Are you watching The Great British Sewing Bee? I’m glued to the telly. It’s been filmed about a mile away from my house – I’ve walked past that converted chapel many times without realising what delights lay upstairs…
I have SO MANY thoughts on it that I’ve organised them neatly into categories for you. You’re welcome.
The Great British Sewing Bee vs. The Great British Bake-Off – which is better?
– Patrick Grant is much better than Paul ‘housewives favourite’ Hollywood. Patrick’s beard alone is worth the price of admission. Whereas May Martin is not quite as good as living legend Mary Berry. Sorry May. Those are big shoes to fill.
– On the other hand, Claudia Winkleman is a reasonable sub for Mel and Sue, but she does look very orange, as pointed out by The Perfect Nose. I never notice it on Strictly Come Dancing, probably because anyone in that studio a shade paler than ‘radioactive Dale Winton’ is immediately frog-marched to a tanning booth.
– Trying to be objective, I think sewing has less of an imediate appeal than baking. There’s something about cake that almost makes you want to lick the screen – that doesn’t quite translate to hemlines and zips.
-Baking is also loads quicker than sewing, so the time constraints make more sense. A cake that took 12 hours of work would be pretty special, but you can sink that into a dress without batting an eye-lid.
I think they’ve done a great job of casting this show. Everyone is an interesting character. Let’s be honest, TV is about people, not skills. This show was never going to be an instructional video and they weren’t really looking for the best amateur sewers in the UK (although they seem to have accidentally unearthed one in the shape of Anne. The woman has a whole forum dedicated to her advice).
I was actually giddy at the amount of sewing content they did include, including that trippy little animation on installing a fly zipper which was probably lost on 80% of the viewing public.
Same goes for the competition format. I wish nobody had to leave each week but TV demands a narrative and someone to root for. I was really sad to see Michelle, Tilly and Mark leave, but my current favourite is definitely Sandra, mainly because of her awesome Black Country accent. And her pockets.
The twee factor
Is minimal, thank God. I’m so glad it’s all about dressmaking, with the Cath Kidston homeware stuff relegated to those bits about sewing laundry bag or a cushion with rabbit ears (whatever the hell that was). They may be useless but they are a convenient moment for a tea-break.
Sewing behaviours described by the contestants’s friends and family that I recognise in myself, and was relieved to hear discussed on national television
- Hoarding large piles of fabric in odd places
- Disappearing off for hours to sew and forgetting to eat regular meals
- Leaving pins scattered freely around the house which then end up in your boyfriend’s feet
- Sewing garments for you, your friends, and anyone except your long-suffering partner
- Frantic last-minute finishing leading to attaching things the wrong way round
The impact on the Great British Public
Twitter seemed to like it, anyway. Some of the reviewers weren’t so keen, saying that ‘trousers just aren’t as sexy as chocolate cake’, I think that depends on who’s wearing the trousers. But apparently haberdashery sales are soaring, which can’t be bad.
Watching this programme reminded me of seeing your favourite band in the world on the telly as a teenager. You’re torn between feelings of insane joy and nit-picky possessiveness.
But I really hope an interest in dressmaking surges. I don’t think everyone is going to learn to sew, realistically. It takes a lot of time and money. But having an idea about what goes into clothes can only help people make better buying decisions.
Anyway I have MANY MORE thoughts but I’ll spare you for now. You should go and read these:
- Ann Rowley is giving some fascinating behind-the-scenes info on this Artisans Square thread, including the fact that this week they were supposed to be making a child’s party outfit until the last minute…
- The Thrifty Stitcher was the sewing consultant for the programme, and she drafted that trouser pattern they made!
- These Twitter reviews in the Independent are amusing.
Why was nobody (except for Michelle) using a rotary cutter? I couldn’t live without mine now. Do you use one?