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The Great British Side Saddle Sewing Bee (part 1)

Posted on Thursday, May 1, 2014 by Heather Dodd

If you’ve been glued to TV’s Great British Sewing Bee, you may remember that the latest winner was a horsey lady.  It must be something in the air, as CHN has just heard that side saddle riders, Jane Harper and Emma Richardson-Steele from Area 5 decided last year to make their own concour d ‘ elegance costumes for the 2014 show season.

IMG_6086 Emma Richardson Steel

Jane Harper gets to grips with the sewing machine

Emma takes up the story:

I have always been a keen seamstress, sewing anything from tapestry to ball gowns, and last year, I saw an advert for a dress making course in Oxford and decided to book on to it. Over coffee, I mentioned it to fellow side saddle rider Jane Harper and she said she was interested but, having never sewn before, I didn’t take her seriously. However, Jane booked on and I knew it be an interesting time as Jane’s needle work experience was limited to sewing in plaits and she had never used a sewing machine before!

September came around quickly after a busy show season for both of us and Jane had qualified for Olympia with her veteran horse Crime Wave II. We found a pattern for a jacket with an Edwardian style. Jane decided to make the full gathered skirt that came with the jacket pattern but I wanted to make a Victorian riding skirt using a copy of an original pattern. We sourced the fabrics on line and from local curtain shops and went to our first sewing class with great enthusiasm.

Jane asked how the sewing machine was sewing ‘all on it’s own’. She didn’t know that you needed to press a foot pedal.  It was at this point I realized just how big a task she had taken on!

As the weeks progressed, and our tutor, a lovely lady called Julie Ifill, filled us with inspiration and enthusiasm, our swathes of fabric began to resemble items of clothing and with some tailoring and embellishment, the concour d’elegance costumes began to take shape.

With my own costume almost finished and six weeks to go until the end of the course, Julie asked how I was going to fill the remaining weeks and so I made a very brave decision and bought the pattern to make my wedding dress ~ whether it will ever be finished (or even worn) is another matter!

IMG_6089 Jane Harper

Emma Richardson Steel

Jane and I are both looking forward to wearing our creations this season and in the second part of our article, you should be able to see the finished costumes!



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