Dressmaking Essentials with Jenni Smith

Jenni Smith is one of our absolute favorite people. A super skilled sewist and quilter, Jenni also has a quick wit, a sweet sense, and a warm heart and we absolutely adore getting to work with her! She offers regular classes through her sewing studio, shares super handy videos for #toptiptuesdays on Instagram, has a lovely line of patterns, and makes a wide variety of gorgeously crafted clothing;).

She has been using Aurifil threads in her studios for the last 6 years and feels very strongly about working with our 100% Cotton threads for her garment sewing. With that in mind, we’re thrilled to introduce Dressmaking Essentials, her debut Aurifil collection. It is a perfect lineup of 10 small spools — Jenni’s go-to weights and colors for all of her garment sewing projects.

For the next 6 Fridays, we’ll bring you a new post from Jenni… tips for dressmaking, why cotton, what weights to use where and why, and so much more. We are so inspired by her work and can’t wait to get sewing!

Dressmaking Essentials
10 Small Spools, 100% Aurifil Cotton
28wt: 2240, 2318 | 12wt: 2021, 2975, 2784
40wt: 2783, 2692, 2309 | 50wt: 5020, 2630

To view this info on our website, click here. For purchasing, please contact your local Aurifil Dealer.


What first drew you to the world of sewing and quilting? 
Growing up, my Grandpa built boats and caravans and my Mum and Nan stitched the upholstery so the whirring of a sewing machine was very familiar. I started making my own clothes as a teenager because I had quite an eclectic style and couldn’t find exactly what I wanted in the shops.  I went to designer Jeff Bank’s studio in London for work experience when I was 16.  I then dressed models at London fashion Week for many years and loved getting close to all of the designer outfits and studying them up-close. A highlight was working on an Yves Saint Laurent retrospective show, where Princess Diana was the guest of honour.

I really got back into dressmaking again about 10 years ago when I had my daughter and wanted to make her different outfits in fabrics that I loved.  Then suddenly there were so many amazing fabrics and independent pattern companies that I had to join in again too.

Who or what has been your greatest creative inspiration? 
I studied Art History at University and that provides me with an endless source of creative inspiration.  My first 2 dressmaking patterns are named after the female artists Barbara Hepworth and Bridget Riley.  I also love to travel – I’ve lived in Russia, Italy and Canada and love exploring the heritage of textiles worldwide.

Tell us a bit about Dressmaking Essentials and how the collection came to be? 
I have been using Aurifil threads in my studio for about 6 years, since discovering them at my local quilt guild.  I make a lot of my own clothes, so because I had the cottons in so many beautiful colours I began sewing garments with them.  I soon realised that they complimented the cottons, Tana lawns and silks I was sewing and were less harsh than polyester.  I then experimented with different weights, because I am naturally curious and found they also worked for top-stitching, visible mending and decorative embroidery.

I think that people get a little bit overwhelmed with different thread weights, so I was really keen to have a small collection that would enable garment sewers to play around and think about how the thread can really have an impact on a finished item of clothing. It feels like this collection came about very organically, and it was the right time to do it.


How did you go about setting the weights and colors for the collection? 
I had a look through all my dressmaking projects in the past few years and selected the threads and colours I had loved using the most, and that were the most valuable. It was really very simple and came together easily.

Do you have any particular fabrics that you favor? 
I have collected Liberty Tana lawn since the age of 8 and love to sew clothes with it, especially blouses and shirts.  I also love tweed and wool from my home county of Yorkshire for winter coats. It’s funny but Alex and Bradley who both work for Aurifil,  grew up very close to where I live and its very famous worldwide for producing quality wool.

What is your absolute favorite go-to pattern? 
My Hepworth Apron is honestly the handmade garment I wear the most!  I have versions in linens and cottons and when I wear it to sew I have a pocket for my phone and don’t get covered in threads.  There is also a free hack to make it into a pinafore (perhaps you say overall in the US) and that is a firm favourite too.

What dressmaking finish has made you the most proud? 
Well one of my coats is made with local wool and has a Liberty pocket – the famous Strawberry Thief print by William Morris – pioneer of the Arts and Crafts Movement.  I based it on a pattern, but adapted it to my own style and I did sew it up with Aurifil 40wt and hand stitched all the lining with 50wt thread – so it would seem to be a culmination of everything I love in one garment!!

How did you first come to work with Aurifil and what makes you love working with Cotton threads? 
I started quilting with Aurifil and was instantly converted because it made my machine so happy. Then I was drawn to all the beautiful colours, and the blog with so many great designers and projects.  Then I met some of the Aurifil team, and they were very lovely and genuine – so I went out to the factory in Milan and saw where all the magic happened. Then I made more projects and shared them, and over the years a nice friendship grew that enabled me to champion a thread I really love and believe in!

When I help out with Aurifil at the Festival of Quilts each year it is truly there loveliest job because my days are filled with crafty people coming to say how much they enjoy Aurifil and using it for their projects.  The quality speaks for itself and I feel really lucky to be part of the design team and to help them to gain recognition in new areas like dressmaking. The problem with polyester thread in many garments is that it is simply too heavy and would outlive the garment itself.  It can feel bumpy on the seams, and if under pressure would tear the fabric rather than snap the thread,  The second option is honestly more preferable – because you can go in and repair the seam – but if the garment is torn it is much harder to fix!


Karaoke Song: Bat out of Hell – Meatloaf – but only f my 2 sisters and brother can sing with me.
Book: This summer I have been enjoying Elena Ferrante
Color: Yves Klein Blue
Beverage: Yorkshire Tea or a Cosmopolitan – depending on what time it is!
Fabric Designer:  Liberty
Quilt Pattern: There are a few gems from the Quilt Guild Archive in Britain that I love – there has to be a story for me, that’s the most important thing.
Notion: Washi type, ideally with a pretty pattern on it.
Sewing/Quilting Technique: I love hand quilting, it’s meditative and I love the softness it creates in the finished quilt.

October 26 – Dressmaking Essentials Collection & Giveaway
November 2 – Dressmaking Essentials: Why Cotton?
November 9 – Dressmaking Essentials: 40wt
November 16 – Dressmaking Essentials: 50wt
November 23 – Dressmaking Essentials: 28wt
November 30 – Dressmaking Essentials: 12wt
December 7 – Dressmaking Essentials: The Big Finish!


We are giving away 1 Small Dressmaking Essentials Thread Collection by Jenni Smith for Aurifil! To enter-to-win, please click here to head to the Rafflecopter entry page. You do not have to complete all the options to be entered but the more options you choose, the more entries you have!  Entries will be accepted from now through 11:59pm Eastern Time on Thursday, November 8! Winner will be randomly selected and announced here on Friday, November 9. Good luck!


Jenni has been sewing for the last 25 years. She grew up in a house where her mum and nan stitched upholstery for the caravans and trailer tents designed by her grandfather.  She studied History of Art and Italian at University before working as an Associate Producer in documentaries. In 2006 she spent a year in Toronto where she learned how to quilt and her love of dressmaking grew with the birth of her daughter a few years later.

For the past three years Jenni has been taught by sewing veteran Ann Ladbury. She has also developed her own series of textile art and has made original pieces for Sex and the City actress Kristin Davis and US artist and illustrator Lisa Congdon.

Jenni’s goal is to share her knowledge and enthusiasm, inspiring a new generation of people to embrace the handmade revolution.

** Images by Jenni Smith


  1. I really don’t sew garments anymore , but someday hope to have grandchildren to sew for like I did for my kids.

  2. I am a quilter, but I’ve made a robe and many aprons. Thank you for the great introduction to Jenni.

  3. With just one little grandson so far, I’ve made a few bow ties in fun fabrics that always get compliments. Although I hope to sew more for him in time, I also see a lot of mending in my future!

  4. I love to sew activewear because it’s practical. And bags because I feel so accomplished when they turn out.

  5. I’m getting more into sewing garments for myself, but my favorite pieces are those for toddlers that don’t need to be fitted as much. Kids are usually happy with wearing whatever is put on them as long as it’s not scratchy or tight!

  6. I have sewn many clothing items over the years. Right now I’ve been making aprons (of various types) as gifts. I have it on my list to get back into clothing for myself. Love the aurifil colours you chose. The thread is wonderful for sewing clothing.

  7. I am getting more interested in going back to sewing clothes again. Everything is made for the young, not the young at heart (shh-78 years young)

    1. You have to do it Carol. I teach a lot of women who made all kinds of outfits in their youth then lost their confidence but it will all come back once you get going! I promise. Pick out your favourite shop bought clothes and find a pattern that is close to their shape and fit and a fabric you love and you’ll be hooked!

  8. T-shirts, hands down. There are so many gorgeous cotton/spandex prints now, that you don’t have to look like everyone else.

  9. Blouses and tshirts for me. I used to make kid’s clothes for my kids and grandkids, but it is so much cheaper to just buy them, or send money for Mom to buy. At least I know, then, that it will fit.

  10. I love to sew skits, but because you need a top too, I will have to brush up on sewing simple things like tops and T-shirts…

  11. I seem to have sewn mainly dresses and skirts recently; though to be honest I love sewing anything.

  12. Love this blog. I never know what weight three to use. I think Jenni is going to sort me out 😁😁

  13. I love to design and sew wedding garments that are made of 100% dupioni silk. The luxurious sheen and light weight comfort makes for a perfect gown for the discerning bride, attendants and family members. It is my current love after years of garment sewing with all types of fabric from poly to wool to cottons and finally I discovered this wonderful silk fabric. I still use all cotton threads and have for 50 years. Your collection looks perfect!

  14. I will make children’s clothing, aprons, ponchos, skirts but nothing complicated anymore. I like quilting better.

  15. I haven’t seen many garments recently except for some simple skirts for granddaughter but I have a jacket pattern calling my name.

  16. I don’t sew a lot of garments now, but I used to sew a lot for my children. My favorite ones are the new dresses I sewed for my daughter. She got a new dress every year. Thanks!

  17. I haven’t sewn any garments that I can remember unless you count handbags or Christmas stockings. 🙂

  18. I used to sew everything, including a baptismal gown for my youngest and a wedding dress for my oldest. But I’m hoping to get back into it. This collection looks wonderful.

  19. I’ve been making both work and more casual clothes this year and it’s been really fun! I have never thought of using cotton threads though, so thanks for this post!!

  20. Curious about the sashiko piece at the top of the page…looks like it was done on a machine? Or are your stitches that perfect?! Would love more info on this.

    1. It is hand stitched! It’s a pocket pattern for my Hepworth Apron stitched with the 12 weight in my thread collection.

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