Sew sew sew sew sew sew Scandalous.
1. The episode this week was prefaced by what is presumably the BBCs next crafting adventure : The Big Allotment Challenge. Obviously I am grateful to the BBCs commitment to low-level reality competitions proliferating across its stations like Japanese knotweed, because it keeps me in things to write about, but I can’t help thinking that this is where the limits of the genre lie. Rather than honing in on any particular skill, the Big Allotment Challenge appears to want to have its cake, eat it, then use the poop that’s produced afterwards to fertilise a strawberry bush, then use the strawberries to decorate a new cake STARTING THE ENDLESS CYCLE ANEW. By the looks of it contestants have to be able to grow crops, do amateur floristry, make jam, design gardens, grow awful hipster beards, endure Fern Britton, curate a full and satisfying range of pornographic magazines in their shed, still moonshine for special Guest Alky Mary Berry, and…I dunno, lawnmower racing or something probably. It feels like someone made Farmville : The TV Show. I’ll probably watch the first episode and then decide to blog it despite all this, but let me get it on record now that I am not really looking forward to EXCITING FOOTAGE OF THINGS GROWING UNDERGROUND.
2. What other theme could there be for the final of The Great British Sewing Bee than “couture”? Sure this show may pride itself on its down-home charm, buffed edges, creaky retro soundtrack and dungaree pant challenges, but at the end of the day we all know what lurks underneath the prim contained nice middle-class surfaces of these contestants is the desire to create a gown the size of a typical West London flat, covered with organza, feathers and fricking lasers. Well…most of them. I know this isn’t normally one of those shows where I do pictures, but I couldn’t quite pass up the opportunity to show Chinelo’s face when she head that the theme of the week was technically exacting, hand-stitched, hardcore high-fashion.
Lighten up Chinelo, at least the fact that it’s high fashion means that you’re not going to have to design anything for childr…oh wait.
3. There was no History Bit this week – instead the time was taken up with a brief summary of the contestants path to the final (my favourite part was when Claudia described Tamara’s hallmarks as a contestant being “bold fabric choices” and “determination to embellish”. I’LL SAY) and also a little bit more information about their lives as sewers. Chinelo let us all know that she’s only been sewing for two years and that it was born out of a desire to take her wardrobe to the next level. Heather sneakily informed us that sewing had always been a secret passion of hers, buried deep underneath her public face as an equestrian and gin-lush. Tamara’s mum revealed that “Tammy” had started sewing because she wanted to hide her dolls’ nude shame. Meanwhile, the husbands of all three of them lurked around the back and swapped numbers for a support group that meets under an abandoned tube station on Wednesday nights and ritualistically sets fire to doilies.
4. We started off Couture Week with a quite mundane Pattern Challenge – to make a man’s silk tie. You wouldn’t think such a basic garment could provoke the biggest meltdown of the series but it did, as Chinelo flew off the deep end from the second she got the pattern book open, poring over every last instruction with two fingers at a time and a confused look on her face, like a harassed mother-of-three whose first adventures into Ikea furniture are about to end with a sledgehammering. Sensing her pain, Claudia awkwardly darted around her frantically, like a creosoted mosquito, reminding her that she was doing it for her husband and he’d be so proud of her and that she was so close to the end now. Still it was for nothing, as Chinelo ended up balls’ing up her tie completely, not even finishing it and removing herself from the sewing-room in tears. At this, Patrick and May muttered on the sidelines like Cissie & Ada about how Chinelo, who had seemed to be a frontrunner for the whole competition, had gone to pieces when pulled just that little bit too far outside of her comfort zone and to be honest you could see her chances of winning evaporate utterly in that instance. I know that it was always likely that Chinelo’s lack of experience would do her in in the end, but to be hung for a tie? Too sad. Meanwhile Heather and Tamara busied themselves making perfectly adequate silk-ties, with Tamara squeaking out the win. Although to be fair, I should have known from the off as she turned up for the finale challenge wearing one as a belt (don’t ask – it’s just Tamara).
5. As if the horrors of the old school tie hadn’t ground Chinelo down enough, she moved right from that into the couture alteration challenge – turning a wedding dress into an outfit for a child, possibly as some sort of anthropological visual metaphor for how married women abnegate their selves for their children. Or possibly because Claudia got a job-lot of old wedding dresses free as remainders from all the MARRIAGES THAT STRICTLY COME DANCING HAS DESTROYED. (Monkseal Blog Solution? CHILD BRIDE!). You might think that I’m being pretentious maundering over the symbology of this challenge, but both Heather and Chinelo fretted with empathy over cutting up the dress for the happiest day of some poor woman’s life. (Chinelo for her part said very carefully and measuredly, almost as though for the benefit of the police, that her wedding dress was rented so she DEFINITELY DIDN’T STILL HAVE IT). Tamara meanwhile had absolutely no problem with attacking the bridal veil with a great big pair of scissors and ripping the trailing lace to shreds. I guess when you’re in an early lead you’ve got less time for sentimentality. In the end, this challenge provided immediate redemption for Chinelo, both in terms of clawing some pride back after the Great Tie Disaster of 2014, but also laying to rest her child-hating ways for…well not for good, but for now, as she won the challenge just barely over Heather. This appeared to be mostly on the strength of her wee puffy baby sleeves, which had Claudia squawking away broodily at pitches even she hadn’t previously reached. Heather’s silk skirt and gathering may have been impeccable but it couldn’t compete with WEE TINY POOFY WIKKLE SLEEVIES. Tamara was left in their wake by her poor finishing of her child’s dress’s skirt portions. It was kind of neatly elided over that the dress kind of looked like pre-pubescent maternity wear.
6. And so it was that on paper all three finalists went into the final task even on paper (although you can’t help but suspect that Chinelo was still toast after “can’t-really-sewgate”. As we came full circle and into the final straight, we saw a number of old friends. Both literally, in the case of the models for the final challenge, who were all the contestants best friends (Chinelo of COURSE repeatedly stabbed her best friend in the thigh with pins over the course of the challenge) and also the previous contestants, who were drawn back from the ether in order to say who they think should win. Julie of course, with her usual gumption lined up behind Chinelo, Cerina and David both expressed a preference for Tamara, and Simon declared himself Team Heather after declaring that he loved her spark. Jenni on the other prevaricated between Chinelo and Heather, and she’d better hope that Chinelo was in a forgiving mood when this aired otherwise I think their already-legendary fancy-dress karaoke booze-cruise might be off. Everyone else accounted for (apart from Cliff) (who?) it was left to Lynda to noisily wail and say she couldn’t pick ANY of them because they’re all so FABOOLUSS. I did miss Lynda this episode. I at least think she would have been able to make a tie.
7. The actual final challenge of the series though was to make a Couture Gown with NO LIMITS. Those of who still remember the last series of The Great British Bake Off and the effing messes that passed for GRAND FINALE cake there might have gone into this challenge with some trepidation, but happily, all three of the finalists produced succesful garments that got 95% level praise from all three judges, and which also reflected their sense of style over the course of the series. Which is to say that Tamara’s was absolutely “modern and funky” with razor slashes, text print, crystal organza (!!!) and silk flowers applied at the last minute with a hot glue gun. Possibly directly to the flesh. I know the judging of this show isn’t about taste level or personal opinion on what goes together with what, but…I did not find it attractive. (It’s the final, I’m being politic, so sue me). Chinelo’s dress was in a lovely metallic chocolate-gold shade with flowers attached to the boobies (I believe that’s the technical term) and a mermaid’s tail. Heather’s meanwhile was genuinely eccentric and ebullient, with a top hat, whip, crop, kinky back chain and GREAT BIG FECK-OFF BUSTLE that could theoretically be removed if you wanted to, say, dance the YMCA whilst clutching a bottle of Tanqueray. It being the final round of the final episode, Patrick and May remained non-committal as to which gown was the best, picking at a few minor visible stitches on Heathers, bulky finishing on Chinelo’s, and the fact that the crystal organza had been discarded in the nearest bin by Tamara at the very last minute. I think it speaks to the general…business of the dress that I honestly can’t say as I noticed.
8. The winner then? Of I’m not sure what other than the fugliest trophy in reality tv history? BRITAIN’S GREATEST AMATEUR SEWER UNTIL THE NEXT ONE? Heather. And of course she went full Alexandra Burke, her jaw hanging open, then swiftly covered up by her hands in shock, at the same time as appearing to develop debilitating stomach cramps. A worthy winner I think, and not just because she endorsed this blog a few weeks back, bringing this blog’s total of reality tv winners amongst its fans to TWO WHOLE PEOPLE. (Sundry losers as well but I mean, come on…). Of the three finalists Chinelo had the strongest competition overall, but you couldn’t really award her the win after TieGate without looking a bit stupid, and Heather was marginally stronger than Tamara overall and also didn’t include CRYSTAL ORGANZA in her final design. Apparently last year’s winner took it in a cakewalk, so I’m glad we had somewhat of a scrappy, fighter sort of winner this time. She also made Garment Of The Week look stupid, given that she NEVER WON IT, so there’s that. (Sorry, but my hatred of Garment Of The Week tipped over the edge after Tamara’s Yoga Leotard win last week). The show tried to present it as though Heather had been deliberately holding back all her ideas and strength until now which…pfft. She was always kind of amazing. And drunk.
9. So Sewing Bee then? I’ve enjoyed it. It doesn’t quite have the drama of Bake Off, and for all that Patrick Grant is a stone-cold fox, he and May don’t quite have the natural chemistry of Mary and Paul built up yet, but it’s definitely been a worthwhile blog topic and yes, if you’ve been asking, and so long as Steve hasn’t run off to Barnsley in frantic pursuit of Simon, we will be blogging it next year. The most important thing of course, given the BBC’s educational remit, is that I have learnt absolutely bugger all about sewing. So let’s drink to that!
10. Finally, the segment I know you were really here for all along, my favourite bits of the “Where Are They Now?” American Graffiti style ending sequence :
“Cliff is still making his own shirts”
“Simon has made himself a cap out of his own tweed”
“Julie has sewn her new grandson some pyjamas” (I hope they were covered in rhinestones)
*footage of Julie delicately drying out her underarms with a hand-fan*
“Jenni is taking orders for funky trousers”
“David hasn’t made any clothes since the sewing bee”
*footage of Lynda seductively munching on a KitKat*
“Tamara just bought a job lot of stretch fabric”
*footage of Tamara airing before footage of Chinelo suggests that Chinelo in fact finished second, hot-glue gun couture apparently being an even bigger crime than not even finishing*
“After thirty years, Heather is no longer a secret sewer”
So moving. Goodnight.