scene and help each other to keep making stuff.

18 December 2019

Five Sewing Resolutions for 2020

Five sewing resolutions for 2020

Can you believe we are nearly in the year 2020? Nope? We can't either! As the year draws to a close, your mind naturally wanders over the one that has past and the brand spanking new year that's creeping ever closer to you. A new year signifies fresh beginnings and of course, more sewing projects - hurrah! 

As a DIY dressmaker, you might want to start 2020 off with a focus that helps you achieve your sewing goals and stay productive with the little time you have available. Whether you like setting resolutions or not, you could find setting a small goal for the year very satisfying. We have a few ideas for the kind of resolutions you could set for yourself. Even ticking off teeny-tiny challenges can feel so good. 

So, before this year runs away, here are five ideas for sewing resolutions!

Five sewing resolutions for 2020
If you've found yourself staying away from bigger projects that feel a little too challenging, why not bite the bullet and make that your goal for 2020? Whether you've been daydreaming about sewing your first pair of jeans, a gorgeous coat that you made yourself or getting stuck into jersey and making your own t-shirt, a big project is a great goal to have.

If tackling it all in one go feels a little overwhelming, you could work up to the final garment. Maybe starting by breaking the goal down and doing one small thing each week or month, such as researching the sewing techniques you will be using or shopping for the fabric and notions? Before you know it you will be ticking off the smaller jobs and a whole lot closer to the big project. Think of the pride when you manage to sew something you have never sewn before. It will totally be worth all the effort in slowing down and taking your time.

We have some great big projects to tackle:
Eden - make a coat or raincoat
Jessa - sew your own wide-leg jeans (if trousers aren't your thing you could go for the Ness skirt which is packed with denim-inspired details that will challenge you in a similar way)
Nora - become totally obsessed with t-shirt making
Rosa - make your own collared shirt or shirt dress

Five sewing resolutions for 2020

11 December 2019

Ten favourite Posts of 2019

Ten favourite posts of 2019 at Tilly and the Buttons

In just a few weeks this blog is celebrating TEN, yes TEN years since it was released into the blogosphere. Can you believe it? There will be more on that soon, but now is 2019's time to shine!

It has been a wonderful, jam-packed year at Tilly HQ, with lots of behind-the-scenes work going on with the third book, Make It Simple, in the works, as well as pattern launches and our first fabric line being developed. Phew, we have been busy! The blog continues to be our special place to share sewing tips, inspo and anything we think you might enjoy. Here are some of the most popular blog posts from the last 12 months in case you've missed them or just want to take another look : )

Six steps to start sewing by Tilly and the Buttons

Six steps to starting sewing

Always wanting to make things easier and turn more people into DIY dressmakers, Tilly shares her tips on getting your sewing journey off to a good start. This is a must-read for anybody who wants to give this wonderful hobby a go and doesn't want to sift through mountains of information before you can get stitching! 

Five design hacks for the Coco pattern by Tilly and the Buttons

Five design hacks for the Coco pattern

Coco is one of our most-loved patterns and has been made over and over again by those that adore it. We pulled together some wonderful design hack ideas to get Coco fans inspired, courtesy of our super-talented customers.

Five ways to use up your scraps by Tilly and the Buttons

Five ways to use up your scraps

6 December 2019

Introducing the Nora Cardigan Add-On Pattern!

Nora cardigan sewing pattern add-on - Tilly and the Buttons

We're thrilled to launch something a bit different for you today - meet the Nora cardigan add-on pattern!

The Nora cardigan add-on is a digital download of bonus pattern pieces and instructions to turn our Nora top pattern into a cosy, casual cardigan. The Nora top is already one of our most popular and versatile patterns so we're delighted to breathe some new life into it to make it go even further.

Tilly shared a post earlier this year showing how she hacked the Nora top pattern into a snuggly cardigan. Lots of people got in touch to say they'd love to make it but didn't feel confident hacking the pattern themselves, so we thought we'd do the hard work so you don't have to :)

Team Tilly were already addicted to the Nora top and now they are absolutely in love with the cardigan version. It's a lovely me-made that you can throw on when it gets chilly. Plus it's so quick to make you can go from cutting out the fabric to wearing your brand new cardi within a couple of hours. What's better than that?!

As this is an add-on pattern,  you'll also need the original Nora top pattern to make the cardigan. If you don't have it yet, grab the Nora top and cardigan bundle.

Nora cardigan sewing pattern add-on - Tilly and the ButtonsNora cardigan sewing pattern add-on - Tilly and the Buttons
Nora cardigan sewing pattern add-on - Tilly and the Buttons
Nora cardigan sewing pattern add-on - Tilly and the Buttons


2 December 2019

Show Your Me-Mades Some Love With A Nominette Woven Label (AD)

Have you fallen in love with the sew-on label trend that's everywhere in the sewing community right now? I have! One of my favourite things is to add a secret message on the inside of my me-mades to make them feel even more unique. It makes me smile every time I put them on.

I've been searching for the perfect label manufacturer to design some myself, so when the lovely people from Nominette got in touch I was really excited to try them out and create something bespoke for my cherished handmade clothes. If you're interested in creating your own, keep reading for a special discount code from them too :)

Nominette Sew in Labels - Tilly and the Buttons

27 November 2019

Black Friday Sale 2019

Tilly and the Buttons Black Friday 2019 sale!

Get ready to squeal... our biggest sale of the year is here, with up to 40% off sewing goodies!

We have discounts on patterns, books and kits make sure you check out these very special offers. You can build your stash, or give the gift of sewing to somebody else this Christmas - you decide : )

The Black Friday sewing goodies sale must end Monday 2 December midnight GMT, so don't miss out!

Tilly and the Buttons Black Friday 2019 sale!
Tilly and the Buttons Black Friday 2019 sale!

Happy Shopping!

Author: Louise Carmichael
Photos: Jane Looker

20 November 2019

Our First Fabric Collection is Coming Soon!

I’m pinching myself as I’m writing this… We are excited to tell you that we are launching our first fabric collection in a few weeks’ time!

You may have already seen an announcement about this on Instagram a while back, and today I’m here to share with you all the details about these gorgeous fabrics - and let you know that pre-orders are officially open :)

Get ready to be excited – not only are they cotton jerseys, but they are organic – yasss!

This all started in February of this year when we were approached by the Craft Cotton Company (part of Viscount Textiles) and asked if we would be interested in working on a fabric line together. The idea of doing Tilly and the Buttons fabrics had been a “someday” dream project for me… until that day when it suddenly jumped up the “to do” list.

I knew right away at that meeting that this was a great company to partner with. They had so much enthusiasm for our brand and were just really nice and genuine. I love working with people who are authentic and passionate about what they do – not just going through the motions. The Craft Cotton Company pride themselves on creating high quality fabrics at great value prices. They were keen to get a TATB collection just right, and embraced my perfectionist tendencies throughout the development process :)

13 November 2019

Ten Tips For Sewing A Wool Coat

What do we want? Coats! When do we want them? Now!

Personally, I find one of the only consolations of the weather getting a bit chilly is wearing - and making - a lovely, snuggly coat. However, making a coat usually involves sewing with some kind of wool, or wool-type coating, which is a material lots of sewists will be unfamiliar with, and can therefore seem a little bit intimidating. The good news is it's so much easier to work with a coating fabric than you'd think - yay!

Before we get started, let's talk a bit about coating fabric. Coating refers to fabric suitable for coat or jacket making. There are loads of different coating options available - you can buy a 100% wool coating or a blend with one or more different materials, such as viscose (rayon) or polyester. You also can also buy coating fabrics without any wool content whatsoever. Our Eden coat kits come with a super soft wool type fabric which also makes them vegan friendly :)

There are quite a few different coating options out there so if you're ordering online I'd advise to order a swatch of fabric so you can have a closer look before purchasing.  If you want a bit more info on the different types of coatings available, such as boiled wool, cashmere or boucle, check out our fabric suggestions blog post for our fave coat pattern ever, the Eden coat and jacket.

Whilst sewing a winter coat is quite time consuming it's totally worth it for the amount of wear you'll get out of it, as you can wear it all autumn and winter long. Actually, if cared for properly (and not nibbled at by hungry moths!) a good coat can last for many years. That's a lot of opportunites for you to proudly say "why yes, I made it myself".

So, are you ready to learn some top tips about sewing with wool coating? Let's get cracking.

6 November 2019

Make It Simple: The inspiration behind my forthcoming book

Make It Simple: Easy, Speedy Sewing Projects to Stitch Up in an Afternoon - Tilly and the Buttons

Have you ever caught yourself saying, “I’d love to sew, but I don’t have time”?

Me too. As a business owner and mum to a toddler, I don’t have big chunks of free time to sew. My week is divided between being in the office and being at home playing with my energetic little boy, and, once he’s in bed, quite frankly I’m wiped out! After he was born, I went through a spell of not sewing at all. But I soon missed my hobby and passion, so I decided to question the story I was telling myself about not having time to sew and reframe my thinking to make it achievable.

This was the inspiration behind my new book. I’m excited to be able to share the cover with you today!

Make It Simple will be out in February 2020, published by Quadrille (Hardie Grant). You can order it now from Amazon or pre-order a signed copy from our online shop. As you may know, pre-orders are so important for a book as they show potential stockists that the demand is there – and, in turn, help keep the book in stock so it’s available to more people. If you are able to pre-order my book, I’d be extremely grateful :)

Pitch over, let’s talk about what the book is all about and what you’re going to get out of it…

Make It Simple: Easy, Speedy Sewing Projects to Stitch Up in an Afternoon - Tilly and the Buttons

My goal in writing Make It Simple was to help you fit more creativity into your life, no matter what you’ve got going on.

The book is jam-packed full of my trusted time-saving tactics and secret shortcuts to make it easier for you to get your sewing fix.

Moreover, it features 24 gorgeous garment projects that you can whip up in a few hours, from a classic T shirt to a pretty playsuit, a cosy cardigan to an office-ready shift dress, comfy PJs to a stylish pinafore. They’re all easy to make, simple to fit, with no fiddly bits, and extremely wearable. I am obsessed with these patterns and hope you’ll love them too! I can't wait to share some sneaks of the patterns with you a bit nearer the launch.

30 October 2019

Ten Tips for Sewing Gathers - With Video!

Tilly and the Buttons - Ten tips for sewing gathers

Want some top tips on how to sew beautiful, even gathers? Well, look no further, we've got you covered. This post is jam-packed with hints and tricks on how to create and sew gathers which can be used for tonnes of sewing projects. We've also made a step-by-step tutorial video to show you how it's done :)

Gathering is a sewing technique that pops up in loads of different sewing projects. Put simply, gathering involves reducing the width of one piece of fabric so it can be joined to another piece. You'll often see this in skirts and dresses where flowy skirts are gathered to join a waistband or bodice. In the case of our Indigo smock pattern, you can also use gathers to attach the flounce sleeve option. 

Before we get stuck into the tips, if you want to learn the basics of sewing gathers, check out our how-to video to see how it's done:

Onto Team Tilly's ten tips for sewing gathers...

23 October 2019

Team Buttons' Indigo Smock Obsession

Team Buttons Indigo Smock Top and Dress Sewing Pattern - Tilly and the Buttons

Smock lovers unite! Since we released the Indigo smock top and dress pattern, it has become a firm favourite here at TATB HQ. We heart this pattern!

You’ll see here why our team loves this pattern so much - it's pretty, comfortable, and versatile. With a wide range of fabric options, Indigo looks different depending on which one you choose. What's not to love?

Team Buttons Indigo Smock Top and Dress Sewing Pattern - Tilly and the ButtonsTeam Buttons Indigo Smock Top and Dress Sewing Pattern - Tilly and the Buttons

Kate's first Indigo dress is made in soft drapey viscose from Pin and Sew. She lengthened the skirt pattern piece by 5cm (2in), keeping the dipped hem, and shortened the bracelet sleeves to elbow length.

The icing on the cake was the extra gathered tier she added to the bottom of the skirt for that seventies swooshy dream dress - it reminds us of THAT Zara dress. We've seen a few versions like this - and longer - popping up on Insta. If you make your own, do share with us :)

16 October 2019

How to Stitch in the Ditch - With Video!

Tilly and the Buttons - How to Stitch in the Ditch

Do you ever find that your facings pop out of your clothes and you wished you knew of a way to keep them in place? It's Nikki here, and I'm going to talk you through a sewing technique which will help with just that - stitching in the ditch.

"Stitching in the ditch" is a technique which involves sewing down the channel of an existing seam (the "ditch") to secure pieces of a garment in place without the stitches being seen on the outside. By sewing down the seam line in matching thread to your fabric, the stitches are hidden and invisible to the outside. It really is sewing wizardry!

Tilly and the Buttons - How to Stitch in the Ditch

This technique is usually used to secure facings to the inside of garments, although you can sometimes do it to keep an outside piece in place, like a cuff. There are a few different places on a garment you can do this; securing a neckline facing through the shoulder seams or stitching a waistband facing to a waistband instead of topstitching are common examples.

For those of you that prefer to learn visually, we've made a short video showing how you stitch in the ditch. Hooray! The example in the video shows stitching in the ditch to secure a facing to a shoulder seam, however you can apply this method to any project which requires this technique.

So, we've covered what the "ditch" is, but how do you "stitch" it?

9 October 2019

10 Design Hack Ideas for Nora

10 Design Hack Ideas for the Nora Sewing Pattern

Are you nutty about Nora and want some ideas for creating more? It's Louise here, the Sales and Communications Manager at Tilly and the Buttons, and I am a serial Nora-maker! Ever since we launched the Nora sweater or top pattern, the team have racked up quite a lot of Nora makes between us. The more you make something or see it being made, the more it gets you thinking of what else you could add to make the next.

So I got my thinking cap on and came up with an idea for a super cute Nora dress with cuffs and tie-waist and it was just love-at-first-wear! I've also made a pom pom cuffed Nora that filled the position of sewing-inspired Christmas jumper, an edible parma violet Nora cardigan hack inspired by Tilly, and a polka dot ruffle hem t shirt that I need to replicate 100 times.

I've pulled together 10 design hack ideas for this gorgeous pattern that will help you get even more use out of it. Most of them would be fairly simple to do and you could combine a few of the ideas to create a super hack. So grab a notebook and pen and let the Nora hack planning commence!

10 Design Hack Ideas for the Nora Sewing Pattern
Clockwise L-R: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7

I have tried, tested, and worn this hack a lot so I can vouch for how brilliant it is. When Tilly came into the office wearing her Nora cardigan hack, I thought she'd developed a new pattern. My only question was, "When can I make one?"!

Tilly shared how to hack nora into a cardi so you can sew your own. Tilly made hers in a low stretch knit, I chose a snuggly sweatshirt fabric, and Kate, our Office Manager, made one in a lovely contrast back sweatshirting.

10 Design Hack Ideas for the Nora Sewing Pattern
Clockwise L-R: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

2 October 2019

How to Understitch Like a Pro

How to understitch - Tilly and the Buttons

Do you feel like you need a helping hand with understitching? Well never fear as help is here. It's Nikki here, Product Manager at Team Tilly and in this post I'll be talking you through how to understitch like a pro.

Understitching is a technique used to stop a facing or lining from peeking out from the inside of garments. When attaching a facing or lining to your garment, you can stitch the seam allowances to the facing or lining, close to the seam line, and this will help it stay on the inside where it belongs.

Understitching is one of those nifty sewing techniques that may seem small but makes all the difference to your me-made garments.

If you're the type of person who prefers to learn by watching rather than reading, then you're in luck as we've also made a video to help bring the words in this post to life. Hooray! Tilly has also written a brilliant post where she shares her five tips for neat understitching if you want to get even more tricks and tips, which I thoroughly recommend you check out.

So, how do you understitch?

To prepare for understitching, you need to sew the two fabric pieces together in question, for example the facing or lining and neckline. Sew them together at the seam allowance stipulated in the instructions.

How to understitch - Tilly and the Buttons

25 September 2019

Tilly's Blue Tencel Indigo Smock

Tilly's blue Tencel Indigo smock - sewing pattern by Tilly and the Buttons
Tilly's blue Tencel Indigo smock - sewing pattern by Tilly and the Buttons

When we were developing the Indigo smock pattern, the version I knew I had to make first was a classic chambray-blue top with all the trimmings, i.e. I said a big fat yasss to the flounce sleeves and exposed frill seams :)

Tilly's blue Tencel Indigo smock - sewing pattern by Tilly and the Buttons

20 September 2019

How to Do Narrow and Wide Shoulder Adjustments

How to do wide narrow shoulder adjustment - Tilly and the Buttons

Do you usually find that your garments are too small or too big across the shoulder? If so, you might want to consider doing a narrow or wide shoulder adjustment. It's Nikki here, Product Manager at Tilly Towers, and I'm here to show you two ways to adjust the shoulders on your pattern pieces to help you get a good fit - one "quick and dirty" method, and one more involved and more accurate method.

How do I know if I need a shoulder adjustment?

But first, if you want to know whether you need a narrow shoulder adjustment you'll have to know where the shoulder should actually sit. 

As with most things when it comes to sewing, the answer to this depends on the style and fit of the garment you're making. Some patterns are designed with a drop shoulder seam, like the Nora top, whilst others intend for the shoulder seam to sit directly on the shoulder socket, like the Indigo top and dress. If you're unsure, have a good look at the pattern technical drawings - this should tell you what you need to know. 

If the pattern is intended to sit on the shoulder socket, you'll need to know how to find out where this is on you. Luckily this is really easy to do. Bend your arm at the elbow and lift it up and down to the side (I like to imagine I'm playing the bagpipes if that helps!) and feel with the fingers on your other hand for where the "hinge" is, where the arm meets the shoulder socket. As you move your arm up and down you'll be able to feel where the socket moving. This point is where the shoulder seam should sit. 

To find out whether the shoulder seam will sit in an optimum spot for you personally, I thoroughly recommend making a toile (a muslin) first, or at least a wearable toile. Mark the armhole seam allowances on the toile and take a look in the mirror to see if the seam (the seam allowance line) is sitting roughly on your shoulder socket. 

If it's sitting beyond the socket and is migrating down your arm, this indicates that there is too much length in the shoulder seam and you need a narrow shoulder adjustment. If it's sitting further back towards your neck, and most likely feeling a bit tight, then this indicates that the shoulder seam on the pattern is too short for your shoulders and you need a wide shoulder adjustment.

Measure the distance between the seam line and the shoulder socket - that's the amount you either have to add or subtract from your shoulder seam. You can use the below methods to adjust the shoulder seam up to around 2cm (3/4in). If you want to add or subtract any more than this amount, you'll have to also adjust the sleeve head to make it bigger or smaller so it matches the new armhole shape.

I'm going to show you two different ways of doing a narrow and wide shoulder adjustment. The first method is super speedy, but may slightly alter the length of the armhole. Because of this, I'd recommend using this method for small adjustments made on knit garments, or for patterns that have ease or gathering in the sleeve head - you can ease in any excess fabric where needed.

For a more accurate technique, use the more involved "slash and spread" method outlined further down the page, which will keep the armhole seam the same length. This is best for sleeves in woven garments with little to no ease.

Narrow shoulder adjustment - the quick and dirty way

18 September 2019

Five Tips for Sewing a Smooth Dart - With Video!

Tips for sewing a smooth dart - Tilly and the Buttons

Show of hands - who's sewn a dart before? Whether you've sewn loads or are still to take that first step, there's always a new hint or tip to learn when it comes to sewing. It's Nikki here, Product Manager at Tilly and the Buttons and I'm here to share our favourite tricks on how to sew a smooth dart.

In addition to the info in this post, Jenny and I have also made a great video (if we do say so ourselves), included below, which shows you how to sew a single, straight dart - the same principles apply to most darts. The video shows these tips in action so make sure you check it out :)

So, what is a dart?

Tips for sewing a smooth dart - Tilly and the Buttons

Darts are shapes of fabric (often triangle) sewn together to make a flat piece of fabric three-dimensional. They are one way of creating shape in a garment, and are often found near the bust, shoulder and waist on dresses, tops, skirts and more.

16 September 2019

How to Do Bust Adjustments for a Bust Darted Bodice

Bust adjustments bust darted bodice bodice pattern fitting - Tilly and the Buttons

Do you ever wish your me-mades fit better across the bust? Do you find that excess fabric seems to pool around your bust, or that it's too tight? Ever think that the bust darts point in the wrong place on your garments? If you're finding yourself nodding enthusiastically in agreement to any of these statements, then you probably need to do a bust adjustment to your bodice pattern pieces.

It's Nikki here, Product Manager and fitting geek at Tilly and the Buttons, and I'm going to to talk you through how to do a full bust adjustment, a small bust adjustment and how to move the dart on a bust darted bodice.

Now, before we go any further I'd like to give you a little positive pattern pep talk. There are a few diagrams in this post, but whilst they might look quite daunting, they are relatively simple if you follow them step by step :)

How do I know if I need a bust adjustment?

There's a technical and a not-so-technical answer here! The answer depends on your own unique shape and the fit of the garment - you may not need to do a bust adjustment to a loose top or dress, but might have to do one on something more fitted. If you find that things are generally either too tight or too loose in the bust area, then I'd recommend making a quick toile of the bodice, or wearable toile of the whole garment to test the fit around the bust and take it from there. I'm going to briefly cover how you would work out how much to add or subtract from your bust in the adjustment, but do remember this is just a rough framework, and you might not need to do it at all.

Measure your high bust (your upper chest, just under your armpits). If you're making a pattern in our sizes UK 6-24 size band, add 5cm (2in). If you're making a pattern in our sizes 16-34 size band, add 10cm (4in). Choose the pattern size with that bust measurement – this is the size you’ll do your bust adjustment on.

Now measure your full bust (fullest part, around the nipples) and compare it to the bust measurement on the pattern size you just selected.

If your full bust is 5cm (2in) smaller than the pattern, you’ll be subtracting 5cm (2in) from the pattern; if it’s 7.5cm (3in) bigger, you’ll be adding 7.5cm (3in) and so on. If you need to make the bust bigger, you'll need to do a full bust adjustment (FBA) and if you need to make it smaller, you'll need to do a small bust adjustment (SBA).

Since the front bodice pattern represents one half of the top, as the fabric is cut on the fold - or one boob - you'll be adding or subtracting half of that difference. So, if you want to do a 5cm (2in) full bust adjustment, you'll need to add 2.5cm (1in) to the pattern piece.

There are a few ways in which you can do a bust adjustment, but the method I'm going to show you today is the "slash and spread" method. It sounds a bit aggressive but this just means that you do the adjustment by cutting into your pattern piece and either spread it apart to create more space at the bust, or overlap it to make it smaller.

To do a bust adjustment you will need:
  • a ruler (or pattern master if you have one)
  • glue stick and/or sticky tape
  • pencil
  • paper scissors
  • extra paper

As you'll be merrily snipping into your pattern piece with wild abandon for these adjustments, I thoroughly suggest tracing off the front bodice pattern piece so you can keep the original one intact in case you need to make any further adjustments. Make sure you trace all the notches, the dart and 'lengthen or shorten here' lines onto the new pattern piece.

Got your scissors and ruler at the ready? Ok, let's go. And remember, you've got this!

Full bust and small bust adjustments

13 September 2019

How to Combine Pattern Sizes

Do your bust, waist or hip measurements fall across different sizes? If so, you can "grade" between sizes to get a perfect fit. Hooray! It's Nikki here, Product Manager and self-confessed fitting nerd here at Tilly and the Buttons, and in this post I'm going to cover how to combine sizes on pattern pieces.

One of the best things about sewing is that you can create clothes that fit your unique body shape. If you have bust, waist and hip measurements that are different sizes, like me, you'll probably have stood in a clothes shop fitting room before, surrounded by a pile of clothes that are too loose on top and too tight across your hips, or vice-versa. Luckily, when it comes to making your own clothes, you can combine pattern sizes to make parts of the garment bigger or smaller to give you a truly bespoke fit. 

When should I combine pattern sizes? 

Now, it might be tempting to combine sizes for the bust, waist and hips on all your patterns, but depending on the fit of the garment you don't always need to do this. 

If you're making a looser fitting garment or a garment that is looser fitting in some areas, you might not need to combine sizes at all. A looser fitting garment will have a lot of "positive ease", meaning the garment (or parts of it) will be much bigger than your body, so a few inches difference in that area won't make much difference to the overall fit. 

So for example, if you're making something with a fitted bust and loose waist and hips, like the Indigo top and dress pattern, and your waist measurement is 2 or 3 sizes different to your bust, then you probably won't need to make any alterations here. The same applies to the hip measurement - the skirt is loose and flowy so a few sizes difference between your body measurements won't affect the fit of the garment. However, if your bust and waist span across more than 3 sizes you might want to consider grading between sizes.

On the other hand, if you're making a garment that is designed to have a closer fit, like the Ness skirt or Etta dress, you will want to grade between sizes at the bust, waist and hip, where applicable, as there is much less ease in these areas.

Please do bear in mind though, if your bust measurement is particularly smaller or larger than the body measurement of the size you have picked, then you might need to do a bust adjustment, as well as combine sizes. Check out our bust adjustments post (coming soon!) for more info!

Most sewing patterns will list the finished garment measurements in their instructions, so if you're a bit unsure whether you need to combine sizes, comparing them against your body measurements will help you decide :) 

General info about combining pattern sizes

OK, so you've decided that you need to combine pattern sizes, but there are a few things you need to know before you get stuck in! 

Most patterns will have notch markings on them signifying where the bust, waist and hip should sit. If a pattern doesn't have them, you can hold up the pattern piece to your body to get an idea of where they should be. You can use these notches as a start and finish point and grade between them. 

When combining pattern sizes, it's very important that you make sure they will match the pattern pieces that they are joining. So for example, if you are making a dress and have graded between the bust and the waist, make sure the waist size is the same for both the bodice and the skirt! If you are sewing something with a front and back bodice, front and back skirt etc. make sure you have done the same adjustment to both pieces. The same applies to facings - if you have graded a piece that will join it, make sure it matches. 

The first diagram below shows how you combine sizes on a pattern piece that has a straight side seam, and no dart.  If you are combining sizes on a curved seam, it's exactly the same principle but you'll want to use a french curve, pattern master or a steady hand to draw a smooth curved line, instead of a straight one. The Jessa fitting post has more deets on how to do this is you fancy having a look. Later on in the post, I'm also going to cover how you combine sizes on a bodice that has a bust dart.

Ready to get stuck in? let's do this!

Combining sizes for an un-darted seam

Combining and grading pattern sizes fitting - Tilly and the Buttons

If you're combining different bust and waist measurements, on a straight seam, draw a straight line at the side seam joining up your bust size at the top and your waist size at the bottom. The above photo shows a back bodice for a size 6 bust and a size 5 waist in red, and a size 3 bust and size 4 waist in green.

If your pattern piece is more curved, draw a curved line between the sizes using a pattern master, french curve or by hand.

It really is as simple as that :)

Combining sizes on a darted bodice