Tilly and the Buttons | Sewing Patterns, Tips & Tutorials for Beginners
Hello! I'm Tilly Walnes, the founder of Tilly and the Buttons. We create gorgeous, easy-to-use sewing patterns and online workshops for the new wave of DIY dressmakers. Here you will find jargon-busting instructions & photos showing each step. Also learn to sew your own clothes, sewing patterns, tips and tutorials for beginners.
Hello there! It's Louise here from team Buttons. I am the Sales and Communications Manager, so I write the emails that pop into your inbox, manage the website, take care of our lovely stockists (and keep a close eye on their incoming fabric of course!), work with the press, and much, much more.
I am also an incredibly enthusiastic sewist and collector of fabric. When I'm not sewing, I'm probably thinking about it! I am one half of the blog and Instagram account, Cut One Pair. It's a place where Jenny (also from team Buttons) and I share our makes, inspirations, and love for this wonderful hobby.
I live in North London with my husband Duncan and super shy Ragdoll cat, Maisie. I have taken over our snug room (come second bedroom) for my sewing space - because who needs two bedrooms for two people and a kitty?!
I love this room because it looks out onto the garden (gardening is another major passion of mine), and in the summer I can sew with the doors open. Our interior style is quite colourful and cluttered, so my sewing space is as tidy as it can be - but I don’t feel pressure to hide everything as it adds to the feel of the room.
Our flat is the ground level of Victorian house, so the high ceilings make the room feel light and airy, and the fireplace can be used to keep the room snuggly during my winter sewing sessions.
We love mid-century style, so my desk, chair and fabric cupboard are original 60s/70s pieces we found on Ebay. I have a very handy Ikea table that has two leaves that lift up for cutting out. Duncan added castors to it for me so I can move it around easily and take over the room if I need to. It has sneaky drawers in the middle that house my paper patterns which are organised by style.
I have a few precious tools that have been handed down to me. I have my Great Grandmother's pin cushion that was given to her on her 50th Wedding Anniversary and I have one of her thimbles that fits perfectly on my finger.
Before she was married, she worked in Liberty in the 1920s on the accessories floor, so maybe that explains why I love that store so much! I also have my Grandad’s tailors thimble (he was a tailor when he was younger), and my Mum's labels she would stitch into her me-mades before they were called that.
I have an inspiration board that is always being added to with things that motivate me. I love the sewing themed postcards that indie fabric shops add into your order, so they go straight on here - including the ones I designed for TATB!
My favourite motivational sewing prints are from my lovely friend Katie, who owns Oh Squirrel. She made me a special one with "When I'm not sewing, I'm probably thinking about it" and I also have her super popular pockets print - because POCKETS! I use cute corkboards to display my current project plans, because I am very easily distracted and need to stay focused.
Everything does have it's place in my sewing space and I have a few things that help me stay tidy. I couldn't operate without my Ikea trolley that houses my notions and sewing tools. It moves around, so is always on hand when I need it. I picked up these cute little flat pack candy coloured crates recently that are brilliant for storing my little extras, like patches and snaps.
I love these pastel-coloured accordion files from Amazon for PDF pattern storage that are great because you can label them and safely file your precious patterns away. My fabric stash lives in my cupboard and Ikea storage cube. I am usually inspired by fabric first, so find it hard to resist something gorgeous that I just know I will turn into something that makes me happy one day. It is my vice : )
I sewed my first garment in 2014 and chose a really complicated pattern - the Cynthia Rowley Simplicity 2250 dress. I went to my Mum's over several weekends to make it together (my first lesson was that dressmaking takes time), and I was completely hooked.
The dress had a lined bodice that was full of pleats and tucks, plus an invisible zip – I had no idea how hard it would be to make. To demonstrate just how clueless I was, it was made out of precious Liberty cotton lawn! Thankfully, it is beautiful and I still wear it (thanks Mum).
My kitty cat Maisie also enjoys sewing. When I get things out, she always comes to join the party. She just loves to hide under my patterns or sit on my freshly cut fabric. But mostly she is just waiting for me to sit down so she can get back on my lap.
I love sewing anything... I have managed to get over my fears and jump into projects. If they go wrong, they go wrong - every single thing I have ever made has an error in it. But those errors become design features and make the garment even more unique. I must admit I keep a seam ripper and plasters close by for any sewing related accidents!
I built up lots of jersey makes after we released Stretch! at Tilly and the Buttons. The whole team became obsessed with sewing with knit fabrics. Last year I gave bra making and swimwear a go at the New Craft House workshops which was so much fun and the results were amazing.
Now I'm getting stuck into our raincoat pattern, Eden, so am working with yet another brand new fabric for me. There is never a dull moment in sewing!
I always have some kind of entertainment to accompany my stitching. Usually that involves Netflix and watching something like RuPaul's Drag Race, Project Runway or Queer Eye, and on Sundays we like to stick our record player on.
Anybody who knows me is aware that I drink a LOT of tea. When I'm sewing I like to make a nice pot of something. Bird and Blend have some of my favourite teas and being part of their monthly tea club delivery means I never run out of options.
Oh and I really love my collection of sewing-related miniatures - how cute are these?! I hope you enjoyed a snoop in my sewing snug, where both tea and fabric flow freely!
You may have seen Tilly’s first book Love at First Stitchhas just had its fifth birthday - wowee time truly does fly! It’s Jenny here using this opportunity to celebrate the wonderful Love at First Stitch me-mades we’ve seen over the years. Nearly every day we find ourselves oohing and aahing over them and these are just a few of the goodies out there :)
Top left - Claire. Top right - Pamela. Bottom left - Johanna. Bottom right - @sharpneedles
The first project in the book is the easy-peasy Brigitte scarf. If you're new to using a sewing machine this is the place to start. Simple and speedy, this chic scarf will add the finishing touch to your outfit - just like Claire's mustard floral Brigitte. So seventies! Pamela is giving us nautical chic with her navy and red birds, and we love it.
Ohemgee Johanna, is this high-fashion polka dot scarf?! because *heart eyes*. We love how @sharpneedles (on Insta) has styled her Brigitte scarf, the bow looks lovely and so 1920s.
Top left - Abi. Top right - Kate Eva. Bottom right - Miranda. Bottom left - @oksenpaaholmen.
The Margot pyjamas make a perfect first garment project - easy to sew, easy to fit and no tricky fastenings (yaaas!). You know you're onto a winner when your fluffy slippers perfectly accompany your Margot pyjama bottoms. Abi has nailed her handmade PJs and now we all want fluffy slippers to go with ours too! I couldn't *not* include the queen of florals that is Kate Eva and it's only right her Margot pyjamas should be floral too.
If you know us, you know we love a hack. Not only has Miranda combined her Margot pyjamas with the Marigold trousers, she has actually invented the ultimate secret pyjamas. We also LOVE this orange and yellow floral print and the cropped length that @oksenpaaholmen has used for her Margot pyjamas.
Top left - @ateliercarmesi. Top right - Sam. Bottom right - Daniela. Bottom centre - Betty. Bottom left - Hannah.
The next pattern in Love at First Stitch is the Delphine skirt - a perfectly versatile addition to your handmade wardrobe. The lovely touch of the contrast buttons and pop of yellow on @ateliercarmesi's skirt is magical. Lemons will always have a place in our hearts and Sam's Delphine has secured its place there too!
How gorgeous is Daniela's classic blue Delphine skirt? She added belt loops and a matching belt for a completely unique me-made garment. Betty's high-waisted denim Delphine skirt with red buttons is a dream addition to any wardrobe. And let's talk about this multicoloured rainbow sensation from Hannah. What a delight!
Top left - Melinda. Top right - @frithalouise. Bottom right - Rinkie. Bottom left - Lorna.
The Megan dress with its high waistline bodice and elegantly shaped darts is super flattering, highlighting and skimming the right places. Melinda's sleeveless version is a checkerboard dream. We're still freaking out about this flamingo print Kate Spade inspired Megan dress by @frithalouise.
Thinking of a classic dress to add your handmade wardrobe? Rinkie has nailed her pastel blue Megan (also I can't not mention that gorgeous wallpaper!). On the other end of the fabric spectrum is this dazzling gold sequin Megan dress by Lorna - what a showstopper!
Top left - Jessica. Top centre - Constance. Top right - Rachel. Bottom right - Chantelle. Bottom left - Stephanie.
The Clemence gathered skirt is one of those great 'blank canvas' garments that will show off a fabric really well. Jessica took her gorgeous gingham Clemence to Paris, just love it with the matching bow belt. It has pockets! Constance added front pockets to her Clemence - the more pockets the better in our eyes. Polka dots are a staple, and this Clemence made by Rachel is a winner.
This is what we mean when we say the Clemence skirt will show off a fabric well - Chantelle's nautical Clemence skirt is stunning. Wowee, this Clemence by Stephanie is giving us serious yellow and orange envy - we love these colours together.
Top left - Sylvia. Top right - @thegatheringstudio.
Bottom right - Harriet. Bottom centre - Anisa. Bottom left - Jaclyn.
The super cute Mimi blouse will take your skills up a notch, with its Chelsea collar, gathered yoke and pleated sleeve hems. Sylvia's recreation of one of the pictures from Love at First Stitch with the bubblegum is brilliant! I just love the colours @thegatheringstudio used for their Mimi blouse - such a delight for the eyes. Speaking of a delight for the eyes, how cool is Harriet's cat heart eyes print on her fabric?! We're in love.
Anisa's Mimi blouse is so chic in that dragonfly fabric - it will pair really well with so many garments. Jaclyn's fruity Mimi blouse is swoon-worthy. I never thought black and white pineapples could be so delicious.
Top left - Hannelore. Top right - Noelle. Bottom right - Steph. Bottom left - Anja.
The final project in the book is the gorgeous Lilou dress, a party dress with lined bodice and pleated skirt. We love how Hannelore has layered her gingham Lilou over a rollneck - so chic! Noelle has used such a lovely print for her Lilou, we could imagine this as the perfect party dress.
Steph's Lilou is completely majestic, I love the busy and colourful print on the fabric and the scalloped neckline she chose. It's really special to see such an elegant Lilou dress like Anja's, can totally see this as the dream guest outfit to a beach wedding.
Wow, that was tough selecting only a handful of your makes to show! If you want to peruse some more Love at First Stitch goodies, check out our Pinterest board. And if you haven't got your copy yet, grab it from our shop.
Make sure to show us your Love at First Stitch makes by tagging us and using the hashtag #LoveAtFirstStitch.
Overlockers (AKA sergers) are amazing machines for creating a professional-looking finish on seams and for whipping up garments in knit fabrics. Yet, when the subject of overlockers comes up amongst stitchers, it’s usually not long before there’s a sharp intake of breath and someone whispers, “Urgh, but I hate threading it”.
From talking to countless DIY dressmakers, I know that loads of you feel intimidated by using overlockers because of their reputation for being tricky to thread. Even those of us who use these machines regularly – me included – avoid changing thread whenever possible because of how time-consuming and fiddly the process can be.
A few months ago, Janome told me they were planning to release a new model of overlocker that is so easy it almost threads itself. As you can imagine, I got super excited as I knew this was exactly the kind of thing you guys had been dreaming about! So I asked to review it.
This is a paid review, but trust me when I say that this is my honest opinion – I wouldn’t recommend something to you unless I genuinely loved it myself and thought you would too. We’ve been using this machine in the studio for the last few weeks to stitch up samples (as well as our own just-for-fun projects at lunchtimes) and have fallen in lurrrrve…
How it works
Here’s a video showing how to thread it...
How to Thread the AirThread 2000D Overlocker (paid ad by Janome) - YouTube
The AirThread is so called for a reason. It uses air to blow the thread through the loopers. Yes, air. It blows the thread through the loopers!
The first time I threaded it, I dutifully studied the manual to guide me through the process. To be honest, for a minute there I thought this wasn’t going to be all it had been cracked up to be. Let’s face it, technical manuals can be a bit long-winded, and there were three pages to read on how to thread each looper. But all I actually had to do was pull the thread swiftly through the top channels, flick three switches, and ta-da! Suddenly, as if by magic, the thread had been sucked through the machine and popped out through the hole of the first looper. None of the hunching, squinting and tweezering involved in threading a regular overlocker. Hooray!
Once I'd got the hang of it, I repeated the process on the second looper and it took ten seconds. TEN SECONDS. The needles were also easy to thread thanks to the automatic needle threader. The whole threading process, from start to finish, including pauses to check everything was threaded properly, took about one minute total.
How is it to sew on?
As well as being easy to thread, the AirThread 2000D is a lovely overlocker to use. The stitching feels nice and smooth, both for seaming knit garments and finishing seams on woven projects.
It has a large surface to rest fabric on. This is particularly helpful when sewing stretchy knits as it stops the fabric hanging down and stretching out as you stitch.
It’s a versatile model, with choice of two, three of four thread serging depending on what you’re sewing – from rolled hems on delicate silks to seaming heavy knits. You can also use it to create picot edges on fine fabrics, as well as flatlock seams to resemble the effect you get with a coverstitch machine.
Here at Tilly and the Buttons, we’re always thinking about how we can break down barriers both to starting sewing and progressing your sewing skills. One of the sticking points we come across time and time again is how off-putting people find overlockers - mainly because of how fiddly it can be to thread the loopers. Indeed, it’s one of the reasons I wrote my latest book Stretch!, which includes a section that demystifies overlockers and provides troubleshooting tips. So it's great news that Janome understands the struggles people have with threading their overlocker and have created this machine to make it a lot easier to handle.
The Janome AirThread 2000D overlocker is currently retailing at £899. If you fancy treating yourself, you can find a retailer near you on the Janome website.
Sustainable sewing is a hot topic at the moment and you might have found yourself questioning whether there are any ways you can make a difference in your sewing practice.
When you cut out your fabric, there will inevitably be some wastage. Many pieces can feel like they are too big to throw away and that there must be something you can do with them. Pattern designers will always try to be as efficient with the cutting layout as possible, but just as with RTW, there will be some bits that could languish in the bin.
As avid watchers of the Great British Sewing Bee, we really enjoyed the episode on sustainability and dressmaking. Patrick Grant said that 30% of all our fabric is wasted - wow! Our unused fabric scraps are likely to either linger in a drawer or end up in the bin. So what can we do with these little pieces of fabrics?
If you are looking for small ways to make your sewing practice more sustainable, we've pulled together five projects ideas to help you use them up these unloved pieces of fabric.
You could prep a batch of pockets for upcoming makes (because every me-made needs pockets!), and bias binding to make your garments look as pretty on the inside as they do on the outside.
1. Make your own bias binding
Want to add a pretty detail to your homemade clothes? Bias binding is useful for creating a neat finish on seams that aren’t attached to anything else and don’t have a facing, such as armholes. The bias cut will allow the binding to stretch slightly, which is handy for getting around curves.
You can buy ready-made bias binding relatively easily. But it’s good to know how to make it yourself so you can make it in a print, colour and width of your choice. Homemade binding is one of those details that can make your handmade clothes truly special and you can use ups scraps and strips of unloved fabric!
Are you a DIY dressmaker who wants pockets in every garment you make? But what if the pattern you’re making doesn’t include pockets? Have no fear - it’s easy to add in-seam (hidden) pockets to dresses, trousers, skirts and more, while making great use of your fabric offcuts. It's a good idea to cut as you go to utilise your left-over fabric and have pockets ready for your next project.
Oh and we've made you a pocket pattern piece that you can download for free!
If you want to show your me-mades some love, you could use your fabric offcuts to make a gorgeous matching hanger to store your treasured garment away safely. The tutorial calls for silky fabric, but you could do it with any non-stretch light-weight fabric you have. Your handmade garment will never have felt so spoiled!
The Brigitte scarf is the very first project in the Tilly's first book, Love at First Stitch, designed to put basic sewing machine skills into practice. It's super simple and easy enough to be the very first thing someone makes on a sewing machine. In fact, it's an enjoyable speedy project for more experienced stitchers too. You can make it in light-medium weight cotton with drape, and could even wear it with your handmade garment for a totally put-together look!
We hope these project have inspired you to have a clear through your leftover bits of fabric, that are just waiting to become something!
If you're anything like me, making a pattern once is never enough. I am not satisfied until I have tried the pattern in a number of fabrics and attempted a hack. Can you relate?
It's Louise here, the Sales and Communications Manager at Tilly and the Buttons, sharing a Nora dress hack I made recently with added cuffs (fabric bought from Stoff and Stil). I am a serial hacker who just loves working with perfectly constructed simple designs so that I can have some fun putting my own spin on it. I'm not a pattern cutter, so find using my favourite patterns like the Freya pattern from Stretch! and the Stevie tunic make experimenting easy.
When Nora was being developed, I had loads of fun looking for design inspo and dreaming up all the ways this wonderful pattern could be made. As a result I have a wardrobe full of Nora tops (see just a few in this team blog post). I have tried it in sweater knits, viscose jersey, interlock, sweat shirting... but found myself wanting a dress version of this wonderful pattern.
So I got my thinking cap on and considered all the details I really love about Nora. It turned out I wanted to keep pretty much all of the design features! So my Nora dress hack involves mostly adding to the existing pattern, so it is really easy to do.
I started off lengthening the front and back bodices to become a dress, taking my measurement from my shoulders down to the point I wanted my dress to sit. If you have already made Nora, you can measure from the point your top ends to where you want it to finish up. I added about 50cm (19 7/8 in) to the length.
I wanted the dress to have a gently flare. To determine how much, I held a tape measure in a ring shape around my hips, then used that measurement to work out how much I needed to add to the hem of my dress. For me it was 120 cm (47 2/8 inches) in total, so 30 cm (11 7/8 inches) for the back and front pieces (as your pattern is cut on the fold). Don't forget to add your 1.5cm (5/8 in) seam allowance.
I then joined the wider hem up to the side seam notch on the original pattern, which gave the dress a gentle flare.
I wanted to have the option to create a waist rather than have it completely boxy, so I added some belt loops at my natural waist. As these were pretty narrow loops on a relatively thick fabric, I pressed the raw edges into the centre, then folded the folds to the centre and edgestitched them closed.
I bought my fabric and cuffs at the same time (I'm very proud of the match!) when I visited Stoff and Stil in Copenhagen last year, ready for my Nora hack. To insert the cuffs, I shortened the sleeve pattern piece and stretched the cuffs to fit the wide sleeve hem as I stitched. To get the width of my cuffing right, I just tried in on my wrist making sure it was snug enough that if it stretched a little with wear it would still fit nicely.
For the belt, I drafted a long rectangle, sewed that up and turned it out. I finished it with topstitching along both edges so it was nice and clean. Et voila!
I am already planning a summery Nora dress in stripes with ruffle sleeves and a ruffle hem... told you I can't stop making Noras :)
Threading your sewing machine is a quick and easy process once you know how. Yes, it can seem long and complicated the first few times you do it, but keep practising and you'll soon be threading up in seconds, I promise :)
Machines vary, so some of the parts on my machine (a Janome DKS100) may be in different positions to yours, but nothing will be that different that you won't be able to work it out.
Ready to sew? Let's go!
How To Thread A Sewing Machine - YouTube
This is an extract from our 'Make Friends with a Sewing Machine' online video workshop. Enter code EASTERSEWING at the checkout to get 30% off.
Sale ends Monday 22 April midnight BST.
See below for picture steps if that's more your thing!
1) Wind the bobbin
A sewing machine uses two sources of thread – the spool (or reel) of thread that sits on top of the machine and the bobbin of thread that comes up from below. You buy the spools of thread in the shops and the bobbins come empty – so before threading the machine, you need to get some of your chosen thread off the spool and onto the bobbin.
Place the spool of thread onto the spool pin (the prong sticking out the top of your machine). Some spool pins stick upwards, others stick out towards the left and have a plastic cover to hold the spool in place. The thread should be coming out from behind towards the left if the spool pin is sticking up, or over the top towards the back if the spool pin is on its side.
Unravel a few inches of thread, pull it to the left and wrap it round the front of the little nubbin sticking out on top of your machine.
Thread a little up through the tiny hole in the top of the bobbin and wrap it round a few times so it’s unravelling round the back and towards the left. Place the bobbin on the bobbin winder - the small prong on the right of the machine. Depending on your machine, to secure it in place you'll either flick the bobbin winder towards the right or flick the stopper next to it towards the bobbin.
On many machines, if you pull out the handwheel on the right of the machine you can wind the bobbin without the needle going up and down. On other machines you don't need to do this - the machine already knows you're winding the bobbin because it's flicked towards the stopper.
Switch your machine on and, holding the thread sticking out of the bobbin for the first few seconds, press your foot down on the pedal to start the thread winding from the spool onto the bobbin. Keep an eye on it - if the thread ends up on the bobbin winder rather than on the bobbin itself, you may need to switch the direction the thread is being wrapped, or just make sure you're holding the thread for the first few seconds. Keep winding until the bobbin is full of thread (or as much as you need).
Snip the thread to separate the spool and bobbin, before flicking the bobbin winder to the left to remove the bobbin. Now turn your machine off so you don't accidentally sew over your hand doing the next part!
2) Thread the spool
Now to thread your machine. We'll start by threading the spool from the top.
The thread should be coming out from behind the spool towards the left. First things first - take the thread off the little silver tension discs - those are just for winding the bobbin and will make your stitching really tight if you accidentally leave the thread on there. You machine may have a hook or two on the top that the thread needs to go around - check your manual if you're not sure.
Now you need to guide the thread down to the needle - your machine will probably have arrows directing you so you can’t go too wrong. Guide it left to right - pull it round to the left of the first hook, then down through the first ditch, up the left side of the second ditch, through the eye of the second hook, and back down the second ditch on the right side this time.
At the top of your needle, there will be one or two hooks (check your sewing machine manual if you're not sure). Secure the thread behind these hooks.
3) Thread the needle
Now you can thread the needle, from the front to the back. Check the thread isn't twisted around the needle. If your needle is down in the ditch, turn the hand wheel (the knob on the right of the machine) to move it up into a position so you can thread it easily.
The bobbin thread goes in the bottom of the machine. Some machines are "front-loading" - the bobbin goes in the front of the bottom of the machine. Others are "top-loading" - the bobbin goes in the top of the bottom part of the machine. Let's look at both...
This machine I'm showing you here (not my regular one) is front-loading. Remove the arm on the front left of the machine and flip down the cover to reveal the bobbin holder. Pull the bobbin case out – this is the silver thing in the middle.
On this machine, you hold the bobbin so the thread is unwinding in a clockwise direction – but do check your manual in case it’s different on your machine.
Drop it this way up, down into the case.
Pull a few inches of thread down the tiny slit and and out through the side, before placing the case back in the machine.
On a top-loading machine, the bobbin case is fixed inside the machine, just in front of the needle plate. First, take off the little plastic cover by flicking the button on the right to the side.
Hold the bobbin so the thread is coming out anticlockwise if you’re looking at it from above.
Plop it into the case.
There's a little groove at the front of the bobbin case (the silver bit surrounding the bobbin) - pull the thread through this hook and off to the left.
5) Surface the thread
The last thing to do is get the bobbin thread up to the surface of the machine, using the spool (top) thread to fish it out. Holding the spool thread in your left hand, turn the hand wheel with your right hand for one rotation to move the needle down and up again (or press the needle up-down button twice if your machine has one). Now gently tug on the upper thread with your left hand and a loop of the bobbin (lower) thread should emerge to the surface with it. Pull this loop of thread out - that's your bobbin thread. Close the cover, put the arm back on your machine... et voilà!
You’re ready to sew!
Before you do that, it’d be a good idea to pull your thread out from whence it came and practise rethreading a couple more times. I promise that, once you do that, you’ll realise that it’s actually a quick and easy procedure, and not as complicated or time consuming as this long tutorial makes it seem!
Would you like to see these steps in a video? Sign up to our online workshop, Make Friends with a Sewing Machine, to get confident threading, stitching and troubleshooting your machine.
Who doesn't love that satisfying "pop" sound as they close a snap on a beloved piece of clothing? I know it can't just be me. However, the prospect of inserting snaps can be a little daunting and intimidating as there are a few elements and tools involved to get a nice finish. It's Nikki here, Product Manager at Tilly Towers, and I'm here with some top tips to assist with stress-free snap insertion. So without any further ado, let's talk snaps.
A "snap" is a type of fastener which connects two pieces of fabric together by connecting two interlocking discs. They are also known as studs or poppers and can be made in either metal or plastic. If you want a bit more info about the different types of snaps out there, Closet Case Patterns have written an excellent post which explains the difference between "ring" and "spring" snaps.
The pictures I have included here are of spring snaps, specifically Prym 15mm anorak snaps (this is an affiliate link). They are my favourite kind of snaps and I've used them on both jackets and skirts. Our latest pattern, the Eden coat or jacket, has the option of using snaps, and I love how they look on a bright jacket. And, they're fun to insert once you know how!
So without further ado, read on for my top tips for stress-free snaps.
You can install snaps in a few different ways - either with a good old fashion hammer or a specialist snap tool. Both methods will get the job done and it's not necessary to buy a special tool if you don't think you'll be inserting snaps often into your projects, or if your budget doesn't allow it.
However, it is significantly easier to use a snaps tool and I'd thoroughly recommend investing in one if you see a moderate amount of snaps installation in your future. It also has the benefit of being a lot quieter. In the studio, we use the Prym Vario Pliers, which can be used for attaching both snaps and jeans buttons - win!
2) Organisation and understanding
Chances are, if you're using snaps for the first time you'll be a little bamboozled about which bit goes with what. I know I was! So let's dive into a brief lesson on the anatomy of a snap.
Have a look at a ready to wear item (a jacket or a bag, for example) that has a snap closure and look at how it works. The smooth, outside bit is the "cap" and is the only bit that's seen when it's closed. If you flip it over there'll be a "socket" keeping it in place. The socket connects to a "stud" which is held in place by a "post". The cap and socket connect together on one piece of fabric, and the stud and post are on another.
It's vitally important when installing snaps that the correct bits are matched together, else you'll end up in a bit of a muddle. You don't have to memorise the names but I'd definitely advise laying out all the pieces and checking the back of the box to see what piece goes with which. I like to line them up neatly in rows, with the caps and sockets on one side, and the studs and posts on another side so I don't get them mixed up. You could even label them to make it extra clear.
When it comes to installing snaps, the method can differ on whether you're using a tool or hammer, or what type of snaps you're using. Whatever brand you opt for, make sure you buy a pack of snaps with the attachments included instead of a just a refill pack as they assist in getting a good finish. The manufacturer's instructions will explain which attachment is used to stabilise which bit, so make sure you give them a read so you understand the process :)
It might be tempting to dive straight in and start inserting snaps into your exciting new project that you're desperate to wear but woah, slow down buddy! It's always a good idea to practise on a spare snap to two to make sure you're totally sure which way round to do it and to finesse the technique.
When practising, make sure you're mimicking how it will be on your real garment - interface the fabric and practice on the same number of layers as the real thing. Make sure you're happy with what you need to do, such as the amount of force you need to apply and the way in which you do it before moving on to your shiny new garment.
With four different bits of a snap to deal with, plus a hammer or plier tool, it's easier than you think to accidentally insert one of the snap pieces the wrong way round (*ahem* speaking from experience). In fact, on my first Eden coat, I somehow inserted the top snap back to front so the nice smooth cap bit was facing the inside of the jacket. Noooooooo! I managed to wrench it out with a pair of pliers, did some emergency darning on the offending area and inserted another one correctly, but it did cause a stressful thirty minutes that were not necessary to a happy sewing life.
So, make sure you check, check and double check when you are inserting each snap that it's going in the right way round i.e. the socket and studs will click together when it's closed. When using the snap pliers, the cap sits in a smooth bowl shaped attachment and isn't held in place firmly, which means you need to flip the garment so the cap is on the bottom and the socket is on the top. The same applies to the stud and posts - the stud sits on the bottom and the force is applied to the stud on the top to insert it.
By the time you get to the point where you are inserting snaps, you may have already marked the fabric in chalk pencil or washable pen to indicate where they should go. Before you crack on inserting them, make sure you're still happy with the positioning. To get the best results, start with the snaps on the outside of the garment (the cap and socket), and insert all of these before moving on to the inner ones.
To make sure everything is lined up as it should be, close the garments and mark where the studs and posts will go, using the snaps you've just inserted as a guide. This bit's a little tricky but will make sure everything is lined up beautifully.
So those are my top tips for stress-free snaps! Don't forget to go slowly and double check everything to avoid any mishaps, and you'll be left with an amazing garment to treasure for years to come :)
Do you ever make something that you love so much you can’t stop showing it off to every person you meet? It’s Nikki here, Product Manager at Team Buttons, and that’s how I feel about my Eden jacket. I finished mine a couple of weeks ago and I’ve worn it nearly every day since. It’s true love.
I knew I wanted to make a short Eden version in something water resistant, so chose a beautiful sage green dry oilskin from Merchant and Mills for the outer fabric. When I first bought it the fabric felt really stiff, almost a bit like cardboard, and I’d certainly not handled anything like it before on my previous sewing adventures. I was a bit nervous about how my machine would cope with such an unusual fabric, however, I needn’t have worried as it was a dream to sew with. I followed Tilly's advice and used a microtex needle and used fabric clips instead of pins and the whole experience was rather enjoyable. I’m so impressed with it!
I love how you get a little peek of lining at the cuffs and inside the hood on the Eden so I wanted to line it with something a bit jazzy. I am obsessed with gingham at the moment (I mean literally obsessed) so I lined it with a black and white cotton gingham from Bloomsbury Square Fabrics. I also chose to line the main part of the sleeves in a black acetate lining fabric to make them slippy enough to get my arms in easily.
I think my fave bit of the jacket is the little black snaps, which sounds like a weird thing to say but I love how they stand out against the green, especially on the pleated pockets! And I love how the facing hides the zip (which you don’t need to add in but I did), as I think it makes it look super clean and profesh.
To top off the wearability stakes of my Eden, I was overjoyed to discover it went perfectly with my most worn outfit combo ever - a trusty Cleo pinafore dress and a Freya top from Stretch!, of which I have many. I love how the grey Cleo goes with the gingham from the lining and my monochrome Freya in these photos.
I'm already planning a long red wool duffle coat version with big toggles for the winter. Or maybe bright pink. Or green? Gah, the possibilities are endless! In the meantime, I’m going to wear my lovely Eden throughout all the April showers we’ve been having (the big hood is perfect for this!) before making a bajillion Stevie and Seren dresses for the summer. Red frilly gingham Seren dress hack anyone? Yes please.
As always don’t forget to tag you Eden coat or jacket on Instagram with #SewingEden - we absolutely love seeing what you make :)
If you're sewing a lined coat or jacket, such as the Eden pattern, the instructions will often tell you to "bag out the lining", and then secure the lining and coat together with a "thread chain". If you're new to coat making this may seem a bit perplexing but I promise, it's not as mystical as it sounds.
To make these aspects of coat making even easier, we've made not one, but two videos to walk you through the process of bagging out a coat or jacket lining and explain how to sew a thread chain.
Bagging out a lining
So what does it mean to "bag out a lining" I hear you ask. It simply means to sew the coat or jacket lining to the shell (nice fabric) right sides together, leaving a small opening to turn the coat through so it's right sides out. This process hides all seams and gives an outerwear garment a lovely, professional finish.
Once the process is complete and the coat is turned right sides out, the opening is then closed. There are a few different methods for bagging out a lining, but the one we have chosen for the Eden coat or jacket is sewn totally on the machine and involves no hand sewing. Yay!
We've outlined this method in full, with detailed step-by-step photos in the instructions for our Eden coat or jacket pattern. To make it even easier to sew, we've made a video so you can see what it looks like in moving pictures. You can use this video to help you bag out many coat or jacket patterns, but if you are sewing Eden make sure you also refer to the instructions so you have all the info you need :)
How to Bag Out a Coat Lining - YouTube
Sewing a thread chain After you've been totally amazing and bagged out a coat lining (high five!), you'll need to secure the coat and lining underarms together with a thread chain. A thread chain will connect the lining to the outer layer while giving you room to move. You might not have seen the thread chains in your coats or jackets as they are hidden, but if you've ever seen a skirt lining anchored to the main skirt with some thread to stop the lining from going walkabout, that's a thread chain.
It might be tempting to skip sewing a thread chain after the effort of bagging out a lining, but it's worth it and really doesn't take long at all. I'm always amazed at how quick this process is and it's a handy little sewing trick to keep up your sleeve, pun intended.
We've made a short video which shows how to sew a thread chain for the Eden coat or jacket, but this can be used for any pattern that requires this skill.
How to Sew a Thread Chain - YouTube
We hope this helps you with your coat-making adventures! If you're sewing the Eden coat, do share with us what you're making @TillyButtons with the hashtag #SewingEden so we can admire your creation :)
In case you hadn't noticed, we've firmly caught the lilac lovers bug here at Tilly Towers. Not only did we pick this colour for the cover sample of our new Eden sewing pattern, I also made myself a winter duffle coat in lilac wool using the same pattern. I've been wearing this coat loads these past few months and absolutely lurrrrrve it!
I bought the wool/poly blend fabric from Doughty's, and used a silky mint for the lining. The inspiration for the colour combo came from a beautiful creation worn by Aquaria in season ten of Ru Paul’s Drag Race. I’d never thought to put lilac and mint together before until I saw her drop-dead gorgeous outfit. This one albeit more understated - but it still makes me smile, particularly as I slip the hood over my head on a frosty London morning.
This is the full length version of the pattern with storm flaps, zip, toggles and hidden poppers. You can also make it hip length without the storm flaps, zip and toggles, with visible poppers instead.
I sewed this sample to test the instructions while we were developing the pattern, so there are a few little things that have changed since - for example, I topstitched either side of the front placket, but we decided to omit the second line of topstitching from the finished instructions as it looks a little unbalanced. I was speed sewing as it was a test sample - I should have taken my time and sewn it with a walking foot to grip the top layer, as it's ended up a bit rippled at the bottom. It doesn't look as obvious in real life as in the photos, so I'm not in any hurry to unpick it... one day, maybe!
What I love about this coat is how cosy it is on a cold day. The combination of zip, poppers and toggle fastenings really keeps out the cold, and the high neck hood means I don't need to wear a scarf. The hood is a lovely size that is great for sheltering from the drizzle. The deep pockets are lovely for stashing bits and bobs like my phone, or for warming up my hands when I've forgotten my gloves.
I'm dreaming up another wool version for next winter and thinking about doing the bodice, storm flaps and pockets in two different colours. Probably a navy and soft blue full length version, possibly with red heart-shaped toggle covers like this Modcloth one worn by Kimmy Schmidt. Ooooohhh...
If you're making your own Eden coat, I would absolutely love to see it - or even just your work in progress or fabric choice! Do share on Instagram tagging us @TillyButtons #SewingEden so we can see :)