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

— by Alyson Walsh

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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.

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