Frances Tobin, founder & designer of The Maker’s Atelier

The Maker’s Atelier is based in Brighton and sets dressmaking apart with its most stylish patterns and unique making-experiences. We caught up with Frances Tobin, the fashion designer behind this exciting new sewing brand


Frances – tell us about yourself?
I’ve been sewing since I was a child, my mother taught me. I always knew I was going to be a fashion designer. But in fact, I studied fashion textiles first at Brighton then went to the Royal College of Art to do my MA Degree. From there I went straight to Italy to work for luxury brands including Gucci, Les Copains and Umberto Ginocchietti. But I was homesick so I returned to London where I designed for many of our high street brands including French Connection, Warehouse and the Arcadia Group. More recently I’ve also been working in Interior Design and Colour forecasting.”

How did The Maker’s Atelier patterns come about?
“About 18 months ago, I walked into Ditto fabrics – my local fabric shop here in Brighton – and Gill the owner, asked me whether I had made the clothes I was wearing and suggested I publish my own patterns. It had never occurred to me to do this, although I knew that the Indie pattern market was growing. I don’t buy commercial patterns, as they don’t reflect what’s happening in fashion to me. I always found it easier to create my own. But what Gill said had made me think that there might be a gap in the market for what I design and make for myself.”

What would you say sets your patterns apart from other indie sewing patterns?
“I think my patterns are different in that I don’t reference vintage styles. I create patterns that are about clothes right now and also for what’s happening with current fabric trends. At the same time, I want to bring a level of luxury and sophistication back into dressmaking. In a way, I want to emulate ‘Net-a-Porter’ and their shopping experience – from the first visit to The Maker’s Atelier website through to receiving a pattern, I want the experience to be pleasurable.”

What patterns are currently in the range?
” Currently there are six patterns, including the Unlined Raw-edged Coat and Shell Dress which are designed for technical fabrics like neoprene, as well as more traditional boiled wools.”

“The Sport-Luxe Bomber Jacket appeals to more fashion-forward dressmakers and can look stunning in silk satins or wool crepes.”

“My Ultimate Pencil Skirt pattern has options for stretch or rigid fabrics.”

"While the Drawstring Dress with a flattering drape front  works in stretch or woven fabrications.”

“Finally, the Box Shirt is really lightweight and fluid but can also be recreated in a canvas to become a shirt jacket.”

What sizes do your patterns come in and are they designed for a particular body shape?
“All patterns are from a size 8 to size 18 and skim the body, except for the pencil skirt – so I think they suit most body shapes. Probably the most flattering pattern is the Shell Dress. We use this style in our Dress in a Day course and focus on getting a great fit; everyone has looked really good in it.”

What’s in each of your sewing pattern packs?
“Each pattern is printed on superior paper, packaged in bespoke washer and tie envelopes, with detailed instruction sheets, a ‘How to Measure’ guide with ‘Hints and Tips’ and a woven back neck label.”

What is your favourite pattern in the range, and why?
My favourite pattern is the pencil skirt – I especially like the stretch fabrics and have versions in plain, stripe, brocade and silver PU as shown on the website.”

What would you say is the recipe for making exceptional clothing?
“Good fabric – dressmaking is a bit like cooking, always buy the best ingredients. All my money goes on fabric.”

What can sewers expect from attending one of your sewing workshops?
The first part of the day is all about fabric, what works and what doesn’t and how to sew with different fabrics. Then we cover fit, from how to measure through to altering a pattern and your garment during the making process. Finally everyone leaves with a completed garment. It’s a great day out, you meet lovely people, have a wonderful lunch and everything is included in the price.”

What’s next for The Maker’s Atelier?
“The second set of patterns is currently in development and should be out shortly – so it’s all very exciting.”

Click here to find out more about The Maker’s Atelier workshops.