Simply Sewing meets: GBSB’s Mercedes

With her good nature and creative dressmaking skills, Mercedes will be very missed in the GBSB sewing room after her departure in episode 5 – and there must be something in our eyes as she gets tearful remembering her nan and sharing the philosophy of “sleep well and sew”. Words to live by, Mercedes.

Mercedes was born in Hammersmith, London but moved to East Sussex when she was 17. Her Italian grandmother taught her to sew at a very young age and by 13 she realised that if she wanted to wear the style of clothes she wanted to wear, she would have to make them herself. Mercedes served in the Territorial Army for 13 years, but left to start a family with her husband, Graham. Their son Jack, works and lives in London while their daughter Eve and the two cats, Maggie and Erica, live at home.

Mercedes now describes her sewing style as comfortable, definitely not on-trend, but hopefully with a touch of Brighton chic.  When she’s not sewing or pottering in the school garden, where she works as a reprographics technician, Mercedes and her husband like to escape in their camper. Great British Sewing Bee MercedesWhen did you first start sewing and why do you love it so much?
I was taught to sew by my grandmother when I was around ten years old.  My Grandmother had always made my clothes and I just wanted to do the same.  As I got older, I discovered that by sewing I was able to create garments that I wanted to wear that were either too expensive to buy, were not made in my size (I was a well fed child) or were not available to buy at all – I remember wanting a pencil skirt when they were not a fashion item.  I believe the connection sewing gives me to my Grandmother makes sewing my happy place.  It is something that makes me happy, allows me to unwind and the creative process is just a joy.

What is your favourite garment to sew or your speciality?
I haven’t found a favourite garment or a speciality yet. There are too many options out there that I need to try before I can make that decision.

Why did you want to be a Great British Sewing Bee and who did you want to most impress of the judges, or both?  And when the sewing got tough, was Joe a welcome ally?
I have loved The Great British Sewing Bee since the first episode. The acknowledgement that sewing was cool and a television programme could be made just about sewing was amazing. So to be part of the Bee was something I just had to do. I personally love Esme. I love her style and her knowledge and experience in the sewing industry is something I aspire to but know I could never achieve. So, having the chance to have Esme critique my work was amazing. Joe completely changed the dynamic in the sewing room. You may be getting a bit stressed and Joe would be there asking silly questions, playing the fool while making you feel so proud of what you were achieving. Great British Sewing Bee MercadesDescribe your experience on first walking into the sewing room on this year’s Sewing Bee, and which challenge were you fearing the most?
Walking into the sewing room was a little surreal. I think that I was too nervous to begin with to actually take in where I was. I had no idea if I could complete the pattern challenge or the transformation challenge, so it was not until the first challenge was completed and I finally understood what I personally was capable of, that I managed to take a breath and look around and take in the fact that I was in The Great British Sewing Bee sewing room.

Do you have a special attachment to a sewing tool?
I think we all have our favourite sewing tools which we know how and when to use. I brought all of mine with me on the Bee just to help reduce any stress if things went a little off plan.

In your sewing life: What has been your worst sewing disaster – and your biggest triumph?
I try not to think of anything as a disaster, just something that did not work out as planned and then I try to work out what I did wrong. Sometimes, that can be the smallest of thing that I missed or did not do in the right order, but if I can work out how to correct something or how to not make the mistake the next time it cannot be considered a disaster.

As far as triumphs go I don’t think anything I have made has been a triumph yet. Whatever I have made there has always been a sewer’s “but” – but the hem seam is slightly off, but the pocket is slightly out, but the pattern matching is a mm off, but… I could go on forever. Describe your style, and how much of your own clothes do you make?
I believe the best way to describe my style is comfortable. I stopped buying clothes a few years ago and am trying to make everything I wear, and that includes my underwear. This is for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I hate clothes shopping. I am not a standard size, so nothing fits properly. Secondly, I don’t necessarily want to buy the styles that are on sale in the colour they are available in, in the fabric they have been made in. And thirdly, I love sewing and I am not going to miss any opportunity to make new styles in new fabric, learning new techniques.

Can you give a sewing tip for amateur sewers who have been enjoying the show?
The only tip I can give to any sewer is: “you can do it”. It might not be perfect the first time, or, in fact, the second, but it will get better with practice.

What is the best way to describe the relationship between this year’s Bees?
I have enjoyed spending time with every single one of this year’s Bees. For a competition, I have never felt so much of a part of a team.

All photos (C) BBC/Love Productions. Photographer: Mark Bourdillion