I often come across sewing books that take my fancy but rarely buy them, so late last year I made a change to this and purchased 3 that had been on my list for a while and thought I’d write up a little review as to why I picked them and how I found them… so here is the first one.

To start this off is Stretch! by Tilly Walnes (aka Tilly and the Buttons). The book dedicated to sewing with stretch fabrics.

The book provides lots of information about handling knit fabrics but more importantly contains patterns too, namely the; Bibi skirt, Frankie baseball t’shirt, Freya sweater & dress, Stella hoodie & joggers and the Joni dress.

The patterns are the reason I brought the book. I love a TATB pattern and have made a few of them now (with great success) so after seeing the designs included in this book I was very keen to get it. The pattern that particularly caught my eye was the Bibi skirt variation that turns it into a pinafore dress. (A style that according to my mother has been a favourite of mine since I was 2). Most of the designs in this book are what I would refer to as great basics, they are those pieces that make up the majority of a wardrobe such as t-shirts.

At the back of the book is a compartment where all the patterns are housed. The patterns for all the garments in the book are included in 8 sizes (UK 6-20). The patterns are on the same quality of paper that you would expect from a TATB pattern the only main difference is that some of the patterns overlap each other and they are printed on both sides of the paper. Now what this means is that you are expected to draft off these patterns on to other paper before using. Now there are pros and cons to this:

  • Pro: By tracing off the pattern you always have the original to make in a different size in the future.
  • Con: Drafting off is time consuming and rely’s on you having a roll of paper to do this on.

I use dot and cross pattern paper for my patterns it’s something I have a very large roll of in my studio as it’s really useful. (I actually often draft off patterns if I think I’m going to want to make it in a larger size/different variation in the future). Alternatives to pattern paper are any roll of paper really, you’re just looking for something that’s large enough to save you having to stick lots of sheets of A4 paper together – examples of things I’ve used over the year are; the back of wrapping paper, brown paper and art paper (that you’d buy for a child’s easel). Most haberdashery stores will sell pattern paper by the meter for a very reasonable cost if you don’t think you’d get through a roll (click here for what I use).

Try not to let drafting off the patterns put you off, it’s a simple process as long as you have the tools you need to hand (paper on a roll, pencils, tracing wheel). The book provides helpful instructions on how to do it too.

Throughout the book there’s is extensive information on knit fabrics – choosing, handling and how to sew. It would be a great starting point to someone branching over to sewing with stretch as the instructions for each pattern contains extra information on techniques specific to sewing that design. It means that if you’re new to sewing with stretch fabrics there is enough information for you to feel confident with what you’re doing and if you’re not new to it you can either ignore all this info or have a quick read to see if you learn something you didn’t know or hadn’t thought about before.

Now as far as I can find these patterns are only available in the book… (Please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong but I did have an extensive search and couldn’t even find them in the TATB online shop) so if you fancy any of these designs this is the only way to get hold of them… which in my opinion is in no way a bad thing.

I mean from a simple maths perspective, 6 printed patterns from TATB would usually set you back £87 (£14.50 each) and the book is a bargain price at £22.50! (So even if you only fancy making 2 of them, that’s still worth it!)

The garment I made first was the Bibi skirt with the pinafore variation, it is so simple and looks amazing. It’s a 4 panel skirt (1 pattern piece you cut 4 of) with a waist band and then a bib panel at the front and 2 straps that cross in the back. The patterns included also contain the pattern for the optional bib to convert the skirt to a pinafore and the instructions outline the measurements needed for the straps (which I drafted a pattern for whilst I was tracing off the others for ease when cutting the fabric out)

I was really impressed at how quickly this pattern sewed up, I did the majority of it on the overlocker (which if you don’t have access to a stretch stitch on a standard machine will work just as well as is usual practice for sewing with stretch).

The 4 panel skirt construction also gives scope to use a contrast fabric, which the book gives instructions on and looks really fab.

The pattern does produce a very straight pencil skirt, but it would be very easy to taper to create a more wiggle dress effect by altering the hem edge of the panel on each side by 1-2” and curving up to rejoin the original line just below the hip. It’s something I plan to adjust on mine as I find the style suits me better. I’ll also size down by one size when I invariably make another as I found it wasn’t as close fitting as I’d have liked it to be but I still love wearing this as is regardless.

So in summary… I’d thoroughly recommend this book, then patterns alone make it worth while. If you ask for it as a gift though, suggest they buy you a roll of paper and a tracing wheel to go with it!

I have plans to make the hoody next, I just need to find the right fabric for it to be me-enough.

Stayed tuned for the blogs on the other 2 books that recently joined my studio library.


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