Time machine: Sewing on TV

Hello friends,
Source  Lucy Wants New Furniture
As the 3rd series of BBC Sewing Bee is soon to hit ours British screens I thought we could look back on different sewing programs hosted by the BBC over the years.
Firstly broadcasted in 1962 “Clothes that count: Suits”. The program starts by stating how female equality has turned girl’s into style stealers (nothing left from men’s closet apparently) and every British girl now owns a suit. The presenter than picks a pattern suggestion from “many many” printed patterns available.  McCall’s 8756 for 5 shillings.  £0.25 in today’s money.
Source: BBC
Since the pattern was chosen due its versatility we can see it made on 4 models different models. A little description of the pattern is repeated again and how suitable is for different fabrics and body shapes.
Source: BBC
The program than shows Ann Ladbury (sewing expert that many of you may already have heard of) as she talk about simple pattern alterations for that pattern. How to increase the hip size, increase the size of a dart. Grading for larger sizes, increase blouse darts, slopping shoulders, trousers crotch curve alterations…  All the details were printed on the radio times supplement. (Part 1/ Part 2)
Incredibly similar role to what we do today as “sewing bloggers” over the internet. We share our makes with ours unique styles choices and our thoughts. Most of us are far from trained experts but we diffuse what we learn with a lot of passion. And I love that!
This series ran divided into 10 shows: Exploring suits, double breasted coats, shirt wasters. Where just a few of them. Suits series must have been so popular that in 1969 “New clothes that count: suits” was released. Each program explore a printed pattern. I have linked all the archived videos for your viewing pleasure.
Ann came back to the screens as a presenter of Weekend Wardrobe.In the 80’s fashionable ladies had limited time to dedicate to sewing so the program focused making outfits that could be made during the weekend. The series accompanied by a book of patterns, which I found a copy on a local charity shop.  I have a bit of a ‘treasure hunter’ trill when I enter those shops. I rarely buy clothes but so many antique pottery and books to be had if you have the patience to look.
The patterns were designed by Caroline Charles. She stills designs today and have worked with famous clients like the Beatles, Mick Jagger etc. The scope was to create glamorous and wearable separates. No complicated fastenings, fussy details were used. I actually think most of the designs could be recycled today without feeling like 80″s fashion.
Source BBC
There were 10 episodes shown. I could only watch episode one.  Shame they didn’t archived the rest.
If you enjoyed this blog post I would recommend you to spend some time looking at the BBC archives. I have also enjoyed their knitting shows from the 70’s. ( big fashion trend of 2015)
Both programs differ from current “reality style/competition” from today’s. Looking back to the past formats I honestly think the mixture of them all would be the greatest TV ever!  How about you? Do you like how sewing is portrayed on TV?
  • Rachel! This is so interesting! If the time machine existed, I can only imagine how this cool seamstresses from the past would rave about Internet and blogging 🙂 Going to check these archives 🙂

  • That’s a great idea, I never thought I’d watching any of the bbc archives.
    The good thing about the Sewing Bee is that it features contestants if all ages, most sewing shows like Styled to Rock only focus on the under 25’s. However , I would love to see more sewing shows on Tv, I’d love a whole channel dedicated to it! For now just have to be grateful for what we have, but I would like to see a refresh of Sewing Bee, that twee Doris Day incidental music is so annoying !

  • great post, love the Weekend Wardrobe program. WIsh the bbc would put up the rest of the series! The Sewing bee fun, but really just a tv game show.

  • fantastic, just watched the shirtwaister episode and seeing jo mattli interviewed was a bonus (i have been trying to get a certain jo mattli pattern for a while). the black and white dates it, but for a 28minute show but the information format and pace is excellent – live action sewing and all!- i have posted the link on the we sew retro facebook page as even seeing the patterns made up on the various figure types is great (no one can ever look as cool as the illustraions on the vintage patterns)

  • Fantastic Rachel. I didn’t know it was even possible!

  • Thanks for the links Rachel, I will check them out in detail soon!

  • Anonymous

    Ann Ladbury use to also be on local Itv


  • Debi_myhappysewingplace

    ooohhhh! BBC archives! I love the 1969 show idea….will have to check this out!!