Meet the Maker: Sewing Expert Matt Chapple
As applications for the latest series of the Great British Sewing Bee are open again, we decided to catch up with last year’s friendly and fun winner, Matt Chapple! He’s been working hard since the end of the series, and is here to dish the dirt on behind the scenes, plus his latest projects….
Sewing Expert Matt Chapple
We all know you as a sewing guru! Do you have any other crafty passions?
Awww thanks for the compliment; it’s very kind.
I must admit I love anything crafty. We try and foster that with the kids too, not that they really need any encouraging. I love it when Evie stands there in front of me with a cardboard box and declares she wants to build a robot or an aeroplane, that’s it, sleeves rolled up and we’re sorted for an hour.
(Aside from winning!) Share your personal highlight from the Great British Sewing Bee.
Yes, sorry, the winning is a hard one to get over. I think the leather jacket was a real highlight for me. Work had been crazy that week so I’d not actually stitched leather until about 24hrs before the challenge, and believe me that was a practice that I’d rather forget. So to get plaudits from Patrick on the exemplary stitching on the collar and back seam gave me a huge boost of confidence
I really like making dresses. Not for me obviously, but for Gemma and Evie my daughter.
What was it like working with May and Patrick?
They are both so well respected in their fields it’s hard not to be a little overawed, but they also make you feel so at ease too. They really are great personalities and we all had such a great laugh on the show.
Do you still keep in contact with anyone from the show?
People are genuinely shocked when I say that we have a little Whatsapp group that we all natter on most days, it’s great to still be able to share with each other our makes, triumphs, disasters, general goings on, cute baby pics (Deborah) beautiful wedding pics (Alex)…we are never short of something to chat about.
Outside of the day job my life has changed five fold.
How has life changed since the competition?
Well the day job consulting about Data hasn’t changed, except that most meetings, even now, are opened with a brief chat about the sewing bee. Outside of the day job my life has changed five fold. I’ve been doing some guest collaboration blogs between our site SewWhatsNew.co.uk and Singer, appearing at events such as the Knit & Stitch show, and soon to be at Kirstie Allsopp’s Christmas Fair in Manchester. But certainly our biggest change has been that we’ve launched our own range of sewing kits.
What was the first project you ever sewed from start to finish?
It was to make a fully lined seven foot curtain for behind our draughty front door, Gemma went out one night for some drinks with her girlfriends and I stayed in and made a curtain. Talk about role reversal. I was shocked by the cost of curtains and we only needed one, so I thought, well it can’t be that hard surely. I think Gemma is still a bit shocked about that. I’m glad to say that it still hangs proudly today.
Tell us what your favourite projects are to sew and why.
I really like making dresses. Not for me obviously, but for Gemma and Evie my daughter. I think there’s so many great variations you can get from mixing up patterns, fabrics and little personal touches. It makes the possibilities endless. Plus I particularly like over hearing compliments about something I’ve made, shameful I know.
Any sewing disasters?
Lots! Theres an oven glove in my school home-ec class that I just can’t get out of my mind. Oh and a pair of boys “hungry” board shorts from Children’s week in GBSB. A jumper dress that I made for Gemma, which ended up fitting Evie! Can we just leave it there?
Take your time and be confident when you stitch, there’s no reason to panic or rush it, unless Claudia’s bellowing in her encouraging voice to hurry up
What’s the one thing in your sewing box that you couldn’t be without?
My pattern weight stones. I love them. They were certainly my saving grace in the Sewing Bee, they made me a little bit quicker as I could just spread them out and then use a rotary cutter, rather than pinning and lifting the fabric to cut.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Magazines are a great source, but I rarely get the time to read them. I’m surrounded by digital all the time that mood boards such as Pinterest are fantastic, it doesn’t matter if you’re sat in a windowless office in central London you can still get inspiration from all over the globe.
What are your top five tips for sewing beginners?
- Measure twice and cut once
- If you’re unsure, pin it first and then check how it looks before stitching. Bulldog clips are also great to hold seams together.
- Take your time and be confident when you stitch, there’s no reason to panic or rush it, unless Claudia’s bellowing in her encouraging voice to hurry up
- If you’re attempting something new try on a bit of cheap curtain lining first, it’s better to gain confidence at £2/m than on your liberty fabrics purchase!
- Remember to have fun, it’s only sewing
What have you been up to since the Sewing Bee?
Sewing and blogged most of my projects at SewWhatsNew.co.uk, popping along to store openings, demoing at shows, and investing a lot of time in designing and producing the Sew-A-Saurus sewing kit and taking that to market.
What does an average day look like for you?
Up at 6:30, coffee in the car on the way to work, stare intently at data and countless spreadsheet models during the day, get home in time to do bath time and read with the kids. Then set to work on our to-do list that Gemma has been cultivating. It could be a make, a design, a product review, a blog write up, a redesign of our website. Even a chilled evening with a glass of wine will include something SewWhatsNew related. We always work on things together, which is just the way we like it.
I’m terrible for buying the odd meter of this and that
Give us a tour of your workspace.
Well I’m lucky enough to have a studio to work from, although it can get chilly out there in the winter. It’s a large white room with a canvas topped sewing table in the middle of it with my machine on top.
To one corner I have a leather armchair with a pinboard above it, this conceals a dartboard, an artefact of the man-den that it once used to be.
Moving around the room past the double doors giving me a sun drenched view of the garden we come to a wire storage rack on the wall for my sewing tools and lots of 1 or 2 meter fabric bundles, I’m terrible for buying the odd meter of this and that.
Then comes my cutting table. I’ve got a large oak top to cover another throwback to years gone by, a pool table. Finally we come along past the ironing board to a pair of 6ft by 4ft whiteboards for creativity and thoughts to take place….oh and the occasional drawing from Evie and Max. Kids just love a whiteboard!
Any advice for fans looking to develop their own ideas for products?
I’d say that if you feel you have an idea that feels worth protecting make sure you register your design and brand, don’t be daunted by this, there’s loads of advice on the internet to help you through.
Chat to people about the ideas, market research is really invaluable, along with testing the product too.
Be agile, what initially starts as a good idea can sometimes change, be willing to be flexible and adapt.
Build up a good network of trusted suppliers and contacts. Cheap doesn’t always mean it’s the right solution.
I’m in constant amazement by people who have a knack for cooking or baking.
Your wife, Gemma, is the baker in the Sew What’s New team. How are your skills?
I can manage to feed us if need be, and can make a good lemon drizzle cake, but my skills are nothing special. I’m in constant amazement by people who have a knack for cooking or baking. To me it seems like such a talent to have. I cook like a child, I need everything measured out and in bowls before I begin otherwise I’m on a road to disaster.
I’ll stick to stitching I think!
And for the future? What’s next?
Well as I said earlier, we’ve released our first sewing kits, the Sew-A-Saurus dino tail for people to make for their little monsters, and we’d like very much to continue that theme. So it’s back to the world of product development and idea whiteboards.
I’ll also be doing a bit of blogging on SewWhatsNew.co.uk of my makes and have a few shows that I’m attending over the winter and spring period too, like Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas Fair. If you see me there do stop and say hi.
Just in case anyone from the BBC2 is reading this I’d always be up for a guest judge appearance on GBSB4 😉
Follow Matt’s progress at: