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Sewing in the Media: The Great British Sewing Bee S1/E1Reviewed

i.e. Aunty Beeb ‘discovers’ that home sewing is a big deal.

I forced Carl to sit through this with me. Good to have a civilian present to help document the bloodshed. It was fairly entertaining.

Episode 1: The stage is set, some entertainment occurs.

Some of the contestants: charity worker Michelle-gorgeous, extra points for hubby attempting to feed the kid on camera (amateur feeder?). Extra, extra points for shoes-off machine operation. Sandra’s a sweetheart (the trauma of all having to wear the same curtain dress at the same time without the benefit of being actual triplets=learning to sew for yourself from an early age). Mark the lovable pirate (BBC2 seem to think Steampunk is an actual historical era. Carl: they obviously spend too much time on Etsy). Ann- her 75 years of sewing experience is going to kick everyone else in the centre back seam. Lauren: Best accent ever (Carl agrees).

Team Stuart

Stuart. He’s in a class of his own. My heart says Stuart for the win. My head disagrees.

The Judges

 May Martin workin' it like a Boss

May Martin, Sewing Expert with 40 years of teaching experience (100% bullsh*t-free) the submissives are gonna be lining up for  her sewing classes.

Patrick Grant

Suave talking-beard and Saville Row businessman Patrick Grant (described as a ‘brilliant tailor’ by the host who seems cute and all but I have trouble taking orange people seriously-given time I suspect she’ll grow on me. Much like a fungus).


Total desaturation is an unfortunate effect of adjusting out the deadly orange hue..

Challenge 1: A-line skirt

Oh the men are going to rock at this..

Team Stuart

I’ve never made a skirt before, Claudia. A-line or otherwise.

Lovely to have you here Stuart.

 British drama.


Sandra-puckering at seams and zipper, Jane-obvious pattern mismatch at seams and darts, Stuart-uneven top-stitching, puckering everywhere (Patrick: You seem to have issues with moving fabric through the machine). Mark-concealed zipper fail, Michelle apparently has puckering on the trim (what?), Tilly-puckering at dart ends and seams, general bagginess of silhouette, concealed zipper mismatch and uh.. those pockets..

Carl: Oh g*d it looks like a private part. With flowers on it.

Patrick: If you are going to add something make sure it doesn’t detract from the overall impression of the garment.

Yea. That.  I’ve said this before: seam-line pockets are lazy and look messy. I’ve had (majorly irritating) personal experience with their presence in commercial patterns (the big four are major offenders in this area but Patrones does it too). I don’t include pockets of this sort in my makes anymore: they gape and add bulk at the worst possible place. Yes, contrast facings and linings are awesome (and a great way to use up scraps) but the insides of pockets are meant to be concealed (Claire Schaffer and any number of vintage sewing books agree with me on this).

Anyhoo Patrick concludes that the men suck at making skirts (and it only took him 3 hours to figure it out) first place goes to the person that used a lining and did it well. Sandra eff yea.

Sandra: my daughter’s ‘ll be like balls a pop.

Whatever tickles their fancy dahling. Edit: she meant bottles of pop-possibly the first time since the 1770s that carbonated beverages have been a big deal. Or any sort of deal at all.

This was followed by a short feature on historic aspects of the home-sewing pattern industry.

1940s home sewing

Yo Aunty Beeb that’s not British-it’s a copyright expired piece of Simplicity propaganda from the USofA

Photo Bomb: Victorian pug in a gas mask

That’s better. The pug in the gas mask is an added bonus.

Challenge II was a garment refashion titled, changing the neckline on a high-street top.

Sandra sewed on the facing back to front then cut off the seam to fix it. (I saw this on the teaser clip and was overwhelmed by the desire to smack her across the back of her head with a laptop-others had a more measured response).

Patrick: In tailoring we call that ‘a bit of pork’. Read:in tailoring Patty gets a special sandbox to play in, keeping him well and truly out of the way of the real tailors (amateurs, on the other hand, get to suck it up and act like they love it).

Except Ann.


Because Ann is awesome. She will cut you (with a dull rusty pair of snips) and you will thank her politely as you stagger out of the room clutching your innards.

Tilly:..just gonna draft a collar..

*Make bloody sure it’s not a PeterPan then.*

Neckline re-fashion challenge

Aaand-it’s a PeterPan collar.

Too short for the neckline so there’s a raw edge where it doesn’t meet at centre front. Everyone sucked at this. Michelle’s version sucked least of all. And Ann’s. Because Ann is awesome.

Patrick to Jane: It’s good from afar but far from good.

Ha! Fully redeemed. I see his function now. Angry gay guy. Love it. Welcome, Cowell junior.

Edit: He’s ostensibly straight *the twittersphere groans collectively and goes back to looking at cat videos*.

May to Tilly: You’ve actually got to stand back and say, what can I do in the time-what can I do well.

Challenge III-Dressmaking for (and fitting onto) a regular human being

Patrick to the host: I’m not a lover of the scallop-even if it’s done well. You have good taste Sir.

Lauren's Colette Macaron

Lauren appears to have omitted the zipper from her Colette Macaron. Or something. Tilly’s making a scallop-necked vintage dressright after the main judge said he’s not into scallops. Tilly for the win.


Ann-pretty good fit (some puckering at the sleeve-head), weird 80s colour combo. The model seems to love it. Lauren-over fitted, stress-lines and tightness everywhere. Bust darts are pointing someplace weird. Mark-some puckering at the princess seam curve, but otherwise awesome especially in the arrangement of the dot print and especially considering this is his first dress. Ever. Michelle-stretched out neckline (should’ve seam taped the silk immediately after cutting. At least she used a rotary cutter instead of the dressmakers shears everyone else was rockin’. Work it, lady). Sandra-frumpy as all heck but well made. Stuart-combined a massive repeat pattern fabric with a sectioned dress pattern. Every single seam has obvious glaring pattern mis-matches and the fit is hideous. His poor model looks pregnant but not in a good way. Tilly-um…


May wants to burn it. I suggest using it for the next refashion. Aunty Beeb (i.e taxpayers) paid for the fabric afterall.

Neckline not laying flat, weird poofiness all over the bodice, weird lumping at the waist seam and wonky hem. During the actual sewing session Patrick passed by Tilly and told her to remove the excess fabric at the bust using darts.

He’s a judge and he solved fitting issues for a contestant. Thanks Patty. Welcome back to the wasting-all-the-Oxygen-in-the-room-train. You’ll be riding it solo for the rest of the season.

Tilly’s response: No idea where the other dart’s needed.

Uh.. it goes where the excess fabric is. He just gave you the answer. Make an armhole to bust point dart and be done with it.

Then the contestants went away and the judges discussed their decision with the host. And this happened:

#GBSB If you're going to leave a turd on the carpet at least have the decency to pour some glitter on it.

Aaand Patty’s locked to Oxygen-wasting mode for the rest of the season.

Patty, sweetheart, fitting to the shape of the model was point of the last challenge. Do not blame the model. She is perfect as she is.

Screen Shot 2013-04-05 at 1.13.17 PMSee? Perfect.

And so Michelle got sent home. She messed up one out of three challenges and got sent home. The end of this episode was like every American movie where the black guy dies first. Except this time it was totally unexpected.

My recap:

Contestant A-line skirt Top Re-fashion Dressmaking and Fitting
Ann Technically well executed. Technically well executed.  Not bad, but I’m not crazy about it.
Jane Good-o Junior serial-killer clown costume.  N/A
Lauren Not bad. Not bad.  Booby-fitting breakdown. Anne Hathaway’s Chanel blooper? Erased.
Mark WTF. Bollocks’d it Oh g*d the pain, make it stop.  WoW. Ladies, control yourselves he’s a married man.
Michelle Nice Not bad.  Wrap-front bloop.
Sandra Yay it’s lined. Win. Noob stuff-up-bollocks’d it.  Frumpalicious but well fitted. Gets the 1850s violin.
Stuart WTF my eyes are screaming. Eh.  Tornado of mis-matched seams+instant preggo silhouette.
Tilly Wha? Bollocks’d it Bollocks’d it again.  Crikey. 3/3 eff’d

Conclusion: Somewhat entertaining. I wasn’t happy with the decision to cut Michelle and have adjusted my expectations accordingly (Carl went and signed up to their website so he could comment on the idiocy he’d just witnessed).

Hopefully this series doesn’t have the Yay-let’s buy a shitty plastic POC sewing machine then ditch it when we realise the work involved effect that Project Runway had on the general viewing public.

Previously, on Sewing in the Media.

Disclaimer: All images remain property of their original owners and are used here for the purposes of discussion and review.

Sewing in the Media

Goldhawk Road Edition

I love that the station signage is just a refurbished version of the No Smoking sign.

Set Scene:

Semi-smouldering, conflicted (he’s avoiding his mum-daaaaamn man, that’s harsh!) male detective inconspicuously shadows a potential suspect onto the train.

The guy he’s stalking is suspected of being a serial killer of the ladies (real killing not seduction, apparently since the age of 8).

Cue the copper’s obvious distraction by a semi-attractive co-passenger (don’t get your hopes up man, it’s not going to happen-she paid for her ride and you jumped the stile-the kids’d be cute but so conflicted). 

Aaand he looses sight of the suspect.

Who alights at the Goldhawk road train station and makes a beeline for the exit.

So far so consistent with the media perception of British law enforcement.

But wait, it gets better, while the detective is busy tearing across the city after the suspect (whom he eventually catches up with and forces a confession out of interrogates, the real killer is out chatting up his next kill (spoiler-it’s the side kick from ‘Dirk Gently Private Eye‘ – who’d’ve thunk?). 

So next time you’re up Goldhawk Road-way keep your eyes peeled for dodgy behaviour and bad acting. Also, stay away from gigantic tailor’s shears and unmarked patterns of doom. 

I briefly wondered if the woman on the train was a sewist- I mean it is the middle of the day and she’s on the train headed to Goldhawk Road instead of at work or whatever – and then I realised this series isn’t self-aware enough for something like that.

Sewing in the Media

More tales of badly-researched dodgy-ness..

Scene I– The Tailor’s shop (Aha! But wait, there’s more!) in a sleepy little English village (is there any other kind? Not in Tube-land there isn’t).

The inspector’s wife needs to get her coat fixed.

Jovial rich-gent looks like he’s fixing for something entirely different. Either that or he’s terribly short-sighted.

However, she quickly gets distracted by something shiny (and immediately proceeds to feel it up).

Refrain from sweating upon the dry goods please!

Whereupon dodgy rich gent magically whips out a swatch of (self-designed) tweed (who’d have thunk) to impress her with.

Yes, yes, one of my own designs! Care to touch it? Certainly not! You are too familiar Sir!

Creepy Lord such and such (who also has a self-designed tweed) responds with the following enlightened riposte, “Yes well, the birds will fall dead out of the trees dear chap, no need to bring a gun the sight of that tweed should suffice” or some such hilarity.

Get that away from me, it’s common.

Polite laughter ensues.

End scene I.

Scene II- At home with inspector what’s his face.

The inspector suffers grievous bodily harm after incorrectly assuming that the missus will darn his tattered rags.

Scene III- Random house in the village with conveniently placed bushes on either side of the back entryway.

Dodgy old lady from the tailor’s shop visits seamstress I to discuss some dodgy deeds. Seamstress I’s hubby is sent packing to the pub forthwith.

Sewing machine on dining table = chances of dinner being served < statistically insignificant.

He looks more put out than he has any right to be. At least he wasn’t smacked in the face with a tattered shirt.

Tea brewed- check. Hubby banished- check. Sewing machine in plain sight- check. Let the drama commence.

The ladies commence plotting chatting only to realise (belatedly) that some creeper is perving at them from the bushes (I was hoping the two of them were having an affair and that it was the husband perving from the bushes but this series is way too pedestrian for high-jinks of that calibre). Pretty much everyone else in the village seems to be getting some on the side though- apart from poor inspector what’s his face, and dodgy old lady’s son. The latter has been stood up by tailor’s-assistant-hottie again and is drowning his sorrows at the pub where, surprise surprise, constable sweet cheeks finds him).

Scene IV- At the police station following the discovery of dodgy old lady’s body in the parish garden.

A map! Excellent !(Yes well done man! Let’s all strut around with our fingers in our suspenders and an air of superiority for the rest of the episode).

This is a scene from later in show. See that deathboard? Well sweet cheeks here contributed that map.

I’ll head out to the pub and check if they’ve seen anything out of the ordinary. Good man! 

No, the right response would have been, “At 10AM? Isn’t it a bit early in day for getting sh*tfaced? You’ve only just started your shift and all you’ve managed to get done is whack a bloody map on the whiteboard deathboard”.

Eventually, after a whole lot of bumbling around and bubbling incoherently, the coppers figure out that creepy Lord so and so owns a sh*t load of property (i.e. the whole village and everyone in it) including a secluded icehouse in the woods (insert weak jokes about warm drinks etc. Wait no, the coppers have done that for you) which they decide to investigate at a later stage. Facepalm bonanza!  At  this point I had my money on icicle as a murder weapon (because this show is actually hideous enough to seriously consider cliches like that).

Scene V- The morgue.

By this time idle-wild detective man (previously known as sweetcheeks/ drunkat10) has managed to sponge off:

  • drinks at the pub
  • tea and biscuits (and a free shoe cleaning + polish) at creepy Lord so and so’s estate
  • a cashmere swatch from tailor’s-assistant-hottie (she crumbled in the face of his pithy platitudes) at the tailor’s shop (and who knows what other favours from the other indentured serfs in the village).

Smooth like sandpaper and the village ladies love it.

Fabric foreplay (she knows how it works-the lads are only interested when they’re likely to get a free suit out of it). The assistant gives him a swatch bloody great hank of propah British tweed just cutting it willy nilly out of the centre of the bolt… (possibly making dolls clothes out of the rest, now there’s a bleeding great hole right in the middle…).  I would have liked to have a thought bubble over the poor tailor’s head (having to listen to their dreary banter while hand-sewing trim in a vertical position) but some things are better left to the imagination.

The coroner (this man has contaminated more crime scenes than I care to recount- haphazard is his middle name) says death was caused by blows to the head + a pointy tool of some sort (gotta give it to the British,they make sure the job’s well and truly done)- icicle, score! Virtual self-high-five!and then I remembered this a sewing-related crime so perhaps it was a tailor’s awl (except it’d have to be made of titanium or something to go through the victim – I don’t fancy the odds of a standard issue clover awl making it through through her trench coat fabric).

Scene VI- The icehouse.

After more bad acting,*  futzing around and generally bemoaning the vagaries of fate etc, the coppers eventually converge at the icehouse where Creepy Lord so and so has the scene set with heathen-smiting music, crazy-ass creepy candles (Martha Stewart would have a fit at the mess of wax everywhere) and angry quoting of biblical verses out of what appears to be a large print copy of the Gutenberg original.

Turns out Creepy’d been bonking seamstress II for yonks and dodgy old lady found out about it so he killed her (in god’s name). Just as he’s about to bloodily dispatch seamstress II in the same manner (who by the way has conveniently i.e. idiotically aligned herself in front of the altar with her back to him *bonus facepalm*) the coppers turn up, followed shortly by tailor’s-assistant-hottie, who it turns out was also bonking Creepy.

Dressed to kill.

Darling when I said let’s swing I didn’t mean with constable drunkat10 and inspectorwhatshisface.

Hottie’s appearance causes mass hysteria among the general constabulary (but she gave me a swatch, from the centre of the bolt– if that’s not love then what is?**).

Oh and in case you were wondering, the murder instrument? A pair of dressmaking shears (possibly also from biblical times) stolen from the tailor’s shop. … hohoho

A large cross-wise cut like that made by gardening shears gigantic Medieval tailor’s shears.

*Actually I wouldn’t even go as far as to call it acting, it was just people swerving dramatically in various directions while the poor camera person tried to keep up..

**Punching you in the face when you ask her to sew you something. That’s love. It’s for your own good and believe me it hurts her more than it hurts you.

All images are used under a fair use license for purposes of review and remain copyright of their original owners.

Sewing in the media

Because it’s hilarious what they think we’re like.

I was watching this dodgy English police drama (I am guilty of doing that from time to time) with a weirdly emotional New Zealand copper (female) butting heads with a doggedly dramatic senior Sargent (male, how trite – but wait, it gets worse). There were two (female) homicide victims (one was a cold case, the other more recent); both were sewists and both died wearing the same dress (which they’d made themselves), in the same pattern, made out of the same fabric (it was black checkered plaid if you’re asking). So yes, that irritating feeling of creative ennui can actually kill you.

Elegance sewing pattern, shirt dress

Pattern to die for: The folly of making your dress in the same fabric as that on the pattern envelope.

Victim number two conveniently left a fabric swatch (to facilitate useless flashbacks helpful police reconstructions later in the episode).

Cue useless flashback dramatic police reconstruction of the crime.

That wasn’t the only sewing – related thing: a couple of times in the series they zoomed in onto the victims’ sewing paraphernelia: one box of envelope patterns (“You fools! This is no homicide, she obviously killed herself in despair! Leave now and let her husband mourn!” I should be more charitable –  perhaps she was a pattern drafter, and statistically, there must be people out there sew without hoarding), one sewing machine, one dressmaker’s dummy (non-adjustable and nowhere near the victim’s size WTH?) and a box full of fabric BOLTS (who the hell, that does home sewing, buys their fabric in bolts? Oh wait.. I bought a bolt once, which I since appear to have misplaced; weird considering it was as tall as me and there’s nowhere in my house large enough to hide it..).

The coppers consume greasy deep-fried delights while someone rifles through Victim 2's pattern stash.

So anyway, they showed this flashback of the girl (homicide victim no. 2) unfurling her bolt (like the sails of the bloody Santa Maria) over a professional cutting table which was never shown in the house in succeeding scenes (You fools! she was obviously killed by a home-sewing rival that then stole her cutting table somehow – just look for a sewist with knee damage from too many years of cutting fabric on the floor). And to top it all off, both victims were married (not at the same time) to the same guy (a dental surgeon that ended up being the main suspect). I mean what sort of person, having gone through all of the dramas of stepping on pins, being dragged through fabric sales, lugging home bolts of fabric from ebay sellers’ suburban homes, getting roped into ‘hold this tape for a minute’ not to mention all the loose threads permanently embedded in every carpeted area of his house, once would go through all that shit again with another sewist? “You fools! The man is a masochist not a murderer, he’s obviously addicted to the struggle. Why would he kill his only source of drama/hi-jinks, twice?”

There was a Simplicity pattern.

Unidentified Simplicity pattern (looks a lot more interesting than the pattern to die for..)

Unidentified Simplicity pattern (Vintage re-issue?? It looks a lot more interesting than the pattern to die for..). That's the dramatic NZ copper on the right - quite possibly overwhelmed by emotion again...

And a clue, hidden in a secret compartment in the second victim’s sewing room (by which they meant the little drawer in the front of her sewing machine..yeeeesh). The plot (and I use that term loosely) stretched over two hours, over the course of two weeks (which I consumed in one sitting on iview, aah the joys of the internet, self-medication with trashy entertainment at self-prescribed dosage levels) and eventually bumbled its way to some sort of resolution but not before two more deaths (Spoiler: including that of the murderer). The moral of the story? Don’t contribute any checkered plaid to the one cool thing, one strange thing swap.

Seen any (mis)representations of sewing/ craft in the media lately? Let me know and I’ll dissect them/ link your dissection thereof, here.

Unexpected Awesomeness

This turned up in the mailbox today. It was sent  as a congratulations on your PhD by Stefpulls (who did recently ran a Sewing in the Media post on one of my favourite British shows, The IT crowd).

Quite possibly the first sewing magazine ever to reach me in the month it was issued!*

Thank you so much! I love this issue, there are so many elegant garments I really want to make,  topping the list are this dress and the jacket next to it with concealed fastenings.

I love garments lacking visible closures because they conform to my minimalist aesthetic. I would probably make the dress neckline with pleats/ tucks rather than gathers (because gathered necklines always seem chaotic to me (not to mention it’s a style better suited to very young kids and Oktoberfest barmaids).

My favourite thing in the whole issue by far, though, are the pants above. I love the pants. And they’re included in my size. So no grading necessary. Bonus love. I have the perfect black stretch denim washed and ready to go for these. Woot! The top’s pretty sweet as well and the skirt on the right is another elegant, contemporary style I’d love to make.

The dress on the right is made from a woven upper on a stretch fabric base. Perfect for using up remnants and smaller pieces of fabric. The top on the left I’ve only included for the people that buy anything (and everything) with a Peter Pan collar (read: too lazy to draft one and use it on all the patterns they already own hahaha. Seriously though, the ‘collar’ doesn’t even extend round the back of the shirt XD Minimal effort design feature ’nuff said). I was pretty disappointed that it was made for wovens and not jersey/ knits. La Mia Boutique used to do a lot of Knit and Jersey styles (which is why I was ready to subscribe to it even at the hideous Australian subscription rate) but they don’t do very many stretch knit patterns nowadays.. There are other elegant silhouettes in this issue, I’m just not a big fan of the fabrics they’re displayed in so check out the line diagrams here (thanks Paunnet).

Re the jacket on the cover: while I am not a fan of visible zippers and would make it up without the peplum I can appreciate the positioning of the double sided separating zipper used. It’s very visible and still elegant in its lack of visible zipper tape).

I need a collared T-shirt/ pullover. Guess I’ll just have to make do with this Knipmode pattern. Far out, my scanner is really misbehaving. Having just got smacked with a massive servicing bill for my scooter (after it broke down and had to get towed), I’m really over it.


Thanks Stef, this’ll keep me busy for a while.

*Australia is 3 months behind on everything sewing related because things get shipped here by sea mail.

Also reviewed here by Paunnet.

Disclaimer: All images remain copyright of their original owners and are used here for the purposes of discussion and review.