Tilly and the Buttons Rosa Dress

Tilly and the Buttons Rosa Dress

Introducing my new Tilly and the Buttons Rosa dress.

I was delighted when Tilly asked me if I’d like to test this pattern. I was excited by just the line drawing alone. All I could see was piping and matching buttons and I didn’t falter when the pattern arrived.

I won’t go into construction details, mostly because so many weeks have passed, I’ve quite forgotten them, but also I think it only fair to do that with a tried and tested one.

That said, I love it and its had so many outings already. The legs are still bare, making the most of this warm September, but I have another styled vision of red tights and black patent DMs for the colder months ahead!

I love the 3/4 rolled up sleeves with the tab. It adds such a lovely detail. I’m always doing stuff and sometimes a full length sleeve just irritates me and feels so restrictive. Rolled sleeves makes me feel like I mean business even if I actually don’t!


I’m pretty sure I jumped at this pattern after making Mr O a few vintage western shirts (See two of them here and here). And I’m pretty sure the only shirt I’ve ever made myself – with a proper collar – is my 50s bowling shirt.

So I was due one. Even if it’s actually a dress! It still has that lovely vintage front and back yoke that I adore.

Tilly and the Buttons Rosa dress back yoke

I used a cheap washed out denim from A-One fabrics in the Goldhawk Road. Was a bit worried about the thickness, with piping sandwiched in the seams, but it worked just fine. Incidentally, the only piping I managed to get my hands on is upholstery piping for sure. It’s not dainty in the least. But hey I wanted statement red piping and I got it!

I apologise to anyone with a phobia of wrinkled clothing. I do have an iron – honest, guvs! But denim is just one of those tricksy fabrics I guess and in any case there is no official term for such phobia so I might just get away with it!

Tilly and the Buttons Rosa dress pockets

I actually sewed down the pockets, whilst sewing on the buttons (intentionally of course ;-)) to save me putting anything in them. Which I obviously would if they were functional. This will ultimately limit unnecessary boob distortion and minimize wrinkle action.

Another thing I really like about this pattern is the in-outness of the waist to hip. Such a lovely shape. And really helpful when one’s waistline is increasingly difficult to define!

Tilly and the buttons rosa dress

I should really declare that I took these shots myself. Not the usual quality delivered by Mr O, because he is away, gigging with his new band. It isn’t my favourite thing to do at all but needs must when your children declare they have better things to do, like walking someone else’s dog or doing Latin homework. Yeah, right!

Happy weekend everyone. Hope you get some sewing in! xxx


BHL Sarah Shirt in cotton silk

BHL Sarah Shirt

This is By Hand London‘s latest lady, Sarah. Released just last week. A classy swingy shirt to interpret any way you fancy. She’s a dress up or down kinda girl with gorgeous sleeves so I snatched that offer of pattern-testing and got straight on it.

The sleeves are what I love most about this shirt. Nicely full but not so much that they’d trail in your soup. And with a subtle puff on the shoulder, it makes for a great shape. But there’s an alternative short sleeve design with a cuffed hem, if you’d prefer.

BHL Sarah Shirt sleeves

The Peter Pan collar has a roundy and a pointy option too. I went for sharp corners because, well, that’s just the way I was rolling that day. But the roundy collar looks just as good on all the others I’ve seen.

Sarah Shirt collar

Sarah calls for a light to medium weight fabric and I do believe I hit the nail on the head with this black cotton silk. I’ll never get away with not ironing it but it doesn’t crease to madly, even when I’ve left it on ‘one of the piles’. Of course that meant French seams all the way, but that’s ok because it looks dead neat inside and out. the only seams I had to trim and serge were the armholes. The yoke is designed in such a way that it encloses all seams too and with some tiny hand-stitchery to the undercollar, it’s beautifully neat all round. Note that I chickened out of any top-stitching, though!

BHL Sarah Shirt

I used poppers/press-studs for the cuffs though I was very tempted to extend the cuff beyond the sleeve end to make for faux cufflinks or maybe even real ones. There’s always a next time!

BHL Sarah Shirt cuffs

Theres a lot of button holes to sew down the front placket. Instructions call for 10-15 and mine has 12. But they are necessary to get that neat flat finish. My buttonhole action decided to wreak havoc and I ended up having to redo 2 of them. One for bad positioning and one that was just an oversewn mess. Out came a brand new scalpel blade. I wasn’t going to loose a fight over a final detail. Took a lot of patience to unpick but successfully managed to create new ones and dead chuffed I was about that too!

BHL Sarah Shirt

I love the pleats on the front yokes and at the centre back but I was quite surprised at how much swing was involved. It’s not normally a silhouette that I’d go for. I’m usually a ‘tucker-in’ of blouses, but once I saw how it looked, when I wore it loose for the photos I really liked it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that!

Sarah Shirt back view

This isn’t a quick one to run up. But it’s none too taxing either. I’d say the only difficulty with this pattern lies with however challenging your fabric is. Mine required a bit of careful handling and I imagine chiffon or the likes would need a bit of a talking to but a more stable cotton would have been much easier and quicker to work with, I think.

If, like me, you’re sold on Sarah, she’s up for grabs over at By Hand London.


Photography: Daniel Selway
Shirt: BHL Sarah
Skirt: handmade (yet to be blogged)
Tights: M&S (I think!)
Boots: Irregular Choice
Handbag: Fara charity shop, Ealing
Sunglasses: Retro Peepers

Pattern testing: BHL Sophia

BHL Sophia dress

If you heard a rumour that there was a new BHL girl on the block, you heard right. And I can assure you that Sophia lives up to that By Hand London reputation of gorgeousness.

Victoria contacted me with an emergency test request. And despite my ongoing mega work load I couldn’t turn this one down.

By the drawings alone I knew I wanted this dress. I mean, check out those darts and oh that 50s style collar. Totally up my street with a little nod to vintage.
bhl_drawing_sophiaI chose the pencil skirt version as my vision involved ‘old man Prince of Wales check’ fabric! I was after a bit of structure backed up with office chic stylin’!

And so here is my first testing of the test pattern itself!


And yes, call me crazy, but I did opt for checked fabric to test a pattern, and not for the first time. My thinking is that if it does turn out good then I haven’t wasted time. It happens… occasionally!

Truth is, not accounting for any amendments to the pattern that might be made by BHL in the meantime, I do need to make a few tweaks, including a small fba and to taper the skirt a bit. But that’s just personal preference.

bhl sophia collar detail

The fabric was from Dave the Drapers in Goldhawk Road. One of my faves. But lesson learned with cheap fabric: Even though the quality isn’t bad (its a wool mix) the grain is slightly off and that matters one helluva lot with checks! Well that’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it!

I love the way the darts radiate from the central front and back seams. I’ve seen this approach in vintage design books but not on a pattern I own, vintage or modern. So it was a real treat to get to test how this works. I just have to figure out how to do an fba with this kind of dart. Presuming I swing to the side seam and proceed as normal but very open to suggestions if anyone knows of another way.

Sophia should be making her appearance in the BHL pattern shop soon So keep eyes peeled. Shes a good’un!


Sabrina, checked and tested!

Remember Sabrina Duncan? She was my favourite Charlie’s Angel. She was the leader, the rebellious one. Not the one who spent any amount of time on her flicks. Nor ever to be heard complaining about a broken fingernail and her martial arts skills were unrivalled and unhampered by flares. So cool.

What’s that got to do with the price of fish you may well ask… Well this is my Sabrina dress. This is By Hand London’s latest lady and my new go to dress. Not named in honour of my Sabrina as far as I know but in a roundabout way she led the slightly unorthodox approach to this dress.

Sabrina dress in kensington

When I was asked if I’d like to pattern-test this one it was a no-brainer. Not only was the dress named after one of my childhood heroines, it had princess seams that presented a perfect project to utilise some of that inspiration that I sucked from the JPG exhibition. A clash of the Tartans!

Not anywhere near as edgy as JPG himself but I love it all the same.
A great chance to kick start the Autumn wardrobe too.

Minerva kindly supplied the fabric and I knew exactly where I was heading to search for the cloth in question. I’d been trawling recently and had seen these two tartans together. Blackwatch and Royal Stewart – such a great contrast that had to work.

Incidentally this is a poly viscose blend. Apparent from the prewash that future laundering of this dress would be a breeze; Hardly creases; A joy to iron. In fact if hung up to dry properly you could almost get away with not ironing at all.

bhl sabrina dress kensington station

I have a few nitpicky personal fitting issues to sort, namely a sway back adjustment and since studying the photos, I think there is some excess in the upper bust. Even though I made a muslin – I was never going to cut right into that fabulous fabric without testing the waters first!– I didn’t pay proper attention to a perfect fit. Plus its quite tricky when you are up late on your own and don’t have eyes in the back of your head. So with that aside, I made this dress straight from the packet. from one size, no adjustments.

It does fray, this fabric, especially when over handled. But given how the seams are pressed sideways, trimmed and overlocked seams were defo the way forward.

You may well ask why I would want to take on the added pressure of pattern-testing. After all, its not like I’ve got any spare time on my hands. Kids and all the outside school activities that get involved in, full time plus overtime self employedness, and contrary to the belief of my kids I don’t employ fairies to cook clean and bottle-wash and of course my night time activities are sewing! It’s not like it’s paid and its not like I’m given any lead time. And so I have even asked myself the same question. But in writing up this post the ‘why” suddenly presented itself to me in a duh sort of way.

sabrina dress stained glass

I have a list longer than both arms of projects I want to sew. Dresses, jackets, suits and hats. Mostly all of them are inspired by a ready-made pattern that have a ready-made image on the front or in the mag. It’s quite difficult to think outside the box when you are presented with something that fundamentally works already. But when you are given a computer generated line drawing or better still a rough fashion sketch of a dress that isn’t even invented yet, that’s more than enough to shake up all those creative juices and set my brain on fire with ideas, mostly above my station I might add. Leather, feathers, fur, gold lame. It doesn’t matter that most of these aren’t realised. They will be in time. It matters that I’m focussing on the textile rather than the design. That bit has already been done for me in this case by the By Hand London Ladies. So I can concentrate on what fabric will work best which will have greater structure, beautiful drape or sharp enough edges to carry it off properly. It excites me. That is all.

bhl sabrina dress phonebox

I don’t think I pushed the boat out too far with this dress but its a start on my journey of discovery. When I presented my Photoshopped image to Vicki at Minerva she was really excited to see the end result and said she’d never seen those two fabrics put together before.

I’d like to try some leather in place of the Blackwatch in the future but even a pvc might be as good. I think Ms Duncan is calling for some added tomboy!

The dress itself is such a flattering and simple shape. Nicely fitted to the waist and charmingly flared to just above the knee. Its also a great base for incorporating a collar, changing a neckline adding some bodice detail.

sabrina dress tube stn

It sews up real quick. Just be careful around the bust shape and watch out for puckers. That happened on my muslin.

It’s unlined. Just has a bodice facing which is all you need really for a medium weight woven. Doesn’t stick to my tights either!

The hem should be kept small to avoid gathering the excess in the flare and I would say that was the trickiest bit.

I kid you not its had more wears than any dress in my wardrobe and it’s the newest!

The above shots were taken in and around South Kensington and at the Victoria and Albert museum. That’s my favourite London hangout too by the way!

sabrina dress, victoria and albert museum

We were child- and fancy-free and popped in to see the Horst exhibition. Perfect inspiration for some glamourous dresses and stunningly lit fashion photography. Just Google Horst photographs for an eyeful of awesomness!

sabrina dress at the victoria and albert museum

Photography Daniel James Photographic
Shoes Lola Ramona
Handbag: FARA Ealing