So, exciting news, I’ve launched a YouTube channel ๐Ÿ˜ฑ My very first video is about the new Great British Sewing Bee book launched in conjunction with the new series which started last week, 22nd of April 2020. I also review the pattern that I sewed from it too. I will put some brief information here too, as I think it’s useful to refer back to, but here is the link to the video.

The Book

The book is aimed at confident home sewers, therefore, it’s not a ‘how to sew book’ as it assumes that you can do the very basics with some methods highlighted as ‘Special Techniques’, such as fly zips or shirring. The book covers both series 5 & 6 of the Great British Sewing Bee & contains 27 projects. There are 5 double sided A0 patterns sheets, that are nested, so tracing will be required, (you can download them though for printing either at home or a printshop).

There are13 different patterns plus some variations of those patterns, some upcycling projects & projects where patterns aren’t required. 4 of the patterns were featured in the last series namely; The Pussy Bow Blouse, The Wiggle Dress, Mens Trousers & a Man’s Linen Jacket, so maybe we can expect some of the remaining ones to be featured in the upcoming episodes.

The Patterns

Pictured below are the projects which have a pattern. So you have a vintage inspired coat, with the option of making it collared or collarless. Beneath that is a long sleeved blouse, with a shirring panel which would make fitting a little bit simpler, this is a variation of the Summer dress which is short sleeved. The Pussy bow blouse from last series. There is a halter neck dress, which is backless & aimed at improving makers. The men’s trousers have a straight legged or flared option.

There is a sleep set with elasticated waistband & rouleau loops which can be made in knit or woven. There’s a variation to make this into a romper suit. The mans linen jacket & lovely wiggle dress from last series. The wrap skirt has a variation to make it shorter & from offcuts & remnants. The bomber jacket is unisex & has the option to make it shorter & has the potential for colour blocking & finally a jumpsuit with patch pockets & buttons down the front which can be worn with or without a belt plus a cropped version.

Transformation Projects

As the subtitle suggests the focus of this book is on sustainability, so along with the usual information about what kit is required & sizing, there is a section which covers the different kinds of fabrics & how we can make more informed choices about the fabrics & haberdashery that we choose. There are sections discussing the impact of how we care for our handmade wardrobe through laundering & mending.

In & amongst the projects with patterns are some other projects; some that have been inspired by the programme & others that are a little simpler, perhaps to encourage beginners as well as using up scraps & remnants, such as an apron, a tailor’s ham, a pinafore skirt made from some corduroy trousers & dress made from a tablecloth. There is also a mans shirt refashion that has information about natural dying.


Overall, I am pleased that I bought this book. There are several projects in here that I would be happy to make & I love that the focus is on sustainability. I think that if you are already interested in sewing sustainably then there is probably nothing that you don’t already know or practice in here. However, I think that with the current situation, there are potentially going to be a lot of people who are new to sewing that will get a lot from this book, so a good middle ground.

The Midi Dress

GBSB Midi Dress

I thought I’d try the Midi Dress to start with. I loved that although it was big & floaty & reminiscent of the 70’s, it had a bit of waist definition which is important to me. Fabric suggestions are: viscose, bamboo silk, crepe/crepe de chine, cotton lawn, chambray, georgette or light linen. I’d picked up this polyester crepe fabric from a sewing meet-up last year & had kept pulling it out wanting to use it in a project as I thought it went well with the garments that I’d made for the Great Module Sewalong. I had just enough for the Midi dress, around 3 yards, so the decision was made. I appreciate that poly crepe isn’t the most sustainable choice but I am offsetting that against the fact that it was unwanted fabric, potentially going to landfill.


The size chart is at the beginning of the book, with the finished measurements, fabric requirements & suggestions at the beginning of each project. My measurements currently are 37″ bust , 32′” waist & 40″ hips & I’m 5’8″. The women’s patterns are drafted for people 5’5″ – 5’7″ tall & a B cup. (I love that height & cup information is included, it’s so useful). According to the chart I was a size 12, (just) at the bust & between 14 & 16 at the waist, I decided to chance the 14 at the waist as grading out 2 sizes can be too much.

Sewing Up

I found the instructions to be easy to follow in the main. I did encounter a problem with the shoulder seams not meeting. The back shoulder seam was nearly an inch wider than the front. I’d already cut, interfaced, sewn & overlocked my neck facing, so I took the contentious decision to slice off the extra from the armsyce. I know that can make fitting in the sleeve difficult but I did measure first before I did any lopping off & knew that there was enough ease in the sleeve head to get away with it – phew! ๐Ÿ˜…

The discrepancy doesn’t look so much here but it was significantly shorter on the front shoulder

There is a lot of gathering in this dress, if you don’t enjoy gathering, then maybe think twice before starting. The bottom edge of the front & back bodice, bottom of the sleeves & each tier of the skirt panels are all gathered. (I also had to use gathers to ease in the sleeve into the armsyce, which it doesn’t say in the instructions). I find the technique suggested, with 2 rows of gathering stitches, a fiddly job, with less than satisfying results, especially on long pieces, to get it even. But I have a solution, for the longer skirt panels, at least! I use elastic, probably not quicker but I feel that it gives a more even gather. I will try to put together a tutorial of how I do it but in the meantime, here is a link to the technique from Deer & Doe. (I just use normal elastic & cut it out, it works just as well).

I was a bit lazy & rather than trace off the skirt pieces, I took the measurements. Unfortunately, I got height & width confused & didn’t realise until after I’d inserted the elastic & sewn it to the bottom panel, so had unpick it all, which wasn’t fun!. The result is that my dress isn’t quite midi, it’s around 4″ inches shorter than it should have been, which is ok, as I don’t, particularly like that length on me & would probably ended up taking it up. But interstingly mine looks around a similar length to the one in the book, which means with the model is 6′ or it has also been shortened!

The length doesn’t look much different to mine. Picture: Quadrille Publishing

Finally, after having fun with the seam ripper, I couldn’t find a suitable sized zip in the correct colour & size. After trying on the bodice, I knew that it was going to be big enough, I took a chance & sewed up the whole of the back seam & it fit over my head just fine without. I do this on a regular basis if I can, especially with a V neck. Probably not everyone can get away with it, I guess it depends on your bust size. In fact it was a little too loose on me & I ended taking another 3/8″ out of the back seam.

Final Thoughts

Other than the issue with the shoulder seam & it coming out a bit bigger than expected I like the pattern. It would be lovely in a viscose or a white lightweight linen for summer, not that I can wear white, as I’m a mucky pup & would have food & or dog prints down it within half an hour of getting dressed but one can dream can’t one!

Have you bought the new GBSB book? What are your thoughts & have you made anything from it yet, have I tempted you to make the midi dress or the maxi version? Let me know below.

Until next time

Sam xx

12 thoughts on “Great British Sewing Bee – Sustainable Style Book & Pattern Review”

  1. Really pretty dress and the tip/ link to gathering with elastic was one I hadn’t seen before. It will be very useful in the future.

    Sometime the back shoulder is drafted wider than the front shoulder, with instructions or marking to ease the back fullness into the seam. This takes the place of a back shoulder dart and provides a bit of fabric for the back curve of the shoulder.

    Being in the US, I will probably have to wait a bit to be able to purchase the GBSB book for a reasonable price. I have all the other books and definitely want this one. Thanks for the review. FYI, the sound on the first Youtube video was so low that even with speaker volume up to max, I could barely hear you. Second video, volume was much better. Yeah!

    1. Sam Chandler

      Hi Audrey. Thank you so much for commenting.Yes I have seen before where the back shoulder needs to be eased into the front but there’s definitely no markings on the pattern. (I’ve just quickly checked)
      It’s a shame that you have to wait for the book, hopefully it won’t be too long.
      I’m so glad that the volume was better for you on the 2nd video, this filming & editing lark has been a real learning curve but is keeping me busy, hopefully I will improve with each one! I really appreciate that you have come back .
      Best wishes

  2. Andrea Stanislawski

    I’m in the midst of making the Summer Dress and have annoyingly found exactly the same problem in that the the back shoulder edge is a good inch wider than the front. I’ve just had to sew the sleeve in to fit the lesser edge of the front bodice.
    Apart from that all going well so far with easy instructions.

    1. Mmm, that’s interesting Andrea, thanks for letting me know. I thought it was something I’d done, you never know when you trace a pattern off but I also had a bit of an issue with the cami set. I’ve not seen a lot of reviews for any of these patterns, except the tester versions, so I will have a search & see if anyone has had problems with any other patterns. Glad that you were able to sort it & yes I thought the the instructions were clear apart from that drafting issue. The summer dress is on my list to make. If you’re on instagram, tag me in I’d love to see it ๐Ÿ˜Š

  3. Hi,

    I have just bought the book and was keen to start making the pussybow blouse!
    When I began to look at the pattern sheet I was slightly confused at all the overlapping pattern pieces and couldnโ€™t seem to find when the sleeve was on the sheet. Any chance you could help?

    Many thanks

    1. Hi Florence
      I’ve not made this one yet, so just had a look at the pattern sheets. The sleeve is on a different sheet, the one with the Carnaby coat on it, it looks as though the back blouse piece is on there too. Hope it turns out well ๐Ÿ˜€

  4. Hi

    I’m definitely confused about the midi dress pattern. Not sure if I’m being an idiot here but to me the bust sizes are outrageously large! In my copy of the book, a size 8 has a finished bust measurement of 39+ inches or 101cms. A size ten – nearly 42 inches or 106 cms.

    I know it’s a loose fitting dress but I’ve put the tape round my bosom – I’m usually a 10/12 – and the resulting bodice would be massive.

    After reading everything here and noticing this problem – I’m really put off. I’ve got some lovely drapery linen but I don’t want to risk wasting it on a badly designed pattern.

    1. Hi Cath, thanks for reading & commenting. There is quite a lot of ease in this, I agree. Maybe you could try the smallest size with an old sheet or duvet cover, just to check the fit before cutting into your lovely linen.You wouldn’t need to do the whole dress, just the bodice, I toile most things, especially if it’s a pattern company I’ve never used before. Good luck, I hope it works out for you. ๐Ÿ˜Š

  5. I too have just made this dress and was dismayed to find that the shoulder seams are so mismatched. I ended up with a gathered back shoulder seam! On the size that I cut out, the side waist seams were also over 1/2 cm out front and back and as I had decided to face the bodice section front and back, with an extra piece in order to neaten the inside, it was just too much to unpick it all, to take out the excess before joining the side seams. My pattern was a free pattern given away with Simply Sewing mag, but it has put me off buying the book.

  6. Juliet Dehnel

    I’m making the Summer Dress for my daughter and have found the same issue with the shoulder seams.The back shoulder is 3 cm longer than the front for size 8. Fortunately I’m lining it and was practising making the lining first and haven’t cut out the main, rather pricey, material. What would you recommend? My feeling is that the pattern for the front doesn’t allow for the seam joining the front bodice with the side bodice.
    Should I put a tuck in the back or somehow make the front wider?

  7. I’m also making the Summer Dress and had the shoulder problem too. I agree with Julie’s diagnosis, that the measurements don’t account for the seam allowance joining the front bodice pieces. I lopped a section out of the back bodice arm holes to balance it out, but it’s not been successful – disappointingly. I just tried it on (prior to putting the zip in) and there’s not enough room across the chest. I don’t know whether this would have been the case anyway, or whether it is to do with the bodging I did around the sleeve to try and fix this error. Really disappointed.

    1. I emailed them about the issue and they confirmed seam allowance was missing on two pieces of the summer dress. Really disappointing.

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