The Great British Sewing Bee and fast fashion

great british sewing bee

Unless you’ve been living under a sewing-free rock for the past four weeks, you’ll probably have heard all about the Great British Sewing Bee – the show which gave sewing the Bake Off treatment.

Funnily enough, I haven’t had a chance to write about it here on the blog, but I did get a chance to write about sewing for the Western Mail. An odd but thoroughly enjoyable occasion where work and my personal hobbies collided.

I was sceptical about whether the BBC would succeed in making stitching as sexy as baking. As much as I adore sewing and as much as the sewing community clearly enjoyed the Sewing Bee (as evidenced by my Twitter feed every Tuesday evening) I just wasn’t sure if it would translate to those who had never picked up a needle in their life in the same way as the Bake Off had people running out to buy cake tins on the double.

The Sewing Bee waves have certainly been felt in our little pocket of the blogosphere. Views of my interview with contestant Tilly have rocketed since the programme began and a number of other bloggers have reported spikes in traffic on tutorials and other handy posts, usually in the days after the latest episode has aired.

Whether or not the series will have people sprinting to their nearest haberdashery, I don’t know. But perhaps, for some people, the cogs will have begun turning as they watch Ann’s meticulous preparing of her pattern pieces or the way Tilly drafted her own patterns as she went and hopefully they slowly realised just how much work goes into the kind of garments seen on a shop’s clothing rail.

Much like with our food, many of us don’t care to take a peek behind the curtain to see just how the clothes we put on our backs are made. While factory sewing is a different world to home sewing, I hope many non-sewers watching perhaps took a look at their own clothes to see where seams had been overlocked or examine exactly how their bargain garment was put together.

And maybe next time they head to Primark or New Look, they might think just how all that effort can go into one garment but the costs remain so low.

9 thoughts on “The Great British Sewing Bee and fast fashion

  1. Dorine says:

    The thing is- do the people who watched GBSB shop in Primark/ New Look? I think most of the people who watched already had an interest in sewing/ crafts in general, the same way people who watched the Great British Bake Off were generally not the people gorging on ready meals/ take-aways. So I don’t expect a massive shift there. Maybe I’m too cynical though!

  2. yesilikethat says:

    I think it would be great if the Sewing Bee leads to more knowledge/awareness of sewing. If you look at what an enormous fuss the horse-meat scandal caused, and what a muted reception the recent Bangladesh factor collapse has had in comparison, it’s quite telling. Obviously food is always going to be a more visceral issue because it literally becomes part of us, but if people have an idea of what goes into making clothes they’ll also think about who made them… hopefully!

    • Elena Cresci says:

      Totally agree with you on the Bangladesh story – I think the reason it hasn’t caused the kind of shock waves the horse meat story caused is because people react differently to what they put in their mouths. But it absolutely should make people think twice about where they buy their clothes.

  3. sewexhausted says:

    I was very excited to start watching GBSB- and am sorry it is over. It has encouraged and challenged ME to expand my sewing horizons- But yes, I m already a sewist and that is why I watched it! I can’t imagine my non-sewing friends enjoying it as much as I did. TBH I wish they would so when they say- “can you make me one?” they realize I don’t just magically whip something up- Sometimes a garment can be very frustrating and the fit elusive! I just finished a dress for my daughter that took me 12 plus hours! I am not sure I want to be whipping one of those up for all my friends! BUT, I would happily teach them to sew and have offered many a time! 🙂 ~Laurie

  4. Tempest Devyne says:

    When I lived in the UK I used to buy my clothes from Primark, New Look and Tescos for most of my 20s and 30s….because they’re cheap. In my late 30s I started working for voluntary organisations and though this didn’t give me any more cash (less actually…I found myself being a little bit better, ethically, and buying most clothes second hand in charity shops). Making your own clothes, especially with not a lot of fabric shops around is expensive and even if you might know that clothes in supermarkets etc are made in sweatshops, often you don’t have a lot of choice….I found this especially for my kids clothes. I don’t think wanting to be ethical about clothing choices is always straightforward….sometimes it’s about what you have to forsake buying in order to buy more ethically. It’s the same with trying to buy organic food. It’s expensive. Moving to the USA made things much easier for me….as it’s so much bigger, there are far more places to buy fabric and discount fabric warehouses where I can bulk buy haberdashery, therefore this brings the price down to a point that I can afford to do this over sweatshop clothes (let’s face it, even M&S use sweatshops). I honestly don’t know if I’d sew as much if I still lived in the UK, though there are online fabric suppliers now weren’t there 10-20 years ago.

  5. Helena says:

    I really liked this post, and am hoping that people see the connection between cheap prices and working conditions. The factory fire in Bangladesh recently and the one back in September are pushing me towards the Seamless Pledge. I just need to phrase it so it works for me first.

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