The Great British Sewing Bee 5 – Episode 6

It’s British & Irish Week (not you Isle Of Man, go away, you don’t count)

1. The theme this week? British and Irish Week, which seems to have been chosen fairly arbitrarily around what Amber Butchart and her team of time-travelling fabric detectives wanted to talk about, which is fair enough. At this point I’m hoping for the finale Amber and two of her sidekicks get to be the models for the Made-To-Measure challenge it’s only fair (the contestants would of course have to make a hat) (can you sew a hat? This show has taught me so much, clearly). The theme also gave Joe an excuse to purr semi-erotically (or…erotically semi even) about his own personal fetish for English tweed whilst

seductively stroking Patrick’s shoulder-blades whilst he read a copy of The Times. You never would have got this sort of thing with Claudia Winkleman. She would have been licking his earlobe at the same time, for one. If you’re wondering what other fabrics we’ve got lined up this week, then it’s linen, wool, and of course, deckchair. Just in case you want to know what we’ll be fashioning our clothes out of post [POLITICAL EVENT]. Finally a purpose for those run-down neglected seaside towns, Jacob Rees-Mogg was right, the possibilities are gonna be ENDLESS. Artisan jams and trousers made out of half a lilo.

2. The fact that it’s episode 6 of 8 also means it’s time for a round of interviews and

Janet dance-parties about how it feels to be a Sewing Bee QUARTER FINALIST! According to Juliet it’s the best thing ever and according to Jen it was all a matter of fine margins and real commitment to attention to detail and the nuances of craft from here on out. Do you think the production team had a little panic when they realised that their two best sewers were also the driest interviews? Leah or Riccardo is really going to have to carry that finale aren’t they? Anyway, Leah told us all that she’s now living purely in the moment because trying to predict what’s going to happen next constantly puts her on the verge of a panic attack (you wouldn’t notice), Riccardo said…

some words but to be honest the whole time it felt like he was about to tell us to move because we’re block Miss Ross’s driveway (I think it was about any tiny mistake can send you home at this point, which…clearly not, do you want me to put up a picture of Leah’s coat now? Because I will. It’s illustrative!) and Janet

sporting a ferosh hairdo this week, peeked out from under her umbrella to tell us all that at this stage it’s tricky, because the number of people you can lose to and stay in the competition has gone down. By which she means that Mercedes has now gone. (LOVE YOU MERCEDES, BOTTOM 2 GODDESS 4 LYFE!)

3. The first challenge this week was based on one of Patrick’s own patterns, which the show bigged up like that automatically made it really daunting, like Patrick Grant only puts out the most FIENDISH of DEATHTRAPS for contestants to fall into, like he’s some sort of Couterier Riddler or something. In the the end it was a linen Worker’s Jacket, with three buttons. Which…maybe that is terrifying, I don’t know, certainly

the cutaway tried to make it look as daunting as possible, like some sort of insectoid alien transformer come to eat us all. Fortunately, Joe was here in his role of Genial Idiot Presenter to help us all through the world of British & Irish Fabrics, asking Esme to explain the difference between linen and cotton. Esme helpfully explained that cotton comes from the cotton plant

you dull-witted shite, and linen comes from

…some hair extensions pulled out of a communal University shower unit? I never knew. On the floor meanwhile, battle-lines were immediately drawn, as Riccardo and Jen both picked the same fabric! And by battle-lines, Riccardo grinned down the camera that “sharing is caring” and immediately said that Jen’s was bound to better (to be fair, he wasn’t wrong), because that’s the sort of show this is. Jen herself said she was anticipating doing fairly well, because she’d made more or less exactly the same thing before, for herself, in neon orange. Given that Jen’s general love of muted tones and playing it safe on the show, I have to say, I miss this Jen, bring this Jen in a bright orange linen men’s jacket on the show, give me that Jen, not the Jen whose choice of fabric Patrick praises because it looks like the exact shade of over-milky tea he likes (I’m suddenly envisioning Patrick as the inspiration for Phantom Thread, don’t ask me why). Heading into the history bit, we were basically teased with the most important differential point between the sewers being the sewing of the pockets, with both Jen and Juliet having a full on fritz over them. Would this turn out to be relevant, let’s find out! (SPOILERS : It won’t).


Amber’s look this week? Angela Lansbury as Rosalie Otterbourne in Death On The Nile. The tale this week was of the Irish wool trade, and the British government. More specifically, how the latter completely screwed over the former because the English felt threatened by their superior product, placing extortionate levies on them selling their wares over here. I KNOW, TRY TO LOOK SURPRISED! Bereft of access to the wool trade, many Irish people lost their livelihoods, and in desperation had to suffer the ultimate indignity and go crawling to a shameful last resort. THE FRENCH. More specifically

this disembodied floating head, called Louis Crommelin. He brought with him to Ireland super-looms, lots of workers, lots of bleach, and loads of cash, and boosted the Irish linen trade until it became too powerful and they ate him, idk I always lose track of these segments once the fun set-up is over and it just turns into “…setting up what we know today as blah di blah di blah”.

5. Back in the room, and no of course the pockets didn’t turn out to be important, the mistakes here were really a matter of sleeves and lapels. In that both Janet and Riccardo had managed to sew one of their sleeves on backwards, leading to a mass outbreak of

walking like an Egyptian. Now you might think that, what could be worse than sewing your sleeve on actually backwards? Well

let’s take a look at Leah’s lapels here, which she appears to have done with those microwave puffy paint pens that girls used to use on their Saved By The Bell Zach Morris love collages back when I was at school. As has become semi-customary this left Juliet and Jen to face off for first place, with Jen nailing down the victory on the grounds that her lapels were dead on and sharp, whereas Juliet’s were slightly lop-sided. A differential that was marked by Patrick playing the showman and actually getting a measuring tape out to double check the exact fit. What a ham. Can I just say also that this as a garment

perfectly embodies why Jen is by far the front-runner in terms of sewing talent, and also last place by far in terms of contestants whose names I see mentioned on discussion forums about this show, for any reason. Bless you for just being here Jen.

6. Here’s Esme in a deckchair.

Magical. I’m disappointed they didn’t carry her in like an Edwardian lady in a litter.

7. Yes, it was to the seaside for our adaptation challenge, and ergo accompanying shots of Joe

trying to deep-throat a Cornetto and

failing miserably. Breathe through your nose and think of Paul Rudd hun. Oh and also a lot of play around the fact that the linen used to create the seats for deckchairs is called ticking, by which I mean Esme said that she “loves a bit of ticking” and I snorted blood orange juice all the way up my nose. As well as deckchairs, the contestants also got a parasol to play with, but this too was striped like a deckchair, so really the challenge here was to produce an outfit that used stripes in interesting and playful geometric ways. The contestants here took their inspiration from a variety of sources – Leah opened her mind to the world of Euclidian geometry, Riccardo harkened back to his favourite cartoons, and Janet

well Janet was having another dance party, bless her. I’m glad that she enjoyed her last week here in the workroom anyway. It was Juliet’s inspiration that was perhaps the most ominous, as she told us all that she had a really good for an outfit but oops would you look, there isn’t enough time to do it, oh well. She didn’t tell us whether this idea for an outfit went to another school in another city where they don’t have Internet so it’s really hard to get in touch, but it definitely exists!

8. So do you want to see the outfit that single-handedly saved Leah’s butt this week?

Have a poll.

I do quite like it in that I do like when people pleat and gather fabric in a way that reminds me of a really good roast beef sandwich and gives me an excuse to even contemplate actually writing out the phrase “origami tits”. Elsewhere in the category I’d also like to pay tribute to Riccardo’s

GREAT BIG BLOOMERS. You know what they say, thick thighs make the Ricc rise (up the leaderboard). Really all of our top three got universal praise in this category this week, with only taste levels really separating them as Jen also wore won gushing praise for an outfit that looked like something out of Commedia Dell’Arte, if Commedia Dell’Arte had been set in Camber Sands. Less successful were Janet and Juliet, as Janet got a faintly patronising pat on the head for producing this

slightly busted looking star, and an outfit that had velcro straps that meant you could whip it off all in one go (presumably if you were at a nudist beach and wanted to have a naked dance party) (Janet’s naked dance parties on the Anse de Grande Saline, take that “Mel and Sue pretending that Mary Berry has ever been to Ibiza”) and Juliet

well let’s just hope that that other idea she had can be salvaged from her memory and made at a later date. You know, the good one. This looks like Cyndi Lauper shagged the cast of HMS Pinafore, and not tidily so. (Fun Fact : Leah winning this challenge is not only the first time she’s won a challenge, it’s only the second time she’s finished top 3 in any of these ranked challenges. In six episodes.)

9. Finally this week, that most British of garments – the Nice Wool Coat. Frankly, I think wearing a Nice Wool Coat should be part of the UK Citizenship Test, and if you can’t pull one off, you should be turned back at the border, sorry, not being racist, but it’s a core British value. (As a sidenote I did allow myself a mild eyebrow rise when Esme said that, after Patrick reeled off a long list of individual British fabrics, Esme beamed that she hoped the contestants would be able to pick a fabric representing the same place they’re from, given that Juliet was born in Nigeria and Riccardo was born in Puglia). Again here, much like we witnessed the BATTLE OF RICCARDO VS JEN in the first round over pale blue linen, here we saw an equally mimsy non-event LEAH VS JULIET in the field of camel-toned wool (which Patrick called “quintessentially British” at which point “things that are British” obtained about the same level of specificity as “things that Geri Halliwell thinks are Girl Power”). Seriously you can hype up and yell that “WE’RE HAVING A CAMEL-OFF!!!” as much as you like, these people are too nice, there is literally no drama here, not even if you mounted Leah and Juliet on actual live camels and gave them jousting poles.

Still the prospect of a face-off seemed to send both Juliet and Leah into a tizz, with the latter having one of her patented round-long Muppet style flailouts all over her workspace, and the former, still raw from her narrow defeat to Jen in the first round, muttering darkly about the possibility of Patrick getting his measuring tape out again. Can I just say I’ve had idle daydreamy thoughts about that scenario as well, and they weren’t that bad? Most exciting though, was when Janet said that she was going buck tradition by not sewing any lining into her coat, and instead showing us all what she called a “Hong Kong finish” to tie everything together neatly. Possibly with a ping pong ball. And normally you have pay good money for those. Sadly, Janet completely ran out of time on her coat, and instead ended up crying on her model’s shoulder and apologising profusely for making her walk out on telly wearing such a hideous garment, so we never got to see the Hong Kong finish in detail. Frankly, if it’s not shown in her segment on that little round-up “here’s what the sewers are doing now, doing craft fairs, going on holidays together and solving mysteries” montage at the end of the series, I’m going to demand my licence fee back for the year.

10. First of all, let’s be clear

Riccardo did it again in the last round, and unlike this time, he actually got rewarded for it with Garment Of The Week. Look at that. It’s 1/3 Rita Repulsa, 1/3 the dressing gown of the extremely horny Lord Of The Manor and 1/3 gender-flip Sherlock Holmes. I love it with my life. I know this isn’t Project Runway, and we should probably take into account that sleeves were a bit of a mess internally, but what a hero. And then at the other end of the scale you have this

deflated sad clown collar from Leah. To be fair, it was difficult to get excited about anybody else in comparison to Riccardo here. Jen’s was nice I guess

although I’m not sure about the button placement, and to be honest I was distracted by Patrick and Esme repeatedly body-shaming Jen’s poor model for having really broad shoulders. Speaking as a member of the broad-shouldered community, frankly I was mildly offended. Juliet’s coat was nice but was a little bit reminiscent of Rodney Trotter’s camel coat to me (I guess that’s what you get for choosing such a quintessentially English colour…) and Janet’s…I dunno, I feel like “let’s applique lots of big square pictures of London landmarks haphazardly to a fairly standard coat” is an idea you can either get on board with in its entirety or you can’t, and I absolutely could not, it looked like a human mood board. Patrick and Esme made sure to be extra nice about all the potential it had, but at the end of the day it just wasn’t finished, and having failed in all three round, it wasn’t really THAT surprising to see Janet leave, and Riccardo have a little minor flap over having his best mentor and assistant go with her. Ah well. I hope wherever she is now, Janet is having a dance party, and her wind machines are turned on full blast.

Next week : Steve is back, one last time, to take you through Intercontinental Week, and garments from India, “Africa”, and Japan. Leah performatively does yoga. Try to look shocked.


5 thoughts on “The Great British Sewing Bee 5 – Episode 6

  1. Pasta

    Is there any week when Amber isn’t channelling Angela Lansbury as Rosalie Otterbourne? She was on BBC 4 last week dressed as Charles II and Mrs Arnolfini and that’s what I was still getting. I also think Riccardo’s bloomers are the national dress of the Isle of Man (I’m going next week so will check).

  2. Hogbuffer

    Just for the fact fans here: Angela Lansbury played Salome Otterbourne, her daughter Rosalie was played by (*checks IMDB*) Olivia Hussey.

    1. tabithakitten

      Was coming down (sad, sad woman) to say exactly that except that I didn’t need to check IMDB. I have (sad, sad woman) been pretty much able to quote this film verbatim since I was about ten.

      Wrongy. (Possibly Bette Davis’ greatest screen moment.)

      1. monkseal Post author

        IN MY DEFENCE, Death On The Nile has about 5 different variations of the exact same bossy parent/boss/benefactor vs child/secretary/ward relationship padding out its red herrings list and it’s hard to keep track of the names.

  3. Sue Howarth

    The rather lovely linen jacket had two tricky bits, the sleeves and the lapels, the wool coat, the challenge they could practice, had the exact same tricky bits.


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