The long & short of Great British Sewing Bee

Yes! I finished 2 garments. Though not in the amount of time the poor contestants of Great British Sewing Bee would have been allotted. You’ll have to wait a few more days to get the write ups, as I squandered the first Spring like day we had in London out in the sun.

For now let’s talk about GBSB. Because like all other self-respecting home sewists in the UK, I’ve been obsessing about GBSB, Googling every hour for more tidbits. And what controversy it’s kicking up in the sewing blogsphere!

Camp Ann/Sandra or Camp Tilly/Mark? Well, I’m not going to get into that debate because I would have kept them all in. Let’s not forget Michelle and Jane. I loved Michelle’s blouse customization and day dress ideas. I forgive her for the imperfect delivery. Let those without (similar) sins cast the first stone! And Jane and her funky ideas. What was her illness? Did she got sick of the silly rules of the game? After all, part of the fun of sewing at home is the chance to express yourself. And no, I haven’t forgotten Lauren – love your pockets in episode 2 – or Stuart – good on you for getting out of your comfort zone and taking on skirts and all manners of ladies wear.

Credit: Tilly & the Buttons

I have to agree with Chanel No. 6 that the format favors more traditional home sewers with decades of experience rather than the newer crops of self-expression sewers. You know, the type who might not have been taught sewing as a family tradition, but found voice in learning to sew. Which is a real shame. Question is, apart from the ridiculous time constraints, were the judges partly responsible for this bias?

The Judges


Obligatory Man-Candy Shot. Credit: Did You Make That!

The judges! I’ll leave the oohing and ahhing over the eye candy that is Mr Grant to the growing legion of swooning fans. What interests me is what he brings to the judging table. I was a bit confused when he started talking about his sewing experience. He didn’t sound like a Savile Row tailor to me. So what qualifies him to be a judge of a sewing show (apart from being an eye candy to appease the lady and gay sewists)?

It wasn’t until a comment on Chanel No. 6 blog that I appreciated what he might bring. Someone had speculated that he of Savile Row would be the force of conservatism and precision sewing booting out Tilly and Mark. But he rooted for Tilly. And re-watching the shows again, his comments betray a different sensitivity. Appreciation for quality sewing yes, but also for good design – “understanding of materials, shapes, and fit that goes into the making of beautiful clothing”. That’s the sentiment of a designer. And in fact, if you Google the man a bit, he seems to be a designer & entrepreneur who brought an ailing Savile Row shop into the 21st century. (And a photo of him in UK Instyle this month shows him in a much less conservative outfit.)


Credit: The Perfect Nose

I’d in fact argue that Ms Martin, the lady judge and sewing teacher of Women’s Institute would be more a force for tradition than Mr Grant. Savile Row may be purveyor of the fine tradition of bespoke tailoring, yet it has given us Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen, neither of whom can be called conservative by any means. Yes, Women’s Institute seems like a more conservative institution to me! OK, I don’t know much about it so I shouldn’t judge. But mention WI I immediately think 50’s Mums and Grans, preservers of family traditions and doing things the old way.

It was in fact Ms Martin who complained about Tilly’s “lack of process” and her blouse not demonstrating enough “processes” compared to Stuart’s – I presume she meant different techniques. Mr Grant at least acknowledged the design flair in Tilly’s blouse.

Which brings me back to why I now appreciate having a designer as a judge on a sewing show. One thing about home sewing that has never been quite satisfying to me is how some garments – even when it’s a copy of high fashion design like Vogue Donna Karan patterns – don’t always look as stylish as the originals. On regular women I’d understand – we don’t all have stylists and fab photographers following us around. But pattern envelopes use models don’t they? So why do they look, erm, excuse my French – frumpy?

I’d love to have a designer point out the difference in cut, you know, the secret ingredient of what Dennic Chunman Lo called a designer’s signature fit in his Pattern Cutting book. So Grant’s comment about the sleeve length of Ann’s first day dress for example. Of course it can be anything Ann wants. But if one is trying to achieve a current design flair, those little tips from the Industry are really interesting.

Which brings me back to another point about the format. I hate the eliminations. Not only because it’s cruel. But also because it means less projects for the judges to feedback on, and less variety of creative solutions to the same challenges to inspire us. (Same with Project Runway / Catwalk – I like the early episodes of each series better. More designs down the runway to get inspired by.)

So now it’s down to the final four. I’ll still be watching the remaining two episodes of the series. Because as Miss P pointed out, if we don’t show support for the show regardless of its shortcomings, then there will be no chance of better ones coming down the tube. Don’t forget your Facebook Likes and your Twitter Followings too!

And don’t forget to check out Tilly’s blog for some interesting tidbits about her experience on the show, as well as interviews with some of the other contestants!

Happy watching tonight!

0 comments on “The long & short of Great British Sewing Bee

  1. I have really enjoyed watching the show. Did you consider trying out for it? My impression is that the show is designed to kindle interest in sewing, which is great, rather than be a true competition. The contestants genuinely seem to like and respect each other, unlike the snake pit that is Project Runway. Patrick definitely appears to favor the cute blond. or maybe it is the editing. I predict that creativity will win over best sewing skills in the end.

    • I do vague recall reading somewhere a call for participants, but blissfully ignored it as I don’t have the confidence to sew under pressure. Hack, sewing under normal circumstances is nerve wrecking enough on a bad day. Imagine a camera following around! Would you consider it? (Speaking of which, just saw on Facebook announcement they’re casting for the second series!)

      Project Runway is a bit different isn’t it. It’s more rag trade than home sewing. Totally not surprised by the bitchiness. It’s just a shame that there aren’t more creative sewing TV programs around.

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