This week on BBC we were all treated to the Great British Sewing Bee (Tuesday 8.00pm) - an elimination contest of sewing your own clothes - not designing like Project Runway - but picking a pattern, fabric, notions and making something within a time limit. Then the public scrutiny of your work either on a mannequin or a real live model. And every week one or two contestants are sent home.
BBC iplayer link here. I don't know if this works beyond the boundaries of the UK so I've added a Youtube link here.
There's also a great article in the Telegraph here, that tells you a bit more about the contestants and the judges.
In typical British style the show is not flashy, it's made on a budget but there is something homely and comforting about The Sewing Room and the poor contestants have to have their coffee in the Cafe across the road - like the BBC couldn't provide food and drink! The British contestants have all become friends and there's no bitchiness or slyness, no off-camera comments about each other. Each one is modest about their sewing abilities - refreshing after the narcissism of Project Runway.
You may recognise one or two of the contestants too:
Tilly, from Tilly and buttons,
Ann Rowley from Stitchers Guild
First challenge was to make an A-line skirt in 3 and half hours: everyone had the same pattern but they had to choose fabric from an astounding built-in haberdashery wall, cut and sew, included the insertion of the dreaded invisible zip. If there was any time left, they could then 'personalise' their skirt.
They then had one hour in which to re-fashion the neckline of a white cotton top.
Finally, the biggy of the week was to make a day dress, perfectly fitted to a real live size 12 person in 7 hours. Each contestant choose their own pattern and fabric and had time to practice at home first, but the model was only available on the day.
Sitting on my sofa watching the show, I began to think about how long things take to do.
I've never worked to a deadline in sewing - to me that's the kiss of death. Making something for an upcoming event or occasion puts undue pressure on the completion inevitably leading to mistakes and poor construction. Sewing is about taking your time and doing a bit now and again for the pleasure and fun of it. If the dress is finished in time to wear to the theatre, then that's a bonus, but not a pre-requisite in my sewing world. This may explain my growing disillusionment with SWAP, as the deadline of end of April is fast approaching.
But, if faced with the challenge of 'doing' something within a time frame, how many of you know how long things take?
There are some things I do know about my sewing.....
Sometimes, it takes me days just to pick a fabric........and then I change my mind about the pattern......
Just selecting buttons is a Herculean task for me.
But we all know that one mistake can hold up the whole process by hours - ripping out, picking out all the little thread ends, re-cutting, re-sewing, pressing. Also sewing at home has all sorts of other distractions and rarely do we get 7 straight hours to only sew. One of the judges Patrick Grant is a Saville Row tailor (and lovely to look at BTW) who produces bespoke suits - but only 300 a year!
Part of sewing for yourself is the pleasure of slip-stitching a hem - not machining it; to change your mind as you go along - add a lining, different buttons, shorten etc; and there is design involved too. Choosing fabric and notions to match a pattern and your body shape are all part of the process. Being forced to work within a time limit obviously restricts all this.
It's easy to sit at home, watch this show and shout at the TV -
"That zip is way worse than my efforts!",
"Look at the state of that hemline!",
"Awful fabric - it'll never work!"
"Cut the threads off that would you?"
"Why didn't anyone just make a jersey wrap dress?"
"Don't do that - it's too complicated!"
Watch the show and all these will make sense to you.
But if you had to....
How long does it take you to insert a zip?
|Previously bad examples of my zip insertion , without time pressure!|
How long would you need to sew an A-line skirt, hemmed and ready to wear? (and lined!)
What could you produce in a glorious seven dedicated hours from the sewing room?