The Great British Sewing Bee's May Martin
I visited the Hobby, Craft & Stitch Trade Show at the Birmingham NEC in February 2015 on the lookout for exciting new products. Whilst there I was lucky enough to hear May Martin talking about her sewing career and how she was selected to be a judge on The Great British Sewing Bee! In the audience with us were former contestants Lauren Guthrie, from Series 1, and founder of Guthrie and Ghani & Jenni Taylor from the 2015 show.
May learnt to sew at the age of 13; and it very quickly became her passion. At a time when most women were encouraged to pursue a career in either hairdressing, secretarial work or nursing, May bucked the trend by opting to study at St, Osyth’s College at Clacton-on-Sea, a teacher training college which specialises in needlework. She said the it was the hardest three years of her life, but that it stood her in good stead for the future.
She taught for several years at secondary schools and was Head of Department before deciding to go into adult education.
When the BBC researchers, for what was to become The Great British Sewing Bee, were looking for potential judges, they visited and interviewed lecturers from all the top fashion colleges including Central St Martins but were struggling to find the right person for the role.
Out of the blue, May received an email from the BBC saying that they’d like her to audition for the show! May, very nervously went along for the interview where she faced 90 minutes of questions whilst being filmed... once they’d finished she remembers saying to them that it'd had been great fun but they wouldn't use her, she felt they'd opt for someone from one of the elite fashion schools.
Shortly after, she did screen tests with Patrick Grant, who she was sure would get the job, but she wasn’t at all sure what they thought of her! We all know now, that they were very impressed with her calm, kind manner and extensive knowledge.
She kept the fact that she was filming the show a secret from all her students, and as you can imagine they were really surprised, and delighted, when GBSB first hit our screens. After that first show went out the producers asked her why she was so quiet, and she told them it was because she'd been petrified! After that first series May was offered some presentation training for when she's in front of the camera and hasn’t looked back since!
Although May Martin is no longer a judge on the show, we're really pleased that GBSB is finally back on our TV screens again!
If watching GBSB has inspired you to take up sewing why not take a look at our thoughtfully curated range of Sewing Patterns and Fabrics.