For a man who once joked about slaughtering a fox in his Live at the Apollo show, the transition to fronting cosy BBC2 stitch-athon The Great British Sewing Bee could have been a bumpy one. But Joe Lycett is taking it in his stride(s).
From sporting a tattoo of judges Patrick Grant and Esme Young, to comfortably chatting about baggy bottoms (of the jumpsuit variety) with the contestants, softly-spoken Joe is already proving himself a natural successor to Queen of Innuendo Claudia Winkleman…
He dresses the part
What he lacks in sewing skill, Joe makes up for with his jazzy wardrobe – rather fitting for a show that prides itself on celebrating creativity and fashion flair alongside technical skill.
He’s previously proven he’s a snappy dresser, both in his Instagram posts and in the hot pink feathered jacket we see in the show previews, but in episode one he’s upped his game. Sporting mint green nails and a rainbow jacket, he chats merrily about which print he’d pick for his underpants and rummages in the haberdashery for the most garish fabrics.
He’s keen to learn
The fact that he’s learning dressmaking lingo along the way only adds to Joe’s charm. The self-confessed sewing newbie gets to ask the questions we’re asking at home. Like what is an invisible zip? And “that’s a dart, isn’t it?”
He has the required sense of humour
Of course the wry sense of humour that made his name is one of the things Joe was hired for but when you’re following a class act like Claudia, you need to be at the top of your game. In this first episode, Joe delights in Sheila’s glorious decision to make an outfit for Rhianna in the denim refashion challenge. “Yesterday you were making an outfit for Rhianna. Can I guess this is for Stormzy?” he remarks the next day as she gets stuck into a cotton jumpsuit.
And in future weeks we can only hope for some punning of the quality he shared on Twitter after being announced as the new Sewing Bee host: “My mum loves this show and she’s bursting at the seams she’s sew excited! Weave talked about it and she says I’m tailor made and I’ll have the contestants in stitches.”
He’s here to help
While we revel in the contestants’ triumphs, we secretly enjoy the drama of their mistakes too, and the presenter’s gig is as much about lightening the atmosphere and offering a shoulder to lean on as it is to count down the clock.
So Joe’s on hand to offer a boost as the contestants sweat it out with their unpickers. He picks up their fabric scraps, helps them fit their garments on to the dummies in the last 30 seconds and pops up at their sewing stations to offer a friendly ear when they start to panic. “Is this helping or is this distracting?” he asks, as he gives Tom a massage.
We may be just one episode in but Joe’s already making the move from stand-up comic to prince of prime-time comfort telly look easy. Plus we can’t wait to see what he’s wearing next week…
Zoe Williams is Digital Editor of Simply Sewing
The Great British Sewing Bee continues on Tuesdays at 9pm on BBC2