I had the pleasure and pain of being part of the 2017 Sew Creative Sewing Bee Challenge last weekend. I say pain because all the entries, without exception, were so good, it made picking out winners devilishly difficult! So not just a challenge for the entrants, one for me too! I also gave a talk about my career and responsibilities as Brand Ambassador for the McCalls Pattern Company.
Sew Creative is a lively fabric shop in Petersfield, Hants which is always abuzz with activity, classes and happy customers. So it’s no wonder that the aptly named annual Sew Creative Sewing Bee challenge attracts so many entrants.
The Sew Creative Sewing Bee Challenges
Customers buy a Sew Creative Sewing Bee Challenge box put together by Jo, Sew Creative’s owner, which has the materials needed to make the three challenges. This year it included two co-ordinating fat quarters, one with a whale print on it, a plain tote bag and a McCalls pattern.
Challenge 1 – Two fat quarters
Contestants could add trims and embellishments and make anything they wanted but had to use only the two fat quarters for fabric. The collection of projects submitted was outstanding – ranging from cute lined waistcoats for tots to soft toy Whales, bags, wall hangings and booties.
Picking out one to win the Category was very hard, but in the end I plumped for a Wash Caddy – with pockets and straps for all sorts of lotions, potions, toothbrush etc. I liked that it was different and well stitched, but when I then found out it had been made by Matt, who is visually impaired too, I was amazed all over again!
Challenge 2 – Tote to….
The next challenge was to make-over a calico tote. Again the range of ideas was fabulous – many creating something so different its origin was hard to believe! I loved the wall tidy with lace pockets – very vintage inspired. Some had deconstructed the bag, dyed the fabric and then turned it into something else. Others had added amazing hand stitching, bargello panels down the sides etc.
The winner for the Tote Bag challenge was a lovely doll with clothes by Pat. Such a beautiful doll, very cuddly and I can imagine it will be loved by a little girl.
I also chose a ‘Wendy wow’ winner for the tote bag challenge which was the lampshade created from the bag front and back. It had been hand painted and then hand and machine stitched creating a beautiful scene which was then turned into a lampshade.
Challenge 3 – McCalls Stitching
The entrants were given a McCalls craft pattern (6095) and tasked with making a sewing machine cover, apron or circular organiser from the pattern. They had to use one piece of Bee fabric provided in the Challenge Box, but could add co-ordinating fabrics, trims and embellishments.
The challenge was to stitch superbly and add techniques to embellish such as appliqué, piping, quilting and binding etc. What an array of choices – from multi-pocketed craft aprons to organisers trimmed and filled to sewing machine covers with beautiful embellishments.
This was probably the hardest category to judge because the entries were so diverse but the same! (The same three options, but with so much individuality). My chosen winner was beautifully embellished with appliqué and hand embroidered lettering, finished inside with quilted lining and bias binding around the edges.
Kids can sew too
Of course, there was a Children’s competition running alongside the main one and there were six excellent entrants for this. They also restyled a tote and used fabric provided to stitch a cushion from a McCalls pattern (7551). Their pattern included alphabet cushions which involves sewing around curves and corners, and being able to clip and turn through smooth edges.
Again the tote challenge showed their creativity. The winner Grace had tie-dyed her tote and turned it into a baby’s dress with patch pocket and tie shoulder straps. But as always, all of the entrants deserved to win a prize and of course, all did – a bag of goodies from Jo and Sew Creative.
As well as having category winners, there had to be an overall winner. Fortunately for me, there was a short list but even so it was a task and a half! Finally I chose Heidi who had made a pair of cute booties from the fat quarters with decorative stitch detail, a top hat from the tote – with black keyboard and notes and a machine cover with applique, patchwork pockets and piping. The top hat had had a tune around it which Heidi later said was ‘Let it Bee’ – so appropriate!
We then had an Outstanding Entry winner- Sally Ann whose collection of Challenges were fabulous – with a fish metal frame bag made from the fat quarters, ice-dyed baby dress from the tote and bee-hive machine cover from the pattern challenge.
So a fab day in a great shop that is understandably a very successful enterprise. Indeed, the collection of delicious fabrics tempted me to add to my stash! I bought the softest, cuddliest double sided fleece to make a blankie and a new flower printed cotton to make a full skirted dress. It had to be done!