As you’ll know if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, I loved watching the Great British Sewing Bee. A lot. One of my favourite contestants was Jenni Taylor; she was the most inexperienced in the sewing room having only been sewing for about a year but her first project was her own wedding dress. As you do! I really enjoyed following her through the competition, especially as she’s fairly local to me, and I’m so pleased she agreed to be interviewed… Thank you Jenni!
How long had you been sewing for before you applied for GBSB?
I had been sewing for about a year by the time I started the audition process for the Great British Sewing Bee. I have always been a ‘arty’ person; I like to think that I have my fingers in a lot of the proverbial pies. I enjoy painting, craft, dance, music, and had also had a GCSE in Textiles, but that was quite some time ago. I’ll give anything a go! What got me back into sewing was my urge to make my own wedding dress. I just couldn’t find what I was looking for and, me being me, I thought I’d give it a go. Risky I know, but I LOVE a challenge. I think it’s important that we strive to try new things and learn new skills.
What made you decide to apply, and how did you feel when you were chosen?
I was asked by a few people that I should go on the show – I responded with a very prompt, “You’re joking, I’m not good enough to go on there!” Kirk [Jenni’s husband] felt otherwise. He applied for me without letting me know. After a week in the post he confessed what he did. After receiving the call from the Bee asking me to be part of the audition process after a telephone interview, I was GOBSMACKED. Every stage I got through, the more things just became surreal. I just couldn’t believe that they thought I had what it takes to be on the show. Even when we started filming the first episode, I still couldn’t believe I had got this far.
What was your favourite challenge?
It has to be the blind challenges for me, Tasks One and Two. I love that you don’t know what you are going to be doing until they announce it. I’m a very impatient sewer. If I start a project I have to finish it. It’s only because I get so excited and want to wear it/use it the day I make it. So the time challenge isn’t really anything new to me. I was kinda doing my own Sewing Bee challenges at home before the Bee as I couldn’t go out until I finished the project, otherwise I’m going out naked! Lol (I’m quite often late to parties because of this – the new fashionably late).
What was the most challenging aspect of the show?
For me especially, it was my lack of experience in fabric. The Bee really pulled out the stops with the challenges I feel this year. With my limited time sewing I had not really experienced, or had the wallet to experiment with, different fabric. So for me I think that was the most challenging. That along with having to talk to on camera while sewing.
Do you think you learnt new skills taking part?
Absolutely, my attention to detail has gone through the roof, thanks to May and Patrick’s critique, as well as my fabric-handling skills. I have also come away with something quite unexpected: self-confidence. To have a little more faith in my ability and myself. It was quite an intense, emotional and therapeutic experience. One that I’m never going to forget and don’t regret at all.
Do you have any advice for anyone thinking of applying to GBSB?
I think just be yourself, there is no one else like you! Also be prepared to get emotional! It’s quite a ride!
What are your favourite things to sew?
For me it has to be clothes! I love being able to make something that you can then feel proud to wear! There is nothing more special than making gifts for people as well. Whether it’s clothes or other items. A hand made gift is always made with love (sometimes blood, sweat and tears as well).
What are your plans now?
I’ve started a blog. It began as an insight into what my inspirations were or how I was feeling about the tasks on the Bee, but is now evolving into something else. So many people have contacted me on social media, email and in the street to say how inspiring I have been to them. I’m completely overwhelmed by this. I never thought that I could have this impact on people. It’s amazing and because of this and their requests I’m starting a #sewingrevolution You may not be aware, but it’s actually been going on for years in people’s spare rooms and living rooms but people have told me they don’t have confidence to share. I hope that I help to inspire people to release it, share it and make it grow!
I’ve started to run workshops to help people either get back into sewing or to show someone who has never even picked up a needle and thread before. It’s liberating!
The great thing is you can join in too! Show your kids, friends and family how to do it, dust off that sewing machine that’s hiding in the loft/attic space and give it a whirl! Please keep me posted on your adventures too by using the hashtag #sewingrevolution on twitter/instagram/facebook. So get following me and together we can do this!
Jenni’s next workshop is at the lovely Guthrie & Ghani in Moseley, Birmingham. She’s also looking for venues for more workshops to continue her #sewingrevolution so please get in touch if you’d like her to run a workshop in your venue!