19 April 2023

Ten Tips for Sewing with Fine Cotton Fabric

Tilly and the Buttons - Ten Tips for Sewing with Fine Cotton Fabric

Cotton is a popular fabric choice among sewists and crafters, and for good reason! With its breathability and wide availability in a huge range of prints and styles, it's no surprise that cotton has had a bit of a renaissance in recent years. 

In particular, finer cottons like lawn, voile, Swiss dot and seersucker have become increasingly popular. They are relatively easy to cut, sew and press, yet lightweight, so provide a lovely balance of structure and drape. 

Cotton is one of the easiest fabrics to work with, but still has its quirks. But with the following tips, you'll be well on your way to sewing some gorgeous cotton clothes…

Tilly and the Buttons Marnie blouse sewing pattern
A flat lay featuring the Marnie sewing pattern booklet along with a foral and a plain pink cotton lawn fabric

5 April 2023

How to Sew Shirring

How to Sew Shirring

Fancy trying your hand at shirring? This lovely sewing technique creates a pretty gathered texture on garments, with the bonus of an adjustable elasticated fit. 

Shirred styles are all the rage on the high street at the moment, and creating this effect is not only fun and fulfilling, but it’s easier than you may think. You just need to know a few simple tips and tricks – I’ve outlined the method in this post, accompanied by a free video tutorial, all brought to you thanks to the support of Janome UK

I’m demonstrating on our Mabel blouse and dress sewing pattern, which has a shirred waistline and sleeve cuffs. You can use the same technique for sewing shirring on other patterns too.

What is shirring?

Shirring is a technique where you sew rows of stitching using elasticated thread (shirring elastic) in the bobbin. The shirring elastic, which ends up on the underside of the project, gathers the fabric up to make it smaller – usually around half its original width – creating a pretty surface texture and an adjustable, stretchy fit.

Shirring can be added to various places of a garment to create shaping as well as decorative detail. It’s most commonly used on the bust, waist or sleeve cuffs.

3 April 2023

Fitting the Mabel Blouse and Dress

Fitting the Mabel Blouse and Dress

Crushing on the Mabel dress and blouse pattern but not sure how to get a great fit? In this blog post we're going to talk you through the most common fitting adjustments you might (or might not!) want to make. 

Mabel is a dream sewing pattern. Not only does it look sensational (OK, we might be a little biased), it's relatively easy to fit too. The blousey bodice, elasticated shirred waist, and wide skirt offer comfort and ease in the bust, waist and hip areas, so don't require close fitting. The areas that might need tweaking, depending on your body, are the elastic length in the shoulders and neckline, and we'll explain how you can do this below. 

In this post we're going to cover:

  • Making a toile
  • Choosing your size
  • Do I need a full bust adjustment (FBA)?
  • Lengthening or shortening pattern pieces
  • How to combine sizes
  • How to adjust the neckline and shoulders
  • How to adjust the sleeve shirring
  • Checking the hem balance
Plus size brunette woman wearing navy floral dress with shirring on waist and sleeves

Making a toile

A toile - or a "muslin"- is an initial mock up of your garment in fabric you don't mind using for testing purposes - pick something similar weight and drape to the fabric you have in mind for your final project. Making a toile is a great opportunity to test the fit of a sewing pattern, or practise a technique on sacrificial fabric before you cut into the nice fabric you have lovingly chosen and purchased for your project.

For Mabel, we recommend you make a toile to check the lengths of the elastic around the shoulders and neckline. Or how about making a "wearable toile" - this is a practice garment in fabric that you don't mind ditching if the fit isn't quite right, but you like enough to wear just in case it fits you well first time. You'll want to check the fit of the bodice, sleeves and peplum, so the top version is perfect for a wearable toile. 

Tilly has also written a fab blog post about toile making if you want to know more. 

Body form with bust, waist and hip areas highlighted

Choosing your size

Mabel includes all 15 sizes in our range. Pattern sizes 1-6 (UK 6-16) and 7-15 (UK 18-34) have been drafted, fitted and graded separately to create a better fit. For this reason, you may notice the proportions change in the measurements chart and the shaping is slightly different on the pattern pieces – sizes 7-15 include room for a larger bust (10cm/4in difference between high bust and full bust, as opposed to 5cm/2in difference on sizes 1-6) and a bit more room at the waist.

To find your size, using a flexible tape measure, measure the circumference of your:
  • Bust - take the measurement at the fullest point i.e. around your nipples 
  • Waist - where you bend at the side 
  • Hips - the fullest part - it helps to turn to the side and look in a mirror to see where this is 
Check the tape measure is sitting level with the floor - it can help to turn to the side and look in a mirror to check.