Monday, 28 April 2014

Sewing 101 & The Belated Great British Sewing Bee Book Review

OK, I have got to admit it twee though it was, I had a bit of a soft spot for TGBSB. I liked the gentle humour, the interesting challenges, seeing what the contestants made and eyeballing all the gorgeous fabric in their sewing studio. We were all watching the last series at work (it is the only thing I watch on TV apart from Gardener's World) and to cut a long story short I was press-ganged gently persuaded to have a sewing day with three of the girls from work at F6 Studios on Saturday. No one could decide on a dress pattern so when I knew we were going to do some sewing I went out and bought TGBSB book "Sew Your Own Wardrobe" thinking that it should be nice and simple for new sewintists. The girls bought all their fabric and notions and we were all set. We bought lots of cake.

We didn't eat it all, honest.

We started the day by taking measurements and tracing out the right sized patterns and learning how to do simple adjustments. Because I wanted everyone to start off on the right foot I made them make muslins.  I am Horrible I know but we had to do some pattern adjustments and I didn't want anyone being put off sewing forever by making something and it not fitting (more on that later). I never used to but got a bit fed up of making things for me that were huge or too tight for me so I am now a muslin convert. No more lazy sewing for me (don't hold me to that one, please). I asked everyone to wash and press their fabric before they came. Talk about being prepared.

3m of pressing. I am rotten.

Now, I have loads and loads of sewing books. I buy them every time I see them and pick them up on eBay and Amazon all the time. I read sewing books like people would read novels (and patterns too, even on the train, but that is another story). I love sewing books but for me there are several small things that let this volume down. Before anyone accuses me of dissing "the Bee" let me just say that this program has done so much to revive interest in sewing that the producers should be knighted. What was once considered as a pastime for old ladies (and us crazy sewing people) has now become slightly more popular, even hip.

Lovely candy stripe cotton fabric.

Two people chose the skater style flared dress pattern and one chose the 1930's style blouse.  We had some issues with both of these patterns from the outset. There were crucial symbols missing from the pattern pieces that would have definitely put off a novice sewer as they would probably have put it down to their inexperience rather than pattern mistakes. The worst offender though was the blouse pattern fit. We had made some pretty simple adjustments on the flat pattern as dictated by the maker's measurements but even with these it was too horrible to make up in the final fabric. I don't know if it was me or what went wrong but I felt really, really terrible as the lovely lady who was going to make the blouse ended up with a horrible muslin and not a lot else. Thank God, she hadn't cut into her beautiful cotton lawn. On the other hand, both the dresses came out really well and look lovely on. They will be great when they are finished. I think we have three new sewing converts though so that is good. I am a bit sad about the blouse as that is the reason that I bought the book.

No work, No cake!

The blouse brings me to another BIG gripe! Sewing Bee people get you act together. The patterns are only up to a 40 bust. While I am aware that the size increments in RTW can change after a size 18, patterns are a bugger to grade up. Why not use the same increments and just go up more? No one cares what their number is, just having a pattern in the right ball park would be nice. If the girls from work had not been going to use the patterns from this book I would have taken it back in a big huff. I have seen lots of comments on the same theme in the Amazon reviews. If the "Gertie" book and the "Colette" one can do it, so can you. Go on, bite the bullet for us chubs, there are a lot of us about.

Overall, it is a nice tie-in with the series but I would hesitate to give it to someone who didn't sew already. I am going to give the bowling shirt a go for Sprogzilla as I have Pikachu fabric for it but the reviews have not been great. I see another muslin coming on..........

Have a lovely week!
K xx


  1. I didn't actually watch the programme (I know - an aspiring sexist like me, what was I thinking?) What a shame about the sizing (a 40" bust isn't that big anyway, is it?) and the blouse pattern. I have never thought about making anything from a book as I don't know how to alter patterns and that feels too advanced to me. And I did wonder about making a muslin, but didn't because I am lazy, and didn't have the fabric. Although since I ended up taking the bodice of my dress in, maybe I should have...
    It's actually rather comforting to know that even experienced dressmakers sometimes have issues with patterns, fit, etc. I'd love a master class with you! Thank you for your encouragement on my first dress, it's really kind of you. xxxx

  2. Not kind at all. The dress was lovely and looked very well made indeed. You are welcome to a "masterclass" anytime. Actually, I scored 30 vintage sewing patterns from the Cancer shop on Saturday. Made me think of you and your dress as some are very much your style. I probably have loads in your size. Some books are pretty good and they often come with pattern nowadays. I can recommend the "Colette" one. There are loads of good online resources about altering patterns. If you have anything of a bust you might want to do a Full Bust Adjustment (FBA) and buy patterns according to your chest (round the back and across the top of the bust) instead of your full bust. This gives a good fit in the armholes and shoulders as these are more difficult to adjust. I have a HUGE difference in mine and always made stuff by my full bust and it was massive. I used to have terrible problems with fit. I still find it very hard to fit myself as I have no one to help me. Actually, I think that the biggest problem I have is having time to sew at all. ;) xxxx

  3. A Full Bust Adjustment - sounds like some surgical procedure! Thanks for replying, I will look into what resources are available online. I don't have any new patterns at all, I just pick up vintage ones cheap in charity shops (and hope they are complete!)
    And you knew I meant aspiring SEWIST, didn't you? I do try not to be sexist!
    Btw, almost finished a second dress - I know, I can't believe it! I am loving it. xxx

    1. Hahaha! Brilliant. It is addictive once you get started. Vintage patterns are the best, although they had different sizing to modern ones as we don't have the industrial-strength undergarments they used to wear. Thank, God. Can't wait to see your new dress. Xxxx