I’m officially hooked on The Great British Sewing Bee. The BBC Two show had me at episode 1, when 8 novice seamstresses rustled up an A-line skirt while I polished off my dinner. I had wondered how the show would compare to the Bake-Off, what with the lack of cakes and all. But 3 episodes in, my Tuesday nights wouldn’t be the same without Granny Ann’s perfect stitching, Scottish Lauren’s perfect everything, and Claudia Winkleman’s giant fringe. (Not only that, but sewing is much better for the waistline than baking – especially once you’ve mastered the elasticated waist.)
With the fourth and final episode in sight, I was chuffed to get my hands on a copy of the official book to accompany the show. It’s author – Tessa Evelegh – is well-known in crafting circles, and Quadrille have a hefty back-catalogue of great craft books to their name. So far, so good. But could the book really fill the post-Sew-Off void?
In a word, almost. It doesn’t draw on the contestants’ experiences much at all, despite the fact that it features lots of their projects from the show. It’s a shame, as they’re part and parcel of Sewing Bee’s charm. But it does mean the book stands up as a bona fide sewing guide, regardless of whether you’ve seen the series or not.
That – and the lack of patterns (there’s only one included with the book – the rest you have to download and print off) are the only two niggles I found. Those aside, it’s really rather fabulous. There are 28 projects to get stuck in to, from a simple floor cushion, to Lauren’s hacking jacket from episode 3. I’m a newcomer to the world of dressmaking (one ill-fitting GCSE tunic aside), so the latter is possibly a little ambitious just yet. That said, the first section of the book lays out the basics of sewing so well I’ve at least got the confidence to give it a try. Topics covered include choosing essential tools, deciphering pattern markings and picking the right fabrics. Plus, there are 32 pages dedicated to the sewing techniques you’ll need to master in order to get through the book.
To help you choose where to start, each project is given a difficulty rating and there’s a real mix. At one end of the spectrum there’s a simple pair of curtains, which basically require you to sew in a straight line. At the other end there’s that hacking jacket, which is where the likes of darts, facings and every other technique you can think of come in.
I guess the proof, Bake-Off style, will be in the pudding, and I’ll let you know when I complete my first project from the book. But whether you’re a fan of the show, or you’re just looking for some sewing inspiration, I’d say The Great British Sewing Bee is well worth the cover price.
Win A Copy!
I’ve got one copy of The Great British Sewing Bee to give away, courtesy of the lovely people at Quadrille. If you fancy being in with a chance of winning, just tell me which Sewing Bee finalist you’re rooting for in the reply field below. I’ll pick a winning entry at random at 10pm UK time on the night of the Great British Sewing Bee final – Tuesday 23rd April – and post the name of the winner on here. (And if you’d rather just buy a copy, you can snap one up for a tenner on Amazon.)