Subscribe via email


Click here to subscribe to the MILLAMIA blog by Email

To view previous blog posts scroll down to the bottom of the page

Thursday, 9 May 2013

INTERVIEW WITH ANN ROWLEY - winner of The Great British Sewing Bee

Master craftswoman, Ann Rowley
It was with an enormous jolt of pleasure that I discovered the BBC were televising a new program called The Great British Sewing Bee - a competition to find the best amateur sewer in the country! A program completely dedicated to the joys of making and crafting, and one that our craft-crazed household could all sit down and watch together. Of course we were captivated from the first, not only by watching the incredible skill and talents of the participants, but also by the genuine warmth and honesty that radiated from all the personalities. It really wasn't very long before we all felt that we personally knew these delightful people and found ourselves discussing Ann and Lauren and Stuart - their trials at the cutting table and tribulations over seam allowance, as if they were old friends.

Whilst Ann's talent for sewing was abundantly apparent on the show, some canny knitters and crocheters amongst you may have, like me, noticed Ann wearing some very fine pieces of knitting and crochet. I was particularly taken with the beautiful striped cardigan Ann wore in the final and also with her delightful crocheted scarf.

You can really only imagine how thrilled I was to then discover that Ann was a member of the MillaMia group on Ravelry and that her current project was none other than our Erika Cardigan from Colour Coded. I contacted Ann through Ravelry, and she very kindly agreed to share some of her own pictures of these exquisite garments, as well as answering some of my questions about her life in craft for an exclusive MillaMia blog interview!

So without further ado, I'm thrilled and delighted to bring you an interview with not just any old participant from The Great British Sewing Bee, but the winner herself, Ann Rowley.

1) Firstly, congratulations on your thoroughly well-deserved win on The Great British Sewing Bee – it was great to see sewing made exciting! What was the best thing about being on the Show?
Thank you! The best thing about the show was having the opportunity to raise the profile of sewing. It has become a rather Cinderella craft and I really hope that the show has encouraged many people to give it a try. I also met a wonderful group of fellow sewers (or should that be stitchers?) who all felt the same way.

The man's shirt with its perfectly set-in sleeves, the all important trophy and the unforgettable lace dress Ann made in the final

2) Our designer Helena is an avid seamstress, but hates the feeling of time-pressured sewing – she likes to able to relax with it. How did you cope with the time restrictions on The Sewing Bee?
The time restrictions were tough! None of us normally sewed like this and were a bit disappointed that we didn’t really have time to showcase our skills. But it was necessary for there to be jeopardy to create a sense of tension for the cameras. This was TV, not real life...

Ann in her delightful 'Kelly Cardigan' with fellow contestants Lauren and Sandra

3) How do you feel about sewing verses knitting? Do you switch between them, or have projects from both crafts running along at the same time?
I always have both sewing and knitting on the go. Sewing is an upstairs, daytime activity; knitting is downstairs in front of evening TV. My sewing is “work”, knitting is relaxation.

Ann's 'Kelly Cardigan' in Rowan Kidsilk Haze

4) Do you find that your seamstress skills help you with knitting - particularly in construction or finishing techniques?
Yes! To me the construction is as important as the knitting. It's always a disappointment to see a beautifully knitted garment spoiled by poor finishing.

'Construction is as important as the knitting' - Ann's beautifully finished fastenings and seams

5) We are thrilled that your latest project is the Erika Cardigan from Colour Coded – what do you usually look for in a sewing or knitting pattern when choosing a project?
Style above all else. I have developed my own personal style over the years, simple, classic elegance, while still reflecting current fashion. I’m always on the look out for the latest patterns and rarely use one more than once. I like to be challenged so tend choose patterns that have interesting design details.  I was really taken by the style of Erika, simple lines, interesting pockets, strong colours and a new yarn for me...

The beginnings of Ann's Erika Cardigan in moss, fuchsia and grass

6) Could I ask one more slightly cheeky question? Is Patrick as gorgeous and immaculate in real life? I imagine that half the country of seamstresses will have a small crush on him!

Patrick is indeed as gorgeous and immaculate as he appears on screen! His tailoring was to die for...such a lovely and knowledgeable man. We all did our share of swooning – even though he’s ten years younger than my youngest son!

Claudia, Ann and the delectable Patrick

We'd like to extend our most grateful thanks to Ann for agreeing to doing this interview for MillaMia. I am in awe of this amazing craftswoman, and found talking to her an incredibly inspiring experience - I hope you all do too.
(posted by Max)


  1. Thank you for a revealing interview, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. :)

  2. I absolutely loved the interview, what a wonderful person and so talented :)

  3. Thanks so much for your comments. It was a real privilege to interview Ann - such an inspiring woman.

  4. Bravo ... she was not only a delight to watch, but she also reminded me of my own mother and exactly how she taught us (my four sisters and i) how to sew. All the hand making (basting as she called it)stitches was every bit as reminiscent as seeing, watching, listening to my own talented seamstress mother. She took me back in time to those tutorial days of one knowledgeable instructor to another as i have shared those invaluable trade secrets, if you will, to my own daughters. Thanks for a further delightful insight to a very impeccable woman!

  5. what a joy to hear from Ann. From the start of the contest she stood out as an accomplished seamstress with excellent technique. Thrilled that she is a knitter too