Learn to Sew Online with Tilly and The Buttons: Levels 1 & 2 Review

Learning how to sew; beginners guide. Tilly and the Buttons Online dressmaking course review

If you are considering learning to sew, and are looking into courses then you need to think about this. Tilly Walnes from Tilly and the Buttons has released two new online classes, specifically for people who want to learn to sew. The whole point of these classes is that you don't need to travel anywhere, and you will be guided through everything you need to know to get started as a dressmaker. Level 1 is titled 'Make Friends with a Sewing Machine' and costs £25. It covers the basics of setting up and operating a machine, as well as giving some troubleshooting tips and advice. Level 2 'Learn to Sew Skirts' costs £45 and includes a downloadable skirt pattern with step by step tutorials in constructing one of two possible garments. Both courses are based on those run in the London workshops, with the advantage of being able to be completed anywhere, at any time.


I signed up for the two course bundle which costs £60 (a saving of £10 as opposed to buying the two separately). The booking process is easy (and obviously, online). The workshop overviews are very detailed, so it's really clear what you are signing up for. There are also FAQs on the workshop pages so you can decide if it is right for you before you sign up. As these are online courses you will also need all of your own equipment and materials to work with. Information on what you need is included as part of Level 1, so if like me you are starting with nothing at all then don't worry....there is a downloadable list of supplies and a video explaining what to look for in a sewing machine. As this course is online you can spread it out over a number of evenings or a weekend (whatever suits you really). I set aside a long and intensive day, with lunch in the middle, and got through it all (with a more basic skirt choice). This did mean having all my equipment ready, and having had a peek ahead to see what fabric I needed for my skirt.

Learn to Sew Online with Tilly and The Buttons: Levels 1 & 2 Review


Wherever you want! The whole point is that you can learn these skills without having to get to specific place on certain dates. You can log in online at any time that suits you, rather than having to book ahead. I have previously tried to find classes within travelling distance of home on days when I wasn't working and it wasn't easy. It also costs less than attending a class because you aren't paying for those location overheads (or for petrol/train tickets either for that matter).

You do need to have your own equipment though, and you are on your own. There is a community feature so that you can ask questions on any lesson, but this is obviously not the same as having an instructor over your shoulder, or a fellow beginner next to you. 

(That said you could always make a day of it with a friend at one of your homes....)

Learn to Sew Online with Tilly and The Buttons: Levels 1 & 2 Review


The courses are arranged into pages for each section. These pages have text, downloads and usually a video tutorial too (the text mainly sums up the videos). Tilly leads the videos herself, which is brilliant because she's friendly and very clear. She takes time to explain everything and demonstrates each step so that learners can follow along. The language used throughout is beginner friendly, and written in plain English, making it easy to follow....and eventually making it easier to master the basics. I have also paused and played some of these videos a couple of times over to get the hang of specific skills or to check what I was doing. This is one of the best things about learning online, and these courses take advantage of lots of tools to make learning easier (video, pdf, web links, forums and links to Pinterest for inspiration).

Pattern and skills

In Level 1 you learn to make a Brigitte scarf. This pattern is also featured in the book Love at First Stitch, and is an excellent way of using the skills covered in the workshop to create a first wearable item: setting up and operating a sewing machine, sewing in straight lines and turning corners. There are lots of skills covered that you don't necessarily need to make the scarf, but which are invaluable in going forward. Things like changing needles, feet and cleaning the machine are all things that you need to make future projects. The downloadable fact sheets (and the summary points in each lesson page) are all useful for future reference, and mean you don't have to write down or memorise lots of information.

I even learned that my machine had a thread cutter that I never knew existed. Love it now.

[I've used my scarf to add a pop of colour to my handbag, and as a belt threaded through jeans too]

Learn to Sew Online with Tilly and The Buttons: Levels 1 & 2 Review

In Level 2 you learn to make a Dominique skirt, choosing from flared and straight variations. All aspects of both variations are covered in the course so feel free to pick either. The straight version is easier and uses less fabric so if you want something simple to start with this may be the best option for your first one. If you are a perfectionist then a bit of practice before trying to sew on the pockets is also a good idea (mine are not exactly symmetrical, and took a lot of work to get there too). However, the whole point of learning to sew is to make things in the styles you prefer and to actually learn new skills, so if you prefer flared there's no reason not to go for it! Personally, I think I prefer the style of the flared version, though the straight version (which I made) will be more practical in the summer.

Learn to Sew Online with Tilly and The Buttons: Levels 1 & 2 workshop review

This pattern is available on its own from the Tilly and the Buttons online store, and signing up for this course gives you a pdf version for download or 20% off a paper version. Downloading and assembling pdf patterns is not that complicated so shouldn't put off beginners. However, I found it took me longer than the 15 minutes it should (maybe up to 30 minutes, but possibly that's because I'm not very experienced at it). If you are buying this course for someone else I definitely recommend treating them to a paper pattern as it's one less skill to have to figure out.

One thing I like about this level 2 workshop is that it tells you exactly which fabrics are being used and where to buy them from. Starting out I had no idea what to look for and this makes life so much easier. It also makes it more likely to be a successful skirt if it's in the right fabric! I chose a chambray fabric from Maud's Fabric Finds at £15pm. I bought 1m and had plenty left over. It was easy to cut and sew with, and pressed folds well when I needed it to, so I would definitely recommend this if you are looking for ideas.

Learn to Sew Online with Tilly and The Buttons: Levels 1 & 2 workshop reviewSkills covered in making this skirt include understanding dressmaking instructions as well as sewing skills: measuring your body and selecting pattern sizes, understanding how to lay out patterns and transferring them to fabric, cutting and pinning pattern pieces, sewing and finishing seams, inserting an elasticated waistband, and different ways of finishing hems. Every part is covered in the tutorials with demonstrations to give an idea of what you should be doing. I followed each video then sewed along with it. I also watched the videos for the other skirt (with a cup of tea), even though I didn't need to, as part of getting more familiar with sewing terms and conventions.

The markings on the pattern pieces are minimal which makes it easy to understand what they mean, and there are only a couple of pattern pieces to cut out too, so less danger of getting mixed up. The pattern markings and instructions don't look exactly like commercial patterns so don't be surprised if you open up a pattern from a different manufacturer and it looks unfamiliar....Tilly's materials are specifically designed for beginners. I found the pattern was very easy to follow, and I had no problems in figuring out what to do.

Learning how to sew; beginners guide. Online dressmaking course review


Did I learn everything I wanted to?
Yes. The workshops showed how to thread a machine and how to sew basic stitches. I was able to create a wearable garment and know enough to tackle something different on my own. I think moving on to a commercial pattern might be a big step from this course, and having a look at Tilly's other patterns or Love at First Stitch might be more appropriate.

Could I have achieved this on my own?
In a way I was on my own as I was literally alone in my house. However, could I have learned these skills without joining the structured course? Probably not. Though the internet is full of YouTube videos that cover all these skills in one way or another I think you need someone to guide you through it as a beginner, at least to make sure you're on the right track, as there is too much out there otherwise. Level 2 especially is something that would be difficult to tackle with no tuition...which pattern to go for to start with? That's before learning how to actually make a garment or finish seams.

Loved and loathed
Loved being able to take my time and not have to travel anywhere.
Loathed having to have all my own equipment to start learning on.

Who would I recommend this to?
I would recommend this course to anyone who wants to learn to sew or refresh their skills. Flexibility of time and location is a massive advantage. This is also a cheaper option than most day classes, especially if you can get a loan of a machine for a weekend.

If you fancy more like this...
I have also tried Tilly's online workshop for learning to sew jersey tops on a regular sewing machine and made a Bettine Dress (advised as a good next step after Level 2).

Have you tried any other online learning courses? Which would you recommend for sewing beginners?

Learning how to sew; beginners guide. Online dressmaking course review

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Welcome to Sewing and Other Stories; my journeys with sewing and knitting; pattern reviews, tips and guides for beginners. I'm also the designer behind West Beach Knits knitting patterns and I host a Knitting and Sewing channel on YouTube where you can see all of this in person. Come have a look!

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