The Great British Sewing Bee 2 : Episode 5

The sewers work with new material, which puts them several steps ahead of Michael McIntyre.

1. With cotton, silk, polyester and suchlike all a dim and distant memory by this stage in the competition, you may think that May and Patrick are running out of fabric-based challenges to set the contestants, but that’s where you’d be wrong. This week was all about difficult, unfamiliar materials, things that they might not be all that accustomed to working with. Of course, you could argue that Chinelo already went through this last week because UGH *SPIT* CHILDREN, or indeed that Heather has been doing it every week since this is probably the first time she’s spent more than five minutes in a workroom that didn’t have any gin in it anywhere (that I’m aware of). I was kind of hoping that Claudia would embrace the overall theme of the unfamiliar by turning up in a red poncho paired with bright yellow palazzo pants, but I guess the slate-grey pinstriped shirt she was wearing is about as close as Claudia gets to primary colours. Baby steps, and all that. (Also, in a matter entirely unrelated to this episode: has anyone else noticed the conspicuous absence of Cliff in the cast photo they use as the background on iPlayer? And the fact that they didn’t even bother to put a little “eliminated” strap on his picture on the official show site? I suppose you could argue that he wasn’t eliminated as such, but “went home with an owie” probably wouldn’t fit.)

2. For this week’s pattern challenge, the top six sewers were instructed to make a nylon anorak. The moment where they were all told they would be working with nylon was quite something – I think there would have been fewer complaints if you’d told them they had to work with both hands tied behind their backs and one eye closed while balancing their left foot on the windowsill. Of course, this is the sort of show where nobody ever really complains, there was just a bit of goodnatured grumbling before everyone got down to the important business of anorak-making. (Missed opportunity of the week: the absence of special guest models Zig and Zag.) Chinelo admitted that she hates anoraks, but hopes that she might grow to love them by the end of the challenge. (Did she admit to any reformed opinions on the merits of children after last week? Although I imagine anoraks are easier to love than anklebiters.) Interestingly, the part of the challenge that proved the most foxing for everyone had nothing to do with sewing, but rather ironing: they would need to use their irons in order to seal the seams with waterproof tape, but no one seemed to know how hot the iron needed to be, how long they needed to do it for, and frankly civil wars have broken out over lesser matters than “should the steam setting be on or off”. The other big question was where to pin the fabric in order to avoid holes, which would stop the garment from being showerproof as requested: Tamara cannily put her pins in her seam allowance, David opted for sticky tape rather than pins, and Lynda bypassed all methods of attachment and instead just used her pin jar to hold the pattern down while she cut around it. Also on this task, Lynda got all in a muddle because she had to sew wrong sides together when she’d normally expect to sew right sides together, and she ended up sewing right sides together instead of the wrong sides, which was of course wrong and not right. Worryingly, Lynda was at the bottom of the pile with Heather just above her, but there was good news for Jenni who finished a close second to Tamara, whose victory was soundtracked by Doris Day’s ‘Teacher’s Pet’, which rather tickled me.

3. This week’s History Bit was thus all about the rise of the waterproof jacket. Apparently before nylon anoraks were de rigeur, the standard practice for a gentleman caught out in a rainstorm was to grab the nearest pauper and hold him or her above your head, thus shielding yourself from undesirable precipitation. (Or something.) Obviously this was not sustainable as it led to prolonged contact with the poor, so instead a chemist by the name of Charles Mackintosh came up with a handy waterproofing process by mixing Indian rubber and the waste materials of street gas lighting, which apparently made the rubber spreadable. A sort of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Indian Rubber, if you like. Early versions of the mackintosh coat weren’t hugely successful because it smelt funny and was weirdly stiff and/or sticky a lot of the time. [*bites lip* – Chris] Which, obviously, is not true of ANY such coats in this day and age. Fortunately, inventor Thomas Hancock was on hand to help perfect the process of making a waterproof coat, and the sex pests of the world have been able to harass people in comfort ever since.

4. So remember how aroused Claudia got last week when confronted with camouflage pattern fabric? (David certainly does, because you can’t tell me he didn’t make a camo anorak for the first task on purpose, the wily minx.) Well, that was the very acme of coquettishness compared to Heather’s reaction to working with leather in the alteration challenge, whether they had to add leather to a rather drab sleeveless high street top. “I LOVE A BIT OF LEATHER!” she growled. “YES, I COULD SEE ME GETTING INTO LEATHER.” I tried googling to see whether she did in fact get into leather after the competition finished, and what I can tell you is that is indeed a real site, but does not appear to be connected in any way to our Heather. Unless there’s some sort of paywall that was blocking me from seeing the good(?) stuff. As always, this task turned out an interesting range of end products. David’s “garment removed from corpse of stabbing victim” (or “Blue Hiawatha”, as Claudia called it) took the booby prize, with Patrick advising him to know when to stop. Heather was second-to-last again, having apparently picked up the “putting too much unnecessary shit on the shoulders” sickness from Chinelo. Speaking of Chinelo, she took second place with her asymmetrical cut suede top with lace ruffles, and Lynda returned to her rightful place at the top of the heap with her rather lovely strapless bustier top decorated with a leather flower.

5. This was a particularly great week for Claudia’s reactions, by the way. She loves a bit of leather, does Claud (but NOT PLEATHER though, as any dedicated viewer of Strictly Come Dancing can confirm) and the sight of her literally recoiling in horror as Tamara started cutting into a piece in front of her was a marvellous thing to behold (“What are you doing now? There’s no warning with you, Tamara!”) as was her “oh! oh! I don’t know what you’ve just done!” to David, who promptly told her to go away. Also excellent: Claudia confusedly referring to the overlocker as “The Overlord”, Claudia speculating with David about how marvellous it would be if the police had velvet uniforms, Claudia promising to take the thought of Chinelo’s oiled-up husband playing the piano away with her to think about in private later.

6. I was looking forward to the final challenge, because this was the first time in the series where the sewers would have to actually make clothes for themselves. However, my enthusiasm was diminished somewhat when I learned that the clothes in question would be VELVET TROUSERS, because honestly. I can’t endorse anything that leads to the existence of six more pairs of velvet trousers in the universe. And I say this as someone who owns and has worn a purple velvet shirt [Oh dear – Chris]. Anyway, because they were making garments for themselves, it was necessary for each sewer to find a “fit buddy” – in other words, one of the other contestants who could check the fit of the trousers for them while they were wearing them. (And here I was thinking that a “fit buddy” was just someone who’d share a shower cubicle at the gym with Aaron Schock.) This led to highlights such as Heather wolf-whistling when David took his jeans off, Lynda and Chinelo pairing up “because we’ve both got big bums”, as Lynda put it (“round bums”, Chinelo hastily corrected), Tamara declining to examine David’s crotch too closely because “there’s friends and there’s friends“, and Jenni warning Heather that “I’ve taken my tights off, but you will see my bottom”. The bottom exposure wasn’t the worst thing for poor Jenni either, as she accidentally sewed her waistband on the wrong way round and ended up sitting there, doing her best to finish her trousers but quietly crying over what she (correctly) assumed was a competition-ending mistake for her.

7. Another highlight of the final task was Patrick’s habit of lurking in the background just when he needed to overhear something portentous, like he was Thomas Barrow and the workshop was Downton Abbey. He was right there when David casually remarked that the fly of his velvet trousers was the best one he’d ever done, he was right there when Lynda got a wrinkle in her zip and had to unpick it, and he was right there when Jenni’s waistband started to go wrong. After a while it stopped being funny and became slightly frightening OH HI PATRICK WHERE DID YOU SPRING FROM?

8. Breaking with tradition somewhat, this week’s Garment Of The Week didn’t come from the third challenge, as top honours went to Tamara’s lovely anorak from the first round. Well, now it just feels like anything can happen. That said, I still feel like the second round keeps getting treated like the redheaded stepchild of the competition, because both Lynda’s and Chinelo’s products from that one were pretty fantastic and ought to have been in consideration. Still, it was nice to see someone else take the win for a change, although Tamara was wearing a chunky tie again which made it impossible for me to wholeheartedly commit to enjoying her victory.

9. The two main contenders to go this week turned out to be Jenni, for the velvet trouser disaster (and yes, The Velvet Trouser Disaster is the name of my prog-rock band), and Heather, for finishing second-from-last in the first two challenges and turning out a decent-but-simple pair of trousers in the last one. Ultimately it was Jenni who went home, and I suspect that the overall body of work may have been taken into consideration here, because while Jenni’s trousers were a total mess, Heather probably made more mistakes overall this week, so I can’t help thinking that the skill and consistency that Heather has shown in previous weeks is what kept her around. I was surprisingly sad to see Jenni go since it probably was just that one big mistake that did her in during a week where she otherwise performed strongly, and she really has come on a lot since the start of the competition. Still, if it’s any consolation, I’d say she’s in with a good shot at the Most Bullshit Elimination prize come Monkie season.

10. It wasn’t exactly a vintage week in Innuendo Corner, but there were still some undignified snorts to be had. Check out these bad boys:

Jenni – “The wow factor will be in the back, because I know Patrick likes that.”
Lynda – “It’s very, very thick […] maybe if I do one at a time?”
Chinelo – “I just always call it a hairy fabric.”
Claudia – “Your velvet, to me – I’m just going to be honest, it feels really floopy.”
Patrick – “It’s virtually impossible to do a good fit on yourself.”
Lynda – “Everyone’s seen my wrinkled zip.”
David – “I’m quite tempted to do it by hand.”

And to think we were worried that we’d have to cancel Innuendo Corner once Simon and Julie were sent home.

Next week: a pattern that nobody understands, rejigging a men’s suit, and a coat-making challenge that leads Chinelo to rip her stitches. Hey, we’ve all been there.

23 thoughts on “The Great British Sewing Bee 2 : Episode 5

  1. Minxy

    And they never did answer the vital question of whether the stem should be on or off!
    Or did I just miss that part? (Damn you, you two,for hooking me onto this)

    It is a vital piece of knowledge that needs to be tucked away in our brain, ready in case we ever need it! Even members of the seamstresses guild, hem hem (987 members in the docks areas of AnkhMorpork but only 2 needles between them) may have cause to need to know that!

  2. Minxy

    Pal at chris’s bitten lip at “I can’t believe its not India Rubber”
    Oh you need to be introduced to and intimate with Nanny Ogg and the hedgehog who cannot be buggered at all ( and Casanunda the dwarf gigolo)

  3. Jan

    “Another highlight of the final task was Patrick’s habit of lurking in the background just when he needed to overhear something portentous, like he was Thomas Barrow and the workshop was Downton Abbey.”

    Yes! That’s exactly it!

    I loved the speculation on velvet uniforms for the police. They could defuse potential riots by being just so laid-back and funky.

  4. Hooples

    Can Chinelo STOP with the One shouldered items? It’s getting old!

    Other than that, she’s alright. I’m with her on the Child-hating.

    1. durnovarian

      I like Chinelo too. I’d love it if on one of the non-pattern challenges Patrick and May had to guess which item was whose – bet they’d get most of them right!

  5. ynysmon

    I thought Chinelo seemed a bit peaky this week
    Tamara seems the most improved and Heather has taken a down turn
    Loved them working together, I have hopes of a team challenge when its down to 4

    Totally irrelevant- Have you seen the C4 drama Utopia, one of the main characters is a young Welsh woman with heavy dark fringe who is called Beccy(not Beca) and is the all round nice one of the gang. Last years series she did not bake, presumably she will if it comes back this year

  6. Poppy

    Oooh, you missed my favourite inunedo of the week, which was Patrick telling David that he should have used Prick Stitch to sew his trouser fly.

    I’m so pleased you’re blogging this, it makes it even better (and I like it a lot to start with).

  7. Jenni Taylor

    Wicked blog!! When are The Velvet trouser disaster playing next – I could wear the shit velvet trousers and join u on stage! Ill do backing vocals if u like 🙂 x

    1. stevenperkins

      I’m learning so much about fashion from all of this. All I knew before we started recapping this was “never wear white after Labor Day”, and I don’t even know when Labor Day is.


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