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After the Great British Sewing Bee, Stuart Hillard hasn't dropped a stitch as he launches his book

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: August 25, 2014

  • Stuart Hillard, fifth from left, with the rest of the Great British Sewing Bee competitors, judges and presenter Claudia Winkleman from the BBC show in 2013. Picture: PA Photo/Amanda Searle/Love Productions/BBC

  • Expert quilter Stuart Hillard believes he has finally got the measure of a successful life after the BBC's Great British Sewing Bee changed his for the better

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When he auditioned for the programme the Great British Sewing Bee Stuart Hillard had no idea it would change his life forever.

Although he had been teaching sewing for about 16 years and writing for a patchwork magazine, he was still relatively unknown.

"People knew me at quilt shows because there aren't that many men, especially ones as enthusiastic as me," he said. "But once I did the Sewing Bee, it really did transform me and what I do and how people see me. I went into it thinking it would be popular amongst sewers, but wouldn't be of much interest to the general public. But the first series was the most-watched show on BBC Two on the weeks it went out."

He says everybody on Sewing Bee – needlecraft's answer to The Great British Bake-Off – got on well and developed friendships.

"It was hard, it was challenging. But for me, sewing is an absolute joy and always a pleasure, and I can't really feel that stress and anxiety when I'm sewing."

Despite doing quilt-making and home decor for 20 years, he didn't have much dressmaking experience so he decided to base his book on his experience.

"I wanted to write a book that covered all of my favourite things," he said. "So some quilt-making, cushions, throws, window treatments, gifts, bags, wearables, all sort of different things. I love to sew for the home, where you can have a lot of impact quickly. And it's very straightforward – not like clothes.

"If I'd gone out there and pitched a book on dressmaking, it would have been dead in the water, but because I've had two decades of experience, it works."

He says there's something in it for everybody, from novices to experts, with "no-sew" and "low-sew" projects.

"These might be things where you use staples or a glue gun or upholstery pins. But there are also projects that will help people develop their skills. I want people to use the book as a kind of recipe book, but also as a kind of springboard for their own creativity."

He's now working on a book about quilt-making but would love to bring a more instructional TV programme to Britain.

"I hear all the time from people who say, 'I loved the Sewing Bee, but we want something we can learn from'."

That enthusiasm, he says, stems from humans being creative beings at heart.

"We've all got a need to express our creativity. Plus, we want things that are a little bit more individual that reflect our personalities. There was a trend about 10 years ago, this kind of House Doctor effect, where everything was bleached out and homogenised and neutralised.

"But I think in the last five years or so, because of the credit crunch and depression in the housing market, most of us are staying in our homes for longer than we expected, so we are making our homes more individual because we're intending to stay."

There are some shows coming up and he admits he's living the dream.

"I am in a little sewing bubble," he admits. "But it's not about me showing off, it's about saying, 'You could do this', because ultimately I want people to see how enjoyable sewing is. Life is hard enough without making sewing hard."

Sew Fabulous is published in hardback by Orion Books. Priced £20. Available August 28

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