Thursday, 6 March 2014

The Great British Sewing Bee - Week Three Recap

We're down to eight contestants and the challenge this week is stretch fabrics.   Given this is an area I'm keen to learn more about, and master myself, I was excited to see this episode.  These are our contestants for week three:


The Challenges 

1. Sewing from a Pattern

Sew a pair of leggings (techniques include using an overlocker, sewing with a twin needle, calculating stretch to determine size) in 1.5 hours.

Image Source - One Little Minute Blog

The pattern provided came in three sizes.  One of the first challenges for the contestants was to calculate how stretchy their fabric was, and then choose the appropriate size so that the finished garment wasn't too tight or too baggy.

Miranda at One Little Minute Blog gives this advice:

If the fabric you want to use is very stretchy … you may want to subtract a bit of negative ease from your circumference measurements (Waist, Hip, Thigh, Knee, and Ankle) before creating your pattern so that your leggings end up tight, not baggy. For a minimally stretchy fabric (10-25%) I’d suggest subtracting 1/2″. For a very stretchy fabric (25-50%) I’d suggest subtracting 1″.

My Pattern Designer and fabric.com have useful tips for how to calculate the stretch of your fabric.  I think the easiest method is to cut a 4"x4" square of fabric.  Lay it next to a ruler, pull it until you feel resistance (don't pull too hard), then measure the stretched length.  If the fabric now measures 6" (4" fabric + 2" stretch) your fabric has 50% stretch.  If the fabric now measures 5" (4" fabric + 1" stretch) your fabric has 25% stretch.

I don't have a lot of experience with knit fabrics, but it seems to boil down to this: if the fabric is very stretchy cut a small size, if the fabric doesn't stretch much cut a larger size.

There seemed to be a good range of stretch fabrics on offer in the haberdashery this week.  I especially liked the grey and black spotted fabric used by Tamara, the black shiny "Catwoman" fabric used by Julie, and .  Jenni chose a truly horrible plain mustard yellow, and Chinelo chose a floral print that looked like she had raided my wardrobe in the 80s.

Stretch fabrics behave in very strange ways when you are sewing them.  There seems to be quite a knack to knowing exactly how much to stretch (or not stretch) a seam when you are sewing it, when to stabilise a seam, when to use stay stitching and how to get the fabric to not pucker or twist.  It seemed like a lot of the contestants didn't have a huge amount of experience sewing with stretch fabrics.  Julie stood out as one contestant who had worked with stretch, having sewed ballroom dance costumes for her daughter. Some of contestants hadn't even used an overlocker before (Cerina, David, Heather, Lynda all seemed unfamiliar).  It's taken me a while to get used to my overlocker, and know how to adjust the tension, so I can only image how difficult this part of the challenge was for those sitting behind an overlocker for the very first time.  Just threading one of those things can eat up half an hour.

Using a twin needle also proved to be another difficult technique for the contestants.  David hadn't used a twin needle before.  Julie's fabric kept jamming her needle, and caused a very twisted and messy elastic waistband.

This week Julie seemed to have learned from her first two "sewing from a pattern" challenges, and declared that she was going to follow the pattern it exactly.  Tamara planned to read the pattern from start to finish.  The only deviation from the pattern was Jenni, who sewed a "cheeky" patch pocket on the back of her leggings.  Unfortunately the pocket was badly sewn, and only made the leggings look worse.

The judges gave their most positive comments on Tamara's good handling of patterned fabric, Lynda's good fit, flat waistband, even twin needle stitching as well as good handling of patterned fabric, David's good fit, flat waistband, flat twin needle stitching.

Their most negative comments were on Julie's saggy bottom, baggy and twisted waistband, Chinelo's uneven fit, Heather's saggy bottom and uneven waistband, Jenni's baggy bottom (Patrick - somewhere to carry sandwiches??) and addition of a badly sewn pocket

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

2. Alter a Basic High Street Item

Take a t-shirt and transform it in 1.5 hours.  

The t-shirt provided was a large, basic mens t-shirt in a Superman blue.  There was plenty of fabric to work with, although the colour was really unappealing.  I found this very similar t-shirt available for sale on Zazzle (by the way, they call this colour Lapis - I suppose that's better than "unappealing").

Image Source - Zazzle

It's worth noting that there are quite a few tutorials and blogs out there recommend making t-shirts (especially for kids) out of an extra large mens t-shirt.  Keep your eye out for end of season bargains and thrift shop finds.  One main advantage of using a pre-made t-shirt, is that there are already neat, coverstitched hems. There is this absolutely brilliant video tutorial by Dana on Made, which takes you through the steps of making a kids t-shirt in this way.

Julie cut her t-shirt in to a v-neck sleeveless top and trimmed with a ruffle in a printed cotton, Tamara quickly refashioned her t-shirt into a ruched, drapey high neck top and added a skirt in a red patterned fabric, Heather made a ruched, halter neck top with gaudy, ruffled neon pink trim and bows (if she'd just lost the ruffled trim, it would have been 100% better), David made a v-neck top using zips for the front opening (which just looked awful and tacky), Jenni made a one-shoulder top with a slashed and plaited feature across the back and some white zip trims, Cerina made a girls leotard with pink, sequinned trim, and Chinelo added a patterned knit fabric skirt to turn her t-shirt into a maxi dress.  Lynda seemed lost and uninspired, and ended up making a belted, sleeveless top.

The judges gave their most positive comments on Cerina's great use of trim and total transformation, Julie's good colour combination and use of different fabrics, Heather's really good fit, ruching on sides and well sewn trim, Chinelo's great fit, neatly lined up seams, even sewing and joins in fabrics without pulling out of shape, and Jenni's good use of the plaiting technique without stretching the top out of shape.

Their most negative comments were on Lynda's overly revealing armholes, Julie's over-stretched seams, David's poorly executed work and over-stretched fabric around the zips, and Tamara's over-stretched armholes and seams, and excess baggy fabric.

The results from 10th place are David, Julie, Lynda, Tamara, Jenni, Heather, Chinelo in second and Cerina in first.  The reason given for Cerina's win was that her transformation was more dramatic than Chinelo's.

Image Source - GBSB Facebook Page

Personally, I disagree with this.  I think Chinelo's work was brilliant.  It looked fantastic, and was sewn perfectly.  Cerina's leotard was definitely a transformation, however, you could clearly see how untidy her sewing was on the armhole bias trim.

3. Sew a Showstopper

Sew a wrap dress in a stretch fabric to fit a real model in 5 hours.

This is a great stretch fabric challenge.  It's challenges contestants to produce a well draped, fitted and flowing garment.  The wrap style also means contestants have to work really carefully across the fronts of the dress make sure it isn't pulled out of shape.

The highlight of this challenge for me was Chinelo's choice of a slinky, purple stretch velvet,  Tamara's gorgeous print of red kisses on navy fabric with a red bias trim, Cerina's black and white spotty fabric.  The lowlight was Julie's choice of black stretch fabric and faux snow leopard fur, Jenni's retro style wrap dress with baggy "wizard" sleeves, and David using pattern pieces to mop his sweaty brow, and telling the world his wife has overly large hips (that man is in so much trouble when he gets home!).

There were lots of minor hiccups along the way, with stretched seams and other problems, but a near disaster occurred when Heather sewed her skirt and bodice together inside out, using an impossible to remove triple-stitch, and ended up having to cut the two apart.

The judges gave their most positive comments on Lynda's figure hugging dress and edges sewn without stretching, David's well executed neckline, neat fit across the back, and nicely worked faux wrap, Chinelo's great work with velvet, exceptional fit, and lovely appliqué detail, Heather's great work, especially considering her near disaster with the skirt sewn on wrong.

Their most negative comments were on Heather's stretched edges, Cerina's excess fabric and gathers in places, Julie's baggy dress and stiff collar, Jenni's uneven neckline, waist seam not on natural waist and unattractive sleeves (which Jenni still loved, and called kimono-style).

The Final Results

The contestants went off for a coffee, while the judges discussed the weekend's work.

Those in danger were:

David - his leggings did well, his t-shirt transformation was a disaster, but his wrap dress really saved him.
Jenni - her mustard yellow leggings with a "cheeky pocket" were a disaster, her t-shirt transformation was OK, and her wrap dress was not too badly sewn, but was a simple design.
Julie - her shiny black leggings were poorly sewn, her t-shirt transformation came second last, and her wrap dress was ambitious, but just didn't fulfil the brief of a figure hugging wrap.

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

Garment of the week went to … Chinelo for her purple velvet wrap dress.

Image Source - GBSB Facebook Page

The contestant leaving this week was … Julie.

Image Source - GBSB Facebook Page

Final Thoughts

I really liked the stretch fabric challenges this week.  I was interested to see Heather struggle with her sewing, rather than seeming to be absolutely perfect in everything she does.  She certainly seemed more frazzled this week. I was pleasantly surprised to see David do quite well, although he really needs to pick up his game when it comes to the transformation challenges.  It was no shock to see Julie eliminated this week, but I think I'm going to miss her forthright manner and different take on things.  Last week I bought myself five different stretch fabrics, a Coco pattern from Tilly and the Buttons, and I'm really keen to keep improving my skills in this area.

Want to Read More About GBSB?

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, and usually does posts about the patterns used in the first challenge on each episode, and also has some nice posts about techniques used.  She has just posted two stretch fabric classes (make your own leggings and Breton t-shirts) which will run later in March.
  • 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.
  • 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.

If you know any more blogs with interesting recaps or useful advice related to the GBSB, leave me a message and I can include a link.

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