Just in case you hadn't already clocked it, another series of The Great British Sewing Bee has kicked off over on BBC Two. Yes Claudia, Patrick and their new accomplice, Esme Young, will be leading us on another several week long adventure of high octane garment construction, mismatched directional patterns, and nail biting tension (thread tension that is).
To coincide with this fourth season, and what is now becoming a great tradition, we decided to start a tradition of our own by hosting our second annual Stitchery Sewing Bee. And, true to form, we've made a wee video of the day, which you can watch below. There's also a fantastic gallery of images from the whole day on our Facebook page.
Why A Bee?
A 'bee' belief it or not, is just another name for a gathering; and is in fact an Americanism. Sewing bees have been on the go for at least the last couple of centuries, albeit the women in this photo from 1880's Wisconsin were not using the latest computerised Janome sewing machines.
In fact, during WWII, the Queen Elizabeth I (also known as 'the Queen Mother' to most of us) initiated her own sewing bee, inviting hundreds of her staff to come and sew in her own drawing room. She and her 'bees' sewed and knit clothes in support for the troops. And sewing & knitting bees like this spring up all over the UK during the war.
For the women involved, the bees were a practical way to contribute to the frontline; but for many they were also a means to break from the normal hum-drum traditions of pre-war housewife normality. And despite the war begin horrific, many were thankful for this opportunity.
Ready, Set, Sew!
Our judges, Susie and Cassandra, awarded marks for each garment based on fit, quality of construction, and interpretation of the pattern instructions. At the end of the day it was Flora's cotton sateen skirt that caught their eye and came out top marks. Well done Flora!
Runner-up place was awarded to Tricia and third place to Sarah-Jane. Both of whom won gift vouchers for The Stitchery and The Splendid Stitch.
Celebrating New Norms
In many ways the women taking part in our Sewing Bee are breaking away from some modern day norms too. Apart from being a bit of competitive fun, the bee is a celebration of locally grown sewing talent and a collection of incredible people who are choosing to depart from the hum-drum traditions of hi-street clothing, into a lifestyle of making their own clothes. Clothes that fit well; clothes that express who they are; and clothes that will last because they're well made.