An inspiring interview with Rumana from the Great British Sewing Bee

The first words that come to mind when you think about Rumana are confident and Inspiring. She's a Junior Doctor for one, warm, creative, articulate and recently featured on ' The Great British Sewing Bee' which takes guts! She hasn't always been confident though as she touches upon in an interview during the show and in a piece for The Guardian Witness section where she discusses Islamophobia and the effects on women, she goes on to share "... I worry about the impact this negativity will have on the more vulnerable in our communities. By ignoring the voices of the majority and promoting this ugly caricature in the media, we risk isolating those who may not have developed a strong sense of themselves. "

You speak about not having confidence before in the video, what message would you give to someone who perhaps is not feeling confident about themselves? 

I’d say to keep your head held high and be proud of who you are. I used to be embarrassed of the way I looked, worrying about what other people would think or say. It took a long time for me to be comfortable in myself and even now I find it hard not to beat myself up. So now I just try to be the best version of myself I can be. 


Being a Junior Doctor must of course be challenging, how do you fit time in for sewing? 

It can be really easy to get sucked into the routine of eat, sleep, work, repeat and I’m definitely guilty of lounging in front of the TV! So now I try to do a little at a time- even if it's just for 30min- whether that’s getting a bit of exercise in, or cutting out a dress pattern- I try and give myself that half an hour to myself before starting on the dishes in the sink. 

You recently met Rima Tadmory for #ataleoftwotailors, the initiative is beautiful, how has that affected your outlook on fashion?

I love this quote from Maya Angelou: “In diversity there is beauty and there is strength”. I think that really reflects what fashion is about- its about self-expression and celebrating individuality.

Having said that, I’m trying to be more conscious about what I buy and where I buy it from. Anyone who sews knows how long it takes, the effort it takes to make a garment, so it's sad to see the conditions the people who make our clothes work in and the salary they get paid. So I’m trying to be ethical about what I buy, and trying to upcycle more. But it’s hard not to get sucked into fast fashion and I’m still not sure what the best way to go about it is- but I’m reading up and open to ideas!

(Saturday 24th September 2016)

(Saturday 24th September 2016)

If you could design/work with for anyone who would it be and why? I really like Naeem Khan and Zuhair Murad, but it’s no secret that I adore Rima Tadmory. She’s an incredible designer and one of the first hijabi designers I ever came across. I love how she makes modest look beautiful with flattering shapes and fabric. She’s also an absolute sweetheart, so I don’t think she’ll mind if I crash her sewing room! I’d love to just watch her at work and hopefully pick up some tips.

What happened to button gate?

Ahh button gate! Anyone who sews will agree with me here- replacing buttons, fixing holes or taking up trousers is the most boring bit of sewing! So when Taufiq, my husband, asks me to replace buttons they’re automatically go to the bottom of my to-do list. I really should have sewn it by now, but it’s become a ‘thing’ now- so it still hasn’t been done after all these years! But in my defense, I have made him two shirts now and when I did go to fix it after I got so many tweets/messages he had packed it away in a box ready for moving home!  I promise I will do it soon!


Winter fashion or Summer?

Winter: I love the warm colours of winter and the fact that it's much easier to find long sleeves/skirts! Summer is normally a nightmare trying to find appropriate clothing which doesn’t involve a million layers which leave you boiling under the sun.

Favourite place to hang out in London  

 I favourite spot in London is Southbank on a sunny day. Nothing can quite beat London on a sunny day. It's just such a shame they’re so infrequent.

Favourite inspiring quote? Perhaps not ‘inspiring’, but keeps me going when things get tough: “God does not burden any soul with more than it can bear”

Favourite  memory. That’s a difficult one! I have so many great memories, but I guess finding out I made it on to The Great British Sewing Bee was a memorable one! I was in a meeting at work when I got the phone call and walked into the first empty room I could find to answer the call. I ended up in a room surrounded by the plastic arms we use to teach medical students how to take blood. It was a bit eerie and very bizarre! I resisted urge to high five them all when I found out I got in.

What is next for the sewing career? Nothing too crazy at the moment! I’ve just started training as a GP so am giving myself some time to settle into that. I’m still posting on my Instagram account and will hopefully start blogging on beginner’s tips and tricks. I’m also mentally compiling a list of ‘hijabi essentials’ I need to make for myself so hopefully, I’ll be able to share that with people when I get around to it!

A recent creation by Rumana

A recent creation by Rumana


Do you have other creative talents, hobbies or interests? 

I’ve always dabbled in crafts- I’m just one of those types of people who have to keep their hands busy and like trying new things. I crochet quite a bit, but enjoy drawing and paper crafts, and recently trying my hand at embroidery art. Taufiq took up Islamic Geometry to give himself something to do while I’m glued to whatever new thing I’m trying, so we’re definitely a couple who enjoy ‘creative time’!

How would you sum up your unique experience on ‘The Great British Sewing Bee?

Now it’s been a few months since it’s aired, it’s starting to feel a little bit more surreal- sometimes I can’t quite believe it actually happened. I’ve been harping on to all my family and friends that I wanted to be on the show- not because I wanted to win, just because I just loved the idea of sewing all the time! But it’s not something I really believe would happen. My experience on The Great British Sewing Bee was amazing. It’s given me so much more confidence in myself and my sewing and introduced me to the most amazing group of people who are a constant source of inspiration and encouragement.

How did you family react to it all?

My family was far more confident in me, than I was in myself. From the moment I put the application in they were certain that I would get picked to me on the show. That belief in me never faltered- even when I called them up after my disastrous chevron top (where I came 10th by a mile) they still thought I would make it through. They’ve been amazingly supportive and excited by the response to the show; we even had a family get-together to watch the first episode!


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