Meet the Sewing Bee's Patrick Grant!
The Great British Sewing Bee is back on TV so we sat down with incredible judge Patrick Grant to get all the gossip on the new series.
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 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 alongside May Martin and later Esme Young, thanks to his experience in designing mens fashion. Owner of Norton & Sons and Cookson & Clegg, he is the king of artisanal 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 volunteers. 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 2022 Sewing Bee.
What's the standard of this year’s sewers?
It’s exceptional. Absolutely exceptional. This year, we had so many fantastically good sewers, we could have had two finals worth of finalists. People went out in early rounds who could have easily won in previous years.
So, you and Esme found it hard to judge?
Yeah, we found it incredibly difficult on a number of occasions to separate the sewers. We set incredibly difficult challenges, which – week after week – they did brilliantly. It was very rare anybody really stood out head and shoulders above the rest. We had some people that were brilliant from the beginning and a number of people who just got better and better as the weeks went on.
What were your favourite challenges?
We did Music Week and had a David Bowie made-to-measure that was absolutely fantastic. They had to make an outfit inspired by his musical and artistic back catalogue and it was lovely because there was such a variety of interpretations. That was a definite highlight. Actually, I really, really enjoyed the whole of Music Week. The transformation challenge was turning denim into a country music stage outfit. They all did really well on that. And the first challenge was incredibly difficult: we got them to make a Parka. Obviously, there’s a big Mod association there and, more recently, with Oasis. That was a tough challenge. The pattern challenge for Sportswear Week was a huge curveball, too: trainers. Nobody expected it – a shoe was very much off people's radar – but you sew shoes. It’s a very different piece of apparel to sew, though. It was difficult. A couple of people did a very good job, but a number did struggle.
You did Japan Week, too…
Yes. I did a collection at E Tautz in 2019 where most of the pieces were old textiles that had been reclaimed. Lots of them had visible mends – they were patched and darned. We were making the point that mended clothes have a beauty about them we need to celebrate. And so it was really nice to do a challenge on Sewing Bee that was Sashiko and Boro-inspired – celebrating visible mending. Something I've always loved about Japanese culture is this celebration of the beauty in thriftiness. It wasn’t born out of anything particularly noble, it began with people with very limited amounts of money having to fix their clothes. And, because of all of this repeated patching and stitching, they became objects that became very valuable. If we're going to solve the environmental issues around the clothing industry, we have to get used to wearing and celebrating older clothes. We also did an origami-inspired challenge. Designers such as Issey Miyake have used origami in their collections. That was tricky.
You now have Sara Pascoe as the new Sewing Bee host – taking over from Joe Lycett…
I’ve been very, very lucky. Over eight series, I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to work with Claudia Winkleman, Joe and now Sara. We've been so fortunate to have such brilliant hosts. I loved working with Sara. We laughed all the time. It was every bit as much fun working with her as it was working with Joe and Claudia. Funnily enough, what was different about Sara was – because she’d been a contestant herself – she was much more invested in the sewing than Joe or Claudia. She’d been at the sharp end of it and that brought something really interesting and new to the process. She'd been in their shoes and had an empathy with the contestants that was quite different. An understanding of exactly what they were going through.
She knew that sick feeling in the stomach when the clock started…
Exactly. Sara was just great. I’d be watching from the wings chuckling at some of the things she and the sewers were saying to one another. I know anyone who is a fan of Sewing Bee will love her as a host. She's fantastic. It’s in safe hands with her at the helm. She’s everything we’d want from a host: she’s amazing with the sewers, hilariously funny, great fun to work with. You couldn't ask for anything more.
You filmed in a former woollen mill in Leeds this time…
I went to university in Leeds a long time ago and, during filming, I was living in a flat 200 yards from where the nightclub we used to go to – Back to Basics – used to be. It was this super successful dance music club that ran for years. I was having flashbacks to a very different period of time. It was great filming there. I cycled to work along the canal every day. And Esme and I and occasionally Sara would go and have the odd cup of coffee in town on days we weren't filming. There were so many people in Leeds asking what we were doing and they were so excited we were filming Sewing Bee in Leeds. Of course, Leeds has this amazing textile heritage and it felt very appropriate to not only be filming in Leeds, but also to be filming in a woollen mill. And the scenery around there… On days off, I was out on my bike and having a very nice time.
What do you like most about working with Esme?
Well, she doesn't pull any punches. She says exactly what she thinks. Sometimes we agree on things and sometimes we don't, but whenever we don't agree, we both respect one another enough that we're still friends at the end of it. We share a little WhatsApp group together and do get along very, very well. I like her enormously. We would go for cups of coffee and walks on our days off. We used to wander up to Roundhay Park and down the canal. It was fun.
Confusing lots of Sewing Bee fans on the way, I imagine…
We did! We had socially distanced pictures with fans in the street. It’s funny because individually we sort of pass under the radar a little bit, but when you see us both together, it's much more obvious who we are.
You can't really hide. One very tall, one slightly shorter…
Slightly shorter, yes. (LAUGHS) She was busy making a few things during filming. We shared a little room with a sewing machine, so I get Esme’s 1960s/1970s playlist, whether we like it or not, at full volume. It’s very entertaining. In fact, it feels a bit funny to be back home and not filming after eight weeks of solidly being there.
And to get back into that spirit, all you need to do is listen to some 1970s tunes…
I started collating a little playlist of the things Esme’s playlist would churn out. I've got a Esme Sewing Bee Playlist on Spotify I can play if I need 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.
Phoebe has worked for Gathered, and our sister magazine Mollie Makes, for 3 years. She manages our Arts & Crafts section and specialises in social media and content strategy. She has a background in all things marketing, a flair for Pinterest and a knack for finding the next big craft trend. Previously she worked as Digital Campaign Executive for Fat Media. You may recognise her name from Mollie Makes Social Media magazine, where she shared her expertise and top tips on becoming social media savvy.