10 things that made this Great British Sewing Bee brilliant

The highs, the lows, the lingerie, the steely new judge, the wisecracking host and dedicated contestants from all walks of life have made series four one to treasure, says Zoe Williams

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Phew! Who knew suit alterations or inserting a shirt collar could feel so tense? Monday night’s final of The Great British Sewing Bee saw Charlotte, Joyce and Jade grappling with pin tuckets, plackets and yokes to sew up beautiful evening wear and fight for the crown of Queen Bee of the amateur sewing world.

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But it’s not all drama… Along with the tears, scandals (well, sort-of scandals) and some occasionally saucy sewing, we’ve had sartorial successes, heart-warming moments from a diverse bunch of contestants, one-of-a-kind judges and the ever wise-cracking host Claudia Winkleman – Simply Sewing magazine is here to round-up the best bits of series four…

1. When things go wrong

Obviously we’re rooting for the contestants to impress the judges, aren’t we? But sometimes it all goes gloriously wrong and when it does we just can’t look away…

Even the most promising sewists can crumble under the pressure of the sewing room cameras (think back to Jamie’s shock exit in week three after being undone by the stresses of lingerie week). We could barely watch when the usually cool and calm Charlotte became unraveled in the final by a dress shirt collar. Who knew a seam allowance could cause so much angst? After stitching her seam a mere 5mm out, her whole garment began to go downhill, sending into her into a panic rush that spiralled her into third place in the first challenge of the night.

Did anyone else detect a note of barely disguised glee from the judges? While our hearts sank for Charlotte, the judges looked on with Esme commenting “She’s panicking a bit isn’t she? It’s a shame.” Hmmmm.

2. When things go right

Seeing the contestants excitedly call home to share their triumphs was a staple of each episode, and the various facial expressions, yelps and screams of delight were contagious. Although possibly the most good-natured competitive sew along to grace our TV screens yet, the series four Bees still weren’t afraid to show off in the sewing room either when things went well… we witnessed a few natty celebratory dance moves along the way.

3. When things get a little racy

As if lingerie week wasn’t enough, with the contests whipping up tiny scraps of fabric into lacy bras, the following week’s PVC alternation challenge further raised temperatures – “Ring a ding ding” exclaimed Claudia. But it was Ghislane’s confession about her home sewing in week one that raised the most eyebrows: “when I make things for myself, every time I make a seam, I like to try it on to see if it fits, and I find it a lot easier to do in my underwear.” Er, you heard it here first – naked sewing is the next big thing.

4. And on a cuter note

bunny slippers

On the flip side, part of the show’s charm has been its more innocent moments. Charlotte officially wins our best sewing-wear of the competition award…  for her bunny slippers (although they don’t look hugely sturdy to take on the hour-upon-hour of hard sewing machine labour the show demands of the contestants). Meanwhile, Jade’s approach to lingerie week summed up why we loved her, “I think every robe should have a cheeky pocket. You can hide your biscuits in there from your mum when she says you’re not allowed any more.”

5. Binding-gate: rebellion in the sewing room

Joyce
 

At 71 years old, grandmother Joyce had already delighted with her weekly confessions of loving a tipple, but in week four she revealed a gloriously stubborn streak when she went rogue and ignored the instructions in the pattern making challenge.

The judges weren’t impressed with the binding on her Chinese top, with Patrick nicknaming her ‘the infurating Joyce’. “You’ve done it your own way, you’ve given us a bound edge and you’ve given us a completely different opening, but you’ve done it quite nicely and it sits well. It’s not what we asked for. You’re infuriating Joyce.”

Joyce remained unrepentant, claiming “Everyone thinks I went off piste but there were only two things that I did differently,” though she returned the next day with the promise that, “I’m a changed woman today, I’m biddable,” much to Patrick’s amusement.

6. Learning the lingo

From plackets to pin tucks to peplums… if you thought sewing was just attaching buttons to shirts, you’ll come away having discovered a whole new world, and language. Woe betide Angeline when she innocently misprounced Godet in front of Esme. The steely host shot back, “it’s Go-DET”.

7. We love you Claudia

Always on hand to lighten the atmosphere when things got a little fraught, Claudia’s peppy presenting, packed full of sparkling one-liners and quick quips was a great antidote to any tension in the room or on the bobbins. There are too many examples to list here but oh how we chuckled time and again. When Joyce revealed baby gros hadn’t been invented when her babies were young, Claudia responded “What did your babies wear? Hessian?”

8. Patricks wardrobe confessions

Immaculately-tailored Patrick surprised us on more than one occasion by the depth of his enthusiasm for the contestants’ creations. Let’s look back to Charlotte’s harem pants in International week: “I’d love to wear something very similar. Possibly even these ones in a quiet moment,” and even better, Tracey’s chosen fabric for her baby gro in week two, that led him to proclaim he’d like a onesie in the same material, to which Tracey responded, “I’ve not got enough fabric Patrick.”

9. New judge Esme showed us how its done

With her at times steely manner and impressive credentials (she teaches pattern cutting at famous fashion college Central Saint Martins and designed the outfits for the Bridget Jones films), we would certainly be nervous about showing off our sewing to Esme, but as series four gathered steam, she revealed a softer side and genuine enthusiasm for the Bees and their efforts to impress. She also stole the show with her eye-catching accessories and outfits. Her jacket from the final alone may win garment of the series, never mind the week.

10. Hooray for Josh

With his football loving, pint-supping good nature, Josh was a breath of fresh air in the sewing room, and he wasn’t afraid to admit when he wasn’t sure what was going on. He blunted his unpicker tool, asked what a chevron was and got confused about the difference between gullets and gussets. His laid-back manner made him popular with his fellow contestants too, and when he exited the sewing bee in week four, he summed up what makes the show special perfectly, saying “It  doesn’t matter what stretch of life, what you background is, how long you’ve been sewing for, you can learn very quickly as long as you apply yourself and I hope I’ve proved that to the judges as well as to the people who are watching.”

And THAT, dear viewers, is what makes the Sewing Bee so heart warming and infinitely watchable.

The final of The Great British Sewing Bee is on Monday 4th July at 9:30pm on BBC2

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