| 7.8°C Belfast

Talking of quilting

Former Great British Bake Off presenter Mel Giedroyc has a new partner for a new podcast. And it's about needlework. Luke Rix-Standing finds out more

Close

Mel Giedroyc

Mel Giedroyc

PA

Mel with co-host Andy Bush

Mel with co-host Andy Bush

PA

Mel Giedroyc Is Quilting, a new podcast in which, unsurprisingly, Mel Giedroyc is quilting, is accompanied by one major mystery. Why would you make a podcast - an audio-only medium - around an entirely visual activity?

Mel Giedroyc Is Quilting, a new podcast in which, unsurprisingly, Mel Giedroyc is quilting, is accompanied by one major mystery. Why would you make a podcast - an audio-only medium - around an entirely visual activity?

PA

Mel Giedroyc

Mel Giedroyc Is Quilting, a new podcast in which, unsurprisingly, Mel Giedroyc is quilting, is accompanied by one major mystery. Why would you make a podcast - an audio-only medium - around an entirely visual activity?

"Well," says Giedroyc, "we wanted to do something that would allow for a lot of free-wheeling banter. We didn't want to just sit in a room and chat, so we thought it would be fun to do something that people could follow visually as we went along."

The idea was to keep conversation loose, while structuring episodes around the steady accumulation of quilted squares. "We kicked around a few other ideas," she says, "like household tasks. A hoovering episode, a washing up episode... It sounds fairly dull actually, now that I talk about it."

The podcast sees Giedroyc slap bang in the middle of her comfort zone, chinwagging happily about everything from childhood memories to David Hasselhoff. The tone is comfy, the music tinkling, and the banter engagingly frothy, demanding to be enjoyed by the light of a log fire on a cold winter's evening, complete with cocoa and cat.

"I love the idea of somebody just putting headphones on, maybe in one of those chairs with a little footrest, and just gently nodding off," she says. "I take a stranger's nod-off as a great compliment."

Giedroyc thrives in a double act, and has now traded in long-time sparring partner Sue Perkins for one-time sparring partner Andy Bush. The pair previously presented a Saturday show on Magic FM, and hit it off so well that another collaboration felt inevitable.

"We specialised in going off on tangents," says Bush, "and getting stuff back from listeners. We had a little cult following and we really missed working together every week."

He doesn't get his name on the tin, but Bush personifies the pod's geek-chic feel. By day a Radio DJ who's interviewed Keith Richards, by night the proprietor of a weekly board-gaming group, he perfectly straddles the boundaries of cool. "I'm a bit of a nerd really," he says, "but the last time I went near a needle and thread was in home economics at school."

Neither Geidroyc or Bush are seasoned sewers, and getting to grips with needlework was far from easy. "I'm going to 'fess up," says Giedroyc, "my mum showed me the ropes, but otherwise, a cushion cover I made when I was 13 is just about the sum of our collective training."

Multitasking is a must, but for Giedroyc that's a blessing in disguise. "I've been thinking about this a lot - if you're doing something that takes a bit of concentration, then the chat is freer. When your mind is only half the chat, you can't be sitting there thinking 'Right, what are we going to talk about next?' It's all very meandering and organic."

"It goes back to how quilts were made on the prairie, back in the day," says Bush, tongue partly in cheek, "it was people sitting having conversations. A lot of storytelling went into it, and we're channelling that a little bit."

The pair poll their listeners for stories and patches, but got the ball rolling with nuggets of their own. Giedroyc cut a hole from one of her husband's shirts - a present she suspected he didn't like - and had her suspicions confirmed when he conspicuously failed to notice. "It proves he's gone nowhere near the shirt," she whispers, "but also he isn't listening to the podcast. I've got to keep my voice down because he's downstairs."

Lifelong Toffees fan Bush risked the ire of club loyalists by taking the scissors to his old Everton shirt, producing a square of slippery nylon that proved a challenge for a quilting novice. "I've had a lot of ups and downs in that shirt," he says, "mostly downs. For the first episode, I wanted to go all in."

Early guest patches come from Shaun Ryder of the Happy Mondays ("I'm sure he's a big fan of embroidering"), and Mock The Week team captain Hugh Dennis. "We'll have Shaun Ryder next to a lovely lady called Annette," says Giedroyc, "who sent us a gorgeous piece of fabric from something she's making for her new grand-daughter. We're stitching for democracy."

Celebrity guests were always part of the plan, but the pair had not accounted for the size of the online quilting community. There's already a crowded marketplace of quilting podcasts (Modern Sewciety, Jackie's Quilting Chronicles, Hip To Be A Square), a dedicated quilting magazine ("they've already been in touch!"), and the highly-coveted QuiltCon, a worldwide celebration of all things thread-based, in Austin, Texas.

QuiltCon immediately became a holy grail for the novice needleworkers."It would be like having your show transferred to Broadway," says Giedroyc.

The podcast has done one thing even Bake Off never managed - drag Giedroyc kicking and screaming on to social media. "I'm on the podcast Instagram," she says warily, "but I still don't know how to get it on my phone. We have a lovely guy called Silas who helps us with all that stuff. He's our quilter filter."

Giedroyc has dipped a toe into the social media cesspool, but has no plans to brave the slings and arrows of Twitter. "Twitter is awful," says Bush, "it's like a rough pub where you knock someone's pint and get into a fight. Instagram is lovely, like a gastropub."

An occupational hazard of being Mel Giedroyc is that Great British Bake Off will follow you everywhere you go. "I feel nothing but warmth towards Bake Off. It was an incredible seven years, and I hope that Sue and I helped fuel the tone of it as a kind and fun show. I don't mind talking about it at all - it's like reminiscing with an old friend. There was so much laughter in that tent."

Unlike Bake Off, a quilt can go on forever. "The idea of a quilt is sort of endless," muses Giedroyc, "and it can go anywhere, just like the chat. We could easily sit and chat for seven hours, that's why we cottoned on to it." She pauses. "Ahem. Sorry."

Mel Giedroyc Is Quilting is available on Apple, Spotify and all other podcast providers.

Belfast Telegraph