How to win The Great British Sewing Bee

Simply Sewing reveals the secrets of success in BBC2's latest sewing challenge – and brings us sage advice from past winners


From Claudia Winkleman’s non-stop banter to surprise challenges and new sewing tools, The Great British Sewing Bee hopefuls have a lot more than just sewing perfect seams to contend with.


So, what does it take to beat the other Bees? Is it sewing know-how, a competitive spirit, the ability to remain calm while Patrick Grant scrutinises your stitching, or a combination of all three?

Previous GBSB winners Matt Chapple, Heather Jacks and Ann Rowley, and new judge Esme Young, share what they think it takes to win with Radio Times’s sister magazine, Simply Sewing.

1. Forget about the cameras


Sure, the cameras will be recording every wonky stitch and sewing slip-up, but all our winners agree that this year’s hopefuls will need to try to ignore the fact they’re being filmed if they want to win.

Just take it from series two winner, Heather Jacks: “There were times I’d want to poke the interviewer in the eye or tell the camera man to film someone else, but I enjoyed the pressure.” Series three victor Matt Chapple agrees: “Pretty soon they just seem like part of the furniture – one that comes running as soon as you make a mistake!”

2. Stay calm under pressure


Ann Rowley’s cool-as-a-cucumber attitude won her the title back in series one: “I’m a fairly calm sort of person, so I wasn’t thrown by anything.” Heather, on the other hand, found that the prospect of having her sewing fails broadcast on national television worked wonders for her ability to concentrate: “There’s nothing like the fear of looking like an idiot in front of three million viewers to sharpen the focus. When I was doing a challenge I was completely clear-headed.”

3. Be original

Think a simple shift dress will win the day? Think again. Judge Esme Young wants to see something new in the sewing room (think series three contestant Neil’s skirt-and-anklet combo, dubbed the ‘skanklet’). She says, “I want to be surprised and to see the sewists’ personalities in the garments. It’s nebulous – you don’t know it until you see it.”

4. Enjoy it!


Matt Chapple loved everything about being part of the Bee – even Claudia’s shocking sewing puns. “I got such joy from just being a part of the show, meeting the other contestants and getting to sew for six weeks. And Claudia is a fantastic host – we shared so many giggles that, shall we say, couldn’t be shown on BBC2.”


Want to learn how to make your own clothes, make easy-­to­-sew home furnishings and more? Pick up a copy of Simply Sewing, the UK sewing magazine promising fresh ideas with fabric. Get 5 issues for £5 when you subscribe today.