It won't surprise anyone to hear that many of our members at Seven Hills Women's Institute are keen sewists. We vary from those who are seamstresses for a living, to those who love making the odd subversive cross stitch to hang on their wall. It was therefore an honor to have Gill Thomas from Season 8 of The Great British Sewing Bee which aired in 2022.
Gill arrived with some of her works from the show which looked even better off screen, but I don't think any of us were prepared for how inspiring we would find her story about the build up to the competition and her time on the popular BBC TV show.
Having fond memories of her talented great-grandma, Ivy, who made her own clothes, and feeling sick and tired of ill-fitting high street clothes, Gill taught herself how to sew. Soon enough she was at the level where she could compete in the show, leave her day job and start her own business teaching others to sew. Since our monthly meeting with Gill she can also add finishing the London Marathon to her list of recent achievements. As if this wasn't impressive enough, Gill's achieved all of this with a limb difference and is now popularly known as 'the one armed sewist'.
Gill really brought to light what it must have been like growing up without anyone with a limb difference in mainstream media, how simple day to day tasks can prove difficult, and how until entering the Sewing Bee she wanted to hide her differences and didn't even discuss this with her closest friends. We're so glad that she decided not to hide anymore and we got to hear her story.
Our evening with Gill covered some handy tips on sewing, she gave us some insider info on what it's like being on the GBSB, but the message that resonated the most was what you can achieve when you decide to face your fears.
Inspired by Gill's story we're now hoping to arrange our very own Sewing Bee day.
Gill is available for talks about her experiences and for sewing lessons, check out her Instagram.