Get to know the new Great British Sewing Bee judge

Judges for GBSB 2016

It’s 2016 and we’re entering the fourth series of the ever-popular sewing programme. This year has given us a real eclectic bunch of amateur sewers and we’re really keen to see where they’ll go over the next few months. Last night’s episode started off with a rather technical “beginners” challenge to create a bias top, working with a chevron pattern. This is by no means an easy feat! The contestants pattern matching was of paramount importance. But many really showed their skills early on and completed the challenge successfully.

Judges for GBSB 2016
Judges for GBSB 2016

But we were also introduced to a brand new judge on the programme. Esme Young has replaced May as the new judge alongside Patrick Grant. Esme has some fantastic experience as a tutor at Central St Martins, so she really knows her stuff.

And did you know that she also sewed Bridget Jones’ famous “playboy bunny” costume for the 2001 film? Esme Young has done plenty of film and theatrical sewing work in her time. Speaking of her time, she’s been sewing for nearly sixty years – that’s some real experience!

Esme’s career really rocketed while at art school she founded fashion brand Swanky Modes, which had a shop in Camden in the 70’s and was hugely popular with celebrities such as Cher and Toyah. Below is one of the amazing Swanky Modes outfits.

Swanky Modes outfit from 1973 issue of Nova Magazine
Swanky Modes outfit from 1973 issue of Nova Magazine

We are of course really excited to see what this new season will bring us, and we look forward to seeing how Esme judges our willing contestants!

A 2013 Round-up: Top Trends This Year


With the year drawing to a close we’re going to take a look back at the trends that hit the sewing and crafting world this year, with some interesting new fashion trends Toyota are ready to start the New Year with a bang!

What Does The Fox Say?

Woodland animals have been popular prints for years, ideal for cute toddler dresses, homewares or even a kitchsy blouse for yourself. But this year was definitely the year of the fox, with cute fox fabric popping up everywhere from Urban Outfitters shirts, to beautiful foxy fabric from designer Robert Kaufman.


DIY Denim

Denim is always a staple, but now you can DIY your denim by trying out some of the up-cycling trends this year. With the Super Jeans machine is designed especially as a denim sewing machine, so grab your old jeans and make some dip-dye lace shorts!

Chic Chevrons

Geometric prints have taken a turn away from the 80s fluro and a more subtle, pretty approach in 2013. The chevron has been a key pattern for home furnishings that are modern and fun. Making homewares such as cushions and quilts make great quick projects and Toyota’s fantastic range of beginner sewing machines means that anyone can whip up a pretty handmade piece.

Creative Embroidery

Embroidery is a fantastic way to add interest to clothing, homewares and quilts, and we’ve been seeing more creative embroidery on the high street this year. Toyota’s range of embroidery machines, from Oekaki World make the ideal addition to your sewing repertoire and can create some fun and organic designs.

A Look Forward

With a look towards the new year we can prepare some fun ideas for creative projects. Do you have a new skill you want to learn? A technique you’ve never tried or something you’ve been dying to work on? Let us know!

7 Reasons To Make Sewing Your New Winter Hobby


It might seem pretty biased for us to be recommending sewing to you but, we looked at it this way, surely it’d be wrong for us not to!! We know first-hand how rewarding and enjoyable it is!!


With summer being officially over, and along with it the warm nights and outdoor activities, we thought it’d be the perfect time to do some sewing evangelism.


Here’s our top 7 reasons why sewing could be the perfect choice of hobby for you this Autumn/Winter …


1. Having a hobby can cheer you up!

It’s said that having a hobby is an important part of life, and we couldn’t agree with this more! Not only can a hobby be fun to do but it can also enhance your overall well-being and give you an immeasurable sense of pleasure and achievement. Let’s face it, with the lack of sunshine going on, we can all have those days when we need a little something to look forward to and boost our happiness levels!


2. The Great British Sewing Bee! 

Earlier this year, 2013, sewing became a hot topic following the huge success of the BBC TV show ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’. The show had the entire nation captivated as contestants showed us what you could achieve with just a little bit of creativity, time and a sewing machine. You never know, if you try your hand at sewing now you could become the face of one of the future sewing bees, or at least enjoy sewing-a-long with the next series!


3. Celebs are doing it!

You know you’re onto a good thing when all the top celebrities are doing it, and, guess what celebrities are publicly sharing their love for sewing!! From top Hollywood actresses like Katie Holmes and Katherine Heigl to one of the world’s most famous faces David Beckham we’ve seen many celebrities enjoying a spot of sewing and talking about what they’ve been creating, which proves it’s a hobby worth doing, right?!


4. It’s for everyone!

Sewing is not a new craze, it’s been around for years, in fact the first Toyota Sewing Machine was made in 1946, however times have changed and sewing machines have adapted. Despite it historically being viewed as an object used by housewives it is now a skill taken on by all – as we saw in the Sewing Bee TV series!! Whether you’re young or old, a beginner or advanced, male or female sewing is now something for everyone!!


5. It can save you money!

We’ve always loved being economic. The great thing about sewing is that it is a hobby that could help you save (and make) money. Whether you take up the hobby to start up-cycling your wardrobe, create handmade gifts or make home-furnishings it can be a very rewarding hobby in both senses of the word. With sites constantly emerging like Etsy and Pinterest etc, we’ve also seen a lot of individuals crafting bespoke items to sell across these sites. So it;s a hobby that really can pay off!


6. It’s fun!

Sewing can be a very enjoyable craft! It many ways (apart from the obvious) it’s like riding a bike – once you get the hang of it, it gets easier and easier to do and there is a lot to enjoy along the way. Sewing is a great hobby to cheer you up and keep you in good spirits. Want to find out for yourself? Give it a go and let us know how you get on!


7. Community and friendships

Although the sewing machine is clearly designed to be used by one person at a time, it is by no means a lonely hobby. There are lots of sewing groups set up all around the country that invite anyone with an interest of sewing to attend. The best way to find out about your local sewing groups are by speaking to friends, looking in a local paper, asking in a local craft shop or searching on the internet. You could also look out for a workshop or course to attend. These are great ways to make new friendships and meet new people that will all share something in common with you!


We could go on, but for now there’s our top 7 reasons! What Next…


It can be daunting at first when you’re trying to decide what sewing machine to buy, especially for a hobby that (we hope) lasts you a lifetime. So, if you are considering buying a new sewing machine, come and read our ‘sewing machine buying guide’ on the Home-Sewing website, or why not pop over to our Home-Sewing Facebook page and ask our community for their advice.


You can buy our Designs For Living range from our online store, access here.


If you have any questions about buying your new sewing machine, please call us on 01322 291137.

History Behind The Great British Sewing Bee


In the world of sewing and craft everyone has by now heard of the new “Great British Sewing Bee” programme that is about to grace our TV screens tonight .. we’ve blogged about it, BBC have now launched details about it and it’s leading all the conversations within the sewing community at the moment. It’s even trending across Twitter, yayyy!!!! #GBSB

But, do you have any idea what relevance a bee is to sewing? Well you’re not the only one, we’ve all been thinking the same. Many assumed the name would just be “The Great British Sew Off” after the successful “Great British Bake Off” having the same producers, so it came as quite a shock when the “Great British Sewing Bee” name was announced. Now that we’ve investigated it we agree it makes perfect sense and  reflects the British culture perfectly well … so we thought we’d share this knowledge with you too.

To explain this we need to go back about 100 years, when what we now know as “sewing circles” or “sewing groups” were actually referred to as “sewing bees”. Yes, that’s it, that’s how a bee fits into sewing. This became popular with the Queen Mother (Queen Elizabeth) as she made it a popular idea to make and mend throughout the war and used it as a way to socialise and support the troops. Sounds exciting and I’m sure the show won’t let us down, it’s just a shame it will only be on for 4 weeks but I’m sure there will be plenty to keep us glued throughout those episodes and tasks and hopefully the sewing revolution legacy will continue long after the show ends. SEW, all that’s left to do now is to watch it over the next month and see who is crowned King or Queen Bee and then get out your very own sewing machine and put it all into practice!!

The Great British Sewing Bee



We know we’re probably not the first ones to bring you this fantastic news, but, just in case you’ve missed it we’re excited to share it with you                           …



The Great British Sewing Bee, from the makers of  “Great British Sew Off”, will be coming to our BBC2 screens very soon!!


Remember we linked to the application process last year, and it seems that it’s here already!! It’s no secret that the aim of the show will be to encourage people to sew and excite the “make and mend” movement back into the nation, just as the Bake Off did with baking. Of course the extent of success will not be truly known until the show is actually underway, however going off the success of the Great British Bake Off and also the fact that it is based around amateur contestants as opposed to ‘professionals’ we are pretty confident that this spring/summer is one to look forward to!!

Claudia Winkleman will be presenting the show supported by judges May Martin and Patrick Grant.

So, do you think Claudia will be able to recruit a nation into being economic through sewing? Toyota have always backed the idea and are excited to see more big names behind it.

If you’re inspired and looking to invest in a sewing machine, or even just interested in seeing which sewing machine accessories are out there – why not pop over to our Home-Sewing site where you can choose your own stylish look with our Designs For Living range or learn more about our accessories and storage items too.

Let’s all aim to be happy little sewing bee’s this spring and share our skills with others!!

The World of Fashion and Digital Unite – London Fashion Week 2013


We’ve been gripped for weeks now as catwalks have been taking place all across the world, but, this weekend it’s finally here … the limelight is now on our very own capital – LONDON!! Yayyyy, is it clear we’re a little bit excited?!

Today is Day 1 of London Fashion Week and already it’s trending on Twitter #LFW and over 60% of the catwalk schedule will be streamed live on YouTube. With all the backstage footage, catwalk coverage, carefully chosen camera angles and ability to work at the same time as watching all the action I’m extremely glad I stayed at home to watch it this year. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a magical atmosphere when you’re there, but with all this bad weather and increasing pile of work it ‘s been no big loss to follow it all from my lovely warm office this year, thanks to digital.

If I do manage to miss anything from the live streaming I’m pretty sure I’ll quickly catch up from their Twitter feed, and to complete things there are soundtracks from the shows being uploaded … perfect to cover the time in-between catwalks, especially to keep up the pace of a Friday afternoon.

Another thing we love is the question and answer time with the designers and with real-time tweet exchanges we get the chance to get up and personal with the best talent out there. Receiving answers to questions like “what inspires” and “favourite colours” etc but obviously with a bit more depth, well as much as a Twitter comment allows anyway!!

So, things are only just really starting off and we have a whole 4 more days to look forward to, but so far thanks to all things digital and social we have thoroughly enjoyed LFW and the excitement it brings to get the sewing machine back out and start creating our own wonderful designs and creations again.

What’s been your favourite designer so far? Have you been following it and finding the coverage useful? If so, we’d love to hear your thoughts and what you’ve been making from the inspiration. Just pop along to our Facebook or Twitter pages to join the conversations.


Oh, PS:  if you haven’t already found it, the live streaming link is here. Enjoy!!

Valentine’s 10% Off Coupon: With Love From Toyota Home Sewing



It’s here, Valentine’s Day is upon us so we wanted to give our loyal customers a little treat, and our lovely new ones too!!





As our Valentine’s Day gift to you, here is a 10% off coupon code to use against our Designs For Living range sewing machines on our Home Sewing website.


Coupon Code: TOYOTA-LOVE       Site:

(valid from 14/02/13 to 28/02/13 especially for Valentine’s)


Designs For Living (aka DFL) is Toyota’s much loved stylish sewing machine range and so they became our perfect choice for our Valentine’s offer to you, we’d love to be your cupid and help fix you up with your new match made in heaven. The concept allows you to not only choose the type of machine you require but also the design that best suits you!! Want to test the designs out and see how they look,which would suit your personality, room etc – no problem, just click here.


PLUS: Our Designs For Living machines come with 3 years warranty and free delivery for mainland UK (see more here). We also have a range of accessories to complement the machines that we recommend you have a look at, available here too.



With love from,


Your friends at Toyota Home Sewing x



The Gentleman’s Sewing Club – Getting men in a stitch



I’ve come across some interesting articles recently, not by intent, just through internet browsing and they all seem to have a clear common theme …


“Men itching to get stitching”,  “Sew Macho”, “Teach a man to sew; clothe him for a lifetime” etc…


Sewing, whether fact or fiction, has always been looked at as being a ‘women’s world’ or a ‘female-dominated society’ but I’m so gripped by all these headlines that I’ve done my own investigating around the subject to see whether that view point still exists.

Gretchen “Gertie” Hirsch recently summed it up in her blog by saying “home sewists are women and highly-paid couturiers are men” but we’ll let you pass your own judgement on that one. She also taps into a blog set up by a guy called Peter who shares with us his journey of garment-sewing adventures, called Male Pattern Boldness.

Anyway the question most interesting to me was, is it our culture that keeps men away from sewing? Then I came across “The Gentleman’s Sewing Club: a  weekly sewing club for gentleman folks”. Now, I’m not a fan of splitting the craft into genders or groups, however I do love to see sewing being popular with all whether old/young, men/women etc and I understand the advantages of getting like-minded people together. For example, a group such as this can concentrate on male-focused patterns and more male orientated chat. Despite not passing as a gentleman, I still managed to gain access and have a snoop around the blog and I must say … I loved it!!

From monthly sewing evenings (held at the regal Glasgow Sloan store whilst sipping whiskey sours & exchanging sewing tips) to the blog featuring things such as lifestyle advice from Tom Ford, my favourite being:


5. A man should never wear shorts in the city. Flip-flops and shorts in the city are never appropriate. Shorts should only be worn on the tennis court or on the beach.

This is all happening right now in Glasgow … imagine the gentlemen that would take to our fine British streets if this caught on throughout the nation!!

Anyway, my conclusion is that men are interested in sewing and quite serious about it too and I look forward to hearing your thoughts over on our Facebook & Twitter pages. Do you have a husband, brother, friend who can sew?

Our Brand New Sewing Machine …


Toyota Sewing Machine

It’s SEW exciting … This month, we get to see the launch of our brand new Toyota Home Sewing machine – OEKAKI. The sewing machine has been named after the Japanese concept and term “to draw” and we want to help encourage you to have fun with sewing!! We’d love to see you personalise clothes, furnishings and even transforming your child’s artwork to a unique tapestry piece together!!


We’ve set up a very special Oekaki World BlogFacebook and Twitter to share, show and see what is going on within the community … so make sure you get connected!!


This machine has been cleverly put together by our Toyota design team and has some wonderful features .. it comes with a special starter pack to make it as simple as possible for you to make the most of your new purchase and get started straight away (even if you’re brand new to sewing) – it includes an extension table, DVD, darning/embroidery foot, flower stitch foot, thread etc … PLUS we’re giving a free embroidery hoop to every Oekaki owner here.


We ‘re so excited to see our brand new model already feature in the popular UK Sew Today magazine (see pic below) and be recommended for a Christmas buy in “All we want for Christmas”.  The model will be released for sale in the UK on Friday 23rd November 2012.


Oekaki Machine Magazine Article

If you’d like to read more about this sewing machine, or find out where you can buy it from … come and visit us here. We’ll also be running competitions, sewing projects and sharing your tips and creations so DON’T MISS OUT!!

Styled To Rock – Bringing Sewing Back


I couldn’t believe it last night when I turned the TV on to discover a fantastic program called “Styled To Rock” in which contestants all compete to design and make outfits for the stars. I don’t watch much TV so it isn’t a surprise I hadn’t heard of this before but I can’t help but feel I’ve been missing out on this show … it’s the first series but it’s already on about episode 9 now.









The competition seems to focus around superstar Rihanna on her hunt for the next expressive “up & coming” British fashion designer and I love the key statement: ‘SEW HARD‘ featured on the main studio wall … encouraging the team to not just work hard, but sew hard!! It’s clear to see their passion for design & sewing and it really did push some buttons in me to start pushing myself further too!!


Supporting Rihanna is Girl’s Aloud popstar Nicola Roberts, successful British Fashion Designer Henry Holland and superstar stylist Lysa Cooper. Each week the contestants are given a new brief along with a new superstar. So far I believe they have designed for Cheryl Cole, Kanye West & Katy Perry!!


Another pleasant surprise for me was seeing Heidi May, an ex-classmate of mine from The University Of Huddersfield, and her delightfully sweet personality still shining through. It was Katy Perry night and Heidi actually won the challenge so congrats!! We’re cheering on all the contestants and excited to have found this show at the peak, will definitely be tuning in next week and thanks to all involved for the sewing inspiration!!


What I especially love about the show is it shows anyone can do it with a bit of determination, all the contestants are all from totally different backgrounds; self-taught, graduates, boutique owners etc.. Some are amazing pattern drafters, others have no experience BUT at the catwalk stage everyone pulls it off … it just stirs up an excitement in me to get more creative, to do a supermarket sweep in the fabric shop and then straight to the sewing!!