Sew and Sew!!

One of the (few) programmes we have been enjoying again this year is The Great British Sewing Bee with Esme Young and Patrick Grant. This seemed unlikely to be as successful as the Bake Off competition, but it has proved to be both fascinating, clever and thoroughly entertaining. The fact that it has such a range of interesting, individualistic competitors of different sexes competing on a very level playing field, adds interest.


It does also take me back to my own sewing days, sadly long gone now as is my sewing machine!
I can remember sewing in primary school, from simple place mats to a skirt stitched entirely by hand in my final year there. Moving on to secondary school, we were introduced to ‘the sewing machine’. (Actually, we already had one at home, the treadle variety, which had been used for many years by our mother to dress her five daughters. More of that later.) We now graduated to making a nightie which took a whole year to make in our once a week lesson. I can't remember but I think the boys were doing something more interesting with lumps of wood, hammers and nails at that time. The finished article was never worn as far as I can remember!
At home meanwhile, we were allowed to use the sewing machine, although I was rather frightened of the needle after my mother managed to sew through her finger nail. My sister and I now made our own clothes, much cheaper than bought ones. It was quite exciting buying a pattern then choosing a fabric to make it up. In that way, we were able to be fashionably dressed in our own unique outfits. The machine itself was only very basic so the quality of the finished product would, no doubt, have horrified Esme and Patrick.
Over the years I became more adventurous, making many garments from a very complicated maxi-coat (fully lined!) to my wedding dress and going away outfit.


As machines became more sophisticated, so too did the end product. Then it became used for more practical items such as curtains with the occasional garment thrown in. It was good to be able to afford ready made clothes at a time when there were such exciting fashions available.
My mother-in-law bought a modern electric sewing machine which was supposed to perform all sorts of tricks but I never really put it to the test, far too complicated! Machines continued to evolve into the amazing things available now and I am fascinated by their versatility.


Which takes me back to The Sewing Bee. The contestants all demonstrate superb sewing and design skills which are obviously the result of many, many hours of practice. The machines they use are hybrid, high powered and can whiz and sew, performing miracles of stitchcraft. Not everything they produce is to my taste (some very far from it!) but Esme and Patrick are on hand to examine every stitch, pleat, tuck, hem or inserted zip with their eagle, critical eyes.
Have I been inspired to go back to making my own clothes? No, I will leave that to the experts. I have been tempted to try the ‘transformation’ challenge and convert some of my existing garments. So I could yet be seen in a creation made from a redundant swimsuit and a pair of old net curtains, trimmed with some sequined braiding from an old party frock. Who knows??!
On a final serious note, I do regret not having a sewing machine and, therefore, not being able to join some of the ladies (and possibly men) in our village and around who were busy making scrubs for the N.H.S. I know they all did a magnificent job and deserve a special mention. They were our own sewing bees.


P.S. If anyone has a redundant sewing machine, not too complicated, I think I may reconsider my earlier decision and rediscover my latent sewing skills.