Turns out that, in the clutch, betas really do do it better.
1. Our intrepid final 3 were introduced to us immediately with Claudia breathlessly informing us that after last week, Neil now holds the record for the most challenge wins in the history of the Sewing Bee. And as it’s Claudia, she didn’t bother herself with the actual numbers, because what’s maths other than a waste of valuable time that could otherwise be used for applying your eye make-up with a chemistry lab pipette and squealing delightedly at otters? So as the holder of a B in AS level Mathematics I am here to tell you that Neil has won 7 challenges over the course of the series, a record he snatched from the hands of Welsh half-deaf wonder Lynda, who won 6, and had a longer series to do it in. Lorna (2 wins, the same number as Cerina, who you don’t even remember, don’t lie) and Matt (1, the same number as Julie, who you definitely SHOULD remember, but probably don’t) therefore were set up as outmatched from the off, despite the fact that Lorna held a competitive 7 to 8 head-to-head record with Neil in challenges and Matt…erm…well, Matt’s sweet. But if this year’s Bake Off taught us anything, it’s that male runaway frontrunners have a habit of tripping over their own feet at the final hurdle. In this case though, as we’ll see, unlike with Nancy’s delightful series-winning whorehouse windmill cake, Neil was to be *undone* by hooker-chic.
2. Our Pattern Challenge, hyped as the most complicated and difficult in Sewing Bee history, was to make a woman’s assymetric draped top using an authentic Japanese pattern. Lorna’s face at May’s dropping of the word “Japanese”
spoke of a woman remembering one too many heavy nights on the sake on a British Airways layover in Tokyo (there’s no record of which airline Lorna was an air stewardess for, but this is the Great British Sewing Bee and it’s Lorna so…). One piece of “very mobile” fabric, 90 minutes, and nothing to go on other some slight puckers in the cloth. This was a challenge that tested nothing so much as the final three’s innate naturalistic understanding of dress construction, and therefore the one where I personally spent the most time boggling at the tv wondering how on Earth they did it. Even MORE, I am so impressed that none of the sewers at any point resorted to the cliche of calling it origami, I can’t even tell you.
3. As if this outpouring of sincere admiration wasn’t enough, the show featured a genuinely heartwarming moment as both Matt and Neil came together to tell a completely frazzled Lorna what the hell she was supposed to be doing, as she didn’t have a clue, AND they were only “aren’t I noble, I want to beat someone at their best because that way it’s a true competition tra la la” about it (Matt’s claim that he didn’t want to beat someone because of their bad luck in particular was pushing it. Not knowing what you’re doing is not “bad luck” in a competition based on knowing what you’re doing) (Or if you’re Alex, “hacking at things with scissors until the judges give you a win because you scare them”) (Alex <3). But after the Bake Off this year devolved into one contestant catapulting another’s Baked Alaska through the ceiling of the marquee with an impromptu catapult made out of gingerbread whilst cackling and twirling their moustache (…or at least that’s how I remember it happening), and The Big Painting Challenge seems to consist entirely of grumpy judges grumpily telling grumpy people their paintings are rubbish, how nice it is to know that BBC 2 craft-reality can still deliver the slightly old-fashioned village green “end of an episode of Lark Rise To Candleford where everyone gets together to fix the windmill” sentiment that we all really are here for in the first place. Matt’s noble gesture (combined with his own lumpy neckline, rippled shoulder, and puckered hems) may have elevated Lorna to 2nd over his 3rd place, but afterwards, despite Patrick’s minor poking of Matt’s panic buttons, it never really felt like the show would crown a winner who in the final episode had to get two big strong boys to show her how to do things. This, combined with Neil’s victory in this challenge meaning every single Pattern Challenge this year was won by an XY, really did cement this as the YEAR OF THE MAN.
4. As it was the final, our History Bit wasn’t about how yet another item of clothing almost killed someone/started a war/brought about a 30 year nuclear winter but about the contestants themselves. More specifically, their families all turning up to talk about what wonderful people they are, with only a little bit of “and now maybe they can stop prioritising practicing making authentic Guatemalan knitted anoraks over our sex life thx” subtext.
Juss sayin. In addition ; Lorna’s son told us that if she won he was going to clear out his old bedroom and build a dedicated sewing and tailoring room and for her (but she finished second so instead he just stuck a sewing machine in the shed) ; Matt’s daughter is adorable which I say partly because it’s true and partly because it makes me feel less bad about pointing out that the backstory his wife gave where she said that Matt has only been sewing for “a couple of years” immediately after recounting how he and she watched the first series together and she told him to apply then doesn’t really make sense ; Neil turned his wife over in bed the other morning and told her that Fabricland was open. Not a euphemism. I think.
5. I don’t care that it’s a valid technique.
The sight of this will always make me feel uncomfortable.
6. The final Alteration Challenge saw the contestants working in the opposite direction from normal. Usually contestants are given something simple to turn into something more edgy and/or ornate. Here, contestants were given a tightly pleated variation on the Delphos Column dress, and tasked with converting it into something identifiably different but simple and workable. Patrick in particular was very clear on this – underneath the surface there could be ornate pinning and boning and draping and structring and interfacing and stiffening but on the outside? Simple fabric. This was ABSOLUTELY NOT a Fancy Dress challenge. So of course Neil did this :
Outer-space prozzy wear from the red light district of Uranus. Neil dubbed it the “skanklet” – apparently a portmanteau of “skirt” and “anklet” but let’s face it, more accurately one of “skank” and “toilet”. And in all my two years of watching the Sewing Bee I’ve never seen such visceral hatred from Patrick towards a garment.
So angry he had to hold his moustache on his face to stop it leaping out in FURY and trying to choke Neil. “Appalled”, “speechless”, “flabbbergasted”, Patrick’s polysyllabic vituperations rung around the sewing room, ultimately ending up with him calling it a “piece of…something”, the closest anyone’s ever come to swearing on this show since Heather was told by that researcher that they’d run out of gin. Matt meanwhile stifled a fit of the giggles at the back (<3). His dress was probably my favourite of the challenge, with a really effective wave-efffect on the hemline (Lorna’s, whilst a more radical change from the original ended up looking a bit like my nan’s lampshade) but he was judged to be only second best, leaving us with a difficult question moving into the final round. With Lorna eliminated narratively by getting undue assistance and Neil suffering death by skanklet, how could the show award the win to Matt, who had not only the worst challenge record of the whole competition but also had the worst challenge record in the ACTUAL FINAL? The answer? The avant-garde.
7. Yes, whilst last year we decided things via couture, this year, as though Neil’s…outre alteration hadn’t been enough, things were going to be left in the hands of the “stick a fascinator on the shoulder” world of the avant-garde dress. You might think this was the judges leaving themselves room to literally being able to award any old bollocks the win, I couldn’t possibly comment. Most exciting in this round was the fact that the sewers’ regular models had been replaced without their knowledge with their wives in the case of Matt and Neil, and their daughter-in-law in the case of Lorna. This did seem doubly unfair in the case of Lorna – firstly because I would imagine you’re more apt to be familiar with the bodily dimensions and proportions of your wife than your daughter-in-law (this isn’t Norfolk) and secondly because, as we all remember, Lorna’s old model was
fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiierce. Additionally, Matt was tipped off by the fact that the dimensions he’d been given beforehand in order to prepare were that of a woman of 5ft 2. And not even in the addled world of Tyra Banks is that tall enough to make it as a model. For the dresses themselves, the finalists imaginations ran riot. Matt created a dress defined around geometry and which kind of moved like damp wading trousers, Lorna came up with a green milkmaid looking affair with pink tuile netting and a big pink ribbon bow and from which pink flower-shaped fairy-lights were excised at the last minute, and most bizarrely of all Neil came up with a dress inspired by the passage of the River Helmand through the Green Zone in Afghanistan, complete with a giant Boudicca style shoulder-clasp, which ALSO could convincingly have doulbed as the outfit of Two-Face sidekick in a Batman movie. In honesty…I thought they were all kind of hideous, with Lorna’s being the least so and Neil’s the most so but… I guess that’s avant garde for you I guess, I guess?
8. As it was the final, our eliminated contestants all came back for one last chance to gab their opinions. Amanda, ever the primary school teacher, said that everyone was amazing and that she couldn’t pick a winner. Alex wanted Lorna to win, on the basis of her avant-garde gown, Ryan was rooting for Matt (whether or not because of his patented BIG MASCULINE HANDS he didn’t say), and Julie (whoever that is) was backing Neil. True to form, last week’s eliminated male semi-finalist didn’t get to speak on camera at any point. Poor InvisiPaul. It’s come to something when your opinion carries less weight than the obvious Week 1 boot who invented the titty-pockets.
9. In the end? Just as 28% of you wanted, but only 3% of you predicted, it was a Matt victory.
And look at his ikkle face (just before Lorna swallows it whole apparently) (also what that picture doesn’t adequately capture is Matt’s wife, Amanda, Deborah, Neela, Ryan and Paul all jumping up and down SCREAMING and hugging one another as the result is revealed). In the end, Lorna’s avant-garde dress just wasn’t modern enough to best him, and despite beating him in the first two challenges, she couldn’t squeak past his geometric vision and impeccably sewn corset. Which is just one of the many narrative threads of this abbreviated series that the final closed. Lorna, the most “second place” human in the history of reality tv finishes second. As I was kind of hoping ever since their bromance got foregrounded in Week 3, Matt swept past his alpha-papa to the title in the home stretch. And most importantly of all, the prophecy of the YEAR OF THE MAN was fulfilled. Matt’s alteration was my favourite outfit of the final as well so, whilst I might feel like Lorna may have deserved it more based on the final alone, I can’t begurdge his victory on talent grounds either. Also, you know, the skanklet happened, and we will remember that forever. One question it DOES raise however, is around the fact that this year’s abbreviated run and brutal double eliminations has until now felt kind of justified on the grounds that the whole series it’s felt a bit like Lorna and Neil were head and shoulders above everyone else and were cruising to an assured victory. Now that’s…obviously not the case, it does feel it would have been a bit fairer to run the series as last year. Also it would have meant MOAR SEWING BEE, which I’m sure we can all get behind. Recomission it BBC Two, you know it makes sense.
10. And as usual, we close with a Where Are They Now?