Tilly And The Buttons Eden Coat – Sewing Project

I’ve been a little bit absent on here recently due to my degree workload however if you head over to my youtube you can see what I’ve been up to for the last few weeks! In November, I finally, FINALLY, finished my Tilly And The Buttons Eden Coat. This project is by far the most complex make I’ve ever attempted and I am so proud that not only is the garment wearable but that it looks vaguely professional and its waterproof! I decided over the summer that I wanted to attempt this pattern as a present for my eldest sister so of course I had to try one for myself. I was nervous when I bought the fabric but it was also really exciting, it felt like such a big step forward in my sewing life. As I’ve always wanted a proper barbour jacket, I decided to make my coat in that style using black waxed cotton, a white floral cotton lining and brass zips and snaps. I tell you I was the most nervous I’ve ever been when I cut into the waxed cotton for the first time but it was worth it for the coat I’m now living in every time I go outside.

The pattern is labelled as ‘for improvers’ and is produced digitally as a PDF. While the pattern itself isn’t particularly complicated, there are a huge number of individual pattern pieces. The pattern and fabric cutting took a couple of hours and was mentally exhausting but after the cutting stage it wasn’t too bad. The instructions could be a lot clearer and I would like it if they were numbered and the pattern pieces were in bold when mentioned in the pattern to avoid some of the more confusing elements of the making process. Otherwise its a time consuming but not a particularly difficult sew and I had to work on it in the mornings only because the lighting in our house isn’t great and trying to sew black thread on black fabric in the evening sure does hurt your eyes! In this blog I’ve picked out a few elements that I liked, disliked and of which I feel other sewists should be aware. If you want to follow the whole making process check out my two part sew-a-long vlog linked below for more information.

Inserting my first jacket zip

Honestly I was most nervous about this step because I’d never done a jacket zip before, I’d never even sewn a zip using my new machine and new foot. So, true to form, I dived in head first and it went really well! I split the zip, placed the tape on each side and marked the top and bottom with chalk, made sure they were at the same height and went for it. I was surprised and delighted to find that jacket zips are actually quite simple and I am no longer scared of them – so thats a result!

Working with Waxed Cotton

Croft Mill have a wonderful selection of lightweight waxed cottons perfect for a ‘Barbour’ style waxed jacket. After great trepidation I was somewhat surprised to find I absolutely love sewing with waxed cotton. It’s a joy to work with, it stays where it’s put, you don’t need pins and it flows through the machine like a dream. My only advice would be to use a denim needle and if you want a 100% waterproof coat consider how you are going to seal your seams against the weather.

My First Snaps

At this point having made two Eden coats with two different snap applying methods I have a mixed opinion about snaps. My black Eden coat was my first attempt at applying snaps and it was incredibly frustrating. I used the Prym antique brass coloured snaps and the equipment that came with them to apply them and it was absolutely maddening. There is a small plastic tweezer type contraption that you fit a series of heads to and you use a hammer too apply the snaps. However using a hammer and the instructions, it took Adam and I over an hour to apply them all and it was not error free I can tell you! After this frustrating experience I bought the Prym Snap Pliers from The Makers Merchant to use on my sisters coat and they made a massive difference. I cannot recommend them enough the whole process took 15 minutes and I didn’t swear once!

Overall this coat has made me smile and its made me scream with frustration but I am proud of the result. Its surreal to look at it hung up next to my other coats for all the world as though I bought it somewhere. It’s a coat of firsts. My first snaps, my first jacket zip, my first lined garment, my first hood, my first patch pockets, my first piece of outerwear in fact! So of course there are little bits and pieces I would like to improve but its a win, a milestone and I am almost giddy with pride whenever I wear it. If you want to learn more about my making journey and process then have a watch of the vlogs below!

Follow my progress on YouTube!

Part 1:
Part 2:

Sewing Project: Super Cosy 2 Hour Pyjamas

Hello lovely readers! Those of you who live in the UK will have noticed that it has become significantly colder in the last weeks and as our heating is pretty dreadful I have shifted my sewing focus towards knits, jersey and cosy clothes. Pretty much everything I’ve made since the start of October has been made in a stretch knit or jersey, so much so that I’ve just left the ballpoint needle on the machine.

Project Details

  • Pattern: Simplicity 1563A
  • Trousers: Pink Floral Jersey, Sew Sew Sew
  • Notions: Already Owned
Step 1: Pattern Cutting

As this project was designed to be self-care sewing I wanted to to make sure that every step of the way was simple and didn’t require any extra thought. I actually did this pattern cutting at around 11:30pm so I just grabbed my travel guides as pattern weights and got cutting.

Step 2: Sew The Long Leg Seams & Place One Leg In The Other

Let me start by saying that this jersey is an absolute dream to sew, heavy but soft with a good amount of stretch, it absolutely flew through the machine. I made sure to stitch these seams with a zig-zag and then I double stitched in the seam allowance with a straight stitch. to ensure the jersey can stretch easily with sleep movement. Sew each leg together from the ankle-hem all the way up to the crotch. Then place one leg inside the other, right sides together, and sew up the crotch seam to create your trousers. Press Open the crotch seam and reinforce if necessary. I have chosen not to reinforce the crotch seam because I didn’t feel like I needed it but I may still do it in the future. I want to see how they wear.

Step 3: Create The Waistband Channel And Insert The Elastic

Honestly I did this step almost completely by eye. I’ve made this pattern four times now and I know how much space I like in the waist and hip area. I sewed the waistband with a wide zigzag as well to make sure the elastic can move with the fabric then inserted very wide band elastic and made it to my upper hip/low waist measurement and then took half an inch off to make sure they fit snugly and don’t move in my sleep. One of the wonderful things about making clothes just for me is that I can work to my own tastes. Once the elastic was inserted I double stitched the waistband with a straight stitch underneath my zigzag to reinforce it.

Step 4: Hem The Trousers

Create a simple double hem to the length you require and stitch in place. I made a large cuff because the pattern is for somebody 4/5 inches taller than I am! They are still too long for me but I really like to have them a little long so my feet stay warm in bed. I stitched the cuff with a straight stitch to fix the length in place and voila! One pair of extremely snug pyjamas. I ran up an incredibly quick tank top in a remnant of viscose jersey. I just sewed the side and top seams and then stabilised the neckline. Nice and easy and they are possibly the most comfortable pyjamas I’ve ever owned!

Why was this project so important?

I don’t normally put this bit at the end of a project blog but I wanted to say a word for selfish sewing. Do it. Sew something for yourself, especially if you commercially sew for others. Take a moment to think about something you want, you really want. Whether thats a garment you need or something you’ve always wanted to buy or you just need some time to yourself, sew something for exclusively for you. I’m having a stressful time at the moment with a full time job, a part-time degree, teaching yoga twice a week, driving lessons and sewing is the only thing giving me time to just breathe. These pyjamas took me less than an hour but they might be my favourite make because they are only for me and for the house. They are officially my self-care pyjamas because we all need those clothes that help us relax. Now I’m going to slip into my cosy pyjamas and get into bed with a good crime book!

See you guys next time x

Does Luxury Have To Be Bought?

Happy Sunday everyone, this weekend Adam and I have deep cleaned the house. We made five different lists, one for each space, and we’ve worked HARD. Honestly yesterday we were cleaning solidly for well over 10 hours! We have rearranged furniture, repotted plants, tidied, cleaned, polished, sorted, decluttered and it feels great. Throughout the cleaning process I’ve been considering about how I feel about my possessions and my wardrobe in particular. What things I value and why I value them.

Now I’m sat with a cup of tea and honestly, I’ve got a bone to pick with fast fashion. In my first month of giving up ready-to-wear clothes I have made a conscious effort to consider when I buy clothes and the reasoning behind these purchases. Often I like a shopping trip to cheer myself up or to celebrate a promotion, to purchase a few new items for the next season or just to catch up with friends. Shopping trips like these are normally social occasions or they result in the little emotional purchases that make you feel better. These aren’t too hard to cut out because I can just go do something else with my friends or I can partake in the ultimate endorphin high which is of course fabric shopping . Really the only time I go out or online with the very specific goal of “shopping” is for occasion wear.

In the past, whenever I have had a formal event and don’t know what to wear I hotfooted it on to Missguided or Asos to select something gorgeous, slinky and that could be with me in under three days. Purchasing evening wear like this is of course partly for convenience but also because it has never felt like something I could or should make for myself. When you go to a black tie event you don’t want to feel homemade, when you think of black tie events you think of chic women in Chanel, the idea of a homemade dress in those surroundings is jarring. Or at least this is what the fashion industry has taught us to think. This is how we have been conditioned to feel and it makes me angry because the reality is very different.

On the one hand you have an admittedly expensive designer gown bought in a shop made in one of the standard women’s sizes. Its not shaped to your body, its not designed with you in mind, its designed for their ideal consumer, to reflect their image. On the other hand you have a homemade gown tailored by you for you. You choose the fabric, you choose the pattern, you choose the fit, as garment a home-made evening gown is quintessentially you. If you were to go to a high end event and told people you were wearing a handmade tailored gown they would be impressed, as soon as you mention that the tailor in questions is in fact you that feeling turns to mirth or grudging respect or even worse, requests to make them something similar.

Why should we be made to feel as we aren’t good enough in our me made wardrobes? After all every single piece of clothing is made by somebody, clothes don’t just appear. Honestly, I’m done with it. Of course other people’s opinions don’t really matter if they haven’t got anything nice to say then quite frankly they should shut it but its the fact that this isn’t an isolated one or two people this is an example of social conditioning that is prevalent in books, films, magazines and television, from Cinderella’s homemade dress being torn to shreds to the shopping montage in Pretty Woman. Expensive clothes don’t make a woman and if they do I don’t want to be the kind of woman they make. I will admit there is a joyous sense of giddy luxury in buying yourself something gloriously expensive and decadent but honestly I got the same feeling buying my first proper sewing machine! I get that same feeling when I spend a lot on a dinner for my partner and me, I get that feeling when I book a luxury hotel for a holiday and on those occasions I don’t also receive body-image issues and self-doubt alongside the purchase.

So what am I going to do? You’ve heard the rant, now here is my personal solution. There are two prongs. Firstly, I have reviewed my current evening wear wardrobe and got rid of anything that I don’t absolutely love myself in so if I need a dress super urgently I’ve definitely got something to hand. Secondly, I am aware that occasion wear is a weak area for me because I honestly adore it. So! Last week I bought 2-3m of second hand pale blue satin from a lovely instagram destash account. That fabric has now been stored carefully in my fabric box and I am currently marking appropriate patterns that I own and PDF one’s online that would work with this gorgeous structured mid-weight satin so that if I need a really stunning dress and want something new, I can satisfy those cravings at home and make myself something beautiful tailored and 100% me.

All clothing is made by somebody so my next evening garment might as well be made by me. I will learn a lot by making one and I won’t be contributing to a global system of oppression. Sounds like a win to me!

Box Pleat Skirts – What I’ve Learnt In A Year

Back in April 2019, after four years of living in the south, I found my self missing my sewing machine more than I can explain. With a stressful job and a long commute I felt I was lacking my own mental space. I needed a calming outlet for my stress and something constructive I could do at home. After long discussions with my partner about my stress levels and how we could manage them, we decided it was time to get my sewing machine sent down from Scotland. I had previously thought that this would be impractical and expensive but my mum, presumably glad to get some more space in the new house, happily complied and sent me not only my machine but the rest of my equipment and my sewing books as well.

As to why I didn’t do this much earlier, up to the summer of 2018 my partner and I had lived in shared houses and as we all know, sewing machines are not exactly quiet and I didn’t think it would be fair on my housemates. Fast forward then to April 2019, I had 10 days of leave booked, my sewing machine was ready to go, all I had to do was pick a pattern. And I picked this! A box-pleat skirt from one of the Sewing Bee pattern books. It took me a few weeks because I really wanted to take my time and get it right but on the 19th May 2019 I finally finished my first entirely me-made garment. There are definitely a few things I could have done better but it’s precious to me and despite its flaws I wear it all the time. It’s a work-appropriate length and incredibly light plus the shape given by the box-pleats means the skirt doesn’t flip up in the wind – what’s not to love?

I feel like my sewing has improved a lot since that first make, well I hope it has, but I wanted to do an experiment to measure the difference. To see just how much I have learnt in the last year and a bit. Initially I wondered about aiming for a really complex make to show how far I’ve come but I wanted a direct comparison and I didn’t think just making a more advanced garment would provide that. Instead I decided the best way would be to make the same skirt again and observe the differences. I dug out the pattern again and I chose to make the skirt out of a lightweight navy blue gingham from Rainbow Fabrics Kilburn. The fabric has a good amount of structure to it and it’s opaque while still letting some light through. The big thing I’ve learnt about gingham is that it frays incredibly easily so I used my pinking shears quite a bit and tried to use lots of enclosed seams.

Today’s blog is not going to be a ‘how-to’, instead I want to reflect on the changes in the garment and how I felt making it. I’m going to start with material changes in the garment and move on to the overal changes in how I felt making it.

Material / Physical Changes

I’m so much quicker at cutting and stitching.

This is a big one for me. I remember just pinning the pattern took me about half an hour the first time and cutting it out took even longer. That was because I was so scared to make a single wrong incision, terrfiyed it would ruin the garment from the outset. This time I had this ironed, pinned, cut out and ready to go within 30 minutes. It has to be said I also have much better scissors than I did a year ago but also I’m used to cutting fabric now and in particular I’m used to cutting on carpet which was a challenge for me when I started sewing in this house. The next big step for me will be a cutting mat and a rotary cutter to help me use my slippier fabrics to better effect as I refuse to use my scissors on chiffon.

My pleats are so much neater now.

I mean come on look at those, those box pleats are beautiful if I do say so myself! My first ones are fine, there’s nothing particularly wrong with them but these are gorgeously sharp. Honestly after I had stitched them I just sat and stared at them for a bit because I was so proud.

The lapped zip is actually a lapped zip this time!

Right so it’s still not perfect but its a sight better than last time. The zip is actually covered this time. I wanted to use a shorter zip because I felt the last one was too long but sadly I went too short this time and it requires a bit of a wiggle to put it on. Maybe I’ll make another one in a years time and I’ll finally get the zip completely perfect.

General Changes

I care much less about pattern instructions.

This sounds awful but its true. I promise I do read the pattern instructions but I definitely read them less or perhaps a better way to say this is that I am less worried by the instructions. If it’s a new pattern then of course I will sit down and properly read the instructions before I start just to get the shape of pattern journey in my head. However when I first started I was almost terrified of making micro mistakes or missing anything in the pattern but its because I really didn’t know what I was doing when I started. Now I have a better understanding of sewing techniques and of garment construction, I don’t worry as much about the instructions. Making this skirt is incredibly simple anyway and I didn’t look at the book until it got to the lapped zip stage and then I gave the book a very close reading! Otherwise the next steps of the pattern just seem clear and make sense now and you know what? It feels good. I feel like I have matured into someone who osn’t just following instructions but actually understands what I am doing and that feels like an achievement.

The whole process is much more fun.

The first time I made this skirt, it was pretty much dead silence in my living room, I was really scared that I would make a mistake and wanted my full concentration. Honestly, it was tense! Now I’ve loosened up and that comes down to experience. I know what I’m doing, I can trust my judgement and relax into the rhythm of sewing. I put netflix on or a good radio crime drama and I’ll happily sit and sew for the rest of the day. Making this skirt a second time I was able to revel in the process a lot more. To congratulate myself for little successes like my zip or my frankly knife sharp box pleats. I was able to identify, celebrate and own my successes as micro sewing achievements while recognising that of course I still have a long way to go. I was also able to trust my judgement which enables me to relax and go with the process. Observing what I do, correcting errors before they become mistakes and laughing at any mistakes I make.

What the second make of this skirt taught me is that not only am I technically a better dressmaker than I was 15 months ago but that I am more mature as a person. I am able to laugh at myself, trust my judgement and grow through every garment I make measuring against no one’s standards but my own.