fabric / Sewing

The 60 minute Sewing Challenge: All Made Up

The Great British Bake-Off vs Sewing Bee: Part 2

With the final of the Great British Sewing Bee approaching it’s the perfect time to introduce the second part of my 60 minute challenge (Recap Challenge 1: Muscovado Minutes here). The sewing half of this challenge was a lot more difficult to plan- how to judge how much work will fit into just 60 minutes? On the show they always do an alteration to an exisiting garment in 60 minutes but I really wanted to make something from scratch to compare it to the baking challenge.

I decided on a relatively simple make-up bag that I’ve made a few times before (though not recently-my memory was a bit rusty!). I’ve got LOTS to say about this challenge and the competition as a whole but I’ll leave that for afterwards. For now the timer is on: 60 minutes.

I cut out all my pieces first (all roughly by eye as I wasn’t following  a pattern) and then started to assemble the zip: adding tabs for a neater finish. 50 minutes to go.


I decided to add a slip lined pocket as a bit extra- demonstrate more skills- and increase the usefulness of the bag. I always love extra pockets in bags. 40 minutes to go.

ARGH- I’ve broken a needle on my sewing machine! This has never happened on my new machine so I’ve no idea how to change the needle- you need a screwdriver! A screwdriver!


Whilst attaching the zip I had my second disaster when I sewed through the wrong layers! I had to unpick  one side of the zipper. Even though it wasn’t a real competition I could feel my heart starting to beat faster and my hands were starting to shake with the panic- I just didnt have time to be unpicking whole rows! I lost at least 5 minutes to fixing this error (which was admittedly all my own fault for not remembering how to do it) just 30 minutes left.


When I finally came to top stitching my zip in place it was nowhere near as neat as I’d have liked it to be- and definetly not Sewing Bee standard- with their eagle eye for zipper fittings.  Attaching the exterior fabric (look at those shoes and handbags!) to the lining was a surprisingly quick and easy process (I thought at the time). Only 20 minutes left!


With 10 minutes to go I realised I wasn’t going to complete the bag in time. If this had been a real competition I’d have decided to go without the flat bottom I wanted to insert and go straight to slip stitching the lining so it was at least finished. However, as I didn’t want to slip stitch it closed and then undo it to put the flat bottom in so I could actually use it for I wanted (I know breaking with the illusion!) I decided just to see how much I could get done in the remaining (!) 3 MINUTES.


I’m not sure I could have put this in front of the judges…without looking closely it doesn’t look to0 bad, but in reality the lining hasn’t been finished, the tabs were too short (I’d planned to shorten the zip but in the whirlwind process had forgotten- until I turned it all out) and so a rough edge showed and there definitely wasn’t time to press it or give it those little personal touches.

Judges verdict: competent but not very exciting and let’s leave it at that.


After taking a break to stop my pulse racing so much I did go back and finish the bag properly (I want it to take on holiday!) and in the end it was really quite pretty- with some nice little features.

A gorgeous print (from Birmingham Rag Market).


A roomy interior (courtesy of that flat bottom) and a useful slip lined pocket in contrast fabric.


And a cute little buttton and ribbon pull for the zip.


It’s finally all made up-sigh.


What a process though! The sewing challenge was difficult in a way the baking one never was! I felt every minute of the sixty I had for sewing- and if I hadn’t  broken a needle and done a wrong row of sewing I probably would have finished it- but the mistakes are just so much harder to recover from! With the baking I saved time on the syrup afterwards so the baking itself was never compromised and I could add these short cuts in as I went and monitored my progress- with sewing one little hurdle could set you back to not complete the whole project- I honestly felt shaky by the end of it!

Going back to some of the issues I raised in my first blog on this topic:

Which will be a more interesting process?

Baking is definitely easier for more people to watch and understand- with sewing you could get lost in the technical details (tabs, slip lined pockets).

Which will produce a more impressive result?

Whilst the make-up bag was eventually quite cute in the sixty minutes allowed it was the cakes that came out on top.

It seems like sewing is a skill that you really need to take your time over- no matter how good you are I’m not sure you can just whip up a perfect dress in an hour- but a delicious Victoria sponge? Yes- you probably could.

I fear this could be the downfall of the Great British Sewing Bee- though I hope not!

Please let me know what you think and you can vote in the poll! Sewing Bee vs British Bake-Off: you decide!




4 thoughts on “The 60 minute Sewing Challenge: All Made Up

  1. Now my darling as you are not happy with your bag I think that you should send it my way………you are so clever I could perhaps compete in the baking challenge but never in the sewing unless cutting out would get me points.

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  3. I was with you there! I could feel your sewing stress! I read this soooo fast trying to get you to complete the bag and I think it’s amazing and of course love the fabric. I have received 2 gorgeous handmade Birthday presents which are so special and I will always keep them and I can’t say the same for a baked present so for me sewing will always come out on top!

  4. Pingback: Handmade Christmas gifts | craft my escape

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