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January Sewing Challenge – Adjusting Patterns and making a toile

So often, in the past, I’ve dived straight in to a project only to finish it and find it doesn’t fit me properly. It does make perfect sense, we’re never all going to be the exact size of the pattern; there’ll always be the odd thing that needs a tweak. This month I wanted to remedy this by practising adjusting patterns and in particular making a toile.

What on earth is a toile you ask!

It’s basically an early version of a pattern made up of cheap fabric so that sizing adjustments can be made without ruining beautiful fabric. You’d use a fabric that is similar to what you’ll use for the final piece and trace any changes to make a perfect pattern. I’ve always put it off in the past because it seems counterproductive to pre-make a garment when you have no intention of wearing it. But my 2018 challenge is to do things that I don’t usually do so here it goes.

I bought some really beautiful fabric a while ago but had been putting off making with it because the thought of ruining it terrified me! So it seemed like the perfect time to make a toile so that I could check the fit.

My toile for the Tilly and the Buttons ‘Francoise’ dress.

This is my finished toile which I also tried on myself and pranced around in to check movement of course. It turned out that the fit was pretty good. I have fairly standard measurements apparently so I didn’t need to adjust the bust which is often the main problem area.

One thing I did decide to change was the sleeve. On the long sleeve, little creases appeared quite quickly around the elbow; I don’t like ironing so this wouldn’t do at all. I took off the sleeve on my toile and traced it onto paper, making sure that I included all the markings from the original pattern.

So overall a great success and I had the confidence to cut in to my beautiful fabric knowing that the fit would be good.

Just the one toile was not enough though; I wanted a challenge. This time I decided to make one for a pair of fitted trousers and boy am I glad I did. The fit of my toile was all wrong and didn’t lay properly near the ankles. So with a little bit of a helping hand I pinned in the areas that needed pulling in and marked the changes with a pen. I then took everything apart and this time, used the toile as my pattern piece. I used carbon paper and a tracing wheel to transfer the markings on to my trousers fabric (polka dot trousers anyone?).

So, making a toile IS extra effort and I wouldn’t do it for everything but it is a great way to get a good fit and to eliminate the fear of ruining fabric.

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2018; A New Year, A New Challenge


Is anyone else setting themselves a crafty challenge for 2018? If you’re anything like me, you’ve tried before and given up by mid January! So I’ve decided that I’ll use this blog to keep me motivated and share my experiences with you.

I’m a fairly confident sewer but I do have those favourite patterns that I just make over and over again (I’m on number 3 of the Cleo Dress by Tilly and the Buttons). So 2018 is the year when I step out of my comfort zone and try some completely new things and improve some skills that I just never use at the moment.

My plan is to practise a skill each month and to share the ups and downs with you.

So in 2018 I’ll no longer be a ‘try-it-and-see-sewer’ and will not have to use the seam ripper at all (HA!).

Do you have any crafty new years resolutions? Does the #sewingchallenge2018 sound up your street? We’d love to see what you’re all up to.

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Alex’s Work Experience



Hi, I’m Alex! I’m a 18 year old girl from the North-East of Italy and I’m in Exeter to do work experience for 4 weeks (from 3th September to 1st October 2017) thanks to a school project I won.





I’m staying with a lovely host family near Pinhoe with one of the students from my school – there are 15 of us – and I’m doing a really exciting work experience at Bunyip Craft: I learnt how to make bracelets (in particular, I love the charm bracelets, they are so beautiful) and it’s fun! Bunyip Craft is a wonderful craft shop in Fore Street and I recommend you stop for few minutes in this amazing place, in fact, the first time I came in I was just surprised.



Exeter is a really nice city and there is a lot to do, for example visiting the famous Cathedral and the city centre with its countless shops or exploring all of its streets, plenty of nice restaurants and locals to relax and have a drink with your friends. I’m also visiting the towns around here, such as Topsham and Torquay, in particular this last one is a very beautiful town on the coast, you must visit this place!



I went to Torquay with my friends by train and then we walked all the way long to Babbacombe, up and down the hills with their amazing neighborhoods, shops and gardens: we thought we were in the USA because the streets and the environment were so similar to the ones we see in the American films. It took us about one hour – including lunch time – by foot from the beach to the Babbacombe Model Village: we really enjoyed this experience and the little world was super-great, I was speechless in front of that wonderful village with 13,160 mini-people!



Staying in a place like Exeter is really different from my hometown, which is near the romantic Venice. One is a big modern city (for me) and one is a small town popular for its cathedral, ‘Sanctuary of Our Lady of Miracles’.



Anyway, I’m enjoying this trip, despite the “crazy” weather, and it’s much better than I thought.

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Pattern Drafting and Skirt Making!

We always love a new sewing challenge so we were very excited to try our hand at pattern drafting. Even though there is a bit of maths… I was able to cope with the help of a calculator and some more maths savvy members of staff…

So we wanted to see how long it would take us to draft a pattern and then make and complete the skirt (as we are running a class on 29th June). It turns out we can do it in a day while also serving customers!

I’ve had a bit of practise making this particular skirt before, so this time it was Lily’s turn. We started by taking her measurements so that we could make the skirt to her exact size. Making your own pattern is a great way to get the perfect fit because, lets face it, nobody ever fits perfectly into the standard shop bought patterns! We then used these measurements to draw the width of the front and back pieces and to place the darts correctly. 

Once we’d got our pattern we had to choose our fabric; It was a tough choice but we settled for this grey, flowery design. We cut out the pattern and got ready to do the fun part, sewing!

The sewing part of this project is fairly easy; it’s just the darts, sides, hem and zip. We took our time though to make sure it was just right. 

So this was the finished product!

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Our Day of Quilting

We were really excited to have Dave in our shop last week to finish off his amazing quilt that he was making for a friend. Quilt-making is a new skill for us but we worked through it together and as you can see, the results are excellent (particularly as it was Dave’s first sewing project).
We had to start by putting the layers of the quilt together with some of our quilt wadding in the middle. As we didn’t have a walking foot for our machine, we decided to use some of our spray glue (£10 in the shop). This turned out to be a godsend as it stopped everything from slipping and turning into a big mess!

Now, we watched A LOT of Youtube videos to get an idea of the best way to attach all the pieces. In the end, we went a bit rogue and used the bottom piece of the quilt to create the edge. We were lucky that Dave had decided to use a flag which was bigger than his sewn quilt pieces so we could just fold it over.

And then for the sewing… we had some real issues with the first machine we used because of the thickness of all of the material. After some (mild) frustration, we switched machines and we were on a roll. We’d got almost all of the way around the quilt without any problems when we noticed it had slipped a little at the end. We were able to adjust our stitching and all was ok but if we were to do it again, we’d be a little bit more liberal with the glue to eliminate the problem.

There was a huge sigh of relief after we’d finished and we could step back and admire Dave’s work!