Friday, 11 April 2014

The Great British Sewing Bee - Week Eight Recap



Seven weeks have passed and we've said farewell to seven contestants.  Along the way we lost Cliff, Simon, Julie, Cerina, Jenni, David and Lynda.  So, after all that sewing and crying, here are the grand final contestants.



Image Source - BBC ©

Out of the three remaining contestants, my favourite is definitely Chinelo.  She has flair, creativity, originality and style.  I also love that she does freehand cutting, and doesn't rely on patterns.  Tamara's choices are often a bit outlandish, and I'm not keen on the shapes she creates.  Heather is a very accomplished sewer, but her fabric and pattern choices are often old fashioned and dowdy.  Unlike a show such as Project Runway, this show isn't primarily about design and fabric choices.  It is, at its heart, a show about sewing skills.  This does skew the judging towards the most well executed garments, not necessarily the most fashionable or stylish.  It'll be interesting to see how the grand final episode plays out.

So, armed with a cup of tea and a slice of cake, I'm settling onto the sofa to enjoy the next hour of sewing challenges.

Image Source - GBSB Facebook Page

This week's challenges are all couture based challenges.  There's going to be lots of hand sewing, exquisite finishing, and a focus on attention to detail.

The Challenges 

1. Sewing from a Pattern

Sew a mens silk tie (techniques include working with silk, hand sewing an invisible seam and bar tack) in 3 hours 15 minutes.

The pattern was a basic mens tie.  It was cut on the bias in two sections, and then two additional sections were added to line the tip.  When they announced the challenge, and said the contestants had over three hours to sew the tie, I was thinking it would be a piece of cake.  Seriously, how hard can it be to sew a tie?  Apparently, it's quite tricky!

The fabrics available were not hugely exciting. Heather chose a nice red and orange geometric print, and Tamara chose a nice silver and blue stripe.

Chinelo had great difficulty deciphering the pattern, and could not figure out how to sew the mitred tip of the tie.  After being reduced to tears, Patrick came to the rescue and pointed her in the right direction.

No one deviated from the pattern.  By this stage in the competition, contestants seem to understand that this challenge is all about following instructions to the letter.  They aren't going to get extra points for going off piste and adding their own dramatic flair.  The only person who didn't produced a finished tie was Chinelo, whose tie was still pinned together.

Image Source - BBC ©


The judges comments were:

  • Chinelo - Patrick is pretty disappointed in Chinelo's efforts "we don't have an assembled tie."  The shape of the tie was pretty good. the tip was constructed correctly, but there is no hand sitting.  
  • Heather - the hand stitching was quite untidy with long, uneven stitches.  The body of tie was working properly, the tip was good but a little bumpy, it had been well pressed and the silk was not crushed.  Patrick's opinion - "not bad at all."
  • Tamara - it was a pretty even tie.  The pattern was running perfectly parallel with the corner of the tie, the hand stitching was really good, the tipping was neat, and there was a bar tack (although not neatest Patrick had ever seen).  Patrick - "a wearable piece of mens wear."


The results were Chinelo in third place, Heather in second, and Tamara in first.

Image Source - GBSB Facebook Page

2. Alter a Basic High Street Item

Take a wedding dress and transform it into a special occasion dress for a girl in 2 hours.  

Contestants were given six used wedding gowns to choose from.  Patrick was hoping to see a complete re-imagining of the dresses - not just having them cut down to a smaller size.  Both May and Patrick thought the challenge should be handled sympathetically, and pay tribute to the work that would have gone into the original dress.  These statements were immediately followed by footage of contestants hacking their dresses apart, and discussing how guilty they felt.

If a challenge like this interests you, it's often very easy to pick up an old wedding dress in a thrift store.

The contestants made the following garments:
  • Chinelo - made a classic bridesmaids dress with a circular skirt, fitted bodice with short sleeves, under skirts and re-used some flower embellishments from the original dress.  Her entire dress is drafted from scratch, and looked fabulous.
  • Heather - made a gathered skirt and a simple blouse.  She tried to draft a blouse by draping it on the stand, but ended up having to start again.  Her final blouse was a bit like a pillow case with puffy turn-ins on the sleeves, and  bias edged neckline.  It was very boxy and the sleeves looked unfinished.
  • Tamara - made a dress by cutting down the original skirt.  She then added a simple bodice and hand sewed some gathered tule across the shoulders, and added a bow on the front.  The finished dress looked a little messy and poorly sewn.

Here's a few quick snaps of the three designs:

Image Source - BBC ©


The judges comments were:




  • Chinelo - a fine rolled hem done on the overlocker, beautiful set in sleeves, facing on neck sitting neatly.  May -  "I think that's a really well executed little dress."
  • Heather - a sweet little silk skirt with fabulous gather, but there is no fastening, binding around the neck is good, but a little too square, the sleeve has been left soft.
  • Tamara - there were no edge finishes on this on - they were just cut. The bodice was nicely shaped, and the shoulder straps had been hand stitched onto bodice.

The results are Tamara in third place, Heather in second and Chinelo in first.

Image Source - GBSB Facebook Page

3. Sew a Showstopper

Sew a stunning gown, showcasing couture skills, to fit a real model in seven hours.

Models were best friends of each contestant.  There was much shock and a few moist eyes when the models walked into the workroom.  Contestants were asked to design their own dresses, and were allowed to cut out their fabric at home.

The contestants made the following garments:
  • Chinelo made a figure hugging gown with an invisible mesh bodice covered by hand sewn lace flowers, a fitted satin skirt ending in a tulle fish tail.  Chinelo sewed to the very last minute, trying to get all those lace flowers attached.
  • Heather made a black and red silk gown with a sun-ray pleated front bodice, layers of skirts, a silk bustle and the back finished with a silver chain (that is some part of a horses tack).
  • Tamara made a dress I can't even begin to describe.  It was a lurid floral fabric made into a dress with an empire line waist, stretchy electric-blue racer back, knee length pleated skirt, a layer of printed stretch fabric over the front bodice that had been randomly slashed with a razor and cheap looking fake flowers scattered across the dress (attached by a glue gun).  It was certainly different, completely hideous, and I'm fairly sure that using a glue gun is not a couture technique. 

Here's a few quick snaps of the three designs:

Image Source - BBC ©


The judges comments were:




  • Chinelo - May thought it was a "very beautiful dress, fits your model beautifully", a really successfully execution, fix tail is a bit overpowering, seams on shoulder are a little too robust, a really beautiful looking dress, a lot of work in a short space of time.
  • Heather - the sunday pleating was secured perfectly and stitching was almost invisible, fluted rolled hem is a lovely effect, a lot of hand sewing and gathering, the removable bustle was great, and Patrick liked the plumpness of the bustle, the chain adds a nice edge to quite a soft gown.
  • Tamara - May started by congratulating Tamara on a well inserted zip. The racing back fits beautifully, Patrick and May were sad to see crystal organza not included in the final garment, they were disappointed that the flowers were not hand sewn, and mentioned the slashes were not neatly done.  

The Final Results

The contestants went off for a coffee and past contestants, friends and family arrived in the sewing room to have a look at completed garments.  The eliminated contestants gave their opinions on the likely winners:

  • Cerina didn't want to guess, and thought the judges would have a hard time.
  • Julie had her money on Chinelo.
  • Jenni couldn't decide between Chinelo and Heather.
  • Lynda didn't think she could possibly pick a winner.
  • Simon thought Heather had a spark that might see her win.
  • David was keen to see Tamara win.


The judges discussed the weekend's work and tried to decide who would be the winner of season two.  This is what they discussed:
  • Chinelo - bridesmaid dress was really good, beautiful flair and execution, looked great on her model.
  • Heather - a good job of following the tie pattern, a good bridesmaid dress, her final dress was a real show stopper after weeks of playing it safe.
  • Tamara - a good job of following the tie pattern, a good bridesmaid dress, her couture gown was a great idea, but the execution really let her down.

The contestants were then called back in to hear the results.  After many pauses, and much building of drama, the winner was announced - Heather.  Heather's reaction was really funny.  She was totally expecting it to be someone else, and was completely agog when they called out her name.

Image Source - GBSB Facebook Page

Final Thoughts

This really has been a fun series.  It's got me really excited about sewing, and I've even made a couple of my own Great British Sewing Bee inspired tops.  I hope you have enjoyed the series too.  For those of you who don't know, there is a book out, which includes pattern sheets.  I have heard that The Book Depository have it at a very good price.  I got my copy from Amazon for only £12.

Image Source - Amazon.co.uk

A big congratulations to Heather.  While her choices have often been safe, she is a very skilled sewer, and her final dress really was a knock-out.

Image Source - GBSB Facebook Page


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. 
  • 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.
  • Stitch Craft Create - Jen write a short recap each week.
  • The Sewing Directory - each week an episode recap is posted, along with loads of useful links to patterns and techniques.  There is also an archive of recaps from Season 1.

    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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