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...'