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

The Great British Sewing Bee Joe Lycett

Ah the Sewing Bee, welcome back old friend! We’ve put together this handy episode guide to talk you through the highlights from each week of the Show, and show you how to sew the looks you’ve seen on TV.

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

*Warning: contains spoilers*

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”.

Great British Sewing Bee reader offer

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: