The Great British Sewing Bee 2020 news

The Great British Sewing Bee series 5 contestants

We have news people! If you love to make your own clothes, why not apply for the Great British Sewing Bee 2020? Applications are open now!

If the thought of speed-sewing a jumpsuit or refashioning tents, net curtains and deckchairs in the sewing room gets you giddy, apply for the next year’s Bee and it could be you!

We all root for the sewists we see on our screens as they grapple with fiendish time challenges and rummage in the haberdashery for the perfect fabric, but do you think you’ve got what it takes to impress Patrick and Esme

Enter here for your chance to take part in the Great British Sewing Bee Series 6!

Great British Sewing Bee 2019: the highlights

Oh Sewing Bee series 5, thank you for brightening up the chilly winter nights! We can’t get enough of Joe Lycett’s glam wardrobe and perfect punnery and is it just us or are this year’s batch of sewists just a *bit* next -level-good? We’re feeling inspired.

Read on to meet the contestants from this year’s Show, and check out our Sewing Bee Episode Guide for our weekly review of the challenges, the skills, the outfits and the funniest one-liners. You’ll also find links to free projects and patterns for you to practise the looks you’ve seen on screen.

The 2019 Sewing Bee has exploded on to our screens with a blur of wriggle dresses, refashioning and super-stylish jumpsuits. We’re in awe! If you’re isnpired by what you’ve seen on screen, check out our 3 issues for £3 offer and up your dressmaking game.

We already had a tip off that this year’s contestants are the most skilled bunch yet. “Applications were up 30-40% on previous years,” reveals judge Patrick Grant. “The first day that the online applications opened we had a deluge of entries – people must have been ready and waiting. The standard is exceptional.”

Fellow judge Esme Young agrees: “They were a really fabulous group of sewers. In fact, I was kind of terrified – I was thinking: ‘God, how are we going to decide?’” she laughs. “They were so great.”

Series 5’s Bees, from left to right: Sheila, Tom, Riccardo, Jen, Leah, Mercedes, Alexei, Janet, Ben, Juliet. Keep reading to find out more about them!

So, how will 2019’s Bees be put through their sewing paces this year? “We had the best challenge grid ever,” Patrick reveals. “We’ve got some really good stuff. The first one was really tricky, really tricky, and they all managed it really well.

We’ve raised the complexity of the sewing every year and it was easily the toughest first challenge. They by and large smashed it,” he says. “Everybody could have gone on quite far; and if they’d been in some previous seasons, they could have gone quite a lot further.” Esme and Patrick are taking a new approach to judging this series, too. “In previous seasons, the more experienced sewer has always tended to go further,” Patrick tells us. “That wasn’t the case with this one. It was more about the clothes, rather than us separating people on the technical competence always.”
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We were able to look more broadly at their overall vision for the clothes, their understanding of the way colours work together, shapes that they created. It wasn’t just how neatly have they finished this and how well have they followed the process.” One of the reasons we love this show so much (aside from the sewing, of course!) is the camaraderie of the contestants, and 2019’s Bees are no exception.

In fact, there are even GBSB WhatsApp groups that we’d very much like to be a part of, please. “I’m in one of them. It’s a nightmare, it pings CONSTANTLY,” says presenter Joe Lycett. “There’s always new patterns they’ve found.”

“I think they make friends for life,” says Esme. “They get really committed to each other. It’s really quite magical to see how they get better and how they bond together.”

Who’s who in The Great British Sewing Bee series 5?

Sheila, 51, Integrated Care Liaison Officer

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. Sheila now lives in Ilford, Essex with her daughter Riahanna, 24.  Sheila developed a love of fashion from an early age and has been sewing for 40 years, 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. Sheila works with a wide range of fabrics and styles and has a passion for vibrant, colourful prints.

Sheila enjoys making occasion wear for events such as Ascot and weddings. Outside of fashion – fitness is a big part of Sheila’s life. Sheila’s aspiration is to specialise and create bespoke high end clothing for all women.

Read our interview with Sheila here.


Tom, 27, Motion Graphics Designer

The Great British Sewing series 5 Tom Tom started playing with a sewing machine around 8 years ago, however he didn’t start making clothes until 3 years ago when he began making dresses for his mum. He primarily taught himself using YouTube tutorials and sewing blogs and in the last year has also begun making menswear. Tom is particularly attracted to bright, flamboyant and garish colours and fabrics.

Tom is a motion graphics designer and whether it’s in his animation work or sewing projects, he loves experimenting with different colours, shapes and textures to try create something unique.

When he’s not working or sewing, Tom likes to swim and takes a weekly gymnastics class.

Read our full interview with Tom here

Riccardo, 37, Graphic Designer / Multimedia Producer

The Great British Sewing Bee series 5 RicardoRiccardo grew up in Puglia, south of Italy, in a small town near Lecce. Together with his three sisters, he spent his childhood between the blue sea of Salento and the deep green of its olive trees. His mum had a passion for sewing and for Riccardo the sewing machine has always been part of his family environment. However, he only started to learn after moving to London. He started taking sewing classes 7 years ago and hasn’t stopped since.

Riccardo is an advocate of Reuse, Reduce, Recycle, he loves up-cycling and charity shops. He is most proud of a bomber jacket he made using the leather from a sofa he found in the street.

Riccardo also likes to keep fit and enjoys cycling, running and playing volleyball in a local East London team. Currently he works as a multimedia producer for an organisation creating educational resources to engage primary and secondary school students with humanitarian and environmental issues.

The Great British Sewing Bee series 5 Jen Hogg

Jen, 49, self-employed

The Great British Sewing Bee series 5 JenJen lives in Glasgow with her husband Neil, children Cameron and Kirsty and the family dog Archie. A former litigation solicitor and then small business owner, she put work on hold in 2016 to spend more time with her family. With an empty nest looming she has recently agreed to lead a local knitting class while considering options for her third career.

After receiving her first sewing machine at 14, Jen made a lot of her own clothes in her teenage years, including upcycled charity shop finds and some outlandish outfits, but struggled to find time for sewing after starting her career. It has only been in the last couple of years that she has returned to sewing on a regular basis.

Jen appreciates clothes with clean lines and a strong sense of structure, often with a Japanese influence. Generally addicted to designing and making things, her home is full of her work from a wide range of skills and crafts including knitting, pottery, silversmithing, photography, even a bit of carpentry – and of course sewing.

The Great British Sewing Bee series 5 Leah

Leah 43, Practice Director Architectural Firm

The Great British Sewing Bee series 5 Leah Having started her career working for some of London’s most recognised cultural institutions, including the Southbank Centre and the V&A, Leah moved from her role as an Executive Assistant at the Barbican Centre to her current position as Practice Director for an award-winning firm of Architects.

Leah loves London’s cultural scene and regularly enjoys the theatre, gigs, dining out and a cheeky martini with friends.  She has practiced yoga for over 20 years and restarted ballet as an adult having given it up as a child. Leah is a self-confessed ‘selfish sewer’ who began her passion five years ago, inspired by high end ready-to-wear collections and couture classics, always with the ambition to recreate beautiful garments that are way beyond her budget.

Leah loves reading fashion magazines and dreaming up designs to put in her scrap book to inspire future sewing projects. Being so tiny at 5’2’’, she struggles with the fit of standard high street clothing but benefits from being able to use luxury fabrics (often end of roll pieces) in small amounts for a fraction of the cost.

Mercedes, 57, School Reprographics Technician

The Great British Sewing Bee series 5 Mercades Mercedes was born in Hammersmith, London but moved to East Sussex when she was 17. Her Italian grandmother taught her to sew at a very young age and by 13 she realised that if she wanted to wear the style of clothes she wanted to wear, she would have to make them herself.

Mercedes served in the Territorial Army for 13 years, but left to start a family with her husband, Graham. Their son Jack, works and lives in London while their daughter Eve and the two cats, Maggie and Erica, live at home.

Mercedes now describes her sewing style as comfortable, definitely not on trend but hopefully with a touch of Brighton “chic”.  When she’s not sewing or pottering in the school garden, where she works as a reprographics technician, Mercedes and her husband like to escape in their camper. 

The Great British Sewing Bee series 5 Alexei

Alexei, 36, Manufacturing Engineer

The Great British Sewing Bee series 5 AlexeiAlexei is a manufacturing engineer, working with CAD-CAM systems and helping to develop better manufacturing processes for structural components.

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.

Read our full interview with Alexei here

Great British Sewing Bee series 5 Janet

Janet 70, Retired Shopkeeper

The Great British Sewing Bee series 5 JanetYorkshire-based Janet lives with her husband of 48 years, David and their dog. Her Italian mother taught her to sew as a little girl and at 16 she was making her own clothes and soft furnishings.  Janet had a 20-year hiatus after having her three children before taking up sewing again in 2015 to sew for her grandchildren.

Janet enjoys upcycling her outfits, as well as giving her garments an artistic flare by personalizing them with quilting and embroidery details. Fashion has always been an important part of Janet’s life – she owned a wool and knitting supply shop before working as a magistrate for 20 years. Now retired, she spends most of her time as a ‘fair weather’ landscape painter (her work has featured in exhibitions around the country), and she also enjoys making beaded jewellery and playing golf.

The Great British Sewing Bee series 5 Ben

Ben, 31, Scientist

The Great British Sewing Bee series 5 BenCornish-born Ben lives in Edinburgh with his 2 dogs. He trained as a veterinary surgeon and has spent the past 5 years working as a scientist. His academic background hasn’t stopped Ben from loving fashion and design. He honed his sewing skills creating many  dress costumes during his time at the University of Glasgow Veterinary School.

Sewing is Ben’s creative outlet and  enjoys experimenting with pattern drafting and bold textiles. He even screen prints his own designs on to fabric. When he’s not thinking about sewing and science, he dreams of running away to join the circus as a static trapeze artist.

The Great British Sewing Bee series 5 Juliet

Juliet, 33,  Primary School Teacher

The Great British Sewing Bee JulietOriginally from Nigeria, Juliet moved to London in 2006 where she now lives with her husband, Ken and their 5 year old daughter. As well as being a primary school teacher, Juliet has a degree in human nutrition and works as a weight loss consultant.

Juliet has been sewing for 5 years but was initially intrigued when a dressmaker in Nigeria took her measurements over the phone and created her a bespoke dress.

Years after moving to the UK, Juliet taught herself to sew using YouTube videos and sewing DVDs. She enjoys crafting creations out of bright, bold fabrics and African wax prints. Juliet shows off her latest fashion creations on her blog where she sometimes documents her weight loss and fitness journey.

Chat to fellow Great British Sewing Bee fans here!

We’re a curious bunch, so have been semi-stalking Joe Lycett and judges Esme and Patrick on Instagram (that’s allowed, right?) ever since the new series was announced. Now that Sewing Bee fever will officially hit UK TV screens, join our Sewing Bee Fans Facebook group to chat about the weekly themes and episodes with fellow sewists.

When is The Great British Sewing Bee on TV?

Now it’s official – Series 5 of the Bee will go live on 12th February 2018 at 9pm. Hurrah!

Where is The Great British Sewing Bee filmed?

The show’s impressive warehouse setting is located in London’s Bermondsey, in the heart of the capital’s historical textiles quarter.

Catch up on the past series of The Great British Sewing Bee

If you can’t wait for the show to come back on air, get your fix with our round-up of some of our favourite Great British Sewing Bee posts so far.

Meet the contestants from previous series…

Free sewing projects inspired by the Bee

How can I apply for The Great British Sewing Bee?

Want to apply but have missed the boat for the Bee series 5? Angeline Murphy is sharing some top tips for applying for the Bee over on her blog so why not start thinking now about what you’d like to include, ready for when the call out for when The Great British Sewing Bee series 6 goes out.

All Great British Sewing Bee images copyright BBC/Love Productions/Mark Bourdillon/Charlotte Medlicott.