Jane McGuire

12 things The Great British Sewing Bee taught us about dressmaking

lessons from the great british sewing bee

First published date July 31 2015 Amended date November 10 2015

Despite none of us knowing how to thread a needle or fix a button, to say we are Great British Sewing Bee addicts here on the Hotcourses editorial desk is an understatement. In fact, just assume we are busy on a Thursday evening for the foreseeable future. As the new series unfolds, we started to think that perhaps it was our turn to face the music and learn how to sew. Without the critical eye of the judges, the cameras and the time challenges, a course seems like a far more relaxed place to begin. Thinking we weren’t alone, we thought we would share the 12 things the show has taught us so far – if this doesn’t inspire you to find your course, we don’t know what will.


1. Sticking to the pattern is a must – might sound obvious, but the slightest deviation from these highly complex plans can end in tantrums, pin throwing and tears (or just a lot of unpicking).


2. You need to learn to the pattern early on – learning how to read a pattern is like learning how to talk the language of sewing. With symbols and arrows, these can seem tricky at first, but practice makes perfect. 

Dress making pattern
Image via burdastyle.co.uk


3. Sewing machines have developed over the years – admit it, we all laughed as we watched the contestants try and thread the 1950’s sewing machine. With no electricity and one stitch, how times have changed.


4. Patterned material is instantly more of a challenge – if the waistcoat/pocket matching trauma taught us anything it was that having to match one pattern on collars and pockets can be tricky.


5. Ask for advice – you only need to watch one episode of the show to realise that when May Martin asks ‘have you thought about...’ that it’s not going well. Although you (hopefully) won’t be judged on your course, don’t be afraid to ask your teacher for some help or advice when you need it. 

Sewing bee
Image via telegraph.co.uk


6. Being too ambitious can backfire – adding box pleats to a skirt in week one can either shoot you to the top of the class, or backfire massively. Remember it’s not a race; master the basics before getting ahead of yourself.


7. You will appreciate how intricate your clothes are – when walking into Topshop most of us won’t be thinking about neat hem lines or invisible zips. Once you have made your first garment, material, measurements and pattern will be all you see.


8. You can’t please everyone – if May likes it, the chances are Patrick won’t. Fashion is subjective, so don’t take all criticism to heart. 

Sewing bee judges
Image via whatsontv.co.uk


9. Being timed isn’t always fun – everything changes when you are racing against the clock, so don’t let the panicked contestants put you off threading that needle and having a go.


10. Not having enough fabric = meltdown – for evidence of this, just watch the season 2 semi finals. First rule of sewing – when measuring, check and check again before starting to cut.


11. The world is your oyster – once you have the skills, you can make clothes out of quite literally anything, a charity shop dress, an old shirt...


12. The all important fit – in the words of Patrick Grant ‘it’s virtually impossible to fit clothes perfectly on yourself’, remember the fabric moves with you, so a fit buddy is a must have.


Ready to have a go? You’re in safe hands with us – take a look at the dress making courses listed on our site and get ready to thread, cut and machine your way to a new hobby. You might not be Sewing Bee ready after your first class, but who knows where your new skills may take you... 

Jane McGuire

Jane McGuire received her BA (English) from the University of Loughborough. A yoga enthusiast with a sweet tooth, in her spare time you will probably find Jane in the gym or online shopping.