This week, we had minor heart palpations. We tuned into BBC 2 at 9pm, and found tennis instead of sewing. We do like tennis, however we do like sewing more… A quick look at the TV Guide reassured us though, as The Great British Sewing Bee had not been cancelled, it had just been pushed back half an hour.
There had been a bit of a debate about this series on our Facebook page, you can join the conversation here, with some people suggesting that the challenges have been harder this year than in previous series. If you thought it was hard in the weeks before, you might want to give last night’s episode a miss.
Last night, the contestants were asked to focus on patterns. For the first challenge they were given a Japanese skirt pattern. The skirt was made from two main parts, with lots of curves, sewing on the York and careful top stitching. The pattern flummoxed all of the contestants and even the choice of fabric divided opinion. It was necessary to select a fabric that would not fray, many opted for a wool but Joyce went her own way, choosing a scuba-like fabric. You can shop our scuba fabrics here, if tonight’s episode did not put you off.
All of the sewers seemed to struggle with this skirt, Jade seemed slightly confused as her skirt developed a strange bunched shape, while Tracy had to unpick all her top stitching after using an edge foot and attempting to go round curves. One of the main problems of the pattern seemed to be the general understanding of how the pieces fit together, and whether or not to cut the notches or to just draw them on with chalk.
During the judging round, Patrick noted that it was Jade’s lack of experience that let her down. Meanwhile Joyce was let down by her top stitching, like Tracy she had attempted to use an edge foot on the curve, but unlike Tracy she did not unpick it when she say it going awry. Charlotte completed the skirt to a good standard, while her invisible zip was so near perfection, allowing her to win the round.
For the second round, or the alterations challenge as it is known; both the contestants and us at home had a shock. They were presented with a miniature mannequin and a pillow case and were given a set time to plan their garment; they would then have to make the actual garment out of a duvet cover and fit it to a life size mannequin. We were told that this techniques of making up smaller, rough ideas of garments was often used by designers as a way to trial an outfit without using too much time or fabric.
All the judges asked for was a striking silhouette, so each of the contestants set about making their outfit as unique as could be. Jade opted for a Grecian style one shouldered maxi dress, she was praised for her pleats and the overall flattering shape of the dress. Joyce decided she would create a beach dress. She made the dress loose, and with the no fastenings so that it could easily be slipped on and off, and created a contrasting sash then flowed into pockets that were big enough for books and sun lotion. Although the judges were impressed with how well it was finished, they were not impressed by the shape –noting that it was still fairly square.
Tracy bucked the trend for dresses by creating both a skirt and a top, including many a pleat. Patrick praised her for how well thought out the garment was, using the geometric pattern of the fabric to influence the shape of the garment. Charlotte too, opted for a geometric inspired garment. Her dress included a bow, boned collar and asymmetric silhouette… as we looked at the line-up, although all of the creations were wonderful, it was clear Charlotte had created something extra special.
As Charlotte was crowned winner of the alterations challenge, we the audience drew a collective gasp. Could she go on to win all three challenges, in the semi-final no less? Some of our Twitter followers noted that she had not seemed as nervous in tonight’s show… perhaps she knew that she was the dark horse?
For the final challenge, the sewers had to create a day dress. As it was Pattern Week, and the semi-final however, there was of course a twist. They were given what is known as a ‘block’ – it is effectively a very square, standard shaped dress made out of pattern paper. They then had to alter it to create a dress of their own design. Joyce decided to create a tea dress made from 8 individual panels. She told us how at Christmas her and her husband would give a Christmas Tea at a hotel, where all of the guests would dress up – and it was this event that had inspired this dress.
Tracy went for a dress in a classic shape, with a collar and cinched in waist pulled in by a sash at the back. Charlotte expanded parts of the block, and took other parts in to create a slim fitting dress with a cowl neckline. As the model strutted towards the judges the dress was reminiscent of garden parties in the 1940’s/50’s. Jade showed her playful side by creating a skater style dress with contrasting panels on the front bodice and cut outs on the back.
As the judges deliberated about who would win the round and who would be sent home the tension was palpable. As Esme and Patrick came in to inform them of their fate, the contestants held hands and our hearts melted slightly as we saw Joyce’s chin wobble slightly in fear.
The good news was Charlotte was awarded garment of the week… meaning she had done the unthinkable! She had won all three challenges, which was the first time anyone had done so this series. The bad news was that Tracy had to leave us, but as she did it was lovely to see both the judges and sewers share kind words about her. In an effort to dispel some of the sadness we were shown Jade, the Sewing Bee’s youngest ever contestant ringing her mum and announcing she had made it through to the final… At first we thought her mother had been cut off, then came the sobs of joy! We felt privileged to be watching such a sweet moment between mother and daughter.
Roll on the final!