Your Guide to The Great British Sewing Bee 2019: Episode Guide

Great British Sewing Bee 2019 week 6

What a week it’s been on The Bee as the sewists reuse and recycle second hand materials, from fabric scraps to soft furnishings. Catch up with all of the highlights from each week of the Show with our Great British Sewing Bee episode recaps.

*Warning: contains spoilers*. All images in this post are © BBC/Love Productions

Here are the themes so far – scroll down to find the episode you want to recap or dive on in and relive the lot below! If you’re feeling inspired to up your sewing skills, check out our 3 issues for £3 offer).

  • Week 1: Cotton week – includes free jumpsuit sewing pattern
  • Week 2: Children’s week – includes free children’s fancy dress projects
  • Week 3: Seventies week – 70s fashions + plus how to sew a maxi dress
  • Week 4: Technical fabrics – sew a panelled swimsuit, turn a tent into a dog coat, luxury men’s tracksuit
  • Week 5: Reduce, reuse, recycle – sew a pussy-bow blouse, crate a garment from fabric scraps, refashion a dress from soft furnishings.
  • Week 6: British and Irish fabrics week – sew a linen men’s jacket, deckchair refashion, make a coat out of British wool

Week 6: British and Irish fabrics week

It’s quarter final week! And in what must be Patrick Grant’s favourite week of series 5, the contestants  are asked to tackle tailoring  and sew a linen worker’s jacket. Following Patrick’s own pattern, tonight’s show will see the gang grapple with  complex techniques, and a fabric that can easily crease and fray.

We’re really excited about tonight’s Transformation Challenge, as the final five will be turning stripy deckchairs and parasols (covered in Burnley ‘ticking’ fabric), into garments in just an hour and a half.

Tonight’s final challenge will see the group create made-to-measure coats from British wool. How will they get on tackling the largest garments they’ve attempted so far on the Sewing Bee in just five hours? And who will make it through to the semi-final?

The Great British Sewing Bee

Week 5: Reduce, reuse, recycle

This week’s theme is close to our hearts. Did you know fashion industry is the biggest polluter of our planet next to oil? In a first for the Bee, tonight’s show will be themed Reduce, Reuse and Recycle Week.

We’re temporarily wave goodbye to the haberdashery as it’s set to be replaced with charity shop clothes and soft-furnishings. Joe does his bit by wearing the same pants all week (now that’s dedication to the cause).

The Great British Sewing Bee

Pattern challenge: sew a pussy-bow blouse from pre-loved garments

The sewists are asked to refashion several pre-loved garments, including a man’s shirt, into a pussy-bow blouse (Esme is sporting a bright red example in her trademark bold style.

“I think it’s very important that people recycle clothes,” reveals Esme. “As a teenager I can remember my Mum hid quite a lot of her old clothes so I couldn’t get hold of them and chop hem up and turn them into something else,” before adding (ruefully), “I would have, actually.”

As the sewists get their heads around trying to pick multiple garments to cut the pattern pieces for their blouse, they’re realising that the blouse’s gathered sleeves require a lot of fabric which is proving challenging.

Juliet and Leah are frowning a lot.

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The Great British Sewing Bee

“Am I ready for the party? It looks a bit like I’ve had an accident at the ski resort but I need to get to the wedding.”

Mercedes thinks she’s found an easy solution – use a duvet cover. The judges are not impressed that she hasn’t stuck to the brief of refashioning garments.

The Great British Sewing Bee Patrick Grant

Patrick concedes, “You will have made your life considerably easier. “I think that was one of my aims…” laughs Mercedes.

Patrick and Esme discuss the ethos behind this week’s challenge (in case you missed it, Patrick recently delivered a great TED talk on the perils of fast fashion). In this week’s fashion history segment, we learn about the roots of fast fashion when Biba exploded on to the fashion scene in the 1960s with affordable, stylish garments.

The Great British Sewing Bee

Janet: “I’m going to make a classic pussy bow blouse. I’m the Queen of Classics.” Joe: “Who crowned you?” Janet: “Me. I crowned myself”

We sit back and await the inevitable mistakes as the sewists stitch against the clock. We don’t have to wait long. Riccardo ses the back of his garment inside out but doesn’t have time to unpick and fix it… “I hate this!” he wails. Getting the placket and buttonholes on the right side is also proving tricky. Janet sews her front placket to her side seam before realising she’s trimmed one piece too small.

Patrick and Esme appear mildly delighted at the carnage… “There’s a new catalogue of new and exciting errors that they’ve brought to this challenge that I don’t think we’d even managed to think of!” exclaims Patrick.

The Great British Sewing Bee

“Time to think about panickings, I don’t know about mannequins”

This challenge is really stumping everyone. Mercedes muses, “It would be nice to have a finished garment to show them,” while Juliet switches her overdrive mode on.

“I might run out of time. Death by pussy bow, isn’t it really?” concludes (the usually unruffled) Janet.

Judging time and the judges go in for the kill.

The Great British Sewing Bee

“That’s the seond time I ever made binding,” reveals Riccardo as his blouse’s sleeve finish is dissected. “Was this the first?” quips Patrick, pointing at the other sleeve.

It’s been a tough task and most of the sewists receive vigorous commentary from Patrick and Esme, but Juliet’s blouse gets a rave review. She scoops the top spot while Mercedes trails in last place.

Transformation challenge: sew a garment from fabric scraps

Janet is tentative about going into the Transformation challenge: “I just have to try and be a bit more whacky. Whacky granny here we come,” she pledges. We can’t wait to see this Janet!

The gang are asked to make an item of clothing from all their offcuts and scraps so far in the series, as we learn that home sewers waste about 30% of the fabric they buy.

“Some of these fabrics bring back nightmares,” jokes Leah as the sewists rummage for the best off-cuts. “I never thought that we would produce all that amount of rubbish in only 5 weeks,” observes Riccardo.

Janet plans a reversible waterproof gilet but worries she’s stayed too safe. “Yeah I’d say a safe concept is a reversibile waterfpoor gilet. I’d say that’s too easy, really,” responds Joe.

The Great British Sewing Bee

“Overdrive mode, switched on”

Riccardo opts for all-out patchwork and we love it. “I think it looks bonkers but I like it,” he assesses. The judges agree and his patchwork dress gets a good revew: “ I think it’s a really effective,” observes Patrick

Juliet’s Rara skirt and top also gets a good feedback while Janet’s technicolour waistcoat wins the top spot.

Quick point to note: this Show’s charm has to be in how the sewists are so nice to each other! Riccardo’s so gracious about Janet pipping him to the best garment… “I think Janet deserved it because she did such a fantastic job,” he says. Awwww.

Made-to-measure challenge: Make a day dress using recycled upholstery fabric

“I’m off to make some shorts out of a carpet – see you later”

From second-hand blinds to charity shop curtains, the sewists have found some great fabrics to reuse here. Sci fi fan Mercedes is planning a dress with bubble skirt. “I was so delighted to find a curtain that just reminded me so much of Sputnik,” she tells Joe (!). “I thought I was going to go a little bit sci fi, a little bit weird.” Go Mercedes this sounds awesome!

The Great British Sewing Bee

“As soon as I saw the challenge I was thinking Sound of music when Maria makes all those amazing outfits out of one pair of curtains.”

Of course it wouldn’t be sewing bee without a dose of boning innuendo. “Well you’d hope a boning would be a bit stiff,” muses Joe as he chats to Janet about her plans to try boning for the first time.

Juliet is turning net curtains into a dress with curtain chord for straps. We can’t wait to see what she comes up with.

The Great British Sewing Bee

“Trust yourself and then if it goes horribly wrong, don’t blame Joe”

The bit where the judges stand at the balcony and observe is becoming one four favourite elements each week, as they casually look on and assess where all the sewists are going wrong. Jen is looking flustered for the first time that we can remember as she freehand embroiders last-minute floral detail on her fabric.

As they reveal their finished garments on their models, Riccardo’s period pattern and fabric choice are a joy… that curtain loop belt!! “Extroadilarily Chic,” concludes Patrick

Jen gets a hasher examination than usual, “I don’t think it’s up to your usual standard,” observes Patrick. Ouch.

Leah’s uneven pleating gets picked up on by Patrick while Juliet’s dress is stunning. As the judges admire it, a debate about the merits of revealing a bit of side-boob ensues… “ I wouldn’t want to share a bit of side boob but then I am a woman of a certain age,” observes Esme.

“Never has a pair of curtains looked sexier than this.

Garment of the wek goes to Juliet for her dress from net curtains (never has curtain twitching been so glamourous) and sadly Mercedes leaves the sewing room. She’ll be irreplaceable with her good nature and creative dressmaking skills, and there must be something in our eyes as she gets tearful remembering her nan and sharing the philosophy of “sleep well and sew”. Words to live by Mercedes.

(Side note: Our Digital Editor Zoe is also a bit gutted as she picked her in the team sweepstake.)

Week 4: Technical fabrics (eeeek!)

It’s week 4 and we’re halfway through the Bee. This week the gang are levelling up and tackling some fiendishly hard-to-handle fabrics. “We’re talking neoprene, spandex, power mesh…” revels Joe. Good luck guys!

Joe Lycett Great British Sewing Bee

“I’m calling it Lycettra… we can use this, right?”

In honour of the occasion Joe is sporting his most festive outfit yet: a dashing disco sequinned top.

The Bees are understandably nervous about what this week will bring. “Technical fabrics and me, we don’t mix,” says Juliet.

Challenge 1: Sew a lycra swimsuit with crossover straps

 “Partly because the judges want to test your skills and also partly because deep down they have hearts of pure evil.”

Joe kicks things off by showing the sewists what they’ll be tackling next… swimsuits!  The contestants brace themselves to handle some seriously slippery fabrics. “There’s a lot that goes into a swimsuit, especially if you’re my Aunty Maureen,” Joe quips.

The contestants raid the haberdashery and talk about their experience of sewing swimsuits (not much seems to be the collective agreement). Esme on the other hand is, naturally, a pro in this department. She reveals she made the swimsuit for Tilda Swinton in The Beach. Jen tells Joe she used to be a lifeguard. Is there nothing this woman can’t do?

2 Swimsuit Joe Jen

“I used to work as a lifeguard when I was a student. You know I rarely went in. I rescued a bat.”

Things, inevitably, go downhill fast as the group tackle sewing with lycra, inserting elastic, making rouleaux straps and more. “It’s like a complicated, mind-bending puzzle,” explains Patrick as their sewing spaces rapidly become filled with a trillion pieces of fabric, waiting to be pieced.

Leah Great British Sewing Bee

“I always wanted to learn how to make a swimsuit. I’m not sure I wanted to learn how in this environment,” dead-pans Leah.

Alexei is completely baffled and Riccardo is finding all the fabrics so slippery that he keeps slicing himself and then snaps his needle.

This task is fiendish, and yet Janet is somehow running a masterclass and spending half her time explaining to the others what to do. As they panic and curse she reassures them, “You take it off and hope to goodness you’ve got it right.” Wise words Janet.

Alexei Great British Sewing Bee swimsuit challenge

“Do you think you’ll give us a swimsuit?” “Hopefully I’ll give you something I can hang off the mannequin.”

Riccardo, Jen and Mercades attach their side panels upside down. The horror! Much frantic unpicking ensues. “It’s going to be a little more Primark than Couture” muses Mercedes, as she abandons her elastic completely. We’ve all been there Mercedes.

Great British Sewing Bee Mercedes

“I’m doing some guerrilla sewing at the moment.”

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As the group stagger on to the judging session, their swimsuits look pretty impressive to us but sadly aren’t all finished. “Something has gone awry,” says Patrick on assessing Mercedes’ swimsuit. “I’ve done better,” she admits. “You certainly have,” laughs Esme (please never judge our sewing Esme).

Patrick and Esme are impressed with Janet’s swimsuit and sewing room support service, “hats off to you for being the sensei on all things swimwear construction,” declares Patrick, nicknaming her The Grandmaster. Juliet also impresses them with her super slinky swimsuit in awesome fabric, and pips Janet to the post for best garment. Alexei comes last, admitting “It really cooked my noodle, this challenge.”

The Great British Sewing Bee Janet

We all need a sewing friend like Janet, aka the Grandmaster.

Week 4 Transformation challenge: turn a tent into a dog coat

Sort of reminds me of when me and Esme went to Glastonbury except this time we’re wearing  clothes”.

This week’s refashion task could be a contender for most bonkers challenge ever seen on the Bee. The contestants return to the sewing room to discover it’s been filled with disused festival tents. They’re asked to turn them into a waterproof coat for a dog.

Great British Sewing Bee dog coat

Patrick is joined by Winston the dog to introduce the theme.

Jen has Archie the dog on her inspiration board and looks in her element, considering the practical uses for her coat. The other sewists seem a bit thrown.The whole thing is a first for Alexei, who confesses as much to Joe. “You’ve never taken a tent and turned it into an outfit for a dog before? You haven’t lived mate.” laughs Joe.

Patrick and Esme

“How about a punk outfit for the dog?”

Throwing themselves into the refashion challenge, the group set to work trying to give their pooch outfits some kind-of-dressmaking vision. We don’t envy them this one!

Joe lycett and dog

“I love you, even though I’m allergic to you”

As the finished dog coats are lined up for inspection, Riccardo’s carrier dog comes last and the judges aren’t too impressed with his carry straps. Jen however wins the challenge with her camouflage outfit complete with handy pockets.

Great British Sewing Bee dog coats

Week 4 Made to Measure Challenge: Make a luxury tracksuit from synthetic fabrics

As the final challenge is revealed, we can’t decide what we are coveting more this week.. Joe’s top or Juliet’s glitter pattern weights. As the Bees turn their sights to on-trend mens’ leisurewear, they reach for hard-to-handle fabrics like Scuba to impress the judges. Riccardo is going 80s style again (YES Riccardo!), Jen’s inspired by her 19-year-old-son and Janet is inspired by Michael J Fox in Teen Wolf (why not, Janet?).

We’re rooting for Alexei and Mercedes to turn things around but Alexei sews his zip wrong … nooooo! Things are about to get stressful. The vultures are circling, “He’s bodged it” assesses Esme as he goes on to sew the back piece of his trousers inside out. Mercades feels his pain as she grapples with her zip.

Great British Sewing Bee 2019 contestants

“Noone has enjoyed this challenge!” wails Leah. “Death by tracksuit” muses Juliet.

As they miraculously whip up some pretty awesome tracksuits to fit their models, it’s time for judging. Is it just us or does Esme quite enjoy it when she realizes Janet’s zip isn’t sewn properly? She definitely gets a glint of glee in her eye when she senses something’s gone wrong.

Oh Riccardo we think your 80s-style tracksuit (below) is a triumph and Jen is demo’ing some major Scuba skills.

4 Tracksuit Riccardo

The judges aren’t finished landing a few more blows to the rest of the group. “That looks, as I would say, like a bodge” concludes Esme on not knowing which of Alexei’s flaws to point out first. Mercedes is also in trouble. “Something’s gone quite badly wrong” observes Patrick (not what anyone wants to hear). Don’t cry Mercedes – we love you. To be fair we’ve all cried about a garment has gone wrong at some point.

Jen wins garment fo the week for her fabric-handling skills and beautifully sewn tracksuit and the group say a sad goodbye to Alexei. He’s been a joy to watch and his closing words are a heart-felt reminder of the soothing power of sewing.

Great British Sewing Bee 2019 Alexei

“Learning to sew has meant having the illness has not been the end and I’m not capable of anything any more. I think my wife has been trying to make me believe in myself, so I hope she’s proud.”


Great British Sewing Bee, week 3: Seventies Style

Oh hello vintage frocks, we’re a *bit* excited to hear this week’s theme is turning back time to the disco decade. The Flares! The Frills! The Chiffon! So much to love about the drama of dressmaking in this period.

To kick-start procedings the sewists discover their sewing room has been given a ’70s makeover, complete with vintage sewing machines. And is it just us or has the episode even been edited with a ’70s filter too? Loving this attention to detail!

Great British Sewing Bee seventies week

© BBC/Love Productions

As the sounds of T-Rex and Hot Chocolate fill our screens, the sewists greet their new machines with mixed reactions. “My first sewing machine was one of those!” exclaims Janet, excitedly. “Where’s the reverse button?” asks Alexei, seemingly baffled. “Do you like them?” ask the judges. “They’re quite cool…” chips in Leah, somewhat unconvincingly.
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The pattern challenge: Sew a pair of flared trousers

I imagine you’re both too young to have experienced these personally. No I’m joking of course you’re both ancient aren’t you?

”As the first challenge is revealed, the sewists rush to the haberdashery to rummage for corduroy and velvet to give their vintage trousers an authentic feel.

Great British Sewing Bee Mercades

© BBC/Love Productions

Mercedes shows off her needlecord. It’s not for the fainthearted and Patrick’s impressed… “Wow hello look at this little dazzer! It reminds me of a carpet in my dad’s study. Not quite as bright but…”

The Great British Sewing Bee Flares Juliet

“Just YOUTUBE it!” Juliet voices our new favourite sewing catchphrase. © BBC/Love Productions

The sewists grapple with the technically quite tricky garments, complete with yokes, waistbands and zip fly details.

“If I were doing this at home I’d just switch on You Tube,” muses Juliet as she works out how to construct her fly detail.

Public service announcement: do we spot bumblebee nail art? Oh yes we do, and we’ve found an Etsy store that stocks similar nail transfers. Here’s the link – you’re welcome.

The machines take some getting used to. Leah is astonished… “it sounds like it’s going to take off!”, meanwhile… “Jen, yours sounded like a blender!” exclaims Juliet.

The Great British Sewing Bee Juliet

“What was it like in the 70s?” … “They say if you can remember it, you weren’t there” © BBC/Love Productions

As time runs out the sewists start to panic… running out of bobbin thread (isn’t it always the way when you’re on a deadline?) and frantically trying to work out how to bang on their buttons.

Great British Sewing Bee Flares judging

Judging time and is it just us or is the judging already getting more beady-eyed? Leah realises too late that she’s sewn the nap of her fabric in two different directions. Joe proudly boasts of his button-aiding skills while Janet’s flares are under scrutiny, upon which the button promptly falls off.

“That’s a B-minus for the buttons,” muses Patrick.

As Ben and Alexei come last in the judging of round 1, Jen triumphs with her mustard yellow flares.

Great British Sewing Bee 2019 Alexei

© BBC/Love Productions

Alexei (who appears to be filled with existential dread by the whole 1970s theme) is pragmatic about how it went, reflecting that,  “My nature means I’ll always prioritise quality over speed.” We know how you feel Alexi but had you watched the Bee before you applied?

Great british sewing bee punk

© BBC/Love Productions

Alteration Challenge: Punk Rock Refashion

“When Patrick hears the word ‘punk’ he gets a bit excited and talks about smashing the system”

Just when we thought we couldn’t love the refashion round more, the sewists are tackling punk rock style. Esme introduces the challenge with words we’ve never heard on the Bee before…”In the haberdashery we’ve got chains, we’ve got padlocks, safety pins… so pogo over there…”

Much hilarity ensues as she discovers most of the room have never heard of pogo’ing…

The sewists get busy with their task of refashioning a provocative punk outfit from two other garments. Things are about to get interesting. We could watch Ben’s creativity as he comes up with refashion ideas endlessly. And isn’t that  one of our favourite things about this show? Being inspired by the makers on screen. We’re already feeling the urge to chuck our cups of tea out the window and run amock, fighting the patriarchy.

The Great British Sewing Bee Ben

“I’m not sure I’m able to shock Esme. She’s much more likely to shock me.”. © BBC/Love Productions

Esme reflects on her experience of  designing clothes in the 70s… “It was a big reaction to all that had gone before in the 60s – all that hippy dippy stuff’. I’d like it if they made things that told that story… that ‘Up yours’ story.”

Great British Sewing Bee patrick and esme

© BBC/Love Productions

As the sewists get to work ripping tartan and adding raunchy spiked details, Jen reaches for the PVC. She’s bemused when she realises Joe has never heard of Siouxsie and the Banshees. “I was more S Club 7,” he quips.

Speaking of Joe, can we take a minute to admire this week’s outfit choice? Silver tasselled shirt? *insert clapping hands emoji here*

The Bees seem to be exhibiting mixed feeling about all this retro rebellion. Mercades is getting into her groove, “I am loving this! My inner punk is coming out,” she enthuses. Meanwhile Alexei’s bemusement about the whole thing is fast becoming our favourite thing about this week’s theme…

“Are you an Anarchist?” teases Joe. “No, I’m an Engineer,” Alexei responds with his trademark deadpan delivery. This is possibly the reason his half-and-half trousers sadly come last in the judging.

Great British Sewing Bee punk

Some of the sewists outfits are pretty awe-inspiring. Jen’s PVC bustier and miniskirt combo is something else, while Ricardo’s kilt-to-trousers (complete with spiked detail) win this round.

Made to Measure challenge: make a maxi dress

The iconic floaty dresses of the seventies with big frills and super-sized patterns make a perfect choice for this week’s main challenge. Not only do they mean the sewists have to grapple with lightweight fabric and technically tricky details, but their garments are full of drama to play with.

The Great British Sewing Bee Juliet

The pressure shows as the contestants get to grips with slippery chiffon, pleats and frills. Leah has lost the sleeve to her dress, then reaslises she already attached it. (We’ve all been there, Leah). © BBC/Love Productions

Phew some of these maxi dress patterns look a bit fiendish in places! “This pattern is really easy… it’s ages 4+’ Joe jokes to Juliet.

“The vultures are circling”  mutters Alexei as he grapples with the chiffon of his dress. “He’s the lap of the gods even really,” notes Patrick as he watches from above and realises Alexei’s not even had time to check how his dress fits.

Great British Sewing Bee maxi dress ben

As judging time approaches, the models show off their beautiful creations. Juliet’s sleeveless maxi dress is truly lovely. And how much do we enjoy watching Riccardo proudly beam when his models sashay towards the judges in his garments? “She looks like one of the Charlie’s Angels on holiday,”  he beams at the big reveal of his dramatic cascading tier skirt. That’s how we feel most days we wear something we’ve made ourselves!

Of course not everything has gone to plan. Jen has sewn her shoulder pads back-to-front while Ben’s pleated waist gets a tough review from the judges but is this a bit unfair? We think it looks great.  Mercades’ floral gown gets a rave review and she’s chuffed to bits.

Great British Sewing Bee mercades maxi dress

“I’m afraid that’s it! Random words! That’s all you’re going to get from me today,” she stutters before discovering that her dress earned her garment of the week. (Our Digital Editor Zoe is especially happy about this as she’s picked Mercedes in the team sweepstake).

We’re pretty shocked and sad to see Ben go home. His adventurous spirit and playful use of fabric construction will be muchly missed.

The Great British Sewing Bee Ben

Alexei reflects on how it went, and we love him even more for his final comment… “Maybe I’ll make one of those dresses for my wife because she’ll look amazing in it,” and with that he cracks a smile for the first time all episode.


Great British Sewing Bee 2019: Week 2, sewing for children

Get ready for some seriously cute mini makes as the Show has teased on their official website that this week’s theme will be children’s week. Of course while the sewists will gain the advantage of speed as they’ll have less fabric to work with, they’ll lose out too as sewing things smaller means things can get fiddly.

This week’s pattern challenge will be a hoodie (complete with hard-to-handle stretch fabrics, small pattern pieces and getting to grips with the ruthless overlocker!).

The transformation challenge will see the sewists turn faux fur coats into fancy dress outfits.

And Made-to-measure challenge will task the gang to make dance costumes.

In previous seasons children’s week has seen some unexpected triumphs as different sewists take to mini making effortlessly. Who will win the coveted Garment of the Week title? And who will be going home? We can’t wait to find out!

Inspired by children week? Start sewing for children with our free projects!


Sewing Bee series 5: Week 1, sewing with cotton

Let’s start with the obvious: Joe Lycett has nailed it. From his flamboyant outfits (and do we spy nails painted to match Esme’s?) to his brand of gentle wit, we fell in love with him instantly tonight. That, and his Patrick & Esme tattoo, obvs. Where can we get one of those?

All Great British Sewing Bee images in this post are copyright BBC/Love Productions/Mark Bourdillon.

Good news! The theme tune’s the same! The music! The innuendo! The haberdashery! (Still as enviable as ever.)

Not-so-good news: Having a contestant called Alexei is playing havoc with our Alexa.

As we were gradually got to know the series 5 contestants tonight, we remember what makes us love this show so much – they get it! They are our tribe! Hearing them talk about why they make clothes is like chatting to our sewing besties. Sheila tells us that “sewing is one of the best gifts that my mum has given me” and we can relate.

The heart of why we all sew is reflected in the sewists talking about why they make their own clothes, from Juliet’s revelation that “Sewing has helped me to love myself more” to her observation that “Sewing transports me to a different place, where nothing can go wrong.” Er hang on a sec though, have you seen the past series Juliet? Let’s hope you’re not tempting fate!

Mercedes shows she’s prepared to face reality before she enters the sewing room…

“I used to serve in a bomb disposal unit and I think today might be more stressful,”

she muses. You could be right Mercedes.

As Esme talks about what makes the Great British Sewing Bee so special we remember that it’s not just a technical sewing show – it’s a celebration of creativity; of how it feels sew your own style and to make clothes to fit your body. “I’m not only looking for really good sewing,” she explains, “I’m also looking for people to take risks. It’s about an individuality and making your mark on very creative garments.”

The contests will be eased in gently tonight by working with cotton fabric, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be given an easy time of it. (We wouldn’t expect to anything less, given the challenges we’ve seen in previous series).

Great British Sewing Bee week 1: the challenges

1. Pattern challenge: Sew a 1950s Wiggle Dress

Patrick: “Oh we can all have a wiggle, can’t we?”

For the first Sewing Bee pattern challenge, the Bees are tasked with sewing a 1950s Wiggle Dress. “Doris Day would have worn a wiggle dress!” reveals Mercedes, as we learn more about how Dior launched the Wiggle Dress in 1954.

Joe Lycett’s debut sewing confessions are fast becoming one of our series 5 highlights. It’s refreshing to hear a novice host the show as he gets to ask the questions many who are watching at home (and who aren’t already down with the lingo) are wondering. Like “what is an invisible zip?” And “hook and eye? I’ll Google it”.

The sewists run for the haberdashery (lucky things). Bafflingly, they all choose patterned cottons! As if they’ve not got enough pressure to contend with without pattern matching.

Great British Sewing Bee week by week Juliet and Joe

Joe gets a bit carried away with his contestant research: “I know things about you. I’ve been following you”. Oh Juliet we ALSO share your thing about scissors!

We’re already falling for the new contestants. Ben admits: “Whenever I create something it’s almost like a baby that I’m putting out into the world. Everything I make is like a part of me.” The contestants work their way through the same pattern, cutting their fabrics and assembling their garments while chatting to the judges about their makes.

Disaster! Tom accidentally mismatches his pattern pieces. “I’m just going to sell it as a design feature and hope for the best!” he says… the sew must go on.

Great British Sewing Bee week 1 challenge

As time ticks on the pressure builds as they all insert sleeves in record time…  “Maybe they’ll be super-super easy sleeves… They won’t, will they?” concludes Leah, as reality sets in.

Great British Sewing Bee series 5 Janet

Joe: Do you still enjoy sewing? Janet: Well I did until about an hour ago”


Judging time and the sewists look understandably nervous as they line up to have their creations dissected by Patrick and Esme. 10 cotton wiggle dresses made in under 4 hours are displayed. Initially impressed the judges move in for the kill.

Esme is displaying her trademark mischievous sense of humour as she applies St Martin’s strict standards to the sewists’ creations: “I know it’s a teeny print so you think you won’t notice, but actually, we do” she reminds Alexei on judging the pattern matching of his wiggle dress.

When Leah nervously invites her to “hit me with it”, Esme responds gleefully “well… okie dokie…” (good luck Leah).

Great British Sewing Bee week 1 judges

“It’s more of a wobble than a wiggle”

Who won the Wiggle Dress challenge?

Leah’s dress comes 10th (bad luck Leah) and Juliet bags the top spot.

Challenge highlights:

  • Ricardo made his jacket from a sofa that he found in the street! SKILLS.
  • Janet reveals she first discovered dressmaking when she a dress for her first date with her husband… aw.
  • Fact: Patrick started off as a material science grad. Cool!
  • We love: The way the contestants help each other – go Janet giving Leah tips on how to insert her sleeves.

Lessons learned:

  • Don’t make your bust darts too pointy.
  • Be careful picking patterned prints for a multi-part sewing dress pattern – the pattern matching will add to the time and technical difficulty of your garment.

2. Transformation challenge: Denim refashion

“I’ve seen worse in Birmingham on a Friday night”

Joe introduces the second challenge for week 1: to create a new outfit from 3 second-hand denim garments. He ushers the judges out of the sewing room, quipping “All of these items are Esme’s and she hates to see them savaged.”

The Great British Sewing Bee Joe Lycett

“I’ve made some transformations in my time. I wasn’t once the beefcake I am today.”

The sewists dive in and get creative. We never knew denim could get so racy. “Saucy!” Joe comments, on seeing what Ben’s got planned.“Currently it’s going to look like bondage straps,” explains Ben.

Sheila muses, “I’ve got a bit of a vision. I’ve got pop star Rhianna in mind. I like her style, she wears overstyle clothes.” (OK Sheila, we’re intrigued!).

The Great British Sewing Bee Joe Lycett

“Have you got a direct line to Rhianna? Have you got her on What’s app?”

She’s not the only one going bold! “Racy” comments Patrick on the length of Ben’s mini dress.

Challenge highlights

  • We LOVE Jen’s halter dress.
  • Revealed: Esme has this thing about bows – the bigger the better.
  • Takeaway: If you’re going to make a bow, make a statement.”
  • Denim can be sexy (sort of).

Great British Sewing Bee denim refashion

Lessons learned

  • If you’re going to make a bow, make a statement.
  • When refashioning, have fun and play around with the original item’s design features. Can you turn them into a unique part of your new garment?

Who won the denim refashion challenge?

Juliet comes last in the transformation challenge while Jen triumphs with her halter neck dress.

3. Made-to-measure challenge: Jumpsuits!

As the sewists get ready to ditch the manequins and make a garment to fit their real life models, we learn they’re going to be taking on a jumpsuit pattern of their choice.

“One crucial thing is the body rise,” explains Esme – that’s the measurement from the crotch to the neck that makes sure your jumpsuit fits and isn’t too tight in all the wrong places.

We brace ourselves for the innuendo to come. It doesn’t take long.

Great British Sewing Bee Esme jumpsuit

How to rock a jumpsuit. Esme reveals her all in one leopard-skin creation and we instantly up our sewing goals. “She looks like a nifty little runner, is all I can say,” Patrick responds. “Nobody wants a baggy bottom,” Janet concludes, on measuring her jumpsuit against her model’s dimensions.

Of all the challenges we are always amazed by the awesome skills of the sewists in this round in giving the challenge their own personality. From Riccardo’s 80s-inspired, self-drafted pattern to Alexei’s all-in-one military style pattern inspired by his Aunt (the first woman to fly around the world solo in a single engine plane!), there are some impressive garments on the sewists’ tables. Juliet has picked the most awesome combination of monochrome matched with African yellow prints.

The Great British Sewing Bee Joe Lycett and Ben

Highlights: Shout out to Ben: who couldn’t find the right shade of green cotton for his jumpsuit, so he dyed his own.

Joe’s chats with Sheila are already proving a highlight: “Yesterday you were making an outfit for Rhianna, Can I guess this is for Stormzy?” he ponders. “I often consider myself like Stormzy.”

Stop press: Leah has opted for peacock print. We need this in our lives.  But the pressure is starting to take its toll. After yesterday, she reveals “There’s no hint of confidence in me today.” Oh Leah, we want to give you a hug!

We had actually forgotten how tense it is when they run out of time! Sharon’s zip won’t do up.

The Great British Sewing Bee Joe Lycett debut

“I presume you’ve practised this?” “Well yes. I didn’t do it in the time though…” EEEEEK!

Joe plays his new host role immaculately – veering between supporting the contestants while rushing them along. One minute he’s giving Jen a Zen photo pick-me-up (“and breathe” he reminds her), then the next he’s shouting out timer countdowns.

Judging time arrives and the jumpsuits are modelled and ready for Patrick & Esme to assess. The jokes keep coming: “A little hungry in the bum is the technical term for that” muses Patrick on assessing Sharon’s jumpsuit. Juliet’s off the shoulder jumpsuit is all kinds of awesome. Ricardo’s 80s-inspired jumpsuit is a thing of beauty! Leah’s V-strap neckline is beautiful.

Great British Sewing Bee jumpsuit

Who won the jumpsuit challenge?

Juliet’s jumpsuit scoops first place while Jen’s denim halter neck dress comes in second.

Challenge highlights

  • Riccardo’s happiness on seeing his self-drafted jumpsuit finally fit his model? We’re beaming with him! “She looks so sexy and feminine, I’m so happy.”
  • Listening to Jen talk about sewing is so soothing.
  • Jumpsuit squad goals: learn to sew a jumpsuit like Esme and Juliet.

Lessons learned

  • Think about how you use elements of you pattern to accentuate your garment (as Janet’s nautical rope jumpsuit shows).
  • Consider the wear a garment will need to cope with as you assemble it’s pieces. For a jumpsuit with two parts to the front, for example, you’ll need a strong seam and to take care to match the length of your body to avoid rips.

The Great British Sewing Bee series 5 contestants

Spoiler alert: who’s going home?

Joe’s rooting for the contenders as Patrick and Esme deliberate about who to send home. “Do we have to send one home? It’s cruel this show, isn’t it?”

As the first episode of the Sewing Bee draws to a close, Juliet scoops Garment of the Week with her off-the-shoulder jumpsuit, while we bid a sad farewell to Tom, who’s downfall was his love of a jazzy pattern. Too soon, Tom!

Sew the looks: how to recreate tonight’s outfits

Listen to the tunes

With our Great British Sewing Bee Spotify playlist – featuring all the tunes you heard in tonight’s show. It’s the perfect background music for your sewing:

  • Shirley Bassey: Kiss Me, Honey Honey, Kiss me
  • The View: Same Jeans
  • David Dundas: Jeans on
  • Maureen Evans: Love, Kisses and Heartaches
  • Peggy Lee: It’s a Good Day
  • Alma Cogan: Chee Chee-Oo Chee

Play our Great British Sewing Bee sweepstake!

Download our free printable Sewing Bee Sweepstake here.

Print it out and cut out the different contestants. Now find 10 friends, family members or colleagues to all chip in £1 and draw your contestant out of a hat. Whoever picks the winning Bee wins the kitty!

Great British Sewing Bee Sweepstake


Further reading: