Wednesday, 17 April 2013

{Inspiration} The Great British Sewing Bee

I confess: the sewing virus that has lain dormant in my veins for some years now has re-awoken. I've caught the bug. I'm probably infectious and I fully intend to spread this as far as I can. 

{A truly inspirational cross section of British Sewing!}

Since episode one I've been hooked, and if I could have my way, no one would get "asked to leave the sewing room" they'd all just stay in every week, showing us new techniques and ways to tackle a brief, and generally being inspirational!

As for my sewing prowess, wwweeelll prowess is maybe putting it a bit strong. But we've all been there right? I've sewn the odd item of clothing for myself and lots of envelope cushions since I was first trusted to a sewing machine, but I was pretty impatient and couldn't really see the point of pressing, tucking away threads and finishing things properly if I could avoid it. Oh and heaven forbid actually cutting bias binding on the bias. Why bother?

Today however, I am here to make amends. I have seen the error of my ways, and I promise the Gods of Sewing that I will always prewash and press my fabric. I will always press out seems and carefully trim away bulk fabric. I will always tie off my threads and laboriously tuck them away and you can guarantee I'll use the right presser foot for the job. I will never leave raw edges when I could over edge stitch them (I don't have an overlocker.... Yet). When temptation to cut corners strikes, I'll think "What would May Martin do?" When I'm so tired that I don't care about the fit anymore, I'll think of Patrick and his passion for balance. Most importantly of all, I shall never again make bias binding on anything but the bias. 

What I think the Sewing Bee has done best, is show us that it doesn't matter how old you are, if you're male or female, what your day job is, or how wealthy you are, you can learn to sew, and you can enjoy it.

When I first started, I didn't have fancy equipment and my "sewing room" consisted of a coffee table in my bedroom, a vintage mannequin (with a fairly serious shoulder injury, affectionately known as Auntie Annie) and my mum's basic (and very old) sewing machine. Where there is a will though, there is a way. From those early struggles came my first ever garment: a 1940's wrap dress from an original 1940's pattern. 

I was very lucky in that my Dad (who is a welder and fabricator and therefore a geometry and manufacturing whizz) was happy to help. I had never even SEEN someone make clothes before, and it was before the era of "just googling it", so having someone around who spends every day of his life altering patterns and making real products for industry was invaluable. Yeah the symbols were different, and the materials were worlds apart, but the skill and the understanding of how a flat sheet can be turned into a 3D shape is the same.

And so with his help, I made my dress (apologies for the photography I was in a rush to finish and it was before the time of a quality digital point and shoot) I wore it at a 1940's reenactment weekend that a friend of mine was involved in. He maintains steam engines on the railway where the weekend was held. I know it sounds a bit lame, it was actually awesome! The 1930's and 1940's are my ultimate favourite era for fashion and design, so getting to dress up in my 1940's dress and prance around a land sent back in time for one weekend was amazing!

{I'm on the left, taken on a rare sunny moment on an otherwise very rainy day, with my fellow 1940's Brits}

My dress was so far from perfect... I fixed a hem whilst I was wearing it on the train ride into town. I pinned the wrap together at the bust with a safety pin hidden on the inside, and I'm wearing a cardigan because I never properly finished the sleeves... I wish I had learned to knit by then and I could have at least made my own 1940's cardigan. My favourite bit was probably twirling around in it at the 1940's dance in the evening. I LOVE the music from that era and for all it's faults, my skirt really swirled well, but I was so busy enjoying myself that I never got any photos!

I don't think I would ever have thought to make this dress again, employing all the things I've learned since then, if the Sewing Bee hadn't come along and reminded me how much fun it is to sew. Now however, I think I'll give it a go, and this time finish the sleeves, improve the fit and perfect my finish!

If you haven't been watching, you totally should! BBC2 on Tuesdays at 8pm, available on the BBC Iplayer. You can also keep up with Tilly's adventures on her blog, and Lauren is about to open up a haberdashery and studio!

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