The Great British Sewing Bee is back! We’ll be sharing the highs and lows of the latest series here when it airs. We can’t wait for the new batch of contestants to take on the weekly challenges in the sewing room and dazzle us with their skills.
You can catch up on all of the latest episodes below and we’ll be updating this page with all the highlights and lowlights of the Great British Sewing Bee 2021 each week (including spoilers!).
Catch up with our Great British Sewing Bee episode guide…
Catch up on the Great British Sewing Bee season seven
The Great British Sewing Bee 2021 has returned to our screens in a flurry of frills, pleats, tucks and some seriously good sewing – not to mention a stylish new venue! The new series was back with all our favourite bits – the beautiful sewing room, sweet soothing vintage tunes, Joe Lycett‘s acerbic wit, Patrick Grant’s wry smiles and Esme Young‘s razor-sharp judging.
Stay tuned for the highs and lows of The Great British Sewing Bee series 7 with our episode challenge recaps and links to similar patterns if you want to give the weekly garments a go.
If you’re feeling inspired by the Great British Sewing Bee in 2021, check out our sister post – What sewing machines are on Sewing Bee?
For more free projects and Sewing Bee gossip sign-up to our newsletter! And if you want to take a step in the Sewing Bee’s shoes and get your craft on check out our sewing kits for beginners post which covers all the supplies you need to start sewing. You might also find our how to use a sewing machine guide comes in handy!
Missed the last series? Read on for a recap…
The Pattern Challenge: Make a shell top with a button at the back (a sleeveless, collarless blouse made popular in the 60s).
The Transformation Challenge: Transform a t-shirt into something much more exciting!
The Made to Measure Challenge: Make a buffet dress (a long, flowing dress with gathers)
Highlights: Despite never having made a dress before, Raph wowed the judges with his mustard yellow broderie anglaise buffet dress, which they described as “very well thought out”. The judges were so impressed that they awarded his dress the coveted garment of the week title. We were also delighted to see Lawratu’s beautifully sewn hidden pockets (something we always want in a dress!).
There were also some real treats in the Transformation challenge and the judges dissolved into fits of giggles when shown Jean’s cat-themed dress and Adeena’s harem pants, which had an unfortunately positioned red triangle of fabric. “I don’t know what to say. What are you all doing?” Patrick asked.
Lowlights: Poor Adeena forgot to add a tab to the back of her shell top so the neck was too small for a person to wear. She had a lot of unpicking to do! Unfortunately Adeena wasn’t the only one feeling the pressure this week – Farie and Julie were both brought to tears by the Made to Measure Challenge and were unable to finish their dresses.
Damien struggled with both the Pattern and Transformation Challenges, but managed to redeem himself by making a great dress in the Made to Measure challenge.
Lessons learned: Don’t forget your tabs when making a shell top. Don’t pull your fabric through a sewing machine or it will make your hem uneven. Use a facing to avoid raw edges. And remember that Esme loves a pocket!
Week 1 sew the looks
Fancy making some harem pants like Adeena? Check out this free harem pants pattern to stitch your own.
If you need a little help getting started on your sewing journey then check out our tutorial on how to use a sewing machine and our Sewing glossary: beginner’s guide to sewing terms to get familiar with the lingo.
The Pattern Challenge: Sew a pair of paper bag shorts. These tricky shorts must feature a gathered waistband and turn ups.
The Transformation Challenge: Turn men’s board shorts into a woman’s summer evening outfit.
The Made to Measure Challenge: Make a button-fronted dress.
Highlights: Raph continued his strong performance by stitching an impressive pair of paper bag shorts in the first round, while Adeena impressed the judges in the Made to Measure challenge with a pattern that she’d designed herself, featuring buttons on the side of the dress and pintuck pleats. It was so chic that Patrick described it as “the epitome of grace”. Damien also took his palm-printed dress to the next level by adding coconut buttons that he’d made himself. Adam won his first challenge with a creative dress, but seemed surprised to have come first. “It’s just a load of old shorts!” he joked.
In this episode, Cathryn unexpectedly revealed that she likes to dance to grime music and is a big fan of Stormzy!
Lowlights: Most of the sewers struggled with the fiendishly difficult paper bag shorts challenge – the turn ups proved difficult for at least half the sewers, leaving them with the dilemma of whether to redo them or conceal the damage. Adding the pockets to the paperbag shorts also presented a challenge for many of the contestants, with some failing to catch their pockets up in the waistband – Adeena managed to sew one pocket angled forwards and one pointing backwards!
Damien decided to learn from his week one setbacks by thoroughly reading the instructions. “My strategy is to take my time and make sure I’m doing everything correctly,” he said, but quickly came unstuck because he only read the first few steps. “I think in future I should read the instructions all the way through, because the thing is – you turn it over and it’s like a thriller. You don’t know what’s coming next. It’s full of plot twists!”
Lessons learned: Make sure your buttons line up – once a button hole has been put in it can’t be undone! If your fabric is too thick for the sewing machine, it could bend the needles (a challenge faced by Adeena in the Transformation Challenge). Don’t think adding a fringe to your Transformation Challenge will solve all your problems. Always read the instructions all the way through (this one’s for you, Damien!).
Week 2 sew the looks
Fancy making your own paper bag shorts? We love this free paper bag shorts pattern from Mood Sewciety. If you’re a beginner and looking for something a little easier to make, then check out our gym shorts pattern – perfect for summer!
Have a go at making your own stylish button-fronted dress using this gorgeous shirt dress pattern from Simply Sewing magazine. Before you begin, you might find it useful to read our how to sew a button and how to sew buttonholes guides.
The Pattern Challenge: Baker boy cap (a classic hat made popular by the show Peaky Blinders).
The Transformation Challenge: Turn men’s suit jackets into a woman’s garment.
The Made to Measure Challenge: Sew a men’s utility jacket.
Highlights: The sewers outdid themselves this week in the Transformation challenge, magically turning men’s jackets into spectacular outfits for women. This Transformation Challenge gave them an unusual degree of freedom, so we saw a range of outfits from dresses to skirts. Damien and Andrew opted for skirts, while Damien, Rebecca, and Lawratu chose to make dresses.
This week also saw two impressive comebacks: Andrew and Adeena both made mistakes during the Made to Measure Challenge. Andrew made his jacket too tight, while Adeena sewed her zip upside down. Andrew extended his jacket using the lining and Adeena cleverly decided to make the zips a feature of her design. Patrick was particularly impressed by Adeena’s inventiveness, saying: “You’ve actually made something better than if you’d not gone wrong. I really like the exposed zip – I think it really works!”
Farie also wowed the judges in the Made to Measure Challenge. In past weeks, she’s often struggled to present a finished outfit in the time, but she finally managed to present them with a finished garment that Patrick said was impeccable. She was a worthy garment of the week winner.
Serena, Adam and Raph shone in the first three challenges. Could they be our future Sewing Bee finalists? Watch this space!
Lowlights: As usual, the judges chose a fiendish pattern challenge. The baker boy cap consisted of 19 pattern pieces and was extremely tricky to put together. Accuracy was essential, but Damien took his usual laidback approach to cutting out: “I’ve cut it out accuratelyish.”
The pattern challenge presented a number of pitfalls for the sewers, who needed to align the peak of their caps accurately to win over the judges. It was very detailed work and several of the sewers struggled. Going into the final challenge, Esme and Patrick said that seven of the contestants were in danger of leaving the show. So tense!
In the Made to Measure challenge, everything seemed to go wrong for Lawratu and she was the only contestant to present an incomplete garment.
Lessons learned: Esme doesn’t like pattern matching on pockets! When making a cap, you need to be careful with your seam allowances or it will end up too big! Be careful not to catch the plastic in your sewing machine when making a baker boy cap.
Week 3 sew the looks
Feeling inspired to make a hat? Try stitching a bucket hat sewing pattern for the summer months (trust us, it’s easier than a baker boy cap). If you want to have a go at making your own gent’s classics, take a look at our best sewing patterns for men.
Week four – International week
The Pattern Challenge: Breton top (a classic French garment made popular by Coco Chanel).
The Transformation Challenge: Turn a sarong into a brand new outfit in just 90 minutes.
The Made to Measure Challenge: Create a woman’s outfit inspired by the artist Frida Kahlo.
Highlights: The colourful designs in this week’s Made to Measure challenge were truly impressive. Adeena drew on her South Asian heritage to make a Frida Kahlo-inspired lehenga dress. She says: “It’s made me tap into where my roots come from. So this is not just a challenge for me – I really want to do well because it has meaning.”
Despite struggling with time in the earlier challenges, Farie recovered and saved herself by presenting a stunning self-drafted dress in the final round. Patrick described it as an “absolute knock out”. Raph also impressed the judges with a colourful top and culotte combination which included embroidered details and matching folds.
We also saw some creative takes in the Transformation Challenge – there was a real variety of outfits ranging from playsuits to cocktail dresses.
Lowlights: The judges picked a simple-looking Breton top pattern for the Pattern Challenge, which turned out to have some fiendishly difficult details. They were looking for stripes aligned around the body, a neat boat neckline and a horizontal button placket (a line of three buttons along the shoulder). Esme warned the sewers to pay attention to the instructions, but many of them soon came unstuck.
Adam and Rebecca quickly realised that they were unable to fit three buttons onto their plackets. Rebecca opted for two, but Adam decided to be sneaky and tacked on an extra button (it didn’t fool Esme).
Cathryn particularly struggled with this challenge and her overlocker left holes in her garment. Going into the Made to Measure challenge, Farie, Cathryn and Adeena were all looking in trouble…
Lessons learned: Sewing stretchy jersey fabric is particularly tricky. Always read the pattern carefully and never try to trick Esme with a fake button.
Week 4 sew the looks
If you’re feeling inspired and want to try your own sarong refashion, we have just the project for you! Learn how to make a sun top pattern out of an old sarong – perfect for the summer months!
Bring some Breton style into your wardrobe with this Breton Skater Dress sewing pattern from Simply Sewing Magazine (£8.99 on Etsy).
As we’ve learnt this week, sewing using jersey fabric can be very challenging. Brush up your skills by taking a look at our jersey fabric sewing masterclass – and afterwards have a go at stitching a jersey wrap dress pattern to test your new skills.
Week five – Children’s week
The Pattern Challenge: Make a child’s romper suit.
The Transformation Challenge: Turn wetsuits into under the sea-themed fancy dress outfits.
The Made to Measure Challenge: Stitch a child’s raincoat.
Highlights: The Sewing Bee’s children’s week is always lots of fun and this episode didn’t disappoint. This week, the Transformation Challenge provided the sewers with a real opportunity to shine! We saw an array of inventive under the sea-inspired outfits fashioned out of neoprene wetsuits and swimming aids. There were shimmering mermaids, a baby shark and Andrew’s crab costume really stole the show.
The judges struggled to find fault with the sewers’ efforts in this week’s Pattern Challenge, as the contestants whipped up a range of adorable baby rompers in colour patterns.
The sewers also got to grips with some tricky fabrics in the Made to Measure challenge, where they had to make raincoats for the child models. Waterproof fabrics can be sticky or slippery, and if you need to unpick them the needle can leave holes behind that can’t be disguised. Here the sewers showed their creativity and flair again, with Andrew making a stunning reversible raincoat and Damien attaching a hood using clever magnetic strips. Farie added some enchantment by making a unicorn and rainbow raincoat complete with a matching plaited mane, which earned her a third consecutive garment of the week spot.
Lowlights: In this episode, the sewers were reunited with an old nemesis in the Pattern Challenge: snaps. They needed to make sure that their fabrics for the rompers were both lightweight and durable – if the fabric was too thick then the snaps wouldn’t hold. Esme tested them all to see whose snaps fell off!
Adeena was puzzled that her elastic was too long, until she realised that she’d measured 17 inches instead of 17 centimetres. Oops!
The raincoats also proved very challenging for the sewers to make, requiring a slow pace to avoid mistakes. The waterproof fabrics moved against the lining, resulting in folds and misalignments for Damien and Adam. Rebecca realised that she’d made her hood too small, but managed to sew a speedy replacement before time ran out.
At the end of the first two challenges, Adeena and Damien were both at risk. However, Damien pulled off a tricky raincoat design for the Made to Measure Challenge. Unfortunately Adam really struggled with the Made to Measure and, despite doing well in previous challenges, put himself in the running to leave the show. “Adam’s Made to Measure was just one disaster after another,” Patrick explained.
Lessons learned: If you’re using snaps, make sure your fabric isn’t too thick. Always check whether you’re using inches or centimetres. Never press waterproof fabric (it melts!).
Week five sew the looks
If you want to try making your own raincoat, make sure you check out our guide to sewing with waterproof fabrics.
And that’s it folks! We’ll see you next Wednesday for more Sewing Bee action. Remember you can find out all the news and gossip about this year’s series, and meet the contestants, in our The Great British Sewing Bee news post.
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Great British Sewing Bee Christmas specials
We were delighted when we heard that the Sewing Bee was returning for not one but two festive celebrity specials – and the first episode was a real Christmas gift. Sara Pascoe, Dr Ranj Singh, Denise Van Outen and Shirley Ballas had their sewing skills put to the test in a series of seasonal challenges.
Read on to learn how the celebrities fared (includes spoilers!)…
The Great British Sewing Bee Boxing Day episode
The Pattern Challenge: Make pyjama bottoms
The Transformation Challenge: Create a festive coat for a dog
The Made to Measure Challenge: Make a dress for Christmas day
Highlights: Sara Pascoe started off badly in the Pattern Challenge. She had a classic ‘hungry bum’ issue with her pyjama bottoms, but grew in skill and confidence throughout the show. For her Made to Measure challenge, she created a striking tartan dress that really impressed the judges. Just imagine what she could have achieved with more time! However, Denise Van Outen’s consistent skill and creativity led her to the win the festive crown. Our favourite bit? Shirley Ballas went wild with Christmas accessories when creating her festive dog coat – with hilarious results.
Lowlights: Patrick asked Dr Ranj to put his Christmas dress on his mannequin, which revealed that it was too tight to fit over his model’s hips. Disaster! Fortunately for Dr Ranj, Patrick was on hand to save the day and shared some of his expert tips to save the day. The finished dress was a little skimpy, but the model was able to wear it (phew!).
Lessons learned: Always use an overlocker to sew stretchy fabrics (top tip!). Check out our guide to the best overlockers.
The Great British Sewing Bee New Year’s Eve episode
Need some sparkle to see in the New Year? The Great British Sewing Bee is back with lots of glitter and colour to help you welcome 2021. In the Sewing Bee’s New Year episode, Sally Philips, Sabrina Grant, Leslie Joseph and The Vivienne go head to head to make a series of colourful makes.
Read on to discover how the celebrities got on (spoilers!)…
The Pattern Challenge: Sew a child’s party skirt
The Transformation Challenge: Make a pantomime costume
The Made to Measure Challenge: Create a party dress inspired by a New Year’s Eve memory
Highlights: The Vivienne got ahead of herself in the first challenge by stitching her lining to her tulle too early and cutting out her pattern incorrectly. Despite her early errors, she clawed it back to win the Pattern Challenge. We also enjoyed seeing Esme and The Vivienne bond over a love of Cher (who Esme actually used to work with!). Sally and Leslie also wowed the judges with their sewing skills, despite being sewing novices. Patrick and Esme were particularly impressed by Sally’s hilarious pantomime horse, which has to be seen to be believed.
Lowlights: Sabrina came unstuck when trying to master the overlocker (oh dear!). The Vivienne’s skirt lost its bells when Esme prods them, as they were only attached using pins!
Lessons learned: When attaching your skirt to the waistband, you’ll need to stretch out the elastic for best results.
If you fancy making your own child’s party outfit? Find the child’s party skirt pattern over on the Sewing Bee website.
All images in this post are © BBC/Love Productions