The British Sewing Bee returns with a buzz

Joe Lycett, Esme Young and Patrick GrantJoe Lycett, Esme Young and Patrick Grant
Joe Lycett, Esme Young and Patrick Grant
Wednesday: The Great British Sewing Bee; (BBC1, 9pm)

There was a time when some fans of The Great British Sewing Bee may have feared that the series had come to an end.

The show, which sets out to find Britain’s best amateur stitchers, began in 2013, hosted by Claudia Winkleman.

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It definitely won an army of fans – and helped turn judge, designer Patrick Grant, into something of a heartthrob – but it didn’t capture the public’s imagination to the same extent as The Great British Bake Off, which came from the same production company.

So, when there was a lengthy gap after the fourth series in 2016, some people probably thought that was it for the sewing contest.

But it returned in 2019, with a new host in the form of Joe Lycett, and it became clear that neither the Beeb nor the viewers had lost their interest in pattern matching and French seams.

Then in 2020 it made the move from BBC2 to BBC1 and picked up an even bigger audience. It probably helped that it aired during lockdown, when Sewing Bee’s make-do-and-mend spirit appealed to viewers who had been getting in touch with their own crafty sides.

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And of course, Lycett should take some of the credit – he even managed to impress his mum Helen, who is a big Sewing Bee fan and apparently wasn’t convinced her son was the right man for the job.

Speaking to What’s On TV ahead of last year’s series, Lycett said: “The verdict from Helen is very positive! She was thrilled with it last year and has been on quite a few visits to the set. When I began presenting it, Mum was concerned I was going to turn it into a smut-fest with lots of euphemisms – but I’d say Patrick is worse than me for euphemisms.

“My dad, David, is now a fan of the show as well. He loves coming onto the set and has loads of opinions about the outfits!”

So, no doubt they’ll be excited as it returns tonight. Lycett welcomes a new batch of twelve talented home sewers to the show’s new location on the banks of London’s River Thames.

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There, they’ll meet judges Patrick Grant and Esme Young, who will present them with their first trio of challenges, which, as it’s week one, are all based on wardrobe staples.

First up is the pattern challenge, as the sewers make a classic sleeveless blouse called a ‘shell top’. If they want to make a good impression, the contestants will need a fine finish that shows off the simple, clean lines.

Next, it’s the transformation challenge, where the sewers have just 90 minutes to turn old t-shirts into completely new garments for men, women or children.

Finally, the mannequins are replaced with live models for the made-to-measure, which involves making what is bound to be a post-lockdown must-have, the buffet dress. As the name suggests, it can hide a multitude of sins, but if the sewers want to be in with a chance of getting garment of the week and not being the first to be sent home, they need to ensure it fits.

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