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  1. Sadly this is the last week of my Sewing Bee Blog as I'm heading off on a field trip abroad where I can't get BBC at all..booo! However, our friends over at Sew Essential are running a blog and emails following the Bees for the whole series - join them here. They sell a fantastic range of patterns and fabric too.
    Hope to see you in a sewing class soon! All the best, Claire x

    17th May 2022


    Written by Claire Nilles, Marketing Assistant at Sew In Brighton Sewing School and Improver level self-taught sewer

    For anyone new to this blog post, Sewing Bee has nothing to do with bees but as you may have guessed it has everything to do with sewing! Just like last week (you can find the second blog post here), I will be recapping this week’s episode and giving you some ideas of how to try the different challenges at home - or you can bring them to our ‘Stitch! General Sewing/Dressmaking Classes - any level/project’.

    If you are wondering where and when the Sewing Bees sew - the show airs every Wednesday at 9pm on BBC1.


    We are back with this week’s blog post! Wondering what’s on the menu this week? Flowers have started to blossom, BBQs have been pulled out of the shed, it’s SUMMER! The Sewing Bees channelled and celebrated everything summer on this week’s episode.

    1. THE PATTERN CHALLENGE - Shirred Midi Dress

    This week’s task was to make a shirred midi dress as depicted in the picture above. Esme Young (one of the judges) gave clear instructions: pig puff sleeves, the body needs to be shirred (more on shirring below!). The sleeves should be gathered and the dress should be midi length. A tip given here by Patrick Grant: it is important to choose fabric appropriate to the season and to take into consideration how the fabric will look once it’s shirred. The idea is to use lightweight fabric that will gather nicely. The Sewing Bees were given 3.5 hours to work their magic! 

    The whole shape of the body is coming from the tension within the elastic on the shirred section. 

    Now the question that some of you might have is: what is shirring?

    So you essentially sew with elastic on the bobbin underneath and thread in the needle on top.  As you are sewing it gathers the fabric up, making the fabric elasticated - so you can stretch it out again when wearing it. It is very important to get the tension right here, use a long stitch (stitch length 4), sew the rows of shirring straight with the spacing even.

    The front and back pieces are gathered with 15 lines of parallel shirring. This body is then sewn together at the side seams. The bottom part is sewn together and an elastic is inserted at the waist (which is a bit tricky as you might end up sewing on the elastic which takes the stretchiness away).

    The sleeves are shirred at the cuffs and elastic is attached at the shoulder and as a final step they are attached to the body. 


    Sounds very straight forward, let’s see what the Sewing Bees got up to?

    Wearing matching puffed sleeves to this week’s first challenge, the shirred midi dress was right up Brogan’s alley. 

    Man Yee is tricking the system by using fabric that has already got straight lines. Clever! This definitely helped her get some straight shirring on the body part done by just following the lines.

    The Sewing Bees quickly realised that if the tension on your sewing machine isn’t high enough, the result will be no shirring… Some had their tension on 7!

    If you are reading this and wondering how on earth to adjust tension and stitch length, you sound like a candidate for our Learn to Use a Sewing Machine course, on which you will learn these and all the other essentials of machine sewing! You can learn the same in Stitch Classes - we can also show you how to do shirring in Stitch Classes - more ideas on this below.

    End results of the first challenge - 10 Shirred midi dresses:

    Here are some of their dresses close-up:

    Brogan’s dress.                     Angela’s dress.

    Cristian’s dress.

    Who clinched gold this week? It’s Brogan, of course :) 

    Now onto the fun bit, some patterns that you can use to sew your very own shirred midi dresses at home or in some of our ‘Stitch! General Sewing/Dressmaking Classes - any level/project’ at the Sew In Brighton classroom in Hove. Contact us if you need help working out how many classes to book for your project/pattern.


    The patterns for these 3 different dresses can be found here: 

    Here is another one:

    Or if you prefer to make a jumpsuit: 

    General tips when applying the shirring technique:

    • Use cotton mix fabric, fairly lightweight - you can get in a wide range of colours at Sew Essentials website

    • You will need some shirring elastic, which you can get in either black or white,

    • as well as ordinary polyester or cotton sewing thread.


    Don’t try and wind the bobbin in the usual way with the sewing machine, but hand wind the shirring elastic onto the bobbin making sure you don't stretch the elastic as you wind it!


    Make your stitch length longer than usual, stitch length 4 and you may also need to adjust the tension. Test on scraps of your fabric until you are happy with the results.

    You don’t need to push or pull the fabric, just let elastic do its job and sew in the normal way.

    NEXT UP:


    This week the Sewing Bees had to turn old hammocks into adults’ summer garments. Additionally they were given fringing, rope and macrame they had to work incorporate into their very own designs.

    Here are some inspirations from the Bees on how to transform your old hammock that’s been lying in back garden shed, into a nice garment:

    Angela’s winning macrame dress.     Cristian’s festival summer jacket.

    Annie’s beach dress and Brogan’s jumpsuit.


    A trousered co-ord - a matching top and bottom, is the idea for this week’s made-to-measure challenge. The Sewing Bees were given five hours to perfectly fit their garments onto the given models. The challenge involved coordination in fabric and the way the two pieces looked.

    And here are some of the results:

    Steve’s tropical beach co-ord.

    Gill’s shell top co-ord.

    Debras’ sailing co-ord.

    Brogan’s Spanish inspired summer co-ord.

    Marni’s ribbed crop top co-ord.

    Pretty much any top and bottom sewing patterns could become a Co-ord outfit if sewn in the same fabric. In fact, you could even use a stretch fabric top and non stretch bottom half in the same print if you buy your fabric from online fabric printing companies who print a variety of prints (including your own!) onto a range of different fabrics in small quantities - try Prinfab, Contrado or Spoonflower

    Sew in Brighton classes:

    In case you are thinking of making your own two-piece, transforming some old hammock into a popping summer dress or making a garment from scratch following a pattern, you can find us in Hove and book your sewing class online. See you there!

    A new blog post will follow each week’s episode of the Great British Sewing Bee, so stay tuned for some more content and sewing inspiration!

    See you next week and until then sew, sew away….

    Browse Sewing and Dressmaking Courses and Classes here: (

    Browse free sewing tips and tutorials here: (


  2. 8th May 2022



    Written by Claire Nilles, Marketing Assistant at Sew In Brighton Sewing School and Improver level self-taught sewer

    For anyone new to this blog post, Sewing Bee has nothing to do with bees but as you may have guessed it has everything to do with sewing! Just like last week (you can find the first blog post here), I will be recapping this week’s episode and giving you some ideas of how to try the different challenges at home - or you can bring them to our ‘Stitch! General Sewing/Dressmaking Classes - any level/project’.

    If you are wondering where and when the Sewing Bees sew away - the show is on every Wednesday at 9pm on BBC1.

    Source:  These are the 2 judges (left: Esme Young, right: Patrick Grant) and the moderator and comedian Sara Pascoe (middle).


    Episode 2 was all about SPORTS. You might think this only relates to this week’s theme but some consider sewing as a high-intensity sport! If you ask Sewing Bee Man Yee, she will tell you that she sweated more during the first challenge than during any other sports… So, be ready to get down and sweaty to take on this week’s challenge of sports shoe making 😅

    1. THE PATTERN CHALLENGE - A pair of high top trainers

    This week kicked off with the Sewing Bees having to make a pair of high top trainers from scratch. Btw this has been a ‘first-ever’ on the show! Have any of you ever tried to make a pair of high tops? Personally, I have never even thought about sewing my own shoes but would give it a go now 😁

    So the candidates were given a pattern, some fabric, a hand eyelet puncher and only 4 hours to make these high tops. Here are some of their results which look pretty good for a first try in only 4 hours:


    Alright, so I went off and did some online (Google) research to find a high top pattern and I was not able to find any that weren’t £50 or over…

    So if you end up finding one or making a pair of high tops, please let us know as we would love to see the results! 

    Also if you struggle pressing those eyelets into the fabric, Sew In Brighton has an industrial eyelet puncher which saves you a whole lot of hassle and produces perfect eyelets every time. Just pop by to one of our ‘Stitch! General Sewing/Dressmaking Classes - any level/project’ to use it.

    NEXT UP:


    The Sewing Bees were given old netball kits (including netball bibs and sports tops) with the task to transform them into a glamorous day-wear garment. In order to make it a little bit more challenging, the garment needed to have some pleated elements in it. During this challenge, the judges are not in the room with the Sewing Bees so they don’t know whose is whose in the end, which makes it a bit more interesting. 

    On your marks, ready gooo! 

    Brogan’s winning dress for the challenge!

    With only 1 hour and 30 mins at hand, this is a pretty impressive result! Even the judges were blown away by the details and imagination the Bees used to transform old netball bibs into a very wearable dress. Well done to Brogan!

    So if you have any old bibs or sports shorts lying around at home, bring them to one of our Sewing classes and challenge yourself to make it into a night out skirt or nice headband. Who knows what the result will be?

    1. THE MADE-TO-MEASURE CHALLENGE - Sports jacket

    Each Sewing Bee is given a mannequin for the last event of the Sports week, they take their measurements and fit their choice of sports jacket pattern onto them. Pretty challenging hey! For this week’s task each Sewing Bee chose a sports personality that they admire and made a jacket inspired by their sports hero. Amongst their sports heroes, were Freddie Flintoff (cricket player), Nicola Adams (boxer), Serena Williams (tennis player) and Jain Kim (climber).

    The sewers were given 5 hours to complete this task. Let’s see what they managed to put together (Personally, these were my favourites):


    Gill’s jacket inspired by Nicola Adams.


    Annie’s jacket inspired by Serena Williams.


    Man Yee’s jacket inspired by Jain Kim.   








    Marni’s jacket inspired by Heather Stanning.

    And the winner was Marni! Maybe not a surprise at this point as Marni has been acknowledged as a pretty good and spot-on sewer - yet still a well deserved win 🏆

    So what does Sew In Brighton have to help you create amazing garments and increase your dressmaking skills to Sewing Bee level (so you can apply to be in it next year!)?

    OUR NEW Tailored Jacket course is up and going!

    The idea is to make yourself a modern, tailored lined jacket that fits you beautifully and have the pattern to take away to use again and again - as is or tweaked to different shapes and styles and in a variety of fabrics. 

    We also have a huge range of workshops and courses in sewing and dressmaking for all levels including complete beginners to sewing - view them here (

    A new blog post will follow each week’s episode of the Great British Sewing Bee, so stay tuned for some more content and sewing inspiration!

    See you next week and until then sew, sew away….

    Browse Sewing and Dressmaking Courses and Classes here: (

    Browse free sewing tips and tutorials here: (

  3. 3th May 2022


    Written by Claire Nilles, Marketing Assistant at Sew In Brighton Sewing School and Improver level self-taught sewer

    Knock knock, it’s Season 8 of the Great British Sewing Bee! And guess what, I will be providing you with the necessary ins and outs of each week’s challenges so you can level up your sewing skills and maybe just maybe be the next Sewing Bee.

    Are you up for the challenge? So let’s dive straight into it!

    Great British Sewing Bee 2022 contestants | meet the cast | Radio Times

    This year’s 12 contestants.


    This week’s theme was CAPSULE WARDROBE. And for anyone like me who has sewn a few bits and bots, but is absolutely not familiar with any technical terms. Here is a quick glossary of the term:

    “a small collection of clothes that can be put together in different ways and includes everything you would normally need to wear”  Cambridge Dictionary


    The first challenge of this week’s episode was a wool mini skirt with piped pockets at the front and an exposed zip at the back. 

    This is contestant Angela’s skirt with self-made piping for the 2 front pockets.

    NOW the big question is how can you make one (or a similar) mini skirt? Here is all the information you need to bring this week’s challenge to your home or local sewing school.

    What you will need to make your very own summer mini skirt or maybe a little longer skirt:

    • Fabric* (new or old, as upcycling is always an option!)

    *See your pattern for amount you need and always wash and iron fabric before cutting out if you plan to wash rather than dry clean the final garment (follow washing instructions on fabric, ask in shop if unsure)

    • Sewing machine & thread

    • Pattern or a skirt that you can replicate with some new fabric

    529,015 Light Bulb Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStockTIP!

    Here is an important tip from Kat (experienced sewing teacher and owner of Sew In Brighton) when sewing with wool. If you are trying to make your mini skirt with wool fabric it is important to add some lining to the inside of your skirt. Any lining is good here - polyester, rayon, cotton. If you are wearing tights you don't want cotton, as this rides up, so people usually use a slippy lining like polyester which is readily available.

     Here are some pattern examples to get you started making skirts: 

    1. Child’s Party Skirt (GBSB free pattern)

    LEVEL of difficulty: BEGINNER (Sounds like the perfect project even for myself! I might have a go next week at the sewing classroom and see where it will take me 😁)

    sewing bee childs party skirt pattern

    This is not the same pattern as the Sewing Bee Challenge skirt, but it is an easy skirt to get you sewing if you have not made any clothes from scratch before. It involves the minimum of fitting, has no pockets and has elastic for the waist - this is a great waist elastic you could use for this skirt from Prym which which also makes great belts (super simple make, with a buckle like this) - comes in many colours

    Here is the link: . It's a FREE pattern provided that you can download and print at home or get printed and posted to you inexpensively at


    2. Reed Skirt Grainline Studio Sewing Pattern

    LEVEL of difficulty: Improving Beginner

    Although labelled as Beginner, this seems more like Improving Beginner Dressmaker level pattern. I would say try making a simple garment like the first skirt above initially if you have no or little experience in sewing. Or just jump in with this one and take your time and get help from one of our teachers if needed.
    n.b. If you're completely new to machine sewing, learn the basics first and get confident by sewing a simple bag or cushion. If you need a hand and live near us in Brighton and Hove, check out our Beginner classes and courses here

    Here is the link for the pattern: 

    Is this is something you are interested in making but you don’t have a sewing machine at home or you need a hand fitting the pattern and deciphering the sewing instructions? If so you book onto one of our weekly Stitch! General Sewing and Dressmaking Classes in Brighton and Hove (East Sussex, UK) if you live nearby or fancy a day trip to Brighton beach.

    Head to so you just see availability for Stitch Classes for the next couple of weeks. Our teachers are very keen to get you going with your very own project and help you every step along the way to finalise your skirt in time before the summer hits Brighton. 

    Also for anyone new who just happened to stumble across this blog post, if you join our mailing list here you will get discounted codes, including SAVE 15% on your very FIRST Sewing class at Sew In Brighton.


    CHALLENGE 2 - Transformation Challenge 

    Lockdown Loungewear

    The idea was to transform any old loungewear piece into a night-out top. This is a sustainable way of upcycling any of your old clothes and giving them a fresh purpose. I always find it extremely rewarding if you have an old pair of trousers that don’t fit anymore and you can repurpose it by making a pair of dungarees out of them (just throwing some ideas around here). 

    DIY OVERALL JUMPSUIT from jeans: 


    CHALLENGE 3 - Made to measure

    Wrap Dress

    Generally speaking, wrap dresses are a go-to sewing dress as they are easy to fit to anyone’s body shape. What might be the trickiest part however are necklines and hemming the dress. Therefore I would say this is for Intermediate Sewers who have had some experience sewing dresses before. Nevertheless, it could be fun as a personal challenge to see if you can nail those necklines and create a piece that you can add to your Capsule Wardrobe :) 

    1. Misses and Petite Wrap Dress Simplicity Sewing Pattern

    Level of difficulty: Intermediate


    Here is the pattern:


    In case you want to jump onto the weekly Sewing Bee challenges, keep reading this blog each week as we will update it and I’ll see you next week.




    View all our sewing and dressmaking classes, courses and workshops, held in Brighton and Hove here (we also offer Zoom 1-2-1 lessons if you're elsewhere in the world). 

    Do get in touch with any questions at

  4. Sit down with a cuppa and get stuck into Paul Bally’s next installment of sewing adventures. Check back for more updates, this post will be updated with new content every week.

    14th September 2021

    So today I wanted to get on with the hoodie, I’d cut the tissue pattern down a bit... well lobbed off the seam allowance and hoped for the best! Unfortunately this sent Kat into meltdown as what I didn’t realise that this is a common mistake with newbies and it makes the whole pattern become an odd shape with the dots and notches needing to migrate in a certain way. Anyway after measuring, measuring and measuring again Kat guided me on how to fix this issue and by the end of it we were happy with the adjustments. So now for surprise number two of the class... I wanted the two front panels quilted with a pattern fabric, some wadding which I had spent the night before trying to split as it was way too thick and the backing. Kat asked was this in the original pattern, where did I see this or was it in my head? To which I replied “I’m obviously a dangerous designer and yes it’s a vision in my head”. Out comes the fabric and I’ve now got to pattern match, another skill with more measuring and planning. Anyway I didn’t have time for any sewing as the planning and adjusting was very intricate. Homework I decided to try out my new walking foot attachment. What I realised that after having second hand sewing machine’s that always played up I had an irrational fear of changing the feet! I took the screwdriver, undid the nut and replaced it... with no drama and it works like a dream! So my fear was down to not really knowing how to use my machine properly so thanks to the team over the weeks I’ve realised it’s nothing to be afraid of. I long stitched the three layers of fabric together and did a couple of panels through to hold the wadding but I went too fast so unpicked them and will do them again over the weekend.

    9th September 2021

    Mel took the class. I carried on with the toile and finished it while making notes on the calico fabric to transfer onto the tissue pattern later. I’d saved the trousers for Mel as she had been with me for a lot of it. We did the waistband. The sewing machine got angry with me and shuddered due to the amount of layers coming together at the back seam.

    6th September 2021

    Kat took the class, I needed a break from the trousers so I started to make a Toile. I had previously cut out the tissue pattern and used calico fabric, cut it out (on my new cutting mat) and took it in.

    2nd September 2021

    So before the lesson my 10 meters of calico unbleached fabric arrived, so as a good student I pre washed it on 40 degrees and a 1200 spin... omg it was so creased, it looked like a dust sheet! I cut off a bit and re-washed it with no spin and ironed it wet, still creased! It then took me over an hour to iron the rest of it as best I could, time I’ll never get back! Anyway I pinned and cut out the hoodie pattern with my new cutting mat and rotary cutter (panicking I’d end up in A&E with severed fingers). The class was nice and relaxed, the welted pockets were misbehaving but I’d not sewn down the flappy points. Prepared the belt loops, unpicked six holes, poked them through and re sewn over the original hem. Mel decided she couldn’t live with my mismatched centre seam (along with Kat) and even though I said you wouldn’t see it as it would be covered (trying to blag it again) she said she would always know it was there... so as I’m a fan / professional at unpicking I whipped out my tool and well, undid the seam again! Why do it once when you can do it again, as my dad always used to say doing DIY.

    31st Aug 2021

    Feeling like I’m back at school this morning waiting for the teacher to mark my work lol!

    My model came with me to model the trousers and Kat said how nice they were looking! Phew!The waistband was the same tricky explanation, didn’t fit properly and the instructions wanted some crazy stitch and push through belt strap that we all agreed was going to be impossible to do with most suit trousers fabrics. Kat also has a new teacher with her and they went into problem solving mode to work out what had happened, whipped out a ruler and found the offending centimetre! Couple of repair stitches (forgot to tie them off) and a pin/ stitch top layer of waistband was on. Little buckle in the seam so will unpick this later and re do tonight. Before the end of the lesson I asked Kats advice on my next project as I want to use a fabric with a nap (direction of fur, fluff, cord or something like that) and want to incorporate some quilting techniques for a sport’s hoodie. I feel after these two technical pieces I need something quick, simple and bright. (the shorts will have to wait as the weather has gone cloudy and cold) Lots of pics etc, thank you for today! Really enjoying the difficulty level.


    26th Aug 2021

    Love these evening stitch classes! Had Phil again tonight. These suit trousers are proving to be a bit complicated (for me anyway) I did the seams to close the leg and the bottom area. At last some easy seams! Well my excitement and joy didn’t last long as my model (my partner) said “hmm., they are a bit baggy, they feel a bit like a boiler suit!” As the tears started to well... not really, I just took a sharp pin to the inside leg! I didn’t have the heart to tell him he has a suit jacket on the horizon! Phil was so professional and guided me to where to adjust for homework, showing me how to pin and mark on the inside and how to take the measurements. Homework was done over the bank holiday, I had to get this “boiler suit” image away. So after various seams these trousers went from boiler suit to riding jodhpurs to fashionable skinny leg! Making clothes is like the most difficult jigsaw puzzle, I think the meaning of life would be easier to solve. Anyway hopefully I’ve done the adjustments ok ready to do the waistband?


    25th Aug 2021

    The welted pocket saga continues! Mel had the pleasure again today. I’m sure the teachers secretly hope I've finished all the complicated bits lol! Anyway with lots of cutting, folding, unpicking, flipping, ironing, squishing, the welted pockets are done! Thank you to all that were involved!

    Paul Bally block post welted pockets 2 sewing sew in brighton tailoring

    24th Aug 2021

    Naomi today, full class with lots going on. It was quite technical with lots of matching up dots, Taylor tacos and notches? Welted pockets are on the menu today. I'm glad as I enjoy all the difficult bits of sewing, I think I am becoming obsessed with the construction of clothes! Most of the lesson I was confused, in a good way. Her words of advice were, “ it’s like magic when it’s done, but until you get there it’s hard to work it out” I’m sure Kat said something similar a couple of days ago.

    Paul Bally Blog post welted pockets sewing sew in brighton tailoring 

    23rd Aug 2021

    Just three of us today, which was just perfect as Mel had time to breathe and even lend a hand at unpicking, which I was truly grateful for. I feel I’m an expert in unpicking! I was attaching the zip today, the excitement of using a different presser foot was exhilarating! All these years I have struggled with the regular foot, not getting close enough to the zip and there was a specific foot for it! Again lots of pinning, folding and praying and voila, it is central.


    19th Aug 2021

    Today was slippy lining fabric day! This was to make the pocket lining/ bag/ sack. This gorgeous deep blue fabric is testing my patience, it is very floaty and likes to Frey. The stitch length needed to be adjusted to a longer one as it was pulling a little. Once you know this, sewing becomes enjoyable again.14B8036D-CAC5-433F-BC87-71D748C5B460A9D42D77-EAF7-4194-B1E3-FAD2D65EFB34

    18th Aug 2021 

    So, update on the shirt, I’ve completely messed up the button holes at home!!! I’m still getting used to my new machine (I take it to class also) I thought I’d marked them correctly, did a test one and thought let’s do this and put the shirt in the opposite way and we’ll out of seven attempts only two were where I wanted them… have you ever tried to unpick a button hole? Me neither lol! 


    Anyway, rather than deal with unpicking I’ve started a new project, suit trousers. (The shirt is finished but the presentation will be later.) 


    Today Kat was in, I apologised before we started that I didn’t understand the instructions to which she replied “oh don’t worry you just have to read them slowly”.


    Well after a few attempts she agreed that this was going to be difficult. She did make me laugh saying these “squiggles” here are “air” !?! I mean that wasn’t in the key code! Air!!! 


    So, this piece numbered 21 (with the air behind it) was actually a tiny pocket on the front waistband. Now that we know it’s a pocket the instructions seem really clear now!  



    As Kat said “don’t worry if it doesn’t make sense, it will all be revealed” I’m sure these sewing pattern manufacturers do this on purpose (or I’m just being stupid) 


    Again, I loved the class, there was one lady using the serger overlocker, and she was sewing like a true professional. When I grow up I want to be as good as her! And yes I’ve put this machine on my Christmas list also! 


    After the class I popped into Brighton to C&H fabric store to pick up some lining for the trouser pockets and Gutermann thread. Washed and dried the material ready for the next class tomorrow!