Aug 2020
Aug 2020
13 Feb
The Great British Sewing Bee 2019 Episode Recap
Great British Sewing Bee Episode 1

The much-anticipated Great British Sewing Bee 2019 is finally back – and we relished every minute of last night’s episode! We can safely say we’ve fallen in love with Joe Lycett, with his rainbow jacket, turquoise nail polish and witty one-liners.

A focus on darts, invisible zips, pattern matching and upcycling were the order of the day in episode one, with Patrick and Esme scrutinising even the most minute details. Even after the first round it was clear that the competition this year is extremely high, with Juliet setting the standard with her well-deserved first place on the wiggle dress round and beautiful jumpsuit design which won her Garment of the Week - she’s definitely one to watch!

Unfortunately, the first episode also meant waving goodbye to twenty-seven-year-old Tom after his struggle with pesky pattern matching – it’s ok Tom, we’d have let it pass for a quirky design feature… maybe! Tom left the show all too soon, but we’re not saying goodbye to him just yet! Read on for our Q+A to find out a bit more about what sewing means to him…

A bit about Tom
“I purchased a very basic sewing machine when I was at university around eight years ago. I’d never used one before and was only really playing around, stitching scraps together, attempting to make things I had no idea how to create! Student life took over and although I enjoyed it, I didn’t sew much of anything at all. When it came to moving house I needed to save money and space so I had to sell the sewing machine.
“I then went four years without sewing anything until one Valentine’s Day about three years ago when my boyfriend surprised me with a new sewing machine. Since then I really started to love stitching and it became one of my favourite hobbies.
“Being in the design and animation industry, a lot of my time is spent at a computer, so I love stitching because it gives me the opportunity to do something away from a screen, where I can play with colours, shapes, patterns and textures.”

Tom’s words of wisdom
“The world won’t end if you screw something up. Give everything a go, push yourself and just have fun with it!”

Great British Sewing Bee Episode 2

We’re just two episodes in and it’s safe to say we’re already hooked to our screens! We thought last week’s tasks were challenging enough, but the latest ones have really upped the game already, with the contestants not only working with tricky stretch fabrics but teeny tiny children’s wear, too.

This week’s pattern challenge saw the nine hopefuls take on the ambitious task of sewing a children’s hoodie, complete with ribbed and gathered waist and cuffs, a lined hood and a front pocket, all to be made in just two and a half hours! The transformation challenge had the contestants turning faux fur into fancy dress costumes, and the final challenge allowed them to pick material of their choice to create dance outfits. Whoever assumed smaller items would mean less work, it was certainly not the case for the Bee’s this week!

Although Ben succumbed to his fear of overlockers in the first round which left him in bottom place, he managed to soar to the top in the next challenge with his amazing ant costume. Leah did extremely well too, walking away the Garment of the Week with her gorgeous Swan Lake outfit, while unfortunately Shelia left the competition after her struggle with stretch material and reversible fabric - we’ll miss you Shelia, and your gorgeous celebrity-inspired makes! 

A Bit about Shelia
“My sewing mentor was and still is my mum Gertrude. Without her sharing her love and knowledge of sewing with me I don’t know whether I would have this wonderful, useful skill. Nowadays, my favourite garments to sew are dresses and jumpsuits, for the very fact that they are a complete outfit, without having to team it up with another garment.”

Top tips from Shelia
“My favourite tool that has revolutionised my sewing experience is the roller blade - it makes cutting out a garment more accurate and speedy.”

Line of the Week
“You can iron children, right?” says Ben Moore.
Hmm, we wouldn’t recommend it, Ben!

Great British Sewing Bee Episode 3

After the third episode of the Bee season 5, we definitely learned a thing or two… We were reminded to always cut material in the same direction, make a statement with garments and never attempt to pogo! We wish we could watch the show online on Netflix or YouTube because we would keep Esme and Patrick pogo-ing on repeat!

This week’s first mission saw the contestants create bell-bottom trousers – but who had the flare for jeans and who should stick to skinnies? The task challenged the contestants to complete neatly hemmed legs, felled seams, fitted waistbands and invisible zips. Despite Janet’s button mishap, it was Ben that failed to impress while Jen reigned champion!

Alexei fared no better than Ben in the transformation challenge as the judges felt that his punk rock outfit was less anarchic and more prep. The eight hopefuls used chains, padlocks and safety pins to adorn their tartan ensembles, and Janet went one step further, adding a nappy flap to her bottoms! Her reasoning? “I thought punk was all about being rude and dirty”, to which Joe promptly replied: “I don’t think you understand the brief.” After a whole lot of anarchy in the sewing room, it was Riccardo who was Lookin’ like No.1!

The third made to measure challenge of series five was the ever-stunning maxi dress. We have to admit, the Sew team were watching the TV through their fingers after seeing all of that delicate material – sewing with silk is so tricky as it never seems to stay put for more than 30 seconds! That being said, we think all of the contestants did remarkably well, and Mercedes’ floral ensemble was a well-deserved winner. Unfortunately, the episode saw our favourite adventurous stitcher, Ben, leave the competition.

A bit about Ben
“I love sewing because it offers the opportunity to exercise the creative side of my brain, and it has driven me to develop other skills, like pattern cutting and textile design.”

Top tips from Ben
“Make something you can see yourself wearing and in a fabric you adore – you’re more likely to persevere through the inevitable unpickings if you have something you really love at the end.”

Line of the week
Joe talking about Janet’s trousers: “I helped with the button on this. So if there’s anything wrong with the button, speak to me.”
*button falls off*

Great British Sewing Bee Episode 4

If the fourth episode of the Bee taught us anything, it’s that stretchy fabrics can be pure evil! The first task had the seven stitchers creating swimsuits complete with a peek-a-boo bow, enclosed seams and elasticated thigh holes. Many of the contestants opted for lycra, nylon or spandex – materials that are ideal for the swimmer, but less so for the stitcher! However, one dressmaker who did triumph was Juliet as she was awarded first place for the second time.

Moving on to the Transformation challenge, and the judges had invited a special guest – Winston the pup! The sewers had to turn a tent into a stylish coat for a furry friend, which the Sew team believe is a fantastic recycling project – just think how many tents are discarded at festivals each year! The funniest doggy jacket was Riccardo’s creation; he added handles to the coat so that you can pick up the dog and carry it like a handbag when its legs get tired! The judges failed to see the hilarious side, and Riccardo came in last place, whereas Jen’s pup attire triumphed. At the end of the second task, Patrick said it was the three J’s who were owning the competition: Juliet, Jen and Janet!

Here come the boys! Men’s luxury tracksuits are having a big moment in fashion currently, so of course our Sewing Bee contestants had to create one for the Made to Measure test. The contestants faced a lot of challenges on the second day: Alexei sewed the zip and panels the wrong way round, Mercedes failed to finish her jacket, and Janet’s zip fell off! All in all, it was a pretty stressful week for the hopefuls and the viewers at home – we got through at least two cups of tea and a packet of Hobnobs in anticipation! But Jen managed to power through and was awarded Garment of the Week. Sadly, Alexei left the competition, but we caught up with him after the show…

A bit about Alexei
“I made my first garment with my mother. It was supposed to be a one-off project, but I liked it so much that I carried on! Now my good friend, who’s an amazing tailor, has to put up with me asking all sorts of sewing-related questions.”

Top tips from Alexei
“If you’re interested in learning to sew, don’t hesitate – jump in! There’s so much information out there to help you, and you won’t believe how good it feels to finish and wear something that you’ve created from scratch.”

Line of the Week
“I’m doing some gorilla sewing at the moment… I think a gorilla might fit into it!” Mercedes when she ditched the elastic on the swimsuit technical challenge.

Great British Sewing Bee Episode 5

It was reduce, reuse, recycle week in the Sewing Bee studio this Tuesday – a theme that’s very close to Patrick Grant’s heart. So, how did the contestants fare? Let’s find out! The judges asked them to make a pussy bow blouse using a men’s shirt and to finish it with bias binding, a button and loop. It all started off a bit wobbly, with some dressmakers running out of fabric, using duvets instead of shirts – oh, Mercedes! – and sewing panels inside out, but in the end, Juliet came out on top!

As always, Amber Butchart was on hand to delve into the history of fashion – fast fashion to be precise! Boutique shopping emerged in the 1960s as a result of young people having disposable income, and one shop that catered for these trend-seeking teenagers was London store, Biba. According to our experts, Biba was at the forefront of throwaway fashion!

Despite Joe saying: “As it’s the reduce, reuse, recycle week, we’re using the same teabags as last Tuesday”, fortunately the hopefuls didn’t have to make a garment out of some old PG Tips! They did, however, have to use scraps from the past four weeks of challenges. A first for the GBSB, this task resulted in Riccardo creating a patchwork ensemble, Juliet sewing a two-tiered gathered skirt and Jen incorporating a multitude of different colours and textures into her garment. Unfortunately, Mercedes failed to impress with her outfit.

The third and final test of episode five was to stitch a day dress using recycled upholstery fabric. While Leah struggled to pleat her robust material and Riccardo forgot to wash his old curtains, Juliet wowed with her cross-back number, and Janet impressed the judges with her V-neck top, box pleat skirt and bodice boning. As the curtain closed on episode five, it was Juliet who won Garment of the Week with her Made to Measure frock, and we said goodbye to the lovely Mercedes. Before she left, we had a quick chat with the runner-up…

A bit about Mercedes
“I served in the Territorial Army for 13 years, but left to start a family with my husband, Graham. My son Jack works and lives in London, while my daughter Eve lives at home with our two cats. I’d describe my sewing style as comfortable with a touch of Brighton chic!”

Top tips from Mercedes
“The best piece of advice I could give to any sewer is ‘you can do it!’ It might not be perfect the first
time or even the second, but it will get better with practice.”

Line of the Week
Joe to Patrick and Esme: “You’re a horrible pair of tricksters, and I want no part of it!”

Great British Sewing Bee Episode 6

We can’t quite believe it’s The Great British Sewing Bee quarter final – it seems like only yesterday that Joe Lycett revealed the season 5 trailer! One thing that’s really impressed the Sew team this series is how talented the contestants are, even though the judges did warn us! “Applications were up 30-40% on previous years,” reveals Patrick Grant. “The first day that the online applications opened we had a deluge of entries – people must have been ready and waiting! The standard is exceptional.” And Esme Young 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?’ They’re all so great.”

In this week’s episode, it was British and Irish fabrics galore! The first task required the contestants to make a casual, tailored jacket out of linen using one of Patrick’s own patterns – no pressure! They had to be mindful of evenly-set sleeves, symmetrical pockets and accurate topstitching, as well as remember to press before they cut out the pieces. It’s safe to say that this first challenge proved tricky for everyone involved: Riccardo and Janet sewed the arms on the wrong way round, and Leah stitched the lapels to the wrong side of her jacket. But in the end, Jen was crowned the linen queen!

Now here’s something we never thought we’d see: the stitchers creating a summer-ready outfit out of a deck chair and a parasol! Riccardo whipped-up a vintage men’s all-in-one, Jen used the chair to create the bias binding that adorned her stripy number, and the challenge’s winner, Leah sewed a stunning red two-piece.

Series five episode six’s Made to Measure task was to sew a coat made out of British wool – but not just any wool… The contestants picked their fabric from different regions across the UK. Patrick also chatted about the coats at Savile Row, and how important it is to have balance when checking how a coat fits and hangs. Unsurprisingly, Riccardo’s coat with its perfectly-pitched sleeves won Garment of the Week! But sadly, we said goodbye to Janet – we’ll miss seeing you on the show, and we’re sure the remaining contestants will miss you helping them out!

A bit about Janet
“I wanted to be on the GBSB because it seemed like an adventure! I also love a challenge and, while I don’t consider myself to be super competitive, I wanted to see how my skills compared against others.”

Top tips from Janet
“Don’t rush the preparation! Read the pattern, then read it again. Measure once, twice and check a third time before you cut out the pattern pieces.”

Line of the Week
Joe: “I think of myself as wool – hot and heavy!”

Great British Sewing Bee Episode 7

We hope you packed your sewing machines for last Tuesday’s around the world trip! In the first task, the Sewing Bee contestants had to make a pair of pleat-perfect, Indian dhoti pants. Jen’s finished garment was beautifully made, however Juliet’s pleats weren’t symmetrical, Riccardo’s trousers were held together by one strand of thread, and Leah fell victim to the dreaded “hungry bum”!

Next, we headed to Africa for the transformation challenge. The four remaining hopefuls had to turn a traditional West African garment, the dashiki, into a ready-to-wear outfit. Leah showed everyone how well she could insert pleats, and was crowned the winner. Whereas Jen’s ensemble caught the judge’s attention for the wrong reasons, as it highlighted the *ahem* crotch area. After the second task, Patrick Grant exclaimed: “This is the most topsy turvy week I can remember on the Sewing Bee!” We couldn’t agree more, as Jen and Leah switched first and last positions, while Riccardo continued to improve throughout the challenges and Juliet stayed consistent.

Konichiwa stitchers! The Made to Measure task took inspiration from Japan, as the dressmakers had to sew using an origami technique to create a stunning statement piece. Origami was introduced into the fashion world by brands such as Viktor & Rolf, Comme des Garçon and Carolina Herrera, and it focuses on creating unique silhouettes. Juliet incorporated bold features into her blouse, including a spiral on the bodice, ruched sleeves and a halter neck. Equally, Riccardo stitched a daring top; the material was so paper-thin that you could see the darts on the inside of the garment like an X-ray! As a result, Riccardo won Garment of the Week for the second time! Unfortunately we said goodbye to Jen, but Sew caught up with her after the show…

A bit about Jen
“My mum and grandma both sewed, so I was absorbed in the skill from an early age. I started making a lot of my own clothes as a teenager, and was given my first sewing machine for my 14th birthday.”

Jen’s words of wisdom
“I use an awl every time I sew – it was Ben and Janet who first encouraged me to use one. I also like pattern weights; mine are made from linen scraps filled with rice and lead shot.”

Line of the Week
Joe: “It’s not the Sewing Bee if someone hasn’t put a limb on the wrong way!”

Great British Sewing Bee Episode 8

Eight weeks, 147 garments and countless triumphs later, and we’ve reached the Sewing Bee final. Although it was the last episode, Patrick and Esme didn’t go easy on the contestants! The judges asked them to make a fully-lined, double-breasted waistcoat complete with interfacing and welt pockets. But it wouldn’t be the 2019 final without a mishap, and the contenders definitely had a few of those; Leah Nicholls forgot to interface the material and attached her collar to the lining, and Riccardo Guido didn’t catch the front of the waistcoat in the stitching. That leaves Juliet Uzor who sewed an absolutely wonderful garment which Patrick Grant admitted he would “wear in a heartbeat”! 

The second task saw the finalists challenging their inner Maria Von Trapp to transform netted curtains into a fabulous dress. Despite being cool and collected throughout the past 8 episodes, Juliet was feeling the pressure. She decided to sew a simple outfit with a statement bow, and hadn’t even touched the curtains until the last ten minutes. Leah’s fishtail frock came first, whereas Riccardo’s green number took third place.

The final task of the BBC reality show was to stitch a strapless evening gown. The contestants were given a measly six hours to sew a stunning dress that included a corset to hold up a heavy, full skirt. Riccardo created a recycled ball gown that resembled a jellyfish, Juliet made a traditional dress out of deep red jacquard fabric, and Leah presented a floaty yellow frock.

So who won The Great British Sewing Bee season 5? It was Juliet, of course! All of the finalists did a cracking job, and Juliet is a well-deserved champion as she’s been consistently amazing from the start – we’re sure you all remember her contrasting print jumpsuit from week one! She now joins the Sewing Bee hall of fame which includes Ann Rowley, Heather Jacks, Matt Chapple and Charlotte Newland. Before she headed off to celebrate, Juliet offered some words of wisdom: “It goes to show that anyone can sew. It doesn’t matter how old you are or what experience you have – everyone can do it”!

Apply now for season six!

The Great British Sewing Bee 2019 Episode Recap

Did you know that The Great British Sewing Bee will return in 2020, and applications for the sixth series are now open? The Sewing Bee will broadcast on BBC2 in 2020, and Joe Lycett is set to return! The online applications close on Monday 27th May 2019.

Pick up a copy of Sew’s June issue, on sale 2nd May, for an exclusive interview with the 2019 winner and runners-up! Stay tuned on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the latest updates and Great British Sewing Bee live tweets!

Head over to our Great British Sewing Bee season 5 blog for more information on who’s who among the contestants, when it’s on and the episode line-up!

Bee inspired by the show and subscribe to Sew magazine this month to be entered into a prize draw to win the Brother Innov-is A16 machine! Plus, this week’s exclusive Sewing Bee subscription offer is a glamorous evening dress pattern from New Look and four metres of fabric!

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