Phew we’re still recovering from last night’s Great British Sewing Bee final. No YOU shed a tear when 34-year-old Juliet Uzor scooped this year’s crown. After wowing us with 8 weeks of ridiculous next-level sewing, she’s definitely earned the Queen Bee prize. We meet up with Juliet to talk about her time on the show…
We’ve just rewatched Juliet’s reaction to hearing the news she won the Great British Sewing Bee 2019 and yep, we cried again! The London primary school teacher has emerged triumphant as the winner of this year’s series and yep, she pretty much smashed every single challenge that Patrick and Esme threw at her.
One of the reasons we love Juliet (aside from her ability to turn net curtains into a stylish evening dress and whip up the jumpsuit of our dreams) is that she’s coined some of our favourite new sewing mottos along the way, from ‘Just Youtube it’ to ‘Engage Speed Sewing Mode’.
So how did she get through the 8 weeks of technical sewing challenges and 147 garments to became Britain’s Best Amateur Sewist of 2019?
How does it feel to be the winner?
“I was in total shock and I really couldn’t believe it. I was really emotional as I just didn’t think it would happen, I had very little confidence in myself, and I didn’t ever think that something that big would happen to me ever. ”
What about your fellow Finalists?
“Riccardo is so creative and has great designer ideas, and Leah was so instinctive throughout and always created such great transformation challenges – much better than me. I am more of a follow the pattern sewer, so I felt under great pressure. I really admire them both, they were great finalists, and we all supported each other all the way and to the end.”
Did you ever imagine you could get to this stage?
“From the very first week listening to how long people had been sewing [and the fact that I had taught myself to sew] I made a plan to get past week 1, but I didn’t think I would get to week 2. When I won Garment of the Week in Episode 1 it really boosted my confidence and made me feel that actually I might be ok at this. ”
What went wrong in the Final and what were the best bits?
“The transformation challenge was a total nightmare for me, we had lace curtains and we had to make a wearable garment, and I don’t even want to think about it now. Disaster. I really enjoyed making the men’s waistcoat and I really enjoyed making my strapless evening gown, that was my highlight, as I really wanted to create a show-stopping evening gown for my cousin, Maxine.”
“I would like to thank my family for supporting me and making me believe in myself, they really did and I will always be grateful for that, and that they have been part of the experience.”
What was it like to share the experience of winning with the other Bees?
Everyone was so happy for me, they were so so supportive and the kindness was completely overwhelming, their congratulations made me feel really warm inside.
How did it feel keeping the fact that you’d won?
“Keeping it a secret from friends and family has been a complete torture to keep hush. As the show was airing I wanted to shout it out from the top of my voice, but of course I couldn’t talk. My immediate family were the only ones that knew. So it has been hard to keep the best secret of my life to myself!”
How did you watch the Final?
“For the first three episodes we had mini parties at home, and I did a lot of crying and felt really embarrassed. So for the final I wanted to have just my nearest and dearest with me, and have them altogether at home with me. We had a few tears, but a great evening all round.”
When did you first start sewing and why do you love it so much?
“I started sewing in 2013 and I love it so much because for me, sewing is an escape and my happy place. I also love sewing because of the opportunity it gives me to create the sorts of clothing I love to wear which aren’t readily accessible on the high street in my favourite fabrics.”
Who was your mentor?
“My mentor is Nicky Cook, a pattern cutter, who ran sewing groups locally a few years ago. She even encouraged me to go ahead and apply for the Sewing Bee. I’ve also been encouraged by my husband whose feedback after seeing every sewing project I’ve shown him has always been constructive and I’m glad I took his feedback on board in order to improve on my sewing ability.”
What is your favourite type of garment to sew?
“I love sewing occasion wear – I guess I’m a bit of a show off when it comes to the things I sew. I’d rather spend time on gorgeous outerwear and occasion garments rather than on clothes like activewear, loungewear, sleepwear or inner wears.”
Why did you want to be a Great British Sewing Bee?
“I wanted to be in the Sewing Bee because I wanted a challenge. I wanted to have a go at different types of sewing challenges that would throw me out of my comfort zone. I really wanted to meet both Patrick and Esme but thank God for Joe, whose overall presence in the sewing room made me feel chilled.”
What was it like when you first walked into the sewing room?
“First walking into the sewing room was quite daunting because I felt slightly out of place. I was only used to sewing in my little sewing room and had never really sewn in the presence of unfamiliar people. Also, the last episode of the Sewing Bee which I had watched was a total blur! I had forgotten the format of the series as it had been ages since I watched season 4. The entire process was completely daunting in fact!”
What’s your must have sewing tool?
“I love scissors and have tons of them in my stash. I’m not attached to them the way I am attached to my tape measure though. Once, I had mine around my neck and accidentally wore it out to the mall. It was only when I got home that I realised that I did – no wonder I had lots of stares from people.”
In your sewing life: What has been your worst sewing disaster and your biggest triumph?
“I’ve had so many sewing disasters but the most annoying and recurrent one which I just can’t avoid is sewing along a long seam with no bobbin thread. I’m sure that even the most experienced sewers do it. My biggest triumph was meeting Patrick and Esme and actually have them comment on my sewing. It’s a dream come true!”
Describe your style, and how much of your own clothes do you make?
“My style involves a lot of bright, bold and colourful print and most of the out-going clothes I own, I’ve made by myself.”
Can you give a sewing tip for amateur sewers who have been enjoying the show?
“My sewing tip for amateur sewers is to practise practice practice! There’s so much resource out there and the sewing online community is a very supportive one. Seek support and apply whatever tip you learn immediately!”
What is the best way to describe the relationship between this year’s Bees?
We connected in a way that I didn’t expect and I can proudly say that I now have 9 friends who love sewing like I do.
What’s next for you?
“I really don’t know, but my ultimate goal is to give something back. I would like to share my sewing knowledge, but I am leaving my options open and let’s see what happens. Everybody and anyone should be able to sew, it’s not age or gender specific, and you don’t have to have previous knowledge. So I just want to get people sewing!
I don’t have huge self esteem and confidence, but this win has made me believe in myself a bit more. I am thrilled beyond words.”
Juliet taught herself to sew using YouTube videos and sewing DVDs. She enjoys sewing garments with bright, bold fabrics and African wax prints. Keep up with her latest fashion creations on her blog www.sewsonatural.com and on her instagram @sewsonatural.