A Penrith family business was in the limelight as it made alterations to the iconic white suit worn by The Stig for the first episode of Top Gear’s current series which was set in Cumbria.
Work by the Sewing Bird on Duke Street’s featured in the award-winning BBC show which saw presenters Paddy McGuinness, Chris Harris, and Freddie Flintoff drive through the Lake District in their fathers’ cars.
The costume was turned into 70s bell-bottoms and complimented with a knitted vest top for a surprise appearance from The Stig’s Dad.
At 45 minutes into the programme, the character gets out of his rally car and stands arms-crossed, showcasing the Sewing Bird’s stellar work.
“He’s got a pair of flares on as well” said presenter and ex-cricketer Freddie Flintoff, as the camera zoomed in on the trousers.
“Nice!” replied comedian Paddy McGuinness.
Emma Wallace, who owns the shop, said: “It looked spot on, but it was just so weird, seeing something we’ve made on television. I was absolutely gobsmacked to be asked at all.”
Margaret Anderson, Emma’s mother, who carried out the alterations, said: “It was very random, but we got it done and sorted. I do a lot of bridal work, so I had some satin in exactly the same colour.”
She then quilted the material to match the suit, made it into bell-bottoms and added a black cuff, in keeping with the original design.
She added that a man from the BBC called them out-of-the-blue, asking if they could turn the suit around in less than 24 hours. He dropped it off one morning and picked it up at 7.30am the next day.
The team is used to odd requests though. “We do a lot of work that nobody else will touch,” joked Margaret.
She regularly makes specialised dresses, with just a photo for reference, and once remade a teddy bear which had been ravaged by a dog.
In the Stig’s Dad rallying challenge, the Top Gear team can be seen turning up to High Cross in Grisdale Forest to race around four miles of gravel tracks.
After racing around the area, which is “renowned for its rallying heritage”, according to Chris Harris, they make a dash to Windemere Ferry for the finale.
A spokesman for Cumbria County Council said: “We were delighted to welcome BBC Top Gear presenters Freddie Flintoff, Paddy McGuinness and Chris Harris on board our Windermere Ferry while they were filming in the Lakes for their new series.”
Margaret, now 63, who has been sewing since the age of four, said: “Dressmaking is a dying art. People do craft things nowadays, but most people can’t even put in a zip or do a hem.”
A thoroughbred seamstress, she can trace her family’s tailoring history back until 1700 and even made and sold dolls clothes from the age of six.
She taught her own children to sew and boasts that her son in London can buy fabric in the morning and go out in the evening wearing a new shirt he has made for himself.
“I’m just of that generation,” she said.
- The first episode of Top Gear is available to watch on the BBC iPlayer