Tilly Walnes ‘Love at First Stitch’ Book Review

I own several sewing books and I have to honestly say this one is my favourite. It’s so beautifully presented; from the bright and eye-catching photography, to the fonts and backgrounds used in each section, right to the back cover.

Image credit; tillyandthebuttons.com

Image credit: tillyandthebuttons.com

It comes with full-size pattern sheets with patterns for five of the designs in the book (Tilly explains how to make your own simple pattern for the other two projects). You do need to trace the patterns as they’re printed on double-sided paper; but this is best practice regardless.

I really like Tilly’s down-to-Earth, ‘chatty’ writing style; the language she uses is easy to understand, even for beginner dressmakers. She explains all the jargon that comes with sewing throughout the book, and adds helpful hints and tips along the way.
The book begins with a little background on Tilly, then goes on to explain how to use the book (i.e. how it is laid out), and there’s just one page on sewing equipment you will need. The book then jumps straight into the first project; a simple headscarf. This is unlike many other sewing books, which tend to have a good chunk of pages at the beginning based on techniques. Instead, techniques are incorporated into each project (which makes each chapter). Tilly makes it easy for the reader to distinguish between project instructions and explanations of key techniques by displaying the techniques on a gridded background, and the project steps on a plain yellow. You can easily skip the technique sections if you’re confident with them already; just look for the plain yellow background. Some may find this slightly confusing, but once you use the book a few times you will most likely get the hang of the layout.

Another difference between this book and others is its fun, fashionable edge. In each chapter Tilly has added a ‘Make it Your Own’ section, where she gives ideas of how you can use the basic pattern and customise it to do just that – make it your own. An example of hers is adding a fabric bow belt to the skirts and dress; she shows you how to make this, too.

Image credit: tillyandthebuttons.com

Image credit: tillyandthebuttons.com

‘Make It A Lifestyle’ is the final section in each chapter; these sections give the reader some inspiration and an insight into Tilly’s own lifestyle and personality. Her background in blogging really comes into play here.

Another idea I love of Tilly’s is the way she sizes her patterns. All five patterns in the book are not sized in the traditional 8, 10, 12… format. She has devised her own sizing structure, labelling sizes with numbers 1 to 8. This encourages you to sew your true size rather than the size you think you are on the High Street – which often varies when it comes to dressmaking patterns. Tilly doesn’t go into much detail about altering patterns, but seeing as the book is targeted at the beginner dressmaker, this is understandable.

I think the one aspect of the whole book that really stands out to me is the quality – and sheer amount – of the photographs. There is a very clear, real photo image (not an illustration or diagram as is common in other sewing books) for each step. For a beginner, especially, this is so important. And if the photos weren’t enough, the clarity of the text should be sufficient. The book is written with true passion, which really comes across and pours into the reader.

I have made three out of the seven projects in the book so far (consisting of one pair of Margot pyjamas, one Delphine skirt and four Clémence skirts), and the construction of them all went swimmingly. The one bugbear I have – and I have learnt others have had too – is the chunky, untailored waistbands on the skirts; it doesn’t suit many figures and does need some alterations to be comfortable if you actually have a waist. Annoyingly, everything looks perfect on Tilly!

Overall, this book makes sewing fun. As a 20-something-year-old, I can see myself making all the projects – which is not something I say about every sewing book! It’s a beautifully written and presented book.

Beth x

Funky Floral Delphine

Jane at Jane Makes gave me some beautiful floral fabric way back last year (I won it in her giveaway). I think about it every now and then, wanting to use it. But time has been of the essence recently; I haven’t sewn myself anything for some time. Then I saw Jane’s recent post where she sewed the same fabric up into a beautiful skirt, so I thought some selfish sewing was definitely overdue and made Friday night sew-for-me night. And this is the outcome!

delphine skirt

As soon as I received this fabric I knew I wanted to make a Tilly & The Buttons Delphine with it. It has some structure; the fabric is like quilting weight. So I didn’t change my mind, and went with the Delphine.

This is my first Delphine, and I really like it. The pattern is dead easy, really straightforward. One front piece, two back pieces, 8 waistband pieces (4 outer, 4 facing). One invisible zip.


I finished the seams with a simple overcasting stitch. Even though I do have an overlocker, it’s a lot quicker to just use the machine I already have out!


As with most things, the skirt did give me a challenge on fit.

It was big round the waist. Too much room even for a very big dinner. I did try it on mid-making but it’s hard to secure it at the back and look at yourself; there’s always some guesswork in it! It’s OK on my hips though.


Instead of taking out the zip, redoing the waistband… urgh too much work… I improvised and made some little pleats at the back.


It worked well and I rather like it like that; until you tell me it looks stupid. Next time I will grade it from a 3 to a 2 at the waist. (This time it was a straight 3.) Note to self!:)


I traced the pattern, cut the fabric, sewed it all up in one evening. I love a quick sew. Besides the altering of the waistband, which I did this morning. I sewed it whilst wearing it!

I hope I’ve got away without pattern matching the back seam… I just couldn’t be bothered trying to make out which flower goes where!!

Final photobombed photo – I was holding my skirt so little A came and said “I can be a princess too!” Also please excuse the chopped-off head shots; I have no where good to take photos!


Jane did say we may end up with matching skirts and we kind of have… hers is also A-line!:)

I have about a metre left so may make one of my girls something to match… one day…

Beth x

Why do we sew?

I wrote this for my journalism course, and thought some of you may find it interesting, so here goes…

Why has sewing become so popular?

It’s no secret that the population’s love for sewing is on the rise. But where did the trend come from? Why are more people than ever now sewing?


I carried out a survey on people who sew, simply asking why they sew. The most common answer was the pride that comes with it; the fulfilment gained through making something useable/wearable from scratch. You take a 2D piece of fabric, maybe a zip and a few buttons, and in a few hours you have something 3D that can be worn! There’s no need to find the perfect outfit on the High Street; you can make it yourself. You can’t buy pride; there’s no better feeling than walking into a party wearing a dress you made yourself, with no fear that someone else will be wearing the same.

[I drew a fancy pie chart to show the results of the survey, but I can’t upload it here😦 ]


The second most popular answer in my survey was “I am naturally a creative person.” I don’t know if we as a population are getting more creative but I think we do crave fun in our otherwise mundane lives and we discovered that being creative and sewing is fun!


Sewing being relaxing and therapeutic was the third most popular answer in my survey. Sewing takes a lot of concentration; your mind cannot wander when you’re concentrating on where to pierce the needle and which direction to place pattern pieces. It also has social benefits; in teaching sewing, I have come across people who otherwise rarely get out the house, and suffer from various mental health issues. They have told me that their health and well-being has improved as a result of coming to the classes. Indeed, in the sewing community it’s often heard that sewing is therapy.

P1070416Financial benefits

Several other popular answers to the survey were based around money; either making it or saving it.

The recession is to blame for a lot of cut-backs; people became wiser and more careful with money. They stopped buying luxury items – and thought about making them themselves. If you ignore the sometimes high cost of fabric, there is money to be saved by making clothing, home accessories and gifts yourself. If you get clever with upcycling and refashioning unloved textiles, you can create something new from nothing. I’m sure we’re all aware of the influence television has on us; and indeed, programmes such as Superscrimpers, Dawn O’Porter’s This Old Thing, and Kirstie Allsopp’s numerous craft related programmes have certainly seemed to educate the nation on saving money through crafting. It seems that, gradually, the throwaway (or ‘fast fashion’) lifestyle that we have come to live in is changing. We are thinking more about how clothes are made; where they come from; how long we can wear them for.

The Great British Sewing Bee

Since the first series aired in 2013, the sewing equivalent to The Great British Bake Off has been a common explanation to the rise in people learning to sew. In April 2013, The Telegraph reported that sales of a bias binding maker that was featured on the programme were up a massive 230% on the previous week.

Viewers of the final episodes of the show rose between the three series; the second series’ final episode gained almost 200,000 more viewers than the first final did – and the figure continued to grow by the end of series three; this final gained almost 400,000 more viewers than the final of the second series did. This is clear proof that more and more people are joining in the sewing revolution. The fourth series has just begun, and I wouldn’t be surprised if ratings continue to sour.

So why do you sew? Is there a reason that I haven’t mentioned?

Beth x

Felt play phone

EXACTLY one year ago today I won a giveaway over at Me and My Veritas for a pre-cut felt play phone kit. And I just finished sewing it up!! So I have to quickly share… Jana, I’m not sure if you blog anymore or if you will read this but just in case you will, I would like you to know it’s no longer sat in the drawer!

It was dead easy to sew up, yes I don’t know why it took my so long to get round to it. Jana cut all the fiddly pieces out and all I had to do was sew them together and stuff it.

If you want to make your own, you just need some scraps of felt – here’s the tutorial and free pattern!

Now without further ado… ta dah!!

felt play phoneThat’s the front! This is the back:

felt play phone

I sewed half of it up at the poolside when S had her swimming lesson last week, almost all the other half in the car at the weekend and I stuffed it and sewed up the gap this morning. I wish I always remember to take something light to sew in such situations as I hate to sit and do nothing. And now I feel accomplished!

And A likes it. She immediately called Grandma!

felt play phoneAnd took some snaps of me!

felt play phone

So thank you to Jana at Me & My Veritas for the adorable kit!:)

felt play phoneI’m just sorry it took a whole year for me to put it together!

Beth x

Quick denim skirt refashion

Check me out – I sewed this today and I’m blogging about it today!😀

Well I do like a nice little refashion. This is a super simple ladies skirt to child’s skirt refashion!

So to begin with, this was a soft denim skirt, originally from New Look however I imagine I bought it from the car boot sale or somewhere…

denim skirt refashion

I really like the style (i.e. denim circle skirt!) and have worn it a few times, however it’s pretty short and does ride up, too. And can you see the hem? It’s dreadful and really irritates me. I don’t know if it was designed to be like that or just badly sewn; either way, I don’t like it.

denim skirt refashion

Sooo I’ve been looking at it recently and thought it was destined to become something else;  a little girl’s skirt. Or, a big girl’s skirt, I should say – for seven-year-old S.

It’s a simple refashion, so I took some pics along the way. First I lay a skirt that fits S on top of the denim one. (Conveniently, I made the zebra one!)

denim skirt refashionAs you can see, the length is just about right already! And there’s just a few inches difference in the waistband. About 2″, on the fold.

denim skirt refashion

First of all I unpicked the little seam on the waistband, and tugged that elastic out. Luckily the elastic wasn’t sewn in, or else I wouldn’t have been able to do this.

I measured 2″ (folded), and cut.

denim skirt refashion

Then took a moment to inspect the elastic and found that it had only been sewn together with one straight line. I tend to sew a square as it’s stronger…

denim skirt refashion

So I did! Sometimes I sew diagonal lines inside, too – but didn’t bother if even a single line was strong enough before! With a nice contrasting red thread, because that’s what was in the machine…

denim skirt refashion

I then tucked the elastic back inside, and handstitched up the gap. That’s the waistband sorted!

denim skirt refashion

Now, I could have left the skirt like that and it’d be fine – but that wiggly hem would annoy me for the rest of my days, so I had to chop it off. I had the length to spare, as I know the zebra skirt I compared the length with is a tad longer than it needs to be.

So I chopped off the hem just above the stitching, and sewed a double-fold hem.

denim skirt refashion

Ta-dah! I have to say, I much prefer my hem!!

denim skirt refashion

S loves it, she’s wearing it now ready for Rainbows. And I love it too – I much prefer it on her! Job done!

Beth x

Talking about death

Hello! I’ve been silent for 6 weeks and now I’m returning with a piece of writing about death.😀 I wrote this as part of my journalism course; we’ve paired up with Kicking the Bucket, a festival due to be held in Oxfordshire later this year, all about death, living and dying. This post is going to be published on their blog soon, too! I hope it gives you an insight into what support is available if and when you need it.

Lovely sewing blog followers: I am constantly sewing, and don’t have a lot of time to read & write… I will really try to share something with you ASAP!! Time has flown!  :)


Cruse Bereavement Care is a charity that supports you after the death of a loved one, and helps you deal with grief. It offers support in a variety of ways: telephone, email, face-to-face, and group support. There is also specialist support available for children and young people who have been bereaved. All support is confidential and free.

Cruse is almost entirely run by volunteers – and my mum, Rachel Clarkson, is one of them. I caught up with her to share what she does, and why she does it.

Since her friend died in 2008 and left behind two young children, Mum’s been a keen supporter of the charity that helped the bereft children – Winston’s Wish. In 2014 she wanted to support the charity further than her frequent donations; but as she has no qualifications or experience in working with children, she looked into working with bereaved adults. This is when she discovered Cruse. She said she was “accepted on the intense 3 month course of weekends and extensive homework – and passed with an accreditation.” Since her redundancy in October 2015, she sees two clients a week who have been recently bereaved.

Speaking more on the training that she received, she said: “The course investigated different ways that death can occur – but we also analysed our thoughts and feelings and reactions to the different ways of death during our role play, which was very emotionally draining. I understood a lot more about myself and life occurrences that I’ve been through. And although we were learning, on occasions it felt therapeutic at the same time.”

So, what does being a bereavement volunteer entail? Mum currently sees bereaved adults face-to-face (although she’s going on a training course in May to become a telephone supervisor, which she’s sure will bring new clients due to the demand for telephone bereavement support). Each client is entitled to six face-to face sessions of 50 minutes each (however these can be extended if her supervisor agrees). She says: “The main aim of our session is to allow the client, with encouragement, to talk about their bereavement and the feelings they have because of it. The initial session tends to be an outpouring of pent-up emotion. The following sessions take on a usual structure of seeing how their week has been and from that, usually delving deeper into something that has happened that week, or going back to talking about the bereavement in general, and taking the lead from the client.”

The consulting room

The consulting room.

Cruse bereavement volunteers see people from six weeks after the bereavement, to several years from it. When I asked Mum why she thought this type of support is so useful, she said: “There are many people that feel that they are a burden to their family and friends by wanting to talk about the deceased person over and over again.” She mentioned that they are often unable to express themselves fully to somebody close to them – but they find talking to a ‘stranger’ easier, knowing that everything is said in confidence, so they are able to truly express themselves. This in itself is good therapy.

I think it must take a lot to talk about very painful subjects yet remain professional. But Mum maintains that the pride she gets from seeing her clients gain in confidence is worth the drain of emotion. She said; “I realised that the time that I give them to talk openly and honestly is invaluable to most clients. I feel humbled that a couple of hours a week of my time is worth so much to people. I would not have paid for the necessary training if I didn’t enjoy helping my clients.”

So if you think you might need some help dealing with your grief, or you’re interested in helping others deal with their grief, I’m sure Cruse would be pleased to hear from you.

Beth x

World Book Day 2016

World Book Day came around again quickly didn’t it?
I knew it was coming because I’ve been getting loads of Pinterest repins on my Elmer costume – all the notifications have been annoying!
This year, S wanted to be Mildred Hubble aka The Worst Witch, since she’s loving the books recently. I used this drawing I found online as a basis for the costume ideas…

worst witch

…along with this one on the front cover of the first book, which adds a cloak and hat!


I made a cloak, dress, red belt, striped leggings and tie. And customised a witch hat we already have.

I bought one metre of plain black cotton (£3.99) – enough for the dress and cloak, with some left over – and half a metre of grey/black stripe jersey (£4) – enough for the tie, leggings (read on though, they’re cheat leggings!), and the hat. I used some red fleece I already had for the belt, and she wore her own tops. So not too bad cost-wise.

She wore brown boots (not photographed!), I wish she had black ones as then it’d have been perfect, but never mind! We had the broom already (side note: apparently everyone at school was asking her if it’s real, haha). Hair in plaits and I drew on freckles with a make-up pencil! She didn’t take a cat!

OK, here’s the finished outfit!

worst witch costume

I made the dress with no pattern besides one of her dresses. It’s just a basic A line shape, with a regular zip at the back.

The belt was a length of red fleece, with a fringe snipped into it at the short ends!

I also made the cloak with no pattern – I made it really quickly by cutting a rectangle and hemming three edges. Then on the top I added a rectangular piece of fabric, longer than the top of the cloak. I pressed and sewed it like bias binding (although not on the bias!), leaving a few inches either end. I sewed on some Velcro to fasten the tabs, and that was that!

worst witch

For the tie, I followed the tutorial in an old copy of Love Sewing magazine. I just shortened the pieces to make it child sized!

worst witch

And then the leggings… well, I really just needed long socks, but how were they going to hold up? Lightbulb moment! By sewing them on to leggings!

So I made two tubes, and whacked them on to the cropped leggings. Literally “whacked” – very quickly and very messily! Who was going to see and who was going to care?! I then cut of the excess length of leggings so it wasn’t too bulky on S’s legs.

worst witch outfit

worst witch outfit

I cut the pieces as wide as possible with the fabric I had but they turned out too narrow… so I unpicked them and added in a strip on either leg, a couple of inches wide. That did the trick!

The annoying thing was that I had to unpick my perfect stripe matching! Grr!

worst witch

Last but not least, the hat. We already had this plain black hat; I just handstitched yet another strip of the striped fabric around it. And the badge was a joint effort of S and I, made out of card.

worst witch

She wore a long sleeved top with her school polo shirt over the top as we needed a collar. She had enough layers on!

All that preparation and it’s over in a day! I’ve seen some amazing outfits though, it’s been fun!

Beth x