Meet Sara Pascoe the new host of the Great British Sewing Bee
The Sewing Bee is back with a brand new host! We spoke to comedian Sara Pascoe to get all of the behind-the-scenes gossip about our fave show
We're very excited to get to know Sara Pascoe from the Great British Sewing Bee, who is the show's new presenter. Of course, she has some big shoes to fill as she takes over from former host Joe Lycett.
Comedian and actress Sara, 40, is best known for her role as Coco Lomax in the BBC comedies W1A and Twenty Twelve and appearances on 8 Out Of 10 Cats, Live at the Apollo and QI.
She also hosts the panel show Guessable on Comedy Central. She appeared in The Thick Of It, Free Agents and Being Human, wrote and starred in the BBC2 comedy Out of Her Mind and has written two books – Animal: The Autobiography of a Female Body and Sex Power Money.
We caught up with Sara to discover how she got on with the newest batch of contestants and her favourite Transformation challenges. Plus she dishes the dirt on Patrick's dating diary and Esme's Fruitella addiction.
Want to know more about the Sewing Bee? Check out our Great British Sewing Bee guide for the latest news from the show. When the show is on the air, we also regularly update our Sewing Bee episode guide with highlights and patterns to sew.
Read on to get to know the Great British Sewing Bee host Sara Pascoe…
Having taken part in Celebrity Sewing Bee 2020, you know what it's like to be on the other side of the sewing machine. Did that help you as the new host?
Well, actually, what it did was undermine me terribly. They’d all seen me making terrible Christmas things the year before, so there was no me coming in saying: ‘Did you not think about using French seams?’ They were like: ‘Don't pretend you know about sewing…’ But all the people who make the show are incredibly sensitive to the wellbeing of the sewers. It’s a safe space where they can flourish. And so, having done it before, I knew how kind it was.
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And I guess that makes you even more supportive of the sewers…
Well, quite often what I was seeing was incredibly talented people be very, very hard on themselves. Lots of creative people in all different fields, amateur or professional, hold themselves to very high standards. I felt like, a lot of the time, I was just going round saying ‘This is so great. You’re doing really well. Just remember how proud you should be of yourself.’ We can all do with a cheerleader in our life.
As you struggled to make festive pyjamas on Sewing Bee, did you think: ‘Oh, I'd like to host this show…’
Do you know what? I stupidly looked at Joe [Lycett] coming in and out and thought: ‘It’s brilliant. He only works for about 10 minutes a day…’ So, when I agreed to the job, I’d envisioned myself on a sofa laid out eating snacks. Obviously, there's a lot more content than goes into the programme. I had to re-evaluate how hard Joe was working.
How did you come to take over hosting duties?
There were auditions, so it was: ‘We’re going to be finding a new presenter. Would you like to be considered?’ Then, ‘Will you meet us and do some tapes?’ There were a few people and you always end up wanting things more because you’re competitive. When I realised I was up against lots of other comedians, I was like: ‘OK. I'm really gonna have to try my best.’
And it’s easier to host than it is to do the sewing…
Yes. It's a really lovely show. I didn't feel like we were making a TV programme. It felt like there was a group of sewers and a group of people who interview and film the sewers and all of us were just there having a competition. I was astonished by the talent and creativity of people. They are artists. Every one of them went on a journey out of their comfort zone. Quite often people are highly skilled in one area of sewing. The minute you tell someone who makes lovely dresses to make a Parka or clothes for children, they have to learn. There was always real growth. We had really hard pattern challenges. We had lacy underwear one week.
And then, you have to send one sewer home every week. That must be hard…
I got incredibly embarrassed – because I was pregnant, I was more hormonal than I would have liked to have been. Occasionally, I was already crying at Garment of the Week. I'd be so happy for the person who won. Sending someone home, it’s just horrible being the person who goes: ‘Actually, it’s you.’ I was really grateful no one ever really went home after a disaster. Usually, they had a good week, but everyone else had done that bit better. No one let themselves down.
What were your three favourite challenges?
My favourite Transformation was netball kits because they look so terrible to begin with and everyone finds PE kits incredibly triggering. The idea of turning those into a going out outfit in 90 minutes… I thought it was impossible. I was so impressed. I was impressed at all of the Transformations. My favourite pattern challenge was when they made the amorphous dress – a design by Swanky Modes and Esme. Esme is this rock ’n' roll punk having an incredible life and it was brilliant to celebrate that.
My favourite Made-to-Measure was using old duvets to make a dress in Reduce, Reuse and Recycle Week. Everyone has old duvets in their house, so I hope people are inspired. You can make amazing things. You'll be really surprised. I’d say 90% of them, you wouldn't think it had been a duvet. They were like designer dresses. Really beautiful.
How was it working with Patrick and Esme?
They're very, very, very lovely people and the luckiest thing about the job is we laughed a lot. It's lucky to have that at work. You can't take that for granted when you make TV. The days are very long – sometimes 14 hours. They start very early. We're in a cold former woollen mill in Leeds. But we laughed a lot. There were lots of in-jokes. Lots of snacks. There was lots of Patrick saying he wasn't going to snack until 12. I'd say: ‘I'm not going to eat anything sugary only healthy things…’
And Esme was on the Fruitellas. I've never seen anyone eat so many sweeties. I don't want to out her as an addict, but I would say it was a problem. And there were Beyoncé moments because she doesn't like the pink ones. A runner would be going through the Fruitellas to remove the pink ones and they were the ones the rest of us were allowed. Esme had taken the best colours. You didn't hear it from me…
Are you ready to field requests from people that a) want a date with Patrick and b) want to know where Esme got her necklace or dress from?
Yes. I'm going to end up being a conduit. I'll be having to do Patrick’s dating diary because he's a very eligible bachelor and very popular with women of all ages. As we were away from home, we often socialised on our day off and I saw all the different kinds of women who approached Patrick for a selfie. There was a constant stream aged from 21 up to 80 or 90.
The whole spectrum of humanity wants to kiss Patrick. Though Patrick was bubbled with us, so there was no kissing for him. Esme and I would roll our eyes every time a woman approached. We’d be like: ‘Here comes another one…’
What did Joe say about you getting the job?
I happened to see Joe the night I had the audition, so he knew I was in the process from the beginning. He was the first person to text me – before it was publicised I'd got the job. He said, ‘You're going to have such a great time. You’re so lucky.’
What's been the reaction from fellow comedians and showbiz pals…
It’s a really beloved show. I had a gig last night with Rachel Parris and she was like, ‘Oh, it's a dream job. You're so lucky.’ I had lovely tweet messages from people like Jenny Eclair, who I know did the Children in Need one several years ago. Lots of comics reached out to say well done and/or really jealous because that's a dream job.
Has doing the show changed your attitude towards clothes?
Yes. You don't think about how things are made, you just pop them on, don't you? Seeing how difficult certain things were to make, which look deceptively simple, gave me a newfound respect for quality and how things should look. Rather than what people get when they get fast fashion which is something that isn’t well made. They aren't made with any love.
There is a movement for more ethical clothing buying and Sewing Bee is a part of that. They're so passionate about it. Don't turn up to work wearing synthetic fabric or Patrick and Esme will tell you off. Luckily, I had had some help from a couple of stylists. I’d said, ‘I really want to make sure it's ethical brands, hopefully female-owned, smaller businesses.’
It’s slightly harder when you're pregnant to find stuff that's comfortable. That's why I had the help. I’ve never been pregnant before and, over two months, I had no idea how much I was going to grow. I had this pair of jeans and said: ‘They’re a bit baggy, they’ll be fine.’ These two stylists were saying: ‘Absolutely not! You're going to need eight sizes…’ I had the biggest wardrobe of all. That’s my diva thing: all my maternity jeans in the corner.
Have you a message for people watching Sewing Bee thinking about entering?
What was amazing about the sewers taking part is that there were people who've been sewing for decades – very experienced – and people who’d been sewing for two years since lockdown started. People don't realise how good they are. I’d just encourage people to enter the next series!
Has the Sewing Bee inspired you to take up sewing? We've got lots of great beginner's guides to help you get started. Check out our guides to the best sewing machines for beginners, how to use a sewing machine, sewing for beginners and sewing kits for beginners.
Looking for more creative TV programmes to watch? Check out our guides to Interior Design Masters, the Great Pottery Throwdown, the Great British Sewing Bee, All That Glitters, The Great Big Tiny Design Challenge and The Repair Shop.
Photography by BBC/Love Productions/James Slack
Sarah Orme is a UK-based linocut printmaker, digital editor, feature writer and award-winning podcaster. She's been editing the sewing and art sections of Gathered.how – and before that our sister website calmmoment.com – for over 3 years. She’s the host of Gathered’s We’ve Made It podcast and A Calmer Life podcast. She’s a keen crafter and artist and loves creating DIY tutorials for Gathered. Sarah has previously written features for The Guardian, In The Moment Magazine, Project Calm Magazine, countryfile.com, radiotimes.com and yourhomestyle.uk. She enjoys designing her own unique lino prints and dreams of opening her own online shop. She shares her work @sarahormeprints