Friday 14 March 2014

The Great British Sewing Bee

On Sunday evening, I was supposed to be cleaning my kitchen.

Instead, what I was doing was marathoning the Great British Sewing Bee.

Someone at my church mentioned it to me, after I bemoaned my lack of skill/progress in learning how to sew - particularly clothes. In three years, I've gone from enthusiastic amateur sewer, to glaring bitterly at the two(!) sewing machines collecting dust in my cupboard. Since my infinity dress, I haven't made anything since.

Every teacher seems to want to charge a bucket load of money and take up time that I don't have to teach me to make things I'm not interested in.

Then...this show. When I say I'm hooked, I'm hooked. It's great to me to see the various techniques being talked about, because I'm a very visual learner. Everything is explained perfectly for an amateur such as myself. I know it follows a very similar format to the Great British Bake Off, which was HUGEly popular amongst my friends but I couldn't watch that one because it was too tense watching the cakes come out (I know, I'm a wuss).

I also used to watch Project Runway with my mum but, although I loved the creation aspect of it, a lot of the technical terms went over my head and I despaired of many of the 'high fashion' projects and cattiness. After one guy made a maternity dress based around the concept of an egg or a nest or something, I. Was. Out.

 In this one, everyone gets on and supports each other and, though it's still competitive, there's no animosity. I find it hilarious when there's about right people, running around losing their heads, and then someone has finished already and is having a biscuit and a cup of tea.

It's definitely my kind of reality TV show.

 I like how they explore the history of fabrics in the UK, explain the different properties of whatever material they're using and give definitions to whatever jargon they're using...a total geek's dream! Squee! I found myself feeling really inspired and taking notes.

 I love the different characters and personalities. I don't want anyone to leave! Some of my favourites are...

I love Linda, whose beautiful smile reminds me so much of my mum, it twists my heart a little and makes me pick up the phone for a call. She's so bright and bubbly, and so...well, Welsh. Absolutely brilliant.

I adore Heather, who is incredibly elegant and a perfectionist and sweet and easily flustered. I love watching her talk, because she always makes me laugh. The fact that she learnt to sew so she could make clothes when she couldn't easily afford them just makes her the more endearing.

And then there's Chinelo. Wow. Maybe it's because her style of sewing is the one I'm most familiar with, having grown up going to people's houses, having everything from your nose to your toes measured; of drawing a design, rather than picking out a pattern, resulting in these crazy elaborate ankara creations...It's cool to see that on TV, but it's also great to see that (unlike many tailors I've come across in my ankara wearing years) she cares about the little details and the way the clothes fit, as well as the huge bow on your shoulder. She learnt the 'African' method from her aunty who is a tailor, but unfortunately, I don't have one of them lying around... She's not familiar with patterns, preferring to semi-create her own based on  the model's measurements, and doesn't always use pins but she makes it work for her.

Oh, and she has a blog now *stalks obsessively*.

All in all, it's massive inspiration to get back into sewing. One of the most basic things I've taken away from watching it is - have a go! Because if you don't start, you dont' give yourself a chance to succeed.
They all have varying reasons and motivations for making clothes, such as putting their own stamp on it or necessity. Mine is simple - when putting something on, I want it to give the wearer (me, probably), the best feeling they possibly can in it.

So I may not have been able (or courageous enough) to have a wack making my own wedding dress, but if I start now, I might be there by the time The Littlest Sis is ready to wander up the aisle.


  1. That sounds like a show I'd love to watch. I wonder if it plays here. Maybe I'll check out YouTube and see if anyone has uploaded any episodes. I'm always in awe of international friends who comment about having clothes made for them like it's quite normal. And I guess it is. They say it costs less in their countries and they always get something they truly like because the tailors can see a picture and make an outfit specifically for your body which is how it should be, but if I were to ask that here in the U.S., it would cost a small fortune. So instead I just hold on to the magazine clippings and convince myself that I will make this or that when I have the time. So far it hasn't happened, but I'm hopeful.

    For your wedding did you do something traditional British (whatever that might be) or Nigerian or totally different? One of my blog friends has been posting the most beautiful Nigerian wedding dresses and geles. I'm always in awe of all the beautiful fabrics.

    1. Libby, I genuinely was thinking of you when I was watching the show and it's half the reason I wrote the post! I think this lady has some but she's in France so I don't know if you can see it in the US:
      I think it's ridiculous that having clothes that actually fit is not the norm in the West - for us here in the UK, the British High Street revolutionised clothing in the 60s (I think) because it became so easy and affordable to have clothes that tailor went out of business. But now I feel we lack an appreciation for clothes and fit here. I hope I don't - but most things in the shop don't fit me very well, so I'm more aware of it. When I was in South East Asia a few years ago, I got a jacket specially made for me, $30 dollars. I still have it now - the piping has worn to heck, but structurally it's completely intact. Whereas a coat on the high street here would cost me about £70 and last me a year.

      For the wedding, we had two ceremonies: a traditional Yoruba engagement, and an English style church wedding. The Yoruba engagement, the two dresses were made for me specially and they were gorgeous (though we had a problem with one of the tailors - went to pick it up a few days before the engagement and he'd cut the fabric...and done nothing else. In three months. My mother cried. He worked overnight to finish it in time). They were about £100 - £200 each? Also, younger female cousins and friends usually wear the same fabric (ankara) but get it done in different styles, maybe add some fabric. It looks really cool. It's usually the older/married women who wear the gele, because the younger girls want to show off their weaves! I did wear a type of gele when I did the engagement though, so no hair worries for that.

      Finding a white wedding dress was a nightmare! All the dresses were too heavy, or strapless, and if I found one I liked, it was 3 sizes too small. I got stuck in one dress, because it wouldn't get over my backside! The dream of looking absolutely perfect on that 'special' day seemed to be for smaller girls, or girls who didn't have a specific image in their head of how they'd like to look, haha!

    2. Oh, even in spite of the dress drama, everything sounds so beautiful. I would love to, one day, go to a city where I can see lots of the wax prints at one time. I can only imagine a sea of beautiful colors. Here, if I see those fabrics there are only a few prints at a time and it's usually in the store that also sells everything else - from black soap to wigs to dvds. :-) I'd love to go to an open market.

      I will definitely go to the youtube link and check it out. Thanks so much for thinking of me and replying back in such detail. Love, love!

    3. The Youtube link doesn't work in the U.S., but I did a search and there appears to be some YT links of the show that do work here. Can't wait to check it out soon. Have a great week!


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