The third series of The Great British Sewing Bee is well under way, and the past few episodes have seen the participants pit their wits against different types of fabrics, from simple hard-wearing cottons, through structural costuming materials and onto the sometimes daunting world of feather-light sheer fabrics. As with previous series, this third outing for Patrick, May and Claudia as ringmaster is supported by an accompanying book.
I was a great fan of the book that accompanied the second series of the Great British Sewing Bee as it contained all the information I needed to really get started on the road to sewing my own clothes – from good, clear information on fabrics and tools, through fantastic information on how to read and use sewing patterns and guide to garment construction; seam treatments, invisible zippers, use of interfacings, etc, and importantly all of the pattern pieces to make the featured garments.
This book features many of those same qualities without being repetitive. Some information is expanded upon, some is given new, and the all new set of pattern pieces and accompanying garment instructions cover new skills and ideas. The pattern pieces are, as last time, clearly given on good quality pattern pages for tracing.
The pattern pieces for 30 garments are given over 5 double-sided pattern sheets. The pattern pieces overlap to save on paper, but are very clearly presented for tracing: easily identified by the different colours used for printing which makes copying the patterns very simple.
Womens garments are given in standard pattern sizes 8 through 20, with a similar range of sizes given for men, dependant on garments type, and measurements for children’s patterns vary on the style and age range the garment is intended for, but overall there is a good range of sizes on offer.
The book is divided into fabric types and qualities, as has the series this year. Chapter One focusses on cottons, the second on wool and other animal fibres, followed by stretch and luxury fabrics making up Chapters Three and Four respectively. Whilst much valuable information is given in the 40 pages leading up to the first chapter, each of the fabric-type specific chapters gives a wealth of information on both how to work with the materials covered, best practices, materials and tools, plus the skills needed to carry out any new pattern elements, such as working with boning in corsetry, in the luxury fabric chapter.
Whilst some patterns stand completely independently, others are given as variations on a theme, where modifications to a garment are given to show haw a pattern may be adapted to create a quite different style or look. The adaptations are given as extensions to pattern pieces, which is helpful in allowing the sewer to garner a little confidence in changing commercial patterns to suit their needs, or perhaps how to combine pattern pieces from different sources to create a different look (such as when I combined two patterns last year to create my Von Trapp dress, which I also made from curtaining fabric… I must have been ahead of the curve on that one…)
These pattern adaptations/modifications are given as ‘hacks’ for some reason. I don’t like the term ‘hack’ – it sounds imprecise and brutal, and has a ring of onomatopoeia about it, as if a medium-sized dog is trying to choke up something stuck in its throat and make a mess of your carpet. Obviously a larger dog will make more of a ‘hrock!’ sound, so only medium-sized dogs will hack, that ugly sound. If I think to hack something that is not a computer (and that’s rather unlikely) I would expect to do so in a frenzy, and with an axe.
Patterns can adapted, modified, with vision and style to make them more suitable to the sewer, or give a new and unique twist to the style. These are planned, envisioned changes, and this book gives a small insight into how these modifications can start to be imagined and carried out, allowing the sewer not to hack at a design, but enhance it. I really don’t like the word ‘hack’ in this context, but let’s leave it there – the underlying concept is sound, and positive.
Overall, this book seems slightly less concerned with achieving the perfect fit in comparison to the first volume (and they make great companion volumes because of this) and some of the designs have a much more relaxed fit with simple details – though some, such as the semi-fitted Leather Jacket above, would push the skills of many amateur sewers.
One of the patterns that I most look forward to attempting is the Walkaway Dress. This is a version of a dress from the 1950s that was covered in the first episode, sized for modern western sewers.
It was mentioned in the episode that this dress became a great blogging favourite some time ago, due to the challenge posed by the dress’ name and aim – that you could start cutting the pattern in the morning and walk away wearing it in the afternoon.
I’m not feeling up to tracing, cutting or sewing anything at the moment, so the idea shall have to be one that I sit on for a while, but whilst I do I have plenty of skills to read up on as I work my way through the ideas and tips in the book.
Note: The opinions expressed in this review are my own, I purchased this book with my own scrimped pennies.
Update: Here’s a fun little reply tweet from the publishers: