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TV sewing soldier Neil Stace: I practised during the Troubles

By Rod Minchin

A tough Army officer who used to hold needlework classes on the Falls Road during the Troubles hopes he has put an end to the stigma attached to men sewing after finishing in the top three of a TV competition.

Lieutenant Colonel Neil Stace said he was stunned at how he has suddenly become famous as "that man who sews" and has revealed his joy at getting out the needle and thread.

After showing off his skills on the BBC TV series The Great British Sewing Bee, he hopes other men who love to sew have been helped.

As well as Northern Ireland, the 46-year-old married father-of-two has completed multiple tours from Afghanistan to Bosnia and everywhere he went, his 1960s sewing machine followed.

He said: "I use to make curtains for the accommodation in Bosnia for the lads and modified combat jackets.

"In Northern Ireland I took my sewing machine just off the Falls Road and had several sewing projects.

"At times I found it very therapeutic where I had certain challenges on. Yes it is a part of relaxation, especially in those sorts of environments."

He has made everything from ball gowns for his wife Kate, outfits for school productions and sniper suits for soldiers after taking up sewing at primary school in Hong Kong.

Lt Col Stace, who coaches rugby at the London Irish Academy, said: "I'm really stunned about how people are interested, I really am.

"There's clearly a big market out there for blokes who want to sew but are perhaps not prepared to have a go because of the stigma that goes with blokes sewing.

"I would like to think I've sort of put an end to that.

Col Stace said he really enjoyed The Great British Sewing Bee, even though it was hard work.

"It was fantastic filming. I was quite surprised what hard work it was."

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