Review: ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’

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Last year’s series of BBC 2’s The Great British Sewing Bee was, for me, one of the only joys that came from the first lockdown of 2020. I would even go so far as to say that series six of Sewing Bee got me through the months of April, May and June as each episode became a momentary escape to a place more light-hearted than the world beyond my front door. I remember saying how the weekly instalment of Sewing Bee had the power to really lift my mood during lockdown, whilst my friends nodded in agreement during our weekly Zoom catch-up.

If the power of television wasn’t evident before this year, I think The Great British Sewing Bee is just one example of how significant a part TV plays in our lives. In fact, if I analysed my TV-watching habits over the last year, a strong pattern seems to emerge. Fun reality competition programmes (similar in style to Sewing Bee) dominate significantly, and I think it’s easy to see why.

Each episode became a momentary escape to a place more light-hearted than the world beyond my front door

Shows like Sewing Bee offer the winning combination for viewers that make us want more. This has been particularly heightened by the light relief we’ve all been craving after an extremely difficult year. Any regular watchers out there will see this reflected in the sharp increase in programmes taking on a similar format – examples include pottery, jewellery, makeup and even dog grooming competitions. 

The Formula: 

Real-life people, inspiration for how to take up new, affordable hobbies, a comedic host, and charming judges equals a great TV programme that draws in audiences time after time. 

Sewing Bee is a TV show that, in my opinion, deserves all the credit it can get. In honour of this, the following paragraphs will form my very own love letter to the show combined with a brief review of the series so far, all, I might add, under the headings of different types of stitch (in keeping with the nature of the programme).    

Sewing Bee is a TV show that, in my opinion, deserves all the credit it can get

Running Stitch – A brief ‘running commentary’ of the current season. (CONTAINS SPOILERS) 

The first episode saw the new Sewing Bee contestants tackle ‘Wardrobe Staples Week’. The sewers took on a shell top Pattern Challenge, (for all you non-Sewing-Bee-watchers, this challenge sees sewers create a garment from scratch using a specific pattern), a T-shirt Transformation Challenge (creating a new look using old garments in another style) and a Women’s Buffet Dress Made-to-Measure (making a practiced garment for a model). We met all the contestants for the first time but sadly had to say an early goodbye to Julie. Meanwhile, Raph won the coveted ‘Garment of the Week’ with his gorgeous mustard maxi dress.  

The second episode was ‘Summer Week’ and saw the sewers grapple with surprisingly difficult paperbag shorts, men’s swimwear and button-down sun dresses. Adeena shone through with her side-button-down dress which won her ‘Garment of the Week’, but it was particularly sad to see Jean and her gloriously colourful wardrobe go home. 

Our latest episode saw contestants grapple with Menswear (a notoriously difficult theme given the watchful eye of expert Patrick Grant). Challenges included tailoring a baker boy hat, transforming suits and making a utility jacket. It was another emotional week as Lawratu left the Sewing Bee whilst underdog Farie won ‘Garment of the Week’ after two weeks of unfinished garments.

Whipstitch – A segment dedicated to the ‘whip smart’ comedy of Joe Lycett. 

A standout element of Sewing Bee is the unique humour comedian Joe Lycett brings to the show. His sassy and dead-pan presenting style (a particular stand out of this series so far) adds the extra feel-good edge Claudia Winkleman was unfortunately unable to deliver. Lycett boosts Sewing Bee from a quaint programme to a quintessentially British show that incorporates the best of dry humour. 

Lycett boosts Sewing Bee from a quaint programme to a quintessentially British show

Forward Stitch – Looking ‘forward’ to the rest of the season and my favourites to win.

After only three episodes, series seven is already off to a great start, and alliances to my favourite sewers have already emerged. Serena has had a wonderful start, falling in the top three a couple of times already and therefore leaving me with high hopes for her Sewing Bee stint. It seems the younger sewers are a step above the rest as Raph seems to have also proven his worth in the competition.

Series seven is already off to a great start

Despite these front-runners, I’m fully backing Damien for the win. Already providing some classic one-liners and great TV moments, Damien has stood out from the beginning and has made me laugh out loud more than once. Although not always the most precise or skilled sewer, Damien is the epitome of the type of contestant shows like Sewing Bee are so good at highlighting – a regular Brit willing to have a go and share their passion with us viewers at home. 

Image: What Olivia Did via Flickr

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