My Polyester Nightmare

Delphine Skirt - Tilly and the Buttons

This is the Delphine Skirt from Love at First Stitch. Isn’t it gorgeous? Wouldn’t you love a skirt like this? That is exactly what I thought so I set about making it.

Sadly, this was to be my first real sewing set back.

Making this skirt was a nightmare.

The instructions were clear, as always with Tilly Walnes’ patterns, but everything seemed to go wrong for me on this project. That is, everything except the thing I was the most worried about, which was the invisible zip (more on that later).

Let’s start with my first mistake: my fabric choice.

This was the first time I’d actually been to a fabric shop to pick a fabric. The fabric I originally bought for this project was part of an online order and everything that arrived was great except what I wanted to use for this skirt. It was described as being brown and on the picture on the website it was a brown and slightly burgundy spotted fabric. What arrived was black with gold/yellow spots. It still looked cool but the gold/yellow and black combo would go with nothing I owned. The shop were understanding and ok with me returning it but I wanted to get started on this project so I decided to brave a fabric shop.

I thought that being able to see and feel the fabric, rather than relying on descriptions, is probably a better way of choosing the right fabric for your project anyway. I now realise I have a lot to learn about what the hand feel of a fabric can me about how it will be to work with!

This fabric was difficult to cut, was fraying like mad, it was difficult to pin (the pin would catch and push out loops of thread or would simply not go through) and would not take a press at all. The iron on interfacing wouldn’t stick to it either. It was a polyester nightmare.

After this, I continued to make a lot of silly mistakes like sewing the incorrect sides together and there was a lot of seam ripping going on. I also think I must have made a mistake with my measurements when shortening the length of the pattern pieces as it ended up being a mini skirt!

The 'sort of' finished mini Delphine

The ‘sort of’ finished mini Delphine

I had tension issues with my machine and I’ve never had this problem before. It just seemed to get worse rather than better! The hem is an utter mess and should be ripped open and started again but as I’m never going to wear this skirt and it was so stressful making it I’m not going to bother. Because it wouldn’t press at all the hem and waistband are 3D tubes instead of lying flat. I just don’t have the experience yet to fix the many many problems with this skirt.

Tension issues - what a messy hem!

Tension issues – what a messy hem!

The one success story is the invisible zip. It is by no means perfect but it went in, I did it first time without having to undo or redo any of it, and when zipped up it is indeed invisible. Huge thanks have to go to my other half for this minor miracle because I couldn’t even figure out how to attach the invisible zipper foot to my sewing machine!

The invisible zip went in surprisingly easily!

The invisible zip went in surprisingly easily!

Look at that zip! Oh wait, you can’t see it! At least one good thing came out of this otherwise stressful experience.

Finishing the back seam with the invisible zip

Finishing the back seam with the invisible zip

Another reason this skirt is unwearable for me is the fit of the waistband.  I’m not sure if it is down to an error in my cutting out of the fabric or in my construction or whether it is a result of my scoliosis. I love the width of the waistband in the pictures in the book but I’m not sure that thickness of waistband works on me.

The waistband seems to fit me at the bottom but gapes awkwardly at the top.

I’m worried that that question (“Did I make a mistake, or is it my body?”) is going to be a recurring problem of my sewing odyssey.



After I finished my second pair of Margot jammies my order for the Miette skirt pattern by Tilly and the Buttons arrived along with the indigo cotton I wanted to use to make it. Needless to say, I was excited! The sewing odyssey continues!

My concern about the pattern was the tie front on the wraparound skirt. My body proportions mean my waist is not that much narrower than my torso (and not because they are both tiny, alas!) and I was worried that if the waist of the skirt adds bulk I’m not going to feel confident wearing the skirt. I found these pattern hacks on these blogs: Chainstitcher and Lladybird. These skirts are gorgeous! I thought that a few buttons would resolve my concerns so I decided to incorporate them. I’ve tackled buttons on envelope cushion covers before so I felt (fairly!) confident.

Previous projects with buttons - cushion cover and kindle case

Previous projects with buttons – cushion cover and kindle case*

I also had some left over fabric from the Margot trousers so I decided to have a go at giving the skirt a lining. The indigo cotton is a little thin so I was worried it might be see-through in the sunshine and I am a crazy person who likes to dive right in and make things harder for myself so hey, why not?!

On the whole, I am massively happy with the results! Hurrah!

Miette wrap-around skirt by Tilly and the Buttons

Miette wrap-around skirt by Tilly and the Buttons

The edges of the waistband, where I deviated from the pattern by not adding the waist ties, are not the neatest. I realised afterwards how I ought to have finished them for a neater finish. I should have taken the time to think about it and figure out the best solution but I was too excited to finish it so I just did any old thing to fix it in place. Lesson learned!

Miette wraparound skirt with button fastening and lining

Miette wraparound skirt with button fastening and lining

Another lesson was to make sure I really roll the seams to the inside if I’m going to line a pocket like this in a different fabric. I ended up with occasional white lines where the lining peaks out. I still love it though!

Miette pockets

Miette pockets

* Kindle case made from my own hand woven fabric from a weaving experience day, by the way.


So, the sewing odyssey begins!

The Guardian article that inspired me to finally dust off (quite literally, I assure you) my languishing sewing machine led me to Tilly and the Buttons. A fantastic blog which has a wealth of guidance for the novice. I had no idea how I would take to sewing and Tilly took all the worry out of it. I spent hours each day reading all her tips for learning to sew and ordered the Miette pattern and some dark blue cotton and, ultimately, I bought her book, Love at First Stitch.


The book teaches you to sew by taking you through a series of increasingly complex (but all beginner!) makes. You can start with a simple Bardot style headband and work your way up to a lined dress.

I read the instructions for the headscarf but I didn’t want to make it. I want to learn but I don’t want to make anything I do not think I would actually wear and the scarf just isn’t my style. I was itching to get making so I started with the second project: the Margot pyjama trousers.

The book arrived really quickly (I ordered the Miette pattern and fabric first, but from a different shop and they took an age to arrive!) and I had no fabric. After a rummage through the flat I found an old table cloth that I didn’t like and got to work!

Tilly and the Buttons Margot PJ trousers, poorly photographed in the wee small hours.

Tilly and the Buttons Margot PJ trousers, poorly photographed in the wee small hours.

I made the Margot trousers in one sitting. That isn’t to say it was quick (I’m sure a more experienced hand could sew this up in a few hours but, alas, not I!) but just that I was determined and sewed into the night. Not my best laid plan as towards the end I did start to lose focus and make mistakes in my bleary eyed and excitable sprint to the finish.

Bed Time!

Bed Time!

The pattern was really easy to follow but I was disappointed to find I had made some mistakes and misunderstood a bit of the description so I decided that I wanted to get this pattern right before I moved on and made a second pair. This time I got to choose the fabric (one of the real delights of hand-making clothes!) and went for a lovely lightweight cotton in a plaid pattern.

Men's Margot

Men’s Margot

I loved working with this fabric, it has such a nice feel to it. I’m really happy with the finished article and I feel confident I can move on to my next pattern.


(Apologies for all the awful pictures! These were taken on my phone in poor light. In hindsight, I wish I’d taken better pictures and perhaps taken a few of the process too. Oh well! We live and learn!)

Starting Again


I cannot quite believe how long it has been since the last time I posted. I was so full of good intentions! It is time, I think, to start again. I’m facing a lot of changes in my life and I think it might be fun (read: useful for my sanity) to keep a record of what is going on and what I’m learning.

In two weeks I’ll be moving to Oxford to start a one year trainee placement working in an archive. Meanwhile planning a wedding with my other half, who is not moving to Oxford. Naturally, in this hectic time in my life I decided that now was the time to learn to sew!

I read this article in The Guardian and felt inspired. In the article, Jenny Rushmore talks about how learning to sew her own clothes changed how she felt about her body:

I grew up believing that no matter how successful, kind or loved I was, if I was overweight I wasn’t good enough. This feeling was most acute in my teens when, regardless of my nerdy achievements, constant diets and countless sit-ups, I knew I’d failed. […] It turns out, I’d been wrong all along. I didn’t have to dedicate my life to becoming smaller, but just had to learn how to make clothes that fit me as I am now. […] Your physical dimensions become simply a numerical input and not a value judgment. And trust me that you’ll never look better than when you’re wearing something you made, in a fabric you love, in a size that fits.

I found the article truly inspirational. I, like so many others, am two different dress sizes on the top and bottom, I’m too short for standard length clothes and just a little bit too tall (no one is more surprised about that than me!) for petite collections, and most of my clothes are a compromise – not quite the right size or fit, not quite the right colour or fabric. I’ll be the first to admit that I have too many clothes. I don’t really need any more! But at the heart of my massive clothing collection is the fact that I am still searching for the right clothes. Clothes that make me feel confident.

I’ve always wanted to learn to sew, so why not?