Deobrah Simms: on life before and after the Bee

Deobrah Simms 2

We fell in love with her style and sense of fun in series 3 of the Great British Sewing Bee: now Deborah Simms is returning to our TV screens this week.

We convinced her to take a break from her Christmas craft marathon to tell us a bit more about herself, including how she’s a self-confessed nerd and her sewing skills have grown from the first stuffed toy tiger she made as a child.

Read more below and watch out for Deborah sharing her tips and tricks for embroidery on TV this Thursday morning 21st December. Watch on Freeview channel 78 at 9m (UK time) or live online at

Tell us about your sewing background

I gained my experience in teaching during my time in Edinburgh: teaching and helping to run a local craft group.Upon moving back to Manchester I began work teaching at a local sewing school. I’ve worked there since. I have also done one-to-one classes to help teach people the basics.

Having started a blog in 2010, I love to write, and dip in and out of blogging when I feel I have the time.

I was on series three of the Great British Sewing Bee, which gave me the opportunity to do appearances at shows, write magazine articles and continue to do what I love.

How did you get into sewing?

I started my sewing journey early in life: learning from my family, mostly sewing handbags and small toys. During university I worked at a local fabric shop and gained a lot of experience. Once I became engaged I decided to make my own wedding dress, and then took my dress-making much more seriously. I started making smaller items to practise, made my dress and haven’t looked back since.

What was the first thing you ever made? Can you remember how old you were?

One of the first things I ever made was a stuffed toy tiger, I must have been around seven or eight. I remember it very well, because it’s eyes were a little wonky and didn’t look half as good as my older sisters.

Describe your sewing style

When I began sewing I was much more drawn to fit and flare dresses in all sorts of different colours. However, since having my little girl I am much more drawn to comfortable, practical items with single items of colour, like striped breton tops, dungarees and comfortable jersey dresses. I like to wear greys and black, but I do still love colour.

Apart from your sewing machine, what sewing tool could you not live without?

I have a quilters inch ruler that I use all the time, to add seam allowances, draw between pattern lines and to use as a straight edge. It’s very handy, and I don’t know what I would do without it.

You’ve recently joined the Sewing Quarter team of designer experts. What’s your favourite product from their range?

Their templates and rulers – these are great, quick and easy tools to add all sorts of interesting design lines and applique to all kinds of garments and craft projects.

What finished project are you most proud of?

I always find that my last (successful) project is my favourite, though my wedding dress was top of the list for a while. I recently made my daughter a set of dungarees and I think they are the item I am most proud of at the moment. I love all the little details on them, like the pockets and plackets.

What’s the best sewing advice you’ve ever been given?

That simply, we are not born good at crafts. I meet many people who believe they are not good at anything creative, and they feel that others have natural talent. I know, from looking back to the things I made in the past that they were awful. But I enjoyed the process, kept trying and now I can be proud of the things I make. I would like more people to know what I know.

What’s on your sewing table at the moment?

Currently I am midway through the great Christmas crafting. I’m making wash bags for family members, dungarees for little ones, jars of hot chocolate. I’m trying to get a head start this year so I don’t end up sewing until midnight on Christmas eve (who am I kidding?)

What do you love most about sewing?

The quiet time, taking your mind away from your day to day tasks, and just thinking creatively. I also love the community, who are helpful, kind and giving.

Can you tell us an unusual or interesting fact about yourself?

I am a big ol’ nerd, I love fantasy novels, sci-fi tv and films. I also love myths and legends, and have a degree in classics, english and drama.

What do you love to do when you’re not sewing?

I love spending time with my family.  We spend a lot of time with our friends too, we have built a real community in the heart of the city.

I also love gardening. We moved recently to a house with a garden rather than a yard, and watching the birds is one of my favourite things.

Deborah Simms