30 December 2020

2020 at Tilly and the Buttons

Tilly and the Buttons organic jersey fabric

Well, 2020 is coming to an end, and I know I’m not the only one hoping for a better new year!

This has undoubtedly been the most challenging year we’ve faced since I began this small business. We thought Brexit was the big issue we would have to grapple, and then along came a global pandemic, which was never in the business plan!

It wasn’t all bad though, and we are still standing strong. In this post I’m going to take a trip down memory lane, looking at what we achieved at Tilly and the Buttons in 2020, along with some of the challenges we faced. I’ll also share a sneaky peeky at some of our plans for 2021, so read on…

The challenges

Like other small business owners, it’s been a year of sleepless nights for me (and not just because I have a todder!). Think of a small business like a swan – while all may appear well on the shiny surface, there’s a lot of frantic paddling going on behind the scenes!

The first month of lockdown was incredibly stressful as we had to cease orders of physical products that require posting (the vast majority of our income), and the wholesale, advertising and retails shows aspects of our business all took a big blow too. We gradually reintroduced UK orders, and later international orders, thanks to the dedication of Kate and Frances to the company. Since then we have had some record-breaking months of both shop and wholesale sales, as people get settled into staying home and crafting. While bricks and mortar-only shops and sewing schools have suffered a terrible blow this year, we have been in an incredibly fortunate position to be an online business selling products related to a home-based hobby.

Despite the ups and downs on the balance sheet, I’m proud to say that we kept all our staff on full pay this year. The team have mostly been working from home since March, so we have become well-versed in Zoom meetings and Whatsapping for the smaller queries. On a personal level, I became even more focused and efficient than usual as I had no childcare for a few months so was squeezing running a company into even smaller pockets of time.

Our product releases had to shuffle around quite a bit this year, particularly while we had limited (or no) shipping capacity and when our stockists were shut. The Jaimie pyjamas came out a few months later than planned, and we had to cancel the printing of the Alexa jumpsuit and release it as PDF only – which was a shame, but at least we could get it out there in some form.

Stevie add-on sewing pattern - Tilly and the Buttons

Another process that had to change was how we conduct photo shoots! Fortunately we already had lots of photos banked, since we work a few months ahead of release. The Stevie add-on pattern was the first time we had to face a remote photo shoot. In the end we did a virtual fitting on Zoom, and then our real-gal model Kathy of Sew Dainty made some adjustments to the garments herself (just one of the benefits of hiring a sewist as your model!). Her husband took the photos of her in her sitting room, and our freelance graphic designer Fanni edited them to feature our familiar colourful backdrops. Smoke and mirrors, guys!

23 December 2020

Ten Favourite Posts of 2020

Safiya dungarees from Make It Simple by Tilly Walnes

2020 has been quite the year. With us all experiencing the effects of a global pandemic, we have been united in changing our routines and habits, as well as spending more time indoors. If there is any positive to take from this, it's meant that many of us had more time to dedicate to our favourite hobby - sewing. 

We have seen a big surge in Tilly and the Buttons blog readers, with plenty more hits on our resource library on the blog and lots more views on the beginner sewing posts.

As a team, we have poured our hearts into creating content, patterns and general cheer, hoping that we would be able to make a small, positive difference to someone's day. As most of the team have been working remotely since March, we have plotted and planned everything on Zoom - something we'd never done before! 

Despite everything 2020 has presented, and our plans having to chop and change all over the place, we've managed to release new sewing patterns, including add-on patterns to make the most of your existing styles, we've updated reprints of older patterns with additional sizes, we've shared videos to our YouTube channel thanks to our whizzy video editor, Jenny, added two new online sewing workshops and lots more hard work going on behind the scenes! Tilly has a blog post coming next week all about what happened at TATB in 2020, so don't miss it...

The Tilly and the Buttons 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 : )

How to make a DIY face mask with video

How to Make a DIY Face Mask - With Video

A face mask is something we would have never imagined ourselves stitching, but it became a way to use our wonderful sewing skills to make something useful for our loved ones, neighbours and colleagues. Tilly created instructions and a video tutorial for sewing a face mask which fastens with ties since elastic was in short supply at the time of making it. It also has a pocket for a disposable filter and optional nose wire for a closer fit. 

PLEASE NOTE: This is NOT designed to be a medical grade mask, it is for personal use.

Six free sewing projects

Six Free Sewing Projects    

We all love a freebie, and this post with six free sewing projects proved to be mighty popular. These mini-projects can be completed in an hour or so, and could even make use of the fabric scraps you have lying around - winning! 

Thread tension troubleshooting

Seven Steps to Perfect Thread Tension (With Video!)

When the thread tension is off on your sewing machine, it can really throw you. Stitches that are too tight, too loose, or uneven can be particularly disheartening for sewing newbies who aren’t yet comfortable with their sewing machine – but, let’s be honest, thread tension troubles can plague more experienced stitchers too. In this blog post and video, Tilly takes you through seven tips to getting your thread tension spot on. You might want to bookmark this page for those argh! moments :)

If you enjoyed this, you might like Five Shortcut Features on your Sewing Machine

Safiya trousers from Make It Simple by Tilly Walnes

Make It Simple: Meet the Safiya Trousers, Dungarees and Playsuit

One of the most exciting moments of 2020 was the release of Tilly's third book, Make It Simple. It's packed with projects that you can whip up in afternoon, and the firm favourite pattern seems to be the Safiya trousers, dungarees and playsuit. Safiya will fit into any modern wardrobe, is suitable for work and play, and is quick and simple to make - what more could you want?

Want to meet all the patterns from Make It Simple? Check out these posts to learn much more!

Say Hello to the Tabitha T-shirt and Dress

Introducing the Suki Dress

It's the Bertha (lovely Bertha) Cardigan

The Juno Pyjamas have Landed

Oh La La... It's Olive!

Tips for sewing with double gauze

Tips for Sewing with Double Gauze Fabric (With Video!)

One of Tilly's all-time favourite fabrics to sew with is double gauze. Not only does it make for the most scrumptiously soft and lovely-to-wear clothing, it is also pretty simple to sew once you get your head round how to handle its unique properties. We get a lot of questions about how to sew with double gauze, so Tilly shared her top tips. If you haven't worked with this wonderful fabric yet, maybe 2021 is the year to go for it!

If you enjoyed this, you might like Tips for Sewing with Sweatshirt Fabric

10 Sewing videos to up your skills

10 Sewing Videos to Up Your Skills

If you're new to sewing or are a frequent stitcher, you might find that new techniques pop up with your sewing projects that can be a little baffling the first time around. We have a whole host of sewing tutorials on our YouTube channel, because sometimes you need to see a technique in action. 

We pulled together ten of our most-popular sewing videos to check out and bookmark. 

If you enjoyed this, why not subscribe to our YouTube channel so you never miss a thing?

How to do a full bust adjustment for knit fabrics

How to do a Full Bust Adjustment for Knit Fabrics

Do you ever find that your clothes either fit or are tight across the full bust, but you have excess fabric pooling above? If so, you may benefit from doing a full bust adjustment when you make your own clothes. Our lovely Product Manager, Nikki, wrote a blog post covering how to do a bust adjustment on a dartless bodice, showing you how to add shaping, without having to change the design of the garment by inserting a dart.

If you enjoyed this, you might like How to Make Common Trouser Fitting Adjustments

Team Buttons Sewing Stories

Team Buttons Sewing Stories

At TATB HQ, we talk of little else than sewing, so we thought it might be nice to share the team's sewing stories. We chat about how we got into sewing, what inspires us, our top tips for beginner sewists and much more! Grab a cuppa, and get to know what makes us stitch.

Tilly's double gauze Stevie smock

Three Double Gauze Stevie Smocks

Tilly's sew-jo was set alight during the first UK lockdown of 2020, and she's shared her makes on the blog. The most popular post was her trio of stunning double gauze Stevie smocks. They are just dreamy!

If you enjoyed this, you might like Tilly's Indigo Midi Dress of Dreams

How to sew a jersey neckband

How to Sew a Jersey Neckband (With Video!)

Want to know how to successfully sew a jersey neckband? It is probably the fiddliest part of making a T-shirt so Tilly walks you through how to get it in perfectly every time. Plus, there's a video so you can see the steps in action.

We hope you enjoyed that little round-up :) You can subscribe to our blog (see right) so you never miss a post. We have lots of exciting things in store for 2021 that we cannot wait to share with you! xxx


Author: Louise Carmichael

Make It Simple is published by Quadrille (Hardie Grant), the model images are by Ellie Smith with styling by Clare Nicolson and the step pictures are by Jane Looker.

16 December 2020

Make Friends with an Overlocker or Serger!

Make Friends with an Overlocker or Serger - online sewing class
Are you thinking of investing in an overlocker or serger to professionalise your seams?

Or maybe you already own this wonder machine but find yourself flummoxed by the thread tension and differential feed settings?

My latest online workshop will be right up your street! In MAKE FRIENDS WITH AN OVERLOCKER OR SERGER, I'll get you feeling confident using your machine. The workshop goes live on Monday 28th December 2020, and is open for pre-sale right now!

Make Friends with an Overlocker or Serger - online sewing class

This is the workshop I wish I'd had in those early days of owning an overlocker. I will take you through all the essentials, including:
  • Threading your overlocker – both from scratch and the fast way
  • Finishing seams on woven fabrics
  • Joining seams on knit fabrics
  • Navigating curves, corners and loops
  • Getting to grips with the thread tension and other settings
  • Sewing a rolled hem and lettuce edge
  • Troubleshooting common issues and fixing mistakes
  • Caring for your overlocker
Plus lots more! 

9 December 2020

Tilly's Stay Home Billie Dress (and Some Nice News!)

Tilly's Stay Home and Sew Billie Sweatshirt Dress - sewing pattern from Tilly and the Buttons

When the second UK lockdown kicked in last month (thanks, Covid), I decided to make a Billie sweatshirt dress to mark the occasion. A call to arms for us to do our part to stop the spread, as well as lifting our spirits through creativity. A souvenir for a point in time, perhaps, but actually I am a bit of a homebody anyway so this sentiment will still apply to me in years to come!

Tilly's Stay Home and Sew Billie Sweatshirt Dress - sewing pattern from Tilly and the Buttons

As my vision for this sweatshirt was multicoloured letters, I went with a simple black fabric to make them pop. I chose a fleece-backed sweatshirt fabric from Minerva, along with a black ribbing I found in my stash for the neckband, cuffs and hem band.

To make the letters, I wrote the text in Montserrat (one of TATB's brand fonts, as it happens) in extra large size in an Adobe Illustrator file and printed them out on paper. After cutting around them with paper scissors, I placed them face down on the back of some Happy Fabric iron-on vinyl, drew around them, then carefully cut out the vinyl (again, with paper scissors). Finally, I pressed them onto the finished sweatshirt and peeled off the backing following Happy Fabric's instructions, with a sheet of baking paper acting as a cover sheet.

2 December 2020

Team Buttons’ Secret Santa Christmas Jumpers

Billie Secret Santa Christmas Jumper

Is it just us, or has Christmas started early this year? Here at Tilly Towers, one of our favourite festive events is our annual staff Secret Santa gift swap, but this year (in true 2020 style) we decided to do things a little differently.

To celebrate the launch of our latest sewing pattern, the Billie sweatshirt and sweater dress, we decided to make Christmas sweatshirts for each other using the Billie pattern.

The rules were simple – each of us was randomly allocated another member of the team for whom we made a Billie sweatshirt featuring a personalised, festive design. We also submitted a wish list, which included our size, favourite colours and Christmas styles, to give our Secret Santa some clues to help her out.

Now we all know fabric shopping is one of the best bits of a project, but fabric shopping for someone else can be a whole different ball game! Luckily, Minerva came to our rescue and supplied us with all the fabrics we needed. From snuggly fleece-back sweatshirting to smart French terry and glittery ribbing – Minerva had it all, so a huge thank you to them!

Almost all of us used Happy Fabric’s iron-on vinyls to decorate our Billie sweatshirts too. They come in a huge range of colours and finishes, they’re super easy to use and produce such amazing results!

As most of the team are working from home at the moment, once the sweatshirts were finished Santa’s elves sent them by express delivery to their lucky recipients and we organised a Billie sweatshirt swap over video call. It was so fun to get together (if only virtually) and open our gifts with one another. And of course, we filmed it all so you could join in on the fun too!