on 1 April 2013
In April 2013, the talents of some of Britain's top amateur needlesmiths were televised in series one of 'The Great British Sewing Bee'. Through this book to accompany the series, judges May Martin and Patrick Grant hope to encourage viewers to pick up their thimbles and thread their needles. This substantial hardback volume contains sections on getting started and basic skills, before taking the reader through 28 complete sewing projects. There's a glossary, a dictionary of fabrics and a handy index at the back of the book. The authors also also offer a few glimpses at the history of sewing in Britain along the way.
After a brief introductory section, 'Starting to Sew' takes the reader through the process of stocking a sewing box, using a sewing machine, understanding paper patterns and finding fabrics. 'Basic Sewing Skills' then outlines how a project should be approached, and offers a detailed guide to the following tasks: tacking, handstitching, sewing and finishing seams, shaping and contouring, gathering and easing, inserting zips, applying bias binding and making buttonholes. Each section is accompanied by some good, clear photos to help the reader understand each process described.
Thus equipped, we are ready to move on to the most substantial section - the 28 sewing projects. A full-size pattern for the tunic is included in the back of the book; all the rest can either be downloaded, printed and pieced together, or photocopied and enlarged, or redrawn from the illustrations in the book. Each project comes complete with a 'button rating' for difficulty - 1 being the easiest, 5 the most difficult. This rating is indicated in brackets in the list below, so that you can get a feel for the scope of the projects available.
Tunic (2), Pyjama Trousers (1), Button-back Blouse (3), Floor Cushion (2), Edge-to-edge Jacket (3), Pencil Skirt (2), Summer Dress (4), Laundry Bag (1), Basic Curtains (1), Circular Skirt (2), Tea Dress (2), Girl's Dress (2), Tie Cushion (1), Cook's Apron (2), Prom Dress (4), Window Panel (1), Hacking Jacket (5), Bow Tie (1), Camisole (3), Boyfriend Shirt (4), Patchwork Throw (1), Roman Blind (4), Basic Dress (2), Waistcoat (3), Tote Bag (2), Blouse with Collar (2), Butcher's Apron (1), Ruffle Cushion (1).
On the whole, I think the book is well-presented. It provides good, basic information for novices, whilst at the same time being a handy reference for sewers with a little experience under their belts. Not all the projects interest me, but there's a decent enough range on offer, and between them they test a variety of essential sewing skills. On a practical note, all of the patterns for women's clothing are supplied in UK sizes 8-16. The men's waistcoat is available in UK sizes S - XXL, but no other measurements are offered, which might make it a bit tricky to get a good fit. I'm a little bit disappointed that there are no tips on mending, altering or embellishing garments, which were covered in the TV series. I also think the publishers missed a trick by not tying more of the projects in with the expertise of the contestants on the show - after all, they provided great inspiration to make, do and mend!
This review refers to the hardback edition of 'The Great British Sewing Bee' published in 2013 by Quadrille Publishing.
I've also added some extra notes here on the various projects listed in the book, in case readers are interested:
- The simple project shown was the 'Laundry Bag' (p.112). The fabric used was 'Verbier Grey' by Marson. The same design is also available in beige or green.
- In the dress challenge, Stuart made the 'Summer Dress' (p. 120). The fabric used was 'Chinese Lanterns' by Amy Butler.
- The simple project shown was the 'Tie Cushion' (p. 151).
- In the blouse challenge, Tilly made the 'Button-back blouse' (p. 91).
-The simple project shown was the 'Basic Curtains'.
- In the jacket challenge, Lauren made the 'Hacking Jacket'.
I like the concept of this book but it is riddled with mistakes.
I am attempting to make the Girl's Dress, but so far I have discovered:
1) The sizes on the pattern (3-6, 6-9, 9-12 and 12-18 - no mention of what units these even are!!) do not remotely match up with those given in the instructions (3, 4, 5 and 6 years)
2) The yardage given for the fabrics is not right. It says you need double the length of fabric for the bodice as for the skirt when it is clear from the layout diagram that the skirt will require the most fabric. Unfortunately I didn't notice this until I had already purchased the yardage stated at the top, so did not have enough.
3) A seam allowance has been missed from the back bodice pattern piece, so once you have added the zip, the back bodice is too small to match up with the skirt piece and the front bodice.
I am a real beginner and yet I can spot these mistakes - God knows how they got through the editorial process. I am just pleased that there are plenty of other reviews on here pointing out the mistakes so I am reassured it is the book that has it wrong, not me.
I also bought Tilly Walnes' Love at First Stitch, and I honestly think that is a better place for Sewing Bee fans to start if they want to have a go at making their own garments.
on 2 July 2014
I am guessing that all of the five star reviews are from people who haven't actually tried to make anything in the book. It may look the business and does have some handy hints and tips for beginners, but the patterns leave a lot to be desired. That is assuming you have got past the first hurdle of transposing them and sticking bits of paper together to make them.
I confess I am a beginner, but this book is enough to put you off for good, every thing I've made has been wrong, from the pencil skirt with the bizarre tiny waist, to the tea dress with the enormous shoulders and the boyfriend shirt with the too small collar, shoulders and armholes. If it wasn't for the other reviews from more experienced sewers I would've thought it was me at fault and have been even more depressed about it.
So if you take my advice, don't waste good time and money making these clothes, buy a nice pattern from Simplicity etc with the safe knowledge it will work.
on 4 April 2015
Bought this book as I have recently got back into sewing. I've worked with patterns before so I have a bit of experience, but there are so many errors in this book that it makes it really hard, even for a relatively experienced sewer to get things right! The clothes are nice but it is really frustrating when the pattern just doesn't make sense, or the marking they refer to aren't there - for example, the 1960s coat, the dots for pocket and button holes just aren't marked on the pattern. It's really irresponsible that a book aimed at novice sewers should be written so shoddily, especially considering it's from a BBC show!
on 29 July 2014
I deliberated between this and a couple of other books as a beginner (I also purchased Dressmaking, and wanted the other Sewing Bee book) but I'm glad I picked this one up, especially at £12, which it has been on Amazon for a while. The book comes with 5 sheets incorporating all 24 patterns to be traced and used, as well as masterclasses along the way on every technique I can think of trying as a beginner, including buttonholes, concealed, standard and revealed zips, working with different fabrics, finishing seams and more. It has a detailed section on how to take your own measurements, and therefore how to adjust patterns to your unique fit. It covers a comprehensive introduction to different fabrics, and how to choose and match them to projects, as well as giving the detailed instructions and overview of finishing seams and edges.
In my opinion it is a fantastic first or early book to inspire someone to get into sewing. It makes everything accessible, exciting and has a ton of pictures. I have already read the Dressmaking book, which I would recommend also, and there is overlap but both books are still worth it. This one is aimed at getting beginners to grips with the essentials, as well as enough skill and instruction to actually make something, and I think it is pitched perfectly. I haven't tried the patterns out yet, but it's not why I bought the book. I could use everything else in this book to help me make the most of other patterns I have bought, perfecting the finishes and adjusting them to different projects. The patterns are a fab bonus (and in things I actually want to make!)
I am amazed at how much info they have crammed into this book, I think it is fantastic, and beautiful. I borrowed the other Sewing Bee book from a friend and this one has tons more info in it. If you are a beginner, it's a great place to start!
on 28 July 2014
I brought this along with the first book, The Great British Sewing Bee, and i was pleased to see this is more of a project book than just an updated version of the last one. There are hints and tips at the beginning and then you move on to the projects which can all be found on the five big sheets in the attached boxlet. It was nice to see the ladies pattern have now gone up to a size 18 (shop size 14/16) and you could get started on a project straight away (your fabric hoard permitting). I made the simple t-shirt the day i got the book with a few alterations (try YouTube for guides on how to alter patterns for example https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPFfLo7zlmQ - i have no connections to this video i just like it)
All the patterns are included
Tips and hints to make sewing easier
Lots of inspirations and variety of projects to make
The projects are based on the ones used in the tv show
Nice basics for your wardrobe
Good range from simple to more complicated
Ladies patterns are still a little small
The patterns sheets can be confusing, the front, back, side outlines are not the same colour for the same pattern
Some of the patterns are a bit silly, do you really need a baby teddy bear onesie?!
No notches and few alteration marks
Overall i'm happy with my purchase. I ave used it as a guide together with my simple/easy sew shop brought patterns, i will make more of the projects but with my own alterations. This is a nice stand alone book, but also goes well with the original book without too. much cross over of information.