A super stitcher from Billingshurst is currently impressing judges as a contestant on BBC2 series ‘the Great British Sewing Bee’.
On Tuesday night (March 4) viewers saw Lynda Lewis, who suffers from nerve deafness, proceed to the next round after she was successfully crowned the winner of the first task of the third episode.
The 58-year-old told the County Times: “It’s been amazing, everywhere I go people are recognising me and saying such lovely things. “I get really choked up and I didn’t expect it at all so it’s been a really big surprise for me that people have reacted the way that have.”
Despite having no intentions of entering the show, Lynda, who works as a learning support assistant for a deaf child with Downs Syndrome at Billingshurst Primary School, was persuaded by her eldest daughter to send in an application form and was told the following day she had been shortlisted.
“I was amazed,” added Lynda, who moved to Billingshurst from Caerphilly in Wales two years ago to be closer to her grandchildren.
“The first thing I had to do was go to school and talk to my headteacher and ask if I could have the time off because there would have been no point even going to the interview if she wasn’t happy and without her blessing I wasn’t happy to do it. She was fine with it and it went from there.”
The series is presented by Claudia Winkleman and now has eight episodes, compared to four in the first series, and sees finalists competing in three sewing challenges during the hour-long show which are then judged by May Martin, from the Women’s Institute, and Savile Row’s Patrick Grant.
Lynda grew up surrounded by all things sewing as her mother was a tailoress. She made her first dress when she was in junior school and currently loves nothing more than making things for her grandchildren.
It was also at a young age, around 11-years-old, that Lynda also realised that she was unable to hear properly. This was particularly so when teachers in class would turn their back to write on a blackboard and she wouldn’t know what was being said.
At first she wasn’t believed due to the fact she was able to speak so well and, despite numerous trips to the doctors with her mother, it wasn’t until years later that she was diagnosed.
Lynda explained: “It wasn’t until I was 23 that I said I was going back to the doctors and not leaving until they let me go to hospital because I’ve had enough of it. They gave me an appointment at the hospital and had my very first hearing test and they said ‘oh you are deaf and you lip read remarkably well’.”
Lynda was given one hearing aid before having to use two when her hearing gradually got worse. She is able to hear some sounds, but not which direction they’re coming from, and she is unable to pick up the human voice. Without the hearing aids she can’t hear anything.
But she didn’t let her deafness affect her time on the Sewing Bee, and even went on to win garment of the week for her men’s pyjamas in the second show.
“The first week was difficult because I don’t think they realised how deaf I was and people forget because I talk okay, but they were brilliant,” she continued.
“I had an interpreter with me all the time and she was great but also the people that were there, the crew, they would sign to me. They would ask the interpreter what things are and sign things like asking me if I wanted a cup of tea. It was really nice because everyone made an effort to communicate with me.”
Lynda has been overwhelmed with the support she has received from her family, deaf organisations, on social media and when she has been recognised on the street including at a recent trip to Fisher’s Farm Park where a little girl who wanted to show Lynda her handmade dress.
“It’s been amazing, everywhere I go. People are recognising me and saying such lovely things. I get really choked up and I didn’t expect it at all so it’s been a really big surprise for me that people have reacted the way that have.”
See how Lynda gets on in the episode of the Great British Sewing Bee which be shown on BBC2 at 8pm on Tuesday March 11.
Find Lynda on Twitter @SigningStitcher.
For our full feature with Lynda, see next week’s WOW Guide (March 13).