Saturday, 18 June 2016

The Great British Sewing Bee - Week Four Recap




We head into week four - International Week - with seven contestants left.




Once again I'm very late posting this review.  We've had yet more visitors, and I've been swamped with work.  Oh well, better late than never!

Josh is the only man left standing this season.  I'm not sure how much longer he's going to last, as he has struggled so much through the first three episodes.  It's hard to say who might last through till the final, but at the moment I thing that Joyce, Rumana and Charlotte are the most likely.

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 Chinese Quipao blouse  (sewing with Chinese brocade, inserting an invisible zip, using binding & "frogs" for opening) in 3 hours 45 minutes.

Image courtesy of The Great British Sewing Bee


The Quipao is a rather difficult piece of sewing.  I know, from personal experience, that Chinese silk brocade is a cow to sew.  It is slippery, and has a very loosely woven texture.  It frays like crazy and stretches out as soon as you pick it up.  It's difficult to sew with, and that's not even taking into account the very unusual pattern the contestants have to sew. These are the construction steps:

Images courtesy of The Great British Sewing Bee


Charlotte secured my favourite fabric (running, grabbing and declaring "mine").  It was a lovely blue, with a gold cherry blossom pattern.  I also liked Joyce's red brocade, Rumana's green and gold brocade, and Josh's black brocade.  Claudia, however, didn't think much of Josh's fabric choice (probably because she was looking at the back of the fabric, which is very ugly).

Image courtesy of The Great British Sewing Bee


There were lots of difficult parts to this challenge.  The fabric was slippery and not easy to cut out, so many contestants opted for pattern weights to hold things still.  Transferring the pattern markings presented challenges also, as chalk rubs off the shiny fabric.  Most contestants used tailors tacks or fabric marker pens.  Josh took his chances with chalk.  Charlotte went all renegade, and even sewed over pins to ensure her darts were held in place neatly while she worked.  Josh seemed to take ages to get started, and was still marking his fabric, when everyone else was powering through the sewing.

Joyce carefully hand-stitched her bias on the neckline, before discovering she had applied it incorrectly.  Jade and Angeline had also done theirs incorrectly, so unpicked it and started again.  Joyce, however, decided it looked better that way, threw all caution to the wind, and just left it.

The side invisible zip closure was another baffling step.  The facing had to be secured at the top of the side seam, then the invisible zip was inserted into the seam, allowing the front panel to separate and open.  This technique was really confusing for most contestants, and seems worthy of a couple of photos, showing exactly how the side seam and zip opening is constructed.

Images courtesy of The Great British Sewing Bee

Compared to the rest of the garment, the collar seemed relatively straightforward.  The frogs were also quite easy to add, and just required some hand sewing.  While working out the positioning of the frogs, Charlotte hadn't stay-stitched her neckline, and managed to stretch it out when she put the blouse on the mannequin.  Finally it was all over, and the contestants lined up their seven Quipao blouses.

Image courtesy of The Great British Sewing Bee


The judges gave their most positive comments on Tracey (front smooth and flat, collar even, zip done well, a clean, crisp, precise bit of sewing),  Charlotte (so much of the blouse was good, but front edge was stretched, and Charlotte ended up in tears) and Josh (collar even, zip food, flat front).

Their most negative comments were on Joyce (sewn really nicely but didn't follow pattern, front edge binding and side opening sewn completely wrongly), Angeline (sewn too tight, neckline stretched, collar uneven and overall lacking in finesse), Rumana (side opening not sewn high enough and gapes open to show bust), and Jade (also sewed side opening incorrectly and had bust showing).

The results from 7th place are Joyce (didn't follow the instructions), Jade, Charlotte, Rumana, Angeline, with Josh in second (panicked at the beginning, but did really well), and Tracey in first (a beautiful piece of sewing).

Image courtesy of The Great British Sewing Bee

This was no simple make, and I was really impressed with how contestants coped.

2. Alter a Basic High Street Item

Take a sari and turn it into a wearable item of Eastern inspired clothing in 1 hour 30 minutes.  

The contestants were each allowed to select one sari.  They were a variety of colours, and some had elaborate embroidery.

Image courtesy of The Great British Sewing Bee


Rumana made an interesting dress using triangular panels, and attached it to the sari blouse.  It gave a lovely flared look.  She added a section of trim down the front of the dress at the end, to hide the dodgy front opening.  Angeline went for a boxy, t-shaped kimono top, and used her embroidered sari edge as a trim the whole way around.  Tracey made my favourite top, which was a simple t-shaped top, that looked like the perfect thing to wear over your swimsuit while swanning around the pool on holiday.

Jade, Charlotte and Joyce made trousers, and Josh went for a belly-dancer inspired top and trousers.  Joyce's pants used the sari edge as waistband and cuffs for her very gathered trousers, but instead of adding a zip, she sewed them to her mannequin - a technique that might work well on Project Runway, but doesn't go down so well with judges on GBSB.  Jade's trousers were cut too small, and she ended up adding a puffy triangle of fabric to one side, which stood out like a sore thumb.  Charlotte's gathered trousers with an elastic waistband and cuffs worked well.

Image courtesy of The Great British Sewing Bee


The judges gave their most positive comments on Tracey (looks great and really well thought out, lovely shape, fantastic use of fabric and trims), Charlotte (beautiful full shape, spot on use of fabric, and Patrick declared he would love to wear them), Angeline (good use of border, and liked the V-shape on back of neckline and hem), and Rumana (nice shape, Esme loved the trim on front, Patrick thought it was because it matched her top).

Image courtesy of The Great British Sewing Bee


Their most negative comments were on Josh (a lot of work, but trousers were not a good fit, and the work wasn't neat and tidy), Jade (a good design, but the trousers didn't fit, and the extra panel on only one side didn't work), and Joyce (although her trousers were a fantastic shape, you couldn't put them on).

The results from 7th place are Jade, Joyce (if only she had put in a zip), Josh, Angeline, Rumana, in second was Charlotte (who wanted to see Patrick wearing her trousers), and in first place was Tracey (used elements of sari really nicely).

Images courtesy of The Great British Sewing Bee

Tracey was beginning to feel like she was getting the hang of things.

3. Sew a Showstopper

Sew a West African inspired dress using a wax print fabric to fit a real model in 5 hours 30 minutes.

Wax print fabrics are a printed cotton, which can be shaped easily into elaborate shapes.  The dresses are often sculptural and very fitted.  A quick Google search produced an interesting variety of dresses.



I figured the easiest way to review the patterns and fabrics, was to go through them one by one, so here we go.


Angeline chose a nice blue and yellow geometric fabric.  Her pattern was quite simple, but had a lovely shape.



Charlotte chose another nice fabric in an orange, red and grey print.  I wasn't particularly keen on her pattern choice, as the neckline seemed too narrow and the gathered peplum gave a boxy look.



Jade chose my favourite fabric this time.  It was a fan leaf print in blue, jade and pink.  Her dress pattern was also very nice, although I would have liked the peplum to be longer in the front.  I included an extra photo of the back, as I liked her waterfall peplum detail.



Josh chose a geometric print fabric in two different colours.  His pattern was interesting, and had good impact, but was any flaws were going to be incredibly obvious in such a simple silhouette.



I really liked Joyce's red, circular print fabric, but didn't like the pattern at all.  The cap sleeves were un unattractive shape, and the partial peplum wasn't full enough.



Rumana chose two complementary fabrics in blue and yellow.  She went for a dramatic cape with a simple fitted sheath dress underneath.



Tracey chose a blue and purple fabric with a  gold floral detail.  I really didn't like the print or the colours.  She chose the same dress pattern as Joyce.

The most difficult part of this challenge seemed to be pattern matching through seams, placement of patterns (Charlotte pointed out that she was trying to avoid "circle boob") and achieving the perfect fit.  Josh struggled to achieve a perfect pattern match, and ended up with a dress that didn't fit particularly well.  Jade was so focused on the perfect fit, that she ended up with a dress that was too tight.  Charlotte's pattern needed to be adjusted, as the upper chest wasn't wide enough, her neckline was too narrow and pulled at the armholes.  Tracey's dress wasn't tight enough, and didn't flatter her model's figure.  Angeline's dress was really pretty, but her bodice needed to be shortened, and should have been boned.  She tried to fix the sagging bodice with straps on the back, but it just didn't fit right.

The judges comments were as follows:


  • Tracey - hem crisp and even but it doesn't fit well, neckline is very loose and there was at least 6" excess fabric at waist.
  • Angeline - dress has a wow factor, scale of peplum works well with skirt length, choker brings whole dress together, but bodice is too long.  
  • Charlotte - terrific impact, thought about pattern placement very carefully, but it was bulky around was it, the darts were too high, armhole was gaping on one side and pulling on the other.  Pattern match on centre back was slightly off, but skirt was perfect.
  • Rumana - dramatic effect, dress very flattering, and there was a saucy peek of boob between cape and dress.  Patrick had never seen anything like it before, and commented it was line something from another planet.
  • Jade - overall impression is stunning, peplum is great, but skirt a little too tight and pulling on the front, and neckline a little low.
  • Josh - pattern of fabric jarring, dress too long in back and puckering, hips badly shaped and lumpy on one side.
  • Joyce - very crips, very neat, really well fitted, flat neckline, nice waist, not too tight.  Patric wished there had been more peplum, but overall felt the whole thing worked extremely well.


The Final Results

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

Image courtesy of The Great British Sewing Bee


Jade and Joyce started the second day at the bottom of the heap, but Joyce had rescued herself as her Made to Measure dress was in contention for garment of the week.

Those in danger were:

Josh - had a good first day, but his Made to Measure wasn't successful at all.
Jade - had a poor first day, but her Made to Measure was one of the better dresses.

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

Garment of the week went to … Joyce for her Made to Measure dress.

Images courtesy of The Great British Sewing Bee


The contestant leaving this week was … Josh.

Images courtesy of The Great British Sewing Bee


Jade looked utterly terrified in the lead up to announcing the contestant leaving.  She knew she had performed really poorly, and there was a look of shock and relief on her face at the end.


Final Thoughts

In his final interview Josh talked about how much he had learnt on the sewing bee, and how much contestants had helped each other.  The camaraderie, and helpfulness of contestants is one of the things that makes this such a great show.  The British do this so well, and it's so much better than the bitching and sniping of other reality TV shows.

Next week is 60s Week.  The teaser showed contestants struggling with a old Bernini sewing machines, Mondrian inspired sheath dresses, vinyl raincoats and 60s jacket patterns.  It looks like another interesting week, and I can't wait to the next episode.

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 by 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.

    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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