Writing Lessons Learned from The Great British Sewing Bee

The Great British Sewing Bee
The Great British Sewing Bee (courtesy of BBC2)

I’ve been sewing since I was a teenager convinced she was going to be the next Donna Karan or Coco Chanel, and though I have a love/hate relationship with it (I hate sewing, I love having sewn, to paraphrase Dorothy Parker), there really is nothing more thrilling than seeing the construction of a garment from pattern piece and bolt of fabric to the finished project. As a result, I loved The Great British Sewing Bee from the first minute. Project Runway is fun and everything, but The GBSB is strictly about home sewers and garment construction rather than sartorial theatrics.

Because the focus is so simple and basic, each episode really hammered home the concept of “K.I.S.S.”–Keep It Simple, Stupid. This was never more apparent than in the beautifully-constructed garments turned out by 81 year old Ann. Each episode featured multiple challenges to display various sewing skills, and of them all, Ann produced the best garments not because her items were the flashiest, or the most innovative, or eye-catching, but because she kept her head down and focused on the work of constructing a pair of men’s trousers, or a new neckline for a blouse, etc etc.

Watching Ann made me grin and squirm uncomfortably because in general, it’s easy to mistake grabbing people by the throat with your designs, or even your books, as the best and only method of winning a competition or creating buzz. It’s also easy to create a bad habit of constantly looking about at what everyone else is doing instead of keeping your eyes affixed on creating your best work to the best of your ability. And on the flip side, if you feel out of your depth, your attempts to cover your inadequacy end up making the product even worse!!

So my top five lessons learned while watching The Great British Sewing Bee:

1. Basic skills are the foundation of success.
2. Mind your own business!
3. Try new concepts only when you feel grounded in the basics.
4. Don’t be afraid to rely upon the boundaries (or sewing patterns!) laid by the more experienced.
5. You have more time to accomplish things and execute them well if you focus on each individual task instead of tackling the entire project at once!

And can we all have our own Patrick Grant?

Author: Evangeline Holland

Evangeline is a public historian who brings her academic skills to fiction, in order to fill in the gaps in the historical record. Her love for history permeates just about everything she does, going so far as to "suffer" for this love--as the bruises and stuck fingers from fencing and sewing costumes to understand life in the past firsthand can attest.

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