We are excited to be reviewing the new Great British Sewing Bee book From Stitch to Style by Wendy Gardiner (published by Quadrille), hot off the press today!
The Breton top dressmaking project. Series 4 // The Great British Sewing Bee From Stitch to Style by Wendy Gardiner (Quadrille £20) with forewords from Patrick Grant and Esme Young.
We are very excited to be reviewing the new Sewing Bee book and sharing our favourite dressmaking projects. I’m not sure how much of an introduction the #GBSB needs, but if you are in need of a fix, head over to our Sewing Bee Guide or chat with other sewists about the first episode in the forum. In total there are 27 projects and whoop whoop the book comes all the printed patterns on paper in a separate sleeve!
There are 27 women’s, men’s and childrens’s projects in total. The book includes:
Women’s: Bias cut top, Jumpsuit, Unisex kimono, Breton top, Breton tee, Jersey dress, Peplum dress, Wiggle skirt, Sari into dress, 1960s colour-blocked dress, Colour-blocked top, Palazzo pants, Culottes, Chinese-inspired top, Japanese-inspired top, Soft-cup bra, Asymmetric skirt, Strappy sequin dress, Camisole top and shorts.
Men’s: Unisex kimono, Men’s cycle top, Men’s pin-tuck skirt.
Children’s: A-line skirt, Babygrow, Child’s cape, Child’s dungarees.
The skills needed to make the projects in this book are the most varied from all the GBSB books so far. For absolute beginners you could try out the bias cut top or child’s cape. If you are new to dressmaking then the Unisex Kimono, Breton top or Wriggle skirt would be good options. If you have more sewing experience then you can develop new skills with more advanced projects such as the Men’s cycle top, Men’s pin-tuck shirt or Sequin cocktail dress. Most projects are aimed at the advanced beginner/intermediate sewer and include the Jumpsuit, Colour block dress, Palazzo pants and Soft cup bra.
I think the selection of projects included is really broad, with techniques needed from underwear making to sewing sportswear. As with previous books it is mostly aimed at women, with the majority of projects suitable for women’s dressmaking. What I really like about the book is that it reflects a lot of the trends in the world of sewing from this year, with patterns for activewear, lingerie and sewing with jersey.
The book is divided into four main sections: Introduction, Foundation projects, Inspiration projects and Exploration projects. In the first section, there is a short introduction to topics such as basic sewing kit, machine basics, pattern sizes, fitting techniques and choosing fabrics.
The book then moves onto Foundation projects, here is the Bias cut chevron top featured in Episode 1 and although a bit tricky, a confident beginner could tackle it. Patterns are available in a broader size range this year from UK sizes 8 – 20. On page 17 there is a ready-to-wear measurement chart with a size 12 being Bust 36.5″, Waist 29.5″ and Hip 40″, which compares favourably with other pattern companies. I’ve include more thoughts on the sizing below.
Each pattern lists materials needed, difficulty level, suggested fabrics and design notes with finished garment measurements. There is a lay plan and illustrated step-by-step instructions. Many of the patterns also have a ‘core skill’ section which gives more detailed instructions on a specific sewing skill and how to master it!
This is the Breton top which I chose to make from the book. The instructions are really easy to follow and i’m so happy with the finished top! The fabric I chose is a more strutted knit and perhaps it would have been better for something with a little more stretch if you wanted it super fitted but I quite like the more relaxed look it gives. It took me a little while to find all my pattern pieces and correctly trace them off, so leave plenty of time for that. The only thing I wasn’t sure about was the fitted garment measurements. Flatteringly they suggest I should cut a size 8, which would have still given me >1″ of ease at waist and bust but I was concerned this didn’t seem right as I am most definitely a size 12! In the end I measured the pattern and after factoring in negative ease, I ended up with a size between 8-10. It’s the first time i’ve sewn with such a small stripe and I knew I had to get my lines matching on such an obvious print. I painstakingly pinned every stripe at every seam and also made sure I cut each piece out so the stripes would match. All the pattern pieces were accurate and notches matched. The only thing I think might be confusing is the notches aren’t marked with sizes and I had to double check I was clipped my size for some of them.
Here are some of the other projects I liked from the book. Many of the projects come with pattern hacks, for example the Palazzo pants and a culottes hack. If you’d like to see more of these check out Charlotte’s review of the Culottes and Sew Over It Lisa Comfort’s vlog review of the Palazzo pants.
Another great feature of the book is the range of models used for the projects, it is much more inspiring!
Here is one of the children’s projects, to make a babygrow. Based on what the BBC have said about the episode next week, we could be seeing the contestants sewing something similar to this.
Here is one of the menswear patterns, following on from one of the biggest trends in sewing this year, making your own activewear.
Final thoughts: This is a sewing book that will appeal to everyone because i’m sure most people will find at least one project they would like to sew. Inevitably with such a broad range from children’s to underwear, jersey and sportswear, you won’t want to sew most of them. There are loads of techniques and skills to practice and develop in this book. We really liked the range of models used in the book (lets have more of this please) and the styling is great throughout. It certainly gets a thumbs up from us and we can’t wait to see what you all make!