Oh, Alexei. We all wanted his stunning maxi dress from 1970s week, didn’t we? It’s always sad to see a sewist leave the GBSB sewing room, but we’re not ashamed to admit that Alexei’s inspiring goodbye speech had us welling up – it was a heartfelt reminder of the soothing power of sewing.
This multi-talented stitcher isn’t only a whizz with a sewing machine – his day job is a manufacturing engineer, working with CAD-CAM systems and helping to develop better manufacturing processes for structural components. And, after finishing his degree in aerospace engineering, Alexei decided to pursue an unexplored passion for singing, training at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Originally meeting while both performing in Bach’s St John Passion, Alexei and his wife Beth have been married for 3 years. They live in Leeds with their cat, Moth.
Alexei started sewing just over two years ago and enjoys using his engineering skills to make precise garments, paying close attention to the smallest detail. Having had MS for more than 10 years, which affects the right side of his body, he has had to learn to compensate with his left hand while sewing. He also enjoys reading, writing and still sings occasionally. When did you first start sewing and why do you love it so much?
I started sewing a little over two years ago. Creating something that I can wear, or for someone you care about, is the best feeling. I love being able to step away from the disposable nature of so much clothing, which I think is terrible.
Who was your mentor?
I made my first garment with my mother. It was supposed to be a one-off, but I liked it so much I carried on! More recently, my wife’s aunt and a good friend who’s an amazing tailor have had to put up with me asking them things I really should know already. They’ve been amazing.
What is your favourite garment to sew, or your speciality?
I make a bit of everything. I have tried to get to know more menswear techniques recently as I like the precision and neatness required. I’m not the fastest when it comes to sewing and I enjoy taking my time (good job I didn’t have to sew against the clock, right? Oh wait…).
Why did you want to be a Great British Sewing Bee and who did you want to most impress of the judges, or both? And when the sewing got tough, was Joe a welcome ally?
It felt like it was written in the stars… Every time I made something, people would say “ooh, you should go on that Sewing Bee programme!” I guess I thought “why not?”
I was really looking forward to meeting the judges and they were lovely. Joe was hilarious and supportive both in the sewing room and out of it. I feel very lucky to have met them all.
Describe your experience on first walking into the sewing room on this year’s Sewing Bee, and which challenge were you fearing the most?
Seeing the sewing room for the first time, was amazing. I thought it looked exactly like it did on the telly. Then there were the cameras looking at me and I thought “so this is really happening…”
I was probably most worried about the transformation challenge. I hadn’t really done much like that ever before and I had no idea how I was going to cope.Do you have a special attachment to a sewing tool?
I don’t know where I’d be without my rotary cutter. I can’t use scissors with my right hand (I’m right-handed), so it has allowed me to get stuff done so much more easily.
In your sewing life: What has been your worst sewing disaster – and your biggest triumph?
I’ve had so many unsuccessful attempts, mainly because I was teaching myself for the most part. I tried to make a sleeveless top with a cowl neck and an asymmetric hemline, but my wife thought it looked so stupid (she was right) that I never wore it.
Describe your style, and how much of your own clothes do you make?
I try to make things that are really neat, but with something that will catch the eye. I do like a bit of eye-catching topstitching. I tend to make stuff for myself when there’s a need. I’m not the kind of person that will just accumulate clothing that I don’t wear. That’s why I like to make things for other people.
Can you give a sewing tip for amateur sewers who have been enjoying the show?
I started sewing after I saw the last series. If you’re interested in trying it, don’t wait – jump in! There is so much information out there from which to learn. You will not believe how good it feels to finish something that you’ve made from scratch and put it on. You’ll not want to stop. For those who already sew, you probably know at least as much as I do, to be honest.
What is the best way to describe the relationship between this year’s Bees?
I felt that the group instantly clicked and it feels like we’re all a big family now. I have made friends for life, that’s for sure. We’re all quite different, but the way that everyone looks out for each other is wonderful. I have been really inspired by them.