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Things to make and do
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'.