Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Are Television executives missing a trick?

If Maslow is to be believed, (and all conventional wisdom suggests that he is), then three of our most basic human needs are to feed, house and clothe ourselves. No-one could argue that British TV has it pretty much covered when it comes to food and property. Anyone you stop on the street would have no problem reeling off a list of TV chefs; Nigella, Jamie, Gordon, Marco Pierre, Delia, Ainsley, et al are just the tip of a very large iceberg (notable is the fact that no surnames are even necessary to know exactly who I am referring to!) The inevitable surge of cookery books on the shelves of WH Smith in time for Christmas is further evidence of this. Much the same can be said of property and DIY related programming. The public are on first name terms with Phil and Kirstie. They are awed by Sarah Beany's ability to simultaneously renovate a dilapidated mansion AND rescue hapless homeowners from property disaster, ALL whilst apparently being permanently pregnant. Such is the eternal popularity of  DIY and home makeover shows, that they have made household names not just of the presenters, but even the minor players and sidekicks have become celebrities in their own right. (Charlie Dimmock and Handy Andy anyone?). Crikey, DIY SOS even has us covertly sobbing into our sofa cushions in case anyone should catch us crying at an interior design programme! (That's not just me is it?)

Surely at the heart of the eternal popularity of such shows is their universal appeal. They tap into two of our most basic needs. Everybody needs to eat, right? Everybody needs a place to lay their head at night, right? Over the years British TV has catered admirably for our needs in these two areas. TV programmes have taught us how to cook everything from a basic omelette to catering for a 5 course gourmet dinner party. TV has shown us that food can be sexy (Nigella?), cool (Jamie?), traditional (Delia?) and has inspired us to go back to basics and encouraged us to grow our own (River Cottage anyone?).
We've learnt from TV, how we can turn a semi in Birmingham into boutique hotel with just a few sheets of MDF, some paint and a staple gun. Programmes like Grand Designs have inspired us even further, not just to Do It Yourself but to Build it Yourself too. Over the years TV has showed us that   "doing it" ourselves, is not rocket science. All it takes is a little know how and the will to try. It's inspired us to have a go. Helped us rediscover skills that, a generation ago, were commonplace. But in a culture of fast fix consumerism, had been in danger of being lost altogether. As a nation we are slowly rediscovering the satisfaction we can get from saying "I made that" as opposed to the emotionally bereft alternative of "I bought that". We are re-engaging with our ability to meet our own needs, rather than paying someone to meet them for us.

So what then of the overlooked middle child? Our ability to clothe ourselves? Whilst we can all name TV chefs and property types in abundance; can you name me one TV stitcher? One person who has taught and inspired us that when it comes to clothing ourselves, we CAN do it ourselves? In TV's crusade to inspire, inform and equip us with the skills we need to do it ourselves, sewing is screamingly conspicuous in it's virtual absence from our programming schedules. Whilst a huge, dynamic and vibrant online sewing community has emerged in the past few years, TV chiefs seem to remain blissfully unaware of it's existence. So the question is, are they missing a trick by failing to cater for such a diverse and growing market?

In the real world of course, it's numbers that matter; and central to any programming decision must be viewing figures. So what kind of appetite is there for sewing related programming in the UK today? This is a difficult one to answer since to date, TV has not produced a sewing related show to illustrate through hard figures, what we in the online sewing community already know. That sewing is indeed, more popular and thriving than it has been for generations.

Let's talk numbers...

So what proof is there that the UK has a sewing revival on it's hands and is it just a flash in the pan? Back in 2009 when the recession had hit, talk was widespread that this would create a resurgence in the "make do and mend" mentality. This article from the Mail Online sums up nicely what was happening back in 2009. To quote:

"Sewing machines make a comeback as sales soar 500%"


"If more proof were needed that we are living in a brave new world since the recession, consider the success of the humble sewing machine. For years, sales to grandmothers and home economics teachers were steady, but unspectacular. Cue the credit crunch and the sewing machine has become a must-have accessory.
Tesco reported a 198% increase in sales since this time last year - selling two every minute. Sales of Argos' cheapest model, at £69.99, have risen by 500%, while Singer and Brother models are up by 50%."

So what happened? Were they right?  Has the UK experienced a sewing and handmade revival in the past few years or are all those newly purchased sewing machines gathering dust in a cupboard?? Fast forward to the beginning of last year and it seems sales in sewing machines show no sign of abating. Market analyst GIA Inc, released the results of a comprehensive study into the global sewing machine market with some headline worthy results. To quote:

"Global Sewing Machines Market to Reach 25.8 Million Units by 2015"


What's interesting about these results is that what  growth there is in this market is driven, not by industry, but by us. You and I. The humble home sewer. It seems that whilst the recession has bitten textile and garment production hard on their mass producing butts, it has had the opposite effect on the sale of home sewing machines. According to the study, a decline in sales and the mounting financial burdens on textiles manufacturers has resulted in major cutbacks across the industry. This in turn has "pushed sales of industrial sewing machines into the red"

However, it seems the reverse is true of home sewing machines:

"consumer behavioral patterns such as, rise in self-mending of clothes, and do-it-yourself craft work, have helped counterbalance partially the lull in the business environment. Hypothetically, tight budgetary conditions and a call for careful purchase decisions,  ironically presents a favorable scenario for increased adoption of home sewing machines, as people vigorously adopt a Sew-it-Yourself (SIY) approach, opting to prepare, repair or customize their own clothes in an effort to save money."

So is this set to last? Well this particular report seems to think it will; and I for one can't disagree with what they have to say here:

"A recessionary backlash is additionally expected with consumers who have switched to value shopping, due to the current economic situation, most likely to persist with the newly acquired frugality for a long time into the foreseeable future. Reduced acceptance of throwaway convenience, and fast fashion will continue to characterize the consumer even into the post recession marking the emergence of the most important change in retail spending. Changing perceptions of luxury, waning popularity of high-street fashion and a new found fondness for hand-made clothes augur well for the home sewing machines market."

So, sewing machines continue to sell like hotcakes. Did I mention the thriving market in secondhand sewing machines? In the past 30 days alone, over 1400 secondhand sewing machines have been sold in the UK on Ebay auction listings. Yep, I counted 'em! (1416 at the time of writing, to be precise).A bit of  simplistic extrapolation and that equates to almost 17,000 people buying secondhand sewing machines over a 12 month period JUST on Ebay. (BTW, that doesn't include machines sold on a "Buy it Now" format. I was SOOOO not counting all those up as well!)

Considering a good sewing machine can last a lifetime, would it then be fair to assume that all those of us who were sewing already were not the ones buying these machines? Would it be fair to assume then, that a significant proportion of this surge in sewing machine sales, can be attributed to people who didn't already own one? Dare I say it.....newbies to the sewing world? Sounds suspiciously like a sewing revival to me!

Another sign of the growing interest in sewing, is the constant flow of new sewing titles springing up all over the place. Not all are "available in your local newsagents" and anyone not acquainted with the online sewing community may never even get to know of the existence of some titles....but the sheer fact that publishers have seen fit to increase their output of sewing related titles so dramatically over the past few years (the number of available titles has doubled in the past 5 years alone) is recognition of the public appetite for sewing related publications....

















Perhaps the reason this resurgence in sewing/handmade (and I mean proper sewing/handmade. Not Kirstie, bless her socks, cross stitching an initial on a handkerchief) is going largely unnoticed by TV execs, is that until TV gets involved and engages with what's already going on online, this "movement" is largely an underground one. The thing about the internet is, it's great for finding what you're looking for; but unless you're actually looking for it, you're unlikely to find it. Whereas TV sticks it to you, right under your nose, while you're supping your cocoa.
Right now it feels as though we are this huge underground community, that can't quite believe that mainstream media hasn't yet tripped right over us. We're like a huge mound underneath a rug; and instead of lifting the rug and finding out what's under there, TV execs just keep stepping around us on their way out the door to a meeting about another cooking or DIY offering.

The fact is, millions of people either already sew, want to learn how to sew, or could be inspired to sew given the right kind of inspiration.

Sewing is almost entirely unexplored when it comes to TV programmimg. It's brand new territory that handled well, will make for brand new and original programming that will inspire, inform, and equip a whole new generation of sewers. As well as catering for thousands upon thousands of those of us who already sew; and are just waiting for some programming that reflects our interests.  In an increasingly competitive market, with budgets squeezed, and any number of production companies fighting for a finite number of prime time slots, surely it's going to take something a little different to turn the heads of programme commissioners. Something that's never been done before. Surely, a brand new, but ready made market, is a TV execs dream?

What say you? Would you like to see sewing better represented in TV programming schedules here in the UK? (Is it better represented elsewhere in the world? I'd love to know!) If so, what would you like to see a show format include?
I'd really love to know your thoughts on this, and indeed get as much feedback as possible! I may have the opportunity soon to put this argument and your thoughts to people that could actually make this happen. So re-blog- facebook and tweet this post. Do whatever you think will spread the word, and let's find out what this sewing community of ours thinks! It can't just be me that thinks this is a no brainer, surely?!





65 comments :

  1. Miss P, I believe that there is some kind of equivalent to the Great British Bake off for home sewers currently in production. It's unfortunate that the entry point into the TV market for sewing had to be a cheesy competition, but there you go.
    I agree ENTIRELY with you about the lost opportunity. The last programme made in NZ about sewing was a cheap and lame studio only affair with some dippy broad chosen for her ability to look like a stick insect and wear 475 clanking bangles while sewing. It was boring and stupid. The potential for such programmes to BE boring is quite high - you can whip up a fairly impressive meal in 20 minutes, but not many garments are so easily constructed. So, perhaps this sewing comp will get a ball rolling?
    In the mean time, who would front such a wonderful show? Who are the Sarah and Kevin and Handy Andy of the sewing progamming? (I laughed at your comment about Sarah Beany! SO true! Every time she started climbing ladders at 7 months my heart was in my mouth!)
    I worry very much that it would be more bangles and stick insects, more Trinny and Susanne than Hugh F-W.

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    1. Hi Mrs C, I was aware of "The Great British Sew Off". I believe some of our friends in the blogging community may be involved. How cool is that!
      I'm totally with you on the "More Hugh FW and less Trinny and Suzannah" route!
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  2. I can't wait for the great British sew off... Youre right, it is about time there was some form of sewing entertainment. I remember in the 90s loving the daily "change that" which was on every day at about 925am ( my children were pre school, oh the life before full time work....sigh) did you ever watch it? Hosted by mark curry, it was like an antiques roadshow for makeovers of furniture which starred designers like Linda barker and Petra boase....sometimes they got funky with fabric, which was my favorite bit....members of the public brought in their jaded items for transformation by craft, which was all the rage then, paint effects, decoupage and clever ways with glue guns, but it was still creative and inspiring. Now we have kirstie which I am also glued to the tv for. Project runway when accessible on freeview was also something I loved, just to see the process from design to completion. I think there's demand for more, but then I would, as I am easily the kind of person to watch!! Nice piece! Hopefully you'll get a groundswell of support. Go miss p!! Sell it to them!!

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    1. Ah, the 90's! I was just finishing school and starting full time work so alas I would've missed that little gem! Project Runway seems to be a recurring example in the comments...
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  3. What an interesting post! One thing that springs to mind is features on different types of fabric: how they're made, what to look for. I'm definitely most into garment sewing so perhaps looking at people who do that professionally: theatrical costume designers, Saville Row tailoring, sample makers? Also fabric designers!

    How about fitting demos? Get an expert to analyse the wrinkles in a toile and suggest adjustments. I'd definitely watch that. I'll stop now, I could go on and on!

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    1. Great ideas. Am with you on all counts :)
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    2. Definitely agreeing with Catherine on these ideas for content!

      If you were to go down a documentary route, one other idea would be to examine the construction of RTW garments, looking at why one outfit costs a lot more than another. This would be particularly interesting if you looked at tailoring. Perhaps you could "follow" different designers or particular garments styles and how they evolved over time...focusing on technical rather than autobiographical points.

      You could even do a "reality"-style series about sewing. The UK must have some great sewists/pattern designers/sewing professionals who could generate a following. I'll confess now that I watched a couple of episodes of Thelma's Gypsy Girls, under the impression it may have a bit of sewing content in it. Sadly, mistaken.

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  4. This is an interesting topic - I live in the US and the only sewing/crafting related TV shows are on public channels (in the Uk you have the BBC which has several channels with huge budgets and is considered a major network, in the US, public broadcasting is kind of dinky and cheap) and the content is pretty grandma-ish, not a lot of cool fashion and styling. There is Project Runway, which is more high fashion and less homemade. I like the idea of having a fashion-edge to the show. I think people who don't know how to sew but want to learn to make their own clothes might be interested in how to make hot new looks at home and those who do sew like to incorporate new trends into their own handmade wardrobes.

    Also, I didn't even know half of those mags. I'm gonna check them out. And I didn't know that sewing machine sales were so high lately! That's really cool!

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    1. Dixie, you could've read my mind!
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  5. A very passionate post of which I totally agree - even in my local Tesco the amount of new magazines which feature sewing/knit/crochet etc steadily increases each month. Don’t also forget the amount of ‘Antique’ related programmes which the BBC broadcasts on one day, which recently scheduled as least two shows (with the same revolving presenters) within a couple of hours of each other. I remember as a child in the 70’s a programme which I think was called ‘Houseparty’; on around lunchtime where women sat around a table each discussing projects that they were currently working on – one regularly showed off her sewing projects included step by step demonstrations of new and refashioned garment construction. It might appear twee by today standards in its original format but with face lift and blog like format I could see a retro appeal.

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    1. Oh my, I forgot about Houseparty, I used to watch that with my Mum if ever I was off school poorly. Mum never missed it. I'm pretty sure they tried to revive the concept years later but it didn't take off sadly.

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    2. My oh my! Yes, I forgot about the proliferation of antiques shows too, lol!
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  6. There is going to be a sewing programme on one of the commercial channels in the new year.

    I have an online sewing supplies company in the UK and I was approached asking for equipment for them to use in the show. I was told there were tutors who had been appointed, but unfortunately I couldn't prise any names from them. I just hope they will be people who know what they are talking about.

    It is true the sewing market is very bouyant which always happens during a recession.

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  7. I think you're totally right. Look how well project runway does in the US. They barely gave it a chance in the UK. I think with a different presenter and relaunching it now it could be a bigger hit.

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    1. Project Catwalk was fairly dismal...not a patch on Project Runway, but it's so frustrating that we are a substantial and growing market which is currently unserved.

      I fully agree with this post...please let's not have Kirstey. I have nothing against her but we need someone with knowledge and skills not just enthusiasm.

      I look forward to seeing the new programme when it airs...but wish the commercial networks would buy Project Runway or get their act together to bring us something of equal quality.

      Thank you Miss P for an eloquent post. I hope they're listening.

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    2. I often wonder if Kristy has hidden dressmaking skills?! Doubtful.
      Runway incorporates so many aspects we're curious about.
      Inspiration, sketching, fabric and notion selections and cost, time management, construction/draping, and mentoring from experts.
      The drama and personality and judging just give it structure momentum and fun!!

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  8. It certainly isn't well-represented Stateside! I do have to give a shout-out to Project Runway, since I do think its popularity has done good things for the sewing industry here, between the sponsorship by Brother and the Simplicity patterns. I only have one local fabric store, a chain, and over the summer I saw fabric there that had been designed by a past contestant whose name I recognized. So those are all good things. But that's pretty much it. Even basic crafty shows are pretty much nonexistent here--I remember that several years ago, the DIY Network used to have stuff, but now it's basically HGTV's clone and it's all house, house, house. And really more like house repairs and such--even stuff like how to sew your own curtains would be refreshing! That was pretty disappointing to me, because I did tune in to the jewelry-making shows and such when I could. Maybe the networks need to take a cue from the Food Network--they gave a pretty well-known cooking blogger her own show and it seems to do well. I can imagine that several of the people whose sewing blogs I read would be a refreshing face of the "new" sewing trend on TV!

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    1. Couldn't agree more...I think blogland is probably the best jumping off point there is Becky.
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  9. Interesting post. I heard about the great British sew off show. It could be fun if they made it mainstream....so more people could get involved. But then again as a sewing aficionado I think I would enjoy more technical sewing programmes like they do on PBS in the US than a sewing show. Though I must admit I loved What not to wear or even Gok´s fashion.

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    1. Hi Sewing Princess, You're right. I think there's a middle ground between the two to be occupied...
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  10. In Brasil we have many sewing crafting tv program in paid channels and few sections on open channel but its still not a fashionable cool as in the Uk. We have more than 50 publications on sewing because its consider a way people can make money from it... Brazilian people also buy RTW and have it altered by local sewist to fit better

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    1. Perhaps we have some lessons to learn from Brasil here in the UK!
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  11. Another voice in the US. Dixie DIY is in Texas and I'm in Arizona. Not quite neighbors, but both in the southwestern United States! :)

    We had a number of sewing and sewing/craft programs in the 80s through the late 90s (some very good, some quite awful), then most disappeared by 2002 or so. While I have been sewing all of my life, I learned to piece and quilt with Kaye Wood, Georgia Bonesteel and a few others on television! As Dixie noted, we still have a few sewing and/or craft programmes on PBS, but they vary by local market.

    Since I currently do not have television reception (tucked behind a mountain and cannot receive broadcast signal--and I'm too frugal to pay for cable/satellite for the minimal amount of television I would watch), I'm not sure exactly what is available at the moment, but I'm sure it's minimal.

    Personally, I think both the UK and US television programmers are missing the boat with sewing and crafting programmes!

    Hmmmmm...Social media campaign? ;)


    Taja

    Taja

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    1. Hmmm, that's still more than we have here! Social media campaign? Hopefully that won't be necessary, but as a fall back idea...brilliant!
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  12. Yes, houses, food and antiques predominate. Not that I don't watch some of these but, when I watched Project Runway and its less talented sibling, Project Catwalk, I was really addicted and found the enthusiasm and ideas really inspiring. Nobody's mentioned Gok Wan, bless 'im, who tries to do his bit for remaking stuff and hopefully inspires people to do a little bit of sewing, even basic stuff. I'm delighted to hear that there is a new programme in the pipeline for the U.K. - I shall be eagerly scanning the Radio Times for news.
    p.s. Came to you via your guest blogging stint over at So Zo.

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    1. I love Gok. I always got the feeling he'd have gone into it in more detail if the show format had supported it. As it was, it was a very rudimentary and watered down element to the show. Nonetheless it did show what was possible with even the most basic of techniques and a bi of imagination!
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  13. I agree with other commenters who say that there are too many property/antiques programmes on at the moment. BBC1 during the morning is almost a parody of itself these days.
    I would love to see more programmes about sewing, obviously, since I spend a lot of my time on my hobby. But (and of course this is totally down to personal taste) I would be really sad if they made a sewing programme and it was too basic - like a 'craft' programme rather than a 'fashion' programme. I don't need to learn how to cut out pieces of felt to make an ugly christmas tree decoration, sorry. I don't need a TV version of the ghastly Mollie Makes. What I would love to see is a programme that had real scope and depth, and a fashion focus. I enjoyed Gok Wan's DIY segments on his programme (although they weren't all sewing-based) and think more in this vein would help make sewing appeal to the masses. It's obviously fine to have some easier projects for total beginners, but there should be some more in-depth/aspirational ones too. It's like, I will happily watch Nigella, Gordon Ramsay et al make the most complicated fiddly things even when there's not a hope in hell that I will be able to make that myself. I still enjoy watching, because it's interesting to see what they do, and I can use some of the techniques in simpler recipes, but it's still aspirational and makes me feel inspired.
    So in summary, I want high fashion, in-depth projects and no Christmas tree decorations or cushions, please, Mr. BBC!

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    1. I'm firmly in the "garment sewing" camp as opposed to "Mollie'esque" silly crafts. Although more artisan crafts as opposed to "girl guide" crafts are a huge inspiration too...
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  14. Very interesting post. I'd heard rumours about the sewing competition programme, it will be interesting to see what format it takes. I imagine it will be a tricky balance to ensure a large audience. I do enjoy the crafty programmes but I would love to see something with a dressmaking skills focus, I'd love to see an expert in action, something to aspire to. The only thing I've stumbled on was on a shopping channel, it was obvious the person demonstrating the sewing machines was experienced at dressmaking and home furnishings but I don't want to sit through 50 minutes of somebody trying to sell me something for a quick demo on sewing a cushion cover, however, her enthusiasm for sewing shone through. :)

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    1. Ha ha! What we have to resort to to get some TV sewing content Jacq C!
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  15. It would be great to have a thoughtful sewing-related show. Think of the great effects it would have - we might get a better choice of fabrics on our high streets!

    The sewing market seems like one which is begging to be tapped in to - there is certainly a lot of scope.

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    1. Massive scope Kestrel, I couldn't agree more!
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  16. I think you are completely right. I'd love to see a sewing-related show. Currently, the only two shows I watch on TV (I'm in the US) are Scandal and Project Runway. And every time an episode of Project Runway is over, I think about how awesome it would be if there was another sewing show with less drama and cattiness that I could watch. As it is, I just keep watching Susan Khalje's Couture Dress class videos over and over. :)

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    1. Thanks Abby! Will have to check those out.
      I also found the catty element of Project Runway off putting. But then I can't stand Big Brother either!
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  17. A programme on Dressmaking/sewing is long overdue. How many of you remember the Series that Anne Ladbury did in the 70s/80s? I really enjoyed that as ateenager although that particular format wouldnt work nowadays. I can also remember Terry Fox having a series in the 80s called " Wear it Well" which was partly about sewing. I can also remember Houseparty when I was a young schoolgirl - loved that !
    It is crucial that a programme like this succeeds from the start so choice of presenter(s) and format is really important. I personally would like presenter and guests that can speak with authority and who have many years of practical experience behind them and who can also enthuse the viewer whether beginner or experienced sewer - oh and they also need a winning personality and a great sense of style
    As well as techniques I would also like to see mini features on eat British fabrics - e.g. Liberty, Harris tweed to name but two. Also would like to see features on designers, pattern companies. I could go on and on but will stop here for now !

    Janice.

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    1. Hi Janice, Harris Tweed is fascinating actually. Did you know that each garment has it's own unique reference code linked to a directory that allows you to trace even vintage garments right back to source. ie the farm that reared the sheep, the individual weaver etc. How cool is that?!
      I shall have to check out the internet for some footage of the show you mentioned. Thanks for that!
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  18. I like how you related this theme within the basics of human needs, an interesting take. I'm actually a reality TV producer in the States, and I've brought this up with colleagues before. A few of the shows I've worked on are build related shows, mostly automotive based, but one home show. And a constant challenge is making the actual build part interesting. It becomes a very small area to shoot-which can be challenging. It is very difficult to produce a compelling segment due to scale. Same with knitting/crochet. Especially when you're trying to fill a half hour with content. Without drama infused (i.e.-project runway) viewer interest is very low, sad but true. Which in turn, means shows are dropped or not picked up.
    And as Dixie stated above, a lot of the past shows were certainly not fashion forward and very dry, usually relegated to public broadcast, which has a lower production value here in the States.
    What do you think a

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    1. You're so right about what the "challenges" are in producing a show of this nature. That's been at the very forefront of my ponderings from the outset. I think there are ways around it in this day and age. I'd love it if you'd stop by and finish your comment!
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    2. I think one way of making a sewing show more interesting might be to frame it in the context of improving someone's wardrobe, rather than having it be a simple how-to show. People could apply to go on the show (sort of like What Not to Wear or similar fashion makeover shows). Every episode, they could feature a different person, have some video of their current wardrobe, discuss their wardrobe/clothing needs, and make them a complete look that complements their body and style and fits into their current wardrobe or updates their look. They could also feature a basic sewing skill every episode for the beginner, framing it in the context of teaching the featured person how to sew on a button, hem a pair of pants, take in a t-shirt, etc.

      Some possible episodes for such a show: updating a wardrobe for a weight change; how to modify menswear for women who prefer men's clothing; sewing a wedding dress from beginning to end; a new outfit for a career change; quick, cheap, and fashion-forward maternity clothing; sophisticating the college graduate's wardrobe for real-world use... I could go on and on. Of course, sewists would be glued to the show regardless, but as long as the episodes always had new, compelling people in them, I think the draw would be there for people whose hobby isn't sewing as well, and it would also empower those people by showing them how easy some alterations are to do.

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    3. I love Abbey's idea. That would stay fresh and interesting and frame the topic in a way that would interest both sewers and non-sewers.

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    4. Some great ideas here from Abby! I'd also love to see challenges, like 5 different ideas for wearable items from 1 metre of fabric or siilar. It opens the genre up to beginners without being too dumbed down or inaccessible. Great post Portia - think this is the fifth time I've come back to see what people are saying!

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  19. I don't know who Marco Pierre and Ainsley are, which might just mean I don't watch much TV or that they haven't yet reached this part of the world, but I know that cookery and DIY shows are very popular. I can't see that a sewing program would have the same appeal, even though WE think it should, unless it was very well done indeed. That's not to say that there shouldn't be such a thing, but as has been pointed out, programmers look for popularity and things that will be successful. I imagine a sewing program tucked away at some unpopular hour of night when nobody, not even sewists, will be watching and then it being dropped for lack of interest. Although it seems like a great idea - and if done well, I'm sure it would be - I'm struggling to see it as being particularly appealing to the TV execs despite the trends for which you've provided the evidence. Personally would I watch it? I don't watch much TV so, unless it was at a very reasonable sort of hour, even knowing it was good might not convince me. It's a great idea, though, and I'll look forward to reading your report as to the success or otherwise of the British Sew-Off (or whatever it is).

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  20. This is a really interesting post, Portia and I am inclined to agree with you. I'd love to see a TV programme - whether on one of the terrestrial channels or not - about sewing and, specifically, garment sewing. The figures you quoted in your post certainly indicate an increased interest in making and mending! However I agree with the person above who said that they'd like it to have a fashion focus and not more general 'crafts' What was a massive turn-off to me about Kirstie's Handmade thingy was that it showed no real *craft* - yes it had very talented makers showcasing their embroidery or quilting or jewellery making or whatever and then you had Kirstie steamrolling in all posh with a glue gun and winning the day! I agree with whoever that said we don't need a TV equivalent of Mollie Makes all twee bunting and tiny knitted pea pods, telling us this is the simple fucking good life or whatever. Sewing is much more radical than that! I used to love The Clothes Show on the BBC because for one think, Caryn Franklin was awesome, but mainly because it was a mainstream show about fashion and about DESIGN. Of course it didn't show you how to make your own but if I recall correctly it did have a slant towards the design and manufacturing process that was really interesting and, for a mainstream fashion show, it was not about fast fashion. I think a sewing show could combine with something like that. And, for his faults, it IS something that Gok Wan tried - with mixed success - in his show about refashioning. I think it could be done, definitely - but I think it needs to reflect the sophisticated and stylish and intelligent target audience and not be about how to make some bullshit seascape with garden centre sand and a pritt-stick!

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    1. Roisin, your comment had me laughing my head off. You're so right. It's time media shook this idea that we're all twee, apron wearing, bunting loving, Stepford wives; and realised we are stylish, creative and unique individuals that hate nothing more than being patronised with knitted pea pods, lol!
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    2. I've just posted below and then noticed your post mentioning The Clothes Show too. I'm so glad I'm not the only one to miss it and the amazing Caryn Franklin. It did indeed have a design and manufacturing slant - I was doing my City & Guilds Fashion qualification in the early 90s and it was expected that we watch it - it was so useful for the course.
      We need a design/sewing programme with substance - before Gok decides to dress some vulnerable lady in a giant knitted pea pod!!!!

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  21. I would LOVE to see a sewing programme on TV. Heck, I might even consider getting a TV if there was something that I actually wanted to watch. I look forward to the Great British Sew Off with great interest.

    Another vote for the anti-"Mollie Makes" style, though. I reckon a decent sewing series totally could work - especially if it took the same sort of approach as Sarai did with the Colette Sewing Handbook and structered itself around the more holistic elements of sewing. Take a relative beginner and take them through the steps of analysing their current wardrobe (vs their wardrobe needs), drawing a croquis, learning about fabric and so on and so forth - as a precursor to including the more technical fit and actual sewing techniques.

    Hey, looking for a project manager? ;-)

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    1. Hey Lucy, Yep. Love Sarai's approach too! Another anti Mollie commenter? Do they actually have a readership at all? I've not heard a good word about it, lol!
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  22. There is definitely a gap in the market. While I agree that it could be a bit dry because proper craft can take time to make, we do watch someone making a roast on telly with a 'here's one I made earlier' ending to speed up what could be up to 24 hours if it was Heston!
    If there was a side benefit of this of better fabric stores then I'd support this. I would hope however that this lovely world that I am only now having the courage to enter would not become overly commercialised. If I see one more 'celebrity chef branded' cooking tool, I will cry and I would hate to think of the same happening to hand sewing needles! I like the fact that this is a grass roots, alternative, reclaiming, revolutionary activity.
    If there is the market for one Great British Sew off type of programme, there is always room for another. I could see it as segments to keep interest with basic skills, aspirational makes, meeting craft groups/individuals round the country, sources of fabrics, advanced technical skills, challenges etc etc. There really is a lot of scope I think. The one difficulty might be filming the detail because a lot of work is very close up.
    A lot of the new stuff that is coming out in the publishing world came from self publishing, either via blogging or the 50 shades of grey route. Maybe someone could do the same for Sewing Television ie start recording videos and publishing via Youtube to garner a movement. That would catch the eye of executives, I'd say. How about it, Miss Portia? I'd do it myself but I have no knowledge of sewing yet at all. I'll happily be one of your cheerful learners though if you go ahead and do it!

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    1. I agree D McE, there's potential for the content to be a bit pedestrian and consequently turn people off rather than switch them on to sewing as a skill that ANYONE can access at one level or another. That is of course the challenge and perhaps why a show like this has never really been pursued in the past. However, I'm a great believer that the question is not "can it be done" but "how are we going to do it". I have my ideas, I'm pretty ure they'll meet that challenge; but obviously am having to keep my cards close to my chest at this stage!
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    2. But don't forget me as a happy learner! One who knows absolutely nothing so could prove that anyone could do it if taught a technique!

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  23. It would be wonderful to see such a programme appear on freeview. My teen daughter watches Project Runway via the internet and even though she doesn't yet make her own clothes, she is intrigued. If only there was a programme that hit the right note of balance between inspiration and teaching "how to", she would be there! But it would have to be "cool". Maybe take a theme, like punk or preppy or gothic lolita or rockabilly - a strong "look" and how to achieve it. But not NOT NOT patronising or cutesy or Gok-type DIY or mumsy Kirstie-style craft. The right presenter would be crucial. They would have to be believable, someone who either sews themselves or genuinely wants to learn. It needs to make people ASPIRE to sewing their own.

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    1. Again Roobeedoo, you could be reading my mind right there!
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  24. I'm waiting with baited breath for the Sew Off! Hopefully no pea pods...

    Did you see the Young Tailor of the Year on BBC3 last year? Only the one episode from a series of other talents, but it was at least something! Again, competition style seems to be what the TV execs like...
    I don't remember learning much of anything from it, but they could easily shoehorn in some quick "how to" sections if they wanted to go with that style?

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  25. It would be great to have sewing shows on mainsteam TV. I'm not into making clothes but would watch as I love picking up tips and wrinkles. Any sewing show would obviously need the right presenter - pleeeeeease NOT Anthea Turner! I would also be quite happy for sewing to be part of a wider show about crafts, after all, knitting and crochet are also very popular.

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  26. If there are to be new sewing or knitting shows on mainstream TV (as opposed to shopping channels that don't have the time or inclination to give proper demonstrations), don't forget that a "large minority" of men now like making things by stitching, whether for soft furnishings or clothing. They like artistic originality just as women do. Men can be just as practical or arty as women and gain from inspiration on TV. Stitchcrafts should not be sexist! Why shouldn't hand or machine stitching/knitting appeal to men? In fact, the technical side of machining could really appeal to men! Engineering applied to craft!

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    1. agreed. I'm teaching an 8 year old boy to sew. No way is he going to leave all that creativity to his little sister! And as an impatient teen that would rather speed sew seams, it was my Dad that I handed fabric and self covered buttons to - he was far more talented at getting them perfect than the rest of the household :)
      And what is pattern drafting if not technical drawing?!

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  27. It seems that almost any subject can make it onto tv these days if the program makers can turn it into either a competition or a 'journey' - so why not sewing? Personally I'd like to see a series of programs where people with different levels of ability and experience, including complete beginners, set a challenge for themselves to achieve something and then we all get to see their progress. A beginner might want to learn to use a machine and make a skirt, a more experienced sewer might want to make a ballgown/wedding dress/tailored suit. It would be fascinating to see how they progress, especially if experts from the world of design, fabric manufacture and sewing techniques also featured. It would showcase the fantastic talent and resources we have in this country and at the same time show how 'you too' can do this. Program makers need to take a leap of faith sometimes I think..

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  28. It would be amazeballs if such a show could be free of sponsorship ties, too. I get tired of shows where they can only use a particular brand of stuff, and this limits what the users can do. Although in the UK I am sure it is not such a big problem as here - your Changing Rooms was so interesting and eclectic whereas the NZ version had to use a particular brand of paint, wallpaper and curtain fabrics, so no fun thriftshop finds, so boring!!
    I like the idea of a format broken into three or four segments - some ongoing, some research based (a trip down Goldhawk Road or Beerwick St, or visiting three designers or costumiers or sewing bloggers to see what is on their work table) some technical (this week we're tackling how to do a blind hem/perfect button hole etc) and maybe a feature on a wardrobe makeover (love that idea!) and I also love the "5 sewists, one metre" challenge.
    Really there is so much fun to be had! Oh MissP, I will start praying that the TV execs down under decide to buy this delicious programme when it inevitably happens! :)

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  29. I would love to see a sewing programme - it would be so good to see something done, to see the way different fabrics drape and move. (Photographs are great, and there are loads of good tutorials, but moving pictures are so much better.)

    But what I think we have to remember is that one programme cannot be all things to all people. I don't particularly rate the Mollie Makes-style of craft (just because something is pretty/cute doesn't mean that it has a point and a place in my home), but I recognise the appeal to some people and I wouldn't want to be too offensive about their taste. So I suppose what I'm saying is that I want several sewing programmes!

    More than anything, though, I want something that isn't over (life)styled. There are some programmes (*cough*LittleParisKitchen*cough*) that spend more time showing you the presenter wafting about on the business of their fabulous life rather than on the subject, which I find colossally irritating.

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  30. Please, yes, we need sewing on TV!!! I think there's absolutely scope for a crafting programme (just ask Kirsty!) as well as a more sewing-focused show, which could work really well with a design and vintage angle, since so many people love vintage and many non-stitchers would have their eyes opened by how (relatively) easy it is to make their own clothes.

    It would also be fabulous to have a segment in each show that visits different designers, from small independent businesses to couture fashion houses to look at their gorgeous garments as well as how and where they're made. (This was one of the things I liked about Gok's Fashion Fix, where the designer-loving, slightly batty lady (sorry, can't remember her name) used to visit different workshops across the UK that produced items of classic British clothing, such as the brogue shoe or Harris tweed.)

    Keeping my fingers crossed for developments - please, TV execs, hear us roar!

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  31. Now is the time to make a programme like this and you have a wealth of input from passionate sewers. I loved The Clothes Show as a teenager and the format was so appealing. I think that Kirsty (sorry Kirsty) would be the kiss of death, but it would be a good opportunity to see new faces, fashion graduates who know the skills of pattern drafting for a start! How to sew clothes sections (but no Molliemakes stuff please) and insights to the industry, input from the likes of Oral Keily or the founders of Howies (these are just the ones that spring to mind). Fabric designers, costume designers, people that used to work in the factories and their stories, the scope is endless … A sort of Countryfile for seamstresses and knitters only without Matt Baker (unless he likes to sew of course)! This is so interesting, thank you for posting!

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  32. Wow what an interesting post and responses. I really do think that a series on sewing could be very timely (craft seems to be getting a little more serious on TV - eg Paul Martin's Handmade Nation) and if I've heard one person say they'd love to start sewing, I've heard at least 20 in the last few months.
    I agree that it could be a time consuming and relatively dull prospect to literally step by step garments but this could maybe be achieved by a Sew-a-long section each episode, plus the good old web! It's where we pick up lots of tips, after all. So perhaps additional tutorials on a programme website could work to help beginners along and keep them interested and informed.
    Also agree that items on vintage and on clothing construction across the ages? could work well; that the public don't know about lace hemming is a crime in itself, surely?! Other ideas would be fabric manufacture (I do wonder where it all gets made - I'm from the one time world's weaving capital in Lancashire but they don't make fabric there now!)
    Some element of the things that were great about The Clothes Show (oh I loved it) would be excellent - key seasonal trends and associated pattern and fabric inspiration for example. Slots on imaginative use of fabric and trims (no - not Gok and his dreaded staple gun!!).
    Oh and let's not forget thrift - uses for all those fabric scraps, upcycling done well etc.
    And how about the odd homage to great Brit designers like Biba and Ms Westwood? Again, with pattern inspirations and the key techniques and shapes that make those designs so recognisable?
    I could go on - and on!
    Fingers crossed like many others :) It would be a great achievement!

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  33. I just stumbled across your blog today and I'm very impressed with this post. I am self taught and would absolutely love sewing to feature more in the TV schedule. I don't want to poo poo Kirstie though, she has afterall given handmade and handcrafts a bigger profile. Before Kirstie, if I told friends about my sewing they thought I was a complete wierdo "why don't you just buy it?" and after Kirstie "oh that's nice, I'm hopeless myself" then eyes glaze over...
    I would watch the sew off programme but I have to admit, the competition element turns me off. I have read all the comments and Abby's ideas are closest to what I would want to see. I think lots of segments in the programme to keep up the interest and engage with the beginner whilst also providing new techniques or inspiration to those more capable.
    My auntie made costumes for the royal ballet and I loved hearing her stories. I also had relatives who competed in ballroom dance and had to make their costumes. I think if, intertwined with improving wardrobe, adjusting, pattern use etc there could be a weekly feature showing something like this that is not run of the mill would keep things interesting and stop it going stale.
    I also agree that I would hate it to be purely female oriented. My little boys are very interested in sewing and I know when hems need taken up or buttons sewn, it's my brothers and not their wives that do it.
    What I would welcome most is generally showcasing sewing as a valid use of time and energy.
    Well done Miss P, I wish you every success x x

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