Occupation: renovation project manager
Sewing style: feminine and quaint
Lauren first picked up her needle and thread aged just six years old, going on to create all things habadashery, from handbags to her own clothes. Trained as a physiotherapist, she gave it all up to renovate a property she one day hopes to turn into a habadashery where she will be “surrounded by lovely fabric”. Living with her husband and three chickens in Birmingham, Lauren mixes her hobby with other interests – marathon running, cooking, growing vegetables and getting together with her knitting group.
Occupation: retired school photographer
Sewing style: retro-inspired, love of vintage fabrics, often flamboyant
Jane made her sewing debut at her third year disco, creating her own dress thanks to a teacher who spotted her special talent. Now she sews almost every day, making everything from her own clothes to fancy dress outfits for her grandsons – and requiring a walk in wardrobe to house all her creations. But despite her flair for fashioning her own attire, she is daunted by tailoring, declaring she “would die” if asked to make a suit…
Occupation: HGV mechanic
Sewing style: historical costumes, pirate outfits and the use of heavy duty fabrics
Over six foot, pony-tailed and pierced, mechanic Mark is not your average sewer, but when he’s not fixing up trucks he indulges in a spot of habadashery with his wife, Donna. A dedicated attendee of ‘steam-punk’ events which, for the uninitiated, involves dressing in Victorian costume and drinking tea, Mark scours libraries and museums to research the elaborate creations he hand-makes especially. Despite struggling to find thimbles big enough to fit his fingers, Mark takes pride in his striking creations. His favourite? A Johnny Depp Pirates of the Caribbean costume complete with a feathered three-cornered hat.
Occupation: grandma of 7, housewife
Sewing style: elegant, timeless and chic
The oldest of the contestants, Ann has been sewing for an impressive 75 years, a hobby she mixes with her other passions – yoga, cooking, knitting and gardening. Beginning by making clothes for her dolls aged 6, Ann went on to teach domestic science before becoming a full time housewife. “I can’t imagine life without sewing. It’s a part of me,” says Ann who is hoping to inspire the next generation of sewers by taking part in the show. She frequently goes “snoop shopping” to source ideas for her creations, and is delighted one of her seven grandchildren has recently taken up her favourite pastime.
Occupation: film festival project manager
Sewing style: film noir-inspired, 1960s chic
A relative newcomer to the sewing scene, Tilly discovered her passion for a needle and thread just two years ago, claiming “it was love at first stitch”. She now has a wardrobe brimming with hand-made clothes and writes a blog sharing everything she’s made with the online sewing community. After spending a year studying in Paris, Tilly now lives in London, advising independent cinemas on their film programming. Many of her favourite films are French, a culture she claims to have influenced her sewing style.
Occupation: sales manager
Sewing style: quilt-maker, home furnishings
Stuart resides with his partner Charles in North Yorkshire and began sewing when he moved into his first home. In order to furnish his abode with curtains, cushions and quilts, Stuart locks himself away for days at a time, studying the history of different techniques and styles in depth to concoct his creations. He shares his knowledge with fellow sewers, writing occasional articles for a craft magazine and, despite being the least experienced dressmaker in the Sewing Bee, he claims his organised and speedy sewing technique means he won’t be fazed by his formidible competition.
Occupation: manager at Centrepoint charity
Sewing style: classic, tailored and fitted
Living in London with her husband and baby son, Michelle balances her passion for sewing with motherhood and her job helping young homeless people find affordable housing. First taught to sew by her gran who made wedding and bridesmaid dresses, Michelle loves to pick up her materials in fabric shops around Brixton, creating unique clothes to fit her hour glass figure. She doesn’t lay claim to being an expert, instead referring to YouTube every time she gets stuck on a tricky bit of cross-stitching.
Sewing style: flouncy, frilly style and a love for flowery fabrics
It was quite a surprise for Sandra when she received a letter inviting her to a sewing bee audition, largely because she’d never filled out an application form – her daughter secretly applied on her behalf, believing her mother wouldn’t do it herself “due to lack of confidence”. Sandra has always made sewing a part of the family home she shares with her husband and three children, creating everything from bedspreads to bespoke prom dresses, and even fixing her husband’s jeans. Hailing from a family of keen dressmakers, Sandra is now teaching her own daughter to sew, mixing her favourite hobby with time spent with her husband tending to their allotment.
The Great British Sewing Bee begins tonight at 8:00pm on BBC2