A Derbyshire teacher who made waves on the first episode of BBC One’s hit show, the Great British Sewing Bee explains how she found her passion for making clothes. Brogan Sommerville, who works as a language teacher at a school in South Derbyshire, appears as one of twelve amateur sewers in the show’s latest series.
Brogan says her sewing journey began when she watched the Great British Sewing Bee’s first series as a teenager. When she was 15, Brogan received a sewing machine for Christmas and taught herself how to sew using YouTube tutorials.
She said: “I had always enjoyed various other crafts so I was excited to try sewing. It wasn’t long before I fell completely in love with it. I started developing my skills by looking at Youtube videos and through much trial and error.”
According to the 25-year-old, her passion for sewing came naturally. She said: “I didn’t have anyone to teach me how to sew so it was really a steep learning curve teaching myself and I made a lot of unnecessary clothes along the way. I’m learning I’m always constantly coming up with new techniques and changing the way I do things, but that’s part of the learning process.”
Brogan, who is from Edinburgh, says she now makes the majority of her clothes herself and described her personal style as “very girly and feminine”. She also made a whole custom-made wardrobe for her sausage dog, Roger, as well as dresses for her niece.
She said: “I have to admit that I am a bit of a selfish seamstress and sew mainly for myself as I don’t have much time outside of my teaching job. However, my three-year-old niece Elsie always asks me to make dresses for her which I love to make. She shares my love for a big bow, and most of the dresses I make for her have one.
“I like to take inspiration from vintage or retro silhouettes. I like to think of myself as a happy, positive person, and I also like my clothes to look cheerful. I love puff sleeves and ruffles, so 99% of the time my designs will involve one of these elements.”
In the first episode of The Great British Sewing Bee’s latest series, Brogan wowed the judges with her Yorkshire wool mini skirt, placing third overall in the series’ first challenge.
After placing fourth in the second challenge for her loungewear “going out” top, Brogan wowed the judges, Esme Young and Patrick Grant with her final look, a black and white ruffled dress with puff sleeves and s is seen sailing through to the second week of competition.
She said: “My highlight of the first week has to be passing my first model challenge. Everyone seemed like amazing sewers and during the challenge I was worried I was a little out of my depth so It was a real relief to have made a garment that I really like.
“I also played making my own piping for the first time. I really enjoyed all the challenges in the first week, so my worst moment should have been waiting to find out who was sent home. That had been such an amazing week and we all felt really nervous because no one wanted their journey to end.”
Brogan, who lives in Leicestershire, said when she arrived at the contest she was alarmed at how little she had packed compared to other contestants on the show.
She said: “It was quite funny because when we all arrived to start the first week, all the other seamstresses had brought with them sewing kits complete with many fancy tools that I had never seen before, and the only thing I brought with me was a set of curlers. We were all laughing at how simple my sewing kit was. So I’m definitely attached to my curlers.
Brogan said she was excited to enter week two of the competition. She said: “It was an amazing experience to be part of this year’s series – it’s the first time I’ve really put myself and my passion for sewing above everything else in my life, and it was like a dream come true to be able to sew every day.
The second episode of The Great British Sewing Bee airs Wednesday May 4 at 9 p.m. on BBC One.