The Orla blouse from Tilly and the Buttons

Ok, I’ll hold my hands up! I have been known to be a little sniffy about some independent patterns. IMHO they aren’t all of as good a quality as their price might suggest. I don’t think they’ve always been as rigorously tested or checked as they ought to be before they are released onto the open market and that makes me a quite cross, not because I can’t sort it out when things go wrong because I can. I get cross because I know there are lots of really keen new sewers out there who love to test their growing skill-base and when something goes badly wrong with a make they haven’t got the experience I’ve gained over the years to know how to sort it out and that’s not fair. Money has been spent on pattern, fabric, trims etc etc (often quite a lot) as well as valuable time and it’s really disappointing and dispiriting. I want everyone to love sewing as much as me and I know we learn from our mistakes but it can put people off so easily that they might not try again and who can blame them.

Anyway, if you’ve read my blog about the Sewing Weekender in August, you’ll know that one of the speakers was Tilly Walnes of Tilly and the Buttons. You’ll also know that I was very impressed with her whole process and ethos of pattern development so I bought an Orla blouse pattern from her and now here’s a little review after I’ve made it!


Firstly, it’s very nice quality packaging with very clear graphics and the instruction booklet inside is equally clear and thorough.img_0005

If I had to say just ONE thing I liked best about the pattern it’s the fact it doesn’t use ‘standard’ dress sizing. There are few things more demoralising than seeing your body measurements translate into a garment size which is usually MASSIVELY larger than the size you would buy in the shops. I’ve  learnt this the hard way (boy, have I learnt it!!) but it’s very difficult, now that I’m teaching others to sew, to encourage my students to stick with their stats and not give in to understandable vanity. This is where my years of experience are invaluable because I can try to help them avoid the many and varied pitfalls of dressmaking especially when it comes to sizing.

Having taken my own body measurements I opted to make a size 5, there is also a table of finished garment measurements which is useful too (provided you’re rigorous about accurate seam allowances when you’re constructing!) From here it’s the usual process of cutting out the pattern and laying it up on the fabric. My problem was that I didn’t have quite the amount of fabric needed, added to which it was a Liberty print (on cotton twill) with a very distinct stripe. I bought it earlier in the year at the Birmingham Rag Market.

Liberty Ianthe print

Luckily this fabric is 150cms wide so by folding the selvedges into the centre meant I could get the front and back out exactly level with each other.img_0006

This was fine and dandy until it was obvious that by reversing the pattern piece I couldn’t see the print properly through the excellent quality paper! Because of this I fiddled about for a while cutting out the back and then reversing the fabric so that I could cut the front piece with the pattern uppermost. I think the photo might explain this better.

The fabric and the front pattern piece reversed so that I can see the design better.

There wasn’t quite enough fabric left to cut full length sleeves so once again I had to fiddle some more by joining fabric together, and matching the design.img_0015

First I extended the length of the grain line so that I could fold it back against itself and then I worked out where the join would have to be in relation to the cuff.

You can see the raw edges where the fabric wasn’t quite enough and the folded back pattern piece where the new join would be.
checking where the match needs to go
Two layers placed together before cutting out a pair of sleeves.
Sleeves cut out, pinned and ready to sew.


It was all a bit long-winded and I couldn’t get a completely perfect match but it isn’t too bad and actually it looks a bit like a cuff anyway on the finished blouse.

The instruction booklet is very clear with step by step photographs to follow which are actually really helpful if you’re not great at written instructions.

I haven’t inserted an exposed zip before but I found almost all the instructions very straightforward, the only thing I noticed was that in the photos the end of the zip had been secured with iron-on interfacing but I never found that written down. Anyway I copied the photos and it all turned out fine. The opening is interfaced for stability before cutting down the centre back line (there’s a pattern piece for the interfacing which has the markings on it so it’s pretty hard to go wrong if you use that) By sewing first down one side first, then the other, and finally across the bottom to enclose the small triangle of fabric the instructions were very clear.

The rest of the construction as pretty straightforward, I decided I didn’t want the collar so I just applied the neck facing (there was one written instruction relating to this that I couldn’t make head nor tail of so I did it my own way)

Everything else went together very well, the curved hem is faced and under stitched which gives a very nice quality finish, I slip-stitched it up so that it’s invisible but you could topstitch it if you like.

the facings on the hem are under stitched to help them lay nice and flat.

The sleeves went in well too and the joins I had to put in aren’t too visible, given the variability of the twill weave and the print.img_0012_2

All in all I was impressed with the overall accuracy of the pattern, everything fitted together well and the written and photographed instructions were helpful. The tone of the instructions were straightforward and encouraging, plus there’s an online link with more support if you need it. The quality of the paper is very good and the printed markings are clear although I might have put a couple more tailor tacks to indicate the line of the back darts a little more. The curved front dart (which I haven’t mentioned until now) went together beautifully.

I could do with giving the front darts a bit more of a press!


Given that I had a very limited amount of fabric I’m over the moon with how well the pattern lines up across the sleeves and the body. While I was writing this I saw a post on Instagram about the Bettine pattern saying that there was way too much fabric allowed for the very small sizes. I don’t know if that would be true for the Orla too but I think this is because the pattern gives single amounts of fabric per style according to their widths, and not individual amounts per size like ‘commercial’ patterns. This streamlines the instructions on the packaging and is based on the largest sizes so that all sizes have enough, and factors like a one-way design. Plain fabrics could easily take less. Maybe if you’re a tiny size you could take a punt on buying less but I’d be careful doing that if it’s the first time you’ve made that pattern, or make your own lay plan before buying the fabric so you’re sure.

I’m happy with the fit although I might skim it in a fraction, not a whole size though, and I might take out the sleeves and reset them because the shoulders are a bit too wide for my liking and the pleat at the crown emphasises that. I’ll definitely be making another Orla, perhaps in a something a bit floaty like a crepe de chine. It makes a lovely change from a traditional shirt and is smarter than a T-shirt. The bottom-skimming length is just right too and it would probably look good extended down to dress length as well.

Happy Sewing

love Sue xx

5 thoughts on “The Orla blouse from Tilly and the Buttons

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