The Great British Sewing Backlash

For an oversensitive creature like myself, the downside to The Great British Sewing Bee is that our gentle pastime is attracting attention outside our circles and provoking derision and sneers!  Oh yes, what the world right now needs of its women is delivery from nuclear perish; perhaps one brave volunteer could ensnare into a honey trap and disarm the-not-as-cute-as-we’d-thought Young Kim?  Not – as my favourite radio show mocks – sit sewing with programmes about retro midwifery on the bleedin’ telly!

And you, Punt and Dennis? 😥

Whilst I rarely wish to take part in Guardian-bashing, I’m bristling (a bit) at its treatment of TGBSB.  In his TV round-up, Andrew Collins skims over the content and whines “I don’t care!”  And the Guardian’s TV guide previews  the programme with an incredulous: “Who still has time to sew?!”

Er, I do! 

For the past two weeks, I’ve been looking after a varying collection of 8 to 13-year-old children, some of them mine.  It’s a nice job, requiring not much more than checking for blood, providing meals and a daily airing.  During this time, I was faced with the usual conundrum of what to do when a child has a friend’s birthday party coming up: do I buy or do I sew? 

Option 1: My Usual Stand-by

What do you buy a child who has everything?  Well, more of everything…   A packet of Moshi monsters and a novelty pen from my most-adored stationers.

Total cost with card and giftwrap: £7.50 to £10, depending on whether the Moshis are on sale.

Advantages: quick, easy and once the gift is bestowed, you can forget about it, unless… you’re the type to be guilt-ridden about adding to the plastic toy reject mountain.  Catholics and hippies are particularly prone here, and I’m a bit of both…

Option 2: a Personalized Cushion Sewn by Someone with Too Much Time on Their Hands

Total cost: slightly cheaper than option 1 if you don’t count the hourly sewing rate.  You need to buy (or make or reuse) a cushion pad.  I’ve also used an old concealed zip but you wouldn’t need one for an overlap design like on this Space Invader cushion.  For the fabric, most of us have stash, though I found that the Guitars remnant I’d  set my heart on simply didn’t provide a good enough contrast (see right).  Instead, I bought half a metre of a “dragster cars” print from Rolls and Rems.

Time taken: 3 hours, half of which was spent planning and unpicking the concealed zipper from an old dress.

Advantages: unique and useful.

Disadvantages: the uncertainty.  Will Sonny like it?  My kids reckon yes and strangely, I find I care less than I would with the plastic toy mountain.

Option 3 would be some money in a birthday card, but then the question would be how much money?  I wouldn’t hesitate to give a tenner to a child of 12 or older  (so they could treat themselves to some fags and alcopops 🙂 )   But turning up to a-nine-year-old’s party with money seems like handing in an entrance fee.  What do you think?

 My New Favourite Font

I’ve made personalized pressies many times before but one thing I’ve learnt from planning this project – which will speed things up if I make a cushion like this again – is to adapt the design to the age and gender of the kid.  Out went the rounded letters, in with the Collegiate Border font.  It’s a good one as it won’t use up much of your printer ink.  The free download is here.  For 7cm tall letters like mine (on a 41cm square cushion pad), select a font size of 200, print and cut out to make templates.


What to sew for an almost-teenage boy? 

My son assures me he wouldn’t get out of his school alive if word got out that his mum makes his clothes!  He’s been appreciative of the gym bags, pencil cases and cushions I’ve made him over the years so I wonder if this sweet, slightly rough-hewn bag for school-break snacks will pass muster and not attract derision from his company of label-savvy mates.   

The internet is full of tutorials on making drawstring bags but I’m including my own step-by-step guide because it explains how to finish the edge openings (the holes for the cord).  This is easily done and will give the bag a durability to put up with daily use and a weekly wash.  With more fabric, you could use these instructions to make a gym bag; with less, a camera case.      

For the Nosebag measuring 21cm x 21cm, I used:

  • Two medium-weight calico pieces measuring 24cm x 27.5cm.  This includes a seam allowance of 1.5cm for the sides and the bottom of the bag, plus a 5cm allowance for the casing to be formed at the top of the bag. 

If the cord you’re using for the drawstring is thicker than the 5mm cord used here, you will need to make the casing allowance longer.

  • An old sleeping-bag cord in a macho army-green!
  • A completed cross-stitch kit from  This was backed with fusible interfacing and sewn onto one of the calico pieces.

To make the bag:

  • With the right sides together, sew the sides and the bottom of the bag up to the 5cm casing allowance.  Finish seam (I used a zigzag stitch).
  • On both sides, sew 3cm of a straight stitch from the top of the casing allowance.

This should leave a gap of 2cm between stitching.

  • Press the finished side seams to one side and the unfinished seams open.   
  • On the right side, topstitch from the top of casing allowance close to the seams and around the hole.  Trim seam allowances.  From the  right side, the opening should now look something like this:

  • From the right side, fold in 1cm of casing allowance into the inside of bag.  Press. 

  • Fold in another 2.5cm, pin and press.  Stitch casing close to the bottom of the folded edge.  
  • Insert the drawstring into the bag, allowing the width of the bag x 2 plus 10-12cm for the length of the cord.  Tie ends.  Repeat from other side.

 The bag is now ready so fill with nosh!