Simply Sewing meets: Great British Sewing Bee’s Sheila

Another week, another too-soon exit from the Sewing Bee! In episode two, we said a fond farewell to the super-talented Sheila.

Sheila is the youngest of 9 children born to Jamaican parents, who arrived in England as part of the Windrush generation and settled in Stoke-on-Trent. She now lives in Ilford, Essex with her daughter Riahanna, 24, and has been sewing for 40 years. In fact, she describes fashion and making clothes as being in her blood.

One of her earliest memories was the constant whirring of her mum’s sewing machine; it was in part the soundtrack of her early life. As a child, she was inspired to make clothes for herself, something which has carried her through into adult life. Her personal style is smart and elegant, taking inspiration from Megan Markle, Victoria Beckham and Stella McCartney, and she works with a wide range of fabrics and styles and has a passion for vibrant, colourful prints.

Here, she shares what inspired her to apply for the Sewing Bee series 5, which of the challenges she feared the most, and what it was like walking into the Sewing Bee workroom for the first time. The Great British Sewing Bee series 5 contestants

When did you first start sewing and why do you love it so much?

I started sewing when I was about 6 years old making clothes for my dolls. I progressed to making my first garment, a school skirt at the age of 10. I remember wearing my skirt to school and relishing in the amazement of my friends and teachers.

I guess I love to sew because I thrive on creativity, by taking a piece of quality fabric cutting it and making it into a stylish contemporary garment that is very individual to me gives me a lot of satisfaction.

Who was your sewing mentor?

My mentor was and still is my mum Gertrude, without her sharing her love and knowledge of sewing with me I don’t know whether I would have this wonderful very useful skill. It has served me well through the years.



What is your favourite garment to sew/or your speciality?

My favourite garments to sew are dresses and jumpsuits, for the very fact that they are a complete outfit, without having to team it up with another garment.

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?

Since the GBSB started I have watched every episode of every series, so when I turned 50 I decided to challenge myself by saying yes to doing new things (within reason of course lol). One Sunday morning while scrolling through social media I discovered that the GBSB was returning. I was so happy and just knew I had to apply.

I adore Esme, she’s amazing, but I was really looking forward to meeting Patrick, I so wanted to impress him with my makes. Joe was wonderful, he is definitely the perfect addition to the GBSB team, he is so funny and made me feel very relaxed, he immediately became a friend to the Bees, willing us all on.

Describe your experience on first walking into the sewing room on this year’s Sewing Bee, and which challenge were you fearing the most?

Walking into the sewing room on the first day was surreal it was absolutely amazing. I was so excited and somewhat nervous too, but mainly happy and thrilled.

The challenge I feared the most was the transformation challenge, taking garments and turning them into something else on the spot. Not knowing what we would be asked to create in a short space of time was a little daunting. My plan was to think of someone who might wear my garment and make it for them.

Do you have a special attachment to a sewing tool?

My favourite sewing tool that has revolutionised my sewing experience is the rollerblade – it makes cutting out a garment more accurate and speedy.

In your sewing life, what has been your worst sewing disaster – and your biggest triumph?

In my early years of sewing I remember hastily cutting out a velvet dress and finding that the nap in the front was lying in the opposite direction to the nap at the back of the dress, I didn’t have any spare fabric to correct my mistake, which proved very upsetting and costly. My biggest sewing triumph, besides getting onto the GBSB, was last year when I made my daughter’s 2018 Ascot dress.

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Describe your style, and how much of your own clothes do you make?

My style is classical soft tailoring with a modern contemporary edge. I love feminine clothes that enhance my figure. I make 50% of my clothes and also make for my mum and daughter.

Can you give a sewing tip for amateur sewers who have been enjoying the show?

Practice sewing using a wide variety of fabrics.

What is the best way to describe the relationship between this year’s Bees?

There has been a real sense of camaraderie amongst this year’s Bees.

Images © BBC/Love Productions/Mark Bourdillon. 

The Great British Sewing Bee Joe Lycett