Meet Great British Sewing Bee contestant, Sewing Soldier Neil

Neil, Great British Sewing Bee 3 contestant

We caught up with the sewing soldier, Neil of Great British Sewing Bee 3 who shares his most embarrassing sewing moment, ever. Read on to find out what it is…

Neil - Sewing Soldier - Breat British Sewing Bee

Please tell us a bit about yourself and where your passion for sewing began.

I started sewing at Sek Kong Primary School in Hong Kong at the age of 10 when a friend and I joined the school sewing club as a protest to girls being allowed to join the football team. I remember making clothes for my Action Man. A few years later I combined my other great passion – rugby – with sewing and began making multicoloured rugby shirts. It wasn’t until I met my wife, Kate that I really started developing my sewing skills, and since then she has always been the inspiration behind my sewing.

Kate was at St Andrews university and therefore was always in need of a dress for the numerous Ceilidhs and after a few Gay Gordons and Stripping the Willows the dresses were hammered. So we developed the ‘disposable ballgown’, they were really cheap looked good for one night and then went in the bin.

I have a trusty battle sewing machine that has been with me to Northern Ireland and Bosnia, it came in handy fixing uniforms and modifying ammunition pouches and making curtains for the soldiers accommodation. It was whilst driving around the mountains of Bosnia that I designed my drivers wedding dress that I made for her on our return.  So I have made everything from wedding dresses, ball gowns, ski racing suits, ghillie camouflage suits, curtains, underwear, rugby shirts and hockey goal keeper shorts. And of course lots of fancy dresses and costumes, too.

I would love more time to sew but I find myself fitting it in around work and rugby coaching so I am always sewing under pressure. I have recently finished a cushion cover that I started in 2003. While Kate was pleased I finished it she was justifiably infuriated with my time management.

What’s the best sewing tip you’ve learned from being a GBSB contestant?
Only be a perfectionist on the bits that need perfection. The rest of it: just get it done.

What’s your most embarrassing sewing moment?
Sitting at a formal military dinner night, feeling very proud as Kate’s wearing my latest creation – a full-length Vogue evening dress in black Shantung Silk – only to realise that the lady sitting on the other side is wearing the same dress in white that her mother made her.

What’s your good read suggestion? Do you have a favourite sewing book or go-to blog where you find inspiration?
To be honest it wasn’t until I met the other Bees that I discovered the whole world of really useful sewing blogs. Up until now I’ve just worked things out myself.

Great British Sewing Bee 3