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Chinelo Bally Interview

An interview with Chinelo Bally

Find out about how Chinelo learnt freehand sewing and how you can learn from her in her upcoming sewing classes.

Hi Chinelo, How and when did you learn to sew?

Hi!!! I got into sewing by chance really, I have always loved fashion and always added my own twist on things; the main catalyst was the fact that I couldn’t find tops that made me think wow! So in Jan 2011 I told my husband that I wanted a sewing machine, I’m sure he wasn’t surprised because I’m always finding new things to do with my hands. 

The machine sat idle for a few months after failed attempts at cutting a top and a skirt (freehand). I finally decided to go to my aunty who is a dressmaker and I sat watching her work for 3 months, taking notes and doodling what she was doing; I still refer to my little sketches sometimes.

What kind of thing do you prefer to sew?

I love making dresses, especially going out dresses, evening gowns, really glamorous stuff. I love to feel feminine and I love my curves so I love making clothes that celebrate these things. When I make clothes for my customers I want them to feel like a new woman.

Tell me more about freehand cutting, I’m intrigued as to how it works. Do you have lots of blocks memorised?  Or do you mentally deconstruct garments to figure out how to make them?

I think it’s a mixture of the 2, when you learn freehand, there are the basic cuts and dimensions which are standard, it’s all about marking measurements, positioning darts and shaping out the garment; these are all terms that are used in freehand cutting. There is also the process of mentally deconstructing a garment and translating what you have done mentally onto the fabric; I often see garments in magazines, shops, films, etc. and set myself the challenge of recreating them, sometimes I make mistakes which are actually discoveries. From practicing I know how to sculpt clothes around the female body without using the draping method; when I first started learning I would ask my aunties and friends if I could make clothes for them, I really wanted to learn how to make great fitting clothes for women of all shapes and sizes.

Do you ever use commercial patterns or do you prefer not to?

The first commercial pattern I ever used was on the show for the pattern challenge, and first and only one I have ever bought was for the pyjama challenge (ep 2). The pattern I used for my trouser legs (ep 5) I drafted myself because I’m not perfect at doing trousers freehand and didn’t want to spend time figuring it out on the show considering the timed conditions. I am quite a spontaneous person and my mind is always working in overdrive mode, I sometimes set out to make one design and then change it as I go along, this is why I love the free hand method, I am not restricted at all.

What made you apply for The Sewing Bee?  Could you pass on any advice to anyone else who is considering it?

I applied because my younger brother showed me a poster in a shop window in Walthamstow and said “Chinelo you can do this”. Tunde saw the first series and told me about it, we watched it and really enjoyed it. I Know I had something unique to offer so I thought I’d go for it. I also wanted people to know that sewing is something that everyone can do. To anyone who wants to do the show, If you love sewing genuinely, then this is the competition for you. It is an experience you will never forget.

Chinelo Bally dressmaking

How did it feel when you found out you had made it onto the show?

It was amazing. Tunde and I were so happy and excited.

You are through to the quarterfinals now, what would it mean to you to win? 

Now that Jenny is not with us anymore, I am the least experienced sewer of the group, winning would prove to me that experience isn’t always what counts, but dedication and real passion can excel a person.


What have you enjoyed the most about the show, and what have you enjoyed the least?

It has truly been a fantastic experience, I have mostly enjoyed learning from May and Patrick and swapping knowledge with the other contestants. The worst part of it is saying good bye to whoever gets dropped, we all get along really well.

What has been your favourite challenge to date?

My favourite Challenges so far have been the wrap dress and the prom dress, these are the kinds of things I love to make.

Where do you buy the beautiful African print fabrics you used in the show? 

I usually get them from Hardwick Textiles in London, a fabric shop directly opposite Upton Park or there are loads of shops that stock them in Petticoat Lane Market.

What do you plan to do after the show?

I Plan to keep working on my dream of becoming a fashion designer. I am currently working on the website, I plan to focus on bespoke garments and then hopefully expand supplying boutiques. Those were my plans before the bee but who knows what else could be in store for me

Lastly could you please share your top sewing tips with us?

Don’t be afraid to try your hands at new fabrics and even if you don’t do very well with it first time round, don’t give it up, the more you handle a specific fabric the more you understand how it works.

Find out more about Chinelo and her forthcoming sewing classes by visiting or find her on Twitter.

Top image credit: Love Productions