Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Great British (Vintage) Sewing Bee

Did anyone else watch The Great British Sewing Bee last night?  Silly question; of course you did.  What a fabulous, fabulous episode.  Spoilers aplenty ahead…

For starters it was a vintage themed episode.  Everyone arrived at the sewing space to find their modern machines had been replaced with 1930s era Singer 201s.  Tamara and Lynda took it in their stride (Tamara learned to sew on treadles, dreaming of being trusted with the electric version!), but everyone else was temporarily flummoxed by the retro gear.

The first project was a Bette Davis blouse from the 40s - I suppose the actual patterns were created by the production team, but they were faithful reproductions - no lines, just holes and notches to figure out what was quite a complicated pattern.  I was pretty impressed by the sewing!

Some of the finished blouses were quite nice - I have to admit I can't actually remember who won this segment.  I was more reeling in joy from the in-depth reporting pieces on the history of the Singer 201, and especially the revolutionary scheme Singer came up with to make these incredibly expensive machines affordable to everyday people.  Who knew that the Singers we all love to buy at flea markets used to be, "the most expensive thing in the house, other than the house itself."

This episode was an absolute joy of reportage - worth watching for the interviews alone - we learnt about how these mass produced sewing machines literally changed women's lives - and also how amazingly reliable they are.  "You set your stitch length at 8 stitches an inch - you get 8 stitches an inch!"

The next challenge was another classic 1940s era, "Made Do and Mend" style challenge. The contestants were given a man's suit to remodel.  Chinelo (who I think pretty much has this Season of the Bee in the bag), easily won with her frankly spectacular dress: 

Then it was the really fun stuff:  The sewers were given the task of creating (in six hours!) a vintage-inspired coat.  How brilliant!  The time allocated was somewhat nuts, but the contestants were allowed to sew a sample garment at home, and then cut their fabric beforehand to save time.  I love, love, love that someone at the GBSB gets what home-sewers are obsessed with right now.  Somewhere out there is a GBSB producer reading a ton of blogs and "getting it!"  Patrick specifically said he was looking for  "hair canvas, bound buttonholes, and other tailoring techniques" to give these coats that added quality.  A man after my own heart.

The sewers had all brought in pictures and vintage patterns to work from:

 Tamara and Lynda had great inspiration images

I loved Tamara's buttercup yellow coat - I actually had that pegged for a winner.  It was certainly my favorite out of the bunch.  I also loved David's vintage policeman's jacket:

Lynda sewed up Gertie's coat pattern, and got quite emotional discussing her Mum and how much her Mum had loved sewing - specifically tailoring.

In the end Lynda's Gertie coat won.  I don't have a great screenshot of it - the coat was black and hard to get a good snap of but she did an excellent job. I may go back and try again.  Chinelo's coat was oddly underwhelming - essentially the same Gertie shape as Lynda's, but she would have benefitted from using a pattern this time. David was sent home - very reluctantly - by the judges.  He was clearly much loved by his fellow contestants.

After a seriously crappy few weeks it was wonderful to watch this episode. It felt like it had been made for me.  A serious discussion of vintage sewing machines, vintage style and quality tailoring.  There is something so kind of nurturing about sewists - and this episode really reminded me of that. I wish I could fall into their jolly arms for a nice cup of tea.  Maybe I will get my own sewing mojo back soon!


Ms. McCall said...

Miss you and how you put up with my irrational glee over vintage attachments. I wonder if we can see this over here somehow, it sounds like this season is a little better than last. xxx

Caroline said...

You are my Obscure Foot Attachment Guru. I miss your wise words! I have a new (old) foot that is befuddling me….
And yes, this season is better. I think they are sewing to a higher level and giving them more interesting assignments.