How confident are you with a needle and thread? Personally, I feel confident in mending hems, buttons, holes and tackling most repairs but I am astounded at the few of my generation who are. Whilst studying in China, I discovered that I was the only person who had a basic sewing kit for mending my apparel; I even ran a small repair line in return for IOUs. I believe this inability to point a needle through material is down to cheap fashion, fast lifestyle and better standards of living. I would be amazed if any of our grandmothers, and often grandfathers, were unable to mend tired garments. This is of course down to the Great Wars which meant materials and garments were scarce, everything was cherished and looked after. With the rise of cheap chains on our high streets, enabling fashions to become more democratic, retailers encouraged us to consume faster and not bother to repair clothes. This has lead to catastrophic environmental and social issues including toxic waste, landfill and poor working conditions to name just a few.
For this reason I celebrate ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’, first broadcast in 2013. A spin-off the format of ‘The Great British Bake Off’, amateur sewers compete for the title “Britain’s best home sewer”. The series’ success was perhaps surprising and led to a second series with a third planned for 2015. This programme proves sewing can be mastered and can produce unique pieces or good copies of high street items. From the first to the second series the number of male competitors increased, encouraging signs that sewing is not entirely seen as a female domestic pursuit. No doubt the masculinization of sewing is aided by the judge Patrick Grant, a Savile Row man, a patriotic boost for British craftsmanship to boot, hoorah! My hopes for the next series is that there is more diversity in competitors, by which I mean a strong London or city worker candidate. Previously, contestants have been from the shires, suggesting a social divide of those who can/not (be bothered) to sew.
If you cannot wait until 2015 for the next Great British Sewing Bee then why not try the Norwegian version which hits the small screen later this year? Det Store Symesterskapet (The Great Sewing Championship) begins in October on NRK1 and sees Andreas Feet from Savile Row’s Richard James judging. Anyone know able to translate Norwegian for me?