She sews. She blogs. She makes patterns. She appears in new breakout television programmes on sewing. She is the multi-talented and inspirational Tilly!
And she’s kindly taken some time in her hectic schedule to answer some questions about her experience on the Great British Sewing Bee.
Q: What made you want to take part in the show?
A: For a while now I’ve considered the purpose of my blog to encourage new people to get into sewing for the first time. When I heard about the show, I realised it was a fantastic opportunity to be part of something that would spread the sewing bug to a much broader audience of the unconverted, and I really wanted to be a part of that. Plus it’s a good story to tell the grandkids!
Q. How did you get involved? Did you have to audition or prove you could tell your french seams from your broderie anglaise?
A. I’m not allowed to go into too much detail, but the audition process consisted of multiple rounds, examining sewing knowledge, techniques, working under pressure and our ability to conduct a conversation with the camera at the same time. Getting through all that felt like winning a gold medal! All that was left was just a little matter of filming a TV show…
Q. The media coverage and the social media response has been really positive but did you have any anxieties about putting yourself out there on prime-time TV?
A. To be honest it seemed so unreal that it didn’t really hit me until a few hours before the first show aired. I really enjoyed the auditions and filming, but only really became nervous when it came to viewing the final edit. Being portrayed as a particular “character” with a storyline and being talked about as if you’re public property rather than a real person is a bit of a shock to the system, but I got over it pretty quickly. You know what they say about what doesn’t kill you!
Q. On the show, you got a chance to practice the big challenges. But did you have any idea beforehand what the shorter challenges were going to be? How did you keep a cool head?
A. Nope, we were hearing what each challenge was for the first time as Claudia announced it, so we didn’t have any time to think or plan like you usually would (and certainly couldn’t look it up on a blog!), we just had to go with the first thing that popped into our heads. And try not to waste more than 20 minutes choosing fabric!
Q. Which challenges did you feel most comfortable with/nervous about?
A. I felt most nervous about the blouse at the end of episode 2, because by that time I’d met my model and knew I’d have to waste a lot of time doing a full bust adjustment and reworking the pattern to fit her shape. So I knew from the start that it would be a stress! In the end, Patrick said it was his favourite blouse, which was amazing, but that wasn’t enough to spare me from getting the chop.
The challenge I felt most comfortable with, oddly enough, was the men’s tailored trousers at the start of episode 2. Before the show started filming, I really didn’t expect to make it to the second episode – it felt like a bonus, so I was determined to have fun that day and enjoy the experience. We had such a hoot trying to decipher the fly front instructions! Apart from the “ventilation hole”, I loved those trousers. Wish I could have taken them home with me!
Q. In the second episode we got to see you sew up an early version of your Mathilde blouse, which you had to completely re-draft to fit your model. Would you have liked to have seen pattern drafting explored a bit more? Both with the judges and in the content.
A. Obviously it would have been good from my point of view to have been awarded extra points for drafting my own patterns, or if we’d had a challenge to sew something without a pre-bought pattern, as that was one of my strengths compared to the other contestants. But Stuart would have loved to have seen quilting explored, and Mark would have shined in a historical costume challenge, so we just had to accept the fact that we weren’t all going to be able to demonstrate what we could do. Most of us weren’t in it to win it anyway, we were in it for the experience, and we certainly got that!
Tilly’s fantastic Mathilde blouse pattern
Q. From your perspective, how did the judges’ balance considerations between technical ability, design choices and style? Would you agree they prioritised those elements in that order?
A. Patrick made a lot of comments about design and style choices that never made it to the edit, as really the show was about sewing technique and speed sewing under pressure while talking to the camera.
Q. What have you taken away from the experience? (Patrick’s phone number ?)
A. I left the show feeling a lot more confident in my ability, firstly because of the compliments from Patrick and fellow contestants on my sewing strengths, and secondly from being challenged to sew things outside of my comfort zone. I’m very grateful for the strong friendships I built with the other contestants – when you’re thrown into a crazy situation like that, lifetime bonds form. And I can now sew and set in a sleeve in 5 minutes!
Thanks so much for satisfying my nosiness Tilly! Read more about the show on her blog of course including interviews with some of her fellow contestants and series 2 is now open to applicants. Anyone going to enter?