Book review: The Great British Sewing Bee

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The Great British Sewing Bee book was waiting for me under the Christmas tree this year. Santa Claus must have known that as soon as I heard about the programme’s existence I fervently downloaded it all so I could watch it here in Belgium, a land where accessing BBC iplayer ain’t possible.

It’s a great read and if you were a fan of the programme you’ll probably like the book. What I actually think makes it a good book is that it doesn’t really dwell on the programme itself too much, or the contestants: luckily the author, Tessa Evelegh, has put together a varied selection of patterns and projects that aim to inspire beginners and established stitchers alike; the book is not made up of filler recapping the series or profiling the contestants. Not to say that would not be interesting, but if you have seen the programme then you probably know all that already.

I’ve made up one pattern so far, the tunic top/dress pattern that is included with the book (the other patterns can be accessed online and downloaded). I made it up in some black corduroy that my Mum had stocked away for years unused. It’s a nice simple pattern to make and it is the first time I’ve actually got my head around how to do a facing that conceals both the neckline and armhole edges in a ‘clean’ way. Maybe this is obvious to others but it has taken me so long to work this out! I’ll maybe try to do a post on it one day with photos as I have no idea how to explain it in words! So from that respect the pattern was a great exercise as I really learnt a new skill. I hope to use the pattern again with a different type of fabric. It’s probably a good pattern to have for adapting as it is nice and simple. Next time I would definitely lower the armholes slightly as they are a wee bit tight, but maybe that’s more to do with the corduroy! It’s the first time I’ve made something in corduroy and it was great for keeping warm when blasted with extreme Scottish gales.

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Given the title of the series and the general tendency in the UK at the moment for everything from supermarket produce to advertising to hark back to this imagined idea of ‘Blighty in the olden days’ where everything was just ‘spiffing’ and we all sat around doing twee things draped in bunting and thinking of how we could best serve our Queen and country, I had feared that the programme would be a bit annoying but I was happily proved wrong! Not that I have anything against bunting. I’m just happy the producers didn’t make the programme too cringy as I don’t think that’s a way to inspire people to sew. I thought the programme was excellent as it really showed how much all the contestants got out of sewing and I was pleased that it stuck to telling the viewer about the competition and presenting the projects in as much detail as was possible for a TV show that has to appeal to a wide audience and not just sewing fanatics.

And the book continues in this vein. I don’t think any sewing book can be used in isolation and no book can ever be a complete compendium of a given subject so it is unfair to expect that. For example, if I was a complete beginner I would probably still be crying over that facing insertion. It was my previous knowledge as well as other books and blogs that helped me to my ‘Eureka’ moment, in combination with the GBSB book.

Most of all I like that the book has opened up my eyes slightly to the possibilities of sewing non-clothing items. While clothes are my immediate priority it would be nice to have a go at making cushions and curtains at some point!

Overall I think the book is a lovely way to inspire someone to get into sewing and a good reference for those already at it, although not an essential one.

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2 Comments

  1. 18th January 2014 / 8:21 pm

    Cute! Just fyi, if you use Google Chrome you can download an extension called Hola and get around the country restrictions without any problems… I've been watching the iPlayer like this for a while!

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