Friday, 9 February 2018

Sewing on Screen: A Stitch in Time

I envy sports fans, especially football.  Hours of radio and TV broadcasting devoted to watching and discussing their passion.  Great British Sewing Bee has not shown any signs of continuing, even the show that was planned for later this year has been postponed. So when some nuggets of sewing TV appear, sewists are quick to tune in and Amber Buchart's Stitch in Time series for BBC4 is a joy to watch.

You may recognise Amber from Tilly and the Buttons' Orla Shift top pattern. She's also an author on fashion related topics. I bought my daughter Amber's Nautical Chic book and it is an excellent combination of beautiful imagery combined with historical background on a perennially popular fashion theme. Stitch in Time takes a garment from a moment in history- usually through a painting or art object and then looks at the story behind the garment and its wearer as well as the construction and recreation by a team of specialist historical tailors.  Each episode goes off on a series of tangents appropriate to the garment.  I've watched all the episodes and there's a mass of sewing and textile detail in each.  Sometimes I was surprised which ones I enjoyed the most.  The Arnolfini dress recreation gives new insight into an iconic painting and what the dress symbolised. I wasn't expecting to be as drawn to the Black Prince's story and yet that was possibly the most interesting.  Amber wears the completed garment at the end of each programme- male or female clothing is covered and even learns how to move in some of them (The Black Prince). Amber carries historical clothing very well. She has a dapper costume style to her everyday dress and wears a dazzling array of turbans through the various episodes, even when working with indigo.

 The tailoring team are lead by Ninya Mikhalia working with Harriet Waterhouse and Hannah Marples.  Skills are explored in the sort of detail that sewists love, lots of close-ups on stitches and techniques...

 discussions on the most period-appropriate way to quilt layers of fabric and fibres for quilting...toiles and trials...old urine, dyes and colour matching...

it's all wonderful stuff!  There are also rare glimpses of treasures like Marie Antoinette's wardrobe book with its delicate fabric swatches and embroidery samples so she can choose the fabric she desires. 

For a short time, the recreated costumes featured are on display at Ham House.  I'm hoping they make it to some of the national sewing fairs and shows in the future too.  They showcase amazing textile talent- the tailors, embroiderers, dyers, fabric producers, who contribute to the different outifits. A Stitch in Time is currently on BBC iPlayer for UK viewers, tune in before it disappears as the first episode is no longer available!  I don't know if it's accessible to viewers outside the UK, I can only hope it is sold to other networks to show, it really is a pleasure to watch.


  1. I just finished watching the final episode. It was really great series, as you say, a pleasure to watch! It would be great to see more of this type of programme, I'm sure there are plenty of us who would tune in!

  2. I have so enjoyed watching this series, facinating to see the construction methods and the stories behind the clothing.

  3. Thanks for the info on this programme as I'd not heard about it before. I shall go and watch later today before I miss any of the episodes that are left - a pity the first episode has already gone.

  4. Why do you Brits have all the crazy good tv shows? If we get any, it's usually years after it first aired. BBC is so stingy with allowing youtube pirates to operate. lol

    I'll keep an eye out for this show to become available. Sounds like something our public broadcasting station might pick up - someday.


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