The Great British Sewing Bee 2020 news

New year, new series – that's right, the Bee is back! Watch the new series trailer - but when will episode 1 be heading back to our screens? We answer your questions in this complete guide to the Bee.

Early Release

The count down is officially on until the start of The Great British Sewing Bee series 6. Patrick Grant has revealed that filming has finished for series 6, but WHEN is The Great British Sewing Bee coming back? Where is it filmed?

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After a long wait – nearly two years – and an online petition to save it, the fifth season of the nation’s favourite craft show returned in Spring 2019 and delighted us by being better than ever. New host, comedian Joe Lycett, and judges Patrick Grant and Esme Young welcomed a new batch of competitors into the sewing room we know and love. We go behind the scenes to chat to them about how the show works, from it’s tricky upcycling challenges to sewing innuendos.

But before we begin, let’s take a peek at the new series trailer, as shared by Joe Lycett on Twitter this week!

How do Patrick and Esme choose the contestants?

Narrowing it down to the sewists we see on screen isn’t an easy task. In fact, each year there were more people than ever to choose from. “Applications were up 30-40% on previous years in 2019” says Patrick, “The first day that the online applications opened we had a deluge of entries – people must have been ready and waiting.”

Each year we see the challenges get increasingly fiendish, so, without revealing any spoilers, it’s safe to say that the sewing skills on offer for The Great British Sewing Bee 2020 will be some of the most advanced we’ve seen yet.

“The standard last year was exceptional,” says Patrick. Fellow judge Esme agrees: “They were a really fabulous group of sewers. In fact, I was kind of terrified – I was thinking: ‘God, how are we going to decide?’” she laughs. “They were so great.”

Expectations and alterations

The annual boost in applicants comes as no surprise when you consider the huge impact of the previous series, though. According to Patrick, after the first couple of seasons of The Great British Sewing Bee, the number of sewing machines sold in the UK went up by about 300%. In fact, the season 4 final got up to four million viewers! “That’s a huge percentage of the UK audience watching a show about sewing,” he adds. “The charm of The Great British Bake-Off is people who might be your friends or neighbours being challenged to make something. It’s the same with this show.”

They just go for it and sometimes amazing things come out... we’re looking for personality.

It’s fascinating…” says Patrick of the enduring appeal of the series. “It’s a human emotional struggle to do something under the time pressure.” Tasks are the same as previous series, with the pattern challenges between 2.5 and 4.5 hours, and the made-to-measure anywhere between 3-7 hours. The transformation challenge is continuing too, with just an hour and a half from start to finish. “It really is no time to understand the challenge you’ve been given, grab whatever needs to be grabbed, think about what you’re going to do, do it, finish it and pop it on a mannequin,” admits Patrick.

Read more about The Great British Sewing Bee

As you can see for yourself in our Great British Sewing Bee Episode Guide to last year’s series, the results were imaginative and altogether brilliant, wowing host Joe and the judges. “They just go for it and sometimes amazing things come out… what we’re looking for is not technical perfection, it’s a sense of their personality portrayed through these transformations,” Patrick continues.

Who chooses the tasks?

Setting each of the tasks on the show is a collaborative process involving the judges as well as members of the production team. “We had the best challenge grid ever,” he revealed after last year’s series. “We’ve got some really good stuff.” Yet, despite everything thrown at them, the competitors continued to rise to the challenge. “The first one was really tricky, really tricky, and they all managed it really well… we’ve raised the complexity of the sewing every year and it was easily the toughest first challenge. They by and large smashed it,” he says. “Everybody could have gone on quite far; and if they’d been in some previous seasons, they could have gone quite a lot further.”

Contestants in 2019 were expected to know how to use an overlocker and a coverstitch machine. Fabric difficulty went up, too – sewers in the competition had to handle woven fabric with and without stretch, as well as jersey. This wasn’t the case in previous series – a marker of just how much the show has developed, and the stitching talents of the thriving modern sewing community along with it.

Patrick Grant and Esme Young

How has The Great British Sewing Bee changed since series 1?

Alongside the level of sewing expertise of the contestants, another change for 2019 (which we expect to see shine through again this year’s series) was a closer look at sustainability in fashion. ‘Reduce, reuse, recycle’ is a subject both Esme and Patrick are passionate about – so much so they wanted to dedicate a whole episode to it in series 5 – each of the items in the challenges are made from repurposed textiles – not forgetting the inclusion of tents in technical fabrics week – ensuring this incredibly important topic rightfully has centre stage.

“We’re reaching a very challenging point in the fashion industry,” says Patrick. “What is lovely about the Sewing Bee is all of sudden people have an understanding of actually what goes into things and they start looking at their seams and they start reading labels… seeing what goes into their clothes.”

It’s easy to see why the team feel a sense of responsibility with this subject to a certain extent: with such a wide variety of people sitting down to watch the programme – not just crafters – they’re all learning more about how clothes are being made. “If we’re going to help people make better decisions about the clothes they buy… they need to know what goes into them,” Patrick explains.

While documentaries such as A Plastic Ocean continue to bring about change in consumer habits around the world, the same attention should also be placed on the fashion industry, as Patrick quite rightly points out. “We’re all obsessed with single-use plastic, straws, coffee cup lids, water bottles, yet that five-quid polyester dress is also a single-use piece of plastic.” Esme also hopes that the show will encourage more of us view our clothes differently: “The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world. That’s shocking… what people should be doing is making their own clothes and hanging onto them!”

Ultimately, though, whether we’re talking about a garment created for the show, at home or even one bought on the high street, the point is the same: it’s about respecting clothes and the craftsmanship that goes into them. Thankfully, that wasn’t a problem for the 2019 collection of keen sewists. They were all eager to demonstrate their talents and creativity, and the judges wanted to recognise and reward imagination and ideas. “In previous seasons, the more experienced sewer has always tended to go further,” Patrick tells us, “That wasn’t the case with this one. It was more about what they did, what they showed and the clothes they created. Rather than us separating people on the technical competence always.” This judging process turned out to be more fulfilling for the pair in the long run, too. “We were able to look more broadly at their overall vision for the clothes they were creating, their understanding of the way colours work together, shapes that they created. It wasn’t just how neatly have they finished this and how well have they followed the process.”

While the temptation was often to do too much in the allotted time, according to the judges, the contestants improved most by making things in their own personal style. “If you’re going to do something in a garment, make it clear that you’ve meant it. Don’t be apologetic about it,” says Esme.

How does it feel to send contestants home?

“The first series I did, I was really upset by it,” says Esme. “They’ve invested so much, it’s really hard and sad.” Yet, the great sense of camaraderie helped contestants through. There are WhatsApp groups (“I’m in one of them. It’s a nightmare, it pings CONSTANTLY,” laughs Joe Lycett. “There’s always new patterns they’ve found.”) and they all meet up afterwards, too. “I think they make friends for life,” says Esme. “They get really committed to each other. It’s really quite magical to see how they get better and how they bond together. I really love that.”

Join our Great British Sewing Bee fan group!

Now that Sewing Bee fever will officially hit UK TV screens, join our Sewing Bee Fans Facebook group to chat about the weekly themes and episodes with fellow sewists.

What channel is The Great British Sewing Bee on?

The Show is set to air on BBC2 here in the UK and on iPlayer.

Where is The Great British Sewing Bee filmed?

The show’s impressive warehouse setting is located in London’s Bermondsey, in the heart of the capital’s historical textiles quarter. For the truly geeky among you (we include ourselves in this category), the 2019 series was filmed at 47/49 Tanner Street (also the location of Dragon’s Den!), near Tower Bridge.

When is the Great British Sewing Bee Coming Back?

We’ve known for a while now (mostly by semi-stalking Joe Lycett’s Twitter account) that the new series was not only confirmed, but that filming took place last year. The only question is – when is it on TV?

The Sewing Bee 2019 series aired in the UK from February to April 2019 but so far we haven’t had any official date for our fresh fix of transformation challenges and speed-stitching under pressure. But if we had to guess we’ll be blocking out most of the Spring 2020 to be on the safe side.

What will the new series include?

Well we know the dream team of Joe Lycett, Esme Young and Patrick Young are all lined up to appear in series 6, but what else should you expect to see?

One clue could be in the wider sewing community, and Patrick’s personal interest in sustainable sewing (have you seen his Ted Talk on ethical fashion?). We’ve already seen a growing focus on this area of dressmaking in series 5, and if the new series book is anything to go by, expect to see more challenges which promote the benefits of refashioning and ditching fast fashion in favour of creating your own me-made wardrobe.

The new series book: The Great British Sewing Bee: Sustainable Style has just been announced (it’s available to preorder now) and gives further clues to this theme.

The Great British Sewing Bee Series 6 - sustainable style
Get your sewing bee fix! There’s a new book out to accompany The Great British Sewing Bee series 6 and it’s available to pre-order now. Well it would be rude not to…

Our other key predictions for the 2020 series are to look out for Esme’s trademark accessories (can the contestants’ bows get any bigger to impress her?). And this could be the hardest series yet technically if Patrick Grant’s Twitter feed is anything to go by. He revealed last summer that this year’s challenges could be a bit fiendish with this teaser…

Patrick Grant Great British Sewing Bee teaser

So it sounds like we can expect to see lots more fiddly finishing techniques and technical fabrics coming our way. We’ll take a hug if you’re offering them Joe!

Who won The Great British Sewing Bee 2019?

We fell head-over-heels for last seasons’s winner Juliet Uzor the second she revealed her not-so-secret scissor habit. She went on to coin the phrase “Just You-Tube it” and do previously unheard of things with a pair of net curtains.

Since she scooped the Sewing Bee crown last April, she’s grown her own following among the sewing community, appearing as a guest on sewing TV shows, posting regularly on her instagram @julietuzor_ or check out her You Tube Channel Sew So Natural where you can see her video tutorials.

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All Great British Sewing Bee images copyright BBC/Love Productions/Mark Bourdillon/Charlotte Medlicott. Words written by Sarah Gane and Zoe Williams