The Great British Sewing Bee 2019: meet the contestants

Meet the ten hopefuls battling it out to be crowned Britain’s best home sewer

The Great British Sewing Bee contestants (BBC)

After a two year hiatus, the wait is sew-ver: The Great British Sewing Bee is back.


Judges Patrick Grant and Esme Young return to BBC2 to seek out Britain’s most extraordinary sewing talent.

The new series will be presented by Joe Lycett, who is likely to put both the contestants and the viewers at home in stitches as he takes over from previous host Claudia Winkleman.

But who are the contestants who are hoping to take the title? Here’s everything you need to know…


Great British Sewing Bee, Ben (BBC)

Age: 31 | From: Edinburgh | Occupation: Scientist

Having always fostered a passion for fashion and finery, Ben finessed his sewing skills after heading to university in Glasgow, often stitching together creations for fancy dress parties.

After training as a vet, Ben has spent the last five years pursuing a career in science – but secretly dreams of running away and joining the circus as a trapeze artist.


Great British Sewing Bee, Janet (BBC)

Age: 70 | From: North Yorkshire | Occupation: Retired Shopkeeper

Janet was taught to sew as a girl by her Italian mother, going on to make her own clothes and soft furnishings.

However, Janet took a 20-year hiatus from stitching her own creations when she had three children, and was only inspired to pick up the needle and thread once more in 2015 with the arrival of her grandchildren.

Now, Janet enjoys upcycling and refreshing her own outfits with her natural artistic flair.


Great British Sewing Bee, Jen (BBC)

Age: 49 | From: Glasgow | Occupation: Self-employed

Having received her first sewing machine aged 14, Jen sewed a lot of her own clothes as a teenager. However, with the stresses of work (she previously worked as a solicitor, then a small business owner), Jen was forced to give up sewing, only returning to her love of craft more recently when she agreed to lead a local knitting class.

Jen’s distinct work has a Japanese influence, appreciating neat clothes with strong structures.


The Great British Sewing Bee, Juliet (BBC)

Age: 33 | From: London | Occupation: Primary School Teacher

Unlike other contestants, Juliet has only been sewing for the last five years, teaching herself the tricks of the trade by watching YouTube videos and sewing DVDs.

Having moved to the UK from Nigeria in 2006, Juliet is inspired by big, bold fabrics and African wax prints.


Mercedes, The Great british Sewing Bee (BBC)

Age: 57 | From: East Sussex | Occupation: School Reprographics Technician

Mercedes was taught to sew by her Italian grandmother, and realised as a teenager that she would have to sew her own clothes if she wanted to keep her own distinct sense of style.

Admitting she is no longer so fashion forward, Mercedes describes her own style as comfortable with a hint of Brighton chic.


Riccardo, The Great British Sewing Bee (BBC)

Age: 37 | From: East London (Originally Italy) | Occupation: Graphic Designer / Multimedia Producer

Having grown up in Italy, the sewing machine was a fixture of Riccardo’s household, with his mother particularly passionate about creating her own designs – but Riccardo himself didn’t get into the hobby until he moved to east London seven years ago and took sewing classes.

A master upcycler, Riccardo’s proudest sew is his bomber jacket, made up of leather from a sofa he found on the street.


The Great British Sewing Bee, Tom (BBC)

Age: 27 | From: Chelmsford, Essex | Occupation: Motion Graphics Designer

Tom started sewing seriously around three years ago when he started to make dresses for his mother, and in the last year has branched out into designing menswear.

Fairly new to sewing, Tom is another one of this year’s contestants who turned to YouTube to perfect the craft, plumping for bold, bright and garish prints in his designs.


Sheila, The Great British Sewing Bee (BBC)

Age: 51 | From: Ilford, Essex | Occupation: Integrated Care Liaison Officer

The youngest of nine children born to Jamaican parents, Sheila moved to the UK as part of the Windrush generation, initially settling in Stoke-on-Trent.

With her mother constantly at the machine, Sheila was inspired as a young child to fashion her own designs, and enjoys making bespoke high-end occasion wear – looking towards Meghan Markle, Victoria Beckham and Stella McCartney for ideas.


Leah, The Great British Sewing Bee (BBC)

Age: 43 | From: London | Occupation: Practice Director Architectural Firm

Another relative newbie to the sewing scene, ‘selfish sewer’ Leah took up the hobby five years ago in the hope of recreating high-end, couture gowns that were out of her price range.

A lover of fashion, Leah turns to magazines for inspiration, compiling well-loved designs in a scrap book for her to attempt in the future.


Alexei, The Great British Sewing Bee (BBC)

Age: 36 | From: Leeds | Occupation: Manufacturing Engineer

Having started sewing two years ago, Alexei uses the skills he’s gained as a manufacturing engineer to make perfectly formed and precise garments.


Alexei’s sewing is sometimes hindered by his MS, which affects his right side of the body, seeing him relying on his left hand to work on some of his creations.

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