Tilly sews marvelous garments. She wears cute glasses (sometimes). And she authors the oh-so-fun blog Tilly and the Buttons. She has graciously invited us into her sewing room. So. Pour yourself a cup of tea, butter a scone and let's enjoy the tour.
Do you have a dedicated sewing space?
Yes, I just set one up the other day! We have a massive kitchen table which is great for cutting out fabric and spreading out, but I was getting frustrated at the clutter at dinner time, having to clear away when we had guests, and having to sprint into the other room every time I needed something from my stash. On a whim, I moved a spare table into a corner of the sitting room, and now I feel much happier!
What do you like best about your sewing area?
I like being in the sitting room as it’s bright and cozy, and I feel like I’m spending time in the heart of the house. Oh, and the best stereo speakers are in there, too.
What would you change about your space?
It would be useful to have a storage system for all my patterns and notions. I’m going to go to Ikea soon to get some boxes, but eventually a shelving system would be good.
Not very well at the moment! I keep lots of stuff lined up on the table, including my machine, serger, sewing box, reference books and pot of pens. I have a wonderful tiered wooden sewing box (a gift from my old school friends), which stores little bits like needles, tape measures and thread. And for Christmas, my brother and sister-in-law gave me a supercute felt house sewing box, which I’m going to dedicate to embroidery supplies as that’s next on my list of things to learn.
My stash used to be ordered by color, pretty but otherwise useless. Now, I have one shelf of large pieces of fabric, which are sorted by priority – the pieces I plan to use the soonest are on top so I can access them (and fondle them!) easily. I have another shelf, which is in turmoil – old clothes I’m thinking of upcycling, cut-offs that I’m keeping for little projects, and samples for future reference.
They’re not! They’re currently sitting in half a shoe box, vaguely in the order I’d like to make them in. I really need to sort this out – by getting a sturdier box and ensuring all the vintage ones have a plastic sleeve to preserve them. I do have quite a few patterns, but not so many that I need to classify them by manufacturer or year or anything . . . yet!
Do you have a mannequin made to measure? If so, do you find it helpful?
Ah! Well, actually, I made a clone of my torso using brown paper tape, a wet sponge and some pillow stuffing. I wrote about it, if anyone is thinking of making their own. It’s handy for adjusting tops, but if I had the money, I’d get a full size one in a sturdier material. It’s quite embarrassing having a replica me in a color not too far off flesh colour — I’ve seen men’s eyes widen when they’ve spotted it on a shelf in our house, which made me feel like I was standing there stark naked! I should really make a cover for it to make it more decent . . .
The kitchen table — it’s an extender! I bought a cutting mat recently, but it’s about a tenth of the size of the table, so I don’t use it very effectively.
What is your most helpful tool?
My seam ripper! She who bears a seam ripper fears nothing. If in doubt, rip it out.
What tools do you recommend for the beginning sewer?
For the first few months, I was perfectly happy with my machine, fabric scissors, thread scissors, pins, needles, tape measure, washable marker pens and an iron. And not forgetting the beginner’s best friend — a seam ripper! I’ve written a more detailed post about starting out sewing on my blog.
Are there any books you recommend for the novice?
The Complete Book of Sewing is a really useful reference guide which I keep handy whenever I’m sewing to look up techniques or terminology. It has lots of photographs and diagrams, so it’s very user-friendly.
I use a Janome J3-18. It’s pretty basic but perfectly fine if you don’t need millions of fancy stitches. I’d definitely recommend it for a beginner looking for a good value machine to start out on.
What do you like about it?
It’s simple, cheap and does the job! I might feel the need to upgrade to a more snazzy model as I become more experienced, but for now it does everything I need it to do.
Do you use a serger? If so, do you like it?
I just got a serger and have only used it once or twice so far. I’m still trying to get the hang of it and am a bit terrified of all those hazardous parts! But I get the impression it’s going to become an invaluable tool for finishing seams speedily, which is my least favorite part of sewing.
How long did it take you to develop your sewing space?
It took me a year to realize where I could put it, but once I’d figured that out, it took two minutes to set up! I’m sure it’ll evolve a bit in time, but for now, it’s such a delight to have my own dedicated sewing world. Yay!