Sheffield’s become a city of sew and sews!

May Martin and Patrick Grant.
May Martin and Patrick Grant.
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It’s official - Sheffield has caught the sewing bug.

Some 2.7 million UK viewers tuned in last month to watch 82-year-old grandmother Ann Rowley crowned the first ever champion of the Great British Sewing Bee.

And it seems the BBC show has inspired a whole new generation of amateur sewers to find their way around a sewing machine - as John Lewis in Sheffield’s crafting sales have gone through the roof.

“On Wednesday, our general haberdashery sales were up by 61 per cent,” said marketing manager Elle Bradley-Cox.

“Sales of the bias binding tape maker, featured on the programme, went up by 250 per cent and dressmaking fabrics were up 164 per cent.

“Sewing pattern sales rose by 164 per cent as well, and sewing machines by a whopping 340 per cent - it’s been amazing!”

Rita Owen, haberdashery partner at John Lewis in Sheffield, said: “We’ve been really pleased with the reaction of our customers to the Great British Sewing Bee.

“There’s no doubt that interest in sewing has grown since the programme started - every other customer mentions something they’ve seen and want to recreate from the programme.

“It’s been lovely for us to be able to provide hints and tips to set them off in the right direction - it’s great to see the people of Sheffield catch the crafting bug!”

And for Emma Kent, who runs Sheffield craft company Running With Scissors, business couldn’t be better.

She says bookings for her many local craft workshops have risen overnight.

“The Great British Sewing Bee has had a really positive effect on my company, and on sewing as a whole,” said Emma, who started Running With Scissors four years ago.

She teaches workshops all over the city in every type of craft imaginable, from basket weaving and knitting to crochet and screen printing.

“I think it is great that this show has raised the profile of sewing, and of crafts in general,” she said.

“Since the series began it has been discussed at every workshop and every private tuition we have run!”

Of course, sewing is not the first retro skill to make a comeback in recent years. Baking, cooking, knitting, scrapbooking – they’ve all returned as people have shown a desire to get back to their roots and pick up the skills their mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers took for granted.

Emma added: “I think the show has really rekindled an interest in sewing, not just among newcomers, but also among the older generation - people who were taught the skills in their younger days, but are a bit rusty and want to get back into the hobby.

“The Great British Sewing Bee has done for sewing what the Great British Bake Off did for baking, and I think what it comes down to is that people still get enjoyment and pride out of creating something useful and beautiful, using their own two hands.”

Are your clothes dull? ‘Trashion’ them up!

“Experimentation is great for a novice sewer,” says Running with Scissors boss Emma.

“A popular way of trying different things is ‘Trashion’ - customising old clothing to give it a new lease of life.

As she speaks, Emma indicates her own ‘Trashion’-designed dress. “This was an old plain blue dress. I added buttons, a few little embellisments on the shoulders and created a pocket on the front with a few little decorations to jazz it up. It gives a makeover to an old piece of clothing I might otherwise have thrown away or got bored of, and it is now unique.”

Vanessa Bowerman, haberdashery buyer for John Lewis in Sheffield, agreed: “We’re seeing a real trend towards people customising old clothing.”