I had a really great pun to go here, but it was a bit of a stretch.
1. So in the first week, the contestants were tested on their skills with the core fabrics (cotton, wool, and silk), and last week they had to deal with (gasp) patterned fabrics. This week, Claudia promised us, they would be dealing with a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT FABRIC. My mind was already racing: chenille? Taffeta? Donegal tweed? No: lycra, actually. Or “stretch fabrics”, to give it its BBC name. At this point I found myself hoping that they might recall a few of last week’s final challenge models to sport some of the snug, stretchy, figure-enhancing garments over the course of the episode. You know, just Chinelo’s. And Simon’s. If they’re not busy or anything. *cough*
2. At this stage in the competition, everyone’s starting to size up the competition, as well as their own strengths and weaknesses. Julie arrived and informed us that she’d be learning from her mistakes, and this week she was planning to read the instructions carefully and do what she was told, as opposed to just following the Julie Muse as she saw fit. This made Julie’s elimination at the end of the episode (oops, spoiler) slightly easier for me to deal with because in many ways I felt The Spirit Of Julie died there and then anyway. Meanwhile, Heather chuckled that she’d learned a lot from her rivals on how to do things better and quicker. She said this in a manner that suggested we couldn’t rule out the possibility of her having sucked out their brains by sticking her index finger in their ears or something. David, showing a pleasing degree of genre-savviness, simply pointed out that he’s the last man standing and that this is probably the beginning of the end for him. (Cut to Jenni sewing her finger to a pair of denim hotpants, accidentally making a hat instead of a pair of legwarmers and inadvertently setting fire to the entire workshop while Julie just stares at her instructions for the third week running and huffs “FOOK THIS!” as we ponder how David might still have a week or two left in him.)
3. Task one, as always, was the Unseen Pattern challenge – the sewers were informed that they had to make a pair of leggings that, per May’s instructions, “must fit your mannequin”. Is that not a basic requirement of garment-manufacturing, generally? Do many designers sit there going “well, I know I’ve got this mannequin here as a fit guide, but SOD THAT, I’m going to make it twice as big”? Anyway, Heather cackled at the mere suggestion of this challenge, and Jenni admitted that she’d only practiced with lycrstretch fabrics once before *face of surprise*. The ever-indefatigable Lynda, however, chirped that if this challenge went well, she’d be making everyone Funky Friday Leggings FOR CHRISTMAS! (Oh, I said the quiet part loud and the loud part quiet.) After a brief demonstration of the inherent problems with stretchy fabric (mostly that it’s a lot less stable than other fabrics), in which May caressed her torso like she was auditioning for the Christina Aguilera role in Burlesque 2: Of Corsets Going Straight To DVD, we hear the words that the show is clearly dearly hoping will become its own answer to the Bake Off’s “soggy bottom”. Yes, it’s “saggy bottom”. Keep trying folks, eh? Highlights of the workroom selection: Julie terrifying Patrick by referring to her fabric as “a bit S&M” (somehow I think Patrick’s comfort level is more “a bit M&S”) immediately before getting dinged for not having a tape measure, the revelation that “David keeps his haberdashery in the garage” (that needs to become a euphemism for something and I don’t really care what) and the all-important revelation of who says “crutch” instead of “crotch” (notable offenders: Tamara, David, Chinelo).
4. I think it’s fair to call the results of this task “something of a mixed bag”. Invisi-edit Cerina had a well-executed waistband which the judges appreciated, Julie’s Rihanna-ready leggings had a saggy bottom but a fine-fitting front, Tamara had a minor bit of bagging but worked her pattern very well, Chinelo somehow managed to make one bum cheek fitted and the other one not so much (the result of last-minute fiddling, apparently), Heather screwed up the waistband AND left a saggy bottom, Lynda’s twin-needle stitching was to die for, David made a credible effort despite being a man (even if the waistband was so low that your vagina would pop right out if you sneezed), and Jenni basically made slacks. It speaks a lot about Jenni’s effort that May’s feedback was “um” and Patrick’s was “yes”. For reasons best known to Jenni, she attempted to rescue this disastrous attempt by hastily sewing the world’s scraggiest pocket onto the back and then repeatedly referred to it as “a cheeky pocket”, and few things in the world incur my ire faster than people attaching the word “cheeky” to insentient objects. Patrick sass of the week: “You don’t need [a pocket], you’ve got all this. *indicates massive amount of saggy fabric around the upper thigh*”. So unsurprisingly, Jenni finished last with Heather above her, and the top three were Cerina, David and Lynda, who it turns out was merely fulfilling the edict of her two daughters who’d demanded she finished top in a challenge that day.
5. This week in Fabric Anthropologist Is Totally A Real Job corner, we were informed that lycra is actually an ingredient in stretch fabric rather than a stretch fabric by itself, it’s made from bonded polyurethane, and it was originally invented as a way to make girdles less restrictive. Except its timing was shitty, because this all came about just as the girdle fell out of fashion, but luckily its future was salvaged by the rise of aerobics, and specifically by Debbie Moore, the founder of Pineapple Dance Studios. Yep, the same woman who brought lycra into your daily life also brought Louie Spence into your daily life (Aint nobody brought lycra into my daily life – Chris) . Whattawoman.
6. For the Alteration Challenge, the task was to rework yer bog-standard stretchy t-shirt. Tamara won Claudia’s admiration instantly for turning the sleeve into the neckhole (this answers so many questions about Claudia and her idiosyncratic fashion sense). Cerina opted to make a child’s dancing dress, while Chinelo was planning an asymmetric maxi dress. Claudia took this opportunity to point out that Chinelo basically finishes in the top three of every task but never wins – a fact that hadn’t been lost on Chinelo – which was as clear a signal as you’re likely to get that Chinelo was destined to win Sew Queen Garment Of The Week in this episode. In other news: Chinelo revealed that there are no shoulder pads in the accessories cupboard, thereby instantly diminishing my interest in this series by at least 60 per cent. In the end, Lynda turned hers into a sort of pleated dress with a gold waistband, Cerina’s kiddy leotard was well-received, Julie’s ruffled scoop top was a nice idea roughly executed, Heather ruched hers and put bows on it and then claimed this was her “inner secret woman” (RUN FOR YOUR LIFE), Chinelo changed hers into a dress by adding a skirt in a new fabric which was fitted together seamlessly, David’s jersey was “ambitious” but poorly put together, Tamara’s dress was “dramatic” but slightly sloppy”, and Jenni kind of turned hers into a punk top with extraneous zips and a kind of corset-lacing pattern on the back which looked a lot better than it sounds. David and Julie were the bottom two, while the top three were Heather, Chinelo and Cerina. In that order, obviously, because it’s not quite Chinelo’s time for a win yet. But it is nigh. Oh, IT IS NIGH.
7. For the final challenge, the task at hand was to make a stretch wrap dress. Jenni wanted to make a retro dress, and Patrick couldn’t help admiring her wizard sleeve. (Again: not a euphemism, feels like it should be.) David was repeating a dress he’d made for his wife that didn’t take her large hips into consideration, which Claudia rightly pointed out he probably shouldn’t be openly discussing on TV unless he actually wants to move into his garagedashery. Chinelo, ready to ROLL TO VICTORY at long last, was making a purple velvet dress that looked fabulous even when it was just an outline on her desk, so we all knew her coronation was imminent. In the week’s most illuminating conversation: Heather has a stuffed dog that holds all of her pins, Cerina thought it was probably called Mortimer or Lancelot, and Heather confirmed it was in fact called Horatio. Some days I feel like you could move this entire competition next to the gin section of your local Waitrose and it wouldn’t look even remotely out of place. Julie prepared to go out in the Juliest style possible by basing her pattern on a vintage dressing gown and adding a collar of faux-snow leopard fur.
8. As far as the outcome of the task goes, Heather made a last-ditch effort to inject some unpredictability to the week’s elimination by sewing the skirt onto her wrap dress inside out and having to basically cut right through her stitching and start again, but only a fool would think that a relatively minor setback like this would put her in any genuine danger. To the shock of precisely no one, the presentation of Chinelo’s finished dress basically came with a choir of angels/a bam-chicka-wah-wah porn soundtrack – there was no point even pretending that this one wasn’t sweeping up any awards on offer this week. Sure enough, she finally got that first-place finish, and ABOUT DAMN TIME TOO. #teamchinelo
9. Despite the show’s best efforts to convince us that David was in trouble for his failure on the adaptation challenge (even though he did well on the other two), it came down to Julie and Jenni for elimination, and Julie was sent home. Much like Chris predicted last week, she handled her departure on her own terms: Claudia insisted that she was SO SORRY to see Julie go. Julie: “Nah, don’t be.” Claudia told Julie that she was hilarious, and that she should just stay anyway. Julie: “Pack it in!” JULIEGODDESS ❤ Honestly, she may not have been the best sewer in the contest, but it’s going to be a much less fun show without her. God speed Julie, and let’s pray that some lesser UK-based drag queen buys the rights for the RuPaul’s Drag Race franchise and casts you as some sort of hybrid Michelle Visage/Santino figure. It’s the role you were born to play. (“I told her not to wear green! I fookin hate it!”)
10. To close this week’s update, I’d just like to ruminate briefly on the nature of the competition and how so far there seems to be one crucial element that differs greatly from The Great British Bake Off: aside from the occasional slip-up or unusually strong performance, at the moment it seems as though the same contestants perform well each week, and the same ones struggle each week. I can’t help wondering if that’s because there are fewer external variables at play here: in baking, there’s the unpredictable chemistry element of making a cake or a pie that could cause something that’s always worked in rehearsal to fail on the night for no real reason, and it feels like there’s a greater diversity of tasks to ensure that there’s bound to be something there to truly test everybody at least once. That’s something that feels missing from The Great British Sewing Bee so far: a real wildcard that might shake things up among the Chinelo/Cerina/Lynda/Heather/Tamara quintet of strong, competent, confident sewers. I’m not saying I want any of them to get a SHOCK BOOT or anything, but I feel like none of them are in any danger until the herd gets a bit thinner, and I’d love for there to be a week where the theme was such a diversion from what we’ve seen so far that one or more of them really had to push themselves to remain a contender. It’s a minor complaint, but I’d just like to feel like we’re not just sitting here waiting out the clock on David and Jenni.