Tilly and the Buttons – Bettine dress

Inspired by a RTW shift dress I’ve got from M&S, which is on over the head with a drawcord waist, I picked up a copy of Tilly and the Buttons’ new Bettine pattern which is very similar in style, but with an elasticated waist instead.

I’ve seen great reviews of it on various other blogs, and there’s certainly an autumn easy-to-wear dress-shaped hole in my wardrobe!

I’d bought this viscose fabric at Fabricland in Brighton a few weeks ago for about £4/m and it seemed ideal for a wearable toile – I know making a toile is best practice but it takes far too long for me, so making one in a cheapish fabric that I could actually wear seems a pretty good compromise.

My measurements seemed to fall between sizes – I’m 97cm bust, 85 waist and only 96 hip, so I decided to cut the size 5 and grade the hipline to a size 4.

But once I’d got the bodice sewn up I realised that even the size 5 was a bit snug, so I unpicked and sewed it up with a smaller seam allowance. When I make it again I’ll have to go up a size if I want it drapey, although the size 5 would be ok for knit fabric or something a bit firmer without so much drape.

The hip line, even graded down, was still far too big, so I’ve taken it in a bit more here – again I’ll alter the pattern for the next time. I guess my shape is big up top then fading away to nothing! The only other change I’d make would be to add an inch or two to the bodice length – it’s ok for me as it is but there’s not enough length for a drape or blouson effect, plus you need the bodice length in order to make the channel for the elastic, and I didn’t have quite enough really.

After I’d got my head around these changes, it all sewed up pretty easily. I finished the seams with the overlocker as the fabric was shedding a lot.

Overall opinion? East to sew, good, clear instructions with photos – just double check your measurements before you start! Here’s the finished article:

Next time, I’ll use fabric with a little bit more drape, and not as much ‘bounce’ if that makes sense? I’d like to try it in a knit and I know that Tilly’s blog has some suggestions about converting the pattern from woven fabric to something with a bit of give.

Oh, and I had a bit of company while I was sewing!!

Autumn ombre poncho

Well, I know it’s only just into Autumn, but I thought I’d get a head start on my new season crochet. I’ve spend most of the summer on this fabulous poncho which featured in Simply Crochet magazine a while ago (the pattern is still available on their website or on Ravelry).

It’s been really simple and fun to make – definitely a project for doing while watching the TV – it doesn’t take too much concentration.

Basically, the cowl neck is done in trebles, but making them around the front or back of the stitch in the row below, which gives a ribbed effect. It sounds complicated but it’s really easy and effective.

The body of the poncho is done in granny stitch, just with two increases in each round to make the v front and back.

Although I love the original colour scheme, I wanted something plainer so I decided to start with black and do an ombre effect, fading through to greys. And I’m ditching the tassels too!

I chose Drops Alaska which is great to crochet,very soft and not scrtatchy, and I’m using a 6mm hook so it whips up pretty fast. Here’s progress so far.

New Look 6854

I’ve been looking for a simple A-line skirt pattern, primarily because I need a new denim skirt, and I had 2 metres of a medium weight chambray/denim which I bought from my local fabric shop for about £5/m. So when I found this envelope in my pattern stash I thought it would do the job!



I decided to make view B, which is the knee length option – and it only takes a metre of fabric. Result! Unfortunately, when I opened the packed I discovered that someone had got here before me. I think it must have been a hand me down pattern as it had already been cut out in a size 10 and some of the pieces were missing – including the facings.

After measuring myself, I decided I needed a size 16, which would fit my hips, and slightly grade out the waist. So I took the existing pattern and using the size 16 lines which had remained – for example at the waist and the hem, and looking at the patterns for view E, I graded it up.

I also drafted some new facing pattern pieces based on the skirt pattern.

It all went together easily, good clear instructions. I decided to face it with some crafting cotton as I thought the denim would be too heavy, and used lightweight fusible interfacing. I pressed the seams and finished them on the overlocker for neatness.. I didn’t have a 7″ zip so I shortened an existing one.

Once the zip was in I decided to be good and machine  baste the side seams to check the fit. Good job I did – it was huge, especially near the hem. So from my regraded pattern, I took off half an inch at the bottom on each side, up to 1/4″ at the waist on each side. Need to remember to alter my pattern accordingly!

After that it all went together easily, the facing went on neatly and I hemmed it using red ribbon as a hemming tape. Next time I might bind the seams to make it super neat. And it could be made slightly longer.

Main points and adjustments:

  • only needs 1m of wide fabric, 7″ zip, possible bias/hem tape, fusible interfacing and hook and eye.
  • Graded up to size 16
  • Too big so took half on inch off the top – 1/4″ each side, down to 1″ at bottom – 1/2″ each side.
  • Slightly longer?


Next time:

I’d like to do something similar with a front buttoned faux placket – I’ve got enough fabric left.

I’ve also seen similar ones in tan real suede – and faux suede – at M&S and I think this pattern would be perfect for that. The M&S ones have front splits that seem to gape a bit and I’d prefer to do away with the split and have a placket instead.


Real suede from M&S

Faux suede from M&S



Great British Sewing Bee special – excited!

I totally love this programme, so I’m delighted to see that there are three Sewing Bee specials for Children in Need on 21, 23 and 24 October!

I’ve been doing my own bit of sewing this week – I’m definitely ‘in the zone’. This means I’ll sicken myself, and do no more sewing until New Year.

With the Sewing Bee in mind, I decided to try out one of the patterns by Tilly Walnes, who was a contestant on the programme a couple of years ago and blogs at Tilly and the Buttons.

I chose the Coco pattern as I liked the shape and felt it would be something I could make several times in different fabrics, and also because I’ve never sewn with knit fabric and I was really keen to have a go.

The pattern includes variations for a tunic or top, with additional details such as a roll neck and pockets. And there are different sleeve length options too.

I decided to go for a simple top with a standard neck and no pockets, with three quarter length sleeves, as I’m always pushing up long sleeves!

The pattern itself comes in a lovely, colourful packet and is printed on thick, substantial paper, with a colour instruction booklet. I measured myself and chose the appropriate size, then traced the pattern onto plain paper.

I’d chosen a mustard coloured Ponte Roma fabric which has a slight stretch. I bought it from a local fabric shop for about £7 a metre which is a bargain as it’s lovely, thick fabric.

It was easy to cut out – I weighed the pieces down onto the fabric and used a cutting wheel, which I think is more accurate.

Tilly gives very clear instructions about how to make up the top, and keep the fabric from stretching too much which can often be a problem.

She also gives lots of handy tips, such as using a zig zag on horizontal seams to allow them to stretch while putting your garment on.


Wonky pin there!

I used my overlocker to finish off the seams, but the fabric didn’t fray at all so this isn’t crucial, I just enjoy having nice tidy ‘guts’ to my garments!

It took me about 3 hours in total, and I have to say the sizing was really accurate – it fits brilliantly well, particularly across my chest. I had to take it in a bit further around the hips but I knew this in advance from measuring myself.

And here’s the finished article!


All in all it was a lovely, easy make and I can see myself making lots more in the future. It has also inspired me to try more of Tilly’s patterns, and also to move out of my comfort zone and try using new fabric and techniques.

Sewing machines

What sort of machine did you learn to sew on? My mum had one of these vintage Singers – from the 1950’s I think – and I did my very first sewing on that. Although it always had a very temperamental tension, which caused no end of frustration!



I wish we had kept it – just for old times sake really! I do sometimes look for them on Ebay – maybe f I ever have enough space to display one. I remember it weighing about a tonne!

But the very first machine I ever owned was one of these – a Little Betty!



They were made in the UK I think, and although they didn’t have a bobbin they worked by sewing chain stitch, where the hook on the foot plate would catch the top thread. I’m desperate for one of these – as soon as I see one in good condition I’m going to have it! It brings back such happy memories!


Today, I’m sewing on a bog standard, entry level Janome, which I got about 20 years ago (!) when the vintage Singer finally gave out. At the time it was under £100, and actually it has been brilliant. Easy to thread, no tension problems. It might not have all the bells and whistles that some machine now have, but for everyday sewing it works fine. And really, how often do you really need all sorts of fancy stitches? Mine has got about 10, and I’ve only ever used straight stitch and zig zag!

The equivalent on the market today is the Janome J3-18, which is £139 from Sewing Machines Direct. It’s pretty much identical to mine.



The only drawback is that it has a four-step buttonhole (which means it sews all four sides of the buttonhole separately, with you moving the needle at the end of each step). It’s ok, but you have to be SO careful not to make a mistake – a bit stressful when the buttonholes tend to be the very last step of finishing a garment. So an automatic buttonhole would definitely be on my wish list if I ever need a new machine.






Sewing for children

I’ve always loved sewing – my earliest memories are of my mum cutting things out and stitching them up on her old Singer machine.

Because money was tight when I was growing up, my mum made most of my clothes, and lots of her own too. So when I had kids I fully expected to follow in her footsteps.


But that was where fate stepped in and handed me three boys. Although I have made bits and pieces over the years, most notably for my youngest, there is undoubtedly less opportunity to practice my sewing skills with male children, than if I’d had three girls!

And with Rowan now approaching the grand old age of four, I can see the days of dinosoar print trousers and fleece dungarees rapidly receding into history.

But because I still enjoy making kids clothes I’m trying to get an Etsy business up and running, which will allow me to continue doing what I enjoy and perhaps provide me with a job of sorts. So sorry for the blatant advertising, but here are a few of my recent makes:


Dinosoar trousers. Isn’t this print fabulous? So colourful!



Brushed cotton pinafore with cotton polka dot half lining. This brushed cotton is lovely and warm for the winter weather and I adore the pattern – this is exactly what I would have chosen if I’d had girls!



Hedgehog patterned cord with rose print cotton lining.


This is a bit more summery – but I still reckon you could get away with it with tights or leggings and a long sleeved top under it.



Cute Cath Kidston dog print flannel trousers.



Red Riding Hood fleece cape. This is reversible, with red and white spotted cotton on the reverse side.


And finally, how cute are these Russian  dolls?!


Love Sewing Kimono Pattern


I picked up Love Sewing magazine the other day which had some great patterns and ideas in it. There’s quite a few I want to try but the easy kimono seemed a good place to start as it was pretty straightforward and I already had a few pieces of suitable fabric lurking around.


It needed something with a good drape, preferable viscose, and I settled on this lovely autumn coloured stuff which was a bargain Ebay buy a while ago. Love the colours!


Love Sewing has used a fab Liberty silk satin for their make which I just love, but it’s £22 a metre which scares me off in case I spoil it during sewing!


The pattern has just three sizes – small is 8/10, medium is 12/14 and large is 16/18. Actual sizes in cm and inches would be useful though, so you could check your size exactly. Not so important for a loose fitting piece like this but it would be for other more fitted projects.



I went for the medium. The pattern came with the magazine, printed on good quality paper so there was no printing out to do. I cut it straight out and followed the cutting guide to cut out the fabric pieces. The viscose is quite slippery so I used a cutting wheel and mat under it. This stops the fabric siding so much and means you don’t have to pick it up as you would if using scissors, so it makes your cutting easier and more accurate.


The pattern was easy to follow. It tells you to do french seams, which basically mean you sew up your seam with wrong sides together, trim the raw edge, then turn the garment over and sew the seam again with right sides together as you normally would – this means all the raw edges are enclosed so no fraying seams! I’d never done this before so it was good to try out a new technique. The instructions were clear and it has made the finished garment much neater.



I used the overlocker on the shoulder seams so you could do this for speed if you wanted, but the french seams do make it look much more finished, especially as the style means it’s likely to blow open and the inside might be on show. Here’s the contrast between the french seam and the overlocked one.


It took me about 3.5 hours in total which is really quick – the longest stage was at the very end where you have to slip stitch by hand right around the inside of the collar.

And here’s the finished result! Yes, I am that sad that I had to wear it straight away!




Autumn Crochet


I’m determined to do a bit more crochet over the winter. I’ve got into a terrible habit of spending hours on blogs and Ravelry, tagging projects I want to do which leaves no time to actually crochet! So less surfing and more action is called for.



My first project is  Cherry Hearts’ striped gloves. I’ve done them in a variegated yarn which has worked really well, although it does split a bit. The pattern is brilliant and really easy to follow, so I’m sure I’ll be making some more. Even better they are quite quick to crochet up.





I love the buttons, it’s hard to see but they have a slight sparkle to them, and they’ve got a lovely little clover-type hole in the centre. Mind, the 14 buttons needed cost more than the ball of yarn which was just £3.99!

I’ve used Adriafil Knitcol DK in 049 Picasso Fancy which has worked really well.  I think I’ll make a striped pair next in some basic double knit, plus some plain black ones with multi coloured buttons.


To go with them I’d also like to try Cherry Hearts’ Riot Pattern scarf, although it’s knitted rather than crocheted. Actually, all the patterns on this blog are great – well written with lots of pictures and easy for beginners/improvers like me!



What is currently in your WIP basket?

Colouring in for grown-ups





According to an article recently in The Telegraph, French women have latched onto a new trend – colouring in – after cunning marketing gurus began promoting the books as ‘anti-stress’ aids. Apparently the French are among the biggest consumers of anti-depressants in the world, hence the success of any alternative therapies across the Channel. Having just returned from my hols near La Rochelle, I can support the fact that French bookshops and newsagents are awash with books of mandalas, Islamic and Celtic designs just waiting to be attacked with a felt tip or a trusty Crayola.


In fact, British artist Johanna Basford has just released Secret Garden – An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book, a luscious 96 page anthology of hand drawn gardens, plants and flowers just begging you to take a quiet half hour with a coffee, cake and coloured pencils. I should know because I’ve bought it.



Inspired by these masterpieces and keen to find outlines which fully appeal to my tastes, I’ve begin drawing a few myself. I’m ridiculously pleased with my first attempts, and I’ve not even begun to colour them in yet!