Tag Archives: great british sewing bee

A Mini Lesson on Sleeves

If anyone feels tempted to have a go at the alteration challenge that was set on the Sewing Bee last night (don’t worry, no spoilers contained in this post if you haven’t seen it!), here’s a bit of background knowledge to help you.

Putting a sleeve into a sleeveless armhole is never a good idea, take note from the most successful version last night – Chinelo’s pleated sleeve head.  A sleeveless armhole is much smaller than an armhole designed for a sleeve, with good reason – so that it doesn’t gape!  This makes for a snug armhole that is completely the wrong shape to then go adding in a sleeve.

I’ve also seen the term “set-in sleeve” not being used properly this morning.  So, as I like things to be just so and as I believe that if you’re learning a new skill, it’s best to get it right from the start, here’s a little starter for ten on sleeves…..

sleeve-explanation-web

So, if ever you’re trying to put a sleeve into a sleeveless armhole, remember……you need to add some kind of fullness into the top of the sleeve, be it in the form of gathers or pleats.  That is, if you want to be able to move in the garment!

How to Sew Over Bulky Seams

So, you know how the contestants on the Great British Sewing Bee struggled a bit with some bulky seams on their toddler dungarees this week?  Here’s a little tip for getting around that very problem…..

What you need is to make yourself a little jig!

seamjiginfographic-web

The secret is not in the thickness of the fabric, but the height of the presser foot.  It needs to stay flat all the time in order for your machine to feed fabric through evenly.  When it hits a bulky seam, the front of the presser foot is pointing upwards and the foot is no longer flat.  Your little jig raises up the back of the presser foot so that it’s all on the same level again and off you can go without any fuss.

Which Sewing Book to Buy?

sewing booksA cull of books I had last year at a MIY Workshop sale!  Yes you can have too many craft books.

So, the Great British Sewing Bee is back for its second series and the production company are already scouring the country for potential contestants for series three.  It looks like the sewing bug is a stayer.  Obviously that’s a good thing in my book.

Talking of books….(!) as I’m writing a sewing book at the moment (see previous post), the subject of sewing books has been pre-occupying me now for quite some time and I’ve also been thinking a lot recently about craft book authors.

Lots of my students ask me if I can recommend a sewing book.  Here are my tips to finding a good sewing book.

The most important starting point is to be honest about the skills you’re starting with.  Have you had a go on a sewing machine and now feel ready to tackle some dressmaking, have you been sewing for years and now looking for some new ideas or does the sight of a sewing machine bring you out in a cold sweat?!

If you’re right at the beginning of your sewing adventures, you need a sewing book that will have really well explained techniques and easy but inspiring  projects that you will actually want to make and can work your way through step-by-step.  If inspiration is what you’re after, have a look at some of the Japanese sewing books – beautifully designed, inspiring patterns, but usually needing some good existing skills.

What kind of things do you want to make with your new found sewing skills?  Do you want to do mainly patchwork, do you want to make bags and cushions and accessories or do you want do make clothes?  Choose the book that contains the kind of projects that you actually want to make!

Just like novels, the author of the craft book will make a huge difference to the content.

Here in Brighton there is a little hub of expert craft book authors; the lovely Liz of Quilty Pleasures had her first patchwork and quilting book published last spring:

beginners guide to quilting

Julia Hincks, a colleague who teaches at the Friends Centre in Brighton has written a book all about using your overlocker:

overlocker techniques

Wendy Dolan is another Brighton based tutor who is an expert at machine embroidery and has been teaching for many years.  She is currently writing a book all about her style of machine embroidery.  Last but not least, Fiona Pullen of the Sewing Directory (OK she’s not in Brighton, but is everywhere in the world of sewing!) is in the process of writing a book about how to build a craft business. (Have a read of Fiona’s fascinating blog posts about her book writing process.)

The common thread linking all of these authors is that we are professionals and experts in our particular field.

What are the benefits of choosing books written by experts?  

A book written by an expert, an experienced teacher or someone with years of experience working in an industry means that you will benefit from that experience, they will share hints and tips with you that they have picked up along their travels, or unique techniques that they have devised for themselves.  You will also find practical how-to books written by these authors will contain instructions that are pitched at exactly the right level because they know their audience – they have been working with people just like you for years.

The way I look at it is this……would you want to learn to drive a car from someone that had just passed their driving test?  No, me neither!

Incidentally, one of my trusty old favourite sewing books that I’m always recommending to students is the “Readers Digest Complete Guide to Sewing”.  You can read my review of it here.

Happy sewing!  And safe driving….!!!

Great British Sewing Bee – series number 2!!

Just as the first cruelly short series of the Great British Sewing Bee comes to an end tomorrow night, news that the production company responsible are looking for contestants for series number 2.

I haven’t read or heard a bad thing about this series, I even heard Patrick Grant talking to Richard Bacon about it on 5 Live today and was delighted to hear the programme had even made Bacon feel the urge to give sewing a go!!

Here’s the link for applications:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/showsandtours/shows/beonashow/great_british_sewing_bee

the main requirements are that you have no sewing qualifications and don’t earn a living from your sewing, thankfully that rules me out!

Good luck to everyone who applies!!

Enjoy the final tomorrow, tense viewing guaranteed…

Inspired by the Great British Sewing Bee?

great british sewing bee

So, after many years of waiting sewing has finally made it onto prime time national TV.  The last time I remember this was when I was inspired as a teenager by the Clothes Show with Selina Scott, Jeff Banks and Caryn Franklin!  Those of us working in the world of sewing have seen a renewed interest in making gathering pace for a few years now, but finally the nation has caught up and realised that there is an alternative to baking and the cutesy perfect world of Kirsty Allsop.

I have to admit I was anticipating the programme with equal amounts of excitement and dread; while over the moon that sewing has made it onto national TV I was also envisaging myself ranting at the programme for presenting the subject in either a patronising or “oh it’s just so easy anyone can do it” way. Thankfully this didn’t happen and I was very pleasantly surprised!!

The mix of presenters works – Patrick Grant will make sure the twee is rationed and is a fabulous bit of eye candy (!), May Martin has super high standards of which I approve and while I thought that having a sewing novice in Claudia Winkleman as a presenter wouldn’t work, I actually think that her lack of knowledge adds to the show – she asks the questions that any sewing novice would ask, but maybe would feel too afraid to ask.  As I always tell my students; there’s no such thing as a stupid question, it usually means that I haven’t  explained something thoroughly enough.

As for the contestants, well, they’ve got in all the stereotypes haven’t they?!  I think they come across really well and there (so far!) appears to be no ruthlessness and they seem pretty supportive of each other.  I did feel for them though, the pressure of some of those tasks was not nice and having to do it all  while being filmed and trying to look your best and occasionally being interrupted by the presenters was no mean feat!  Impressing me the most last night were:

Ann – an amazingly accomplished sewer, who tackled every task perfectly because she absolutely knows what she’s capable of and knows how long things take (the hardest lesson of all to learn in sewing!).

Sandra – who managed to recover from a silly mistake and didn’t crumple under the pressure of it.

Lauren – impressively aware of her abilities, she managed to show off her skills without trying to do too much.  I also loved the fact that she still has the first bit of sewing she ever did!

I did feel very sorry for Michelle.  I think she was let down by her fabric choice in that dress and nevertheless managed to overcome it, admittedly with a dress that wasn’t a perfect fit, but it wasn’t the worst gaff made on the show and  I don’t think she should have left.  Nope, I’m not going to reveal who I think should have gone!!

Judging by the activity on Facebook and Twitter on the subject last night and this morning, I’d say the show is a hit and hopefully they’re already working on series two.  I’d encourage any of my students to apply.  The book is already out: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Great-British-Sewing-Bee/dp/1849492875/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1364978516&sr=1-1 and you can catch up any missed episodes here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0165nj8

Maybe we should have a MIY Workshop Great British Sewing Bee day……now there’s an idea………

Last but not least here’s our very own A-line skirt success from last night’s class!

alineskirt

Naz came to my “How to use your Sewing Machine” workshop as a complete novice at the start of this year and in 6 subsequent classes has made 2 cushion covers and this gorgeous skirt that fits like a glove.  Having said that she did make me laugh last night when the skirt was almost finished by asking me if there was much more to do and “is there light at the end of the tunnel Wendy?” !!!  She then assured me that she really was enjoying herself!

If you fancy having a go at making your own A-line skirt the next date for my popular Skirt Making Workshop is Sunday 28th April, full details here: https://miyworkshop.co.uk/sunday-workshops-with-wendy/