Everyone gather round your tv sets with the stepmother to your children and let the healing begin.
1. The final! I didn’t see the finale of the first series of the sewing bee, but the last two series have brought us the varied delights of Chinelo not being able to make a man’s tie, Lorna excising actual literal fairy lights from her avant-garde design at the last second, and Heather winning the whole show with fetish Jilly Cooper Riders wear, so these chaps had some big shoes to fill. And for once, our final episode actually had a theme, that being eveningwear (can I throw out a demerit here for whoever deemed the semi-finals theme to be “Puzzling Patterns”? We’re not pgs 60 to 62 in The Daily Mail, or a particularly lame level of Super Mario Galaxy 2 thank you very much). Over the course of three challenges, the contestants were to be asked to create a men’s dress shirt, an evening gown and, best of all, to hack up a dinner suit and turn it into a Little Black Dress, like the heroine in the last chapter of…well a Jilly Cooper novel. Is it indicative of the general tone of this show that I can make two legitimate Jilly Cooper references in the same paragraph? Yes it is.
2. As usual, the final began with a brief precis of all the remaining contestants and the reality tv stereotype box they’ve been jammed into :
Charlotte : The NERD who has mostly played it safe over the course of the competition, until last week when she won every challenge and flossed her teeth with Tracey’s jugular (and her little bird too).
Joyce : The OLD one who has been sewing since THE GENERAL STRIKE and therefore knows everything there is to know about sewing but whose “traditional” taste sometimes holds her back. Also her alcoholism.
Jade : The YOUNG one with a PASSION FOR LEARNING who has been on a JOURNEY and whose greatest asset is her ability to remain calm under pressure, except when the camera accidentally catches her belly dancing around the workroom.
Fortunately, to pad out this slightly tilted view of the Final 3, we also heard testimony from their families about their real actual lives away from the funhouse mirror of BBC 2 Competitive Craft. Joyce used to be a School Admissions Officer before giving it all up for a life of needles and buttons. (Also did anyone else do a double take when
her daughter was revealed? YOUR DISGUISES DON’T FOOL ME TRACEY!). Charlotte is an osteologist (which, for those of you with little latin and less greek, means she studies bones) with three very well turned out children (this will become important later). Jade was a former competitive swimmer whose Olympic dreams were crushed by injury and who changed her life course towards sewing and design instead. Jade’s Mum in fact said that winning the Sewing Bee would be the equivalent of winning an Olympic Gold Medal. Really I think (SPOILERS) coming second would be an even better representitive of Jade’s likely Olympic experience as a British swimmer, but that’s just me.
3. Anyone wondering what Esme’s going to do after the series ends
should know that she is available as an Elton John impersonator for weddings and bar mitzvahs. Anyone wondering what Patrick’s going to do after the series ends
he’ll be locked in my basement. Charlotte, your expertise as an osteologist may be required…
4. You might think making a man’s dress shirt would be a relatively simple affair, the shirt being a basic building block of every man’s formal wardrobe (and in many cases, the only brick) but apparently it’s an affair of such fiendish intricacy, involving button stands, pin tucks, plackets, a 1cm seam allowance, and a whole bunch of other things that I don’t know what they are, that it’s the only Pattern Challenge in Sewing Bee history where the contestants were given their pattern pieces already cut out before they started. And they say the BBC’s not dumbing down. Fortunately our final three have at this point reached the stage where all of them share a mutual telepathic bond, and are willing to help one another out with the trickier details. You know, now that your Duncans have gone, where you get the impression that trying to help out even a little bit would have had the same effect as plunging your bare arm into a bath full of treacle. Also by this point the contestants have honed their abilities to ward off the staff, and so Patrick’s needling of Joyce to hurry things up was met with stern and repeated invocations of the mantra “you’re panicking me Patrick!” until he went away, and even Claudia charging at Charlotte making horse noises whilst dressed like Casual Friday had no effect. Esme and Patrick were left
dispatched to their tower to mutter amongst themselves and interfere no more and not even do a little giggle when Joyce talked about the shabby quality of her hot buttonhole. The results? Well they were shirts. Joyce’s was the best, Jade’s was almost the best, Charlotte’s was very much not the best. More importantly?
Jade’s hair slowly morphing into the shape of a Walnut Whip.
5. Were Charlotte and Joyce excited by the prospect of turning a dinner jacket into a Little Black Dress?
No, not really. The inspiration for this round quickly became clear – apparently Esme Young is a Little Black Dress fanatic. In fact, she once got a Little Black Dress into the permanent collection at the V & A.
Then a security guard came and bundled them both outside and that was the end of that. All of our contestants approached this challenge with a plan. Jade’s was to take the top half of her prom dress (which she sewed herself has the show mentioned this before I think it might have), modify it, and pair it with a bottom half that was a little more slinky and seductive. Charlotte’s was to create a mature and sophisticated and slightly flirty dress, with the added cheeky detail of the bow tie from the dinner jacket being used to tie the dress round the back of the neck. Joyce’s?
To mainline sequins and sparkle like the entire Strictly Wardrobe department huffing spray-on glitter underneath some railway arches. The episode beginning with Joyce’s taste levels being questioned turned out to be an episode in foreshadowing in its purest form, as Joyce’s finished product, quite frankly
looked like David Copperfield himself had spaffed all over it. David Blaine himself couldn’t have made her chances of winning the series disappear more rapidly God bless her. The thing looked like it had been put together using a staple-gun. Despite…everything about it (IT FASTENS WITH VELCRO) Esme’s biggest problem with it was that if you went disco dancing in it, it’d end up hanging round your waist by the end of the evening, due to the lack of support. Personally I think if an evening of disco dancing DOESN’T end with your top round your waist, it’s a wasted evening, but I’m no Esme Young.
At the other end of the scale, needing a win after her semi-disastrous first round, Charlotte pulled out this
which was quite the model of sophistication. This led to Claudia mewling Claudia style that, between this week and last week, Charlotte had become the queen of the Alteration Challenge. Do you know who this series had the best record in Alteration Challenges? Ghislaine. Do you know who had the best record in Alteration Challenges of everyone who lasted for more than a handful of episodes? Rumana. She was missed. Meanwhile Jade? Rode nicely down the middle of the challenge yet again. Joyce laid out for us all that this meant that, via Maths, she (1st and 3rd), Charlotte (3rd and 1st) and Jade (2nd and 2nd) were all technically even going into the final challenge, with it all to play for. Personally I’m fairly sure that no scoring system alive has yet been created to account for coming up with an outfit that looks like Fay Presto fell in a skip with a rabid raccoon Joyce, but at least you went down doing what you love – defying the taste levels of God and man.
6. At some point during a series of Sewing Bee, it is law that the contestants will have to eschew the usual models and have to turn to a friend or relation to fill in. And this series, Joyce chose her
very pretty grand-daughter (standard) ; Jade chose her
mum’s best friend (nothing too out of the ordinary) ; and Charlotte chose
the stepmother to her children (*screeching tyre sounds*) (*needle scratch sound*) (*piano falling down the stairs sound*). I don’t think in all my years of watching reality tv I’ve ever seen something more random than this, and I sat through A Shot At Love With Tila Tequila. Charlotte’s stated aim with this move was to show that not only are stereotypes about wicked stepmothers out of date and unpleasant, but also 1st wives are perfectly capable of getting on with 2nd wives, and not just in a Goldie Hawn/Bette Midler/Diane Keaton “he’s fucked us both over now let’s take a golf club to his Buick” sort of way. The oddity of course was that this message was being transmitted in the last 20 minutes of a reality show about competitive sewing. Also admittedly partially in the face that Charlotte’s tribute to Ruth got so fulsome and gushing and weepy that if I hadn’t seen her husband earlier in the episode I might have concluded that Ruth was in fact stepmother to Charlotte’s children with Charlotte.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. (Also I need confirmation that those are in fact bees on the top Charlotte is wearing for the Sewing Bee finale, although they look more like wasps tbh). Regardless, the fact is that, after a series of being a fairly non-reality-tv sort of presence, Charlotte had a narrative just when she needed one most.
7. I’m not sure how much that narrative was improved by the fact that, for all she professed love and admiration and vague below-the-waist tingly feelings for Ruth, none of that stopped her producing a dress that gave her
a little bit of a fupa. Don’t get me wrong, the rest of it looked very nice (apart from some problems with the zip at the back, which Charlotte apparently spent a lot of time sewing in and out and in and out and back in and then she invoked Article 50 and pulled it out one last time), but those of you cackling about how this would be the perfect opportunity for revenge have a little something to add to your conspiracy dossier there. Joyce meanwhile
yeah let’s move on very quickly from this pirate wench corset, elbow lenth velvet gloves, doily minge fringe, and aluminium space blanket ensemble and move on, Joyce was 3rd, let’s just get over it as Joyce herself would, with a Holy Communion’s worth of red wine. I think my favourite part of Patrick and Esme dismantling the entire garment was when Patrick hooted that it had an extra 8 inches around waist height and Jade pulled this face.
Not that innocent (Patrick later amended this to 6 inches which…we’ve all been there hun). Jade meanwhile, did what Jade did all episode and do something
quite nice, like you’d see a politician’s wife wearing in a 1991 episode of Murder She Wrote. Patrick and Esme picked on it for being ill-fitted, which it was, although I think Jade should have been praised more for repurposing the flooring of the Sewing Bee Fish Tank on the shoulders there. So not an inspirational final round, particularly, but then they often aren’t on this show.
8. As Patrick and Esme went backstage and pondered whether to reward Jade’s steady pace through the episode, or Charlotte’s risk-taking all or nothing approach, or Joyce’s…..erm…presence, it was time for a return from our previous sewtestants to reveal who they were backing for the victory. Josh apparently having
taken up beekeeping some time in the interim. He was pushing for Jade, as was Duncan, and no offence to either of those good young men but…you’d file that under “points off” in the grand scheme of things wouldn’t you, bless their hapless illmade little cotton socks. Jamie and Rumana were both for Charlotte, whilst the best anyone could do for Joyce was Angeline saying “…well, I did say Joyce a few weeks ago b….” before the edit cut her off so sharply that they won Garment Of The Week for the lack of frayed hems.
9. Our winner then?
In the name of SCIENCE! I’m happy with this turn of events, because she seems like a neat lady, and was by far the strongest overall competitor over the course of the series, even if she didn’t make much of an impact on me personally until she went a bit bonkers in the last episode, all “THIS WOMAN DID NOT REPLACE ME, SHE ENHANCED ME!” about Ruth over there. Obviously I was Team Joyce above all, but even I can’t argue properly for a win for her based on this episode (or, indeed, the two before it), although I did think Esme complaining about how Joyce’s final outfit looked too much like it had been made for a film, given that she herself had turned up on set dressed this week as a background extra from The Fifth Element, was a little rich. Above all else, Charlotte was a nice solid predictable safe winner (no offence Charlotte!) which, after the last two years of Chinelo/Lynda/Lorna/Neil getting spiked at the last second, was what this show needed to stop it looking entirely like it was all decided on a whim at the last.
10. But we all know what we come to these final episodes for right? The What Happened Nexts!
Joyce was Duncan’s mum THIS WHOLE TIME!
THAT BLOODY BIRD!
AND A TATTOO!
Until next series guys. Adieu.