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The Great British Sewing Bee: Episode 5

This week we stepped back in time with The Great British Sewing Bee – as the 1960’s was the theme of the week.

The 1960’s were a time in which sewing was still enjoying post-war popularity and the rise of the teenager (and with it new styles of clothing) meant many were home sewing their own shift dresses and mini-skirts.

Talking about shift dresses, that was the first challenge (as well as sewing on vintage machines.) A genuine 1960’s pattern for a colour block shift dress with a whopping 14 pattern pieces. The little snippet of history (a feature of every show) this week talked about the rise of one young designer in particular. French designer Yves Saint Laurent used the simple shift dress as a canvas on which to show his appreciation of modern art. In an effort to make the dress more widely available, Yves Saint Laurent converted the dress into a sewing pattern and even made YSL labels available to buy – you could sew your own dress, and put in the designer label for the finishing touch. While the shift dress seemed simple, made of straight lines and an A-line skirt, it was in fact quite intricate.

The lines of the pattern had to hide all the seams, whilst the zip was often a ‘lap zip.’ It was the lap zip – in which a piece of fabric covers both the zip and the line of top stitching where the zip has been inserted that proved challenging for many of the contestants. Tracy in particular seemed to struggle with this part, her choice of colours also left Patrick rather unimpressed as he likened it to the colours of the Swedish flag. While Jade played it safe with monochrome, may of the other contestants went all out with their choice of colour (you can shop our fabrics by colour here.) Joyce, who said she remembered the 60’s well triumphed in this round.

For the alterations challenge, the contestants were faced with a fabric many had not used before: PVC. “The skimpier the better” seemed to be the mantra of the day with Angeline creating a bosom baring top. Rumana created a ruched affair, with cut outs revealing black ribbon underneath; blushing slightly as Patrick labelled it “strangely sexy”

Joyce decided she was going to go for a “artisty top” which Claudia helpful clarified was a smock type top with large pockets in which to keep brushes. Whilst sewing Joyce mused that “if my husband could see me now, sewing pink PVC, he’d be like hmmmm” raising her eyebrows at the suggestion. Whilst she was thinking of art, the pink PVC must have had Patrick also going “hmmm” as he described it as a “sexy nerdy sailor.” The sexy sailor must have floated his boat, as Joyce claimed first place again.

The third challenge saw the contestants making a 60’s style jacket or coat. As this challenge was a fully lined coat, the contestants were allowed to both practise their patterns and pre-cut the fabrics. As usual the challenge was going to be all about fit, with Patrick’s Saville Row experience set with high expectations. Angeline had planned to go all out with her garment, using orange cloth, paisley detailing and a fur trim; she changed her and toned it down slightly after the judges seemed a bit bemused at the idea. Tracy showed Esme photos of her mother, who was wearing the exact coat she was hoping to recreate, with grown in sleeves. For the uninitiated, grown in sleeves are cut from the same piece of fabric as the body, and so do not need to be attached.

Jade however went for a different approach to the out-and-out 60s styling. She went for a cropped 60’s jacket, but stated it would be the pattern matching that made it rather than the style. And was she right. The pattern matching of the tweed (shop tweeds here) was impeccable, even matching over the buttons. As she gained garment of the week, it was truly well deserved.

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