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Great British Sewing bee

So, the Great British Sewing Bee

I have all my posts all scheduled up until the 26th so I can focus on my promotion board, but then I read Ms Yes I Like That’s thoughts and I felt like doing a bit of telly based bitching myself.

all contestants

So… I enjoyed it. I’m not a sewist, I’ve only ever made a handful of things, but I am interested in sewing and have vague ambitions of properly teaching myself at some point, and I basically like reality tv stuff with clothes in. I read sewing blogs. So I am the target audience and it works for me.

But bake off it wasn’t, because trousers are not cakes and sewing is not baking. Everyone’s baked something at some point in their lives, and even those who haven’t still know what a good cake is. Cakes are fun and plentiful and everyone can have an opinion. Cakes can have a million different characteristics and there’s plenty of scope for dodgy innuendos. Whereas patterns, no one knows about except people who sew and maybe the small section of the population that is being sewn for regularly. And even they probably don’t care so much about the type of stitching on their hem. Because that’s what this is basically about: the straightness of hems and the non-bunching of fabrics and the positioning of darts. It’s not a design competition, it’s a dressmaking competition.

claudiaThe other thing is Claudia Winkleman. I quite liked her on Strictly (though standing next to Brucie and Tess Daly will make pretty much anyone look good), and she does seem nice enough, but I’m not quite clear what she is doing on this programme. It’s fine to have someone that doesn’t know about sewing, I get that they’re there to ask the stupid questions, but she could at least pretend to be interested in the answers, you know? And she just doesn’t have that just-being-really-nice-and-good-with-people thing that Mel and Sue do. I’ve also become quite obsessed with imagining what she looks like without the orange glow and panda eyes and frosted lipstick*.

And what’s with the Midlands-centricness of the casting? It makes a change from everyone being from London, but really, even the Scottish one is from Birmingham***. If you’re going to have your programme name start with Great British for no reason whatsoever, it might be a good idea to maybe include some people from outside England! Or just dispense with that ludicrous naming convention. Why is everything Great British these days? It makes it take forever to find anything on the iplayer on the tv for starters!

sewing beeI’m also quite surprised how little I like the clothes they’re all making. The blouse challenge last week was a particular low point. The only one I would have even remotely considered wearing was the unfinished thing Tilly went out on. Supposedly this is leading to a surge in people wanting to learn to sew, but on that evidence, I’d rather just go and buy a blouse in a shop.

And those weird bits where they show you how to make something for the home? What is the point of that? It goes far too fast for anyone new to sewing, and is far too pointless for anyone that does know what they’re doing. And it doesn’t even fit with the rest of the programme, which is clothes not home stuff.

On the plus side, I’m glad they’re retained the gentleness of the format, it doesn’t feel too much like a competition, just some nice people being nice about each other. And nice people they are! I liked Mark best, I just loved the image of him and his wife taking over the whole living room with their sewing tables making steampunk stuff, and that his daughter is into it too. A steampunk family! Now he’s gone I think I like Sandra best, though on the basis of what clothes they’ve made I would go for Lauren.


I told Dave about this post and he also added his own complaint which is that he thinks the competition is unfairly skewed towards the women contestants cos they’re mainly sewing ladies clothes. He think they should do bags and curtains and stuff to even it out a bit, given that there are fewer men’s clothes available and proper men’s tailoring is probably too time consuming to do on tv. Which I disagree with, I like that it’s about dressmaking and not Martha Stewart tweeness, but I just thought I’d put it out there.


The footnotes, cos I’m not so into the linearness today:

* I actually just googled it and she does look quite different. But I was more interested to discover that for some reason the fourth predictive search term google comes up with is Claudia Winkleman sneeze. Eh? (Apparently she had a sneezing fit on the radio once. She sounds like a person sneezing. Most exciting.)

** And yeah, Lauren. Her husband is hot! They’re going to have beautiful kids.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Break Fast Habits 15 April 2013, 9:19 am

    Here here! I’m watching it on YouTube (based in Germany) and oh, disappointing. Sadly, I much prefer the Project Runway Shows probably because they are design competitions. Everyone knows what they like and what they don’t like when a garment is finished. And, wow, you’re right about the DIY sections: I am a sewer and would have no clue how to put those cushions together! Shame, it could be so much better.

  • Alice 15 April 2013, 1:00 pm

    I’m kind of in two minds about the show too, I’m probably their target audience with my sewing machine I barely use but to be honest I don’t actually feel too inspired. Anyone with any sewing experience knows how to make a cushion (I’ve still got the one I made when I was 12 in school) and anyone who doesn’t have sewing experience isn’t going to be helped by their tutorials. I have found seeing someone using a pattern kind of helpful (I keep buying them in charity shops for 20p) but it is hardly ground breaking.

    Then again maybe I am just bitter, I’ve read Tilly’s blog on and off for about a year and I think it is a shame she has been taken off. Most of the other competitors seem to have been sewing for years – seeing someone making their wardrobe after only learning to sew recently is definitely more inspiring. I’ll probably keep watching anyway, but just for Patrick Grant xo
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  • Amy 15 April 2013, 6:11 pm

    I enjoyed it but I’m with your above commenter, I thought it was a shame they took tilly off so early since I think she’s more representive of the target market the show is aimed at, young people new to sewing. Much as I enjoy the older contestants and appreciate there’s someone for everyone, personally I find tilly and Lauren more inspiring on the basis that they’re more like me I guess. On the other hand tho, I actually found it quite inspiring to see tilly getting it wrong a few times! Not in a nasty way, more that as an avid reader of her blog, its sometimes hard not to get the impression that everything she makes turns out perfectly the first time (this is true of a lot of crafting blogs) and thus get disheartened when every second sewing project of mine turns out unwearable! It’s actually inspired me to start on a sewing pattern I’ve been planning on trying for ages but have been too scared of it failing!

  • Sadie 15 April 2013, 6:22 pm

    I agree with Dave that it seems biased against the male contestants, and a friend who applied to be on it said that the application asked about all sorts of sewing, so she was surprised by the dressmaking focus of the show itself.

    I watched the first episode but didn’t really like it – I never watched the Bake-Off either and am not a big fan of reality TV generally, and I thought that it didn’t really make sewing look enjoyable or get across the huge range of possibilities you get. The only person who was being really creative was Tilly, and that seemed to get her marked down a lot.
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  • Camelia Crinoline 15 April 2013, 10:54 pm

    I watched the first episode of Sewing Bee but I don’t think I’ll be watching any more even though I’m obsessed with sewing. I just don’t think the Bake-Off format works for sewing. You can bake a good cake in a matter of hours but it’s pretty hard to pull off a technically good garment in such little time. I don’t like any of the clothes they were making either, except the car mini skirt in the first challenge. I would wear that. I also thought it was really unfair that they kicked Michelle off in the first episode. She’d done quite well in the first two challenges and then badly in the last but they were others who had done badly in all three. In the end I think the problem is that watching Bake-Off makes me want to eat/bake things, watching Sewing Bee does not make me want to sew anything.
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  • Rachel 16 April 2013, 9:48 am

    I was so excited to read your views on this after seeing the title pop up in my feed. Thanks for the well written post. I too have been annoyed by the bias against the male participants, not just because most of the sewing is for female garments but I also think the judging comments are particularly harsh on the men. I applaud Mark for making a male blouse but was disappointed it was rubbished by the judges and we didn’t really get to see close ups of the garment to understand what was wrong with it.
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  • Hannah 16 April 2013, 10:23 am

    Aaah what about Patrick Grant, he’s got Edinburgh roots, and he’s a work of art!!!! 😀 Yummy.

    Totes agree on old Winklepickers, she’s no Mel’n’Sue, who are great people people as it were, even in real life (or at least Sue is, I can’t honestly say for Mel!)

    I like it but I think there is room for improvement, hopefully they will take on board comments if they decide to do another series 😀