Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Book Review: The Great British Sewing Bee, Sew Your Own Wardrobe


What it is, basically?

To be honest, when I was sent a review copy of this year's Great British Sewing Bee book, my expectations were low. I was cynically expecting it to be a fluffy, glossy series companion with bios on this year's contestants and plenty of 'swoon-worthy' pictures of Patrick Grant: a homage to the show and little more. I hold my hands up, I was wrong. There, I said it.

It is actually a book about sewing. As in, it teaches you how to sew. I guess the clue is in the tag line 'Sew Your Own Wardrobe', which somehow I must have missed at first. And there aren't even that many pictures of Patrick in it. The best bit is that it has a very generous separate patterns pack which includes loads of multi-sized patterns for women, men and children, all of which have been (or will be, I assume) featured in the challenges set in this year's series. You'd really struggle not to find at least a couple of the styles worth having a go at (personally, I think I'll give the leggings a whirl...). Plus the patterns are printed very clearly, it's not a headache-inducing mess of lines like the pattern sheets from a Burda magazine. With the pattern pieces traced off, the book then assists the reader with the construction of those garments using clear diagrams and helpful written explanations.


Who is it for?

Unless you've been sewing for as long as May Martin (Patrick's super-skilled sewing teacher co-judge) or Anne (the 80-something winner from series one), this book is bound to be useful. All it assumes from the reader is that they own a sewing machine, can thread it already (or can find out elsewhere how to thread it) and aren't afraid to put the pedal to the metal. Ideally it'd make a great gift for someone who has watched the show and expressed an interest in getting into sewing themselves, or perhaps for someone who has already made a few things but lacks confidence in expanding their repertoire.


Is it any good?

Yes, for the reasons given above. Plus it's only £25, which I think is a really good price for so much detailed information and heaps of useful sewing patterns. However, if I were to pick holes in this book, I might say that it's not an overly stylish publication in terms of the book design and the garment styles involved (but we've got Tilly's book on the way for that). But in a way, that is also this book's strength, because I'd imagine it will then appeal to a wider range of would-be sewing enthusiasts. Don't get me wrong, the book does include lots of beautiful photographs that inspire you to run to your sewing corner (or carve yourself out a sewing corner) and immerse yourself in buttons, but it doesn't have a strong particular look, if you get what I mean.

Neither does it particularly encourage the reader to unleash their creativity and f^*k shit up with their sewing machine. By which I mean, it doesn't offer variations on these basic patterns by suggesting alternative collars, sleeve styles, skirt lengths, pocket additions etc. But that's not what this book is concerned with and it doesn't need to be. It's teaching you to make a really wide range of great, wearable garments by acquiring and applying a whole heap of sewing techniques. If you are creatively inclined beyond that, I don't think you really need a book to give you permission to then take things further.

For me, my favourite part of the book is actually the foreword written by May:

'...It's so rewarding making an item of clothing, for yourself or somebody else, that is all your own work. If you keep it, you can give yourself a pat on the back and if you're making it for someone else, you're giving them a part of yourself...'


18 comments:

vintagerockchick said...

Thanks for the review - I'd already placed a reserve for it at my local library - and if it's a good as you say, I think I'll be buying it when I have to return the library copy.

Caroline said...

I love that they seem to have incorporated one of the prom dresses from last week - Tamara's I think? With the neoprene skirt.

hometimegirl said...

The book is £8.99 on thebookpeople.co.uk - have just ordered a copy!

wendy said...

Thanks for the review, For some reason I had mentally dismissed the book, I really don't know why - but will certainly check it out now. How many sewing books is too many? :)

sew rachel! said...

I had seen that book and, to be honest, was skeptical myself and therefore haven't given it a look. Thanks for the review!

Laura said...

Interesting! I have the book from the first series, and although I'm only just getting round to making some of the things now, I refer to it quite often for sewing advice. Maybe I can pop this one on the old birthday present wish list!

Jodie said...

My friend wants to learn to sew and bought this book but I don't agree that it's suitable for beginners. The first two tutorials are self drafted and poorly explained without photographs, right after telling you self drafting is hard and recommend you go on a course! The editing is also poor with page references incorrect.

I've tried making the box pleat skirt and have cut a size 16 in order for it to sit on my hips rather than starting below the bust. I'm normally a size 8 so I imagine this could easily mean anyone over a 10 could struggle?

I don't know, I just see a lot of problems with it.

Philippa said...

I am surprised. I thought the book that went with series 1 wasn't worth buying (for me) but this one looks a lot better. Full size pattern sheets always get a big thumbs up from me and I like the look of some of the styles I can see in the photographs. I'll be checking it out when it hits the shops!

Madalynne said...

I didn't know the show came out with a book. I'm so excited for the American version. I love May's line about giving a part of yourself to someone when you make something for them.

Jennifer Shaw said...

I'm getting this for my birthday next week - I'm now totally excited and can't wait for tuesday...

pootleandmake said...

I wasn't convinced by the last book but I'm going to reserve judgement till I flick through a copy in the shops. Having proprer patterns is a bonus though.

angela said...

Wow, I had no idea that the show came out with a book! Still wishing that I could watch it over here in the US. (seems it's no longer available on Youtube) Sounds like a useful book!

Sewing Princess said...

that shirt is great! thanks for the review

Ana said...

It sounds quite positive, I had heard that the previous series book had important mistakes so I wasn't expecting much.

sorbetsurprise said...

I have been waiting for someone to do a review of this, as it is sealed on the shelves I couldn't flick through it. If anyone has a copy, what garments are included in the pattern sheets?

Clare said...

There's a contents page on the Amazon site if you look inside the book which is pretty self explanatory. I bought this today and am really impressed with the range of patterns included. Unfortunately they contain some mistakes which would be pretty off putting for someone without experience under their belt. Eg the shift dress pattern is nicely drafted and fits well but there are several notches missing from the pattern pieces. Not awful for someone with some experience but disappointing. I'd give it a 7/10.

Dottydolly said...

As a novice stitcher I've been really inspired to sew my own and have been deliberating buying the accompanying book. After reading all the comments think it's definitely worth a shot however I'm particularly interested to know if in the full sized patterns there is the pattern for the 1930's blouse. Just looks so adorable!

Claire said...

I love this book. I spent yesterday making the 'baby's dress' for my little niece. The instructions were really easy to follow and it was my first time making 'biased binding'. I've bought some fabric to make a 't-shirt' using the pattern in the book. Hope others enjoy it as much as me! :)

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