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Interview with Chinelo Bally on her inspiration

Read our exclusive interview with sewing extraordinaire Chinelo on her inspiration, the Great British Sewing Bee and what she has in store for the future.

What inspired you to start sewing? What encouraged you to pick up that fabric for the first time?

Since I was able to buy my own clothes I had always done quirky little adjustments to them by hand, because I seldom able to find tops that made me think 'wow'. It was tops that was my major problem back then because I hardly wore dresses at that time. I used to design clothes and take my ideas to my tailor who would bring them to life. In 2011 I finally decided I needed my own sewing machine.

What made you apply for the Great British Sewing Bee?

I was out fabric shopping in Walthamstow with my little brother and he spotted the poster in one of the shop's window. I took down the details and didn't pluck up enough courage to apply until the last day of entry when I thought "what could I lose?."

What was the highlight of being a contestant on the Great British Sewing Bee?

You mean apart from being in such close proximities with Patrick ;) ? There were so many; being in a room full of like-minded people from all walks of life, drawing knowledge from them and indeed the judges, Claudia was a star and she kept spirits up in the room when the pressure was really on, the crew were fantastic; I just loved the whole experience.

How did you feel in the final of Sewing Bee?

I felt under immense pressure. Mostly, brought on by myself, it meant a lot to me to do well on the sewing bee.

What was the hardest sewing challenge you have faced on the show?

The hardest challenge had to be that tie, who would have thought that such a little item of clothing could be so complicated.

What do you enjoy/love designing and creating the most?

What I love about creating garments... It is the whole process, from inspiration, to ideas, to actually making and then seeing the live product. I especially love the process of seeing something that inspires me and interpreting it as a garment. It is something I cherish a lot.

How would you describe your sewing style? We know you like to break the rules!

I would say I am very unconventional, I don't believe that creativity should be hindered by rules; for me rules hinder the organic flow of creativity so I throw them away, and when I make mistakes I look for the beauty in them and those mistakes become discoveries.

What inspires you and your designs? Where do you take inspiration from?

I get inspired by anything and everything. There is beauty all over us, even in the most unusual places we can find something quite spectacular. I remember eating a red velvet cake once and all of a sudden, I was taken aback by the intensity of the rich ruby red against the decadent cream cheese frosting and right there I could picture a dress in my mind.

What type/style of fabric do you love to use and why?

I love using glamorous fabrics because I love designing beautiful evening gowns; I love really elegant dresses.

What design or creation have you been most proud of til this day?

I really cannot choose, but for now I have to say I really love the dress I made for Laura Mvula for her performance at Prince's gig in Birmingham.

We know that you design for Laura Mvula already, who else would you love to dress and why?

The first person that comes to mind is Rebecca Ferguson, she wears the kinds of dresses I love to make, she's a very elegant lady.

What was the best advice somebody ever gave to you?

The best advice I ever received was to always be me and believe in my style and what I do.

We know you hold sewing workshops, how are these going?

They are going really well, I teach the attendees how to make garments using the freehand cutting method. I ran a few doing peplum tops, but now I have started a new set, teaching how to make a maxi dress for the summer months.

Do you enjoy doing any other crafts? Baking, drawing, painting, knitting etc?

I love baking, mainly desserts and cakes; I also like drawing portraits, I am quite a handy person so I generally enjoy anything that involves making.

What would you say to a new crafter thinking of taking up sewing or dress making?

I'd say go for it! I'm always so excited when people want to take up sewing, especially younger people. I remember when I first got my sewing machine, my younger sister said to me "oh you're such a housewife" and I think that was the general attitude towards sewing amongst the younger generation until Sewing Bee. I have had thousands of emails from young ladies showing their interest to take up sewing and telling me that I inspired them; that has made my Sewing Bee journey so worth it.

Can you tell us something about what you have planned in the near future?

Yes there is my clothing brand I am working on. It's called Olivia Kabani - bespoke garments will always be at the heart of it but I plan to mass produce for concessions in boutiques and then eventually bigger high street and department stores.

What was it like to demonstrate certain sewing tasks for filming? Do you find it easy to teach people?

I love teaching, and I always try to get the message across in a way the receiver will understand it. But I must say, doing it for the camera was a little nerve-racking; trying to find the right words to explain the steps was the biggest challenge I found.

Did you enjoy the experience? Is there anything in particular that you enjoyed?

I enjoyed doing the whole thing; I always love a new challenge.

Did you get nervous at all?

Did I!?? Indeed I did, but I always have my 'poker face' on when I'm under pressure.

How did you find working with Create & Craft TV?

It was great working with Create and Craft TV, they took great care of me and the crew were very friendly and professional!

Is this something you would like to do again?

I will definitely do this again. It was a fun day and I enjoyed it.