Sewing? Bee careful!

I can’t be trusted with trousers.

Or socks for that matter.

Sewing repairs are a struggle and they go wrong. The moment I discovered the availability of iron-on hem tape was a “sliced bread” moment. Never again would I gather the dropped hem of a pair of trousers like an exuberant Cornish pasty.

For me, the whole process of constructing garments is fraught with difficulties and danger.

This might explain why I was hooked (and-eyed) this week by the new TV programme the Great British Sewing Bee.

It’s a spin-off of those successful reality shows where you’re supposed to learn something while somehow building a relationship with the contestants so that you cry when your favourite person is kicked off and equally cry if your favourite person wins. But I never do. I can never bring myself to care that much about stage-managed entertainment. I’d rather watch Doug Allan filming ornery leopard seals.

The Great British Bake-off is a massive success. I’m not sure why because I’d rather just bake cakes myself and eat them than watch other people trying to create perfection and bitching when they don’t. I watched a bit of the first programme, heard them criticising some woman’s perfectly decent-looking cupcake on the grounds it was a bit wonky (mine are ALL wonky) and turned over to David Attenborough.

I almost switched off the Sewing Bee when they showed a woman who’d made her own bias binding. I only ever bought that in packets and I can’t remember why on earth I wanted it now but it was when I was a teenager and my best friend sewed so we drifted among the floral bolts in Thodays on Saturday mornings.

With the Sewing Bee, watching people expertly sew really well isn’t the pull – it’s witnessing the mistakes, empathising with the horror on the face of Sandra who sewed her facing on *back to front*!!!  It was the way the judges frowned at her dodgy neckline , sneered at the ‘invisible’ zips that were too visible and sniffed at unwanted puckering.

I’m pretty sure Sandra mentioned under her breath that she said she had some g&t in her handbag. She had the forethought to take along an emergency snifter. You have to admire that in a woman.

And then they moved on to the all-important bust darts.

“Never squash the bust but there again no-one wants a baggy bodice.”   A fine principle, although some busts do look much better squashed, it must be said.

I rarely got my darts in just the right place but when I did they were magnificent.

Bust darts should never point down or sideways or wildly upwards or to anything other than the nippy bits.

A loose bodice is an even worse crime and pretty bad if you’re constructing a sun dress to go on holidays to a hot country, as I did when I was sweet 17.

It was a nice summery fabric, blue with white spots all over it, sleeveless with a sweetheart neckline. I hadn’t quite got to grips with the bodice properly with the result that the sweetheart wasn’t so much loose (the darts were pointing appropriately) as a bit low and generous, revealing a bountiful cleavage.

Mum, bless her, and not really understanding the Ways of Men reassured the shy teenage me  “Oh it’s not too bad. It’s supposed to be a sun dress after all.”

So I wore it to Tunisia where they welcomed European tourists, but the men hadn’t apparently seen bosoms before at all.  The dress was an unexpected sensation in all the wrong ways attracting slack-jawed gawping. Just fortunate I had two chaperones. I never wore it again.

Returning to the TV prog, my objection to the programme is that it makes sewing look far too safe. Using a sewing machine is easy-peasy compared to those of us who go commando with a naked needle and thread (I typed needle and threat there for a sec and it’s equally applicable). Then there is the high risk of accidentally pinking yourself with the pinking shears.

The act of selecting a needle from the spongy needles and pins thing risks the fingers being impaled on other needles. So you have blood injuries before you start.

Then you have to put the teeny teeny cotton through the teeny teeny hole in the needle. To do this you have to look at it from several angles… experiment with how many inches away from your eyes you need to hold it to see it… remove specs… put specs back on…. remove specs, polish them, drop needle on sofa. Fail to find it. Worry that the next time you have people round, someone will get sit there and hours later when they are changing for bed at home, they will find a needle embedded in their bottom.

Even if you manage to thread the needle, you will start sewing and then the cotton will inexplicably twine itself into a knot so you can’t pull the thread through the fabric…..and so it goes.

If you actually complete a garment or do a surprisingly brilliant repair (one that does not cause a lump like the lump of a darned sock) there might be disastrous consequences – like doing an excellent repair on the crotch of some trousers which just disintegrated on the first day of wearing due to my using Ye Olde Rotten Cotton.  Yes it was *that* old that it fell apart.

The litany of bad sewing experiences would not be complete with mention of a comparatively easy homework task that #2 son was supposed to have done but didn’t. Turned out he’d spent six months “pretending” to use his sewing machine in lessons but hadn’t mastered threading the bobbin.

I had to buy a pattern and, in his presence, fashion the pair of shorts. They were dark blue denim. The pattern wasn’t difficult. I finished the last seam on the sewing machine, turned the fabric the right way round, held them up and proclaimed “There you are!”

We were both looking at, essentially, a tube. I’d followed the pattern but made a one-legged short.  It was summer-wear for a unidexter.

It needed a re-think. We got it right in the end and he wore those terrible long, drawstring-waisted shorts for at least two years afterwards.  This is why, like Sandra, I need emergency g&t in my handbag.

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About janh1

Part-time hedonist.
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8 Responses to Sewing? Bee careful!

  1. IsobelandCat says:

    I love this post. Iron on hemming ae. The only way I can cope with Mother’s trousers. I used to sew, but somewhere along the line developed Sewing Machine Fear. I always had Ruining the Fabric When Cutting Out the Pattern Fear. I turned gratefully to knitting. Great. It was portable, you could sit on the sfa and read r watch television at the same time. Then I got a cat. He did not nderstand that knitting was a spectator sport. He wanted to join in. I put my needles away. I missed the The Great British Sewing Bee, but after your review, I think I hall have to watch the next one. Front Row wasn’t nearly so enthusiastic. Given the reaction inTunisa I take it that you have du monde au balcon as the French put it. My own balcony being remarkably empty in my teens, I don’t think they would have batted an eyelid over any bodice I wore, however revealing.

    Next time, I’ll try to leave a comment hat is shorter than your post. Promise.

  2. janh1 says:

    Hi Isobel – yes cutting out the pattern is fraught with risk. All that money on the material and one snip in the wrong place and it’s ruined, ruined I tell ye!! 🙂

    It’s worth a watch, Isobel. I enjoyed it in a heckling way, which I think is probably the way I will enjoy most television as I get older. Audience participation for nutters at home.

    “To have people at the balcony?” Brillliant!! The French always put things so well, don’t they?
    Actually my people got quite sunburnt and were never ever revealed to the sun to that extent again…

    No, no. Chat away. I love a chunky reply. 😀

  3. Sarah Bryson says:

    very amusing, Jan! I used to be a whiz with the old sewing machine, (I made all my summer skirts, gypsy fashion, in the 70’s for example) but seem to have lost the art. Exchanging the old sewing machine was a mistake, as I don’t know it like the back of my hand and find the thing to be an untamed monster!

  4. janh1 says:

    Thanks Sarah ! 🙂 You could probably regain the art, if you felt like it. 🙂 Was it an old Singer sewing machine? I used to have a treadle machine, which I foolishly gave away to a friend in a weak moment years ago. It has graced her home ever since. ;-/

  5. Jane Parry says:

    OMG Jan I LOVE this!! Made me lol so much!! I am the same as u and have no sewing prowess to speak of!! The needle threading interlude is always entertaining too as like u say u approach it from every angle known to man!!!!

    • janh1 says:

      Hya Jane… ha,, did you have trouble with your darts too? Watched the programme again this week and it still cracks me up. They care soo much about puckering… but *most* of my sewing was puckered… I just gave it a jolly good yank to unpucker it! 😀

  6. Great stuff. I am known as Copydex-girl. Glue it, I say, don’t stick it. That said, I’d love to be able to create beautiful things which fit me like a glove….

  7. janh1 says:

    That’s *sooooooo* cheating, Kate. Can I come and sit by you? 🙂

    Oh come on, who wants to sew gloves? Dents already do it sew well!

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