The Great British Sewing Bee returned to our screens in a flurry of frills, pleats, tucks and some seriously good sewing in 2020 – not to mention an upgrade to BBC 1! The new series was back with all our favourite bits – beautiful Bermondsey buildings, sweet soothing vintage tunes, Joe Lycett‘s acerbic wit, Patrick’s wry smiles and Esme Young‘s razor-sharp judging. Treat yourself to a refresher on the highs and lows of The Great British Sewing Bee series 6 with our Episode challenge recaps and links to similar patterns if you want to give the weekly garments a go.
While you’re waiting for the Great British Sewing Bee to return in 2021, check out our sister post – What sewing machines are on Sewing Bee?
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Warning: this post includes spoilers.
Week 10 – Celebration week
The Pattern Challenge: Make a child’s kilt
The Transformation Challenge: Turn a prom dress and swimsuit into a carnival outfit
The Made to Measure Challenge: Create a beautiful red carpet gown
Highlights: The finalists really played into their strengths with each sewer doing what they do best! Clare’s precise eye paid off in the pattern challenge and made to measure where she created both outfits with technical brilliance – they fit like a dream. Nicole’s colourful personality shined in her carnival outfit and Matt’s dramatic flamboyance showed in his stunning ball gown.
Lowlights: Those repeating pleats on the kilts were giving everyone square eyes and the made to measure was their longest challenge yet – 6 hours!!
Lessons learned: Keep spare sewing machine needles on you at all times…
It was the incredible Clare who took the trophy home this year. Read our interview with Clare to get all the gossip on this year’s Sewing Bee but for now, we will all have to eagerly anticipate The Great British Sewing Bee 2021!
Week 9 – Hollywood week
For the semifinals we were whisked away to the movies, full of glamour, sparkles and a touch of Futrama drama! It was all to sew for this week and with flapper dresses and a Sci-Fi theme we really saw some of the most creative looks yet.
The Pattern Challenge: Make Marilyn Monroe’s iconic pleated halter dress
The Transformation Challenge: Head to the scrap yard to create a Sci-Fi inspired garment
The Made to Measure Challenge: Create a 1950’s flapper dress
Highlights: Every challenge produced stunning garments this week. There was gorgeous primary coloured dresses, Clare’s Star Wars style outfit and Liz’s goth inspired flapper dress.
Lowlights: The last challenge was the most stressful one yet! There was so much work involved with all that beaded material and as Patrick rightly said ‘I had my heart in my mouth for the last two minutes!’ Despite her beautiful dress, we sadly said goodbye to Liz. We just know she’s going to go super far.
Lessons learned: Beaded fabrics need all the attention – hammering, hemming, pressing…
Week 9 sew the looks
Learn to love vintage patterns like the sewers by reading our reasons to pick vintage post
Make your own movie star dress with our Rosa dress pattern
If halter dresses are your thing use our tutorial to make your own
More of a pleat person? Sew our Tulip dress
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.
Week 8 – International week
It’s the quarter finals and things went all continental on the Sewing Bee! From Europe to the Philippines there was dramatic sleeves, dramatic ruffles and a very dramatic table cloth trick from Patrick…
The Pattern Challenge: Make the infamous Filipino Terno blouse
The Transformation Challenge: Transform French tablecloths into garments
The Made to Measure Challenge: Create a flamenco-inspired skirt
Highlights: So many highlights this week! What about Clare’s gorgeous Terno blouse or her children’s dress with matching apron? Or garment of the week, Nicole’s colourful flamenco skirt? Liz’s kimono-inspired dress was also a winner for us.
Lowlights: Buttons apparently! Who knew they’d cause so many problems… but it was Mark who struggled the most this week and we had to say an emotional farewell. Even Esme was tearing up. We will miss Mark’s fabulous style but it’s onwards and upwards into the semi finals.
Lessons learned: Every stitch counts when you’re in the quarter finals.
Week 8 sew the looks
Make your own blouse with our free pussy bow blouse tutorial
If you liked Mark’s flamenco skirt then have a go at our easy wrap skirt pattern.
Week 7 – 80’s week
The Sewing Bee took it back to the 80’s this week with super-sized shoulder pads and teeny tiny party outfits. Joe got right into the spirit dressing up in many outfits and all Patrick and Esme wanted was ‘something really dramatic.’ Oh they got that alright! We’ve never seen so many bows in one episode…
The Pattern Challenge: Make an 80’s power jacket fit for a boardroom
The Transformation Challenge: Transform high vis vests into neon party outfits
The Made to Measure Challenge: Create a cocktail dress with a statement
Highlights: We’re obsessed with Claire’s cone boob top as was Patrick who called it ‘simple and striking’ but it was the made to measure challenge where the sewers 80’s nostalgia shined. Liz’s asymmetrical dress, Nicole’s dynasty inspired number and Therese’s black cocktail dress that turned into a rather fitting cape for Esme…
Lowlights: After a great first challenge Matt struggled in the made to measure but with a pep talk from Patrick he got back in the room and carried on sewing. Therese’s unfinished power jacket was a sad sight to behold (beautiful material just not enough time) and it meant we had to say goodbye to her this week. We wish her all the best!
Lessons learned: The bigger the bow, the better the bow.
Week 7 sew the looks
Inspired by the 80’s? Learn the history of fashion with our series.
Sew your own statement dress with our summer dress patterns.
Create your own cocktail dress with our A-line party frock pattern available on Etsy.
Week 6 – Reduce, reuse and recycle
Things are hotting up at Sewing Bee HQ as we creep closer and closer to finals. This week’s theme was reduce, reuse, recycle and challenged the sewists to create something fabulous from old garments! Stretchy knitwear was the enemy of the week but some incredible pieces were made – incredible enough for Patrick to claim “I think it’s one of the best things I’ve seen on Sewing Bee.”
The Pattern Challenge: Make a men’s bomber jacket from four recycled garments
The Transformation Challenge: Turn a plastic shopping bags into an item of clothing
The Made to Measure Challenge: Make a dress from recycled knitwear
Highlights: From rags to riches, Mark’s blue bomber was a masterpiece that we’d pay good money for! And you know it’s a good episode when two people win garment of the week. Peter’s incredible fluffy cuffed dress and Nicole’s technically brilliant dress were both crowned winners. Patrick described them as phenomenal and we’d have to agree.
Lowlights: There was lots of speed hemming going on this week (we’ve all been there) and those plastic bags looked impossible to sew with. We also said a sad farewell to the transformation king Peter. We’ve loved his crazy designs and high-fashion looks.
Lessons learned: You really can make anything from recycled materials.
Week 6 sew the looks
We’ve got plenty of our own upcycling tutorials here on Gathered.
Week 5 – Lingerie and sleepwear week
Lingerie and sleepwear proves a challenge for even the most skilled sewist and for the contestants on this week’s bee it was no different. Working with silky fabrics, delicate lace and tricky basque boning, the sewers had their work cut out for them! Despite some tight timings (and rather tight clothing!) they pulled it out the bag and created some beautiful pieces that had Patrick and Esme swooning.
The Pattern Challenge: Make a boned basque
The Transformation Challenge: Turn a pair of men’s pyjamas and a women’s nightie into summer day wear
The Made to Measure Challenge: Make a two piece sleep set
Highlights: Those transformation challenge creations! Peter’s Elton John vibe puffy sleeves, Matt’s Vivienne West wood style dress and of course, Nicole’s amazing dungarees. Your grandparent’s pj’s have never looked so good…
Lowlights: The basque challenge proved difficult for all the sewers. There was unfinished ones, one’s with the hook and eye’s back to front and Peter forgot to sewn on two of the pattern pieces! As Patrick said ‘it was a complete clanger’. Saying goodbye to Ali too – we’ll miss her leopard print creations.
Lessons learned: Always check you’ve used all your pattern pieces or you’ll face the wrath of Patrick.
Week 5 sew the looks
Master hooks and eyes with our simple guide.
Try your hand at making a basque with Tatiana Kozorovitsky’s corset tutorial.
Make your own two piece pyjama set with Karoline Dahrling’s patternless tutorial.
Lingerie challenge: learn to make your own knickers with Simply Sewing’s tutorial.
Week 4 – Sportswear
It was time to get fit on this week’s Sewing Bee as it was all about sportswear! Joe was wearing the best tracksuit ever seen on British TV and there was an array colourful outfits for kids and adults alike. Grab some strawberries and cream because there’s tennis outfits that’ll make even the stars of Wimbledon envious.
The Pattern Challenge: Men’s rugby shirt
The Transformation Challenge: Turn a kagool into a kids waterproof onesie
The Made to Measure Challenge: Make a traditional tennis outfit
Highlights: Adorable and oh so colourful kagools. Hazel’s princess kagool and Matt’s leopard onesie were every kids dream but it was Therese’s and Nicole’s onesies that caught Patrick’s eye – “can I have one in my size?”.
Lowlights: Liz made us emotional when she teared up over her rugby shirt, stretchy fabrics cause problems once again and goodbyes are said to Hazel. She will be missed!
Week 4 sew the looks
Look through our 11 best sewing patterns for men round up for your own rugby shirt pattern.
Learn how to sew with waterproof fabrics so you can make a kiddies onesie.
Make some active wear accessories with these eight multi-craft projects.
Week 3 – Children’s week
There’s always something delightfully fiendish about children’s week on the Bee – in which we see some sewists who are used to making clothes for kids and some who are instantly stumped by just how tiny everything is! The contestants have to show some serious precision sewing skills to handle the dinkiest of pattern pieces and the refashion challenge is never dull.
- The Pattern Challenge: Make a child’s smocked dress
- The Transformation Challenge: Turn a sleeping bag into an item of food fancy dress
- The Made to Measure Challenge: Make a pair of children’s dungarees
Highlights: The fruit fancy dress of course! Pizza! Watermelons! A bag of crisps! And (of course) Therese’s winning bunch of grapes. Ali’s tie die paint splotch dungarees “ she’s gonna look like she came out of the paint mixer at BnQ
Lowlights: You won’t impress Patrick and Esme with an uneven Peter Pan collar. Those sleeping bags looked a bit fiendish to handle. Poor Hazel when her dungarees unraveled. Saying goodbye to Fiona (we dare you not to cry at her exit speech).
Lessons learned: Never trust Joe “the button man” Lycett to fetch your buttons
Week 3 sew the looks
- Girls’ Dress Sewing Pattern: If you’re on the hunt for a girls’ dress pattern with a Peter Pan collar, try this Burda Kids pattern 9305:
- Make a beginner-friendly girl’s skater dress with our free girl’s dress sewing pattern with rainbow pom poms
- And if you’re smitten with that smocking, check out our guide to how to sew gathers
- Food fancy dress ideas: Can we all take a moment to admire this no-sew pineapple fancy dress outfit from Delia Creates?
- Our next vintage pattern obsession: If you can find it on ebay, this Burda vegetables sewing pattern 4370 is amazing
- More fruit costume ideas: Make an easy child’s cape into a simple-sew strawberry, orange or pumpkin with this fruit fancy dress DIY from Simple Simon and Company
- Girl’s pinafore dress patterns – we like McCall’s Children’s Easy Sewing Pattern4613 – Summer Pinafore Dresses
- For ultra mini makes, take a look at Sew Over It’s Dandelion Dungarees Sewing Pattern for babies 0-24 months
- Pinafore Dress Round Up: If you want to make a version for yourself too, find 9 favourite Pinafore Dress Sewing Patterns for grown ups
Week 2: Happy Holidays!
Aloha! The theme this week is holiday getaways (this, admittedly feels like it’s taunting us with visions of pre-lockdown life, but hey, we’ll take a little bit of escapism). Will Alex pull things back from the brink? Will we see Joe sporting a mankini? Pour yourself a Pina Colada (or mocktail), lay back and enjoy the beach vibes and garishly clashing prints that are about to come your way.
- The Pattern Challenge: Make a pair of Palazzo pants
- The Transformation Challenge: Refashion beach towels into a women’s garment
- The Made to Measure Challenge: Make a man’s holiday shirt
Week 2 highlights and lowlights
Highlights: Joe’s Tom Jones stint, leopard-print palazzo pants, Hazels’ wax print fabric choice, Peter’s refashion towel to beach wrap, those mens’ shirts fabric choices (llamas! Frida Khalo! parrots! goldfish!). Matt’s Poirot-inspired dressing gown that he made for his dad!
Lowlights: Some unfortunate fabric choices that just don’t want to be handled under time pressure, Alex’s wrap top – is it finished? Esme’s low blow comments – “maybe it’s the facing?” (asked hopefully) No it’s the sewing”
Lessons learned: Don’t try to insert contrast pockets to palazzo pants, strategically place your floral prints when pattern matching.
Week 2 sew the looks
- Palazzo pants pattern: if you’re smitten with making your own, we like Simplicity’s Pattern 8134 – Misses’ Easy-to-Sew pattern can be made as wrap front trousers or culottes, and an elastic waist band that can be made with border printed fabric or with an extra wide leg.
- Jazzy trousers: Or sew a similar look to jazz up your summer wardrobe with our free harem pants pattern
- Beach-ready garments: Sew the look with our guide to how to make a beach coverup
- Men’s summer shirt: Burda Men’s Shirt Sewing Pattern 6349 shows you how to make a garment similar to the ones on screen tonight.
- Find more men’s shirt patterns in our guide to the best sewing patterns for men
Week 1: Wardrobe Staples
The theme for The Great British Sewing Bee week 1 is wardrobe staples, so be prepared to be inspired to try a few of these at home – as the contestants were tasked with making and refashioning classic garments (there’s no need to rush in with the lyrcra fabric challenge in week 1, after all).
- The Pattern Challenge: make a wrap skirt
- The Transformation Challenge: upcycle a men’s shirt into a woman’s garment
- The Made to Measure Challenge: make a tea dress
Here are a few of our highlights, and links to patterns you can try to make garments and techniques you’ve seen on screen.
Sew the looks: week 1 wardrobe classics
- Try it at home: How to make a rouleau button loop
- Simple starter skirt: How to make a wrap skirt
- Learn the basics with our guide to different fabric types
- Men’s shirt refashion – find out how to turn a man’s shirt into a women’s top
- Try a modern twist on the classic Tea Dress – Peter Pan Collar Dress sewing pattern
- Making clothes to measure – How to adjust a pattern to fit
- Vintage style – Learn more about the history of fashion
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.
All images in this post are © BBC/Love Productions