Bobbins and Buttons – A review of 2017!

Here we are in 2018! I haven’t written an end of year review of my sewing activities before. Last year I really did enjoy reading other peoples yearly reviews and realised it might be a good way of helping make achievable plans for the year ahead.  Last year I had more on my business plate than any other year of running Bobbins and Buttons and have therefore spent more time planning than ever before. I tend to be over optimistic with what can be achieved in my time, rather than thinking I haven’t got time to do that extra sewing project I always think I have! So I decided looking at what I have done over the past year would be a good way of helping the plans going forward for the new year and perhaps help me make realistic goals!

Starting from the top of my info graph – My handmade wardrobe makes- In 2014 I decided to give myself a challenge of only making clothes for one year. One year turned into two and though after two years I ended my challenge the only things I have bought to date are a few items of knitwear. I try to find a handmade solution to any wardrobe needs. I also like to try new fabrics, techniques and cut patterns for shapes that might ultimately end up in my dressmaking pattern range.

This year I have made 42 garments for myself which feels quite excessive, however I know I have worn and do wear most of these items. I have also generated lots of ideas for new dressmaking patterns for my range.

I made a good selection of clothing for my summer holidays mostly from patterns that came free with the sewing mags. I also tried styles I wouldn’t normally wear. I was pleased with all the results and everything got worn.

Earlier in the year I made a wool coat and I have made lots of new wardrobe stables including every day dresses and stretch tops to wear with them.

One of the few remaining bought items of clothing in my wardrobe is an old faithful pair of jeans that are around 15 years old, though they are staying put I felt the need for another pair with a slightly higher cut waist.  I tackled this a few months ago, and ended up making a second pair soon after in the hope of achieving the perfect fit.

My wardrobe makes also include taking part in three incentives, I only managed to meet one deadline. I made this jacket for The Makery’s incentive the Refashioner2017 I did get it published on my blog before the deadline. I really loved this competition. I don’t do much up-cycling on the whole but I think it is a great thing to do, it really makes the best of having sewing skills in a truly ethical way.  There was some fabulously clever ideas entered in this comp by some seriously talented people really showcasing what can be done with a unwanted item of clothing. Very inspiring!

I also made a vintage pledge for the incentive set by A Stitching Odyssey, I pledged to make five garments. I did achieve four, however I still have two to write about. I think I really wanted more time with this challenge, I love learning the different methods used in eras gone by. I used original patterns for my makes but ended up speeding things up a little by sewing them together my way without spending as much time reading the methods written in the instructions as I should have.

I was also inspired to take part in The Big Stitch up-cycling incentive set in the summer by the British heart foundation. However I didn’t get anywhere near the deadline and still have several items to work on.

I made 34 items of clothing for kids, these were mainly for my kids including summer holiday wardrobes makes, party clothes and dressing up outfits. I also made samples of the next styles for the dressmaking pattern range which have all been photographed ready for the next pattern release dates. I like to test out new dressmaking pattern ideas on my two little models, I am always guaranteed a totally honest opinion!!

Patterns – Well I started strongly and got my first pattern written, tested and published with the next few lined up and ready to go, however this didn’t quite happen! Largely because of all the other things I was doing which ended up taking all my time…a good case for a making plans!

One of the things I have been busy with is a freelance job, working for a new upcoming brand called Jog on London which is a menswear athleisure brand. This has been my first time working in menswear design and has given me a great insight for adding mens patterns to my dressmaking pattern collection. Over the last year I have designed styles and made 67 patterns for new ranges and development for Jog on London. It is quite usual to design and make samples of 100’s of styles for a high street range that is then reduced to only 20 or so styles that actually get produced, its very exciting to see it selling in nearly all Topman stores!


I have also written 24 projects for sewing magazines. This year I have specialised in clothing projects for the magazines including styles for ladies, kids and men. My projects have been featured in Sew magazine, Sewing World and Sew Now. Back issues of all the mags can be bought if you missed any projects that you want to make.

You might have noticed I started selling fabric which totaled 625 lines at the end of 2017.

The fabric range grew slightly quicker than planned ….its maybe not the best idea to run a fabric shop if you are a fabric addict!!

But seriously the fabrics have proved a positive addition to my offering and enables me to develop patterns and projects in the fabrics I intend. As well as helping customers in classes buy the right fabrics.

Classes ….where it all started and still the favorite part of my business. Last year I taught 147 classes. I’m lucky to have so many amazing customers all with ideas of where they want to take their sewing skills. It’s such a joy to be able to help this happen.

Lastly there is my blog which I love writing and sharing. I’ve written 45 posts over the last year. Posts have been a mix of handmade wardrobe makes, tutorials and projects as well as the newly added category – recipes – of cakes and bakes that I serve in my classes.

My blog had a bit of an upgrade at the beginning of last year when I employed the skills of super talented local photographer Dean Leivers to help with photography, in particular with my handmade wardrobe makes which I’ve always struggled to photograph. Since then I’ve worked with Dean on the first shoot for my patterns and shoots for promotional material.

This year I am planning to add more to my blog with more tutorials, techniques and projects as well as ideas and adaptations for my patterns.

I think I had quite a productive year in 2017, I hope you did to. Here’s hoping 2018 is a good one. Happy new year.

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Julia Claridge

I was about 6 or 7 years old when I had my first go on a sewing machine, it was an old hand crank machine that my mum used with her patients, she was an occupational therapist. I still vividly remember watching with amazement as the tiny perfectly formed stitches were created as I turned the handle. I Grew up in the 70’s and 80’s when buying clothes was less affordable and dressmaking was an answer to updating your wardrobe more regularly. My own mother was a talented dressmaker who made most of my clothes and my sisters clothes as well as a many for herself. I soon got involved with making my clothes, I loved the whole experience of picking out fabrics, trims and a pattern to create a new outfit, then going home to make a new garment or outfit. When it came to leaving school I visited a careers advisor who asked what I wanted to do next. My answer was ..Sew! Read more...

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