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Where are you from and where do you live?
I’ve lived in various parts of London since moving here when I was 12 and am now happily settled in lovely Brixton.

What do you do besides sewing?
I work for a support organisation for independent cinemas and film festivals, and at the moment I’m also a part time researcher working on a project about film archives. I try to squeeze sewing around this!

I also enjoy watching film trailers, making lists, and cooking, eating or reading about food.


A young tilly-vanilly!

If we were to come to your town, where would you take us?
I’d take you to do some window shopping at Liberty, The Cloth House and other fabric shops on Berwick Street in Soho, which have absolutely gorgeous but incredibly expensive fabrics. Then we’d go and actually buy some super value fabric further afield – at either Goldhawk Road or Walthamstow Market, places I’ve discovered through other sewing bloggers.

I’d also insist you visit Brixton Village near my home, a hidden away tunnel of gorgeous restaurants, cafes, galleries and vintage shops which started life as a regeneration project of “pop-ups” and has since brought new life to the area. The only problem would be choosing between sourdough pizzas, handmade dim sum, Pakistani curry…

How did you start sewing?
Towards the end of 2009, I had a sudden, overwhelming urge to do something with my hands other than typing on a computer, so I decided to sign up for a craft class in the new year. At first I thought of pottery, but then I saw Jane Campion’s film Bright Star, which opens with a close up shot of stitching, and on a whim I thought I’d try dressmaking. I took a one-day class on how to use a sewing machine, followed by a three-day course on following a dress pattern. I was hooked. I started my blog straight after that to track my progress, keep me motivated and connect to other stitchers.

I sew because it allows me to make pretty clothes exactly how I want them to be, and the time and effort that goes into sewing makes me value the aesthetics of individual garments much more than ones bought in the shops. Making things with my hands also brings me incredible satisfaction, and it’s therapeutic to use a different part of my brain than what I use in my day job.

What sewing project are you most proud of?
The sewing project I’m most proud of is my Betty Draper jacket, so-called because it’s from a 1960s pattern which looks exactly like an outfit Betty wears in the Rome episode of Mad Men. I’d only been sewing a few months but managed to use a vintage pattern, fashion a scalloped edge, and draft a lining pattern from scratch. I nearly cried with joy when I finished the project and it actually looked like a proper jacket!

Do you have a style icon who inspires your sewing projects? Where do you go to get inspired?

I always turn to 1960s French or Italian movies for fashion tips, such as Une Femme est une Femme, Red Desert, Paris Nous Appartient, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s unfinished film Inferno etc.

My favourite style icon is Anna Karina, Jean-Luc Godard’s muse.

What’s your sewing secret weapon?
My secret weapon is my seam ripper. It makes me fearless! It saddens me when I see nervous stitchers worried about messing things up, or even worse, advanced stitchers who think that you have to have years and years of experience to attempt certain techniques. My approach has always been to try things out and if it doesn’t work you can always unpick the stitches. Hurrah!

I can’t think of any particular tricks that I employ, but I always have to make lots of adjustments to patterns as I’m petite — moving darts, shortening the waist, taking in seams for my sway back etc. Doing this has brought me awareness of how patterns are constructed and makes the process even more interesting!

Tell us about your sewing experience.
I’ve set up a sewing table in the sitting room so I can be near the stereo. I like listening to Jarvis Cocker’s radio programme on BBC 6 Music, or if I’m choosing CDs for some reason I tend to gravitate towards folk music or blues field recordings when stitching – perhaps because I can imagine the musicians or their families sitting there making things with their hands while the record was being made.


A view of tilly-vanilly’s sewing machine and notions

tilly-vanilly’s supplies

I usually get most sewing done on the weekends as I’m too tired when I get home from work, although I am trying to get a few little tasks done here and there when I have a free hour or so.


tilly-vanilly’s sewing room

What is your dream sewing project?
Hmm… I’ve always dreamed of recreating the stripey dress that Jean Seberg wears in Breathless. That would be awesome! I’d probably get my hair cut especially [for the occassion].

How long have you been a member of BurdaStyle? What keeps you coming back?
I’ve been a member of BurdaStyle since I began sewing a year and a half ago. My dad’s girlfriend recommended the site to me for free patterns, although I mainly use it to get inspiration from other stitchers. My username, Tilly-Vanilly, is a stupid reference to an eighties pop act and a nod to my favourite smell.

When I first started sewing, I went through a phase of checking the site every day! That became a bit ridiculous, so now I visit about once or twice a week when I’m in need of a bit of aesthetic pleasure and sewing inspiration.

What is the most frustrating thing about sewing for you? What is the most rewarding?
The most frustrating thing about sewing is that I can’t do it all the time! I struggle to fit it in around my other projects and only wish there were more hours in the day. The most rewarding part is the feeling of empowerment that comes with making your own clothes. I can visualise an outfit in my head and, using my hands, create an externalised version of that idea. Seeing a garment emerge from a length of fabric is so exciting.

Discover Tilly-Vanilly’s top ten favorite member projects!

25 Comments

  • Missing

    Dec 14, 2011, 11.21 AMby khover2002

    You have inspired me to be fearless! I always used to view my seam ripper as my enemy—I always imagined I heard it screaming “You screwed up!” every time I went to use it. From now on, I’ll imagine it saying “Let me help you fix that.” Congratulations on being featured and thanks for inspiring me!

  • Missing

    Dec 14, 2011, 11.13 AMby khover2002

    You have inspired me to be fearless!!! I always thought of my seam ripper as my enemy— every time I picked it up, I felt like it was screaming “You screwed up!!!” But now I think I will hear it calmly say “Let me help you fix that.” Congratulations on being featured and thank you for inspiring me!

  • Missing

    Dec 14, 2011, 08.27 AMby rochelle49

    Congratulations! you made lovely dresses! I also love the yellow skirt and the scallop edge jacket. You don;t sew like a beginner! Maybe we can find a pattern for the stripped dress.

  • Missing

    Dec 14, 2011, 08.27 AMby rochelle49

    Congratulations! you made lovely dresses! I also love the yellow skirt and the scallop edge jacket. You don;t sew like a beginner! Maybe we can find a pattern for the stripped dress.

  • Missing

    Dec 14, 2011, 08.27 AMby rochelle49

    Congratulations! you made lovely dresses! I also love the yellow skirt and the scallop edge jacket. You don;t sew like a beginner! Maybe we can find a pattern for the stripped dress.

  • Missing

    Dec 14, 2011, 08.27 AMby rochelle49

    Congratulations! you made lovely dresses! I also love the yellow skirt and the scallop edge jacket. You don;t sew like a beginner! Maybe we can find a pattern for the stripped dress.

  • Missing

    Dec 14, 2011, 08.27 AMby rochelle49

    Congratulations! you made lovely dresses! I also love the yellow skirt and the scallop edge jacket. You don;t sew like a beginner! Maybe we can find a pattern for the stripped dress.

  • Missing

    Dec 14, 2011, 08.26 AMby rochelle49

    Congratulations! you made lovely dresses! I also love the yellow skirt and the scallop edge jacket. You don;t sew like a beginner! Maybe we can find a pattern for the stripped dress.

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    Dec 11, 2011, 07.38 AMby baka-pepica

    really cool and vintage projects :)

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    Dec 9, 2011, 11.30 AMby stitchybritt

    Great to see you here Miss Tilly! Love your style muse – I’m going to have to google her.

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    Dec 9, 2011, 08.32 AMby loulourosa

    You sure make lovely things (I love Jean Seberg too)

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    Dec 8, 2011, 02.36 PMby oonaballoona

    milli vannilli!! i never got the reference!

    i loved reading this, especially the seam ripper part. you rock, miss tilly.

  • Lady_large

    Dec 8, 2011, 04.05 AMby LadyDanburry

    You have great style. And I love that stripey breathless dress also.

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    Dec 7, 2011, 05.24 PMby pampula

    Congratulations on beeing featured! It was great to read about you, you seem such a lovely person and your projects are inspiring:)

  • Missing

    Dec 7, 2011, 01.18 PMby karenH44

    I love your fashions. Congratulations!

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    Dec 7, 2011, 08.44 AMby carmencitab

    Congratulations!

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    Dec 6, 2011, 09.51 PMby raving

    Love the feature, was a pleasure to read. Also, all the creations are fantastic, they’re all so beautiful. Congratulations on the feature :)

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    Dec 6, 2011, 08.41 PMby escorpio

    I love your secret weapon!

  • Missing

    Dec 6, 2011, 03.38 PMby oldfashioned

    Yay you for being featured! As always beautiful clothes and a style that rocks!

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    Dec 6, 2011, 02.25 PMby kerstika

    Congratulations! I love your projects and I think your pictures always bring across your love for sewing and beautiful clothes :)

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    Dec 6, 2011, 10.54 AMby missb-1

    I admire your work, all your projects are great. Congrats on being featured, you certainly deserve it.

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    Dec 6, 2011, 02.58 AMby dixiediy

    congrats tilly, i think you and i share some inspiration sources. i, too, love anna karina (and jean luc godard movies in general) and i have a secret dream of recreating that breathless dress, too. if only i had the guts to get a pixie cut to go with it!

  • Missing

    Dec 6, 2011, 02.18 AMby sewster55

    Fantastic work. I also just took up sewing recently just over a year ago and I’m amazed how much I’ve learned & how much I’ve improved. I’m amazed at the quality and the effect one can create with well chosen materials and patterns.. I also have limited time but a little can go a ways. I take my hat off to you because it looks like you are making beautiful things & have a really great eye. Maybe a new career path for you? Looks like you are tanented. I like your fabric choices

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    Dec 5, 2011, 11.42 PMby mollykatherine

    Congrats tilly! :) x

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    Dec 5, 2011, 10.14 PMby Redsonia

    I love your story and your projects. Congrats on being featured.

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