Let me back up just a bit. When Project Runway first aired, I was eager with anticipatory excitement! Here we would be able to see how designers actually designed! How they came created their outfits; what obstacles they came up against and how they overcame them; what small but important items make a creation special instead of off the rack.
How I was disappointed. Instead of a high-brow how-to show, what I saw was a bunch of drama queens, contention, arguing, back-biting and silly, silly challenges. Stupid stuff. Obviously, I am in the minority, as Project Runway is in its 11th season. Enough people are watching it to encourage the advertisers to continue their support. But then, it seems a lot of people like those atrocious reality shows too.
So, when I first saw that PBS was putting on a Great British Sewing Bee .. a national competition for the Best Amateur Sew in Great Britain, I was very skeptical. Since my PBS station didn't carry it, the only way I could watch it was on YouTube.
Well, I really do NOT like to watch lengthy videos on my computer. It's just one of my quirks; I didn't save any of the URLs and I promptly forgot about it.
Until one of my quilting friends blogged about it. Now, I truly respect her opinion when it comes to quilting matters, so I was willing to risk watching at least PART of the first video. After all, no one was forcing me to watch the entire thing. :-)
Much to my utter surprise and immense delight, this show is EXACTLY what I was hoping that Project Runway was going to be. The Great British Sewing Bee starts at the point where we have 8 semi-finalists. We don't go through all the auditions. Each episode has 2-3 challenges, which are all exceedingly spot-on when you want to see how well a sewer can *SEW*.
One challenge is usually how well can they follow a printed pattern. The patterns aren't anything unusual, despite what the hostess voice over says. :-) One pattern was to make a man's shirt (simplified because it didn't have cuffs and plackets). One pattern was to make a man's trousers. One pattern was to make a little girl's sundress. These are items that any sewer might make as a matter of course. (That being said, I've never made men's trousers, but I have no doubt that I could follow the directions, if they were half-way decent.)
Another challenge was to design and make something of their own choosing. They could use a commercial pattern or draft something themselves. These challenges usually involved fitting the garment onto a live model so that the sewers needed to know how to *alter* the pattern to fit body issues (something that I've never really mastered).
All the challenges have a time limit. Since I normally don't sew under extreme time limits, I'm not sure if I could have finished any of these challenges myself. But to embellish a blank purse with handwork only in any way you wanted in only 1 hour AND be the best?? I dunno. It might take me that long just to THINK of what to do!
There are 2 judges: a gentleman from a Savile Row tailor and a lady who has spent a lifetime teaching couture sewing. They were both very down to earth people. The hostess was an enthusiastic (in a subdued British sort of way!) lady who was the cheerleader for the group. :-)
The program focuses on each of the contestants in turn, asking questions. Everyone is very focused on what *they* are doing, No one was bad-mouthing anyone else. It was so, so refreshing.
As for the judging .. oh my! THIS is what Project Runway should have been about. Both of the judges talked specifically about each sewer's project, what they were looking for, the good points about the projects while being very diplomatic about the deficiencies. And yes, many of the projects had quite a few major flaws. (If I was trying to make a formal gown in 8 hours, I might have some major flaws too.) It was *wonderful* to hear exactly what specific things made a project standout from the others, as well as what flaws made it classically "home made" in the worst sense.
Each episode eliminated 1 or 2 contestants until there were 3 finalists left.
After I watched the first hour-long episode, I promptly watch the other 3, one right after the other. They were all Very Very Good. And honestly .... how can you NOT enjoy those wonderful English (and one Scots) accents?? :-)
So, without any more blathering on my part, here are the YouTube URLs for you to watch each full length episode. I promise .. if you enjoy sewing garments, you will thoroughly enjoy these 4 shows.