Great British Sewing Bee Quarter-finals!

Abigail Cox

Abigail Cox

31 March 2014


Now that we've reached the quarter-finals things are getting even trickier for the contestants! This time they're sent back to the 1930's with their vintage Singers and even more basic patterns! 

Challenge 1:

Although Heather and Lynda seemed to light up at the opportunity to work on a 'rustic' retro machine, everyone's face fell at the prospect of retro patterns. (Especially poor David's - who freely admitted he'd never worn or worked on a silky blouse before!!) Without the hints, tips and guidelines that litter modern dress patterns, the contestants were left slightly in the dark with mere pin holes and slashes in the template. Unusually Tamara struggled with her collar, despite choosing a lovely fabric, while Lynda 'talked a bit too much' rather than focusing on the job in hand! Chinelo's stunning blue faire was piped to the post by Heather's pale floral number. Heathersewing
Image: Facebook


This Liberty fabric would make a wonderful 1930's ladies blouse.
(Ombrellino B, crepe de chine, £45 p/m)

Challenge 2:

I say this each week, but the judges are definitely choosing some mean ol' alteration tasks for the sewers. This time they had to transform an old men's suit into something faaahbulous! And all without the haberdashery too! Tamara found herself at the bottom of the pile with her backless tuxedo-top, while Lynda's perfect pinafore won my vote. Heather and David hovered in the middle of the pack with their designs, while Chinelo wowed all with her incredible pencil dress transformation!

Challenge 3:

The bespoke coat! All of the contestants had some truly beautiful designs, along with some fab fabrics. Poor Tamara struggled with hers coming apart as she worked, while Chinelo found she was a little too heavy handed with her lining! Heather's stunning red & black swing coat was practically perfect, unlike Lynda's who WON garment of the week for the 3rd time this season! I think she's turning out to be the one to beat (I know, I change my mind every Tuesday!!)


Image: Facebook

Despite David's pretty suave PC's coat, we have to say goodbye to him. It's a shame, considering how many ladies items have been thrown at him, he did incredibly well!! He's got a lucky wife at home.


Image: Facebook

Patrick Grants teams up with Singer for a 'once in a lifetime', 'money can't buy' competition!

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Image: Singer

Singer Sewing Machines is teaming up with with Savile Row tailor and television personality Patrick Grant to offer anyone purchasing a new Singer machine the chance to win a place at an informal and fun half-day sewing session with the star at its London Sewing School.

Anyone purchasing a new Singer sewing machine from an authorised UK stockist between 1st April and 30th June 2014 will be able to enter the draw. There will be two separate days for the winner's sewing sessions, one on June 19th and the other on July 31st. Each of the days will be divided into a morning and afternoon session, with seven different winners attending each session.

“To make the sessions as accessible as possible to all levels of sewing experience, winners will be invited to customise a garment of their choice with support from our Singer sewing experts,” explains Singer’s Stephen Bogod. “Patrick will be on hand to chat and offer advice. At the end of the session he will go round and judge and give guidance on each of the projects.”

Purchasers will enter the draw via a special web page or via the Singer Facebook group. Once the winners' names have been drawn they will be asked to provide proof of purchase by way of the original receipt.

The winners for the session to be held on June 19th will be drawn from all entrants who have registered up until midday on Friday 30th May. The winners for the session to be held on July 31st will be drawn from all entrants who have registered after midday 30th May until midday on Friday 11th July at which point entry is closed.

Details, terms and conditions can be found at

Tune in Tuesday 1st April, BBC2 at 8pm for the semi-finals...with no patterns!! 

Crafty Goings On

Abigail Cox

Abigail Cox

19 March 2014


Although the sun seems to be taking a break today, spring has officially sprung!! And along with the sunshine, a whole host of crafty happenings are appearing...



By Hand London: Design and Print Your Own Fabric!


Since the success of their womenswear sewing patterns and sewing kits, launched little over a year ago, plus their ever growing following of talented home sewists across the globe, By Hand London is now adding an entirely new facet to their brand: print-on-demand fabrics!

In order to fund this exciting new venture, By Hand London has just launched a Kickstarter campaign. The aim being to raise enough money to buy their very own textile printer and fund the accompanying shiny web and app development needed. 

If you fancy pledging to this fabulous cause, the girls are offering anything from a tote bag to 1m of fabric, designed by you! Find out more here.

Image from By Hand London.

Jane Foster Workshops


Carrying on with our print theme, one of our favourite textile designers Jane Foster is hosting new printmaking workshops, starting next week (25th March)! 

'All my workshops are designed for beginners. You will leave each workshop with your own finished products and will be able to carry on the skills at home.
The workshops take place in my bright sunny studio at Dartington Space in Devon, surrounded by the beautiful Devon Countryside and fields of cows! The studio is minutes from Dartington Hall and it's superb gardens and pub / restaurant. They also offer accommodation in the listed building.

All the inks used on the course will be eco friendly water based. Courses are for three people at a time so I can give you all lots of attention and assistance. I will show you how to produce your own simple paper stencils to produce your own unique design to print onto bags and other fabrics. (Which you might want to make into purses and cushions!)'

Words and image taken from Jane's blog.

Click here to sign up.

Coats New Website!

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Coats Crafts have a brand spanking new website! And it really has EVERYTHING you will ever need for your crafty endeavours. So take 10 minutes and explore...

'Feed your creativity and be inspired. Whether you’re a beginner, casual hobbyist or seasoned professional, there’ll be something for you.

Discover fantastic new patterns, projects, charts and designs.   

Learn useful tips, tricks and techniques to help you.

Share your passion and enthusiasm with others and find out about special events dedicated to what you love doing.

Register for full access to patterns, ideas, tutorials – everything you could possibly need to live your passion.'

Words and image from Make it Coats


The Great British Sewing Bee, episode 5


This week the poor contestants were given the nasty task of making their own nylon anorak. Everyone (and their seams) started to come apart, but Tamara came top with her 'practically perfect' bright blue bomber. It was so lovely to see her win finally, I just wish Patrick would have modelled it for her! 

In the alterations challege, the sewers were asked to battle with leather and jersey. The usual suspects did well: Chinelo, Tamara and Jenni (LOVED her daring purple number), but it was Lynda who wowed May and Patrick in the end with her monochrome bustier. The less said about David's creation the better!

 The next day saw luxurious velvet scattered around the studio. David's chinos were super smart - and I would love to see the local bobbies in velvet too! As usual, Chinelo wowed with her peplum trousers (and her figure!), as did Tamara's tan turn-ups. Poor Jenni's high waisted pattern looked promising, but in a flustered moment she attached the band the wrong way round! (I blame Patrick) Sadly that was the end of the line for lovely Jenni. But well done to her!

Tune in next week for the quarter finals and over sized suits, vintage patterns and hefty coats! 

Tuesday 25th @ 8pm, BBC 2

Dont forget...

The April issue of Making is out next Thursday (27th March) with over 20 blue & white themed crafts, perfect for Easter!

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West Dean's Tapestry Studio commissioned by designer Faye Toodgood

Abigail Cox

Abigail Cox

17 March 2014


The Tapestry Studio at West Dean College, one of only two commercial studios in the UK has been commissioned to hand weave a unique piece of textile art, called Play, designed by British designer Faye Toogood. The tapestry will form part of Faye Toogood’s Furniture and Coats, Roly-Poly Assemblage No. 4, and will be exhibited at the Internazionale Salone del Mobile in Milan in April. Work is almost complete on the tapestry by West Dean’s Master Weaver and Designer, Katharine Swales. It has been woven with cotton worsted wool and linen fibres, which are hand-dyed in the studio’s specialist dye laboratory.


West Dean weaver

West Dean Tapestry Studio
Master Weaver & Designer Katharine Swailes

“It is the interpretive skills and the rhythm of the weaving that, combined, form a commission” said Katharine Swailes. ”The bespoke dyeing process is also a significant part of the artistic vision in the same way that a painter mixes their paints to achieve form, shade and texture”.

Having studied Applied Design, and following a successful career working in costume design for the film and television industry, specialising in embroidery techniques, Katharine completed the West Dean Postgraduate Diploma in Tapestry Weaving and the Professional Development Diploma, supported by The Edward James Foundation, and joined the Tapestry Studio in 2000.


West Dean weaver1
West Dean Tapestry Studio
Master Weaver & Designer Katharine Swailes

Faye Toogood is a British designer. Her furniture and objects demonstrate a preoccupation with materiality and experimentation. All of her pieces are handmade by small-scale fabricators and traditional artisans, with an honesty to the rawness and irregularity of the chosen material. With an academic training in the theory and practice of fine art, and a vocational background at the forefront of the magazine industry, Toogood approaches product design with a singular and acutely honed eye. Her highly sculptural work, while showing an astute respect for the past, is derived from pure self- expression and instinct. Toogood’s objects are grouped together into her trademark numbered ‘Assemblages’. This allows her to avoid the formulaic, to experiment with the materials and processes that dominate her thinking at a particular time. With each Assemblage, she engages not only with the products themselves but also with the three-dimensional space in which they are exhibited, working across multiple disciplines to create a single body of work with an intuitive and unified narrative.

Design 'Play'
Play by British designer Faye Toogood     


“We have worked together with the Tapestry Studio for months on dyes, texture and detail to recreate the original graphite sketch into a tapestry. To watch something grow vertically up a loom, week by week over the months is an incredibly beautiful and humbling experience. It has amazed me how West Dean's care and attention to detail has gone beyond my own exacting standards - even the cream background colour is made up of six different shades,” said Faye Toogood.

The West Dean Tapestry Studio accepts commissions on both public and private, large and small scale. Previous commissions include, Black Cat and Rose Virgin for the artist Tracey Emin and a 12 year project involving a series of seven tapestries recreating the 16th century The Hunt of the Unicorn (commissioned by Historic Scotland as part of the refurbishment of Stirling Castle). 


  • West Dean College, an internationally renowned centre for Higher Education providing world class graduate and postgraduate programmes in Visual Arts (Painting and Drawing, Sculpture and Tapestry and Textile Art), Conservation and Making Stringed Musical Instruments. West Dean students benefit from having access to a commercial studio and the artists who work there. The College also offers Short Courses in Art Textiles and Tapestry weaving for beginners (24 26 January £219).

  • For all enquiries relating to Graduate and Postgraduate study at West Dean please contact the Academics Office +44 (0) 1243 818291 or Download an application from to study at West Dean College

  • The Edward James Foundation, the educational charitable trust which supports the College, offers generous scholarships to talent students and bursaries for those who would not otherwise be able to study at West Dean. In 2014, in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Foundation, the College will be awarding The Edward James Anniversary Scholarship to a postgraduate applicant in any discipline who demonstrates outstanding promise.

  • The West Dean College Visual Arts Open Day is on Saturday 22 March 2014. 

For more information on the Tapestry Studio, click here.

For more information on the College, click here.

All images from West Dean College.


Sewing Bee - Episode 4

Abigail Cox

Abigail Cox

12 March 2014

Episode 4 - Dino's & Dances

Well look at that – half way through already!! And this episode certainly mixed things up: just as a talented few were pulling away from the rest…BOOM! They’re struck by the most difficult alterations challenge to date.

First things first. Challenge one: the children’s dungarees pattern. Many perked when ‘children’s clothes’ were mentioned, but few of them stayed cheerful after perusing the pattern. The contestants had a lot to deal with: thick fabric, dungaree clips and flat felled seams, as well as meeting Patrick & May’s increasingly high standards. All in all, not my idea of fun! (Click here for a flat felled seam tutorial)

Tamara added to the already lengthy checklist by making her own binding, but sadly she (and her seams) unraveled under the judges keen eyes. Neither Heather nor Cerina finished on time, and Lynda battled it out with the dungaree clips and lost! Chinelo and Jenni went head to head with the same fabric, and to her delight, Jenni was victorious – coming second overall. But congratulations to David whose dungaree’s were ‘exactly’ what the judges were looking for! Didn’t see that one coming now did you?!

Image: Facebook


Click here for a super cute, vintage inspired dungarees tutorial.

Next the contestants were asked to create something fantastical with just a pair of jogging bottoms, a sweatshirt and a pillowcase. I thought this was particularly cruel, and poor David seemed to agree as he was wandering around the haberdashery long after the rest had taken to their machines. He managed to pull a ladybird out of the bag (or pillowcase!) at the last minute, and it wasn’t too shabby! Chinelo’s princess dress was lovely, but far too tiny for her mini-model, while Jenni created a darling dinosaur, tail and all! Surprisingly, Tamara failed to wow with her superhero get-up, and remained in the middle of the line up for the second time today.  Lynda’s lovely Queen of Hearts was my favourite, with its net skirt and lacey cape, but Cerina’s swash-buckling pirate costume put her in first place. 


Click here for some awesome kids costumes.

For the last challenge the sewers are asked to make and perfectly fit prom dresses to their very familiar models! (Cerina’s reaction to her youngest daughter appearing was perhaps the best moment of the episode!) David’s simple but stunning prom dress for his niece seemed to be going well, until he asked her to hop up on the counter while he finished the hem! I think Patrick was getting a bit bored, because he decided to play stylist as well as sewing judge! He berated poor Jenni for her ‘clumsy’ vintage dress (which I thought was very pretty actually Patrick!) and Tamara was told off for adding a belt. I must say, hers was my favourite this week and I’m surprised she wasn’t rewarded for her tricky fabric choice! Chinelo did was Chinelo does best: free hand pattern cutting with a spectacular result. But the judges are getting picky now, and she was marked down for her bow detail. (Nevertheless, I say she’s the contestant to beat!)

Unfortunately Cerina’s little black dress didn’t sparkle and, despite winning with her little pirate, she found herself out of the dance.  (We’ll miss you Cerina!!) Garment of the week went to Lynda (again! – keep your eyes on this one too) with her ruby red prom dress, which was perfectly fitted and finished off with a sparkly corsage. Congratulations Lynda!!

Image: Facebook

If I were a sewer, or young enough for prom, I'd like something a bit like this from Fabric Godmother. They have a huge array of dress patterns to choose from too. 

Next week the sewers tackle trousers…for themselves!

Tune in next Tuesday at 8pm, BBC 2. 

Great British Sewing Bee - Episode 2&3!

Abigail Cox

Abigail Cox

6 March 2014


Firstly, I must ask your forgiveness - I've been lax in my GBSB watching. But I'm finally up to date and bringing you a double-wammy of a Sewing-bee blog this week!


Episode 2 - Pattern Panic! 


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Patterns & checks are big this season - click here for more S/S 14 trends

They went pattern mad last week, with box pleats and clashing colours a-plenty! For the second time running, Heather was a winner in the first challenge with her gorgeous green-check skirt. Poor Simon struggled with his fabric, but not as much as David. His blue gingham seemed perfect for this challenge – if only he hadn’t altered the pleats meaning his skirt was barely big enough to go over the mannequin’s head! Julie had a similar problem with her elephant print, but her biggest mistake was ignoring May’s zip instructions – yet again! 

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Click here for Lapped Zip tutorial
- the one Julie refused to do!

Onto challenge two and a pattern seems to be emerging (excuse the pun!) as Tamara wins again this week with her uber-imaginative shirt-skirt alteration. Although hers was definitely the most creative with the transformation of sleeve into obi-belt, I was super impressed with Chinelo’s stylish button down boob tube.  Poor, poor Simon’s shirtdress was a bit of a disaster, but I think the less said about that the better!!

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Tamara & her winning skirt (Image from Facebook)

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Pinterest is full of good ideas for old shirts - click here for more ideas

And the final challenge of the week: bespoke men’s pyjama’s. Most chose the classic shirt and trouser set, but in amongst the sea of tradition, Chinelo stood out with her simple yet perfectly excecuted t-shirt and shorts combination. Cerina’s William Morris fabric was definitely my favourite, and she did a brilliant job of pattern matching. Unfortunately, poor, poor poor (!) Simon has chosen the same pattern as Tamara – whose news print pyjamas shone in comparison to his checked set.

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Click here for Pyjama Pants tutorial
and let us know how yours turn out!

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The winner is revealed! (Image from Facebook)

And the winning garment goes to…Lynda! Her perfect pink pyjamas were such a hit with the judges that Patrick modeled them himself. Unsurpringly, we said goodbye to Simon – he tried his hardest, but just didn’t cut the muslin!

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Bye Simon! (Image from Facebook)

 Episode 2 - Stretch Fabric Silliness 

 In this weeks episode the contestants have to face the scary task of sewing with stretch!

There's a slightly manic glint in May's eye as she announces the first challenge of the day: leggings! She urges the sewers, Mary Berry style, to watch out for 'saggy bottoms' and twisted tops before letting them loose on the haberdashery (which is getting brighter each week!) It is clear this is not one of Patricks favourite challenges, he stays unusally tight lipped throughout the procedings!

So how did the contestants do? Jenni seem to be on a roll with her mustard pair, but the hastily added pocket merely added to the generous bottom! Tamara, proving herself to be a very accomplished seamstress, did well with her pattern matching AND coped brilliantly with the new fabric. Julie struggled after choosing super tricky fabric, and Heather failed to match her usual standard. Cerina and Lynda waxed lyrical about the overlocker, and it loved them back, helping Lynda win this first challenge. 


Fancy making a pair for yourself? This tutorial is the best I've found.

 The alteration task! The was an audible groan among the sewers as Patrick revealed the over-sized t-shirt. Especially from Heather, who huffed and puffed before producing a very pretty ruched top. David's zip-crazy tunic pushed even Claudia to the edge, while Julie's contrasting ruffles stretched the top out of all recognition! Cerina's 'miny Madonna' outfit won this time, showing the dramatic transformation one can achieve from virtually nothing. But yet again, I loved Chinelo's simple but stunning maxi dress!


Cerina's tee-riffic transformation. (Image from Facebook)

Struggling with stretchy fabrics and hems? Check out this fab tutorial for twin needles

Finally, the bespoke garment of the week...every woman's favourite (except of course Heather) the wrap dress! Cue loud 70's pattern, fluting and sparkle! Cerina and her new best friend (the overlocker) turned out a lovely spotty number, as did Lynda who 'chickened out' of using the new machine. Jenni's generous sleeves let her down, while David produced a very wearable little dress (although I bet his wife isn't too pleased at the mention of her 'over large' hips!) Patrick perked up a bit at Heather's tailored wrap, although disaster struck when she attached the skirt inside out! (I'm not too fond of this contestant, but a 'bucket of gin' was definitely needed!) 

Diane von Furstenberg is the queen of the wrap - her famed dress is 40 this year!

And Garment of the Week goes to....Chinelo!! It was a wonderful wrap, and true to herself, she did away with conventional pattern and designed it herself. A well deserved win! We had to say goodbye to Julie this week, perhaps not a great surprise but a shame to loose such a character. 

And the winner is... (Image from Facebook)

Aww, we'll miss you Julie! (Image from Facebook)

Well that's all folks! Tune in next Tuesday at 8pm BBC2 to see them tackle childrens clothes and prom dresses.

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