Thursday 11 April 2013

Great British Sewing Bee blog tour

To celebrate the arrival of the Great British Sewing Bee on BBC2, the wonderful folk at Crafty Magazine have organised a week long blog tour to help prolong the party. Every day, a different blogger will review the accompanying book and there are some great giveaways too. The blog tour started on Monday on the Crafty website and will finish on 14th April - there's a full list of who'll be reviewing the book each day at the end of this post. Today it's my turn....

Just in case you haven't noticed, The Great British Sewing Bee is a BBC TV series entirely devoted to sewing. AT LAST!! We get to see contestants making clothes, choosing fabric, using patterns, struggling with zips and trying to get the fit right - basically everything we sewing types do all day every day, if we're lucky. Even better than that, Tilly is one of the contestants!!!!!

AND we get to feast our eyes on bearded Savile Row hottie Patrick Grant every week. What's not to like?!

One of the aims of the programme is to encourage people to either discover or re-discover the joy of sewing your own clothes. The beautifully stylish accompanying book will certainly help you achieve both these goals. All the sections you'd expect to find in a sewing book are included: tools of the trade, different types of stitches, choosing fabric etc. Plus a really well explained and photographed Basic Sewing Skills section, which tells you all you need to know about seams and seam finishes, gathering, zips, bias binding and buttonholes.

If you're new to sewing, then reading through these pages first would be incredibly useful as they cover most techniques you're likely to find on a home sewing pattern or on one of the projects in the book. And if you've never used a pattern before, don't worry, there's a separate section on how to navigate your way around one. There were two really helpful bits that stood out for me in the book. First was a troubleshooting section on common sewing machine problems - not always included in sewing books and very handy if your machine is skipping stitches and you haven't a clue why. Second was an 'order of work' page: a template of good practice encouraging you to think about your work in a chronological order. Sounds obvious, but it's actually a really sensible way of working and an incredibly useful discipline to use for your sewing.

The remainder of the book is given over to a whopping 28 projects and they really have tried to cater for all tastes and abilities. There are 11 non-clothing items including aprons, cushions and bags, plus a range of window treatments. If you like the look of the two projects featured on the telly so far (the laundry bag and the tie cushion) then they're in the book too - with detailed instructions, not the laughably brief ones that were given on the TV.

The rest of the projects are all clothing items, ranging from PJ bottoms, a waistcoat and a bow tie for the gents, to a prom dress, a circle skirt and even a tailored hacking jacket for more experienced stitchers. I suppose the idea is that you can sew your way through the book, trying out more challenging projects as you gain confidence. If you wanted to take your dressmaking a step further i.e. perfect your fit, then you may have to widen your net to other resources as there are only a couple of paragraphs on adjusting patterns to get a better fit.

My only gripe is that there's just the one paper pattern included with the book - for the basic tunic.

All the other projects have to be either scaled up or printed out as a download and taped together. Now, I have no knowledge whatsoever of the costs involved in producing patterns to accompany a book, but I would have preferred to have seen fewer projects and more paper patterns. The time and effort required to print out and tape together just one pattern is enough to put me right off I'm afraid. But if you have a tougher constitution than me (and that's not difficult), then go for it! Two of the projects are based on commercial patterns (Simplicity 2886 and New Look 6035) and one is an early incarnation of an independent pattern - Tilly's Mathilde blouse. For all three of these garments, the instructions are pretty brief and I suspect you'd have an easier time making them if you actually bought the patterns instead. Having said that, there are some lovely classic patterns in the book that I can see being great starting points for adding your own personal touches: the tunic (see pic above), the pencil skirt and the basic dress.

I wish they included a pattern for a longer version of that top, isn't it lovely?

Basic dress

I do think it's nigh on impossible for one single book to cover every single sewing angle and taste, but The Great British Sewing Bee has had a bloody good try. Overall, it's a wonderful book and is a fabulous companion to the TV series.

Finally, confession time... I know that some of the reviewers on this blog tour are offering their copy of the book as a giveaway prize. I'm really sorry folks but I'm going to hold onto mine a little while longer (hangs head in shame). Some of the non clothing patterns are useful, I can see myself referring to that zip section on a regular basis and I'm seriously tempted to give the prom dress a go. Oh yes, and I haven't spent nearly enough time sighing over Patrick's picture..... x

Tomorrow, head over to Did you Make That? where Karen will be posting her review and, rumour has it, hosting the giveaway of giveaways! And don't forget to check out the rest of the bloggers taking part in the blog tour. They are Teasemade on 9th April, Peas & Needles on 10th April, My Happy Sewing Place on 13th April and House of Pinheiro on 14th April.

A copy of The Great British Sewing Bee book was given to me free of charge for review. All views my own.


  1. Good for you! the book has adopted you. there is always room for another book on the shelf. I too love the book.

  2. I think you should keep the book! It seems much more thorough than I thought it may be and I'm glad the instructions for the items mentioned on the show have been fleshed out a bit. They were ridiculously short!

    Have you seen Sunni's Craftsy class on zips? It's a freebie and sometimes seeing it actually done really helps...

    Oh, and I'm with you on Patrick!

  3. Good for you! Keep a hold of it and just review it... good work!


  4. Keep this book is brilliant! It is full of information that sewers like us need at the tips of our fingers :) I just finished watching the second episode and the competition is truly getting fierce! :) m.

  5. Picture, not pictures?! You get a man like Patrick Grant on board and then show only show one picture in the book? Surely not...

    Loving the series so far. Although I wasn't going to get a copy of the book, your review has made me reconsider - with or without Patrick.

    1. No there are a few more pics of Patrick in the book, I was just rationing them....! x

  6. I didn't realise there was a book along with the show! Sounds like it would be a useful book to have on my shelf.

  7. Hi, the patterns look inviting. The only thinkg that troubles me is the downloading part of it. I have seen on the net that they are not working. Good idea, but if it is not working might spoil the book a bit.

  8. and here I thought I was the only one wondering whether digital patterns would be the future. Glad I'm not alone in preferring traditional paper patterns! Thanks for the review - great insight!

  9. I would keep the book too! Can't wait to get my hands on one, although I'm disappointed to here it just comes with the one pattern. x

  10. Thanks for the peek inside the book, can't wait for it to make it's way over the pond.

  11. hi I loved the sewing bee programme - is it still on i-player or youtube?

  12. hi I loved the sewing bee programme - is it still on i-player or youtube?

  13. I loved the show, and thank goodness sewing is slowly returning to the mainstream. Cannot wait for the next series!



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