8 January 2020

Behind the Scenes on Make It Simple

Behind the scenes on my new book Make It Simple - Tilly and the Buttons

With my new book Make It Simple due out at the end of next month (and available to pre-order now!), I thought I’d take a little trip down memory lane and share with you some of the behind the scenes process that went into creating it. Plus a video that Jenny shot at the model photo shoot - keep reading to see it...

This is the third book I’ve written, and I can hand on heart say that I’ve found each one pretty easy to write. It’s a LOT of work, yes, plus there were some headscratching moments along the way figuring out how to make construction and fitting as simple as possible. The only major hiccup was when my toddler broke my nose a few hours before a big publishing meeting!

But I never faced writer’s block or lack of motivation, the words flowed, and I enjoyed every step of the process. It helps when you love the subject matter and feel genuinely passionate about sharing that :)

Behind the scenes on my new book Make It Simple - Tilly and the Buttons
Behind the scenes on my new book Make It Simple - Tilly and the Buttons
Behind the scenes on my new book Make It Simple - Tilly and the Buttons

I had the idea for Make It Simple in 2018, signed the contract at the end of that year and started working seriously on the patterns and content in early 2019.

The actual writing is only a small part of creating a sewing book. I’ve been writing sewing instructions for nearly a decade now (!) and it’s one of my favourite things to do (like, I’ve been known to pull my laptop out on a Saturday night if I get an idea for a new pattern and just start typing up the instructions then and there), so I can pretty much write a chapter in a day. The pattern development takes a whole lot longer, as does coordinating the shoots, sourcing materials that fit the brief of the patterns and colour scheme of the book, and just the general back-and-forth liaising with the publishing team.

Behind the scenes on my new book Make It Simple - Tilly and the Buttons
Behind the scenes on my new book Make It Simple - Tilly and the Buttons

I have to be extremely focused when I work, as I’m also at home looking after my two year old son part of the week, and in the office managing the team and keeping the regular side of the business going the rest of the time. I blocked out one day every week or two to work on the book, which I usually did from home on days my son was at nursery so I could get my head down and write uninterrupted. I’ve always been pretty disciplined and productive when working, but this time around I turned it up to eleven!

I kept reminding myself to channel the sentiment of the book while producing it – keeping it simple and stress-free. In fact, this philosophy seeped into the rest of my life too. I eased off putting so much pressure on myself to sort out the new house I’d just moved into, release all the patterns, go to all the parties, and do all the things. I focused on creating a book I absolutely love, and enjoying the process.

As a result, I became so inspired to create – my sewjo is on fire!

As usual, I had my trusty writing soundtrack to get me into book mode when needed – The Social Network soundtrack for some reason. Plus this time around I added in some 90s Orbital for extra energy. (No nineties fluorescent Cyberdog T shirts were worn during the making of this book.)

Behind the scenes on my new book Make It Simple - Tilly and the Buttons
Behind the scenes on my new book Make It Simple - Tilly and the Buttons
Behind the scenes on my new book Make It Simple - Tilly and the Buttons

One of the things I love the best about writing a book is getting to work with a team of talented people. This time around it included my oldest childhood friend Jane, who photographed the instructions. We lived across the road from each other as kids and used to play Blue Peter presenters (I did craft demos, Jane was the camera operator) as well as Barbie fashion shows. It’s so funny to relive that now as grown ups!

Behind the scenes on my new book Make It Simple - Tilly and the Buttons
Behind the scenes on my new book Make It Simple - Tilly and the Buttons

Our former in-house pattern cutter Vanessa, who now works freelance, worked on the patterns and made most of the samples. The book includes 24 projects, so there was a lot to do! It was great to work with her again, this time with help from our product manager Nikki who also worked on the patterns and diagrams.

Behind the scenes on my new book Make It Simple - Tilly and the Buttons
Behind the scenes on my new book Make It Simple - Tilly and the Buttons
Behind the scenes on my new book Make It Simple - Tilly and the ButtonsBehind the scenes on my new book Make It Simple - Tilly and the Buttons

The model photo shoots always feel like a nice reward at the end of a long pattern development process. We did them over three days in late Summer at a studio in Battersea. Ellie Smith, who shot my other two books, returned, along with Danni the fab hair and make up artist who worked on Stretch! 

We invited five gorgeous ladies from the online sewing, craft and fashion community to be our models – we love to work with non-professional models as they are relatable and bring so much personality to the shoots.

Behind the scenes on my new book Make It Simple - Tilly and the Buttons
Behind the scenes on my new book Make It Simple - Tilly and the Buttons
Behind the scenes on my new book Make It Simple - Tilly and the Buttons

A new addition to the shoot team was Clare Nicolson, a super talented stylist who has worked on beautiful campaigns for Made.com, Gucci and more. I’ve ben fan-girling her for a while and asked the publishers if she could join the team – it was so exciting when both they and she said yes!

We came up with some fun ideas to make the photos extra special, and Clare created the most amazing props and backdrops. Her work really helped to elevate the photos – I can’t wait for you to see them...



In the meantime, you can get a little taste of what went on at the model shoot, thanks to a video that Jenny made.

Behind the scenes on my new book Make It Simple - Tilly and the Buttons

I must admit I cracked open the Chablis after the model shoots, forgetting that there was quite a lot more work to do on proofing and publicity still to come. But the book will be out in just a few weeks' time and you can pre-order it now... eep!

Tilly and the Buttons: Make It Simple will be published by Quadrille at the end of February in the UK and early March in North America. If you fancy grabbing a copy for yourself and would like to pre-order, that would be amazing :)