Meet The Great British Sewing Bee 2019 winner, Juliet Uzor

Phew months may have passed but hands up who else can remember last year's emotional Great British Sewing Bee final? No YOU shed a tear when 34-year-old Juliet Uzor scooped the 2019 crown. We meet up with Juliet to talk about her time on the show...

Great-British-Sewing-Bee-Winner-Juliet-Uzor

After wowing us with 8 weeks of ridiculous next-level sewing last Spring, she definitely earned the Queen Bee prize. We’ve just rewatched Juliet’s reaction to hearing the news she won The Great British Sewing Bee 2019 and yep, we cried again! The London primary school teacher emerged triumphant as the winner of last year’s series and yep, she pretty much smashed every single challenge that Patrick and Esme threw at her.

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Now Juliet’s gearing up to teaching a series of free upcycling demos at this weekend’s The Stitch Festival’s Stitch Stage we’re reliving the many highs of her time in the Bee and finding out what she’s been up to in the year since series 6 aired.

The Great British Sewing Bee Juliet
“It’s really surreal, so so unbelievable, I have never won anything ever. I have had to fight for a lot of things and really really work hard and I can’t believe it! It shows that anyone can sew, it doesn’t matter how old you are, or if you have been learning to sew from when you were little, just get out there and have a go!”

One of the reasons we love Juliet (aside from her ability to turn net curtains into a stylish evening dress and whip up the jumpsuit of our dreams) is that she’s coined some of our favourite new sewing mottos along the way, from ‘Just Youtube it’ to  ‘Engage Speed Sewing Mode’. 

Meet Juliet at The Stitch Festival!

Juliet Uzor will be demonstrating dressmaking and upcycling techniques at The Stitch Festival in London from 27 February to 1 March 2020. Find her on The Stitch Stage at these times

  • Thursday 27th February: Upcycle a Denim Jacket (11.45am)
  • Friday 28th February: Machine Sew a Hair Band (2.15pm)
  • Saturday 29th February: Make a Sewing machine pin band (4.30pm)
  • Sunday 1st March: Upcycle a Denim Jacket 

So how did she get through the 8 weeks of technical sewing challenges and 147 garments to became Britain’s Best Amateur Sewist of 2019?

Juliet Uzor Great British Sewing Bee

How did it feel to be the winner?

“I was in total shock and I really couldn’t believe it.  I was really emotional as I just didn’t think it would happen, I had very little confidence in myself, and I didn’t ever think that something that big would happen to me ever.

It means the world to me. Even until this day, I still can’t believe it, considering the fact that sewing is a self-taught skill I learnt later in life.

What about your fellow finalists?

“Riccardo is so creative and has great designer ideas, and Leah was so instinctive throughout and always created such great transformation challenges – much better than me.  I am more of a follow the pattern sewer, so I felt under great pressure.  I really admire them both, they were great finalists, and we all supported each other all the way and to the end.”

Did you ever imagine you could get to this stage?

“From the very first week listening to how long people had been sewing [and the fact that I had taught myself to sew] I made a plan to get past week 1, but I didn’t think I would get to week 2.  When I won Garment of the Week in Episode 1 it really boosted my confidence and made me feel that actually I might be ok at this. ”

What went wrong in the final and what were the best bits?

“The transformation challenge was a total nightmare for me, we had lace curtains and we had to make a wearable garment, and I don’t even want to think about it now.  Disaster.  I really enjoyed making the men’s waistcoat and I really enjoyed making my strapless evening gown, that was my highlight, as I really wanted to create a show-stopping evening gown for my cousin, Maxine.”

I would like to thank my family for supporting me and making me believe in myself, they really did and I will always be grateful for that, and that they have been part of the experience.
Juliet Uzor

What was it like to share the experience of winning with the other Bees?

Everyone was so happy for me, they were so so supportive and the kindness was completely overwhelming, their congratulations made me feel really warm inside.

How did it feel keeping the fact that you’d won?

“Keeping it a secret from friends and family has been a complete torture to keep hush.  As the show was airing I wanted to shout it out from the top of my voice, but of course I couldn’t talk.  My immediate family were the only ones that knew.  So it has been hard to keep the best secret of my life to myself!”

Your guide to the Bee

Our complete guide to The Great British Sewing Bee includes teasers for the new season and the most up-to-date news on plans for the 2020 show.  

Esme Young of the Great British Sewing Bee

How did you watch the Final?

“For the first three episodes we had mini parties at home, and I did a lot of crying and felt really embarrassed.  So for the final I wanted to have just my nearest and dearest with me, and have them altogether at home with me.  We had a few tears, but a great evening all round.”

Great British Sewing Bee Winner

What have you been up to since then and what have been your sewing highlights since winning?

I have been busy spreading the love of sewing, teaching sewing lessons in groups and also with private tuition for people who prefer personalised learning. I have also started the Sew So Natural YouTube channel.

We’re thrilled that you’ll be sharing your upcycling tips at The Stitch Festival. What is it that you enjoy about upcycling and can you tell us about some of your favourite upcycled garments from your wardrobe?

I love to give old clothing a new lease of life. My local high street is full of charity shops which I call treasure caves. I love collecting old buttons, zippers and accessories from old clothing and reusing them. There was an old designer denim jacket I once picked up from my local Barnardo’s. It had cool rustic zippers and buttons. I saved them and used the fabric to create a new clutch bag. That was the birth of my upcycling journey!

At The Stitch Festival I'll be demonstrating how to transform an old denim jacket into a clutch bag in just 30 minutes.

Is there a time when you can imagine having a wardrobe that is 100% handmade or upcycled?  

Funny you asked that! My resolution for the new year is to stop purchasing items of clothing apart from underwear and it’s been going well so far.

Sewing Bee judge Esme Young will be at The Stitch Festival too – are you looking forward to seeing her again?

I am really looking forward to seeing Esme again. She’s a total legend with an eye for detail. I learnt so much from her during the Sewing Bee and would love to hear about her sewing life and career in a totally different environment.

What advice do you have for people who are new to sewing?

My biggest advice is go for it! If an ordinary primary school teacher could walk into a shop, purchase a sewing machine without a byte of knowledge at all, you too can do it. YouTube, blogs and books are your friends.

Juliet Uzor Profile Picture
Juliet Uzor © Stewart Williams

You’ve said previously that you’re not a confident person. What would you say sewing has brought to your life?

Upon reflection, I’m really pleased with the growth in my confidence. Sewing has thrown me right out of my comfort zone and allowed me to meet new people, network and feel confident in who I am.

We can’t finish without asking about your favourite ever make. Tell us about the garment, from Sewing Bee or otherwise, that you’ve loved making – and wearing – the most.

I feel like a mum who’s been asked to choose a favourite child! The closest garment I would choose as my favourite would have to be my pattern clash jumpsuit from the Sewing Bee.

When did you first start sewing and why do you love it so much?

“I started sewing in 2013 and I love it so much because for me, sewing is an escape and my happy place. I also love sewing because of the opportunity it gives me to create the sorts of clothing I love to wear which aren’t readily accessible on the high street in my favourite fabrics.”

Who was your mentor?

“My mentor is Nicky Cook, a pattern cutter, who ran sewing groups locally a few years ago. She even encouraged me to go ahead and apply for the Sewing Bee. I’ve also been encouraged by my husband whose feedback after seeing every sewing project I’ve shown him has always been constructive and I’m glad I took his feedback on board in order to improve on my sewing ability.”

What is your favourite type of garment to sew?

“I love sewing occasion wear – I guess I’m a bit of a show off when it comes to the things I sew. I’d rather spend time on gorgeous outerwear and occasion garments rather than on clothes like activewear, loungewear, sleepwear or inner wears.”

Why did you want to be a Great British Sewing Bee?

“I wanted to be in the Sewing Bee because I wanted a challenge. I wanted to have a go at different types of sewing challenges that would throw me out of my comfort zone. I really wanted to meet both Patrick and Esme but thank God for Joe, whose overall presence in the sewing room made me feel chilled.”

What was it like when you first walked into the sewing room?

“First walking into the sewing room was quite daunting because I felt slightly out of place. I was only used to sewing in my little sewing room and had never really sewn in the presence of unfamiliar people. Also, the last episode of the Sewing Bee which I had watched was a total blur! I had forgotten the format of the series as it had been ages since I watched season 4. The entire process was completely daunting in fact!”

What’s your must have sewing tool?

I love scissors and have tons of them in my stash. I’m not attached to them the way I am attached to my tape measure though. Once, I had mine around my neck and accidentally wore it out to the mall. It was only when I got home that I realised that I did – no wonder I had lots of stares from people.”

The Great British Sewing Bee Joe Lycett and Juliet Uzor

In your sewing life: What has been your worst sewing disaster and your biggest triumph?

“I’ve had so many sewing disasters but the most annoying and recurrent one which I just can’t avoid is sewing along a long seam with no bobbin thread. I’m sure that even the most experienced sewers do it. My biggest triumph was meeting Patrick and Esme and actually have them comment on my sewing. It’s a dream come true!”

Describe your style, and how much of your own clothes do you make?

“My style involves a lot of bright, bold and colourful print and most of the out-going clothes I own, I’ve made by myself.”

Can you give a sewing tip for amateur sewers who have been enjoying the show?

“My sewing tip for amateur sewers is to practise practice practice! There’s so much resource out there and the sewing online community is a very supportive one. Seek support and apply whatever tip you learn immediately!”

What is the best way to describe the relationship between this year’s Bees?

We connected in a way that I didn’t expect and I can proudly say that I now have 9 friends who love sewing like I do.

What’s next for you?

“I really don’t know, but my ultimate goal is to give something back.  I would like to share my sewing knowledge, but I am leaving my options open and let’s see what happens.  Everybody and anyone should be able to sew, it’s not age or gender specific, and you don’t have to have previous knowledge.  So I just want to get people sewing!

I don’t have huge self esteem and confidence, but this win has made me believe in myself a bit more.  I am thrilled beyond words.”

The Great British Sewing Bee net curtain refashion
Net curtains have never looked this good!
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Juliet taught herself to sew using YouTube videos and sewing DVDs. She enjoys sewing garments with bright, bold fabrics and African wax prints. She offers a bespoke garment making service, sewing tuition and events on her website  www.sewsonatural.com, regularly posts updates about her work on instagram @sewsonatural  and shares videos on her Youtube channel Sew So Natural.