The Great British Sewing Bee 4 – Episode 3

Patrick and Esme prod away at lingerie and suddenly the post-watershed timeslot makes complete sense.

1. Yes, after the innocence of last week’s focus on children’s clothing, this week we made an about-face straight into depravity as the contestants took on bras, slips, nightgowns and lacey underpanty things. As you can imagine, I was thrilled to have drawn this week on the recapping rota, the expert on women’s underwear that I am – though I can’t imagine Chris would be any better informed on this subject, unless there’s something fairly major that he’s been keeping from me. Anyway, I was amused that Claudia’s intro for this week went as far as stating that the workroom was going to get “a little bit 50 Shades” because, while I understand EL James’s interpretation of BDSM to be a little on the vanilla side, I don’t believe it was ever so mumsy as to have Christian Grey ask Anastasia Stock-Character to attire herself in a trio of Oxfam silk scarves while he fapped and sobbed in the corner. Perhaps he did, I’ve not read it.

2. Most of the contestants approached lingerie week with some degree of trepidation, apart from Angeline, who thought it might suit her because her style is very feminine and all about the sex appeal.


Not entirely selling the message with that expression Angeline, I’ll be honest. (Perhaps she thought she was being interviewed for the radio.) Meanwhile, Charlotte, Jade, Joyce and Josh all made it perfectly clear in their pre-sew interviews that the one thing they really didn’t want to have to do this week was make a bra. So of course this week’s pattern challenge was to, well, make a bra. A soft-cup lace bra with no underwire with a beautifully symmetrical scalloped edge. (I’m just transcribing the specifics verbatim, I couldn’t tell a scalloped-edged soft-cup lace bra apart from a seahorse-cut firm-hold medical corset, I shouldn’t think.) The contestants were given two hours for this challenge, and I would be remiss in my duties as a recapper (and indeed as Chris’s fiancé) if I didn’t bring your attention here to that episode of Project Runway where they had an entire day to make some lingerie for Heidi Klum’s fashion line, and Blake still somehow thought it acceptable to send his model out on the runway wearing this. So I feel like whatever terrible things may be ahead for us this evening, they could always be worse.

3. Patrick and Esme made it clear early on that this was just as much a maths test as it was a sewing challenge: they needed to make sure the lace was symmetrical on both cups and use their geometry skills to ensure that the straps around the back tapered off in the right way. This was all quite worrying for Charlotte, who had attempted to make a bra for herself in the past only to end up with something that by her own admission functioned more like a vest, and Josh, whose “meaty” hands (his word, not mine – although…) made the delicate lace-cutting process a rather inelegant experience. Also, as he explained to Patrick and Esme, he hasn’t spent much time looking at bras before because normally they’re just there for a second AND THEN THEY’RE GONE #bants #ladzontour. Personally I don’t think Josh needed to tell us that he’s unfamiliar with bras, because one look at the bright orange fabric he’d chosen to make his told us everything we needed to know. Jade, meanwhile, was slightly thrown by the inevitable conundrum: to press, or not to press? She’d learnt all about the importance of pressing last week, but wasn’t entirely sure whether it was the right way to go with a lace bra cup. (In the end, she decided to press.) Things got increasingly complicated, involving clear elastic, a three-step zig-zag stitch, picot elastic and all sorts of things several of the sewers had never heard of, so the rest of us laypeople had little chance of keeping up.

4. This challenge, more than any other I can remember in my Sewing Bee viewing, inspired the contestants to scream and cheer when they finished, perhaps because it had all seemed so impossible at the beginning, though I imagine all that noise probably wasn’t terribly helpful for those who were still frantically trying to get the straps on in the closing minutes – Angeline, mostly. Notes of interest from judging amounted to: Jade shouldn’t have pressed her bra because she probably stretched the lace in doing so and that’s why hers was gaping a lot more than some of the others, Patrick declared Joyce’s bra “flawless”, Angeline’s was clearly unfinished, and much to Rumana’s horror

Rumana's horror

her bra paid its own small tribute to Dame Barbara Windsor as the strap pinged itself free while Patrick was manhandling it. I mean I always knew Patrick had a raw sexual magnetism but I never thought it went as far as being able to make your bra collapse with just one touch. Ultimately (and unsurprisingly), the wooden spoon for this round went to Angeline, who seems to be very much an all-or-nothing contestant in this competition so far, with Josh and Jade also in the danger zone. Third place went to Tracey, second to Charlotte and first place to Joyce. Apparently this was a very close call, with just a tiny little tuck on the back strap of Charlotte’s bra preventing her from taking the win.

5. This week in The History Bit:

Woman getting undressed

gosh, sorry madam, I do beg your pardon, I thought this room was unoccupied, lovely weather we’re having etc. This was the story of how Lucy Sutherland, a divorced single mother, changed the world of women’s underwear in 1894 by creating the tea gown, a long, loose, sheer garment that required a fair amount of support if you wanted to save at least a small patch of your bust to premiere on your wedding night. So Lucy rebranded herself as Lucile and created a range of bras, nightgowns, slips and so on that were far more appealing than the traditional whalebone corset. The chief problem she faced was the downright unpalatability of her product to genteel society, as few women wanted to be publicly branded a harlot by being seen purchasing anything from Lucile’s shop, so Lucile came up with the idea of the Rose Room – a luxurious and private area for women to go about their shopping without the fear of reprisal. Eventually, after acquiring several famous and influential clients, Lucile’s garments were so in demand that she was able to set up another shop in New York, though her trip over there happened to take place on the Titanic and resulted in the loss of masses of her stock, but she just plucked up her courage in the lifeboat and kept going, like Michelle Williams in the middle eight of the ‘Survivor’ video.

6. The theme for this week’s alteration challenge was scarves, or rather, several scarves. Patrick and Esme (/one of the runners) had picked up a selection of silk scarves from a charity shop, having had the tremendous good fortune to pop in just as Jennifer Aldridge was clearing out her wardrobe to make room for the Underwoods spring/summer collection. Each sewer was instructed to take three scarves, all of different patterns and sizes, and blend them together into one cohesive item of lingerie to fit one of the mannequins. Claudia immediately made a bee-line for a black scarf (of course. OF COURSE) and seemed bemused when no one else tried to wrestle it off her. Most of the sewers went for the obvious options of a camisole or a babydoll nightie, cutting the scarves on the bias so that the corners would serve as the, erm, bits that cover your boobs. (I suspect there’s a more technical term, although Charlotte did indeed refer to them as “booby bits”, so maybe I was right the first time.) Jamie, on the other hand, decided to make some girly boxers like a Zooey Deschanel type might wear, and Josh was aiming for, in his own words, “like a dropped-sleeve jumpsuit, with just a skirt rather than shorts, which should do up at the back.” He was hopeful that once he’d put it all together he could make a few alterations to the shape to give it a bit more “feminimity”. Poor Josh, he never stood a chance, did he? End result:

Josh's sexy tabard

Now I’m not exactly Carine Gilson but I’m pretty sure that is emphatically not lingerie. I’m not even sure what it *is*. A sexy tabard, for independent shopkeeper roleplay?

7. Patrick and Esme were at least broadly impressed with the sewers’ efforts this time, though there were some issues: Rumana’s twisted camisole had an excess of fabric at the back, Josh’s was a hideous nightmare that neither Patrick nor Esme could make sense of, and Jamie’s knickers were badly hemmed. On the plus side, Charlotte’s was fun and functional, Tracey’s skillfully-applied godets (made from a separate scarf) continued a strong week for her and Angeline clawed back some ground with a well-executed nightie that made sense of excess fabric round the back in a way that Rumana’s didn’t quite. Josh was dead last, with Rumana and Jamie just above him. Angeline took third place, Joyce took second place with a well-planned and put-together nightie (though Patrick found it a bit mumsy), leaving Tracey’s negligée to take the top spot. Considering the general criticism of Tracey at the beginning of the series was that her sewing was a little bit slapdash and generally lacking in finesse, it’s a pleasant surprise to see her absolutely slaying delicate undergarment week. (Unrelated, but it needs to be said: this section also gave us our innuendo of the week when Joyce declared “I just need to put the strap on and then give it a quick press, and that’s it.” It’s always the quiet ones.)

8. Going into the made-to-measure challenge, Joyce and Tracey were established as being at the top of the pack with Josh and Rumana circling the drain, though Jamie and Angeline were put on notice as well for their poor performance in the alteration and pattern challenges respectively. The task here was to make a luxury robe, very much in the vein of the silk ones that sexy people wear in films rather than the towelling ones with yellow ducks on that you wear while you’re taking the bins out. Of course, for this challenge they would be fitting their garments to real people rather than mannequins and

Josh's model

huh. Wow, look at that, my mouth just went completely dry. Can’t imagine what could have caused that. Where were we? Oh right, robes. Yes. Patrick and Esme stated that the sewers should pay particular attention to sleeve length, shoulder positioning, the collar in general, and make sure they use a material with the right amount of weight to waft about rakishly. Alarm bells may have started ringing here for anyone who watched the most recent season of RuPaul’s Drag Race as the first two sewers to show their hands – Charlotte and Rumana – both announced that they were making kimonos and we thought we were going to be reliving the “classic Madonna looks” challenge all over again. (Note to Sewing Bee producers: have a “classic Madonna looks” round. But ban kimonos.) Meanwhile Tracey and Jade got as close to a spirited feminist debate as I suspect we’re ever going to get on this particular series as they argued whether it’s harder to make men’s robes or women’s ones. (For the record: Jade thought women’s would be harder because of the darts, Tracey thought men’s would be harder because of the piping. Fascinating as this was, I’m not sure this will have given Caroline Criado-Perez any sleepless nights.) Elsewhere, Jamie and Josh were both using the same pattern for a gentleman’s housecoat, and Josh found this to be encouraging because it meant he could just run over and get Jamie to help him if he needed it. In week one, I think this would have been a good idea. In this week, I’m not so sure, because things seemed to be going very wrong for Jamie in this challenge and he had to abandon a lot of his plans on the fly when time started to run out – plans like “quilted lining” and “pockets”, which I imagine were fairly key parts of the design.

9. This seemed to be one of those rounds where everyone either did really well or really terribly with not much of a middle ground. Charlotte’s kimono won plaudits from Esme for the quality of her hand-sewing, Jade’s use of pink piping to counter a monochrome fabric was a big hit and Patrick said he’d wear it, Tracey’s had a few small mistakes but was generally considered “clear and powerful” (and also appeared to highlight her model’s nipples, frankly I didn’t know where to look), and Joyce quelled all of Esme’s fears about her choice of fabrics, though the hem had dropped a little on her lining. Angeline meanwhile

Angeline's robe

shot back to the top of the class with this magnificent specimen. I don’t care that it’s a woman’s robe, I would totally wear that. I think made-to-measure is clearly Angeline’s round. Esme liked how Rumana’s kimono-inspired gown sat low on the neck “because this is an erogenous zone in Japan” (NOT JUST IN JAPAN ESME LET ME TELL YOU), and even Josh managed to pull his average back up with this

Josh's robe

debonair effort and yes I really like that gown and this is not at all a transparent excuse to post another picture of Josh’s hot model. So with three-quarters of the contestants who’d been singled out as being on notice seemingly redeeming themselves here, that just left Jamie to biff it royally despite also having

Jamie's robe

a very handsome model as his muse. The collar had collapsed structurally and was thoroughly uneven, the topstitching was bad, it had no pockets, the cuffs weren’t level and it still had a pin in the back of it.

10. So we came into the endgame with Angeline and Rumana no longer considered in danger of elimination, leaving Patrick and Esme to determine whether Josh or Jamie had offended their sartorial standards more this week. But first, the time came for someone to break Angeline’s undefeated Garment Of The Week record and that honour went to Charlotte and her kimono.


There she is, looking quite pleased. And which of the men got his marching orders?


Yes, Josh got another stay of execution as Jamie was sent home in our first SHOCK BOOT of the series. I think most of us had him down as a clear finalist based on his performance in the first week, and to be honest I think he was mostly just unlucky to have a clear stinker of a week when everyone else managed at least one standout round. This means Josh is now the last man standing. Who saw that coming? (Certainly not Josh’s family based on his phone call to them at the end of this episode.)

NEXT TIME: Chris tackles cultural appropriation week. I hope Gwen Stefani is the guest judge.

12 thoughts on “The Great British Sewing Bee 4 – Episode 3

  1. Spangles

    Hard to read sewers here as people who sew as opposed to sewer the smelly drain thing. Just saying.

    1. nigelszczepaniak

      It took me weeks to figure out that wasn’t soom sort of veiled slur on their characters!

  2. nigelszczepaniak

    I found this episode a bit boring – it would have been a lot better if we could have seen more of Josh’s hot model (take that whichever way you choose). Maybe a made-to-measure challenge featuring skimpy male underwear would have helped too!

  3. Huriye

    I only managed the first 10 mins of this week’s episode in a busy week, so thanks for your thoroughly detailed and highly enjoyable recap Steve. 🙂

    I still had enough time to snort that Patrick won’t have been anywhere near a bra before (as indeed your good selves, congrats on the engagement btw ❤ )
    But no! My snort was thrust back in my face, as Patrick swung by RSPB Minsmere in the wilds of Suffolk to make a guest appearance on Springwatch Unsprung last Friday, and what a lively, chatty character he is away from the Sewing Bee dungeon!!
    Huge long legs looking rather awkward sitting on the sofa aside, he made for a very interesting guest, mentioning his "ex-girlfriend" no less, and drawing a rather cute picture of a Robin.
    He's made an attempt at a breakout! It'll be hosting the One Show next!

    Oh, and pleeeease have Michaela Strachan as a contestant on #Strictly2016. She'd be the sunniest 50 y.o. ringer evah! ❤


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