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.

GUEST POST: Thread Carefully’s 10 Sewing Commandments

Part 2

Earlier this week, Tabatha and Julia of Thread Carefully shared Sewing Commandment one to five. Now, as promised, here are commandments six to ten. Enjoy!

Tabatha's rendition of New Look 6000

6. Thou shalt always mark your fabric

Sure, it’s tempting to skip over those markings – they can be a right pain in the backside. We all know, deep down if nothing else, that they are there to help us make something beautiful, and correctly lined up in all the right places. Even the smallest deviation may mean a misplaced buttonhole, a wonky seam or pockets that don’t match it. It’s always worth taking your time to do it properly: you’ll appreciate it in the end, trust us!

7. Thou shalt not sew whilst drinking

Over to Julia for this one…Thankfully, I learned this lesson for both of us, and possibly all of us.  Yes, I confess I once had a few glasses of vino tinto whilst sewing (I should point out that I don’t drink very often.  It’s for the best) and I may have tried to see what happens if I just removed the blades from my overlocker and I may then have then been unable to get it to work.  Our friend Carys’s husband even had a look at it for me to see if he could fix it.  I couldn’t have done something THAT bad, right?  Wrong.  Unfixable.  Hello new overlocker!  (At this point, I will refer you back to our very first commandment).

8. Thou shalt finish your garments nicely every time.

We both know that we haven’t always done this.  We both know that we should.  The reason?  Every time we don’t, we regret not doing it.  There’s something really nice about knowing that the inside of your outfit is finished properly and that you won’t be embarrassed if someone sees the inside seams.  It also means that the item you have slaved and probably sworn over isn’t going to let you down in a spectacular way if, say, you’re out and about and the seam bursts.  The beauty of it is that you don’t have to have an overlocker to do it – the zig-zag stitch on your machine or pinking shears are perfectly adequate.  In addition, there are loads of other ways to finish seams or edges.  Pick the one that matches you and you’re off!

Julia's tattoo print Vogue 2958 Dress

9. Thou shalt continue to learn new techniques.

Sarai over at Colette Patterns puts this very well in her book and it is something that we both not only agree with but try and do regularly. She said:

There’s only one trait I think every sewer should possess: curiosity. Learning to sew is an ongoing process; in fact, the learning never really stops. Each project has the potential to teach you something new. Even seamstresses who have been sewing for thirty years or more will tell you that they learn new things all the time.

10. Thou shalt enjoy creating your own garments.

If something is irritating you or making you angry – put it down and have a brew.  Remember, you are (probably) sewing because you enjoy it and you love to have something nice at the end of it that you are proud of.  Yes, you may get it done tomorrow instead of next week if you plough on through, but if you rush and cut corners you will regret it later on.  I, certainly, can attest to this.  Sure, I got wearable garments even whilst being majorly annoyed throughout the process but there are things that I know about the construction of that garment that I can’t forget when wearing it.

Take, for example, my Peony dress.  I was in such a hurry to finish I didn’t obey commandment 7 for the shoulder seams and attempted to do them at the end, chopping out a chunk of the shoulder.  Now, the dress is amazing to wear (I love that it has rows and rows of Elvi all over – yes, Elvi is the plural) but I am always aware of the patch job I had to do on the shoulder which isn’t noticeable to everyone else.  The thing is, I know it’s there and I’m conscious of it and every time I see it I think “If only I’d taken my time… “. Remember, sewing is a hobby, not a race.

Thanks again to Tabatha and Julia for the guest posts! If you want to check out their blog then head over to Thread Carefully pronto! You can also follow Tabatha and Julia on Twitter. Interested in guest blogging on Seamless? Get in touch.