Emporia at Sewing Bee Live!


This week we’re at the Sewing Bee Live at ExCel London! (Another work trip out, we hear you cry! Yes! Aren’t we lucky?) The show runs for another two days over the weekend and we’ve spent the day here checking out the stalls, watching some of the contestants take part in the various challenges and getting the most out of our sewing themed day out.

From the varieties of fabric and haberdashery stands selling all kinds of sewing wonders, to specific designers showcasing their patterns and different designs, we have had a full on day of oohing and ahhing about everything on show. Vogue fashion shows, getting technical advice from the judges, expert tips from previous Sewing Bee contestants as well as getting to see some of the garments from the TV show live and in person – there isn’t much sewing related action that we’ve missed out on.

One of the the highlights was the vintage fashion exhibition hosted by the London Textiles and Fashion Museum which featured some amazing garments from the 1930s up to the 1970s. From gorgeous silk tea dresses that your grandmother might have worn to the kind of thing your mum might have been boogieing before she got pregnant with you, there were some amazing designs and even more amazing prints on display.


We stopped off at various stalls to make purchases, including some gorgeous arrow print chambray and star pattern sweat shirting from our mate Paul at Fabrics Galore; a Linden Sweatshirt pattern from Guthrie and Ghani, some fabric print blocks from Block Craft and a dress pattern from Maven Patterns.

We also spent quite a bit of our time going gooey at the knees over various famous sewing types, including Lisa Comfort from Sew Over It, the ladies from The Foldline, Ana from Cocowawa, Chinelo Bally from the first Sewing Bee series and most important of all, Patrick Grant himself! Having interrupted Chinelo on her way to the loo, half way through a challenge, we thought it best to shout after her “I think you’re amazing!” and the less embarrassing phrase, “We love you!” as she departed. She looked at us either like we were crazy or just over excited. It was most likely a mixture of both.

All in all we had a fabulous day out and generally got a bit over enthusiastic about sewing, fabric and all the stars. If you are headed here tomorrow or Sunday, we hope you have just as much as fantastic time as we did.

The Sewing Bee Live event continues to take place at ExCel London on Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th September 2017.


The Sewing Bee is Back!


Arriving just in time to keep our Me Made May inspiration going ahead full steam, the first episode of the new series of the Great British Sewing Bee hit our screens on Monday night, and we were all agog with excitement. More pattern matching, more tricky construction, a new judge and plenty of sewing dramas ensued and no doubt there will be plenty more to come as the series goes on. Whether you are a seasoned sewer, a complete newbie or somewhere in between this is compulsive viewing for anyone interested in having a nose into how other people sew.

One of the most obvious changes to the programme for series 4 is the removal of WI advocate and sewing expert May Martin, and the arrival of new judge Esme Young, a senior lecturer at London’s Central St Martin’s College and costume designer, just like our Clair! Any doubts that she wouldn’t be up to the mark were dispelled instantly as she thoroughly scrutenised the contestants’ bias cut tops and used the word “arse” to great effect when describing Angeline’s wiggle skirt from the final challenge. Her cutting edge credentials are also backed up by her Hackney studio which has produced garments for films like Trainspotting and Bridget Jones’ Diary.


Patrick is back though and in a weird twist, is being much nicer to the sewers than he was last year – maybe series 4 is his turn to play good cop … And of course how could we not mention the ever delightful Claudia Winkleman! Mad as a box of frogs and always ready with a quick one-liner about dungarees or how she wants to force Patrick into a satin ballgown, Claudia is very much the jam in the judge roly poly, and we adore her for it.
The first episode is always a bit of a jumble when it comes to meeting the contestants and learning their names and backgrounds as there are so many of them and it’s more about what they’re making rather than who they are; we’re still very much at the stage of “the one that did the thing with the lace” and “the man with the big quiff,” but as the worst sewers start to drop out, we have no doubt we’ll start to pick our favourites, as well as remember some of their names. People to watch at this stage we think are Angeline for her fantastic wiggle skirt, Joyce for being such a speedy sewer, and Rumana for her simple but unusual obi skirt.
Asides from all the great sewing, there are always a few wince inducing moments, or scenes that make us feel marginally better because we’ve made the same idiotic mistake in a minute of non-concentration, all of which makes for fantastic telly. Stand out moments for us so far include: tut-tutting at so many skirts being made in the refashioning project, having a quiet titter (as well as a sympathetic Aww) when footballer Josh kept cutting out the same side of his bias top over and over again, and Duncan taking the shears to his final showcase circle skirt minutes before the end, and just hacking wildly into what we assume was very expensive silk. Anything that makes you shout at the television is good in our opinion, and we can’t wait for next week’s episode on children’s clothes.
Feeling inspired by the Sewing Bee? We’ve got plenty of patterns in stock, including the brand new Doris from Sew Over It, classes aplenty and a whole wall and a half of fabric. Pop in for a chat, see what takes your fancy and you could be sewing up a storm in no time.


Getting Ready for Me Made May


Now that the school holidays are just about over and we can finally sit back down at our sewing machines without a horde of fiddly fingered little people constantly poking and prodding at our bobbins and pins, etc, we suddenly realised that May is only three weeks away! Which means The Great British Sewing Bee returns to our screens! Hurrah! But not only that – it also means that we get to celebrate the sewing skills of everyone by taking part in the fantastic scheme that is Me Made May, which calls for an even bigger hurrah!

For those not in the know, Me Made May 16 is a fantastic celebration of sewing and self-made wardrobes which was set up by avid sewer and blogger So Zo to encourage people to not just make clothes, but actively wear them with pride and enjoy the sense of achievement that comes with it. Ever since she first came up with the concept in 2010, more and more sewers from around the world have signed up, whether they have been sewing for years or just a few months or weeks, to create a truly global community of like-minded crafters. And once again for 2016, we are joining in with hundreds of other people to take part and make our self-sewn (or knitted, crocheted, woven, etc) pledges.


Last year’s winner, Zoe, modelling her fabulous dress.

Last year we ran a competition to celebrate the creative month, where we asked anyone who had sewn some clothes for themselves (or a child, friend or relative) with our fabric to send us a photo of themselves wearing it, or even better come into the shop and show us in person. We love to see what you all make with our fabrics, so this gives us an even bigger excuse than normal to be nosy! The winner then received a voucher to spend in the shop, and in 2015 it was Zoe with her fabulous Tilly and the Buttons dress made from our gorgeously grown up pretty Gutermann collection.


A selection of my MMM wardrobe from last year.

We also charted our own Me Made May wears throughout the month so we could look back at the end of the process and see just how many items of our self-made wardrobe we could actually put on, and not just in May, but the rest of the time too. Which is kind of the point for MMM for us – it reminds us that we do have quite a few sewing skills to hand and we do actually own quite a few hand made garments, which we could be wearing much more often. It also gives us the requisite kick up the bum to actually get on with several projects that we’ve been contemplating for a while – I for one have been meaning to make a second pair of culottes for about three years now, so if I haven’t even started some by the end of May 2016, you are all allowed to come into the shop and pester me about it until I have finished them, whether I like it or not. Zoe is keen to state that MMM is not about forcing yourself to churn out as many items of clothing as physically possible throughout the month, but if you need a little incentive to get going, it is the perfect excuse.


Clair’s MMM makes and wears.

So what do you do now? Well, decide what you want to pledge, ie. what you’re going to wear and when, then head over to the official site, and sign up, along with all the other sewers, knitters, crocheters, upcyclers and stitchers. And if you have your own blog or Instagram page, you can share your makes/wears with the tag #MMM16 and grab the official badge to put on your site from So Zo too. Clair is pledging to wear a self made item every day of the month, and I will be wearing something homemade every day I’m in the shop and at least two other days of the week too, so you can keep an eye on how we’re doing throughout MMM. Once you’ve made your pledge, let us know your plans and what last minute sewing you’re planning on doing throughout April and May – and don’t forget to enter the competition!

The Great British Sewing Bee Series 3


Yes, ladies and gents – it’s back! The most fantastic sewing inspired series is back on BBC 2 as of next Wednesday night, and we are very, very, extraordinarily excited. Kicking off another round of the amateur competition, sewing enthusiasts up and down the land will be poised ready with the remote at 8pm on Wednesday 4th February 2015, possibly staring over the top of their very own Janome, and waiting with baited breath to see just what needle and thread based challenges will be hitting their screens this year.


With no new contestant based info on the BBC2 site as yet, we are limited to knowing what will feature on the brand new series, but there’s no doubt that we can expect teeth sucking from May, severe frowning from Patrick and sheer craziness from Claudia as she grins and gurns from behind the sewers as they work their way through their challenges. Given that there’s only a week left to go, it seems terribly mean of the BBC not to share a bit more about the nitty gritty of series three, so we are still mostly in the dark as to precisely what new challenges the judges have come up with. Will there be more plasticky sportswear? Will we get to see some radical overhauls in the alteration challenges? Will everyone get to the final and then make some really bad ties again? And most important of all, how many times will Claudia be forced to help a struggling contestant wrestle their garment onto the tailor’s dummy like they’re trying to get a lycra boobtube onto a cow?

All we can see of the new series so far is a mini trailer, only 25 seconds long which shows Claudia giving a countdown to the new lot of sewers as they come to the ends of various different challenges. And what we can see in these tiny short bursts of film is this:

1 – There are men in this series. Good job men! It’s so reassuring to know that sewing isn’t just for women. Let’s hope there’s another Dave this time round, as there’s nothing we enjoyed more last year than seeing a big burly policeman getting to grips with sewing ballgowns and nighties.

2 – There seem to be more trousers in this series. Bottom halves seem to be a bit under represented last year and given that most of us, men, women and children included, like to wear some kind of garment on our nether regions, it can only be a good thing that we get to see more of the divided leg version (commonly known as trousers or shorts) being made on the show. From the brief glimpses in the trailer, it looked to us very much like kids’ shorts and a pair of capri pants, which is a good bit of inspiration to put on the back burner for summer.


3 – More fancy dress. Both an elephant and a bird (or something with a long beak/nose) appear in the trailer, and whether these are alteration challenges or not, we can only assume that they will be great fun to watch. Creating dressing up clothes for children or adults is enormous fun and we can only hope that at least one contestant wants to make a dragon a la the Children in Need Sewing Bee from November last year.

4 – Seriously difficult pattern cutting and construction. Now if you’re like us, and you quail slightly at the thought of excessive darts simply because you worry that they won’t all line up or end at precisely the right point, giving your body very odd looking proportions like you’re the model for a Picasso painting, then this part of the show may reduce to you hyperventilation. Not only do we spy a dress with cut out panels on the trailer, but there is also a prolonged look at a kilt and even a corset. Yes, ladies, fetch the smelling salts – you heard right, an actual corset, with boning and millions of eyelets and everything. Complicated isn’t the word.

So whether this new batch of contestants are up to the challenge or not remains to be seen, but we can assure you now that we will be glued to our seats throughout every blinking single moment and will most certainly be having heated discussions (arguing) with each other and everyone that comes into the shop from now until spring about who we like best, what Patrick said about the top stitching and whether Claudia has completely lost her marbles yet or not. You have been warned!

In the meantime, check out the How To section on the website for some pre-series three inspiration for some quick makes and alterations here.

Sewing Made Simple Bookzine


Here we are in the depths of winter (genuine snow fall this morning – eek!) and it seems like a million weeks until springtime, but we have something heading to the shop next week that will fill your crafty hearts with joy. With still no official start date for the next series of Great British Sewing Bee in February, what better way is there to fill your time than to get started on some new and exciting sewing projects created by some of its stars. That’s right – due to sit on the shelves of Emporia any day next week is the very lovely, very crafty Sewing Made Simple bookzine, featuring inspiration from two previous Sewing Bee contestants.


Featuring two full dressmaking patterns, plus a whole load of templates to follow for making projects for lovely things for your house or as gifts, this one off bookzine is designed for those who haven’t ventured too far into the world of sewing. Giving you the chance to make simple items, learn new skills and enjoy some creativity, this is spot on for anyone in need of a little sewing based pick me up this winter.


The bookzine has been edited and compiled by Sam Sterken from the Ministry of Crafts in Manchester, and the contributors, who give advice on techniques and sewing patterns, include Alison Smith MBA, Debbie Shore and Lisa Lam. Also sharing their expertise and giving us the lowdown on all kinds of sewing related stuff are Sewing Bee stars Tilly Walnes and Stuart Hillard. Having shown the world what they could do with a sewing machine back in spring 2013, the pair have gone from strength to strength in creating patterns, writing books and generally sharing their love of sewing. So if you fancy having them teach you all the tricks of the trade, you can find all their invaluable knowledge gathered together in one gorgeous bookzine.


Not only will you gain the knowhow for taking measurements, inserting a zip and creating the perfect darts, there’s also the chance to create an entire spring/summer wardrobe with patterns and instructions for a cotton shirt, knitted dress, trousers, wrap skirt and easy blouse. And for those that like to go a little off piste with their makes, there’s fantastic advice on upcycling and refashioning to really mark your sewing out from the crowd.

Sewing Made Simple is a 132 page bookzine priced at £9.99, due for publication on Thursday 29th January 2015. We only have a limited supply coming our way, so if you need to reserve one let us know – or rush down to the shop and grab one from us as soon as you can. Keep your eyes glued to our Facebook page so you know as soon as it’s come in!

Tilly and the Buttons Patterns in Stock


Brand new and shining on the shelves of Emporia like a bright beacon of gorgeousness are three Tilly Walnes patterns! Simple enough for new sewers, these three stylish designs also make for interesting projects for more experienced crafters with their contemporary looks and classic lines.

Tilly, better know by her blogging title Tilly and the Buttons, was one of the contestants on the first ever series of The Great British Sewing Bee and despite going out about half way through the show has gone on to become something of a smash hit in the sewing world. When she featured on the show she got Patrick and May all excited when she used a self drafted pattern in the blouse challenge, and it’s this blouse she has now transformed into a commercial pattern and turned herself into a legitimate independent designer.


The Mathilde blouse is a cute retro style design, featuring delicate tucks on the front bodice and loose styled three quarter length sleeves. Perfect to make up in cotton, silk, polyester or viscose, the Mathilde could easily take on many jobs in your wardrobe as a dressier piece to pair with jeans or to add to a formal look for work. Plus of course it gives you extra room for choosing seven delicious buttons that function as back closures.


For those that don’t like the faff of making buttons holes or even inserting a zip, the Coco dress is just the thing. Designed to be made from stretch material, so there are no fastenings to make up, the clean lines and cute details of the patch pockets allow the fabric to do all the work for you. Change it up or down from a dress to a top, add a sixties style funnel roll neck or stick with the elegant boat neckline – the choice is yours!


The final Tilly pattern is the folksy style Miette skirt. A really clever design that once again features no fastenings, this wrap skirt can see you through summer to autumn, winter and back around to spring. You can make it up in cotton, denim or linen to suit, and with or without pockets. Simply stylish with its wrap around belt and flattering A line fit, this skirt is set to be a big hitter.

Which is why we are dedicating a whole new workshop to teaching you how to make it. Taking place from 2pm – 5pm on Saturday 18th October, Sally from The Sewing Machine is back in the shop and ready to take you through all the necessary steps for making this fabulous skirt. The class is priced at £40.00 and includes a copy of the pattern for you to use and take away, ready to make as many Miettes as you want at home. If you fancy getting to grips with this classic Tilly design, pop into the shop and get yourself a place – we are sure to get fully booked on this class soon.

For full information on this class and all the other workshops taking place this autumn, click on the Classes page at the top of the blog.

Easter Opening Hours


Easter weekend is just around the corner, so we thought you should know that the shop will be closed on Good Friday and Easter Monday, but open as normal on Saturday 19th April 2014. So if you are in need of last minute Easter gifts or fancy a bit of fabric shopping to see you through the bank holiday, pop in, say hello and have a browse of all our lovely stuff.

As next week is all about bunnies, chocolate and having a four day weekend, the blog is taking a little break and attempting to enjoy some spring sunshine and maybe a spot of sewing. We will of course be back in the saddle and ready and eager to go the following week, so don’t go missing us too much. Maybe re-watch the entirety of the Great British Sewing Bee on iPlayer instead – we are sorry to see the end of the series, and can’t believe we have a whole year to wait before Claudia, Patrick, May and another round of crafty sewing enthusiasts are back on are screens. But don’t fret – we have Sewing Bee inspiration for you coming very soon!

Enjoy your Easter break and don’t eat too much chocolate. Alright, do eat too much chocolate, but don’t say we didn’t warn you.