Sunday, 26 June 2016

The Great British Sewing Bee - Week Five Recap

We head into week five - Sixties Week - with six contestants left.  I have given up trying to catch up and am just writing my recaps a full week behind.  Hope you enjoy reading.

Last week saw the departure of Josh, the last man standing.  After last season, I was hopeful we might have a good crop of male contestants this year, but they have been fairly disappointing.  Jamie showed early promise, but ended his good run with a particularly disastrous effort on lingerie week.  Josh seems to have only just scraped through each episode, and succumbed to the inevitable in international week.

SPOILER ALERT!  I am going to discuss, in detail, what happens in week two of The Great British Sewing Bee.  If you haven't had a chance to watch this episode yet, you might like to sneak off and do that before you read this summary, but please stop by again after you have caught up.

The Challenges 

1. Sewing from a Pattern

Sew a sixties inspired colour blocked shift dress (selecting colours for an effective pattern, sewing very accurately to create an even pattern, inserting a hidden lapped zipper) in 3 hours 45 minutes.

For this challenge contestants were given a vintage sewing machine.  I'm not sure they all had exactly the same machine, but there was a close up view of the Singer 457 Stylist Zig Zag machine.  It's an electric machine, which has an adjustable stitch length and can sew straight or zig-zag stitches.   I don't have personal experience with a machine like this, but I did learn on a Singer model only slightly more advanced than this, and they are quite different from modern machines.

Image courtesy of

The pattern was a relatively simple shift dress, and none of the techniques are especially difficult.  There were two main challenges: 1) selecting an interesting mix of colours, and 2) sewing the colour blocked panel very accurately.   

Contestants were given an array of plain coloured cotton fabrics.  Angeline, Tracey and Joyce went a bit mad and chose a loud mix of colours that didn't appeal to me at all. Rumana selected a lovely combination of aqua, orange and white.  Jade went her own way, and opted for a monochrome palette, much to Claudia's delight.  Charlotte seemed to spend a lot of time moving around pieces of fabric, before she settled on a really nice colour palette of yellow, orange, jade, white and black.

Joyce was determined to follow the pattern instructions to the letter this week, and was ticking off each step as she went.  In this challenge, it was important to sew the dividing border between the colour blocks exactly 1.5" wide.  Patrick interrupted Jade's sewing to point out that her borders were being sewn inaccurately.  Meanwhile, Joyce was the only contestant I saw that used chalk to carefully mark her stitching line on her dividing border pieces.  This meant that her horizontal and vertical lines were sewn accurately and evenly.

Selecting colours and cutting the pattern must have been a really time consuming task.  At the one hour mark, Tracey commented that she hadn't even started sewing yet.  Angeline had just finished sewing her front together, when Patrick pointed out that she had produced a mirror image of the pattern.  Unfortunately it was too late to do anything about it.

Angeline, Joyce and Charlotte took the time to switch the colour of their thread during the challenge, to ensure their stitching wasn't visible on different panels of the pattern.  Rumana, Tracey and Jade just sewed with whatever colour was in the machine, leaving visible lines of stitching on hems and zips.

The final difficulty in the pattern challenge was sewing the lapped zip.  The lapped zip should be sewn so that the single flap of fabric on the left of the zip, completely covers the zip and the stitching on the right side of the zip.  Patrick and Esme showed us what it should look like when done right:

It's not a great photo as you can't really see the detail, so here is a photo from a tutorial, that shows the technique more clearly:

Image courtesy of

Esme pointed out that Joyce's lapped edge was not covering the stitching, so Joyce unpicked her zip and had another couple of goes before she got it perfect.  Jade, Tracey and Angeline also unpicked their zips and had another go at getting it right.  Charlotte and Rumana used the wrong zip technique, and both had to unpick their work as well.  As the time frantically ticked away, poor Charlotte looked on the verge of tears.  Obviously this challenge was more difficult than it appeared at the beginning.

Patrick horrified the contestants by grabbing a ruler and measuring the dividing borders.  Just like Charlotte, I couldn't help smirking, when at one point Patrick commented he was going to grab his stick.

The judges comments were as follows:

  • Joyce - dividing borders sewn very accurately, used thread that matched the fabric on hem and zip, zip perfectly even, liked the colour combination.
  • Tracey - colour selection looks like royal colours of Sweden, zip sewn very poorly and lap is wrong way around, used contrasting thread which makes stitching stand out.
  • Jade - like the monochrome colour choice, dividing borders sewn inaccurately, zip not sewn well, and contrasting stitching only highlights the errors.
  • Angeline - put colour block panels the wrong way around, neatly sewn, zip sewn well, topstitching thread matches fabric colour, choice of a white panel at the bottom of the front panel gives the illusion of the dress being shorter than it is.
  • Rumana - colour choice works really well, zip not sewn perfectly, topstitching doesn't match colour of fabric. 
  • Charlotte - planned colour selection very effectively, used matching thread for topstitching, zip not sewn well, but overall should be pleased with her work.

The results from 6th place are Tracey, Jade, Angeline, Rumana, with Charlotte in second (fantastically sewn, but zip wasn't perfect), and Joyce in first (a beautiful piece of sewing).

2. Alter a Basic High Street Item

Take a PVC raincoat and turn it into a wearable item of clothing in 1 hour 30 minutes.  

Check out the contestants reactions:

There were some nice, safe solid colour raincoats to choose from, as well as some see through ones.  Charlotte came to the very logical conclusion that if you were going to make something ridiculous, you may as well make it see through.  The judges pointed out that PVC is very difficult to sew, and doesn't behave like normal fabric.  Esme showed off some of her homemade PVC outfits, and left us wondering what she looked like at the Roxy back in the sixties.

Rumana got right into the challenge and turned a red raincoat into a single shoulder top/dress with black grosgrain tape trim.  Not to be outdone in making sexy PVC clothes, Angeline cut a huge triangular section out of the front of her raincoat and made a dress that was barely decent.  The idea was quite good, but the end product seemed unlikely to keep boobs inside.  Tracey went for a suitably sixties styled shift dress with red circles sewn underneath to make a "target" feature.  Jade made a lilac see-through top and skirt, and Charlotte made a clear polkadot halter neck dress.  My favourite effort has to be Joyce, who was utterly horrified by the challenge, and declared she wouldn't wear that stuff if you paid her.  She made a smock style top out of her pink raincoat, and added a pocket for paintbrushes.  The whole thing was trimmed with black ribbon and a fabric flower.

There was much complaining about the difficulty of sewing with PVC.  It sticks as it goes under the presser foot, it doesn't sew nicely and it tears really easily.  This was the final line up of garments:

The judges comments were as follows:

  • Rumana - very bold and sexy, like gathering at the top, well thought out, has an impact.
  • Jade - skirt required quite a bit of re-engineering, open-ended zip works well, like the way the darts show through the clear fabric, not very complicated.
  • Tracey - very sixties style, liked the target motif, neckline, and back button closure, Esme wasn't terribly keen on the shape of the dress.
  • Charlotte - has a fifties vibe, had to join pieces to get enough length for the skirt but judges would have preferred a seam around the whole skirt. 
  • Joyce - really like the "nerdy sailor look" of it, pocket is great, binding matches buttons down the back, but Esme didn't like pompom flower.
  • Angeline - touch of "Barbarella" about it, has mistakes in the design, won't stay on anyone's bosom.

The results from 6th place are Angeline, Charlotte, Jade, Tracey, in second was Rumana (loved it, very graphic, worked well, very imaginative), and in first place was Joyce (it's like a liquorice allsort - "It's almost edible").

Joyce didn't know what to say when they announced her win, but latter declared she was off home to have two glasses of chardonnay to celebrate her two first places.

3. Sew a Showstopper

Sew a jacket using a vintage sixties pattern to fit a real model in 6 hours 30 minutes.

Contestants were allowed to cut their pattern pieces out at home, which makes a 6.5 hour timeframe far more realistic for making a jacket.  Claudia rather oddly said that they have never asked contestants to make a jacket before.  In the second season contestants made overcoats, and last season they made leather jackets.  Perhaps she was commenting on what they've done so far in this season.

Here is what each contestant planned to make:

Charlotte went for a Jackie Kennedy inspired jacket with Peter Pan collar, covered buttons and set in sleeves, made in a blue woollen fabric.

Joyce chose a double-breasted pea coat with a notched collar, set in sleeves and pockets set in the seams, in a navy blue woollen fabric. She had seen Elvis wear a jacket like this, and that was good enough for her.

Rumana went for an Audrey Hepburn inspired A-line jacket with raglan sleeves, a flat Peter Pan collar, covered buttons and welt pockets, made in a red woollen fabric.

Angeline decided to make a jacket inspired by the late sixties and made from an orange wool flannel fabric and a contrast paisley fabric, with an orange and yellow fur trim around the hem.  The "psychedelic" jacket style was an A-line style, with patch pockets, a high funnel collar, and covered buttons with roleau loops.

Jade opted for a less complicated pattern than other contestants.  She went with a cropped jacket with a flat Peter Pan collar, elbow length set-in sleeves, and covered buttons, made in a wool & silk tweed fabric.  She was aiming for perfect construction and pattern matching, rather than all the bells and whistles of a more complicated pattern.

Tracey selected a claret coloured woollen tweed for a cardigan style jacket with "grown on" sleeves (which I learned are sleeves cut with the body of the jacket, rather than separately as is usually done), welt pockets and a flat collar.  Her jacket was inspired by a similar jacket made by her mum, and worn on her honeymoon.

During the challenge Angeline changed her jacket after Patrick and Esme said her fur trim was too much like a costume.  She ditched the fur trim and opted for a simpler style.  There was lots of discussion about interfacing and stabilising.  Almost everyone was using iron-on interfacing to give body and structure to their jackets.  Angeline, however, seemed to be using it minimally.  Patrick was not impressed with her lack of proper stabilising under the front of the jacket, and felt the end result would be too soft.

The sleeves seemed to be another difficult step in the construction.  The contestants with set-in sleeves had to get them in perfectly, without puckers.  Meanwhile, Tracey's grown-on sleeves required a rather complicated triangular gusset sewn in the underarm, and much shaping of fabric with the iron and tailor's ham.

For the lining, contestants seemed to all use the bagging out technique.  This involves placing right sides of jacket and lining together, sewing around the edges, then turning the whole thing right side out through a hole in the lining seam.  There was much excitement during the turning out process, and many comparisons to it being like a birthing process.  Unfortunately Angeline and Rumana had cut their lining too small, and the jacket was pulling up at the hem.  After a last minute rush to sew on buttons, the challenge was finished, and Tracey had a teary moment as she thought about how proud her mum would have been.

In my favourite bit of repartee from this episode, Charlotte commented "there is a black hole in the corner of the room and it's sucking all the time into it", Claudia very quickly pointed out that she called the black hole Patrick.

The judges comments were as follows:

  • Tracey - Esme was really pleased with her use of the grown-on sleeve, Patrick would have liked the sleeve tighter at the wrist and felt the seam line was too visible on the top of the sleeves.  There was some lining peeping out of the front hem, but it was a good looking, wearable jacket.
  • Charlotte - liked the wide neckline, and the neat front edge, but the front sections did not meet perfectly at the hem.  Charlotte tugged them back in to place and pointed out that they did, indeed work. I also noticed that the shoulder seam was too long, and hung slightly off the shoulders.  I don't know if the seam needed to be shortened, or if it needed a better shoulder pad.
  • Rumana - loved the fabric, welt pockets really well done and pretty even, but the lining is pulling the coat up at the hem, and the buttons were sewn in the wrong place.  
  • Joyce - nicely made, first rate, but Patrick didn't think it was a sixties jacket because of the fabric and button choices. Esme pointed out the front neckline was not sitting flat.
  • Angeline -  Patrick started by describing the jacket as "eye-catching" and the boldest selection of colour, fabric, and pattern. Esme loved the orange and the paisley fabrics.  Unfortunately the jacket looked soft and lumpy, the lack of interfacing was causing the front to collapse, the hem was a mess and the lining is too short.  Patrick was pleased Angeline ditched the fur trim, however, it might have hidden the awful hem.
  • Jade - Both Esme and Patrick loved it. They loved the fabric, the style, the fit and the pattern matching (across sleeves, bodice and even buttons). It epitomised the era and was a real sixties style jacket.  Jade looked stunned, and kept waiting for the "but", however it was all good feedback.

The Final Results

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

Jade had a very poor first day and rescued herself with a fabulous made-to-measure jacket.  Her jacket was so good, it was in contention for garment of the week.  The other top garment was Joyce's near faultless, colour block dress.

Tracey and Angeline were both in danger this week.  Patrick and Esme felt the Alteration Challenge was pretty even.

This left us with the colour blocked shift dress from the Pattern Challenge and the jackets from the Made-to-Measure Challenge.

The judges discussed:

Tracey - her colour block dress was not done well (sewn with contrasting thread, and the zip was done incorrectly), but her jacket was really good.
Angeline - her colour block dress was sewn really well, but her jacket was a mess.

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

Garment of the week went to … Jade for her Made-to-Measure jacket.

And now for the bad news.  It was lovely to see all the contestants supporting each other.

The contestant leaving this week was … Angeline.

Angeline has been a lovely contestant - how could you not adore that accent?  She knew she had performed really poorly this week, and her lack of tailoring skills really showed in the final challenge.

Final Thoughts

It is so lovely to see the contestants really caring for each other.  I've said it before, but it's such a nice change from the bitchiness and back-stabbing of shows like Project Runway.  The contestants seem like a close-knit group of friends, and the tears each week are really genuine.

Up next week is Active Wear.  I've worked with knits quite a bit now, and am feeling a lot more comfortable, but active wear is a whole new level of knit sewing.  Just to get you in the mood, check out this fabulous Active Wear video:

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.  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 the new GBSB Season 4 book.
  • 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.
  • Sew Style & Home - Sew Magazine publish a recap of each episode on their blog.

    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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