Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The Great British Sewing Bee - Week One Recap

Eeeeee!  Sewing on a popular, mainstream television show.  I'm so excited, and have decided to have a go at doing a weekly roundup.

Season two is going to be bigger than season one - eight episodes, 10 contestants.  I must admit, I nearly applied to be a contestant on the show, but I didn't think I'd be experienced enough.  Now that I've seen the first episode, I can't help thinking I'm just as experienced as some of the people chosen.

The Contestants


Image Source - The GBSB Facebook Page

Left to right, they are: Julie, Lynda, Heather, Cerina, Simon, Chinelo, David, Tamara, Jenni and Cliff (not in this picture).  At this point in the competition I haven't really got a feel for the contestants.  What has stuck in my mind so far is that Lynda is hearing impaired and has a signing interpreter, Simon comes from a textile mill background, Chinelo mostly sews by drafting directly onto fabric with chalk (yikes!), David is a policeman and Cliff is a retired buddhist prison chaplain.  I'm sure we'll get to know them more as things progress.

Spoiler alert … this is where I'm going to start talking about what happened in week one.  If you don't want to find out what happened, stop reading now!!  You're always welcome to drop by again, once you've caught up on your viewing.

The Challenges 

1. Sewing from a Pattern

Sew a sleeveless cotton blouse (techniques include sewing darts, clipping seams, using under stitching on the neckline, hand sewing button loops) in 2.5 hours.

Image Source - The Thrifty Stitcher

The pattern chosen was surprisingly simple.  A sleeveless blouse, with a facing.  When they did an overview of the pattern I was thinking that everyone would find it easy.  It was interesting seeing several contestants struggling with some fairly basic techniques.  Chinelo doesn't usually work with patterns, Simon didn't know what under stitching was, and Julie couldn't figure out how to turn the back pieces through the facing.

There were some lovely fabric choices.  I especially liked Jenni's bold print, Tamara's bright geometric print, and Simon's mini polkadot paired with a bright floral.  I liked both fabrics that Chinelo chose, but they were an odd combination together.

As we progressed through the make, a couple of contestants started deviating from the pattern.  Julie decided to skip the under stitching, and Tamara added embellishments and used a fabric loop rather than the hand stitched button loop.  Why do contestants decide not to follow the instructions, in a challenge that's all about following the instructions?

The judges gave their most positive comments on Cerina's perfect under stitching, neat button loop, and perfectly aligned centre back opening, Heather's exquisite under stitching, and well done hand sewn loop, and Jenni's perfectly centred pattern on her front panel (I couldn't help noticing that she hadn't matched the horizontal pattern between the front and back sections).

Their most negative comments were on Julie's missing under stitching, Cliff's unfinished garment with pins still in the hem, Chinelo's pattern not lined up symmetrically, and button and loop missing, David's wonky neckline and untidy hem, Simon's under stitching not close to seam, untidy hem, puckered back seam, and no button or loop, and they felt Tamara wasted time doing things she wasn't asked to do by adding trim on centre back seam, and bow on front.

The results from 10th place are Cliff, Simon, Chinelo, Linda, Julie, Jenni, Tamara (lost points by doing extra things, instead of what she was asked to do), Cerina in second, and Heather in first.

Picture Source - GBSB Facebook Page - Heather's winning garment

2. Alter a Basic High Street Item

Take a basic woollen maxi skirt and transform it in 1.5 hours.  

The skirt provided was an A-Line maxi skirt, with a narrow waistband, in a grey, medium weight wool fabric.  Every contestant began by chopping off about half of the length.

Lynda, David and Cliff inserted godets into their skirts using a contrasting fabric.  Godets can look amazing (like this skirt by LiEr at Ikatbag), but David and Cliff's versions just didn't work.  The fabric choices were slightly odd, and didn't work with the medium weight wool.  They just ended up sticking out and flapping around strangely.

Simon cut out a large, off-centre triangular section and filled it with a pieced section of woven woollen fabrics, as well as a "post box pocket" (a double bound welt pocket).  It was a really interesting approach.  Chinelo cut a peplum in a different fabric and stitched it onto the top of the skirt.  Tamara created a pleated "paper bag" ruffle out of the main fabric and a bright floral fabric, and trimmed it with a grosgrain ribbon.  Cerina created a narrow ruffle out of the main fabric, sewed it onto the hem and trimmed with a ribbon.  Heather added a box pleat in the back seam in a nice blue wool, and some grosgrain ribbon trim around the hem.  Julie added a band of contrasting fabric to the hem, and a patch pocket trimmed in the contrast fabric. Jenni made some straps and turned her skirt into dungarees, with a trim of orange ribbon on the hem and some buttons.

The judges gave their most positive comments on Julie's use of a good contrasting fabric, Simon's use of contrasting, woven woollen fabrics in the off-centre triangle, and the nice pocket detail, Chinelo's well balanced and neat peplum, Julie's box pleat, Tamara's bohemian ruffle.

Their most negative comments were on David's off-centre silky godets that looked a bit like ears, Cliff's godets in a pastel, floral cotton fabric that didn't match, and untidy trim on the waistband, Julie's and Jenni's overly simple transformations.

The results from 10th place are Cliff, David, Julie, Heather, Cerina, Jenni, Lynda, Simon, Chinelo in second and Tamara in first.

3. Sew a Showstopper

Sew a silk nightgown to fit a real model in 5 hours.

I liked this challenge because nightgowns can be beautiful, there are plenty of variations to choose from, you can embellish with beautiful lace, and it uses silk.  Silk, much like knit, scares me.  I've never sewn with it, but after watching this challenge, I'm seriously thinking about having a go at making a nightgown.

The highlight of this challenge for me was Chinelo drafting straight onto the fabric, and creating an incredibly beautiful and almost perfectly fitting nightgown.  The lowlight was Simon's appalling choice of fabric with a shot silk dupion that looked like it should be made into a cocktail dress, rather than a nightgown.   Some contestants struggled to work with the silk.  This is one of the things that scares me about working with silk.

Cliff became sick half-way through this challenge and made the decision to withdraw from the competition.

The judges gave their most positive comments on Heather's well fitting nightgown and hand sewn lace,  Lynda's lettuce edge hem, design of the lowered back, use of lace and diamonte, Chinelo's terrific fit, use of laced back, self drafted design, and David's perfect fit, and beautifully done lace trim.

Their most negative comments were on Simon's stiff fabric, and finished look more like a dress than a nightgown, Cerina's major fit issues with centre seams not perfect, panels not sitting in the right place, and lace not sewn adequately, Tamara's bust verging on slightly indecent and overhandled fabric that had stretched, and Jenni's baggy, puckered fabric.

The Final Results

The contestants went off for a coffee, while the judges discussed the weekend's work.
Those in danger were:

Simon - his skirt alternation rated highly, but his sleeveless shirt was described as "untidy", and his nightgown as "just awful".
David - he didn't impress on the first two challenges, but his nightgown really redeemed him.
Jenni - her nightgown was "all over the place".

The contestants were then called back in to hear the final results:

David received a special commendation for coming close to winning this week (which I presume was entirely down to his very well executed nightgown).

Garment of the week went to … Lynda for her nightgown.

Picture Source - GBSB Facebook Page
The contestant leaving this week was … nobody.  I can only presume this was due to Cliff leaving the competition due to illness.

Final Thoughts

I like this new version of the GBSB.  I like that there are more contestants, more episodes, and that the format is a little slicker than season one.  I like the new venue, which is brighter and roomier than season one.  So far I've enjoyed the challenges.  I'm very inspired to make my own sleeveless blouse.  I'd like to set the timer for 2.5 hours and see how I go.  I'm also keen to have a go at making my own silk nightgown.  I don't think I can challenge myself to my own sew-along (especially as we are in the middle of half-term school holidays), but I'm definitely looking forward trying some new challenges.  Can't wait for next week.

You might also like to check out these other blogs that have done some posts about this episode:

  • The Thrifty Stitcher - Claire-Louise Hardie is the Sewing Producer for The Great British Sewing Bee.  She posts some lovely tutorials on sewing techniques.
  • Little Black Duck  - Victoria Peat has posted some great links to tutorials that cover some of the techniques you can use to make your own GBSB inspired pieces.
  • Sew Sensational - Louise has posted a great list of patterns used by contestants for the nightgown challenge, as well as a link to a similar pattern for the sleeveless blouse.
  • The Mighty Mighty Monk Seal - Steve & Chris present a very witty recap, which is written as fans of reality television review, rather than as sewers themselves.

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