Love At First Stitch – Demystifying Dressmaking by Tilly Walnes
I’m laying my cards on the table from the beginning with this one: I LOVE this book!
Not only is it visually beautiful with delicious photographs and cheery, custardy yellow pages, (more about these later) but the talented Tilly Walnes has devised a user friendly teaching method which allows readers to learn the basics of dressmaking via seven projects. (It’s actually no surprise to read in her bio that she has a background in designing learning programmes.)
Each project has been given a cute little name and include the Brigitte scarf, Margot pyjama bottoms, Delphine skirt, Megan dress, Clemence Skirt, Mimi Blouse and Lilou dress.
Amazingly, there’s not one item in this book that I’m not aching to make. Tilly is one stylish girl and her impeccable taste is obvious in her designs.
What’s also very exciting is that there are five paper patterns tucked into a little pocket on the inside back cover (The Brigitte scarf and the Clemence skirt can be made without a paper pattern.) So you don’t even have to print out pages and tape them together before getting stuck in.
I was already aware of Tilly prior to this as she’d appeared on the first series of the BBC’s Great British Sewing Bee. But even before her appearance on national TV Tilly had built up a fantastic reputation as a dressmaking blogger.
Not only did I find the answer to my stay stitching question (it’s a row of stitches on a single layer of fabric to help it keep its shape) but I also learned that she had just published her first book.
After reading about it, I quickly realised it was exactly what I had been looking for and ordered it that day. When the postman delivered it a few days later it was, well, love at first sight. (With the book, not the postie!).
Let me walk you through.
Each chapter has a ‘technique’ section and an ‘instruction’ section relating to the project.
The ‘technique’ element of each chapter appears on a gridded white background while the instructions are on that sunny yellow I mentioned earlier. Tilly explains that she’s done this so that people who don’t want to complete the project can still find the skills easily, or those who have already mastered the techniques can just follow the instructions.
I needed both and decided to work my way through the book from beginning to end, skipping the scarf at the beginning. I thought I already had the necessary skills for that, so I started with the pyjama bottoms.
I purchased a gorgeous cotton in midnight blue with tiny white stars and got started. Sewing is really addictive and it’s hard to stop (or is that just me?) so I ended up cutting out, pinning and stitching the PJs all in one night, working until after three in the morning. This was a terrible idea, as I ended up rushing and making silly mistakes like cutting the hole for the drawstring at the back instead of the front. The resulting PJs are wearable but certainly not perfect. It’s no reflection on Tilly’s pattern or instructions that they didn’t turn out better – in fact I learned a valuable lesson: don’t be impatient and try to enjoy the process rather than rushing to complete.
I will definitely make another pair of PJ bottoms once I’ve finished the other projects but after Pyjamagate I decided to use that sky blue polka dot fabric I’d earmarked for my ‘practice’ skirt to make the Delphine skirt which Tilly is pictured wearing on the book cover.
I saw that Delphine involved inserting an invisible zip which seemed quite advanced for one of the easier projects. I felt that this was something to be feared but Tilly’s book is like having a friend sitting beside you, reassuring you that it is indeed possible.
(The secret, by the way, is to use an invisible zipper foot.)
Tilly mentions in the introduction that she had only been sewing for four years prior to writing the book, which to me is a positive. It’s encouraging to know that she hasn’t been, as she puts it, sewing since she was in the womb. If she’s been able to achieve so much in such a short time, it’s surely achievable for others!
And while my zip isn’t invisible by any stretch of the imagination I was pretty pleased with my first attempt. What do you reckon?
Considering one dressmaking pattern generally costs over a fiver and Love At First Stitch retails at £20, this is great value before you’ve even read a word! The other thing to bear in mind is that to beginners like me, following a traditional dressmaking pattern is like reading a novel in a foreign language, so to have clear instructions is a huge plus. There are even suggestions on how to make the garment again but with variations such as different colour combinations, button layouts or by adding ribbon or piping.
That’s as far as I’ve got with the dressmaking, although I have bought black and white polka dot fabric for the next project: the Megan dress – so watch this space!
So, my final thoughts on Love At First Stitch? I don’t have a bad word to say about it. It’s a handy reference guide and complete dressmaking course for beginners, while for experienced dressmakers it’s a source of gorgeous, modern patterns with a bit of girly sewing chat and oohing and ahhing over fabric thrown in. It also looks very pretty on the bookcase.
What’s not to love? Buy it!
Hello Homebird rating:
Love At First Stitch - Demystifying Dressmaking by Tilly Walnes
Published by: Quadrille Publishing
Available on Amazon.