Great British Sewing Bee contestant Tilly and the Buttons talks about her TV experience, what it was like to make a dress in 7 hours, and reveals the best kept sewing secret.


Please tell us a little bit about yourself and where you're from

Hi! Thanks for having me. My name is Tilly, aka Tilly and the Buttons, and I'm from the internet. Well, that's how it feels in any case! I'm really from Brixton, in South London.

What's your earliest craft memory?

I only got into sewing a few years ago, but as a child I was constantly covered in paint and glitter and glue and clay. I had a particular penchant for Fimo in those days… I still use it occasionally!

tilly buttons interview 1
We love this polka dot Mathilde blouse!

What was it about sewing that appealed to you?

The reason I began sewing was to put my hands to a more creative use than simply typing on a computer all day. I was always daydreaming about dresses, so I loved the idea of being able to turn those daydreams into a reality.

What inspires you?

The maker attitude that you don't have to leave everything to the experts – you can make stuff yourself. Yes!

You've got a gorgeous handmade dress collection – do you have a favourite one and why?

Why thank you! I love making fancy dresses with trimmings and embellishments, but really the ones I'm most fond of are the homemade garments I wear on a regular basis.

tilly buttons interview 2
The Miette Skirt is super simple and quick to make

I have a serious soft spot for my Miette Skirt. I designed the pattern in response to what I saw was a lack of suitable patterns for novice stitchers. Miette is seriously easy to make, with no zippers, no buttonholes, super-simple fitting and in-depth photo tutorials.

It means a lot to me to be able to help get new people into sewing. Plus it just looks really awesome 70s chic!

What's the best-kept sewing secret?

That it's not as difficult as some people would have you believe! It seriously frustrates me when I hear/read anyone trying to make out that you can only sew if you've been doing it since you were in the womb. Or, worse still, nitpicking at someone else's creative work.

Personally, I want to encourage everyone to give sewing a try. It doesn't take much to start creating clothes that you love to wear. The details may not be exactly perfect, but who cares? You made it yourself!

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The scalloped neck dress – one of Tilly's projects from The Great British Sewing Bee

Why did you decide to enter the Great British Sewing Bee?

Some of my lovely blog readers encouraged me to apply, and it sounded like a fantastic opportunity to be part of something that would spread the sewing bug to a mass audience. And it really had an impact!

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Previously, most people would look at me like I was completely crazy if I told them I sewed my own clothes, but suddenly it's become acceptable!

The Great British Sewing Bee's set looked amazing! What was it like being on TV, rummaging through all that incredible fabric?

Oh my goodness, it was so hard to restrict fabric-browsing time – especially when you only had an hour to make something! We would spend quite a while stroking the fabrics, help each other find matching zippers and thread…

Making a dress in 7 hours sounds utterly terrifying – how did you manage it?

The timescales were pretty ridiculous, but the whole point was that it was meant to be challenging. It would have been a totally different show if we'd been given enough time to finish everything properly – more like Project Runway!

It was pretty stressful, particularly as you had to give the cameras a running commentary on everything you were doing, but we had a good giggle at the same time.

What has happened since the Great British Sewing Bee? Do you still stay in touch with the other contestants?

Yes, I'm still good friends with the other contestants – we bonded instantly. I speak to Lauren and Stuart quite a bit.

What's next for you?

I'm now working harder than ever on some super-exciting projects to help spread the sewing bug… watch this space!

Visit Tilly's blog


All images © Tilly & The Buttons


Karen has been writing for magazines for over 21 years and currently splits her time between journalism and running Creative Biscuit Ceramics Café in east London with her partner Tim. Karen has written for a wide range of publications, from showbiz titles to real life features with plenty of craft and design in the mix too. She now focuses on writing about small creative businesses, craft, design, homes and living well for publications such as Mollie Makes and The Simple Things as well as running creative workshops from her café and making her own ceramics.

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