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Read of the Month: The Great British Sewing Bee – Sew Your Own Wardrobe

Welcome to Magazine of the Month in its new, improved incarnation! A monthly magazine review proved to be an over-ambitious feature idea (even for this mag addict), plus there are so many other types of inspiring reading material out there for those with arty interests and crafting curiosity. So books, blogs, newsletters, websites, e-zines, magazines, pamphlets, papers and papyrus… each month I’ll be recommending a read. I’m starting with this deliciously chunky tome – The Great British Sewing Bee: Sew Your Own Wardrobe. I’m also giving away a copy of the book! Check the end of the post for details.


First published:March 2014

Publisher:Quadrille Publishing

Author:Tessa Evelegh

Photography:Tiffany Mumford and Charlotte Medlicott

Retail price:£25.00

As with the first series of BBC 2’s hugely popular sewing contest, the GBSB team brought out a book to accompany series two. If you own the first book and are wondering whether it’s worth buying the second, I found they are two very different (but highly complementary) publications.

The first book provides an introduction to sewing, and to the show. It begins with 70+ pages of detailed basic sewing instruction, provides little articles on the history and traditions of sewing, and features a number of beginner-friendly projects such as cushions, aprons and bags.

Sew Your Own Wardrobe mirrors the TV programme neatly by taking it to the next level. Series two of GBSB set far more challenging tasks and demanded incredibly sophisticated sewing skill from the contestants.

Similarly, this book assumes you know your way around a sewing machine, and gets on with showing you how to really use it.


This is a book that beginners (with a little sewing experience) and seasoned stitchers alike could really enjoy. It focuses on three fundamental principles – fabric, fit and finish.

The first chapter of the book gives you the lowdown on this holy trinity of dressmaking, and the rest of the book is dedicated to each of these concepts.

From here on in, the book consists almost entirely of detailed clothes-making projects. The ‘Fabric’ projects demonstrate the importance of paying attention to the material you are using; ‘Fit’ features garments with drapes, folds, gathers and darts, and finally, ‘Finish’ shines a spotlight on the little things that set apart a well-made item.

There is a great variety of projects, and all really nice clothes that you’d want to wear. There are men’s waistcoats and shirts, kids’ and babies’ outfits, skirts, blouses, a wrap dress, plus some real challenges, including a 1960’s coat and a prom dress!

There are excellent, concise ‘masterclass’ sections throughout – really useful for an improving beginner such as myself, as well as a handy revision session for those of you with a few more stitches and seams behind you.


Sew Your Own Wardrobe also comes with five pattern sheets – featuring a traceable, full-size pattern for every project in the book. These may look quite daunting when you first open them up.

In fact, in all honesty, it’s likely the pages will initially look a mess to your eye, especially if you’re not used to using patterns. All the patterns are layered on top of each other, with each individual pattern drawn in a different colour.

However, take your time and you’ll find it’s easy enough to isolate the one you want to use. It’s then simply a matter of tracing it out – here is a really nice blog post on ways of doing that.

Although the pattern pages do look like a bit like someone’s tried to visually express a migraine on paper, I think it’s a really clever way of including full-size patterns with a book. I have sewing books full of projects I haven’t bothered to try because they involve going to a copy shop and requesting a magnified copy of a pattern – which you then have to trace.

Maybe I’m just incredibly lazy, but I think it’s fab just to have the full-size patterns at your fingertips.

Admittedly I haven’t made anything from the book yet, so I can’t review how good the patterns and instructions prove to be on a practical level. I plan to make something from Sew Your Own Wardrobe very soon though, so I shall report back!

All in all, a beautiful, inspiring book with bold, ambitious ideas for you to try. Here’s hoping the patterns and tutorials are just as good!

And now… it’s competition time!

Thanks to the lovely folks at Quadrille Publishing, I have a brand spanking new unopened copy of The Great British Sewing Bee: Sew Your Own Wardrobe to give away – and it can be yours just by filling in the form below.

Entries are open until midnight on Thursday 14th August and the winner will be chosen at random. This competition is only open to readers in the UK and Ireland (sorry, rest of world!!). Good luck!

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