Catching up with MQG member Charlotte Newland, winner of the Great British Sewing Bee

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If you’ve been watching the BBC’s television show Great British Sewing Bee, you probably know Charlotte Newland, who was announced as the winner on July 4! Charlotte is an individual MQG member from London, and one of 10 contestants on this year’s show. She made it through eight weeks of tough sewing challenges to become Britain’s best amateur sewer of 2016. We caught up with Charlotte to talk about the Bee, modern quilting, QuiltCon and the MQG.

Hi Charlotte — and congrats! We’re so excited for you. When did you decide you wanted to apply to be on the show? 

My kids and I had always watched the show together, and last season my girls in particular kept telling me I should apply. They were so excited to see that applications were open, and made sure I filled in the form! 

What happened when they told you you had been accepted? 

The application process was pretty drawn out — there were several stages to go through and it was about four months before I heard I had been accepted. By that time I had gotten to know the people in the production company pretty well, so when they called with the news there was a lot of excited squealing.

(L-R) Joyce, Charlotte, Jade the moment Charlotte was announced as the winner – (C) Love Productions/BBC – Photographer: Charlotte Medlicott

Did you watch the episodes as they were airing? Any funny fan moments that happened as the show progressed? 

I watched the episodes as they were shown, every week. It was really interesting to see the bits that we hadn’t been aware of at the time, like the judges’ discussions. The editing team did an amazing job cutting down probably 100 hours of footage into a one hour show. I did get recognised from about episode two. I was walking across Tower Bridge one day and someone called out “Oooh! You’re the lady from the sewing bee!” It was so strange to be recognised!

Charlotte sews a garment during the show. – (C) Love Productions/BBC – Photographer: Charlotte Medlicott

Does your quilt experience influence the way you design and create garments? 

It was definitely an advantage to have good rotary cutting skills, especially bearing in mind that the challenges were timed. Pinning and using scissors is so much more time consuming than using weights and a rotary cutter. It’s also a lot more accurate when cutting out stretch or delicate fabrics. Rotary cutting FTW! 

During the ’60s week, your color block dress was lovely! And very reminiscent of a modern quilt… The judges were also impressed that you were trying out your fabrics ahead of time. Is that a quilter technique? Did any of the other challenges require you to reach into your quilting bag of tricks? 

Using fabric scraps to test out colour placement in the Mondrian dress challenge just made sense to me. It’s definitely something that I did because of my quilting background. I use a design wall a lot in my quilting, and this was a teeny version of the same concept. The time I’ve spent matching HST seams also stood me in good stead in the chevron top challenge in the first week! 

Is your garment design style similar to your quilt style? 

I am primarily an improv quilter, and I think that the “chop it up randomly and sew it back together” approach was really helpful in the alteration challenge, particularly with the duvet cover in the semi final. 

What was it like being critiqued by Esme and Patrick? 

As an amateur sewer I’ve never been critiqued before (apart from by myself, of course!), and it took a bit of getting used to. The judges were extremely fair in all their comments, though, and really kind about how they said things even when there were serious issues. Getting a good review felt amazing – like winning a prize! 

It seemed like all the contestants became good friends during the season! Are any of them also quilters? 

We had so much fun in the sewing room, and we learned so much from each other. Because we are all amateurs we each had a different approach, so there was a lot of skill sharing. I love them all to bits, and wish that we lived closer. Joyce is the only other quilter in the group.

(L-R) Rumana, Angeline, Duncan, Charlotte, Patrick Grant, Esme Young, Josh, Jade, Claudia Winkleman, Tracey, Joyce, Jamie, Ghislaine – (C) Love Productions/BBC – Photographer: Charlotte Medlicott

The MQG community has been cheering you on the whole season — what was it like knowing that 10,000 people were rooting for you? 

Having the support of so many people from the quilting community was wonderful! Quilters are the best :)

You were going to attend QuiltCon last year, but couldn’t because of filming. What was your reaction when you found out the two would overlap? 

I couldn’t believe it when I found out that filming would coincide with QuiltCon! I was so looking forward to coming to Pasadena, it was crazy that both things happened at the same time! 

Are you working on any quilts or is it just garments for the time being? 

I’m working on a solids improv quilt inspired by the art of Sonia Delauney. It’s been a bit neglected over the last few months, but I hope to get some work done on over the summer. I’ve also got loads of clothes I want to make, including a new swimsuit. 

What do you plan to do with your sewing time now that you’ve won the Bee? 

I am looking forward to sewing just for me again. During the Bee there really was no time to sew anything for myself. 

Will we see you at QuiltCon 2017 in Savannah? 

I plan to be there as crew — I’m just looking into flights now! 

What is the best part of being an MQG member? 

The MQG community! I’ve met so many fantastic people online and in real life, and everyone is so supportive. It’s really wonderful!

(L-R) Claudia Winkleman, Esme Young, Charlotte, Patrick Grant – (C) Love Productions/BBC – Photographer: Charlotte Medlicott