The Great British Sewing Bee - Episode One

So, I really hope you all enjoyed the first episode of The Great British Sewing Bee last night?!?

I was so excited and nervous to see it I had ants in my pants all day and could hardly concentrate on anything. It was the first time I was seeing the epiosde too so I had no idea what they would actually show.

I love the way it turned out though. The set was so amazing, shelves stacked high with fabric, jars of buttons everywhere, reels and reels of ribbon, it went on and on. They didn't show too much of the big upstairs section that was on the balcony where May and Patrick liked to keep an eye on us from above (just a bit scary!). It was packed with gorgeous fabrics too. Making a quick decision about what you wanted to use for the projects was so hard. I wanted it all!

It was so lovely to see all of my fellow contestants again too! I miss them! We really, truely all got on so well and I've kept in touch with most of them and made some forever friends! I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to meet them all and be part of the show!

The A-line skirt challenge

We had absolutly no idea what was coming when we entered the sewing room for the first time. They didn't even give us a vague idea of what it could be but I suspected that from watching the Bake Off it would be to make a garment with pretty vague instructions, which it was. And it was a steep learning curve to try and stay focused when all the cameras were right in you face.

I had never made an A-lined skirt before, in fact the only skirt I had made before was an elasticated waist one that was basically a straight forward tube with a channel for the elastic at the top - specifically for when I wanted to eat lots of cake! No, just kidding! I loved the fabric and wanted something simple to use it for and thought this skirt would be perfect. I didn't even follow a pattern, its literally a straight tube with a bit of elastic!

I love making dresses though and had put in loads of invisible zips into them so I tried to see the challenge as a dress without a top bit. I took the chance to show the judges that I like the small fine details and touches and even though my skirt looked quite plain I had tried to make it as neat as possible - on the inside too. I used French seams (which is where the raw edge of the fabric gets hidden) and put some bias binding around the edge of the facing on the inside of the skirt - again to hine the raw edges. I don't have an over locker at home (thats one of those machines that use lots of threads to stitch and bind of the raw edges of fabric so that it doesn't unravel). So without one of these dudes I use other ways to make the inside of the garments I made look neat. I was really pleased that the judges seemed to like it. It was so interesting to see how everyone has interpretated that pattern, and hats off to Sandra to for getting that lining in!

The Alteration Challenge

Again for this challenge we had no idea what it was going to be. We walked back into the sewing room after a cuppa in the cafe across the road to see all our bust form ladies dressed up in these white tops. To hear we only had an hour to do it gave me the biggest lump in my throat! I've never seen an hour go so quick! It was literally frantic, we were running around, looking at trims, fabrics, buttons.....We could have done anything, but I stuck with what I was comfortable with and made my bias binding to add a trim to the neck line with a tear drop opening.

I loved how everyones tops were so different and we all had such different ideas. Tilly's collar was gorgeous!

The Day Dress Challenge

This was the biggie! We had time to prepare for this 7-hour sewing marathon so for me I felt the pressure was really on to do the best I possibly could. The photographs below show the practice version of the dress I made on the show.

One of the hardest things to figure out was how long it was going take to make the dress. Normally at home I would never sew under such time pressures, usually making a garment over a few days, weeks even. Cutting it all out, then the next day or week start putting it together, and there would normally be other things going on too, a cup of tea, chat to my Mum, get the dinner on etc...So trying to judge what I could actually do in the time was so hard. And fitting it to a real-life model - gees-oh! I can just about make thing fit me by making them up, trying them on, then looking in the mirror and thinking...hmmmm...a bit of a nip here and a tuck there. Hence the reason what I had some 'bust squashing' issues when I did the challenge for the show!

So, I practiced! I picked a pattern decided what detailing I wanted to do and made myself a version of the dress. Here it is.........

My original plan was to put piping around the waist band as well as the join between the bodice and the yoke (sorry technical sewing terms again!) but after my practice session there was no chance I'd fit all that in.

Still, it means I've got a lovely detailed dress for myself!....

I also wanted to make it look lovely on the inside too. Why go to the bother you ask?! I like it! I think that if you are going to the trouble to make a bespoke garment for yourself with your own personality and style on it then you should make it really special. Quality and finish in clothing is really important to me. It makes me feel better when I wear the clothes and - they totally last longer too! I can't afford to buy the designer stuff that is made so well so...I'll do it myself!

I used bias binding to edge the facing on the inside of the dress to take away the raw edge.

I used a contrasting floral print fabric to line the inside of the sleeves, the pockets and for the facing at the neck line.

I know its not totally obvious when your wearing it and not everyone see's it but its how it makes you feel when you wear it that's important. I'm generally a bit obsessed with fabric, and I wouldn't necessarily wear a whole dress that was in this print but the fact that I've used a bit, even if its just me that see's it, make me happy! If there are any fellow fabric fanatics out there - I know you'll understand!

Roll on week two then! Up next we have the blind trouser challenge (another garment I had never made before!!), altering a skirt with patch pockets and the luxuary blouse challenge!

Tune in after the show next week to read my thoughts and reflections - and inside info on the bits they didn't show!

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