Love at first stitch // book review + giveaway

Tilly's book*I was sent a copy of Love at First Stitch free of charge and all opinions, egregious sewing blunders, and mischievous plots are my own.

From Love at First Stitch by Tilly Walnes, © 2014 by Tilly Walnes.
Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications Inc., Boston,

When I first started sewing I made a lot of pretty hysterical errors.

One time I tried to replicate a Star Wars dress that was originally made in some sort of textured crepe using a very lofty knit fabric just because the color was similar and the texture looked the same. I assumed that the grainline was something anal people bothered with and would cut things wherever they fit at whatever angle they fit and then scoff at the yardage suggestions. Oh, and I never ever finished an entire edge intentionally. There was a phase when I sewed exclusively with my mom’s serger and edges were just sort of finished by default but otherwise everything was just sort of open and happily fraying away on the inside. I’m also pretty sure I lost most of the extra presser feet from my first sewing machine because I thought they were extraneous and unnecessary.

Tilly's book

Who am I kidding, I still wouldn’t call myself any kind of sewing guru. Up until a few months ago I was still sewing buttonholes and zippers by hand to avoid learning how to do it on the machine.

In defense of babby Ping, I didn’t exactly have someone ready and available 24/7 to help me figure things out the right way and I was extremely determined to make these garments, right way or not.

Tilly's book

Anyway, the point is, ohmylord I wish I had Tilly’s book back then.

Things I was clueless about as a beginning seamstress that Tilly’s Book would’ve enlightened me about:

Backstitching: Never did this. Always wondered why my seams would come apart. Sometimes I would fray check the ends of my seams in desperation. (Am I sharing too much?)

Choosing fabric: I had SO much trouble with this. Like that time I tried making Kaylee’s Shindig dress out of cotton batiste. YEAH. That happened.

-Seam allowances: Another thing I assumed was just a helpful suggestion. I would sew Big4 patterns (usually 5/8″ seams) with about a 3/8″ seam and then wonder why their patterns were always so big on me. -headdesk-

Facings: Those extra pieces were just optional. I never used them. Like actually never.

-Inserting sleeves: For some reason I completely missed the memo on gathering the top of the sleeve piece slightly before inserting it into the armhole so I would inevitably end up chopping off about 1/2″ off the top of the sleeve and then wondering why my shoulders were too tight.

Yes. I’m just going to go hide in a corner now.

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The other thing I love about Tilly’s philosophy with this book is that she’s included several patterns meant to help a beginning seamstress learn how to sew without being stuck making pillowcases and curtains.

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The Clemence skirt is so cute and such a simple way to get started with sewing and learning the basics. And don’t get me started on the Mimi blouse. And yes, this aesthetic may not be your cup of tea but I love getting people to start sewing and I love the idea of encouraging people to jump right in sewing things they’ll wear and love. (Yes, I was one of those kids whose moms made them sew a million straight lines on scrap fabric before being allowed to touch the fun stuff, why do you ask?)

Tilly's book

As someone who’s been sewing for many years, this book wouldn’t necessarily be at the top of my need-to-have list, but I’ve been showing it to friends who have expressed an interest in sewing as a means of illustrating how accessible these skills are. (No but seriously, my sister is visiting next week and is being dragged to sewing club where I’ve instructed the Crafty Foxes to convert her. I will also be leaving this book around her vicinity accidentally on purpose. Hee.)

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In my extremely biased opinion, this is my favorite page.

Anyway, on to the fun part: Tilly’s book has finally come to the US and she generously sent me an extra copy of her book to give away to a Peneloping reader!

Just comment below telling me a sewing technique you’ve avoided like the plague or one you’d like to learn. Make sure you include your email so you can be contacted about receiving your prize!

This giveaway is open to US readers only (sorry, international friends!) and will be open until midnight Monday, October 27th. The winner will be announced shortly after.


54 thoughts on “Love at first stitch // book review + giveaway”

  1. Oh, I’d just like to know how to sew better. I don’t sew much, and it’s a skill I’ve been wanting to learn better for awhile now. But one thing I have avoided is zippers!
    I’ve been wanting this book for awhile now, it looks so good! I hope I win!! My email is, and my blog is . Thanks for the great giveaway!

  2. I can’t believe you were sewing buttonholes by hand! I can’t even imagine. I struggle with keeping my topstitching straight, and have yet to attempt to make pants. The patterns in Tilly’s book look great!

  3. Facings are still something I still can’t quite wrap my brain around. Also buttons, zippers, and most closures. Maybe Tilly can help? Actually, I could really use this book!

  4. Buttons !!!! Theu freak me out….probably doesn’t help that my machine kinda eats the fabric when you try to make button holes…

  5. I’m still not great with button placement – like, how am I supposed to figure out where the machine will start? lol I’m thinking this book would clear that up. (But mostly I’m just jealous of the patterns! This Megan needs a Megan dress!)

  6. I also tried to replicate without any clue of what I was doing! I tried to sew a maxi skirt a few years ago. Looked adorable on the hanger and I was SO proud of myself! Then finally tried it on after gloating to all my family and friends about how fabulous of a seamstress I was after just my first project – and I couldn’t walk! There was no stretch to the fabric and I had sewn a tube. I basically sewed myself a mermaid fin. 🙂

  7. I hate finishing my seam allowances (some times I serve, sometimes I pink, so lazy), but I would love to be better about doing it. Maybe if I learned how to use seam binding I would properly finish things.

  8. I’ve made quite a few dresses, but all sleeveless. I’m a bit frightened of sleeves, and would love to learn how to do them the proper way!!

  9. Oh this book looks amazing. I will do almost anything to avoid zippers and button holes. Thanks for the giveaway.

  10. I’ve been avoiding machine sewing altogether! Hand stitching has always been my go to, so I would love to start from the beginning and see where this hobby takes me!

  11. This will sound bad, but I avoid bias tape! I tried it a few times, and it always looks bad! I am willing to try again, though

  12. As a beginner, I am intimidated by zippers and button holes. For some reason, particularly side zippers on dresses. I know that if I take my time and build my skills by repeated making garments with zippers and buttons, I’ll get the hang of it. Hope so!

  13. I need to learn all of it! I’ve only learned how sew quilts, but I’ve been itching to get into sewing clothes and having a handmade wardrobe 🙂

  14. I’m terrified of altering patterns. Lots of my patterns will probably sit there unused forever unless I figure out how to adapt them for my body!

    I love this post — it made me feel so much better about my shortcomings as a new sewist!

  15. Something I would love to learn to use properly is interfacing. Whenever I see it’s used in a pattern I put on my blinders and pretend it does not exist. So I would love to read this book to find out how to do things!

  16. Hemming skirts. I can’t seem to hem a skirt cleanly. Especially on any skirt that’s a little fuller than straight. Ugghh!

  17. I avoid Zippers like the plague!!!!! Ugh i never get them straight and the waistline is always off by 1/8″

  18. Set-in sleeves are my downfall. I’ve been avoiding it mostly by choosing raglan sleeves or setting them in flat for tee-shirts., but I really need to practice. I can’t seem to sew them without getting extra/unwanted folds of my garment caught in my seam line.

  19. Pressing; I hate pressing. If I can get away without doing it, I will. I also eyeball seams and hems and such.

  20. II re discovered my love of sewing garments after making a lot of blankets. I have been sewing a long time, I bought this book because I somehow I just thought I needed it. I sat down and actually read it and have put her instruction to use. This book is an example of how something simple, can be SO useful. I show it to anyone that I think will look at it. YEAH FOR REAL BOOKS! Enter me in the drawing, I have two daughters that need to learn to sew and I won’t make them sew endless lines before the real thing! 🙂

  21. Hmm, I’ve been sewing for many years and especially love doing heirloom sewing. The thing that I avoid most is learning how to use my cover stitch machine and embroidery machine! Thanks for the giveaway. I love books and always learn something new and helpful from the.

  22. Zippers. I still do most of them by hand because of how many times I have to rip out my machine stitched ones!

  23. Hi! I’m a beginner sewer and I have quite afraid of tackling pockets! That sounds silly when I say it out loud but the whole thing terrifys me. And like most of the comments, buttons. Haven’t quite gotten that done yet either.

  24. The one thing I avoid like the plague is Buttonholes. I can sew buttons on for days but dont think you will have a hole to put it in. I just get so upset with the idea my hubby does them for me ( ruth(dot)griffeth(at)att(dot)net )

  25. I’ve never made anything with sleeves before… Determined to learn to sew, but need all the help I can get! One day, I want to be able to make whatever I imagine in my head. For now, I’m stuck learning the basics. Thanks for holding the giveaway and giving one beginner a shot at learning new skills! And thanks Tilly for all the effort that went into the book -love that teaches you how to make real clothes.

  26. Oh, zippers: The bane of my existence. I’ve inserted them successfully; I’ve inserted them less than successfully. My goal for the next year is to really get a handle on them. Zip to it!

  27. I am a trained or seasoned seamstress’ nightmare! I use the same needle for everything, use patterns and their instructions as “guidelines” then wonder why things don’t fit properly, and if I keep telling you all my dirty little sewing secrets you’ll end up deleting this comment and reporting me to the fashion police.

    Thank you for sharing your secrets and review of the book. This is a wonderful giveaway.

  28. I’ve been avoiding bias binding since my brain cannot wrap itself around the fact that you can go around a curve and not end up with a million tucks, lumps, and bumps. I’ve managed to keep away from bias tape by basically fully lining everything, haha!

  29. Shirt making, in general. I’ve made one shirt dress type thing with somewhat wonky set-in sleeves and every other single thing is a skirt or a sleeveless dress. I really want to learn how to make buttonholes and set-in sleeves and seam finishing look neat!

  30. I started sewing a few months ago. My first real patter was Tilly’s Coco (highly recommend!!). I’m nervous about inserting sleeves. The Coco has sleeves, but they’re a snap when using a ponte knit!

  31. Well I do not like to do smocking. I am so terrified I am going to screw it up so bad. I have a REALLY Cute top that I want to make but you have to do the whole back in “smocking”. I do not know if that is what everyone calls it, it is what my Great Aunt taught me it was called that.

  32. Finishing seams! There are so many options and I’m always confused which one to choose – patterns never seem to give advice on this.

  33. Sewing up a blouse. I’ve been able to sew up clothing for my kids, but making a blouse for myself seems daunting.

  34. I’m just afraid of sewing things that look really hard. I can follow patterns but sometimes I get really intimidated. I can’t think of one technique specifically that scares me.

  35. Zippers, they are needful but fearful things to sew. Also branching out to patterns that require such things like sleeves, or lining, they all seem quite intimidating. But I am hopeful in due time through many mistakes I can make my dreams in my head come true! 🙂

  36. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been following your blog for two years and this is the first comment I make. There’s always a time to start.

    In no way am I beginning sewer, but still to this day, buttonholes cause me so much grief. It’s probably because my sewing machine’s automatic buttonhole thing-a-mabob (if I am to use technical language) doesn’t work. Now I have all these button-down blouses without any buttonholes because I’m too scared to ruin chiffon. My grandmother used to just sew on the buttons and then add snaps underneath. But I am that dork who doesn’t want to take the easy way out. I’ve tried to hand-sew buttonholes a couple of times with . . . not so great outcomes.

    But I’ve learned that “not so great outcomes” is the definition of my sewing. I only learned this year that I should probably make muslin mock-ups for all of my garments before I cut into my fabric.

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