What Heather did next after winning The Great British Sewing Bee

Sewing Bee winner Heather Jacks shares some of her sewing secrets with youngsters during a GoSew summer course at Lutterworth College
Sewing Bee winner Heather Jacks shares some of her sewing secrets with youngsters during a GoSew summer course at Lutterworth College

When TV’s needle skills contest The Great British Sewing Bee returns on BBC2 tonight, district woman Heather Jacks happily admits she’ll be glued to the box.

Last year’s champion Heather, said: “Oh, of course I’ll be watching. I just can’t wait to watch somebody else getting it in the neck from Claudia Winkleman!”

But the programme’s presenter is perky and fun, isn’t she?

“Oh, but it’s horrible when you’re trying to concentrate and Claudia is doing the countdown or wanting to chat!”

It really is a whole year since Heather, from Willoughby Waterleys, north of Lutterworth, swept up the Sewing Bee trophy with a brilliant couture dress in the final episode of the series.

“I had a game plan,” she says. “I’m not a quick sewer, but I am competitive and cool under pressure – I love dressage, and I used to do a lot of shooting.

“So for me, it was just a case of fulfilling the brief, and finishing ahead of one other person. And not taking any big risks until the final.”

A highlights show broadcast on BBC2 last Wednesday hinted at what Heather has been up to since winning the trophy.

Rather than write a book or launch a range of sewing machines, she’s taken a more philanthropic line.

As well as leading dress-making sessions at the Market Harborough-based Leicestershire Craft Centre, she’s also launched a small community sewing charity called GoSew, to pass important skills onto a younger generation.

Heather sees the ability to make your own clothes as a vital life skill akin to growing your own food.

“Sewing is a source of knowledge and power and control over your own life.

“And yet there’s a cavernous hole in our basic understanding of how things are constructed.

“I want to help, in a small way, to address this, because sewing can be a life-changing skill. It was for me! It was one of the best things I ever learnt at school.”

She made her own clothes as a teenager, for the simple reason that she couldn’t afford to buy new. “If anything, I was a little ashamed of it,” she says now. “And if someone ever asked me ‘where did you get that suit?’, I would never admit I’d made it myself.

“I’d say ‘my dressmaker made it for me’. Can you imagine!”

GoSew plans to teach schoolchildren to be proud clothes-makers.

They will be taught the skills and pick up the enthusiasm at special lessons during weekends and holidays – preferably without any cost.

And GoSew has already made a good start, initially at Sherrier Primary School in Lutterworth, and at Lutterworth College.

“We are on the precipice of a new age of creative sewing and crafts,” says Heather.

And if GoSew went nationwide? “That would be fantastic.”

Tonight, ten of the country’s best home-sewers start their quest to win the 2015 Sewing Bee contest, judged by Savile Row’s Patrick Grant and sewing expert May Martin.

But last year’s winner Heather has set herself an altogether bigger challenge.