With the new series of the Great British Sewing Bee starting on Monday 16th May, we caught up with Duncan, one of the contestants to talk about sewing, how he shops and the excitement of meeting Patrick Grant!
What made you apply for the Great British Sewing Bee?
Since first seeing the show, I fell in love with it and knew I’d apply one day! Then after series 3 there was no news of a fourth series and I thought I’d missed my opportunity. But a year later, the show randomly popped into my head, and after a quick google I found they were taking applications for a new series, and the deadline was only a few days away. So it seemed like fate! I quickly filled out the application form that night and I’m so glad I did…
How did you get into sewing?
I’ve always been interested in fashion – when I was looking out some photos for the show I found some hilarious outfits from my pre-teen years! Years ago, I got hooked on the American TV show “project runway” and that made me think I could learn how to sew for myself. I bought a sewing machine but after a failed attempt at making a garment with no real idea what I was doing, it then sat gathering dust until a few years ago when I signed up for a beginner’s class.
How would you describe your sewing style?
My sewing style is to be very neat and take my time if I can. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and neat-freak, so I think that goes into my sewing. I’d rather make one really well finished garment slowly, than whip up three quick ones (when I’m not being timed that is!)
How do you like to shop when it comes to buying fabric – do you buy online or prefer to go inshore to see and feel the fabric and discuss more?
For my fabric, I do usually go to a bricks and mortar store. One of my favourite parts of clothesmaking is choosing the fabric: touching it, feeling the weight, seeing how the print looks in real-life… I have ordered fabric online in the past, but unless you know a source well it can be a bit of a roulette! It is easier to exercise self-control online though – often I’ll go to a fabric store for one thing, and come out with 10 metres of various fabrics that I’m convinced will be ‘just perfect’ for something I’ve not even thought of yet (I’m sure loads of us sewers are guilty of this!)
Do you shop regularly online for your haberdashery and sewing supplies?
I buy a lot of my accessories, haberdashery and sewing supplies online. It’s great way to get a good deal, and read reviews about products before buying. It can be a bit overwhelming with the huge range of stuff available, but that’s when the reviews are super helpful.
When you need advice about sewing and sewing supplies, where do you go (i.e sewing shops, online, social media, blogs etc)
The lady who taught me to sew, Maryam, is very supportive and great at helping me with any construction questions I have. If it’s about fabric, then the staff in my favourite shop are always happy to chat, and online there is a huge wealth of knowledge. As a YouTuber myself, that’s the first place I head for any tutorials or tips about sewing techniques – I hope to start including some fashion and sewing videos on my new YouTube channel as well!
Do you always use a pattern or do you go freehand?
I always start with a pattern as the basis of a project. Sometimes I just do a few tweaks to customise the fit, and for other projects I might do much bigger alterations to the pattern – I recently made a men’s jumpsuit by combining two patterns, so that was a huge learning curve, and great fun!
How was it when you first met Patrick Grant and Esme Young?
It was so exciting to meet Patrick and Esme and I really wanted to hear what they had to say about our creations on the show. Between them they have such a huge amount of experience; just to have them see our work and hear their feedback was amazing. Esme can be quite frank, but that’s the best way! And Patrick is so encouraging – they both want to get the best out of everyone who is on the show.
And finally, the Bee is now such a popular show, how do you feel seeing yourself on TV and all the social buzz around the contestants?
I’m a little nervous about seeing myself on TV. The nice thing about making my own videos for YouTube is having complete control over what I put in them… obviously I have no idea what has made it into the show – so that’s a bit scary, but it’s all part of the fun. There will be a group of us watching on Monday with a bottle of bubbly and I can’t wait to hear what my family up in Scotland think of it all.
The social buzz has been brilliant! We’ve all had such lovely, supportive comments from complete strangers – I think the network of sewers in this country is like a big family! So it’s great to feel that support behind us.
We’d like to thank Duncan for this interviewed wish him all the luck in the Bee. There is some really good insight here for retailers, especially around shopping habits and the importance of building relationships with customers – whether this is face-to-face, through social media or meeting them at consumer events.
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Images course of BBC / Love Productions / Helen Robson
Interview by Grey Sergeant – for all your Pr, brand and social needs