You may have heard the term ‘tried and tested’ or seen the abbreviation ‘TnT’ used when it comes to sewing patterns or makes, especially in reviews and on Instagram, but what does it actually mean?? Whilst there are slightly different definitions depending on who you ask, I think of it as a pattern that has been found to be reliable with regards to instructions and fit.
It may be that someone has made tweaks to the pattern fit for their own body shape, but it is a pattern that is returned to again and again to make either the same garment or used as a basis for hacking into a new style. An instagram search for popular patterns such as the Tilly and the Buttons (TATB) Billie top and dress, the TATB Indigo dress, and the True Bias Ogden cami will show these are often cited as TnT patterns by sewists.
I love the Mccalls M7969 dress pattern, and know that lots of you feel the same way about this dress.
At StSHQ this got us thinking that it might be good to share some of our favourite TnT patterns with you... so here it is, your first TnT blog post!!
Both Jackie and I have made this dress in different lengths and love wearing our versions of it. For us sewing isn’t just about the making, it's also totally about the joy that wearing a me-made outfit, or using a me-made item, can bring. This dress brings us joy in bucket loads.
The M7969 looks stylish and is sooo comfortable to wear (think secret pyjama comfort!). There are four sleeve options to choose from and a choice of hem length, with or without a ruffle. The pattern comes in two size ranges XS-M and L-XXL. There is ease in the dress and we both tweaked the cross over front slightly to our own preference. Given the dress is gathered below the bust line this adjustment did not affect how the skirt was attached. The sleeves are a raglan style, forming part of the neckline. We both opted to make the billowing pouffy sleeve version, which has been so on trend recently, and I must say I love the way this sleeve drapes.
The techniques used in making the dress include gathering, attaching raglan sleeves and making and attaching bias binding for the neck and sleeves. The binding is hand stitched in place to finish the dress, and although a bit fiddly this could be machine stitched in place using a ‘stitch in the ditch' method if you chose to. Personally I found the hand stitching of the binding quite relaxing to do whilst watching TV!
Semi Final - Turning Japanese - Kimonos, Sashiko, Origami, and a first in the history of the Bee
This week the theme looked to the East with a Japanese influence for all for the challenges. The pattern making challenge was a kimono inspired pattern that Esme had collaborated on with her friend the Japanese designer Wakako Kshimoto. This was not a straightforward make by any means, indeed the fabric length required was probably more than my fabric stash laid end to end (OK I may be exaggerating just a bit but you get the idea!!). Patrick and Esme suggested that the Bee's should use a contrast lining, something that Debra chose to ignore at her peril. This the resulted this particular pattern challenge becoming Debra's nemesis, with it being somewhat unwieldy at the bagging out stage and her not producing her usual high standard of sewing.
All the other Bee's took heed of the advice, although still with varying degrees of success. Brogan forgot to leave a hole in her seam for bagging out meaning she had to unpick which left her short on time and unable to stitch up the seam to finish the garment. Her lining was also a little too short resulting in her hem not hanging evenly or neatly. Man Yee had a similar problem with her lining and although her garment looked pretty well made overall the collar did stand a bit proud of where it should have sat.
This seemed to cause a bit of confusion for some of the sewists. Whether they had not heard of this form of hand-stitching before, or whether it was not well enough explained but some of the resulting transformations were not really sashiko. Just for clarity wikipedia describes Sashiko as is a type of traditional Japanese embroidery or stitching used for the decorative and/or functional reinforcement of cloth and clothing.
Rather than reinforcing the holes on her denim skirt Brogan chose to make them bigger by cutting them to star shapes and patching them. She also attached some gathered ribbon to maybe make them look like shooting stars. She did do a little Sashiko around the pocket but not really as part of reinforcing the areas. Debra also adopted a similar technique to Brogan with patches and machine sewing, Whilst she had arguably incorporated a little more hand stitched embroidery than Brogan it still failed to meet the specific brief of the challenge.
Annie used some Ankara fabric to patch her denim jacket with which looked great. Unfortunately for Annie though she too was a bit lacking in the use of the Sashiko hand- stitching technique for this challenge.
It was Man Yee who employed the most effective and colorful hand-stitching with her rainbow and clouds. She also gave further not to Japan with the her sun risking from the skirt pocket. I really thought her decoration on her finished garment was fun and eye-catching and she deservedly won this challenge.
The final challenge was the made to measure with a bit of a twist, or rather a fold, this week, as the contestants were asked to make an origami dress. Annie and Man Yee were in reasonably strong positions going into this weeks final challenge, whilst Brogan and Debra needed to up their game. However this was the semi final and anything could happen at this stage of the competition.
Annie chose to make a dress inspired by the first piece of origami she had made as a child, a red rabbit. Fortunately this inspiration did not lead to a full on Easter bunny costume but a rather chic looking pink taffeta number. Man Yee took the origami inspiration to a whole new level creating a patchwork origami crane for the front of her shift dress. The bird design was so wide it almost took flight coming down the runway.
Brogan chose to add shape and sculpture to her dress design by using a neoprene fabric and creating waves flowers from the bouncy fabric. However I was left questioning, as were others in our Stitch Sewcial group chat where this actually fulfilled the origami brief, although Brogan maintained it was origami inspired. I did however result in an amazing dress, with Brogan's trademark flounciness (is that even a word?) and colour combination of pink and red.
Debra's inspiration came not from an origami shape but from Mount Fiji and Japanese cherry blossom trees. the back and sleeves of her whit structured dress were made form one piece of fabric whilst she folded over 100 origami flowers in gradients of blue, pink and red which beautifully adorned the hem of her dress.
She found herself, with Brogan in the bottom two and with an anxious wait for Sara to announce who was going home this week.
As I said earlier anything can happen in the Sewing Bee semi final and after Man Yee going into this challenge in a reasonably good position, her dress didn't keep her there. She found herself, with Brogan in the bottom two and with an anxious wait for Sara to announce who was going home this week. Again anything can happen, as with Sara looking quite tearful as she began her announcement she declared that the judges had decided that no-one was going home this week...yes it will be all four Bees who go through to next week's final.
If I was pushed I would say that maybe Brogan should have left the sewing room this week. She didn't do particularity well in the first to challenges, and for me her dress didn't quite hit the origami brief. But that said this is the first time in the history of the sewing bee that there will have been four finalists. As always the wonderful Fold Line have a done a round-up of similar patterns to those used in this weeks episode.
Whilst I really don't want this series to end I predict that whatever happens it is going to be a super exciting final. Don't forget to join us for our final Sewing Bee chat in for this series in Stitch Sewcial next week. Right, now I'm off to see if Patrick and Esme have replied to my request for three series a year.......🤞🤞🤞
Quarter Finals - Hello Sailor with Hollywood Glitz and Glamour
First up was the pattern challenge. In episode 6 the judges said they had set the most difficult pattern challenge ever with the parka, they clearly decided that they could better this by giving the contestants a 1930s pattern for sailor trousers. This pattern had a bibbed front and a really complex pocket construction that had the contestants scratching their heads and working together to decipher. The pocket pieces formed a real puzzle for the Bees to understand and make up and were the marker by which Patrick and Esme judged the garments they produced.
Annie had placed some of her pieces incorrectly meaning the wrong side of the fabric was showing. There were issues with the thickness of the fabric that Debra chose as there were 5 layers that needed to be sewn though and she ended up with a hole in her pocket corner construction. But as an aside the buttons she used were gorgeous, I think they might well have been from Pigeon Wishes.
Cristian decided early on he wasn’t going to pick a fabric that was too thick….or one that was too thin…I suppose he chose a medium weight fabric then 😉
The transformation challenge this week was to make a 1930s blouse from two men's shirts. To look at the finished garments you would have been forgiven for not realising this was the transformation challenge, the sewists really did exceptionally well. The judges kindly gave them hints of the kind of details they were looking to see bu placing 1930s pictures in the sewing room. The Bees focused on puff sleeves, nipped in waists, collar details and trims. Cristian lost confidence in his initial thoughts and changed his design halfway through the challenge. Whilst he still produced a good garment Patrick and Esme were of the view the lace tie did not provide enough contrast.
Whilst Annie did offer some contrast details in her blouse again the judges felt this was not enough. Debra’s blouse had a very deep frilled neckline that was a big contrast to her leopard print top, and this was favoured by both Partick and Eseme. However, whilst you probably know that I am a great advocate of #everytingmustbeleopardprint, I am not quite so sure this really fits a 1930s brief 🐆
Brogan had puff sleeves and contrast frills aplenty in her make but the judges were disappointed she had not changed the collar from the original shirt and personally I am not so sure that broderie anglaise trim works well for a 1930s blouse. So despite her efforts Brogan found herself in last place for this challenge.
So it was time for the made to measure challenge. Both Brogan and Cristian needed to excel in this challenge to be in with a chance of a place in the semi finals, and the judges also felt Annie was in a slightly precarious position too. The contestants were asked to make a body skimming bias cut dress, reminicent of the Hollywood actress style of that era. Ohh the absolute epitome of glamour 😍 Cue Amber Butchart's mini history lesson!
This week we learned that the dress was, popularised by French designer Madeleine Vionnet in the 1920s. With strict rules around revealing costumes that could be worn in films at this time, the bias cut dress and could be revealing in the way it clung to the body and was not included in the list of costumes that were banned. When made in satin the added bonus was that the dress was perfect for providing photographic contrast.
I do love this history bits, but back to the Bee🐝
This would be the 'Battle of the Gowns' for Man Yee and Annie who had both chosen the same pattern. All the contestants except for Cristian used satin for their dresses, but christian chose to use a four way stretch velvet, which whilst gorgeous somewhat defeated the point of the exercise of using the bias for stretch. Continuing his 'redesigning halfway though a challenge' theme Cristian also chose to tweak his dress by adding a band across the open back. which the judges felt was a shame.
Debra's dress also featured a draped back which hung beautifully. The whole dress was well constructed with french seams throughout but unfortunately she had stretched the fabric a little around the front of the arm meaning it gaped slightly. At this stage in the competition the judges are getting very picky. Brogan had opted to make a paneled dress and had lined up the points beautifully, however it stat a bit high at the front as the straps were too short, and she had an anxious wait to see if she had done enough to save herself from going home this week.
Brogan's wait was over as Sara revealed that it was Cristian wo was leaving the sewing room this week. Unfortunately his choice of fabric and last minute changes of mind about design meant he had not been able to produce his best work.
As always the lovely people at the Fold Line have done a round up of the patterns used in this week's episode. And with that its onto the all female semi final with Japanese Week. There will be a Kimono pattern challenge from a collaboration between Esme and a Japanese designer, a Japanese embroidery transformation challenge, and an origami made to measure. Lots for the semi finalists to master in this episode.
Don't forget to join us for our weekly Sewing Bee chat in Stitch Sewcial.
But before then, I do need to ask......was it just me who saw a slight resemblance between Debra's toiled mini mannequin doll and Esme this week??
Lingerie week - who got their knickers in a twist, who was waving their kickers in the air, and was anyone caught napping in their luxury PJs!
The contestants were tasked with using the tricky fabrics of lace and power mesh for the bra and knickers challenge and the colour coded goldfish bowls were back to house the small pieces of fabric and haberdashery needed for construction.
I must say I found the pattern design of the bra rather strange with a particularly wide centre piece between the cups, it certainly didn’t look to be a good fit on the mannequins. Our GBSB Stitch Sewcial chat members agreed that the fit was rather odd to say the least. That aside this was a complex pattern in its own right. Whilst the knicker construction was reasonably straightforward, using a burrito method to attach the gusset, the bra was much more tricky with lots of small pieces requiring precise stitching. But this was episode 7 and the challenges really do need to test the contestants at this stage. Debra did have a bit of trouble with her knicker construction and ended up with a ‘lumpy gusset’ which raised a few eyebrows and prompted her response of ‘I need to rethink her gusset construction or go to the doctors - or both!!’.
Meanwhile Sara suggested to Man Yee that maybe she could bribe the judges by using her gusset as a hidden pocket and putting a lollipop in there which sounds a bit dangerous to me on both counts! Most of the sewists did pretty well with their knicker making, but the bras were an altogether different story. I always say that sewing is indeed a form of engineering, and although Man Yee explained the mechanics of bra fastenings to Cristian, he struggled with the symmetry of his bra cups! Brogan again demonstrated her ability for exquisite sewing in this challenge, but lost some attention to detail by attaching her straps to the outside of her bra. However it was Gill who found herself in last place with her pleated bra cups, definitely not a good look for wearing under a T-shirt!
The transformation challenge was to make going out clothes from thermal sleep sets, or as Patrick put it, to turn them from ‘Nanna to Rhianna’!! Some of the contestants were very quick to grab the garments they wanted from the clothes rail Sara told Man Yee ‘I was so impressed with how much you took from the rail I was like ‘that’s a girl who knows how to shop’’
I’m not sure Brogan quite got the ‘Nana to Rhianna’ idea as she said she was embracing the ‘granny chic’. In typical Brogan style this involved using pretty pastel colours, frills, and sparkly buttons on her bibbed milkmaid dress. She divided the judges opinions w, with Patrick rather liking the Little House on the Prairie look, whilst Esme was not so enamoured.
After his wonky bra cups in the last round Cristian continued the asymmetrical theme with sloping tiers on the hem of his dress and used metres and metres of daisy trim. However Cristian did leave some trim in the haberdashery, and I think Man Yee managed to get hold of three or four daisies to adorn her bondage style dress. This was a dress which required a lot of use of the glue gun, Man Yee reminded us that it was a transformation challenge rather than a sewing challenge, strange as I thought the main premise of all of the challenges was sewing!. But after her heroic efforts to pick and stick the flowers it was an adornment which the judges felt wasn’t necessary.
Brogan also got high praise for her piping and sewing detail, but she used cotton lawn and the print and style made it a bit more ‘beach co-ord’ than pyjamas for Patrick - think Hawaii Five-0!
Debra also made a shorts set and whilst this was fairly simple in construction her choice of satin fabric and contrast piping was beautiful. Although Patrick felt the fabric was maybe too stiff for luxurious pyjamas. However her pattern matching and pattern placement, especially on the collar, was perfect.
Gill’s Chinese inspired pyjamas with a collarless neckline were not a disaster by any means, but the quality of the sewing just didn't quite match that of the other contestants this week. Sadly Gill didn’t do quite enough in this challenge to redeem herself and therefore failed to make it to the quarter finals and became the seventh Bee to leave the sewing room.
So next week it’s quarter finals week and I am genuinely sew sew excited for the theme of the golden era of 1930s glamour. There will be bib-fronted, sailor inspired women’s trousers, men’s shirts to transform into 1930s style women’s blouses, and my absolute dream of a made to measure with a bias cut 1930s evening reminiscent of outfits worn by Katharine Hepburn and Bette Davis. I’m swooning already.
Don’t forget the brilliant people at the Fold Line have a round up of sewing patterns if you feel inspired to make your own luxury lingerie. And please join us in Stitch Sewcial for next week’s chat, it’s always so much fun to watch the Sewing Bee with this wonderful group of like minded sewing enthusiasts who are all sew lovely 😍
Those of you that have read my previous blogs and social media posts will know that I passionately believe that sewing can set you free; free from so many of the constraints that society, other people, and we ourselves can put around us.
Gill totally reinforces that belief, sewing is so much more than a needle and thread .💓💓💓
The one with Heroes, Fashion, Rebel Rebels and Changes, but definitely no Absolute Beginners
The pattern challenge was a Parka coat, a complex garment to put together, with many different pieces and a particularly tricky placket construction for the contestants to master. Patrick and Esme agreed it was one of the most difficult pattern challenges they had ever set. The fun history facts came early this week with Amber Buchart documenting the Parka’s early use by indigenous arctic peoples when it was made from sealskin or caribou for warmth when kayaking. The ‘fishtail' element with drawstrings was added for the Korean war so US soldiers could tie each side around a leg for extra warmth. After the war the Parka became a uniform for Mods in the 1960s and later for Oasis - who most of the Bees seemed to associate the coat with.
It is that time in the series when, with fewer contestants left, we get to see more of the garments in detail and hear the judges' comments for each, and they are not holding back this year.
Brogan came second with her embellished mini skirt and halter style top but it was Gill who bounced back from final place in the previous round to win this challenge. With her fringed and star embellished mini skirt and bikini style top, this outfit was perfect for a country icon like Dolly to wear on stage.
Imaginations were taken to the next level in the made to measure challenge with outfits inspired by David Bowie. The judges wanted the outfits to be fabulous, iconic and stylistically original, like Bowie himself. What a spectacularly flamboyant catwalk this was going to be. Esme was name dropping again with her story of sitting on a window sill to watch the Notting Hill Carnival with David Bowie; honestly what an amazing life this woman has had!! I loved this challenge, from watching the montage of truly amazing Bowie outfits to seeing the individual interpretations of the Bees outfits. There was everything on offer, with inspiration taken from songs such as Rebel Rebel, Ashes to Ashes, Life on Mars, the Magic Dance from Labyrinth, Ziggy Stardust,Let’s Dance and of course Fashion. This was my kind of theatrical made to measure.
The story of Gill making her practice outfit at home and the sequins shedding everywhere to the point that her dog had sparkly poop 🐕😱 is a reminder that sequins are not always the answer to everything! Debra sewed one arm of her jacket inside out which meant her correction left the arm really tight, this was such a shame as she had created a beautiful trouser suit complete with ostrich feather cuffs. Cristian’s one armed and one legged catsuit was topped with a dramatic cape, which was just as well as it covered a very ‘hungry bum’!! The big sleeves on Brogan’s dress were certainly dramatic, but the rest of the outfit failed to wow the judges. It seems it wasn’t a good week for Man Yee and jackets as her Chinese patterned Blazer and skirt outfit didn’t work for the judges.
But her dress coat was rather more steampunk than Bowie-esque and, with her low finishes in the previous two rounds, she was unfortunately the sixth contestant to leave the sewing room.
Stitch Sewcial members in the sewing bee chat felt this had been one of the best episodes of the series so far. The sewists really are amazing and this weekly dose of sewing bee sunshine and Stitch Sewcial chat is truly a highlight of my week. As always the fabulous Fold Line have pulled together pattern inspiration, hints and tips from this week's episode, if you fancy getting musical with your sewing.
So that leaves us with six contestants for next week's sewing room challenges, which will all be themed around underwear. So which of the sewists will be waving their knickers in the air and who will be curled up in the corner in comly pjs?? I can’t wait to find out. Hope to see you there in the Stitch Sewcial Sewing Bee Chat 🐝
Sewing. pattern cutting, teaching, tea and Jelly Babies!