My Top Tips To Sew Your Own Amaya Shirt

As my YouTube subscribers will know, I have just finished making the Amaya Shirt from Made My Wardrobe. Today I am mopping up, resetting my machine and trying to sort some other little projects/alterations/fixes which have been piling up for a while now. However, before I completely forget how I made it I wanted to share my tips, tricks and honest feedback on my making journey for the Amaya Shirt.

Firstly, here it is in all her gorgeous, flute-sleeved glory. Honestly I would never have thought of making this pattern originally, it was very much the case that the fabric came first. I bought this stunning red spot cotton from The Rag Shop with no clue at all what I was going to make with it. For transparency I almost never do that, I’m always very project lead but I thought, you know what? I’ve got to have it. When I posted about it online and asked for recommendations Steph from The Rag Shop got in touch and suggested the Amaya Shirt. I was intrigued and although its a little out of my comfort zone fashion-wise I decided to take the plunge.

It also took me out of my technical sewing comfort zone. My first proper top stitching, my first raglan sleeves, it was all a journey and I really made myself take my time. Especially as I knew that I didn’t have enough fabric to recut if I made a mistake. I’m really glad I took the time, doing only one or two pattern steps a day for a week. It was a lovely way to wind down from work each day and I feel like this is technically one of the best garments I’ve made because I didn’t rush a single step. So my first and biggest piece of advice I can give you is to take your time with this make, there aren’t many steps but they all require accuracy and care. Below I have linked my vlog so you can join me for every step of the sew and you can also see just how many grey jumpers I own as I change between days.

My Top Tips:

  • Draw The Line For The Front Opening – seriously, do this. I thought I wouldn’t bother but it requires a straight line stitched 4cm in from the edge which is surprisingly hard to do by eye and most machines don’t have markings that go out that far. This was made extra difficult on my fabric as its exceptionally hard to draw a straight line on Swiss Cotton! Regardless draw a solid or dashed line, its worth it for a garment feature that is so front and centre.
  • Really Press The Centre Front Open – While we talking about the centre front…before you start top stitching you absolutely must press it open thoroughly so that your facing and seam doesn’t bulge when you do the top stitching.
  • Finish All The Edges As You Go – Cards on the table, I’m straight up awful at finishing raw edges when I sew, honestly just awful, but I really made the effort with this garment partly because i didn’t want fraying but mostly because it actually really helps with the structure and the strength of the seams. I am particularly highlighting this as something you should as you go along because there are quite a few seams you can’t access once the garment is done if you were hoping to have a tidy up at the end. The pattern recommends overlocking but if you don’t have an overlocker then either you can zigzag or you can go on a voyage of discovery with your sewing machine and find out that it actually has four different overlock stitch options. (It’s the dream)
  • Gather Much Closer To The Neckline Edge Than You Think – Basically if you look at the outside of my garment the bind covers all the gathers, that is quite emphatically not the case on the inside. I did my gathers at the distance recommended by the pattern, or at least i think it did as I work in imperial and it only had metric, but at that distance it was impossible to enclose the gathers properly in the neck binding on both sides. So I would recommend sewing one row in the seam allowance and then other just beyond it. You will still be able to gather and you will be able to enclose both sides in the binding.
  • Go By Your Measurements – so I looked at the finished pattern measurements and was going to make a size down as they looked huge but when I looked at the body measurements I saw that they actually put me in the 10 bracket. I decided to go with the 10 because I would rather it fit my bust properly and then i could adjust other areas but actually i found it to be a really nice fit. its loose but you actually have enough room to move and the sleeves and bust line are both really flattering. My recommendation would be to pick the pattern based on your bust size and then work from there.
  • Print Out The Pattern Instructions And Highlight – For me the pattern instructions required a second and even a third reading as I found the prose of the instructions very unclear. That could just be me but if you do have the same issue I would recommend printing them out and highlighting the action areas just for the sake of clarity. The pattern makes a stunning garment but the instructions could be easier to understand.
  • Use A Fairly Structured Fabric – It really helps with the construction and the fit of this garment. I’m sure you could easily make it out of more slippery fabrics but I think a structured cotton, linen or chambray would be a good starting point for a first make of this garment and would show off its more flattering and exciting features.

Those are my top tips for working with this pattern, its a great pattern and I have worn mine loads since I made it so I would recommend it for all abilities. Check out my sew-a-long vlog below to see how I got on making the Amaya Shirt.

Sewing Machine Review: John Lewis JL110SE

Last Thursday my beautiful shiny new sewing machine arrived and I had to confront reality. While I had been looking forward to the new garments I would explore with a more advanced machine, I did have a pang of nostalgia when I looked over at my little red sewing machine. Sat next to the almost Sci-Fi sequence frontage of my new machine, it was like looking at a horse and cart next to the Starship Enterprise. Now I wouldn’t say that I regret buying my new machine for one second. No the feeling is more like leaving junior school and starting senior school. It’s not a bad change, its a natural advance but there is still a sense of saying goodbye and it has to be said that I got a little weepy when I boxed up my old red John Lewis model. When I considered how best to process these feelings I hit upon the idea of reviewing the machine I’ve spent so long getting to know. My aim is to provide an honest and hopefully even-handed review highlighting both the positive aspects but also the little irritating things I noticed as a long time user and why I am looking to upgrade.

The first time I saw the red John Lewis JL110SE was in Buchanan Galleries, a huge shopping centre in central Glasgow. My mum had been teaching me to sew at home and I was really starting to enjoy it, to love and be intrigued by sewing. I saw that little red machine and fell totally in love. Next to all the big grown up white machines it looked fun and quirky and friendly. Sewing can be an extremely intimidating world as a beginner, to start with there is a whole language barrier of terms and techniques plus fabrics, patterns and notions the facts that all seem achingly complicated. You look at your ready to wear clothes baffled as to how a person could have actually constructed the grment from scratch. I think that’s why I have such a sense of nostalgia with this machine, I received it for Christmas in 2016 and I basically taught myself to sew with it. It was my friend, albeit one I shouted at a lot and swore at occasionally when my bobbin had run out and I hadn’t noticed. Above all it the was a fantastic machine to learn on as a beginner and that really is where I have to start this review. The JL110SE is the perfect machine for beginners because you can pick it up and start sewing straight away with minimal experience. My machine didn’t even come with a manual and I could still set it up fairly easily. Now that’s not to say that this machine is without its flaws but simple, affordable and easy to use, this machine is the perfect companion for your first forays into sewing.


John Lewis JL110SE

  • Weight 6kg
  • 14 Stitch Options
  • Twin Needle can be used but it doesn’t come with one.
  • Special Edition comes in lots of different colours
  • Comes With: standard and buttonhole foot, seam ripper, spare bobbins and spare needles.

Top 4 Things About This Machine

1. Price

In terms of beginner sewing machines, you really can’t beat this model for price. When I first got mine in 2016, the standard white JL110 was £89 and the special edition was slightly more ( I think £99?) now in 2020 the price has risen to £120 but that is standard across JL110 and JL110SE. A price rise of only £31 in four years is not bad. John Lewis are actively trying to keep this machine accessible for beginners which is to their credit.

2. Reliability

Honestly in 4 years I’ve not encountered a single fault in the machine or encountered any problems that weren’t actually my fault to begin with. I think of mine as old faithful because it just keeps going. If sewing machines were animals this one would be a cart horse. Just plodding along and doing its job for as long as you need it. I would recommend this machine based on its reliability if nothing else.

3. Very Simple & Easy To Use

There are so few options on this machine that it is almost impossible to set it up wrong. The set-up arrows are numbered, there are two dials, one to select your stitch and one to alter stitch length, there is a tab to backstitch and a stitch tension dial with the standard tension settings ringed in a box. Thats it. The bobbin mechanism is simple; to fill you place the bobbin on the winder on top and slide it to the left and use the pedal as standard. Then you place the bobbin in the metal case underneath, pull the thread through and away you go. One of the joys of this machine is that it is so simple and has nothing extra that very little can go wrong.

4. Stitch Selection Is Surprisingly Good

There aren’t too many stitch options, only 14, which is nice because 60+ stitch options can be very intimidating as a beginner and honestly you don’t need them. Even as an advanced sewist you don’t need most of those stitches but as a beginner it can be absolutely baffling. One of the functions I like about this machine is the sliding scale for zig zag stitches and the variety of basic embroidery stitches. So if you want to start experimenting with decorative stitching you have that option but equally the main range of stitches are solid and simple to understand.

Overall this machine is simple to set up, easy to use, affordable and as there’s very little extra functionality there’s very little to go wrong, it really is the perfect beginner machine.

Why Am I Upgrading?

The machine can’t handle heavy fabrics

This isn’t the fault of the machine, it clearly states on the website that this machine is designed for light to medium weight fabric and now I need to be able to do thicker fabrics like denims, tweeds, wool and coating for the autumn so I need a machine that can handle it. This machine just doesn’t have the weight or the power in the motor to get through thicker fabrics but thats okay because its not meant to! It is however one of the top reasons that I have chosen to upgrade.

The 3 Step Buttonhole is genuinely infuriating

Cards on the table, I’m not a fan of buttonholes and this machine doesn’t do anything to help. Put it this way, one of my big priorities with a new machine was a 1-step buttonhole. On the JL110SE Option 1 is meant to be the left hand side of your buttonhole, its a straight forward stitch that you can reverse, Options 2&4 are bar tacks for the top and bottom of the buttonhole, all good so far, its Option 3 that is my greatest bug bear. Option 3 is a backward stitch for the right hand side of your buttonhole. Here’s the thing though, IT ONLY GOES BACKWARDS. If you try to reverse it with the backstitch tab it still only goes backwards and that is honestly infuriating. There is no world in which you dont need to go over your stitches a few times for a buttonhole so why oh why does this function exist? Can you tell this has been on my mind for a while…!

Bobbin thread catch is really unreliable

The bobbin thread sometimes catches absolutely fine but sometimes it takes over 5 minutes to get the bobbin thread to catch when I replace the thread in the bobbin that has started to irritate me somewhat. This is a little thing but it has started to frustrate me alot because I have to spend a long time staring into my machine and it stops me sewing.

You can’t get into the machine if you do need to make repairs or defluff

I didn’t need to do this until recently but it is a valid point. Its extremely difficult to get into this machine to make repairs or clean it. You would need to pay to get it properly surfaced when all you really need is to get into the workings with an old toothbrush and your machine will be good as new. Although of course it is a beginners machine i do feel that this is a little short-sighted and the cynic in me says its because John Lewis want you to pay them to service it for you.

Pedal and power cable connect on the same lead which makes it hard to set up the machine unless you are the perfect distance from power.

This is a moan for me because I live in a house where the power points were located by a complete idiot. We have loads of plug sockets but they are all in moronic places so this was a problem for me. The fact that the pedal and plug come out of the same lead means that I’ve had a few issues on finding somewhere that my machine can actually get power and I can use the pedal.

Overall I need the ability to do heavier weight fabrics and to move on with my sewing. This is at the end of the day a beginner’s machine and I think when you start to notice flaws like this and start to have a preference on mechanism and functionality then you need to upgrade because you’re not a learner anymore. You might still have green P plates on but you’ve passed into intermediate and need a machine that can keep up.

Does It Stand The Test Of Time?

Yes it does. This little machine is a great companion for your first forays into sewing because so little can go wrong and its just so simple and easy. It will allow you to learn about sewing and crucially to learn how you sew and what you need. When I first started to work on projects that my machine struggled with, I told myself that I wasn’t allowed to upgrade until I actually understood what I needed from a machine. This machine allows you to learn, you can’t become reliant on automatic functions because it doesn’t have any and it makes you a better sewist as a result. The JL110SE may be thoroughly out classed by my new machine but it will always have a special place in my heart as my first sewing machine.

Sewing Essentials For Beginners

Sewing can be a mystifying world, the language, the equipment and even the space required can feel like a barrier. Today I want to talk you through my essential sewing equipment and talk about starting.

Sewing is an interesting hobby as while most of us start with the same basic ingredients it is possible to create wildly different garments or create the same effect using entirely different techniques. The world of sewing is awash with hacks, tricks and tips for all levels of sewers. On top of that everyone’s sewing space looks different. Some people have a room to themselves some people make do with the Kitchen table. Even the language of sewing can be mystifying to a beginner so below I have unnumerated my basic essentials and what I work with on a daily basis. What is important is there is no one single formula for sewing.

If you are still look at me going, “yes but where do I start?”, I have listed what I consider to be my sewing box essentials that I can’t do anything without. Over the years I have built up my own equipment store purely based on things I actually like using and make me better rather than panic buying fancy equipment that I wont ever feel confident using.

  • Sewing Machine (Obviously)

This is my little red sewing machine, a John Lewis JL110SE, bought in 2015. Until then I used my mum’s Janome machine. I am currently saving up for a new one next year as this one won’t really do denim or thick fabrics such as wool. However this machine is an ideal starting place as it will do about 90% of the things you need it to do as an experienced sewer and 100% of the things you need to do as a beginner. Honestly I wouldn’t be thinking about getting a new machine but I used one of the Pfaff Quilting Machines on a sewing course and I fell in love and would now like a machine with some of the automatic features.

  • Quick Unpick

The dressmaker’s best friend! Apart from a needle and a sewing machine the quick unpick allows you to fix all of your mistake and re-do a technique again and again until you get it right. A quick unpick costs almost nothing but I don’t think I have gone a single day without using one since I started sewing, which may be an indictment of my sewing more than anything. Its one of the more wonderful things about sewing that you can fix your mistakes pretty easily in most cases.

  • Dressmaking Pins & Pin Cushion

Here is my gorgeous little pin cushion that my mum got me when i first started sewing. One of my favourite things about it is that has a band underneath so I can wear it on my wrist while I’m pinning. Especially good when working on something big or on mannequins. In terms of pins everyone is different. Some people use pins when cutting out patterns, some pattern people just use pattern weights but pins are nearly always used for seams, hems and fabric to fabric work. The only time I’ve not used pins was when making a bra because the fabrics are so fine, fiddly and sheer that you don’t want to make any holes.

  • Tailors Chalk / Pencils

Everyone transfers marks from patterns differently. Personally I favour dressmaking pencils, can you tell which one I use more? I transfer marks through with these on the wrong side of the fabric and then they wash off afterwards which is great. For fabrics that you don’t want to draw on you can use a pattern wheel which is a little spikey wheel, that looks a bit like a cowboy’s book spur, but allows you to imprint lines such as darts on to the fabric without drawing or marking it in any other way. The usefulness of this will depend on the fabric you are using but I found it helpful on lighter fabrics. The pencils have been with me for a lot longer and are definitely my favourite method.

  • Fabric Scissors

In the context of sewing, I really don’t think its possible to have too many pairs of scissors. I have a weird love for sewing scissors because they are just so sharp and effective and there are so many different types. Below is my current collection of scissors including pinking shears, fabric scissors, regular scissors and embroidery scissors and a small Stanley knife for button holes and very fiddly cutting out.

  • Steam Iron

I wont insult you with a picture of an iron because hopefully you all know what a steam iron looks like. I hate that this has to be on the list as I’m an extremely lazy ironer but ironing is absolutely central to sewing. Ironing at every single stage of the process is vital so you have to make sure you have a good iron to hand. My iron is slightly terrible so I will be purchasing a new one as soon as I can! (Any recommendations please put in the comments below)

These are the most basic but essential items that are central to sewing if you’re looking for a beginners list of equipment. What’s in your sewing essentials toolkit?