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If you like COS and you like making clothes, then you will love this new book by Frances Tobin. The Maker’s Atelier sewing brand (selling paper patterns and making kits) was set up by the 57-year-old designer two-and-a-half years ago; when despite a minor COS habit, she couldn’t find exactly what she wanted to wear (at the right quality), on the high street.


The Maker’s Atelier: sewing with style  book is beautifully packaged and includes eight patterns for interesting basics, these are neatly contained in a separate envelope at the back. The book includes plenty of detail, shows different ways to wear the clothes and has a ‘where to buy’ list for fabrics and resources. I had a quick chat with Brighton-based Frances, a designer who has worked for brands including Gucci, Les Copains and Warehouse and graduated in Fashion & Textiles from the Royal College of Art:

TNMA: How did the book come about?

FT: I never imagined I’d be doing a book but then an editor spotted one of my postcards (for sewing patterns and making kits) in a fabric shop in Brighton and saw the potential. The Maker’s Atelier had only been going a couple of months so it was quite unexpected.


TNMA: And the pattern business?

FT: I’ve always made my own clothes, especially when I was working in Italy in the late 1980s when it was all leather and pearls. I’d always turn up at work in clothes I’d hacked about to suit myself. A couple of years ago, I came out of a long relationship and my sister died all in the same month, it was devastating. I was all at sea – it is shocking when one of your siblings dies – I just decided to do what I wanted and not compromise. We sold the flat, I took half the money and decided to create a small, aspirational brand.

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TNMA: Why do you think there is a return to making and DIY?

FT: People have realised that shopping isn’t a hobby in its own right, it’s not all about money and acquiring things; they want a sense of achievement from their spare time. And there are women who find the high street tricky or who want clothes made from better fabrics at a cheaper price. There are simple clothes on the high street but they are more expensive than DIY and you can’t hide rubbish fabrics. The only places I shop are COS and &Other Stories and that’s because they transcend age. My patterns are for women of all ages and so I wanted to reflect this in the book.

TNMA: Are trends important to you?

FT: I am influenced by the catwalk – especially female-designed ranges – Marni, Céline, The Row, Stella McCartney but I also love Dries Van Noten’s mix of fabrics, colours shapes. I’m interested in what everyday people wear, I like the way fashion is now responding to the fact that women wear leisurewear. Once it was frowned upon to wear leggings or track bottoms but a lot of the time this is what women wear.

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TNMA: How long does it take to create your patterns?

FT: I’ve been sewing and developing my own styles for years – I love an uncluttered shape in a great fabric. So my patterns have become quite refined. It’s quite complex developing a pattern and the creative process is quite slow. I’ve made 21 patterns in two-and-a-half years. I work on a stand and make a toile for the first pattern and then it’s digitally graded by a company. I’m perfecting the process of how I get patterns to the market, I want to make it quicker.

TNMA: Have you always been interested in style?

FT: It’s been an obsession since I was very young, I drove my mum mad – I wanted to look like Jean Shrimpton at six and was using her sewing machine at seven, though sometimes I would just staple things together!

Frances Tobin TMA Profile
Frances Tobin


The Maker’s Atelier: sewing with style book is published by Quadrille and available HERE. Frances Tobin and The Maker’s Atelier collection will be at the Knitting & Stitching Show, Olympia 2nd-5th March and Sewing for Pleasure, NEC Birmingham 16th – 19th March.

31 thoughts on “The Maker’s Atelier – a new book for women who like making stylish clothes

  1. I was an avid sewer, and maker of all sorts, well into my teens and was taught by my mother. My grandmother was a seamstress at Van Heusen and I still have her ancient treddle Singer. I have a feeling the Makers’ Aterlier might get me dusting off my skills. I’ve made only curtains in the past 30 years, and few kids toys. I totally love the idea of hand creating my own look and style again! I am also an older entrepreneur, in my early 50s, so this kind of spirit is music to my ears!

  2. What a fabulous post, Alyson! I’ll have to send this to my mom (the 70’s model on my blog) because she is still an avid sewer!! In fact she makes many of the items she wears on the blog, and even some for my stepmom (the 60’s model) and myself!!
    It’s amazing how creative you can be when you learn to sew. I’m still learning the basics, but it’s so freeing to be able to do my own alteration now (thanks to my mom’s help, of course!!)
    This book could be a great Mother’s Day gift—thanks for the idea!!

  3. Alyson, thank you for this great post! I used to make a lot of clothes, but not for many years. Your post, and Frances’ beautiful ideas, have inspired me to take up my craft again. They have ignited a spark. I am looking forward to the pleasure of creating once more.


  4. I’ve made quite a few items from The Makers Atelier patterns, elegant and stylish. It’s true that you can’t hide rubbish fabric, as I’ve got older I prefer to invest in quality fabric and make less, more slowly to perfect the finish. How refreshing to discuss the quality and pleasure from handmade garments.

  5. How wonderful! I’ll buy this book even though I doubt I’ll start sewing again. Although… I was just looking at the new The Row collection recently. I was lusting after some of the beautiful shapes and fabrics. But the prices, not so much. Thank you Alyson.

  6. My first sewing machine was a Singer (12th birthday) still the best ever present and it now resides on my fire place in pride of place.
    My loving of sewing continued especially as my daughter was growing up, as a single mom I couldn’t afford to just go shopping.
    This passion grew until aged 40 I decided to launch my sewing skills into a fully fledged clothing business simple style and no fuss and faffing is my ethos and I just love what I do.
    I’d love a little follow on Instagram rewclothing
    Rew- really easy wear !!!

  7. Yes, a me made wardrobe is so rewarding. I’ve been sewing for 50 years and am now really glad that I do. I don’t have to put up with poorly made rubbish any more and my clothes reflect who I am not who designers think I should be. Because I am not 20, skinny, and think there should be sleeves in dresses in the winter and knees should be covered all the time. Huzzah for Frances Tobin!

  8. Congratulations Frances! Whenever I look to buy a pattern I get really frustrated at the lack of options for well-cut basics, so I’m thrilled to see someone pattern-making in this way. I dream of sewing often, but need to finish my huge velvet curtains before I can justify making clothes… oh dear. Lovely post thank you Alyson 🙂

  9. My new Brother sewing machine started humming at this post Alyson! Wonderful idea, wonderful post, If you could do a follow-up with a list of online fabric retailers it would be mucho appreciated. Quality fabrics are so hard to come by. Thank you Alyson for this lovely post!

  10. I’ve been thinking about hauling my old sewing machine out — used to sew quite a bit but it’s been decades. This is much more motivating than the idea of making nighties for the granddaughters, I must say. And such an inspiring story. Brava to another Frances!

  11. Always read your blog Alyson, but most of my favourite blogs are sewing ones. So I was really suprised to see this post when contemplating buying this book (and also the positive reaction from the comments). Making your own clothes is a lovely hobby and the choices out there for both beautiful fabrics and up-to-date patterns is so, so much better than when I sewed years ago.

  12. I had a copy on order the moment I ready about Frances Tobins book. My goal is to have a memade wardrobe and I’m very close. The new wave of indie pattern makers is indispensable. Thanks for a shout out to us sewists!

  13. I’m going to buy this for my best friend who tried to teach me to sew. I showed her my herringbone stitched hem with great pride, only to discover I’d stitched the fabric to my skirt! Best friend is a marvel – buys stuff from charity shops, rips them apart and re-makes for both of us. Designed and made my daughter’s wedding dress and appeared at the wedding herself looking a million dollars in a raw silk suit made from a £1.50 charity shop remnant. Makes you sick, doesn’t it? But I love her.

  14. As a teenager in the 70s I used to love to make clothes using my mother’s Elna machine during the summer holidays listening to the Radio 1 Road Show. I still have my grandmother’s electric Singer sewing machine circa 1966 but I’m now inspired to rush off to John Lewis to buy a new one and to order Frances Tobin’s fabulous book. Thank you for this post Alyson.

  15. Question? Is 59 too late to start sewing? I remember being evicted from dressmaking classes at school as I was a total disaster – I was all of 11 years’ of age and so I am convinced that I can’t do it. I have a sewing machine and lots of sewing equipment, always planning to start. I even bought a Merchant and Mills simple pattern only to be told by my husband “come on, you don’t do that sort of thing” which put me off again. I am happy ‘re-working’ charity shop finds and tweaking clothes to how I like them. My head is full of ideas of clothing I would like to make FOR ME – especially simple skirts and dresses, in good quality fabric – made to fit ME. This wonderful book could just be the thing to start my epiphany into dressmaking. What do your readers’ think?

    1. On this occasion please just ignore your husband and have a go! I would start with the ‘Merchant & Mills’ pattern – I don’t know which you have but I have had great success with ‘The Camber’ (I used it four times last year, three the year before and it will no doubt re appear again this year).
      Don’t buy expensive fabric to start with, so that it doesn’t make you hesitant to cut into it! Once you have gained some confidence then have a go at a beautiful ‘Makers Atelier’ pattern. I have four, and am thinking about buying the
      I used ‘Vogue’ patterns for years and years, but then they seemed to totally ‘lose the plot’. There are now so many new, young pattern makers out there, but as a more ‘mature’ woman I am a huge fan of Merchant & Mills for more casual wear, and Makers Atelier for slightly dressier stuff. That said, it only takes a change of fabric – and both give good advice on this – to totally change the look of something.
      Good luck!

      1. Julia, thank you, this is so helpful.
        And grateful, shouty thanks to Alyson, all the other commenters and occasional writers of this wonderful blog. It constantly inspires …

  16. I also used to make many of my own clothes. I haven’t done this for a while but was given a new sewing machine a year or so ago. In the interim I’ve worked with a talented seamstress to design clothing and refashion things I own. I couldn’t agree more with many comments here about wanting well fitting attractive outfits in good fabrics. The prices of such clothes are now out of my price range. I buy from Cos & Other Stories etc but even need to tweak these buys. Otherwise it’s sale purchases at half price. I love the look of Dries Van Noten but apart from one special dress and one striped lurex pullover from Selfridges sale I can’t afford these clothes but try to follow this look. The book and patterns sound great. It may get me sewing again rather than just doing alterations. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

  17. I have used The Maker’s Atelier patterns and have just bought this book. The patterns are easy to follow and the book is well written. It has saved me a fortune as I too had a Cos habit but I am now able to make stylish, affordable clothes. I would definitely recommend both the book and the patterns.

  18. I used to make lots of clothes with my mum’s old singer, (went backwards, forwards, zigzag………that was it). It blew up and now I have a new Singer and I need to get going again. I go and lurk on the Merchant and Mills site, for the material and the patterns, I have a stash of vogue patterns and some lovely material, I just need to get up my nerve and start sewing again. I am not the smallest person in the world and shopping for clothes can be depressing, but making stuff for myself has always make me feel confident, so I’m going to check out the Makers Atelier for inspiration…………….lovely!

  19. Thank you for showcasing this book Alyson and thank you Frances for writing it! Sewing, making my own clothes & Cos, that’s me in a nutshell. I can’t wait to order my copy and get my machine out again after many years of making curtains and cushions for our house, i’m feeling totally inspired by that duster coat! 🙂

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