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The Great British Sewing Bee: From Stitch to Style

The moment we've all been waiting for is here and Season 4 of The Great British Sewing Bee is well under way! As with previous seasons, the BBC and Quadrille Publishing, together with sewing author veteran Wendy Gardiner (see interview below) and Love Productions have put together another fabulous book to accompany the show. We were lucky enough to have been sent a copy ahead of time to try out...

The new book, From Stitch to Style (available now!), has the same clean and clear design as the last book, Fashion with Fabric. The featured projects are varied not only in terms of design and aesthetic, but also in terms of techniques covered. Everything from working with wovens on the bias, knits, lingerie, sportswear, kids, and even a pattern-free repurposing project are represented. The book comes with a separate pattern pack, with all the patterns from the book fully graded and laid out on various sheets of paper. In order to save space, paper and weight, the patterns are overlapped, Burda-style, but before you start freaking out about having to painstakingly trace them all off - carbon paper people! I simply laid out my fabric, sandwiched a sheet of carbon paper between the fabric and pattern paper, held it all in place with pattern weights and transferred all outlines and pattern markings with a tracing wheel. Easy as pie - no tracing, no paper cuts, no worries!

Leafing through the book, I was torn between three of the projects (already a good sign!) - the sari dress, the silk camisole and the palazzo pants - the latter of which seems to have been the most popular choice by fellow reviewers so far - check out Lisa Comfort's vlog review, and Charlotte's palazzo culotte hack.

I hurriedly ordered a vintage silk sari from eBay (ok fine, three vintage saris), but kinda knew they wouldn't arrive from India in time, so I dashed out to Goldhawk road for back up fabric... In the end, I settled on the silk camisole, but with a PJ hack of the palazzo pants to match. Basically, the most elegant and luxurious sleep set there ever was! The silk palazzo PJs is something I've wanted to do with our Holly trousers for a long while, but never got around to.

So. The patterns. Clear instructions and easy to put together, I had not one hiccup throughout the making of both the cami and the pants.

I didn't make any alterations to the fit of either (except for a slight tweak of the cami's bust dart - it felt like it was angled too high to me, so I brought it down an inch and it worked a treat), and I'm pretty happy with the result!

The cami seems to fit true to the finished measurement chart, but I feel like the pants are snugger than the finished measurements suggest - which actually worked out fine for me in the end as I was worried they would be too big! I omitted the invisible zipper and given waistband in favour of a tie-side waistband and a simple split opening at the lefthand side seam - I certainly can't have any scratchy zippers ruining the silky smoothness of my palazzo PJs!

I can also officially confirm that I've now tried and tested the current nightwear as daywear trend out in the wild, and - I think it works! I even cycled home like this - casual grey cashmere jumper over the top, lace from the cami poking out from underneath, velvet heels and silk palazzo PJs. Done.

Finally, we also got to chat a little to the book's author, sewing expert extraordinaire - Wendy Gardiner...

Looking over your amazingly impressive body of work - sewing mag editor, author, teacher, instructional DVD star to name but a handful - I think it's fair to say that you just might be one of the Founding Mothers of the contemporary sewing industry! How have you seen things change over the years, and were you expecting the sudden boom that came with the rise of blogging and social media?

Things have definitely changed drastically since the birth of social media and the selfless sharing that goes with all the blogs and youtube tutorials. Sewing was definitely something done ‘indoors’ on your own and in my own experience, I had very few friends who shared my passion. Which is why I have been so vocal in writing, teaching, presenting sewing. I want others to realise it is a fun and rewarding pastime! I love the way everyone shares. We can all learn some new, no matter how long in the business!

How did your experience writing The Great British Sewing Bee: From Stitch to Style differ from the other (14, I believe?!) sewing books you've written?

With the other books, I have come up with an idea, or been approached by publishers to write a book on a specific theme, which I have then developed and written. With the GBSB book, there were a lot more people involved in the decision process as it is so closely linked to the TV series. This involved what garments to include, choice of fabrics, and obviously the style of the book. My main desire was to ensure it was a good Sewing book, with lots of techniques, tips and helpful advice so that readers can not only make the featured projects, but learn new skills to continue on their sewing path. Timewise it was also a real challenge – as from start to finish was a matter of weeks, not months! But it was an opportunity not to be missed and I am very pleased with the end result.

It must be such a wonderful feeling - and a relief! - now that the book has been published and you can kick back and enjoy the new series of the show! What projects will you be working on for the foreseeable future?

I really am waiting with baited breath to see the series just like everyone else. I obviously know what the challenges are and the garments that are on the show and featured in the book – but no spoilers! But to see it in action will bring it all to life. Right now I am working on workshop programmes for the Autumn Knitting and Stitching shows (I organise these extensive programmes, with over 200 workshops at each show), plus teaching around the country for the McCall’s Big Vintage Sewalong, plus have some Create and Craft TV shows planned for June, plus some blogging and articles to write for various sewing magazines, oh and a series of how-to video clips for Hemline products are planned for the autumn. So no peace for the wicked!

No rest indeed! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us, Wendy, and thank you for another wonderful book!

  • Elisalex de Castro Peake
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Comments on this post ( 1 )

  • May 20, 2016

    This book looks awesome! Your review has me wanting to purchase. I am in the US Are the patterns metric only?

    — Alice

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