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We Need You: Sew Awards 2016

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We love seeing our customers happy, and always strive to do our best for you guys. Whether that means hand-picking our range of fabrics, trying to make our descriptions as clear as possible or going the extra mile when you get in touch.

However, we would like to ask a favour from you at this moment in time. Sew Magazine are running their annual Sew Awards, which celebrates all the people and businesses in the sewing community. We would love to enter the awards, specifically the “Best Online Retailer” category, but need your nominations to do so. You can enter online here (the form only takes a few moments.) or through the post via the pull out form in Sew Magazine. It is completely free to do, and everyone taking part gets the chance to win a prize. The closing date is 31st July 2016

Thank you for your time and support.

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The Great British Sewing Bee: The Final

Sewing Bee 2016 Final Featured Image

They say time flies when you are having fun, as such I guess we all must have been having fun watching this series of The Great British Sewing Bee. I say this because it does not seem like long since the series started, and here we are at the final.

With only Jade, Charlotte and Joyce left the series was determined to go out in style, focusing their talents on evening wear. For the first challenge the contestants were asked to make a man’s evening shirt, complete with pin tucks down the front on both sides. If you would like to make a shirt, you can find our shirting fabric here.

We did have concerns about Jade in this challenge, while Joyce seemed fairly confident having made shirts for her husband in the past, Jade seemed a lot less familiar with the pin tuck foot. The fabric the sewers were to use was already cut out for them, with the judges looking at their level of precision instead.

As the fabric was already cut, they were given only four and a half hours to complete the shirt, and an hour in many had not finished the pin tucks on one side. Patrick explained to Esme and us alike that although they did need to make it as neat as possible, some may run out of time after spending so long on the pin tucks.

While the stitchers were busy working on their shirts, we got to meet their family and friends for the first time. It was lovely to see Charlotte’s children getting involved with the design aspects of the challenges (of which they were allowed to work on at home) and supporting her so thoroughly in her sewing ambitions. Similarly it was great to see how Jade had managed to channel her energy into sewing after an injury meant she had to give up her promising career in swimming.

We were live on Twitter throughout the episode and spotted Patrick Grant tweeting this little tongue twister:

How many tucks would a pinktuck tuck if a pintuck could tuck tucks.

Try saying that fast five times.

Out of all the sewers, we were surprised to see Charlotte struggle with this challenge. The collar in particular seemed to be a struggle for her as she got visibly more and more stressed, reaching for the seam ripper. When Claudia announced it was time to stop sewing we wished we could step through the TV and offer her a hug… she looked on the verge of tears.

As the judges began inspect the shirts, we realised just how serious they were about precision: Esme came armed with a tape measure. Joyce faired fairly well, she got high praise for her neat top stitching and the cuffs. Esme did note that one pintuck seemed slightly narrower than the others but this wasn’t seen as much of an issue. The only thing that let the shirt down was the top button, which was slightly off centre, causing the top to gape slightly. This didn’t perturb the judges too much, as she went on to win the round.

Jade was immediately told that her pintucks were narrower on one side than the other, and had it pointed out that there was a gape under the last two buttons. Patrick did soften the blow though, by telling her “but it is a very good shirt, made in a very short space of time”. The fact it was a “very good shirt” earned her second position, which she seemed quietly content with.

Charlotte came last, with the dreaded collar letting her down. Esme noted that her sewing was very good and neat, it was just her mistake with the collar that had made them give her third place.

For the second round, or the alterations challenge as it is known, the contestants were given a men’s dinner suit and asked to transform it into a little black dress. They were allowed to use extra pieces of fabric in this challenge, but the emphasise must be on the black.

Joyce quipped that she used to have lots of little dresses, but over the years her dresses and been getting bigger and bigger. It was so nice to see that even under pressure in the final, Joyce was there to lighten the mood. She created a strapless, form fitting dress which was made from layers of the dinner jacket fabric and sequins. While the look is bang on trend, Esme was less than impressed suggesting that if you were to “disco dance” in the dress it would end up “around your waist.”

Jade used her prom dress for inspiration, creating a sweetheart neckline, thin straps and a bit of a split (made from the fronts of the jackets) in the skirt. The judges seemed to like the overall look of the dress, however Patrick did not understand why two darts on the front were sewn on the outside. Esme claimed she didn’t mind them on the outside, she just wished that all of the darts and seems would have been on the outside, declaring “if you’re going to do it, go for it.”

Charlotte created a halter neck dress, using the lapels of the jacket, winning Esme over instantly by using the bow tie on the halter neck, sitting it on the nape of the neck. The halter neck led into a close fitting dress, with sequins across the bust and skirt. On the back, she had used the stripe of the trousers and then finished off the whole garment with satin bias binding.

Joyce was placed third, with Patrick noting that it was a very dramatic transformation and very fun. Jade looked on edge, until it was announced she was in second place, with Esme stating the dress was “sexy with a very nice shape round the bust.” This left Charlotte to be awarded first place. The movement, from last place to first place seemed to have a visible effect on her spirits.

For the third challenge, the contestants had to sew an evening gown, made to fit on a model of their choice. Joyce made a dress for her granddaughter, made from corset and flowing skirt. For the first time in the series we saw her getting stressed as she struggled with the complicated pleats that would give the skirt its shape.

Jade looked like she was going to embark on some DIY instead of sewing. As she was using a beaded fabric, she came equipped with pillars and a hammer (it was necessary to smash some the beads where she would be sewing, or risk braking all the needles.) Charlotte aimed to create a flowing, almost Grecian style dress using a glamorous satin backed crepe (you can view our satin backed crepes here if she has inspired you.)

When it came to the judging, we were worried for them all… it was clear to see that the pressure had affected every single contestant. While Joyce’s corset fit well, the judges noted that the skirt was not correctly made, leaving some of the lining showing. When Patrick went to investigate further, disaster stuck… the skirt was fitted to her granddaughter by safety pins, rather than stitches.

Jade lost points for not finishing the train on her dress. The beaded fabric was used as contrasting straps and the train, but Patrick was worried that it would fall to pieces, if the model was to walk in it for longer than a moment. Esme was also disappointed by the train, informing us the viewer that in professionally made dresses, the train would have weights sewn into the hem, so that it was constantly held out away from the main body of the dress as the model walked. She was also pulled up on how she had fit the dress to the model’s bust (a friend of her mother.)

Charlotte was complimented on the choice of fabric, with the fabric flowing nicely as the model (her children’s step mother) walked towards to the judges. They also like the effect of the narrowing straps, which gave the dress an elegant feel. They did not like her zip as much though, satin can be a notoriously hard fabric to work with and it looked as if she had struggled inserting the zip. It was puckered in some places, and the shine of the fabric only highlighted this.

As the contestants waited for the winner to be announced, it was plain to see the fear etched on their faces. For us the audience, it was far too close to call.

If you don’t want to know who won, stop reading now.


Rather than name third and second places first, Claudia went straight in for the kill: announcing that Charlotte was this year’s winner. Watching the proceedings were the past contestants, all gathering round to hug her. As the series drew to a close, we learnt that she had had a commemorative tattoo, of a bumble bee hovering above a sewing needle.

She also left us with some wise parting words…


Charlotte Sewing Bee Winner Quote 2016

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The Great British Sewing Bee: Semi-Finals

Sewing Bee Semi Final 2016


This week, we had minor heart palpations. We tuned into BBC 2 at 9pm, and found tennis instead of sewing. We do like tennis, however we do like sewing more… A quick look at the TV Guide reassured us though, as The Great British Sewing Bee had not been cancelled, it had just been pushed back half an hour.

There had been a bit of a debate about this series on our Facebook page, you can join the conversation here, with some people suggesting that the challenges have been harder this year than in previous series. If you thought it was hard in the weeks before, you might want to give last night’s episode a miss.

Last night, the contestants were asked to focus on patterns. For the first challenge they were given a Japanese skirt pattern. The skirt was made from two main parts, with lots of curves, sewing on the York and careful top stitching. The pattern flummoxed all of the contestants and even the choice of fabric divided opinion. It was necessary to select a fabric that would not fray, many opted for a wool but Joyce went her own way, choosing a scuba-like fabric. You can shop our scuba fabrics here, if tonight’s episode did not put you off.

All of the sewers seemed to struggle with this skirt, Jade seemed slightly confused as her skirt developed a strange bunched shape, while Tracy had to unpick all her top stitching after using an edge foot and attempting to go round curves. One of the main problems of the pattern seemed to be the general understanding of how the pieces fit together, and whether or not to cut the notches or to just draw them on with chalk.

During the judging round, Patrick noted that it was Jade’s lack of experience that let her down. Meanwhile Joyce was let down by her top stitching, like Tracy she had attempted to use an edge foot on the curve, but unlike Tracy she did not unpick it when she say it going awry. Charlotte completed the skirt to a good standard, while her invisible zip was so near perfection, allowing her to win the round.

For the second round, or the alterations challenge as it is known; both the contestants and us at home had a shock. They were presented with a miniature mannequin and a pillow case and were given a set time to plan their garment; they would then have to make the actual garment out of a duvet cover and fit it to a life size mannequin. We were told that this techniques of making up smaller, rough ideas of garments was often used by designers as a way to trial an outfit without using too much time or fabric.

All the judges asked for was a striking silhouette, so each of the contestants set about making their outfit as unique as could be. Jade opted for a Grecian style one shouldered maxi dress, she was praised for her pleats and the overall flattering shape of the dress. Joyce decided she would create a beach dress. She made the dress loose, and with the no fastenings so that it could easily be slipped on and off, and created a contrasting sash then flowed into pockets that were big enough for books and sun lotion. Although the judges were impressed with how well it was finished, they were not impressed by the shape –noting that it was still fairly square.

Tracy bucked the trend for dresses by creating both a skirt and a top, including many a pleat. Patrick praised her for how well thought out the garment was, using the geometric pattern of the fabric to influence the shape of the garment. Charlotte too, opted for a geometric inspired garment. Her dress included a bow, boned collar and asymmetric silhouette… as we looked at the line-up, although all of the creations were wonderful, it was clear Charlotte had created something extra special.

As Charlotte was crowned winner of the alterations challenge, we the audience drew a collective gasp. Could she go on to win all three challenges, in the semi-final no less? Some of our Twitter followers noted that she had not seemed as nervous in tonight’s show… perhaps she knew that she was the dark horse?

For the final challenge, the sewers had to create a day dress. As it was Pattern Week, and the semi-final however, there was of course a twist. They were given what is known as a ‘block’ – it is effectively a very square, standard shaped dress made out of pattern paper.  They then had to alter it to create a dress of their own design. Joyce decided to create a tea dress made from 8 individual panels. She told us how at Christmas her and her husband would give a Christmas Tea at a hotel, where all of the guests would dress up – and it was this event that had inspired this dress.

Tracy went for a dress in a classic shape, with a collar and cinched in waist pulled in by a sash at the back. Charlotte expanded parts of the block, and took other parts in to create a slim fitting dress with a cowl neckline. As the model strutted towards the judges the dress was reminiscent of garden parties in the 1940’s/50’s. Jade showed her playful side by creating a skater style dress with contrasting panels on the front bodice and cut outs on the back.

As the judges deliberated about who would win the round and who would be sent home the tension was palpable. As Esme and Patrick came in to inform them of their fate, the contestants held hands and our hearts melted slightly as we saw Joyce’s chin wobble slightly in fear.

The good news was Charlotte was awarded garment of the week… meaning she had done the unthinkable! She had won all three challenges, which was the first time anyone had done so this series. The bad news was that Tracy had to leave us, but as she did it was lovely to see both the judges and sewers share kind words about her. In an effort to dispel some of the sadness we were shown Jade, the Sewing Bee’s youngest ever contestant ringing her mum and announcing she had made it through to the final… At first we thought her mother had been cut off, then came the sobs of joy! We felt privileged to be watching such a sweet moment between mother and daughter.

Roll on the final!