The Great British Sewing Bee

Spotted on the Sewing Bee
Series 5 - Episode 5 - Reduce, reuse, recycle week

Blog / 14 March 2019

This week on the sewing bee we saw the 6 remaining contestants reuse old garments for the pattern challenge to make a pussy bow blouse. If you fancy making your own blouse version then Sew Over It have the perfect pattern for that! 

I saw quite a few of the contestants use a seam ripper or unpicker during this challenge - not only to correct seams that had perhaps been sewn to quickly, but also to take apart the old clothing in the first place. By carefully taking out the stitches, it means you end up with potentially more useable fabric than just cutting into things. 

In the alteration challenge we saw the contestants face their pile of scraps from all previous challenges and I'm sure most other dressmakers out there, like me, will have off cuts hoarded away - just in case. This was a great challenge to show that they don't have to be rubbish - you might just have to embrace the more eclectic, patchwork look. 

The Megan Nielsen Karri Dress is a great way to use smaller off cuts of fabric as the bodice is made from so many panels. 

Another way to use scraps is to make them into a patchwork quilt. By combining the same type of fabric from lots of different garments you can re use them and make something that is really precious and sentimental. There are two projects in my book, Learn to Sew with Lauren - one uses old shirts and the other old baby grows to make a lovely quilt. 

During the show Patrick gave the statistic that the home dressmaker has on average 30% of waste fabric. I'd be really interested to find out more about where that figure came from - if I find out I'll let you know. 

It's easily done I guess, some sewing patterns are really over generous with their fabric requirements and the more experience you have of this, the more you get used to it and can gauge if you really need what is suggested. 

Here are my top tips for making sure you get just the right amount of fabric you need

  • Prepare all your pattern pieces in the size you are making before buying your fabric
  • Mark out the area the fabric will cover on your table - taking account of the width of the fabric and place your pattern pieces out as if you were cutting out. 
  • You can stray from the cutting layout in the instructions as long as anything that needs to be on the fold is on the fold and all grainlines are parallel to the selvedge. 
  • See if you can squeeze pattern pieces into unused areas - this is easier to do with a plain fabric or a randomly patterned fabric. Fabrics with linear or one way designs tend to require more meterage. 
  • Can you use scraps or offcuts from a previous project for things like facings, under collars or pocket linings? This is a great way to use them up as well as needing less of your main outer fabric. 

The great news is we sell all our fabrics online and in the shop by the 10cm - and the smallest cut is just 10cm - so it means you can order precisely what you need without having to round up to the nearest half or full meter.