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TV's Angeline Murphy wants ‘to bring sexy back into sewing'

A 30-year-old marketing manager from the Mourne Mountains, Angeline Murphy, is one of the contestants on hit TV show The Great British Sewing Bee. She tells Joanne Sweeney about newfound fame, her passion for making garments and how her grannies got her into it

Angeline Murphy from Co Down who’s currently appearing in The Great British Sewing Bee, the next episode of which is on BBC Two tonight
Joanne Sweeney

ANGELINE Murphy is a Co Down seamstress who wants to bring the sexy back into home-made women’s clothes design.

She’s currently riding high in the fourth series of surprise hit The Great British Sewing Bee on BBC Two, which regularly attracts over three and half million viewers.

The 30-year-old from Atticall in the Mournes twice won the ‘garment of the week’ acclaim, for her stunning pencil skirt with deep peplum hem and a gorgeous woollen cape she made for a little girl on last week’s show.

How far she will go in the show, hosted by Claudia Winkleman from Strictly Come Dancing under the scrutiny of tough judges – tailor Patrick Grant and fashion design lecturer Esme Young – is anyone’s guess but her flair for designing clothes that are a little bit different has won her much praise so far.

The fit Angeline managed to get on the female model for her skirt was impressive and she overcame the judges’ scepticism for wanting to add a tartan inset into the back of the cape to "make an impression as you walk away".

“I’ve want to make sexy, glam clothes that you can’t get anywhere else,” says Angeline who has now started taking commissions for bridesmaids dresses and evening wear.

“I hope to host sewing classes in the near future helping people to learn to sew fashionable garments. I want to take away the stigma that sewing is for the older generation.”

She and the nine other contestants have to make a garment from a pattern, recreate a new garment out of an existing garment and then make their own bespoke garment at the end of the show for a real-life model who can be for a man, woman or child.

Angeline has become quite an overnight star in craft circles and around her family and friends and beyond – much to her amusement.

She says: “I am getting recognised quite a bit now, which is lovely but strange at the same time. It’s a bit surreal. My parents Marie and Willie Sloan love it and are right behind me, as are my brothers Liam and Joseph.”

Even the macho service engineers at firmus energy where she works as a marketing manager say that they have started to watch the show – and, what’s more, are enjoying it.

“All the men in work are watching it and say they all love it. They tell me they are only watching it because I’m in it but they think it’s really great,” jokes Angeline.

Angeline became interested in sewing as a child by watching her two grannies at work – Granny Sloan made her a duck toy and her Granny McArdle’s Singer machine took pride of place in her home. One of her brothers bought her own sewing machine as a Christmas present 10 years ago which set her on the road to success. Later she was inspired to start making her own clothes by watching the first series of the programme.

“I remember thinking ‘I need to learn how to sew garments’ when I watched the first episode of the first series,” she says.

“I had previously only turned up trousers and done simple things but I knew I wanted to challenge myself. I would literally sit and watch with a notepad and pen and jot down the techniques that I needed to learn.”

“From then I decided to make my own bridesmaid dresses. My two best friends, whom I have known since St Louis [grammar school, Kilkeel], Aisling and Paula, agreed kindly to wear one of my designs.

“I started researching pattern designs and eventually sketched the design I wanted which included lots of beautiful chiffon and draped pearls. On my wedding day I was so proud to see my girls walk up the aisle in my handmade dresses."

She married Fergal Murphy 18 months ago but admits she was not brave enough to make her own dress as she’s "too fussy” and would want everything perfect. As she attends a lot of social events and dinners for work, Angeline makes a lot of her own dresses and believes that other women could do it for themselves as well.

Now settled in Magheralin, Co Armagh, it was Fergal who encouraged Angeline to apply for the show. She never thought that after watching the show as a fan she would ever win a place on it out of 10,000 entrants.

“It was a rigorous process which involved telephone interviews, flights to and from London for TV interviews before finally getting the call in January this year to say we would be starting to film in March,” explains Angeline.

“The BBC cast were over at my family home in Atticall in February shooting some back stories with the family and my husband.

“There was also a mock programme to see how you would deal with the pressure of the challenges and the filming. I couldn’t believe it when I found out I was on the programme and up against nine other brilliant sewers.

“The challenges are really tough and even more so when you are put under time pressure. We had to make a child’s babygro, but I never would in real life, I would just buy one as they’re only about £5. So to say I was out of my comfort zone in some of the challenges is an understatement.

“The sewing room is intense with about 30 people behind eight cameras at any one time. The cameras loved pressure and I found out that if you said anything too loud, the cameras would whizz round to you just when you least wanted them there.

“Claudia was absolutely lovely and would always try to help by telling us what the judges were looking for but the producers were absolutely strict on the time that you had to do each challenge.”

In between her home and professional life and now her developing career as a seamstress and designer, Angeline is also training as a triathlete and has completed eight marathons so far.

 

:: The Great British Sewing Bee is on BBC Two tonight at 9pm. To contact Angeline visit www.angelinemurphy.com.

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