The Great British Sewing Bee 3 – Episode 5

To celebrate making it to the semi-final, everyone gets leathered.

1. This week in the Sewing Bee workshop (it is a workshop, right? Or should I call it the “repurposed exposed brick multi-purpose commercial space”? I mean it is in east London, after all, it’ll probably be a pop-up vermouth bar next month), it was time to deal with tricky fabrics. Specifically, the remaining five contestants would be working with lace, rubber and leather, but since this is a pre-watershed show they probably weren’t allowed to call it “fetish week”. The talk of the workroom upon everyone’s arrival, however, was that Neil had made Sewing Bee history by winning the first two rounds and getting garment of the week last week, so a few of the sewers were wondering if there was anything he couldn’t do, and indeed if they’d wasted their time by even applying in the same year as him. Meanwhile, the talk in the land of blog was that I won’t understand anything that anyone’s doing this week because this is all way above my level of expertise, so don’t expect anything that follows to make much sense.

2. For the pattern challenge, the devious task as set by May and Patrick was to make a pencil skirt with darts in the back, with an invisible zip and with a lining – and IN LACE. According to May, this was all going to come down to the sewers’ precision with pattern-matching and the general stability of their sewing because lace moves around more than Paloma Faith’s official date of birth. However, it turned out that the SECRET ACTUAL CHALLENGE of the task was to make sure you picked the right sort of stitching for the sort of material you were using: if you were using a thick lace you should go for twin-stitching, and if you had very flimsy lace apparently French seams were a better option. Apparently. Like I said: I know nothing about this. If you’d told me that French cheese was the correct stitch, I wouldn’t have questioned it. Anyway, it looked as though everyone did make the correct decision (Matt, Lorna and Paul all went for twin, while Neil and Deborah went for French), so well done sewers. Personally I thought the really interesting test here, considering they were all making skirts, was how they chose to get them on their mannequin: did they take the mannequin off its stand and slide the skirt up from the bottom (Paul), or did they just shove it over the head and shimmy it down to the waist (everyone else, apparently)? I mean only one person who writes for this blog is a Psychology graduate and it’s not me, but I’m sure you could make all sorts of interesting deductions from that. Anyway, it appears that we found Neil’s first Achilles’ heel in lace: he had too much lining and the pattern-matching at the back was very poor (in a week thin on innuendo, I appreciated his response to this: “I lost an inch somewhere. Don’t ask.”). It wasn’t bad enough to land him at the bottom of the pile – that dishonour fell to poor Paul, who had huge problems with his zip – but Neil ended up in fourth place overall to the shock of just about everyone. Deborah, who finished third, said that it felt like she’d actually won because she was ranked above Neil, but it was Matt who got Actual First Place for the first time in the competition.

3. Since this competition is always going on about the importance of pattern-matching, I really think Paul should have been given a few extra points for this excellent shirt-to-cup match job.

Paul and cup

4. As seems to have been the pattern for the last few weeks, the History Bit was tied in to the first challenge. This week frankly it was all a lot of bobbins.

A load of bobbins

Ho ho ho. So here’s the lowdown: lace was originally handmade and due to its incredible complexity, it was very expensive and the amount of lace you could wear was a direct indicator of your status. As is often the way, however, the royals ruined it for everyone when Queen Victoria wore a lace wedding dress and suddenly all the commoners wanted a taste of that, so factories were set up in the Midlands (MIDLANDS PRIDE! on Chris’s behalf since I’m sure he’d say that if he were writing this one) to mass-produce it. Then since the turn of the 20th century it’s been doing the fashion hokey-cokey: it was OUT during the wars because people didn’t want to bother themselves with such frivolities when they were supposed to be Digging For Britain and Keeping Calm And Carrying On, and then it was IN again during the Sixties because…well, wasn’t everything in during the Sixties? Then it was OUT again and now apparently it’s IN again thanks to the royals because Kate Middleton had a lace wedding dress. (Was it also on Pippa Middleton’s Arse as well? I didn’t watch the royal wedding, I think I was playing Mario Kart instead.)

5. The alteration challenge made me absolutely squeal with joy because the challenge was to take an old wetsuit and turn it into a form-fitting female dress. My god, where is Patrick from Apprentice Babies 3 when you need him? Justice for Wetsuit Kimono! Once again there was apparently a trick to succeeding in this challenge: you had to pick a sympathetic fabric for all of your additions that wouldn’t clash horribly with the rubber. Paul got off to a wobbly start when he accidentally sewed one of the sleeves on the wrong way round (although considering the way this challenge ended up being graded, he might have been better off leaving it like that and calling it haute couture), while Lorna decided that what hers really needed was some wings over the hips. This whole challenge happened rather quickly onscreen, so I think the best thing here is just skip right to the judging.

Wetsuit kimonos

Apparently the worst thing you could possibly do in this challenge was make it pink, because that’s what Matt and Neil both did: Patrick thought the front lace panel that Matt constructed was completely the wrong shape, and also that the appliqué piece that Neil had put over the boobs of his wetsuit didn’t fit. Deborah’s (which is in the middle of the line-up in the picture) got a good reception due to a well-chosen combination of fabrics (although Patrick wasn’t a fan of the box pleat in the back), while Paul’s (second from the right) had a nice skirt but both Patrick and May were completely baffled by the sleeves. Finally there was Lorna’s space pixie ensemble which you can’t really see in the picture, but I don’t think it would make much difference because both Patrick and May seemed to think it was completely bizarre, but they just weren’t sure if it was good bizarre. In the end they decided that yes, it was, with Patrick saying it looked like the sort of thing Lady Gaga might wear (“if it was made out of meat” – I’d tell Patrick to update his references if that weren’t the very definition of people in glass houses throwing stones), so after the three men took the bottom three spots (Paul in fifth again, Matt fourth and Neil third), Lorna took second place and Deborah won her very first challenge. This was particularly brilliant because we got to see Deborah’s challenge winning face, which looks like this:

Deborah's challenge winning face

SO COOT. Also it gave Claudia an opportunity to squeal “your little face!”, which as we all know is Peak Claudia.

6. And so we came to the point in the show where Claudia has her pre-final challenge chat with May and Patrick to discuss who might be in trouble this week, and everyone got very giddy about the fact that Neil had had an absolute shocker of a day and MIGHT WELL BE IN DANGER. In an interesting contrast to last week, when you’ll remember that no one was making any attempt to pretend that Amanda was sticking around, Patrick put forth his opinion that two last-place finishes didn’t necessary rule Paul out just yet because the field is very close at this point. I take my hat off to this show for the fact that just last week I was saying Neil’s victory seemed all too predictable, and now going into the final round of this challenge there actually seemed like a genuine possibility of him doing a Lynda. Well-played, Sewing Bee. Well-played indeed.

7. The final challenge of the week was to make a bespoke leather jacket for their human models. Due to the general complexity of such a task, the sewers had already picked out their patterns and pre-cut their leather to make it feasible to do this all in a day. You might think this sounds like an advantage, but imagine yourself in Matt’s place when you admit to Patrick that you adapted your leather biker jacket from a jersey pattern, even though he’d never actually made that pattern before and the two things are very different, and Patrick basically goes “lol good luck then” and wanders off. Even though it’s only the start of the challenge, it’s still far too late to make that discovery, is what I’m saying. There were some interesting ideas going on here: Paul had a kind of snakeskin effect going on with his, Lorna and Deborah went for less traditional colours (lime green and turquoise respectively) and Neil went for an asymmetric cut with a big ol’ cowl around the neck. Disaster struck for Deborah when she attempted an early fit on her model and zipped the jacket up a little too enthusiastically, forgetting that she hadn’t actually done the necessary stitches at the top to stop the zipper flying off, which is exactly what happened. She did eventually manage to get it reattached, but it was an unwelcome distraction that probably frayed her nerves in the second half of the challenge, making everything harder than it needed to be. Lorna, on the other hand, was a beacon of sunshine regarding her efforts: “Oh, that’s pretty good! What have I been afraid of all these years? I could have been dashing off leather outfits for the whole family!” I think Lorna’s family are maybe secretly quite happy about this, because matching family outfits are one thing, but matching leather family outfits say something else entirely. She was right to be confident though: the only real problem with her outfit was the hems not being level on either side of her zip. Paul had big problems (again) because his material was too stiff, which had led to problems like the shoulders of his jacket extending too far and the sleeves being too long. Meanwhile Matt and Deborah got dinged for not lining their jackets, and for having general fit issues, but Neil returned to form with an excellent effort including a bright inner lining and a funky magnetic stud to keep the collar in place, which May was very impressed by.

8. Normally I leave Innuendo Corner for last, but since it was such a dry week this week I feel like it would be an anticlimax. There was one award-worthy moment from Deborah though, which frankly justifies an entry all to itself: “I’m just deciding on the length of my hem according to the length of my scallop. Don’t want it hanging out the bottom of my skirt.” We’ve all been there, love.

9. Patrick and May’s pre-elimination chat revealed that it had been an uneven week for almost everyone, and the only sewer who could really consider themselves safe was Lorna – a case could be made for everyone else to go home. In the end, it turned out that Neil had saved himself with that leather jacket, which earned him his third Garment Of The Week of the competition. At the other end of the scale, the two contestants who would not be invited along to participate in next week’s final were Paul (predictable) and Deborah (not so predictable). I think it genuinely must have been very close this week, because on the basis of the first two rounds Deborah was looking very safe, so either her leather jacket was a real letdown or Patrick and May decided that Matt had put in a better performance over the whole competition. Still, this was the final three that I predicted several weeks ago, so I feel pretty smug about it. Sorry Deborah.

10. So next week is the final, and while this episode did a good job trying to convince us that Neil is fallible like all mortals, I still think it’s his competition to lose. But what about you?


7 thoughts on “The Great British Sewing Bee 3 – Episode 5

  1. Agrippina

    Oh, boo. No way should Deborah have been eliminated over Matt. But then, it is the year of the (overtly heterosexual) man, so I was expecting it really. I wonder what the chances are of this show coming back for another series? It’s really grown on me but I’m not sure how many more challenges they can squeeze out of it, since they must have done just about every type of garment in every type of fabric by now. Maybe a plate aluminium playsuit for the final?

    1. stevenperkins

      I would say the chances of it coming back look reasonably good. It does fairly well in the ratings, it looks cheap to produce, BBC2 needs *something* now that they’ve lost the Bake Off to BBC1, and a lack of new challenges hasn’t really stopped the Bake Off.

  2. Tattycoram

    I don’t pay licensing fees for this show since I live in America but I love it. Please, dear BBC, please keep going.

  3. Neio

    I loved Lorna’s green leather jacket (despite the slightly lop-sided hem), but hated Neil’s weird cowl-necked one. I could admire the execution of it, but I just don’t think it looked good.

    It seemed kind of inevitable Paul would go this week, which made it more of a shame I think that Ryan was eliminated last week. Besides that one bad week, Ryan had a lot more chance if making the final than Paul ever did.

    After he wore the kilt last week to tie in with the challenge, I’m a little disappointed Patrick didn’t wear leather or a wetsuit this week!

  4. Min

    The warehouse used in the portrait challenge in the find-the-best-amateur-painter BBC1 spectacular did look familiar. I wonder if the Beeb have rented the whole waterfront?

    1. Agrippina

      I thought it looked familiar as well, but came to the conclusion that it was the same place where they film Dragons Den.


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