Tilly Walnes' Sewing Tips: How To Get Started

15/07/2013 16:18 | Updated 22 May 2015

Tilly Walnes started sewing three years ago. She's been making her own clothes ever since. Tilly offers sewing advice and tutorials on her blog, Tilly and the Buttons and earlier this year, she starred on The Great British Sewing Bee. So - how can other budding seamstresses get started? The sewing expert gives us some guidance.

Sewing can seem daunting if you're a complete novice, but it doesn't take long to start making clothes that you'll love to wear. My own sewing journey began on a complete whim and I've never looked back! Here are my top tips for getting into sewing:


- Don't feel obliged to splash out on a fancy pants sewing machine when you're just starting out. All you really need is a full size machine with the basic stitches (straight, zigzag, buttonholes) - they start at around £100. Better still, ask around as you may be surprised how many people confess to having an unused machine gathering dust in the attic that you can take off their hands.

- Set yourself up with some basic tools - tape measure, fabric scissors, pins, chalk pencils, an iron, and perhaps most importantly, a seam ripper so you can rip out any mistakes! These are the essentials - you can add to your sewing kit later.

- If you've never used a sewing machine before, there are lots of beginner classes popping up at craft cafés and sewing schools. Alternatively you can teach yourself to use the machine with my free Learn to Sew tutorials.

- Once you've got to grips with the sewing machine and how to stitch, look for an easy project to make to help you get your head around construction. For your first project, avoid tricky techniques such as zippers, buttonholes, gathering etc - you can save these for later! A tote bag, envelope cushion cover or my Miette wrap skirt are super simple projects that are perfect for beginners.


- Medium weight cotton is a great fabric to start sewing with. It'll lie flat and won't slip and slide all over your machine. It may be a little stiff for blouses but will work great on skirts and accessories. You can find a swoon-worthy range of prints to keep your eyes happy for hours.

- As well as using sewing patterns, you can have a lot of fun refashioning dodgy grandma dresses from the charity shop into one-of-a-kind couture-worthy creations. Try repositioning the seams, lowering the neckline and adding embellishments to make something that's more your style.

- There is a wealth of free resources online offering tips, tricks and inspiration to keep you sewing. Subscribe to some sewing blogs to keep yourself motivated... and consider starting your own!

Good luck!

For more help getting into sewing, visit Tilly and the Buttons to find out more.

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