12 Jul
2023
Get To Know Sewing Bee Finalist Debra Drake

Sewing Bee finalist DEBRA DRAKE chats self-confidence and her brand-new sewing school

1 I started making clothes when I attended an evening class at my village school. I was hooked from the very beginning and dazzled with all the possibilities. Starting with a flat piece of fabric and making a 3D garment is super-exciting. For me, sewing is a way to express myself without having to say a thing. I attended college in the late 80s and completed a HND in Fashion Design. Unfortunately, I lost my confidence and didn’t apply for any jobs in the fashion industry. Instead, I retrained in business. Although I’ve enjoyed a fantastic career in the corporate world, the love of creating never left me and I started sewing again ten years ago.

2 I’ve always been a huge fan of The Great British Sewing Bee. I had just started sewing again when the show began in 2013, so it certainly helped to ignite the creative fire within me. Stitching can be a solitary hobby, so to find likeminded people on a heart-warming show like the Bee was fantastic. When I applied to be on the show I didn’t think that I would get anywhere, but I kept moving through to the next round. One of the meetings I had in the initial stages took place in the middle of a canal boat holiday that I was on with my husband and son. That was a memorable day… trying to get glam on a tiny canal boat!

3 When I was on the show, I loved Halloween week and Japanese week. I’d never ventured into childrenswear before, so I was initially very daunted by the thought of making a Halloween costume, but once I’d decided on my theme, which was Charles Dickens’ Miss Havisham, it all came easily to me. I was worried about the obscurity of the theme, but the judges were blown away and it won garment of the week! The origami dress from Japanese week is special to me, too. I had my farewell speech in my hand, believe it or not, because I was convinced that my time was up. Hand sewing over 100 flowers to the front was tricky, but I was thrilled with how it turned out!

4 I invited my fellow Bees to stay the weekend in North Wales. We had a fantastic time during the Jubilee weekend, despite the monsoon-like rain. We hired a minibus for trips out and about, which we dubbed the ‘Bee Bus’. Everyone stuck to my itinerary of visiting Anglesey beaches and eating ice cream. We all keep in touch and recently met up in Manchester for Christmas lunch. Our Sewing Bee adventure was pretty character-forming and I’ll never forget the time we all spent together. It was truly amazing and a once in a lifetime experience. 

5 I’d toyed with the idea of changing my career for years. Considering my experience working in corporate communications for almost 20 years, I’d decided to combine my marketing and training skillset with my sewing ability. The result was my very own stitching school, Sewing with Style. It’s a huge, light, and airy space in Llandudno, Wales. I meet so many people that want to start stitching, but don’t have the confidence to take it up. At Sewing with Style, we get stuck in straight away with a top or a skirt. I love seeing people realise their potential in class; they’re constantly amazed with what can be achieved with just a few instructions and a dash of self-belief.

6 Through my teaching I want to encourage body positivity and inclusivity. I always say, create the garment to fit the body and not the other way around. I’m a fit and healthy 53-year-old going through the perimenopause, and I found the high street no longer catered for me. I don’t want to look young, I just want to look like myself whilst wearing fashionable and flattering clothes that are designed to be noticed. I encourage my students to do the same – to dress like themselves, but amped up! This new direction in my life is exhilarating.

7 We have all sorts of classes scheduled for Sewing with Style. The plan is to travel around the country giving talks on my experience and work on commissions. I’m also putting together a top-secret project that I’m excited to reveal this spring. I’m so grateful to be in this position and I would like to say a big thank you to everyone for their wonderful comments on social media and those who continue to talk to me when I’m out and about. It’s particularly lovely to have feedback from Welsh people who were thrilled to hear our beautiful language on a prime-time television show. 

Follow Debra on Instagram at @debra_sewingwithstyle or visit sewingwithstyle.co.uk

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