The Sewing Bee is back and it’s better than ever. To catch up with the new series head over to our The Great British Sewing Bee episode guide but if you want to learn more about everyone’s favourite pair of judges then you’ve come to the right place. We interviewed Esme Young about her thoughts on this year’s bee and now we’ve sat down with the one and only Patrick Grant to get all his thoughts and feelings.
Patrick Grant has been with the Sewing Bee since it began in 2013. He was chosen to judge alongide May Martin and later Esme Young, thanks to his expirence in designing mens fashion. Owner of Norton & Sons and Cookson & Clegg, he is the king of artinisal suits with an eye for detail and precision which he brings to all his judging. But it’s not just high end tailoring Patrick has his hands in, he set up Community Clothing to support ethical clothing manufacturing practises and the Big Community Sew Along campaign which creates face masks for NHS staff and voluenteers. All this and judging in our favourite TV show? How does he do it!
Now we’ve given you a bit of background on Patrick, have a read of our interview with him about the 2021 Sewing Bee. Oh and of course we had to interview the amazing Joe Lycett too! Right, over to you Patrick.
Hi Patrick! It’s so lovely to speak to you. So there’s a new location for 2021’s Sewing Bee, what’s it like?
We filmed at Trinity Bouy Wharf, which is an amazing old wharf at the River Thames, where the River Lea meets the Thames. There are incredible views across the river and you can see the cable car and the Millenium Dome. It was wonderful to see the big skies first thing in the morning, and the interior of the building was a spectacular place to shoot. It was cold inside because we had to keep the doors open for ventilation. This amazing location is London’s only surviving Lighthouse, and you will see the views on screen.
Haircut, beer in a pub garden, some televised sewing. What a week its gonna be. https://t.co/T1h26yFlSo— Patrick Grant (@paddygrant) March 31, 2021
With Covid what were the restrictions when filming this year’s show?
On-screen about 99% of it is the same. There is a difference when you see the models, they wear a mask for the judging and fitting, but for the catwalk they don’t. It felt very secure and a safe environment to be in. Everyone who was in the close contact cohort was tested regularly throughout. Onset there was a great vibe, as everyone was so pleased that we were able to go ahead and make the show. All the usual protocols of social distancing, wearing masks and hand sanitising were followed by the crew.
For me, it was a wonderful antidote to everything else that was going on. I didn’t mind having to isolate for the whole shooting period of 7 weeks in a flat in East London.
The Great British Sewing Bee is now on series 7! Are you amazed at how far the show has come and the reaction to last years show?
The ratings on the last series were one of the highest, the series did move to BBC One and I think also the time it went out really helped. Our show has always been warm, generous and fun and from the comments, a lot of people made at the time who said it was the perfect TV for that moment. Generally, it was felt that it was comforting to have a show like Sewing Bee on TV during a pandemic. And interestingly, during Lockdown it was very difficult to buy a sewing machine as sales had gone through the roof as people took up sewing.
I wanted to do the series originally as I thought it would get more people into sewing. People don’t throw clothes away so much now. I wanted to get the nation back into sewing, and it’s now more important than ever. A lot of positive change has happened, and I think that Sewing Bee has played a big part in that.
The Reduce Reuse Recycle definitely inspired us!
One of our three challenges has always been about upcycling before it became fashionable. The Reduce Reuse Recycle week which we brought in two years ago was such a great innovation, and it consistently captures the imagination and in a fun way transforms people’s behaviour towards sustainability. People are inspired to do things differently and creating change.
Your bran Community Clothing, helped out the NHS – that must have been a personal triumph for you?
My factory produced a lot of PPE and are still doing it now, we are making tens of thousands a week. In total, I would imagine we have made well over a million pieces of PPE. I also became involved with the Community Sew. The sewers got to be part of a collective effort that really helped keep people positive and connected to a local network. They were doing the same things and a community spirit was generated and it was brilliant for me to be a part of it. There are so many stories of people who had been genuinely suffering in isolation and this really helped to pull them through.
Tell us about this year’s Sewing Bee contestants, we can’t wait to meet them!
Well, there are 12 of them, and there are some genuinely fantastic sewers in there. It was different circumstances for them but they really enjoyed being able to interact in a group. There was a fun atmosphere on set, they are a very jolly group. We have some younger sewers in this series which reflects how younger people have taken up sewing particularly in Lockdown.
What can you tell us about the challenges in this year’s Sewing Bee?
In Sustainability week I Loved the Made to Measure Challenge. The winning garment was a piece of absolute beauty, and the technique was of couture-level and highly exceptional sewing expertise. In Children’s Week, there is a transformation challenge of Wetsuits and pool Inflatables into an under the sea theme outfit; in that same week, the Pattern Challenge is the Baby Romper suit and the Sewers all did a brilliant job of making adorable romper suits.
All the bees are always amazing but do you think the talent is increasing every year?
I think the level is as good as last year, they were amazing. It’s the vision that they bring to their sewing. We knew from the first week from the very first challenge when they all made a very good shell top in the first Pattern challenge that they were going to be good, they all smashed it.
You can see Patrick Grant judging on the Sewing Bee or catch up with him over on his Twitter. If you fancy giving sewing a go then make sure you check out our sewing for beginners guide which includes all the basics. We’ve also rounded up the best sewing machines for beginners so you can sew along with the show.