28 December 2022

Looking Back at 2022 at Tilly and the Buttons

Team Buttons employee places Marnie sewing pattern on a shelf at Tilly and the Buttons' studio
Well, it’s been another strange year, has it not?!

As 2022 draws to a close, I’m taking the opportunity to look back and reflect on what we’ve achieved at Tilly and the Buttons. This year has been a challenging one!

While we are settling into the new “normal” now that the worst of the pandemic is happily behind us (we hope), this year has been the toughest of recent times for many small businesses, in the UK at least, including ours. The aftermath of Covid, the impact of Brexit, the invasion of Ukraine, the recession and more have created turbulent times. Costs are spiralling at the same time as sales are declining, and it has been truly heart-breaking to see some of our favourite craft businesses close this year. 

At Tilly and the Buttons, we are feeling all of this, and are hanging on in there, determined to keep on with our mission to help more people sew their own clothes. We are more grateful than ever for your orders and support!

Despite these challenges, we kept our heads down and worked hard to bring you lots of lovely sewing goodness…

Pearl cardigan sewing pattern on two models - one plus size black woman in green cardigan, one petite Asian woman in multicoloured wrap cardigan

Our first new release of 2022 was the Pearl cardigan sewing pattern – a cosy V-neck wrap cardigan with three different sleeve options.

The edges are finished with bands rather than hems, making it a nice and easy sew if you’re not that confident working with knit fabrics. It’s perfect for the cold weather – definitely one to try!


Erin dungarees or overalls sewing pattern on two models - black plus size model wears pink leopard print dungarees, blonde model wears pink French terry dungarees

In the spring, we launched one of my favourite patterns ever, the Erin dungarees. This is the type of outfit I live in – comfy, casual, great to throw on at the weekend of when working from home.

One of the things I love the most about this pattern is the range of different fabrics it works in – from needlecord, through linen, drapier fabrics such as viscose, and even knits like French terry and ponte roma!

It’s also simple to sew, and even easier thanks to our full – free! – video sewalong, made by Abi thanks to sponsorship from Janome. Maybe a project to get stuck into over the Christmas holidays?


Coralie swimsuit sewing pattern worn by two models - curvy black model wears ruffle bikini, blonde model wears lilac ruffle one piece swimsuit

And then came Coralie… swoon!

Following our collaboration on the Iris knickers and Learn to Sew Knickers online workshop last year, we got back together with the lovely Hannah from Evie la Lùve to create a dreamy swimwear pattern and Learn to Sew Swimwear class. If you’ve never sewn swimwear before, this is a great introduction, with Hannah there to hold your hand and share her expertise with you.

Overhead shot of white woman lying down on pink and blue background wearing pastel blue gingham bikini made with Coralie sewing pattern

I love how versatile the Coralie pattern is – you have a choice of one piece or bikini, high or low back, classic or added ruffles. And that photo shoot? I can die happy after that!


Marnie sewing pattern worn by two models - Victorian-inspired ruffle blouse with tucks in pink cotton worn by plus size model, next to floral viscose high neck dress worn by petite Asian model

Our final new design of the year was the Marnie blouse. Oh Marnie, why you so beautiful? We have been delighted with the response to this pattern – so many people in the sewing community have fallen in love with the romantic details on this blouse.

Whether you keep it simple or add the optional ruffles, frill collar and those pretty tucks, this is definitely one to add to your sewing list. With similar styles on the catwalks for SS23, we predict this will be a popular one next year too!


Overhead shot of a collection of Tilly and the Buttons sewing patterns in inclusive sizes on turquoise background

In addition to four new designs, we also released nine – yes, nine – patterns in our improved size range. Working on these has been our main focus of this year.

We previously had two separate size bands – UK 6-24 and UK 16-34 – but this year we decided to merge them into one size range, UK 6-34. Whereas our second size band was previously PDF only, merging the bands has allowed us to print the full size range, meaning that our paper patterns are more inclusive, we can showcase more diverse body shapes on the pattern envelopes, we don’t need to differentiate between two size ranges in our communications, and they are available to buy in shops around the world. Hooray!

We still draft, grade and fit two master patterns separately in different sizes to ensure a better fit – then we merge them into one product afterwards. It’s a lot of work, but we are very happy to be able to be more inclusive in our sizing and make sewing more accessible to more people. 

We now have 15 patterns in sizes 6-34 (actually, Cleo and Jaimie are in 4-34), 11 of which are printed in the full size range. And there’s more to come next year!

Overhead shot of hands cutting green floral fabric

Since the start of Tilly and the Buttons, we have shared a wealth of free sewing resources with the aim of inspiring your crafting and teaching you new skills – and this year has been no different. Some of our most popular content from the year in case you missed it:

Tilly's Number One Tip for Speedy Sewing
Five Ways to Fix a Gaping Neckline
Abi's 1960s Inspired DIY Wedding Dress
Ten Tips for Cutting Fabric Accurately
Tilly's Makes SS22
Ten Design Ideas for Marnie
Ten Tips for Sewing with Ankara Fabric AKA African Wax Print (guest post by Lena King)
Tilly's Embroidered Puff Sleeve Indigo Dress
Five Tips for Sewing with Interfacing
Low Sew-Jo? Three Tips to Motivate Yourself to Sew

Flat lay image of monochrome gingham dress with puffed sleeve featuring hand-embroidered flowers
Tilly - a white woman with cropped brunette hair - smiles at the Tilly and the Buttons stand at the Knitting and Stitching Show 2022

What else have we been up to?

In March, we donated £3,700 from sales to the British Red Cross Ukraine Refugee appeal.

We exhibited at our first show since before the pandemic – the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace. It was so lovely to get out and meet our customers face-to-face again!

Shortly afterwards, we moved studio – we’re in the same building, just in a new unit. Our old studio was directly above the loading bay and bins, and right next to the gents toilets, so the noise from lorries, couriers, the hand dryer and more were making it nearly impossible to film video content! Our new office is slightly smaller but newly refurbished, and, crucially, a lot quieter. We love it up there - I must make a Reel of it soon to show you around…

A big win from this year is that we have now added captions to all of our online sewing workshops to make them more accessible. This was a long, ongoing project that I’m so pleased we were able to achieve thanks to the diligence of Kate, Marcela and Ellie.

Mug featuring Sew Jo Juice illustration shown on yellow background

In November, we launched our amaaaazing Sew-Jo Juice mugs and Stay Home and Sew sweatshirt sewing kits with illustrations commissioned by Liz Harry. I love this merch soooo much!

Behind the scenes, Rhi and Abi made various improvements to our website, including a theme refresh and adding our online workshops to our main shop.

We ended the year with a bang – our last release of the year was the updated version of the Cleo pattern. This dungaree dress is one of our iconic and most-loved designs. We are so pleased to make it available in our improved size range, with 16 sizes from UK 4-34, in print as well as PDF. We gave the cover a makeover too, with the Sewing Bee’s Gill Thomas (@theonearmedsewist) and crafter and author Bethany Rutter (@bethany_rutter) looking absolutely gorgeous.


Tilly - a petite woman with cropped dark hair - is proofing a sewing pattern in the Tilly and the Buttons studio

So what’s to come in 2023?

We are already hard at work on some lovely patterns for you. The first release will be a relaunch of one of our classic designs that has been out of print for a few years. It teaches some core sewing skills with our signature hand-holding instructions, so I hope relaunching it will inspire lots more people to give it a go! It’s at the printers as we speak…

Then we have two more patterns that are in the works for spring and summer – one is nearly ready for external testing, the other has been drafted in half of the size range and our pattern cutter is now working on the second master pattern in the upper half of the size range. Without wanting to give too much away, they are very different patterns in terms of style and skills involved, both pieces that you will want in your wardrobe once the weather warms up!

And then our autumn 2023 pattern is sketched up and ready for our pattern cutter to get cracking on in the next few weeks. Yes, it’s a long process and we work that far ahead!

Two Team Buttons employees stand smiling at the Tilly and the Buttons stand, surrounded by sewing patterns and sewing books

A big big thank you to Team Buttons - Frances, Kate, Rhi, Abi and Ellie - for working hard this year, staying positive and enthusiastic about sharing the love of sewing. They are a dream team!

And finally, thank you for your support this year – whether you’ve bought something from our online shop, shared your makes on socials, or told your friends about our patterns, we really appreciate you.

Wishing you a wonderful 2023 xxx

Author: Tilly Walnes