Before we dive into the new 2020 series of The Great British Sewing Bee (coming soon this year!), treat yourself to a refresher on the highs and lows of the sewing room from last series. Can’t remember who won the Great British Sewing Bee 2019? Read on for our week-by-week recap of ‘the Bee series 5.
2019 Sewing Bee challenges
Scroll down to find the episode you want to recap or dive on in and relive the lot below
Week 1: Cotton week – Wriggle Dress, denim refashion, jumpsuits
Week 2: Children’s week – kids’ hoodie, fancy dress, dance outfits
Week 3: Seventies week – 70s fashions + plus how to sew a maxi dress
Week 4: Technical fabrics – panelled swimsuit, turn a tent into a dog coat, luxury men’s tracksuit
Week 5: Reduce, reuse, recycle – sew a pussy-bow blouse, crate a garment from fabric scraps, refashion a dress from soft furnishings.
Week 6: British and Irish fabrics week – sew a linen men’s jacket, deckchair refashion, make a coat out of British wool
Week 7: International week – Indian Dhoti pants, refashion a West African Dashiki, construct a Japanese origami couture top.
Week 8: Special Occasion garments – sew a double-breasted waistcoat, refashion net curtains, strapless evening gown
Week 1, sewing with cotton
Let’s start with the obvious: Joe Lycett has nailed it. From his flamboyant outfits (and do we spy nails painted to match Esme’s?) to his brand of gentle wit, we fell in love with him instantly tonight. That, and his Patrick & Esme tattoo, obvs. Where can we get one of those?
For the first Sewing Bee pattern challenge, the Bees are tasked with sewing a 1950s Wiggle Dress. “Doris Day would have worn a wiggle dress!” reveals Mercedes, as we learn more about how Dior launched the Wiggle Dress in 1954. Joe Lycett’s debut sewing confessions are fast becoming one of our series 5 highlights. It’s refreshing to hear a novice host the show as he gets to ask the questions many who are watching at home (and who aren’t already down with the lingo) are wondering. Like “what is an invisible zip?” And “hook and eye? I’ll Google it”.
The sewists run for the haberdashery (lucky things). Bafflingly, they all choose patterned cottons! As if they’ve not got enough pressure to contend with without pattern matching. Joe gets a bit carried away with his contestant research: “I know things about you. I’ve been following you”. Oh Juliet we ALSO share your thing about scissors!
Calling all dressmakers! If you’re looking to buy your first sewing machine or treat yourself to an upgrade, our handy guide to the best sewing machines is here to help.
We’re already falling for the new contestants. Ben admits: “Whenever I create something it’s almost like a baby that I’m putting out into the world. Everything I make is like a part of me.” The contestants work their way through the same pattern, cutting their fabrics and assembling their garments while chatting to the judges about their makes.
Disaster! Tom accidentally mismatches his pattern pieces. “I’m just going to sell it as a design feature and hope for the best!” he says… the sew must go on. As time ticks on the pressure builds as they all insert sleeves in record time… “Maybe they’ll be super-super easy sleeves… They won’t, will they?” concludes Leah, as reality sets in.
Judging time and the sewists look understandably nervous as they line up to have their creations dissected by Patrick and Esme. 10 cotton wiggle dresses made in under 4 hours are displayed. Initially impressed the judges move in for the kill.
Esme is displaying her trademark mischievous sense of humour as she applies St Martin’s strict standards to the sewists’ creations: “I know it’s a teeny print so you think you won’t notice, but actually, we do” she reminds Alexei on judging the pattern matching of his wiggle dress.
When Leah nervously invites her to “hit me with it”, Esme responds gleefully “well… okie dokie…” (good luck Leah). “It’s more of a wobble than a wiggle”
Joe introduces the second task for week 1 – the Alteration challenge to create a new outfit from 3 second-hand denim garments. He ushers the judges out of the sewing room, quipping “All of these items are Esme’s and she hates to see them savaged.”
The sewists dive in and get creative. We never knew denim could get so racy. “Saucy!” Joe comments, on seeing what Ben’s got planned.“Currently it’s going to look like bondage straps,” explains Ben.
“Have you got a direct line to Rhianna? Have you got her on What’s app?”
Juliet comes last in the transformation challenge while Jen triumphs with her halter neck dress.
As the sewists get ready to ditch the manequins and make a garment to fit their real life models, we learn they’re going to be taking on a jumpsuit pattern of their final challenge of week 1. “One crucial thing is the body rise,” explains Esme – that’s the measurement from the crotch to the neck that makes sure your jumpsuit fits and isn’t too tight in all the wrong places. We brace ourselves for the innuendo to come. It doesn’t take long.
How to rock a jumpsuit. Esme reveals her all in one leopard-skin creation and we instantly up our sewing goals. “She looks like a nifty little runner, is all I can say,” muses Patrick.
Of all the challenges we are always amazed by the awesome skills of the sewists in this round in giving the challenge their own personality. From Riccardo’s 80s-inspired, self-drafted pattern to Alexei’s all-in-one military style pattern inspired by his Aunt (the first woman to fly around the world solo in a single engine plane!), there are some impressive garments on the sewists’ tables. Juliet has picked the most awesome combination of monochrome matched with African yellow prints.
Joe’s chats with Sheila are already proving a highlight: “Yesterday you were making an outfit for Rhianna, Can I guess this is for Stormzy?” he ponders. “I often consider myself like Stormzy.”
Stop press: Leah has opted for peacock print. We need this in our lives. But the pressure is starting to take its toll. After yesterday, she reveals “There’s no hint of confidence in me today.” Oh Leah, we want to give you a hug!We had actually forgotten how tense it is when they run out of time! Sharon’s zip won’t do up.
“I presume you’ve practised this?” “Well yes. I didn’t do it in the time though…” EEEEEK!
Joe plays his new host role immaculately – veering between supporting the contestants while rushing them along. One minute he’s giving Jen a Zen photo pick-me-up (“and breathe” he reminds her), then the next he’s shouting out timer countdowns.
Judging time arrives and the jumpsuits are modelled and ready for Patrick & Esme to assess. The jokes keep coming: “A little hungry in the bum is the technical term for that” muses Patrick on assessing Sharon’s jumpsuit. Juliet’s off the shoulder jumpsuit is all kinds of awesome. Ricardo’s 80s-inspired jumpsuit is a thing of beauty! Leah’s V-strap neckline is beautiful.
Juliet scoops Garment of the Week with her off-the-shoulder jumpsuit, while we bid a sad farewell to Tom, who’s downfall was his love of a jazzy pattern. Too soon, Tom!
Week 2, sewing for children
Get ready for some seriously cute mini makes as the gain the advantage of speed but have less fabric to work with as they get to work sewing children’s clothes.
This week’s pattern challenge is to make a child’s hoodie (complete with hard-to-handle stretch fabrics, small pattern pieces and getting to grips with the ruthless overlocker!), and the transformation challenge saw the sewists turn faux fur coats into fancy dress outfits. For the Made-to-measure challenge, the gang made dance costumes.
Week 3: Seventies Style
Oh hello vintage frocks, we’re a *bit* excited to hear this week’s theme is turning back time to the disco decade. The Flares! The Frills! The Chiffon! So much to love about the drama of dressmaking in this period.
To kick-start procedings the sewists discover their sewing room has been given a ’70s makeover, complete with vintage sewing machines. And is it just us or has the episode even been edited with a ’70s filter too? Loving this attention to detail! © BBC/Love Productions
As the sounds of T-Rex and Hot Chocolate fill our screens, the sewists greet their new machines with mixed reactions. “My first sewing machine was one of those!” exclaims Janet, excitedly. “Where’s the reverse button?” asks Alexei, seemingly baffled. “Do you like them?” ask the judges. “They’re quite cool…” chips in Leah, somewhat unconvincingly.
For the pattern challenge:, the group are asked to sew a pair of flared trousers. “I imagine you’re both too young to have experienced these personally. No I’m joking of course you’re both ancient aren’t you? “As the first challenge is revealed, the sewists rush to the haberdashery to rummage for corduroy and velvet to give their vintage trousers an authentic feel.
“What was it like in the 70s?” … “They say if you can remember it, you weren’t there” © BBC/Love Productions
Mercedes shows off her needlecord. It’s not for the fainthearted and Patrick’s impressed… “Wow hello look at this little dazzer! It reminds me of a carpet in my dad’s study. Not quite as bright but…”
The sewists grapple with the technically quite tricky garments, complete with yokes, waistbands and zip fly details. “If I were doing this at home I’d just switch on You Tube,” muses Juliet as she works out how to construct her fly detail. “Just YOUTUBE it!” (you’ve just voiced our own favourite sewing catchphrase, Juliet).
The machines take some getting used to. Leah is astonished… “it sounds like it’s going to take off!”, meanwhile… “Jen, yours sounded like a blender!” exclaims Juliet. As time runs out the sewists start to panic… running out of bobbin thread (isn’t it always the way when you’re on a deadline?) and frantically trying to work out how to bang on their buttons.
Judging time and is it just us or is the judging already getting more beady-eyed? Leah realises too late that she’s sewn the nap of her fabric in two different directions. Joe proudly boasts of his button-aiding skills while Janet’s flares are under scrutiny, upon which the button promptly falls off. “That’s a B-minus for the buttons,” muses Patrick. As Ben and Alexei come last in the judging of round 1, Jen triumphs with her mustard yellow flares.
Alexei (who appears to be filled with existential dread by the whole 1970s theme) is pragmatic about how it went, reflecting that, “My nature means I’ll always prioritise quality over speed.” We know how you feel Alexi but had you watched the Bee before you applied?
Just when we thought we couldn’t love the refashion round more, the sewists are tackling punk rock style with the Alteration Challenge. Esme introduces the challenge with words we’ve never heard on the Bee before…”In the haberdashery we’ve got chains, we’ve got padlocks, safety pins… so pogo over there…” Much hilarity ensues as she discovers most of the room have never heard of pogo’ing…
The sewists get busy with their task of refashioning a provocative punk outfit from two other garments. Things are about to get interesting. We could watch Ben’s creativity as he comes up with refashion ideas endlessly. And isn’t that one of our favourite things about this show? Being inspired by the makers on screen. We’re already feeling the urge to chuck our cups of tea out the window and run amock, fighting the patriarchy.
Esme reflects on her experience of designing clothes in the 70s… “It was a big reaction to all that had gone before in the 60s – all that hippy dippy stuff’. I’d like it if they made things that told that story… that ‘Up yours’ story.” As the sewists get to work ripping tartan and adding raunchy spiked details, Jen reaches for the PVC. She’s bemused when she realises Joe has never heard of Siouxsie and the Banshees. “I was more S Club 7,” he quips.
The Bees seem to be exhibiting mixed feeling about all this retro rebellion. Mercades is getting into her groove, “I am loving this! My inner punk is coming out,” she enthuses. Meanwhile Alexei’s bemusement about the whole thing is fast becoming our favourite thing about this week’s theme…
“Are you an Anarchist?” teases Joe. “No, I’m an Engineer,” Alexei responds with his trademark deadpan delivery. This is possibly the reason his half-and-half trousers sadly come last in the judging.
Some of the sewists outfits are pretty awe-inspiring. Jen’s PVC bustier and miniskirt combo is something else, while Ricardo’s kilt-to-trousers (complete with spiked detail) win this round.
For the Made to Measure challenge, the group are asked to make a maxi dress. The iconic floaty dresses of the seventies with big frills and super-sized patterns make a perfect choice for this week’s main challenge. Not only do they mean the sewists have to grapple with lightweight fabric and technically tricky details, but their garments are full of drama to play with.
The pressure shows as the contestants get to grips with slippery chiffon, pleats and frills. Leah has lost the sleeve to her dress, then reaslises she already attached it. (We’ve all been there, Leah). © BBC/Love Productions
Phew some of these maxi dress patterns look a bit fiendish in places! “This pattern is really easy… it’s ages 4+’ Joe jokes to Juliet.
“The vultures are circling” mutters Alexei as he grapples with the chiffon of his dress. “He’s the lap of the gods even really,” notes Patrick as he watches from above and realises Alexei’s not even had time to check how his dress fits.
As judging time approaches, the models show off their beautiful creations. Juliet’s sleeveless maxi dress is truly lovely. And how much do we enjoy watching Riccardo proudly beam when his models sashay towards the judges in his garments? “She looks like one of the Charlie’s Angels on holiday,” he beams at the big reveal of his dramatic cascading tier skirt. That’s how we feel most days we wear something we’ve made ourselves!
Of course not everything has gone to plan. Jen has sewn her shoulder pads back-to-front while Ben’s pleated waist gets a tough review from the judges but is this a bit unfair? We think it looks great. Mercades’ floral gown gets a rave review and she’s chuffed to bits.
“I’m afraid that’s it! Random words! That’s all you’re going to get from me today,” she stutters before discovering that her dress earned her garment of the week. (Our Digital Editor Zoe is especially happy about this as she’s picked Mercedes in the team sweepstake).
We’re pretty shocked and sad to see Ben go home. His adventurous spirit and playful use of fabric construction will be muchly missed.
Alexei reflects on how it went, and we love him even more for his final comment… “Maybe I’ll make one of those dresses for my wife because she’ll look amazing in it,” and with that he cracks a smile for the first time all episode.
Week 4: Technical fabrics (eeeek!)
It’s week 4 and we’re halfway through the Bee. This week the gang are levelling up and tackling some fiendishly hard-to-handle fabrics. “We’re talking neoprene, spandex, power mesh…” revels Joe. Good luck guys!
“I’m calling it Lycettra… we can use this, right?”
In honour of the occasion Joe is sporting his most festive outfit yet: a dashing disco sequinned top. The Bees are understandably nervous about what this week will bring. “Technical fabrics and me, we don’t mix,” says Juliet. They kick things off with the pattern challenge – sewing a lycra swimsuit with crossover straps… “Partly because the judges want to test your skills and also partly because deep down they have hearts of pure evil.”
Joe kicks things off by showing the sewists what they’ll be tackling next… swimsuits! The contestants brace themselves to handle some seriously slippery fabrics. “There’s a lot that goes into a swimsuit, especially if you’re my Aunty Maureen,” Joe quips. The contestants raid the haberdashery and talk about their experience of sewing swimsuits (not much seems to be the collective agreement). Esme on the other hand is, naturally, a pro in this department. She reveals she made the swimsuit for Tilda Swinton in The Beach. Jen tells Joe she used to be a lifeguard. Is there nothing this woman can’t do?
Things, inevitably, go downhill fast as the group tackle sewing with lycra, inserting elastic, making rouleaux straps and more. “It’s like a complicated, mind-bending puzzle,” explains Patrick as their sewing spaces rapidly become filled with a trillion pieces of fabric, waiting to be pieced. Alexei is completely baffled and Riccardo is finding all the fabrics so slippery that he keeps slicing himself and then snaps his needle. This task is fiendish, and yet Janet is somehow running a masterclass and spending half her time explaining to the others what to do. As they panic and curse she reassures them, “You take it off and hope to goodness you’ve got it right.” Wise words Janet.
Riccardo, Jen and Mercades attach their side panels upside down. The horror! Much frantic unpicking ensues. “It’s going to be a little more Primark than Couture” muses Mercedes, as she abandons her elastic completely. We’ve all been there Mercedes.
As the group stagger on to the judging session, their swimsuits look pretty impressive to us but sadly aren’t all finished. “Something has gone awry,” says Patrick on assessing Mercedes’ swimsuit. “I’ve done better,” she admits. “You certainly have,” laughs Esme (please never judge our sewing Esme).
Patrick and Esme are impressed with Janet’s swimsuit and sewing room support service, “hats off to you for being the sensei on all things swimwear construction,” declares Patrick, nicknaming her The Grandmaster. Juliet also impresses them with her super slinky swimsuit in awesome fabric, and pips Janet to the post for best garment. Alexei comes last, admitting “It really cooked my noodle, this challenge.”
We all need a friend like Janet, aka the Grand Master
This week’s refashion task could be a contender for most bonkers challenge ever seen on the Bee. The contestants return to the sewing room to discover it’s been filled with disused festival tents. They’re asked to turn them into a waterproof coat for a dog.
Jen has Archie the dog on her inspiration board and looks in her element, considering the practical uses for her coat. The other sewists seem a bit thrown.The whole thing is a first for Alexei, who confesses as much to Joe. “You’ve never taken a tent and turned it into an outfit for a dog before? You haven’t lived mate.” laughs Joe. Throwing themselves into the refashion challenge, the group set to work trying to give their pooch outfits some kind-of-dressmaking vision. We don’t envy them this one!
“I love you, even though I’m allergic to you”
As the finished dog coats are lined up for inspection, Riccardo’s carrier dog comes last and the judges aren’t too impressed with his carry straps. Jen however wins the challenge with her camouflage outfit complete with handy pockets.
For the Made to Measure Challenge, the gang get to work making a luxury tracksuit from synthetic fabrics. As the final challenge is revealed, we can’t decide what we are coveting more this week.. Joe’s top or Juliet’s glitter pattern weights. As the Bees turn their sights to on-trend mens’ leisurewear, they reach for hard-to-handle fabrics like Scuba to impress the judges. Riccardo is going 80s style again (YES Riccardo!), Jen’s inspired by her 19-year-old-son and Janet is inspired by Michael J Fox in Teen Wolf (why not, Janet?).
We’re rooting for Alexei and Mercedes to turn things around but Alexei sews his zip wrong … nooooo! Things are about to get stressful. The vultures are circling, “He’s bodged it” assesses Esme as he goes on to sew the back piece of his trousers inside out. Mercades feels his pain as she grapples with her zip.
As they miraculously whip up some pretty awesome tracksuits to fit their models, it’s time for judging. Is it just us or does Esme quite enjoy it when she realizes Janet’s zip isn’t sewn properly? She definitely gets a glint of glee in her eye when she senses something’s gone wrong.
Oh Riccardo we think your 80s-style tracksuit is a triumph
The judges aren’t finished landing a few more blows to the rest of the group. “That looks, as I would say, like a bodge” concludes Esme on not knowing which of Alexei’s flaws to point out first. Mercedes is also in trouble. “Something’s gone quite badly wrong” observes Patrick (not what anyone wants to hear). Don’t cry Mercedes – we love you. To be fair we’ve all cried about a garment has gone wrong at some point.
Jen wins garment fo the week for her fabric-handling skills and beautifully sewn tracksuit and the group say a sad goodbye to Alexei. He’s been a joy to watch and his closing words are a heart-felt reminder of the soothing power of sewing.
“Learning to sew has meant having the illness has not been the end and I’m not capable of anything any more. I think my wife has been trying to make me believe in myself, so I hope she’s proud.”
Week 5: Reduce, reuse, recycle
This week’s theme is close to our hearts. Did you know fashion industry is the biggest polluter of our planet next to oil? In a first for the Bee, tonight’s show will be themed Reduce, Reuse and Recycle Week.
We’re temporarily wave goodbye to the haberdashery as it’s set to be replaced with charity shop clothes and soft-furnishings. Joe does his bit by wearing the same pants all week (now that’s dedication to the cause).
For this week’s pattern challenge, the sewists are asked to refashion several pre-loved garments, including a man’s shirt into a pussy-bow blouse (Esme is sporting a bright red example in her trademark bold style).
“I think it’s very important that people recycle clothes,” reveals Esme. “As a teenager I can remember my Mum hid quite a lot of her old clothes so I couldn’t get hold of them and chop hem up and turn them into something else,” before adding (ruefully), “I would have, actually.” As the sewists get their heads around trying to pick multiple garments to cut the pattern pieces for their blouse, they’re realising that the blouse’s gathered sleeves require a lot of fabric which is proving challenging. Juliet and Leah are frowning a lot.
Mercedes thinks she’s found an easy solution – use a duvet cover. The judges are not impressed that she hasn’t stuck to the brief of refashioning garments. Patrick and Esme discuss the ethos behind this week’s challenge (in case you missed it, Patrick recently delivered a great TED talk on the perils of fast fashion). In this week’s fashion history segment, we learn about the roots of fast fashion when Biba exploded on to the fashion scene in the 1960s with affordable, stylish garments.
We sit back and await the inevitable mistakes as the sewists stitch against the clock. We don’t have to wait long. Riccardo ses the back of his garment inside out but doesn’t have time to unpick and fix it… “I hate this!” he wails. Getting the placket and buttonholes on the right side is also proving tricky. Janet sews her front placket to her side seam before realising she’s trimmed one piece too small.
Patrick and Esme appear mildly delighted at the carnage… “There’s a new catalogue of new and exciting errors that they’ve brought to this challenge that I don’t think we’d even managed to think of!” exclaims Patrick. This challenge is really stumping everyone. Mercedes muses, “It would be nice to have a finished garment to show them,” while Juliet switches her overdrive mode on.
“I might run out of time. Death by pussy bow, isn’t it really?” concludes (the usually unruffled) Janet.
For this week’s transformation challenge, the group are tasked with sewing a garment using their fabric scraps from previous weeks – raising awareness of the amount of fabric we often waste while sewing. Janet’s got a strategy for winning the judge’s over: “I just have to try and be a bit more whacky. Whacky granny here we come.”
The gang are asked to make an item of clothing from all their offcuts and scraps so far in the series, as we learn that home sewers waste about 30% of the fabric they buy. “Some of these fabrics bring back nightmares,” jokes Leah as the sewists rummage for the best off-cuts. “I never thought that we would produce all that amount of rubbish in only 5 weeks,” observes Riccardo. Janet plans a reversible waterproof gilet but worries she’s stayed too safe. “Yeah I’d say a safe concept is a reversibile waterfpoor gilet. I’d say that’s too easy, really,” responds Joe.
Riccardo opts for all-out patchwork and we love it. “I think it looks bonkers but I like it,” he assesses. The judges agree and his patchwork dress gets a good revew: “ I think it’s a really effective,” observes PatrickJuliet’s Rara skirt and top also gets a good feedback while Janet’s technicolour waistcoat wins the top spot. Quick point to note: this Show’s charm has to be in how the sewists are so nice to each other! Riccardo’s so gracious about Janet pipping him to the best garment… “I think Janet deserved it because she did such a fantastic job,” he says. Awwww.
For the made-to-measure challenge the contestants make a day dress using recycled upholstery fabric. From second-hand blinds to charity shop curtains, the sewists have found some great fabrics to reuse here. Sci fi fan Mercedes is planning a dress with bubble skirt. “I was so delighted to find a curtain that just reminded me so much of Sputnik,” she tells Joe (!). “I thought I was going to go a little bit sci fi, a little bit weird.” Go Mercedes this sounds awesome!
Of course it wouldn’t be sewing bee without a dose of boning innuendo. “Well you’d hope a boning would be a bit stiff,” muses Joe as he chats to Janet about her plans to try boning for the first time. Juliet is turning net curtains into a dress with curtain chord for straps. We can’t wait to see what she comes up with.
The bit where the judges stand at the balcony and observe is becoming one four favourite elements each week, as they casually look on and assess where all the sewists are going wrong. Jen is looking flustered for the first time that we can remember as she freehand embroiders last-minute floral detail on her fabric.
As they reveal their finished garments on their models, Riccardo’s period pattern and fabric choice are a joy… that curtain loop belt!! “Extroadilarily Chic,” concludes Patrick. Leah’s uneven pleating gets picked up on by Patrick while Juliet’s dress is stunning. As the judges admire it, a debate about the merits of revealing a bit of side-boob ensues… “ I wouldn’t want to share a bit of side boob but then I am a woman of a certain age,” observes Esme.
Garment of the wek goes to Juliet for her dress from net curtains (never has curtain twitching been so glamourous) and sadly Mercedes leaves the sewing room. She’ll be irreplaceable with her good nature and creative dressmaking skills, and there must be something in our eyes as she gets tearful remembering her nan and sharing the philosophy of “sleep well and sew”. Words to live by Mercedes.
(Side note: Our Digital Editor Zoe is also a bit gutted as she picked her in the team sweepstake.)
Week 6: British and Irish fabrics week
It’s quarter final week! And in what must be Patrick Grant’s favourite week of series 5, the contestants are asked to tackle tailoring and sew a linen worker’s jacket.
Following Patrick’s own pattern, tonight’s show saw gang grapple with complex techniques, and a fabric that can easily crease and fray. The transformation challenge celebrates a fabric that’s a beloved part of British seaside heritage, as the final five turn stripy deckchairs and parasols (covered in Burnley ‘ticking’ fabric), into garments in just an hour and a half. And for the final challenge, the group create made-to-measure coats from British wool – tackling the largest garments they’ve attempted so far on the Sewing Bee in just five hours.
Week 7: International week
The 4 remaining sewists go global for the semi final, tackling some fiendish garment, vibrant fabrics and tricky techniques from around the world.
West African Dashikis are the inspiration for this week’s refashion task
The sewing room goes global with a pattern challenge to make a pair of Indian Dhoti pants. As the Bees get to work grappling with the centuries-old tradition of folding and draping large fabric pieces into wide-legged, heavily pleated trousers prove a perplexing, visually striking, proposition. “Just a word on pleats, I’ll be getting the tape measure out,” warns Patrick. Eek!
Leah & Juilet both accidentally join their seams wrong and sew giant tubes instead of trousers. “It’s not the sewing bee if someone hasn’t put a limb on the wrong way is it?”quips Joe. As the sewists struggle with elasticated waistbands and perfect pleating, the judges move in to judge their finished garments and Jen wins to high praise from the judges.
Next up it’s the transformation challenge, and the sewists are asked to refashion a West African Dashiki. The alterations get colourful as the gang are tasked with refashioning a rack of strikingly patterned men’s tunics in just 90 minutes. Juliet’s in her element, having sewn a Dashiki top for her daughter previously, as the final 4 combine vibrant prints with blocks of bold colours. Juliet’s garment gets high praise but Leah scoops the top spot with more pleating (she’s obviously on a roll with this).
For the made to measure challenge the Bees make a Japanese couture origami top. All the sewists have self-drafted their patterns. Leah cultivates Japanese Kawaii while Riccardo is going for Bjork levels of drama, sewing with risky organdie. After hours of precision folding, attaching their fastenings is when things start to come unstuck. Three-dimensional pressing and panic sewing ensues. Some gentle swearing follows.
Riccardo’s origami top is stunning.
Riccardo wins garment of the week for his ridiculously skilful top. Jen goes home – we’re a bit shocked, she was so good! But they’re all so good!
Week 8: The final!
The sewists go to town making garments for special occasions for the end of season finale.
The gang get started with a fiendish pattern challenge – sewing a double-breasted waistcoat. It wouldn’t be The Great British Sewing Bee final without a technically terrifying pattern for the sewists to sweat it out over, and tonight they were tasked with making a double-breasted wool waistcoat, interfaced and silk-lined with welt pockets. Always the dapper gent, Joe is loving all the finery being constructed around him. “Do you think I’d look nice in a waistcoat like that?” he asks Riccardo. “I feel like I’d be a camp snooker player. “
Leah’s panicking starts early as she misreads the pattern and forgets she needs to block fuse her pieces. She starts from scratch and is really showing the strain. Patrick steps in to try and remind her to slow down and focus.Side note: yet again we love how the sewists support each other, with Riccardo reassuring Leah, “amazing see – you sped up!”
Phew this is one complicated pattern! Block interfacing, welting, collars, bagging out, sewing with silk. Esme also attempts to calm Leah’s nerves, “Do it step-by-step, keep calm and carry on,” – wise advice for all of us there, Esme.
Watching their waistcoats unfold we’re struck by the fiendish nature of this challenge! They’ll only know if they made their waistcoats correctly after they’ve bagged out at the end.” Watching them bag out and reveal their hidden errors is pretty tense.
“It’s like a creature coming out of a chrysalis – and a waistcoat is born!” exclaims Joe. Obviously they leave the finishing touches – the buttonholes – until the last minute. 10 minutes to insert a whole batch of buttonholes looks pretty impossible to us.
Juliet’s waistcoat gets a rave review, as Patrick assesses, “I’d wear this in a heartbeat. This is a beautifully sewn waistcoat, you should be proud of it”. She scoops the top spot, followed by Riccardo with Leah last. Juliet is (understandably) pretty chuffed with Patrick’s comments: “I’m just going to remember when things go wrong at home that Patrick said he’d wear my waistcoat”
“Maybe some sexy socks?” © BBC/Love Productions/Mark Bourdillon
As the finalists enter the sewing room for their last ever transformation challenge, they’re greeted this week with net curtains hanging from the ceiling, and tasked with turning them into a garment for a special occasion. They throw themselves in enthusiastically but Juliet is showing her nerves for the first time. With 20 minutes to go, she hasn’t started using the lace yet. Eek.
“Janet got you all into boning, didn’t she?” quips Joe, not missing the chance to inject a spot of innuendo into proceedings.
5 minutes to go and Juliet hasn’t used the net curtains yet. Miraculously they finish 3 garments all with netted detailing. Is it ok to say this hasn’t been our favourite ever alteration challenge? We love the creativity of it but it’s hard to make the lace look like anything other than… well… a net curtain.
Is that bow big enough Leah? She decides to follow Esme’s not-so-subtle hints and go super-sized with her accessorising.
Leah wins this round. Fishtails and supersize bows are obviously the way to Esme’s heart!
For their final Made to measure challenge, the finalists are tasked with sewing a strapless evening gown. As they begin to shape their garments, we’re struck with the concepts – these dresses are going to be amazing! Riccardo opts for a completely recyclable ballgown with jellyfish theme to reflect the effects of plastic on ocean life. He uses plumbing tubing to construct a crinoline style skirt which Patrick delights in hula hooping with.
Our favourite thing throughout this show is yet again seeing the sewists bolster and support each other, right up to the final they shout out compliments and help each other with the areas they struggle with.
Leah has a LOT of plans with Crepe de Chine – this looks fiddly. Juliet’s gown looks exciting and ultra chic as always. “Speed sewing, activated,” she claims as Riccardo dives into an organzastravaganza.
Patrick and Esme share their last balcony spy chat of the series. © BBC/Love Productions/Mark Bourdillon
They’re running out of time and we can’t cope! “I just need to put the iridescent jellyrish on top of the skirt,” explains Riccardo. Words we never thought we’d hear in the Great British Sewing Bee final.
As they finish their dresses we’re excited to see what they’ve come up with and the judging begins. Riccardo wins high praise for his vision and execution with shimmering organza, corset precision and an environmental theme – sustainability is rightly becoming a hot topic both for this series and in the wider sewing community.
Juliet’s red jacquard dress with asymmetrical sweet heart neckline is stunning. Leah finally masters the optimum size of bow for Esme in her beautiful, stylish strapless gown in striking bright yellow.
As the past contestants, friends and family all gather in the sewing room to see the winner crowned, we’re delighted to hear Juliet’s name called out. Even more so when we see her usually calm exterior crumble with emotion on hearing the news that she won the series.
“It shows that anyone can sew. It doesn’t matter how old you are when you learn to sew. Just get out there and have a go.”
Congratulations to Juliet and all of this year’s finalists and contestants, it’s been a blast. We’re off to get started on our new sewing list of wriggle dresses, maxis and pussy bow blouses now!
All images in this post are © BBC/Love Productions