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Man, I feel like a-sewin’: Episode 2 of the Great British Sewing Bee.

I would apologise for the title, but I’m not one bit sorry – that’s the best Shania Twain-related sewing pun you’re likely to see all year.

L - R: Stuart and Mark.

L – R: Stuart and Mark.

Tuesday 9th April brought the second installment of The Great British Sewing Bee and this week, we heard it for the boys – the first challenge (creating a pair of men’s trousers); self-deprecating Stuart’s delightful personality and creativity really starting to shine; Mark’s struggles with modern tailoring styles and a hilarious scene in which all male bottoms in the room – including the immaculately-clad posterior of Patrick Grant – are thoroughly inspected by Sandra. Marvellous stuff.

At the end of last week’s show, Michelle was the contestant asked to leave the competition and Jane went home ill. May told us she would be back next week if she was well enough…and I fear that’s the last we’ll ever hear from, or of Jane, as she was nowhere to be seen and no mention was made of her!

A strange omission, but they do have about twelve hours of sewing to cram into a sixty-minute show, so I guess some things end up on the proverbial cutting floor. Poor Jane, hopefully she is feeling better.

Let's hear it for the boy: I loved Stuart's inventive pocket idea for his skirt.

Let’s hear it for the boy: I loved Stuart’s inventive pocket idea for his skirt.

The one-hour customisation challenge saw the contestants adding pockets to a high-street skirt. Each contestant went for patch pockets – made from an area of material sewn on to the body of the skirt rather than created inside the side seams.

Stuart’s ‘outside the box’ thinking was the obvious winner of this challenge, but I’ll not spoil the surprise. I will definitely be trying his idea out on a skirt soon though, I can promise that!

The final challenge of the day was, I think, probably the most difficult, and the most interesting in terms of the hugely varied designs and results. The sewists had to make a silky blouse – any design or pattern they liked and made to fit a model.

From Tilly’s home-made pattern to Mark’s medieval man’s blouse, each garment was totally different from the one beside it. Sandra and Ann’s were, again, beautifully executed but, for me, found Stuart’s bold originality won the day again. Watch it yourself to see if the judges agreed… 

The first challenge of the day was to create a pair of men’s trousers from a pattern, incorporating a waistband, a fly fastening and a tapered leg, narrowing at the ankle.

The task, rather than the scary slippy-and-impossible-to-rework silk blouse, drew gasps from all six remaining contestants, even (to my great surprise) seasoned sewist Ann. “Men’s trousers?” she balked.

“I’ve got sons. When they were children I must have made trousers for them, but they would have had elasticated waists. Then they would have gone into jeans. Can you imagine a boy in a pair of jeans that his mum made for him? No, thank you! Can you just imagine the horror?” Ann

I love this woman. And she did indeed run up a pair of trousers in a rather fetching red wool. (“Men can wear red trousers these days, can’t they?”) With varying degrees of success, I thought all six, none of whom had ever made a pair of men’s trousers like this, did really well.

Stuart’s comments set me thinking when he talked about how excited he was to have an excuse to make a pair of men’s trousers, and how there was a limited amount of garments you could make for yourself if you are a man.

The fact that none of the contestants, even those with decades of experience, had made a pair of men’s trousers brought it home to me that, although sewing has experienced a resurgence in popularity, men’s clothesmaking is perhaps still a niche within that niche.

There is a small – but growing – number of men and boys who enjoy knitting and sewing and creating their own things. So I had a look to see what’s out there for all you men who are mending and making, or even women who fancy turning your hand to making garments for males.  

Made By Hand – The Great Sartorial Debate. Jeffrey Diduch’s elegant tailoring blog is a wonderful site for anyone with an interest in the making of men’s garments. His blogroll is a wonderful resource too.

Male Pattern Boldness. This blog deserves a mention for its brilliant name alone. As it happens, it’s also a great blog, written by New York sewing enthusiast Peter Lappin. The archive of sew-along articles is a rich resource.

That Man Quilts? This is a lovely journal-style blog documenting the craft-centred life of its male owner (name as yet unknown) who likes to write about “quilting and raising a daughter”. 

Instructables features many man-friendly sewing projects, my favourite being this Stormtrooper tie. Click the pic for the project.

AllFreeSewing has a huge amount of men’s clothing, gifts and accessories projects all gathered in one place.

Do stay in touch and let me know what you’re all thinking about the Great British Sewing Bee. Do you have any great tips and tricks for creating men’s clothes?

The Great British Sewing Bee will be on every Tuesday on BBC Two at 8pm until 23rd April 2013. Episodes available to watch on iplayer until 30th April 2013.

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