The Great British Sewing Bee: Fashion with Fabric review

Ever watch the Great British Sewing Bee and think: I could TOTALLY do this. I definitely could speed sew as though my life depended on it on national television.


Well, you know what, I never have. Even my mum agreed I’d be pretty bad at sewing quickly. Yet what did I do in the course of preparing my review of the Great British Sewing Bee: Fashion with Fabric? I challenged myself to the GBSB experience at home. And it was messy.

Long story short, my room now looks like a thread-filled hurricane hit it. It’s made me wonder just how many helpers the GBSB crew have to help keep the sewing room clean and if I can possibly borrow some to clean this mess up.

Before I get to the project which unleashed such chaos on my room, let’s have a little nose at the book, shall we?


The book


Me, I love a sewing book. In fact, I almost find myself preferring them to patterns these days. You just can’t beat a book full of ’em.

So, you’ll be unsurprised to learn I’ve got all three of the Sewing Bee books. The first was a touch infuriating, because you had to print off the patterns. The second was a huge improvement, with paper patterns contained in an envelope and more of a focus on creating a handmade wardrobe. I’ve still got my eye on the 60s coat pattern for next Winter.

But I think Fashion with Fabric may well be my favourite in the series so far. They’ve got a new author this time round, the one and only Claire Louse-Hardie, or the Thrifty Stitcher. She’s GBSB’s sewing producer. You may have seen her wearing some of the makes from the book as part of the #BeeMine challenge.


It’s only recently I’ve managed to get my head around different types of fabric – before, I’d just take a guess/buy some quilting cotton and hope for the best. It’s only through trial and a great deal of error that I’ve managed to figure out what works well and what just doesn’t. But this book would have been such a great resource when I was making the move from clueless beginner sewing to the more savvy, intermediate stage.

Split into four sections (not including your basic sewing skills and information at the start of the book), each chapter is arranged by fabric type. Chapter one: cottons. Chapter two: wool and other animal fibres. Chapter three: stretch fabrics. Chapter four: luxury fabrics.


Each chapter gives you a useful insight into what you need to know, with the projects there to guide you on how to apply that fabric to a make. It’s a really sensible way to set out a sewing book, in my opinion.

The patterns



All of the projects are based on ones made by contestants in the series. The corset from last week is in there, as is the kilt. There are a few other patterns I’m really excited to see come to life on screen, including an awesome frilled jumpsuit and a killer leather jacket I’m going to have to work up the guts to make.


Oh and they’ve only bloody added the elephant costume too. Considering grading this one up and potentially looking incredibly unprofessional at work. It would be worth it though, because elephant.


There are also a couple of men’s patterns in there, which is great given how the blokes are nailing it on the Sewing Bee this year. In all, it’s a nice variety between easy and difficult. Most patterns also come with a “hack” – an adaptation of the pattern so you can get something slightly different out of it. I really love it when a book embraces and encourages pattern improv and alterations. Not to mention, it’s almost doubles the amount of things you could make from the book. And yes: they all come on folded paper pieces. No printing required!

My stupid stupid challenge

I really like Claudia Winkleman, I think we could be good mates. I dig her fringe and eyeliner game. But, alas, we may never meet because I’ve decided I should never, ever, ever attempt sewing to a deadline ever again. I’m a journalist: deadlines are my thing. Except I think I’d be better off sticking to typing things quickly rather than stitching them.


Initially, I didn’t think I’d have time to make anything. I got the book the day before I set off to Prague for five days. But then I read Karen and Rachel‘s reviews and they’d made things and I panicked and thought OH HEY I could just recreate the Sewing Bee in my own home! Just minus May and Patrick. And Claudia. Sigh.

So, as soon as I got home from work: the race began. Where better to start than the sleeveless shell top? “Easy to sew and wear,” and “a great stashbuster”, according to the book – perfect for a quick make!

Except what did I decide to stash bust?

Half a metre of sequinned fabric. Because I want sparkles everywhere in my life. This top is the very first project in the book and comes in the “cottons” section, so I used a white cotton for the back because I didn’t quite have enough sequinned fabric for the whole thing.


Joking aside, the top is extremely easy to make – but do remember to eat midway through your sewing session or you might find yourself making some silly, silly mistakes. Because I used a white fabric for the back piece, I ended up eliminating the facings and replacing them with homemade bias tape. So now there are also bits of white fabric all over my floor too.

The pattern itself is great. It’s really easy to put together, the instructions are incredibly clear and come with helpful diagrams. But speed sewing is HARD. Watching the clock tick past as you try desperately to pin as fast as humanly possible is just not how I expected to spend my Tuesday night.

In all, it took me about four/five hours. Which means I would have failed the challenge because I’m pretty sure you’d only get about two hours at most to make this on the show. I hang my head in shame. I did do French seams though, so. Booya.

Also anyone else think it looks like Mithril??

My messy room aside: this is a great book. Beginners and intermediates can learn a lot and the advanced crew have the benefit of some more difficult patterns to get their teeth into. Definitely one to add to the sewing library.

Definitely not recommending the at home GBSB experience though. I have a lot of mess to clean up…

Big thanks to Quadrille Craft for sending me the book to review.

8 thoughts on “The Great British Sewing Bee: Fashion with Fabric review

  1. Red Point Tailor says:

    I admire you for trying. I know I would not manage… Long ago maybe … not any more. You have manage to make nice top!
    Sewing in hurry means for me taking shortcuts – losing on quality … frustration.

  2. Rachel says:

    Love the idea of recreating the Sewing Bee in ones own home – could get the family/flatmates involved by them pretending to be the judges. Does that sound weird? In an innocent way of course. Step away from the mic Rachel… Your blouse looks fun

    • Elena Cresci says:

      That would actually be quite cool! I have toyed with perhaps doing some sort of week-by-week challenge along with the Bee, but I’m not sure how it would work to be quite honest!

  3. Amy says:

    I bought this book ages ago and have yet to use it…you’ve inspired me to start. I really want to make the shell top but I can’t find the pattern in the pack. What other patterns is it on with? I’m going crazy…I swear I’ve checked twice and still can’t see shell top on the 5 paper pattern sheets

    The sequin fabric look amazing

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s