Saturday, 21 May 2016

The Great British Sewing Bee - Season 4 Begins

If you've read my blog before, you know I'm a fan of The Great British Sewing Bee.  I love the fact that there is a popular sewing program on a major TV network ... and it's not full of bitchy, horrible people, who make incomprehensible things in the name of fashion.  It's good, old fashioned sewing, done by people who seem like they'd be fun to sew with.

I managed to do a blog post on all the episodes in Season 2, but didn't quite manage Season 3 - I still have a half-finished post on episode 1 in my drafts.  I've decided that I'm going to have a go at doing posts on the episodes this season.

The first episode kicked off with an introduction to our judges.

Image courtesy of

The lovely Patrick Grant has returned, and continues to be elegant and charming.  Mae Martin has been replaced with Esme Young.  I'm reserving my judgement on Esme, but I so far I like the fact that she seems to offer honest feedback, rather than being polite and positive.  She might also bring a bit of cheeky "Mel and Sue" style commentary, which I find amusing.

The contestants are introduced throughout the show, but here is a quick snapshot of the group:

Image courtesy of GBSB Facebook page

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 bias cut sleeveless blouse from a linear printed fabric with a chevron design (techniques include cutting on the bias, pattern matching, hidden bias binding) in 2.5 hours.

Image courtesy of The Thrifty Stitcher

The pattern chosen was deceptively simple.  A sleeveless blouse, with a hidden bias bound neckline. The tricky part of the pattern, as explained by Patrick, is that it had to be made in a linear printed fabric, cut on the bias, with the centre front and centre back seam meeting in a chevron (a "V" design).  The steps in cutting were explained as follows:

Images courtesy of The Great British Sewing Bee

I didn't think it was a particularly difficult pattern, but was surprised to see several contestants had little or no experience with bias cutting or pattern matching.  Josh spent at least half the challenge trying to figure out how to cut the pieces so they matched in the chevron "V".  Duncan had meant to practice bias cutting before the show, but hadn't got around to it.

There were some nice fabric choices.  I especially liked Jamie's red with black narrow stripe georgette, Charlotte's black and white triple stripe, and Rumana's white with black narrow stripe fabric.  There was much discussion of how difficult Jamie's georgette would be to sew.  Ghilaine chose a fabric with an uneven stripe that was impossible to match, and ended up abandoning it an hour into the challenge, and choosing something more practical.  Duncan chose my least favourite fabric - a pink, green and blue pastel stripe straight out of the 80s.

Josh was utterly baffled by the instructions and needed Charlotte to help him with cutting the pieces in the right direction.  At least an hour into the challenge Josh was still trying to cut the pieces out correctly.  Joyce also had to help Duncan figure out his stripes.  In the end Duncan spent so long perfectly matching his chevon pattern, that I'm surprised he was able to finish the garment.

Angeline had never done a bias bound neckline before, Charlotte cut her bias strip on the straight grain, and Duncan finished his neckline like he was doing a t-shirt neckband.  I know some contestants got frazzled and made some simple mistakes, but some of them seem seriously unskilled for a competition supposedly featuring "Britain's best home sewers".

I did notice that contestants this year seem to have learnt from previous seasons, and they almost all followed the instructions meticulously.  There were no unnecessary embellishments added, and only Duncan did his neckline binding incorrectly - which might have been down to him not understanding the directions properly.

Image courtesy of The Great British Sewing Bee

The judges gave their most positive comments on Charlotte (pattern well matched and neckline neat), Jamie (pattern matched perfectly through all four seams and neckline neat) and Tracy (fabric choice gave an interesting finish).

Their most negative comments were on Duncan (chevron perfectly matched, but binding uneven and hem too deep and falling down), Rumana (chevron upside down, armholes unfinished, neckline stretched at back, neckline binding not fully turned under), Josh (chevron upside down on front), Joyce (seams well matched, but neckline badly stretched).

The results from 10th place are Rumana, Josh, Duncan, Ghislaine, Joyce, Jade, Tracey, Angeline, Charlotte in second, and Jamie in first.

Image courtesy of The Great British Sewing Bee

2. Alter a Basic High Street Item

Take a basic lined maternity dress and transform it in 1.5 hours.  

Image courtesy of The Great British Sewing Bee

The dress provided was an simple sheath, with short sleeves.  It was, quite frankly, hideous.  It looks like some sort of uniform given to pregnant medical staff.

Jamie was one of the most adventurous and turned his dress into a sleeveless, floor length gown with a contrast fabric in a mock wrap, Rumana made a really pretty dress with a gathered, elasticised waistband made from an orange ribbon, and cut away some of her back neckline and added criss-crossed orange straps, Joyce added a gold sequinned fabric in godets (which I thought would look hideous) which looked fabulous.

Image courtesy of The Great British Sewing Bee

The judges gave their most positive comments on Jamie's complete transformation of the original dress, Joyce's well executed godets, and Rumana's cleverly reshaped and embellished neckline.

Their most negative comments were on all of the skirts (Angeline, Ghislaine, Duncan, Jade, Charlotte and Josh) which didn't fit, weren't creative enough and were badly sewn.  The only skirt that got a moderately positive comment was Charlotte's, as it fitted the mannequin well.  They also disliked Tracey's "flouncy" lace top with a chunky, separating sports zipper down the front.  It looked like she had sewn on some of those old fashioned, lace half-curtains from someone's kitchen window.

The results from 10th place are Tracey, Jade, Duncan, Josh, Ghislaine, Charlotte, Angeline, Rumana, Joyce in second and Jamie in first.

3. Sew a Showstopper

Sew a skirt to fit a real model in 5 hours.

This episode was touted as being one focused on basic garment construction.  Asking contestants to sew a skirt is pretty basic.  In the first episode of Season 2, contestants were asked to sew a silk nightgown, and in the first episode of Season 3, contestants were asked to sew a summer dress.  I certainly hope the challenges get a bit more ... um, challenging!

My favourite fabric choices were Rumana's beautiful woven brocade fabric that looked like an ikat print, Angeline's azure and magenta floral print on white, Duncan's beige silk "petal" fabric, and Josh's black floral print on white denim.  My least favourite fabrics were Jamie's blue floral brocade with a chiffon flounce, and Ghislaine's red and grey combination.

My favourite pattern choices were Rumana's self-drafted high waisted obi-wrap maxi skirt, Angeline's fitted pencil skirt with a peplum hem, Josh's long flared skirt, and Joyce's flared godet skirt.  My least favourite pattern choices were Duncan's badly fitted circle skirt, Tracey's skirt waistband that seemed to scoop down too low and accentuate the tummy area, and Jade's self-drafted high waisted tutu skirt.  Along the way Josh managed to lose his yoke pattern piece and had to draft one himself.

The judges gave their most positive comments on Angeline's well fitted peplum skirt (Esme commented that it "fits beautifully under her arse"), Rumana's obi-wrap maxi skirt drafted from an apron pattern, Jade's well fitted high-waisted tutu skirt (liked combination of grey & black tulle, silver trim and chunky exposed metal zip) that showed her style and personality, and Josh's flared skirt (not the most complicated, but executed extremely well).

Their most negative comments were on Tracey's puckered seam at the front, Ghislaine's poor choice of a very light fabric, Jamie's flounce badly hemmed and looked odd on front of skirt only, and Duncan's poorly fitted waistband and uneven hem.

I'm surprised that they didn't comment on a few things that really stood out to me.  Tracey's yoke was cut the wrong shape and scooped too low in the front, Charlotte's waistband either needed to sit higher or be made a bit tighter as the top edge seemed to jut out, and Jamie's appalling choice of fabric and pattern that was so dowdy.

The Final Results

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

Josh - performed poorly in the first two challenges, but rescued himself with his showstopper skirt.
Duncan - had come bottom in the first two challenges.  His top was well matched in the chevron, but overall his finish let him down, his alternation skirt lacked ambition, and his showstopper skirt had a poorly fitted waistband and uneven hem.
Tracey - her top had been pretty well done, they did not love her alteration, and her showstopper skirt was puckered in front and had a very uneven hem.

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

Garment of the week went to … Angeline for her bottom-hugging, peplum skirt.

Images courtesy of The Great British Sewing Bee

The contestant leaving this week was … Duncan.

Final Thoughts

I like this season of the GBSB.  Esme seems like a promising judge, but I thin it might take her another episode or two to seem really natural in the show.  The venue seems better this year, with the haberdashery actually in the sewing room.  The challenges this week seemed a little easy to me, and I'm not convinced the contestants are as skilled as previous seasons.  I'm looking forward to next week, and am hoping things get a little more challenging.

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.
  • The Fold Line - have a list of all contestants and links to their blogs, website and social media. They have also reviewed the new GBSB Season 4 book.
  • By Hand London - Elisalex De Castro Peake has reviewed by new GBSB Season 4 book.

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