Great British Sewing Bee - Series Four

Where is my Review?

I am finding The Great British Sewing Bee a little too tense. My kind of sewing is not about competition or a race to finish.

Yes we all have deadlines in life but when it comes to sewing, I'd rather not rush or compete.

If you are learning to sew, take your time, learn how to do things the best way and enjoy wearing the result.

I am therefore taking a break from watching The Great British Sewing Bee. I am leaving the review to all the great sewing blogs out there.

Sewing for Beginners Part 1

Great British Sewing Bee - Series Three

I haven't been reviewing each episode blow by blow this time.

I will though be pointing you to useful tutorials and patterns here and elsewhere. Check out my diagramtical tutorial for Self Binding on the Sewing Skills Page.

The good thing about the Great British Sewing Bee is that it raises the profile of sewing and therefore encourages beginners to give it a try.

The best thing about the Great British Sewing Bee is showing that it is possible to clothe yourself in better quality and style than most of us can afford to buy.


How to Sew On Self Binding - See Skills

One of the challenges involved binding a neckline. Many people reach for the ready made bias tape. It is much better to cut strips of self fabric across the bias and fold in half, sewing to the wrong side, trim seam allowance, fold to the right side and machine very close to the fold and covering previous stitching. If you don't want machining on the right side, sew to the right side, fold to the inside and slip stitch. Then press.

This is much easier than working with bias tape that has the two edges folded towards the middle - give it a try.

See my new Sewing Skills page for the full tutorial.

Great British Sewing Bee Review - Series Two

The Final

Couture Sewing is the feature of the final.

You won't learn many techniques by watching this episode unfortunately but you will if you take a look at this wonderful book -

The Tie Challenge I'm not at all sure that I would take Tie Making as a key feature of the World of Couture!

The Alteration Challenge - Oh no! They're chopping up perfectly beautiful garments again! I don't see any couture techniques being used here.

The Couture Gown

I must say that I have loved all the 50s music played during this series. It has really set the scene.

I loved Chinelo's dress but I'm not sure I would call this a Fishtail. A fishtail usually has more of a graduated shape or train, longer at the back or with a godet up into the back seam.

I am not taken in by the timing. At the end, with less than and hour to go, it looked to me as if each of them had a days worth of work to do! But then this is the nature of this style of programme - a bit of a con trick!

Very well done to all the contestants. These women are very resilient - so much pressure!

My final verdict - This programme has been great fun to watch. I have enjoyed the History Lessons with Claudia. I am though pleased to have my Tuesday evenings back!


The Semi Final

A quick run through of the semi-final The Draping Challenge - Not many home sewers will tackle draping unless they have a dress form or a friend patient enough to be draped on! But Flat Pattern Drafting is within everyone's scope

Here is a movie clip from my Flat Pattern Drafting series

See my Flat Pattern Drafting Sewing Lesson page for more videos

The Fabric and Textile Museum is one of my favourite places and well worth a visit.

This is a beautiful book celebrating the work of Madeleine Vionnet

Drafting a Sleeve Pattern Challenge

A short movie clip - See the sewing lesson in full

Sewing the Sleeveless Top - The Movie



The first challenge from Episode 1 is about the most useful item of clothing for any sewer to run up. Since the beginning of this series, I have had requests to get a movie made showing every step of this faced garment using the 'Pull Through the Shoulder' technique. So here it is...

This is one of my FREE SEWING PATTERNS!


Episode 6

Yes, I learnt to sew on my mother's singer sewing machine with the electric motor modification attached to the rear. I bought my own, brand new Bernina Record, when I was twenty one and, although I use a modern Bernina now, I still use my very first Bernina.

My grandmother was a liner in the fur trade and used her treadle fur machine for all her sewing until she was into her 90s! It performed an overcasting stitch rather like an overlocker but very fine and was wonderful for underwear.

Yes, I remember the paper patterns with no printing and just punched holes for markings. Pretty sure they were still around in the 60's Claudia.

The Shirt or Blouse Challenge - Although I adore wearing pure silk, there are many man made equivalents on the market that look and feel as good.

For some Tutorials on Making a Silk Shirt, visit my Videos Page for the Free Sewing Lessons.

You may also enjoy my series of videos on Finishing Edges of Sheer Fabrics.

The Placket - Watch this brief clip for sewing a shirt cuff placket. It's not an in-seam placket but it is similar.

Watch this video in full with controls

Sewing with Shirring Elastic - Here is a clip showing two methods of sewing with shirring elastic

Watch this video series in full with controls

Sewing a Set in Sleeve - Watch my How to Sew a Roll Collar Coat for a lesson on Setting in a Sleeve

This is a very pretty period blouse and I am seeing a revival of this style - I may well be adding a pattern to my collection.


The Second Challenge - you will know by now that I don't like to see decent garments cut up. I am again skipping over this.

The Period Coat Challenge - I am currently working on my Tailored Jacket Pattern. I can't wait to get it on to my Pattern Page. This will be easily adapted for a Fitted Tailored Coat.

I love both Chinelo's and Lynda's 50's style New Look coats.

Check out the Free Pattern. The Sleeveless Top, drafted for Episode 1

Diagram of Free Sewing Pattern of Sleeveless Top for the Great British Sewing Bee. Online downloadable Free PDF Sewing Patterns. Designed by Angela Kane

Episode 5

Episode 5 featured making Trousers. Please watch my Free Making Trousers Video. Watch with video controls and captions on the Free Sewing Lessons Sewing Trousers Page

Talking of sewing with leather, I've been making up my Jeans Pattern in Faux Suede - it could just as easily be real suede or leather. Once you are happy that your jeans are a good fit, give it a try. There are some super stretch leathers on the market these days

Making Trousers Video Free Sewing Lessons Page with controls and captions

Episode 4 - Review

Children's Dungarees - See My Jeans Pattern

You will find many of the skills used here in my Making Jeans Video. See the Jeans Pattern Page.

I do like dungarees and I have many requests for a pattern. I think I had better get on with it.

Yes, Jenni, I've been there, I have made the odd dog coat over the years - whippets feel the cold!

Corduroy is a great choice of fabric for dungarees and for jeans. It wears well, improves with age and washing and is so cosy. Years ago you could get a really wide cord referred to as Elephant Cord but it is not so common these days. It was fabulous for coats and I would love to make it up in my Roll Collar Coat Pattern when I do find some.

Topstitching - I have covered this several times in various videos. I covered it in my Make a Dress Series and the How to Make Pleat Fronted Trousers. Here is a clip - see in full.

The most important tip I can give you is to tighten the top tension on your machine when sewing with topstitching, button or strong thread and make sure you use a needle with a large eye - a topstitching needle.

Another topstitching video clip - see full video

Always test your topstitching on some spare pieces of fabric.

Another topstitching video clip - see full video

One more clip showing that it's OK to do rugged dungaree type edging on this Denim Pinafore Dress - See the Free Sewing Pattern

The Claudia Textile History Lesson!

I like this section best I think. Claudia starts off in the grand columned walkway at the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich. I mentioned in an earlier review that I visited very recently. It is a wonderful place for anyone interested in the history of British textiles.

Did you notice the close-up showed the neat hand-stitching attaching the blue stripe?

Claudia continues her talk from the entrance to Hampton Court Palace. Another historical venue I am very familiar with as I live within a mile of it. Hampton Court is also a wonderful place for the student of textiles as it is home to the Royal School of Needlework.

Adding the Snap Fastening - For a detailed look at adding snap fastenings check out this video clip from the Making Jeans Video - see more

Yet again, I shall skip the Second Challenge. I'm not in favour of cutting up perfectly good garments nor am I madly keen on fancy dress. Having said that, I did transform one of my little boys into a tiger once and made a pretty amazing teddy bear costume, amongst other costumes but that was a long time ago! I shall leave this review to others!

The Prom Dress - I don't have daughters and I still like to think of them as Ball Gowns. I do plan to include some evening gown patterns on my site in the future and boning is not that difficult.

Again, I repeat, the invisible zip is much the easiest zip to apply. See my video clips from Episode 2 and you don't need to press the zip to uncurl it.

I thought the contestants did a very good job in the limited amount of time. It was not an easy task.

Episode 3 - Review

The Leggings Challenge - See My Great Leggings Pattern

Do they mention that you really must pre-wash your jersey? These garments will be machine washed many times. Most of the shrinkage will be in the length. It is quite usual to loose 10% or more so bear this in mind when buying your fabric.

Once washed, press. It is quite difficult to refold the jersey accurately down the length after washing. I often find it much better to cut out as a single layer. Most of my T-shirt and vest patterns are printed as left and right rather than the half pattern for this reason. My T-Shirt Video for Members goes into deep explanations of sewing with Stretch Fabric - I recommend it!

It is very cruel to ask anyone to thread an overlocker. Never, never let your overlocker run out of thread! Always use existing threads to pull through the new colour. An air threading model like Babylock is helpful though if ever you have to start from scratch.

Lycra is a trade name referring to the synthetic fibre spandex or elastane. Spandex is a term used mostly in the US meaning expands and in Europe elastane is more often used in Europe and equates to elastic.

I remember when the Pineapple Dance Studios started. I never went though, I was too busy horse riding!

The waistband - you could also fold over the waistband and zigzag, leaving a section open. Trim the seam close to stitches and then thread through the elastic, join then complete the seam - that's the old fashioned way.


Check out this short clip about twin needle sewing:


A short clip about using your regular sewing machine on stretch fabric seams:

The Wrap Dress Challenge - If you are self binding a neckline or dress front or a garment, like a cardigan, stretch your binding quite a lot as you stitch it on and then your edge will be nice and snug and won't flare.

The print jersey fabrics hide a multitude of sins! Plain jersey is much more of a challenge.

A very well deserved win by Chinelo.

For the perfect example of use of jersey for draped dresses, look back to one of my favourite British designers, Jean Muir. See this recent exhibition.

I recommend this book

Please take a look at my New Sewing Jersey Page. I feature all my Jersey Knit Sewing Patterns and useful video clips from my Free Videos

See More Sewing Jersey Videos here


The Alteration Challenge - Again, I don't enjoy the alteration challenge! A bought T-Shirt is still expensive. What is the point?

Episode 2 - Review

Claudia, please, it's GO-day, with the emphasis on Go. Every sewer knows this!

This episode is all about Patterned Fabric. I'm a plain fabric person most of the time but when I choose a pattern, I have to be crazy about it. I know what I like and there are many pattern fabrics I absolutely hate. Mentioning no names, I cannot abide wall to wall small flowery cute prints.

Favourite at the moment is this fabulous cotton print from Ghana, brought back for me by my good friend Duncan.

For starters, I think I shall use this for the Sleeveless Top Pattern - a Free PDF Pattern Download for The Great British Sewing Bee followers - see below

I may also use it for a Jacket that would be great worn with my jeans pattern. The Jacket PDF will arrive on my site soon.


Photo of Sewing Pattern Fabric from Ghana, for the Great British Sewing Bee Sleeveless Top PDF Sewing Pattern

The First Challenge - The Pleated Skirt

When I choose to sew with patterned fabric I will already have fallen in love with the fabric and then I will choose a design. As shown on the Great British Sewing Bee, sewers usually do it the other way around.

This is why the contestants are having a few problems with fitting their box pleats to the paper pattern. Design the style of box pleats around your print - much the best way!

Again, I love the Textile History Lesson from Claudia and again I will recommend that you visit the National Maritime Museum Collection at Greenwich - Textiles, Supplying Cloth to the World if you possibly can.

Also, please visit the Victoria & Albert Museum for absolutely everything about Textiles. Last week I tweeted that one of my sons lives in a Silk Weavers Cottage in Spitalfields, another son works for the V & A! And my youngest son, not wishing to leave him out, is a talented fashion photographer and takes all my studio pictures!

The zip issue. A lap zip is not a special kind of zip, it is an old fashioned method for old fashioned zips! A concealed or invisible zip is much the best zip to use unless you have chosen a zip for decorative purposes or you are sewing a zip fly. A hand sewn zip will never be as neat as a concealed zip.

Inserting a Concealed Zip A rather long winded tutorial!
Remember, insert the zip before stitching the seam

Good for Lynda and Julie for standing up for the Concealed Zip

I think all the contestants made a very good effort with this challenge, considering the difficulty of matching different scaled patterns to the box pleat design.

I like Simon's choice of fabric. Given a little more time to plan, I'm confident that Simon would have worked out a way to match the waistband to the skirt. His fabric choice made it the hardest to work out.

Even professional sewers would have their job cut out matching these bold patterns to the waistband.

Heather did the best job but chose the easiest pattern as far as matching was concerned.

The Second Challenge - Combining Two Shirts into One Garment

As I have said before, I'm not too interested in this sort of sewing. I'll always start from fabric. I'm not sure if it is that ethical to chop up two perfectly good shirts that could clothe a more needy individual! Look at what goes in the bin.

Lynda is purely using the shirt as fabric.

Yes, Chinelo and Tamara made the best of it, in my opinion.

The Third Challenge - Made to Measure Pyjamas

Why oh why is the Great British Sewing Bee obsessed with made to measure night wear?

"Pyjamas, shouldn't they just be baggy?" - Well said Claudia.

If matching a patterned fabric is really crucial it is often easier to lay out your pattern pieces on a single layer, with the fabric right side up. You can then see exactly how the design lines up as you cut out.

A good job done by all.

I was really sorry to see Simon go.

Episode 1 - Review

Ten Great British Sewing Bee contestants this time - a great variety of skills and personalities.

I so agree with JENNI that making your own clothes means that you wear clothes that are personal to you and not things that you can buy in the High Street.

The programme has moved to an impressive new venue, kitted out with all the sewing paraphernalia imaginable. Personally, I couldn't work surrounded by all that print! I like to work in neutral surroundings and have around me just the fabric and images that are inspiring me at this moment. Everything else is stored away.

Claudia tells us about how fabrics were brought from all over the world and unloaded at our London Docks and Wharfs. Last week I visited the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich and of course toured the Cutty Sark - a fabulous restoration which I highly recommend. The Cutty Sark mainly transported tea but also was used to bring exotic textiles to our shores.

SIMON is a very interesting young man and I will be paying close attention to him. SIMON likes to let his ideas “sit for a bit, maybe a couple of days”. That’s so right. I’m liking this young man’s attitude! He thinks he may have "cloth in the blood".

Download the Free Sleeveless Top Pattern - my version of the garment featured in Episode 1 Diagram of Free Sewing Pattern of Sleeveless Top for the Great British Sewing Bee. Online downloadable Free PDF Sewing Patterns. Designed by Angela Kane

The First Challenge - A Sleeveless Cotton Top

So to the PATTERN. A great beginner's project. I will be uploading a Free PDF Pattern to my website shortly. There will be a few differences. I'm not keen on the hem curving down at the back. It will be quite difficult to make a neat job of just turning up a narrow double hem without ripples on the curved edge.

My pattern will finish just below waist level with slits in the side seam and a decent hem for weight - very Audrey Hepburn - great over jeans.

I'm not at all sure that the Great British Sewing Bee contestants are actually going to find that this nice little garment is wearable! Take a look at 17 or so minutes in, when they review the results of this first project. It is so close fitting and the opening in the back is only about 6" or so - a bit of a struggle I'd say. My version will be boxier and therefore looser. For a fitted top like this, I would have the back seam open all the way down with some biggish buttons as a feature. Doing them up will keep you agile!

BUTTON & LOOP CLOSURE. In my opinion, if you plan to use a blanket stitched loop as shown in the programme, you need to use a little loop for a little button. I usually use this sort of loop for a hook and eye closure which is very neat at the back of a dress, at the top of the zip. I ditch the metal loop and make the thread version instead.

I'm with TAMARA on the Button Loop. If you choose a big button then have a nice self fabric loop.

The choice of bold prints by CHINELO and JENNI has inspired me to get out a wonderful length of Milla Print Cotton from Ghana, given to me recently by a friend who visits Africa regularly for business. (Pictures coming soon). Being cotton, it needs to be pre-washed but I will be making this up shortly using my Free PDF Pattern for the Sleeveless Top.


Three extracts from my Make a Dress Series II. Link to the Series - Making Up The Free Pinafore + Lining

1. Pinning Darts      
2. Machining Darts
3. Tie Off and Press

The Second Challenge- Redesigning a Shop Bought Skirt

This would not be my favourite occupation! Would anyone actually go out to buy a (relatively) expensive garment to chop up, rather than buy a length of fabric? I shall give GBSB the benefit of the doubt and assume that the garment is old and requires a make-over.

There have been a few tweets about Claudia's pronunciation of GODET. Considering she is surrounded by sewers including a professional tailor, she should have been corrected - it's GO-day Claudia, with the emphasis on GO.

I like the transformation by both SIMON and CHINELO the best. I will be producing a tutorial on the Welt Pocket with my up and coming Jacket Pattern and Tutorial. A Peplum is a great way to jazz up this dull skirt.

The Box Pleat from HEATHER is a lovely idea but I agree with Patrick, the binding at the hem spoils it - One feature is normally enough on any garment.

Check out my guide to adding an Inverted Pleat to my Classic Pencil Skirt Pattern


Diagram of the Pattern Pieces for th Pencil Skirt PDF Sewing Pattern 483Diagram of How to Alter the Pencil Skirt Sewing Pattern adding a Front Inverted PleatDiagram 2 of How to Alter the Pencil Skirt Sewing Pattern adding a Front Inverted Pleat

LYNDA'S pocket and godet makes a nice combination. I wish I could have seen it at a distance as I feel the placing is wrong. The two features are almost but not quite on the same level. It would be better to have a greater difference between the levels and perhaps each feature on the opposite side or further apart at least. As Patrick says "...the pocket is a little bit ragged at the top ...". Machine basting the pocket first would have made it easier to do a neat job. See my video above.

The ruffle at the hem of TAMARA'S skirt is pretty but I'm not keen on mixing wool with a floral cotton. I think it would have been great using a grey tartan, cut on the cross. Bows are best left for children's clothes.

Patch Pockets are easy and very effective. I add them to many of my garments. Here are a few tutorials.

Three extracts from my Make a Dress Series I. Link to the Series - Making Up The Free Pinafore Pattern

1. Pocket Placement
2. Machine Basting and Top Stitching Techniques
3. Finishing Off and Neatening


I'm not sure about the very narrow frill from CERINA - fun but not exactly classic. I do like the dungaree affect from JENNI. It would have looked a great deal nicer had it been displayed with say an orange jersey top. You need some vision to bring it to life. But that goes with all the skirts really.

The Third Challenge - The Silk Nightdress

It is interesting to see the choices of silk for this nightdress. Certainly crepe de chine would be my favourite. SIMON'S choice was unfortunate because it is a stiff silk and not so good for nightwear but I think his heart ruled his head here. He has a deep love and knowledge of fabric and was keen to share it with us with this lovely shot effect of the different colours of the warp and weft of the weave - I'd be happy to wear it as a nightgown!

I love CHINELO'S approach but I'm not too sure that the lacing at the back would be that comfortable but the effect will be stunning!

All the contestants are having trouble cutting out their silk. Using weights rather than pins is often the answer. You can buy large weights designed for this but I often use Curtain Weights, the largest I can find and you can spread them around the pattern.

Most of the designs follow a classic nightdress shape with lace trimming. I will add a pattern for this to my collection soon.

CERINA has chosen a design with gathering and demonstrates machining with a long stitch and pulling up the bottom thread to gather. This technique is much better if you stitch a double row and then you can sew your seam stitching between them. A classic method for gathering always used for sleeve heads.

You may have seen that I have tweeted the fact that my son and his wife live in a silk weaver's cottage in Spitalfields. They were married in Christ Church Spitalfields shown in this programme. Isn't that special?

The finish is a mad rush so I admire the contestants for keeping their cool.

HEATHER'S nightgown is terrific. SIMON'S, I would love to wear as a dress, as Patrick says. JULIE has made a lovely nightgown. I would be really interested to know how she attached the diamante. I suspect a glue gun which would not be good in the laundry! I don't think she had time to hand sew on beads.

I like JENNI'S nightdress very much for its classic look. If she had pressed the waist seam up and added delicate top stitching on the bodice side, above the seam, the skirt would have draped much better.

DAVID'S is a classic

CHINELO is the winner for me but I admire everyone for their efforts.



Series One

Episode 4 - Contestants Are Making a Man's Shirt and an Evening Gown

Try my Man's Cut Shirt - Shirt Sewing Pattern and then the Jersey Flare - Jersey Dress Sewing Pattern. The Sun dress would look great as a Full Length Evening Gown - Sun dress Sewing Pattern. I have made my Gingham Jersey Combo for the evening using slinky jersey for the full length shift dress and lace for the Over skirt and the pretty Stand Collar - a fantastic evening combination - Jersey Dress and Skirt Combo Sewing Pattern.

See my Collection of Sewing Patterns. Join for all downloads and sewing lessons - Join the Best Sewing Site Photo of Jersey Knit Flare Sewing Pattern. Online downloadable PDF Sewing Patterns 781 designed by Angela KaneTechnical drawing of Jersey Flare  Sewing Pattern. Online downloadable PDF Sewing Patterns 781 designed by Angela Kane Technical drawing of Classic Shift Sewing Pattern. Online downloadable PDF Sewing Patterns 763 designed by Angela KanePhoto of Classic Shift Sewing Pattern. Online downloadable PDF Sewing Pattern 763 designed by Angela Kane       

Patterns that will do nicely -

Technical drawing of Classic Shirt Sewing Pattern. Online downloadable PDF Sewing Patterns 540 designed by Angela Kane    Photo of Waistcoat and Classic shirt Sewing Patterns. Online downloadable PDF Sewing Patterns 540 & 836 designed by Angela Kane


    Photo of Sundress Sewing Patterns. Online downloadable PDF Sewing Patterns 783 designed by Angela Kane Technical drawing of Sun Dress Sewing Pattern. Online downloadable PDF Sewing Patterns 783 designed by Angela Kane   Photo of Skirt and Collar Sewing Pattern for the Combo with the Jersey knit sewing pattern. Online downloadable PDF Sewing Patterns 727 & 722 designed by Angela Kane


Episode 2 - The Contestants are Making Trousers and a Silk Shirt

Jeans and Shirt Pattern can be found on my Pattern Pages

Members can follow the Make Authentic Jeans Series and Make a Classic Silk Shirt

Episode 3 - Last Week Contestants were doing Alterations

Anyone agree with me that alterations are pretty boring? I would always prefer to make something from scratch. I rarely need to alter my own garments as I like to get it right in the first place. As for altering shop bought clothes - that would give me no pleasure at all! But I suppose, begrudgingly, altering clothes has to be included in the skills of the home sewer

Episode 1 - Make an A-Line Skirt and a Classic Dress

My Pencil Skirt Pattern can be easily adapted to an A-Line

Make a Classic Pinafore Dress for everything you need to know - the pattern, cutting out, sewing up, darts, pressing, inserting the concealed zip, lining, hems and all the bits in between. FREE PATTERN

Instagram Icon YouTube Icon Pinterest Icon Twitter Icon Facebook Icon

Top of Page