Reaching the final of Sewing Bee - but who will win?
Reaching the final of Sewing Bee – but who will win?

NOoooooooooo! Can’t believe it’s the final of the Sewing Bee tonight! Six episodes has gone far too quickly, we definitely need a longer series – at least eight episodes so that we only lose one contestant each week 😦

I think that’s my only criticism of Sewing Bee –  the time has gone so quickly that we’re only just getting to know the contestants – those that are left, that is!

The last two episodes have been so challenging – kilts, neoprene, leather – what else can the judges throw at them? Having just struggled with my first attempts at lingerie, that might not be a bad challenge for the next series.

I was really upset to see Ryan leave at the end of Episode 4. He had come on so far that I expected to see him in the final. In his farewell  he said  that sewing is definitely what he wants to do, and warned Patrick that in four years time, he will see him on Savile Row – I really, really hope he achieves his ambition.

Let's hope Ryan continues with his sewing and finds himself on Savile Row before too long
Let’s hope Ryan continues with his sewing and finds himself on Savile Row before too long

Sadly Amanda also went out that week but was looking forward to going back to sewing slowly – I’m sure many of us can sympathise with that!

Week 4 was an amazing week for Neil, becoming the only ever contestant to achieve the hat-trick, winning every challenge and garment of the week. The boned corset which he made in the first challenge was stunning and his kilt was of such a high standard that Patrick even said he would be happy to wear it! You could really tell that Neil loved the kilt challenge – this was real ‘man sewing’  – ‘pure engineering’ as Neil enthusiastically described it!

So, in the semi-final just Neil, Lorna, Matt, Deborah and Paul remained. The first challenge was to construct a lined pencil skirt with darts and a concealed zip – it sounded too simple, until the contestants were told they had to construct the skirt from lace. That still sounds simple if you have never used the fabric, but add pattern matching, a slippery surface which constantly catches and moves, and visible seams, and the challenge becomes more complicated.

Lorna’s lace skirt was lovely, but the waistband wandered up and down. Even Neil struggled with this challenge, coming a cropper with a lining that was slightly too large, seam ripples and poor pattern matching on the back seam. Deborah’s lining was also slightly too large and Paul struggled with zip insertion and an uneven hem. Matt looked completely taken aback to be announced winner of the challenge!

The creative challenge involved re-fashioning a wetsuit. Lorna really went to town on this one, with her Madonna-inspired neoprene dress, featuring satin boobs and a structured neoprene peplum! Deborah combined the wetsuit with a funky digital print neoprene to win the challenge.

The final task was to make a leather jacket. This was really interesting, and did not appear to be as complicated as I expected. It was important to ensure that the fit was perfect early on as it is difficult to make any alterations to the fabric. Lorna had the clever idea of making the lining first and using this as a toile to ensure the fit was perfect before piecing together the leather. It would have been interesting to have some information on the approximate cost of making a leather jacket and where the leather could be purchased from.

Paul used a lovely pink snakeskin print leather, but this was very stiff and sadly caused him fitting issues. Poor Deborah had terrible problems when she tried the jacket on her model  and zipped it up, forgetting that there was no stop at the top of the zip, it was then impossible to get the zip to work and cost her time.  Matt made a biker jacket from a pattern suited to a jersey fabric. Construction was great, but the limited stretch of the leather meant that the jacket fitted too snugly across the back and top of the arms. Lorna made a lovely green cropped jacket for the ‘more mature lady’ but had matching issues around the base of the zip.

Neil redeemed himself, with his leather jacket winning garment of the week again! His black jacket featured a draped collar and a beautiful pink satin lining.

I think the pressure got to all the semi-finalists. Patrick said that the only person who was safe this week, was Lorna, but it was Paul and Deborah who we sadly had to say goodbye to.

So, now the the Final – who will win? – Will we have our first male Sewing Bee winner? Or will ‘always the bridesmaid’  Lorna, finally become the bride?

GBSB Episode 3 – Back to the Fifties

p01s6fyfI think Episode 3 of Sewing Bee is my favourite so far. Vintage sewing is a passion of mine so it was interesting to see how the contestants coped.

I loved the Walk-Away dress – what a simple dress, but how effective and elegant! I was happily watching this and envying the contestants for making such a lovely garment when it suddenly dawned on me that I had an original 1950s pattern in my collection of just such a dress! My Butterick pattern calls it a ‘Coverall dress’ and also includes a short version which it calls a ‘Coverall Cobbler’s Apron’. I’ve dug this one out and added it to my growing list of things to make – I’ll have to grade it up first though as it’s to fit bust 32”!

Vintage Sewing Patterns
Butterick ‘Quick and Easy’ Coverall Cobbler’s Apron

The task was made more difficult as the contestants had to make the dresses using vintage 1950s sewing machines which could only do a basic stitch. They were given the option of using a binding foot, which Neil managed, but most of the contestants stuck to the more traditional method. Patrick and May were looking for speed and skill on the binding. Ryan excelled again and won the Walk-Away dress challenge and Matt was second.  Some contestants struggled with their binding and button loops, or the alignment of the front fastening.

It was funny seeing the contestants struggling with vintage machines. I learnt to sew on my Mum’s hand-operated Singer from the 1950s, learning to sew one-handed from an early age. I have also recently inherited an old Singer treadle machine, which I am looking forward to experimenting with when I have some spare time.

My vintage Singer treadle sewing machine
My vintage Singer treadle sewing machine, primed and ready for action!

There was an interesting section of the programme examining Christian Dior’s New Look which often required 10 metres of fabric or more to make a garment! It was lovely to hear the group of elderly ladies discussing their passion and excitement for the New Look fashions following the war and the sense of freedom and adventure that these represented.

Christian Dior's New Look
Christian Dior’s New Look

The alteration challenge required the contestants to make a garment from a pair of 1950s curtains in one and a half hours, again using the vintage machines. These machines didn’t offer buttonholes so the contestants had to think of other ways to fasten their garments, inserting zips or using ribbon ties for example. Neil made a lovely fitted halterneck dress, but unfortunately didn’t quite finish. Lots of the contestants made skirts, Matt made a child’s dress and Neela, a strapless top. Lorna won this challenge with her bright, bold patterned skirt which May praised as ‘exquisitely shaped’. Neil’s gorgeous dress came second.

Day 2 required the contestants to make a 1950s inspired sheer blouse in six hours.  This was reported to be the hardest challenge yet, with the sheer fabrics requiring very fine and even seams. The group needed to get their garments right first time, as it was likely that any errors would show on the finished garment and Patrick said he was looking for complete precision – no pressure then!

Even cutting out proved a challenge, with the fabrics moving and shifting as the contestants pinned and cut. Deborah came up with an interesting solution, pinning her fabric to a foam board to stop it shifting. Some contestants made the mistake of using fusible interfacings which should never be used on sheers as it changes the nature of the fabric and shows through. Several contestants correctly used organza for interfacing.

This was a difficult challenge and none of the blouses were without issues.  Neil hated the challenge and said that sewing with sheers was his worst nightmare. He had bravely drafted his own pattern but Patrick stated that the pattern was unsuitable for the fabric and lacked refinement.  Several contestants had lumpy seams, poor fit or fabrics pulling to one side. Lorna once again won the challenge with a blouse which had been adapted from a pattern for a nightdress – she managed to achieve exquisite, fine seams on this difficult fabric, and also won garment of the week.

I particularly loved Deborah’s blouse which featured a tie neck, little cap sleeves and buttons up the back. If anyone knows where I can obtain this pattern, I would love to know!

So who went home? Sadly it was Neela, although she said she was very much looking forward to going home and sewing lots of garments as slowly as possible – I can sympathise with that!

Next week’s episode looks more challenging than ever, with the emphasis on structure – a corset and tartan kilts are two of the garments involved – should be an easy week then!!!

Tiny Terrors – Great British Sewing Bee Episode 2


Well, I thought Episode 2 of the current series of Great British Sewing Bee was pretty challenging, didn’t you?

The contestants were faced with designing and constructing on a small scale, with various childrenswear challenges. The first task was to make a child’s waistcoat using some traditional tailoring techniques and incorporating welt pockets. Patrick and May were looking for attention to detail – symmetrical points at the front of the waistcoat, and parallel welt pockets.  Some of the contestants made this more difficult for themselves by choosing striped or checked fabrics and poor Neela had to cut her pocket flaps numerous times to ensure the stripes matched. Quite a few of the competitors struggled with this task and failed to complete it – dear old Matt fixed his buttons with Blu-Tack! The construction of the waistcoats was interesting, with the fronts inserted into the back of the waistcoat and then sewn blind on the shoulders and side seams, before being fed through a gap at the base of the waistcoat. I’m still pondering this one and think I’m going to have to give it a go!

It was lovely to see Ryan improve in confidence, winning the waistcoat challenge with a garment which Patrick described as faultless, apart from the pattern matching on the welt pockets. Lorna came second, with beautifully matched pockets but uneven button spacing.

The creative challenge combined a child’s T-Shirt and summer dress in one garment.  There were some great ideas, with some lovely dresses evolving from the two garments. Neil’s transformation of the two garments into a pair of boxing shorts and some tiny boxing gloves was outstanding though. And Alex produced some very sweet little harem pants. Patrick said that Amanda’s cape ‘lacked impact’ and accused Deborah of trying to win Brownie points with May, by altering the two garments into a bolero jacket. Neil’s outfit was deservedly first, and who came second? Yes, you’ve guessed it – it was Lorna – again!!

The final challenge involved a great deal of imagination. The contestants had to produce three-dimensional fancy dress garments in four hours, though they had been allowed to prepare for these in advance, and bring in specialist fabrics. This was a fun challenge, with some fabulous costumes. Matt and Deborah produced peacocks, Lorna introduced a ‘Booby Bird’, Ryan produced a fox, Paul an elephant, Amanda created a 1920s flapper girl, Neil designed a smart phone, Neela an inch worm and Alex a cupcake – or part of one at least!

I loved Neela’s Inch Worm costume. She had made an appliquéd book which encased her model, with pleated fabric at one side to illustrate the books pages, and the book’s spine at the other. The inch worm was encased inside with a padded worm’s tail protruding from the base of the book. Paul’s elephant was also excellent with real attention to detail – he even had a little mouse running up the elephant’s leg. Patrick questioned whether Amanda’s costume was three-dimensional enough, but May pointed out that whilst Amanda had put a different interpretation on the challenge, the turban featured plenty of three-dimensional elements. Her outfit looked beautiful. Alex’s cupcake idea was great but perhaps too ambitious for the time available. Her pleated cupcake case was superb, but took so long that she ran out of time to create the cupcake frosting and sparkles.

I also loved Neil’s Smartphone costume which included padded headphones and appliquéd apps on the smartphone  screen. Paul’s lovingly created elephant costume won garment of the week.

So who left the Sewing Bee? Sadly it was Alex. I know some people have criticised this decision but really I don’t think the judges had a choice. Alex was talented but was in the bottom two in the first week, and then failed to finish either her waistcoat or her fancy dress outfit. As May said, she was a brilliant sewer, but just needed time to finish things. I do think, though, that we will miss her creativity.

I’m really looking forward to Episode 3; the focus is on vintage sewing, which is a particular passion of mine, and the contestants will be using vintage sewing machines, coping with a ‘make do and mend’ challenge and sewing a sheer blouse – I can’t wait! But who will become the victim of episode 3 I wonder?

Photo from

Sewing Bee – Back on our Screens!


So, The Great British Sewing Bee got off to a strong start yesterday with the contestants already forming strong bonds and supporting each other in their quest for sewing supremacy.


Judges May Martin and Patrick Grant (Photo by Colin Bell)

It was nice to see four male sewers – I don’t know why I’m always so surprised that men like to sew, after all, we have so many talented male designers and tailors. It was interesting that one of the men compared sewing to engineering –  the use of this comparison in schools and colleges could encourage a lot more men to take up sewing, and not see it as a predominantly  female skill.

Military man,  Neil was amazing wasn’t he? He was so well-organised and accurate with his sewing, even unpicking a seam because his polka dots were out of alignment by about 1mm. What a difference this act of professionalism made though – his polka dot dress was outstanding. What a lucky wife he has!

I felt sorry for Annie. It’s a shame that anyone has to go out in the first week. I would imagine that the pressure to perform well  in front of the cameras is so great that it would take a few weeks to find your feet and get into your stride.

Ex-air hostess, Lorna interested me. I think she is quietly talented and definitely one to watch. I loved Deborah’s vintage style and I particularly liked the vibrant fabric she chose for her dress – beautiful! I also admired the fabric which Amanda chose for her trousers. I don’t think I’d be brave enough to choose something like that, but they looked fab.

I sympathised with Alex. She strove for perfection but didn’t perform well under  pressure and made some silly errors which nearly cost her dearly. I’m sure if I was on the show, I would be exactly the same. I hope she gets her nerves under control and stays in the competition. I admired her creativity which was evident in her redesign of the denim shirt.

Inserting a concealed zip certainly wasn’t the easiest task with which to open the competition. I use the same concealed zipper foot as the contestants but rarely manage to get the foot as close to the zip as I would like. Generally I prefer to use a standard zipper foot as I find the results more effective – maybe I just need to practice more.

I’m already itching to see next week’s show when the contestants will be demonstrating traditional tailoring skills whilst making a child’s waistcoat, and making children’s fancy dress costumes.

What did you think of Episode 1, and the contestants and their creations? Any thoughts on who you think will be crowned Sewing Bee 2015?