Sewing Bee Season Six - Episode One: Wardrobe Staples

So it's back! The Great British Sewing Bee returned to our screens last night with a bang and it’s Alex here to give you a recap and our thoughts on the first episode.

This week was all about wardrobe staples, from wrap skirts to sweet tea dresses, and even a refashioning of the humble shirt.

Pattern Challenge

The pattern challenge for Episode 1 saw the contestants tasked with making a simple wrap skirt. This challenge required the new Bees to sew perfect darts, finish a hem neatly and attach a waistband, plus make rouleau loops - all in 3.5 hours! The challenge was all abut fabric choice, the judges recommended a non-stretch fabric with some nice drape, which would ensure that the skirt didn’t pull out of shape and would fall nicely over the hips. Most of the contestants did well with this and we saw them use some gorgeous viscoses and cottons. Nicole’s golden number, however, was critiqued for a poor fabric choice. Her stretch lame pulled out of shape and didn’t hem well, and whilst it looked good from afar, it didn’t stand up to the judge's scrutiny. In contract, Therese showed us her precision sewing, it looks like she might be one to watch! The challenge's winner, Peter, used a fabulous Lady McElroy Fabric (see our Lady McElroy selection here) to make a well fitted wrap (albeit a blood stain from a small sewing injury!).

Transformation Challenge

The transformation challenge this week was to take two mens shirts and turn them into one ladies garment. There were some questionable garments, however on the whole we were really impressed but the creativity the contestants showed. Nicole impressed the judges with a simple skirt, embellished with Peruvian style trims but in the end it was Peter’s Vivienne Westwood inspired creation that won the judges hearts. Angillia drew critique for a less imaginative ruffle top, which required more shaping to make it wearable.

Fitting Challenge

To to Sewing Bee form, the final challenge was the fitting task. In this challenge contestants could choose their own pattern and fabric, in advance, to make a fun and floaty tea dress. We saw real variety in the interpretation of this challenge, with the only parameters being a conservative neckline and hem finishing between the knee and ankle.

Clare’s vintage natural style was brought into it’s own with the challenge and she picked a true vintage tea dress pattern with panelling and colour blocking, whilst her fabric choice might not have been to everyone's taste, the garment style was undeniably a classic tea dress. Ali went for a gorgeous handkerchief hem number made up in a floaty viscose with a contrasting button placket, which won the judges over with it's attention to detail. Hazel chose a bold combination of African Wax prints and yellow cotton for hers, and the judges were impressed with the way she matched her buttons to the fabric, however we felt that the fabric choice (while gorgeous!) was perhaps too stiff for the classic flat tea dress style. Fiona’s 50’s number was a showstopper. Her lightweight cotton dress was fully lined and beautifully fitted and had us dreaming of picnics in the park (post lockdown, obviously!). The winner, however, was Matt’s yellow polka dot number, complete with contrasting pussy bow tie and matching belt. The judges were impressed by his precision sewing and fabric combination, along with the perfect fit he managed to create in the short amount of time given..

Pattern Recommendations

Tea dress patterns:

Here at Sew Creative, we love a tea dress. With it's classic style and girlish look, its a firm favourite. Our favourite tea dress pattern is the Nina Lee Kew. We've blogged about this one before and the Bee is the perfect excuse to snap one up for yourself. The Kew pattern contains 3 variations, however Kate's version below has the classic V-neck and button front, as well as gorgeous ruffle sleeves. We've made it even easier with our Sewing Survival Kew Kits so you can get the pattern, the perfect fabric and all the notions you need all in one lovely parcel. If the Kew isn't 'you', then here are our other tea dress recommendations;

The Sew Over It's 1940's Tea Dress is a classic version of this style. It has a lovely shaped midriff piece and flattering V-neck.

By Hand London's Anna dress would make a lovely tea dress. You can opt for a maxi length version for a more forma look, or change the length for that pretty midi shape.

If you want to recreate Lisa's 90's grunge number, the True Bias Shelby pattern is the exact one she used (we may have zoomed in on the screen to find out!).

If a free pattern is more your vibe, Peppermint Magazine's button up sundress would make something very similar to Lisa's. You could add sleeves for a more traditional tea dress look.

Wrap Skirt Patterns There are loads of great wrap skirt patterns out there and if you're a sewist you probably already own a few. Our first pick is the Made Label free Frankie skirt. This lovely one has a ruffle hem to add extra flair. Plus, it's FREE! Kate has just cut this pattern from our Lady McElroy Africa Live fabric, so stay tuned for some pretty wrap skirt spam soon! Another freebie is from peppermint magazine. Their simple wrap skirt pattern is similar to the one used by the contestants last night. Simplicity 8606 gives you lots of variety and has versions with ruffles and without and different lengths, a great choice for this new to the hobby. Elisalex from By Hand London released her ruffle wrap skirt last year and it's a real gem. this is a full and floaty skirt with a ruffle hem for days.

Keep an eye out on our Instagram over the next couple of days for Kate's Made Label skirt in our Africa Live fabric, we think it's going to be a beauty.

Our Fabric Choices

Fabrics with good drape would work great for both wrap skirts and tea dresses. We recommend viscoses and floaty linens like the selection below. A wrap skirt is prefect for showing off a bold print, whilst a tea dress looks lovely in bright florals. Every week, we will have Sewing Bee Specials on our website. This is a handpicked range of fabrics inspired by the week's episode and the challenges. This week we have a selection of drapey fabrics, all with 10% off. Use promo code Bee Happy to claim your discount

L-R: Leopard Viscose Challis; Lady McElroy Lorellie Amber; Lady McElroy Africa Live; Monochrome Print Viscose; Emerald Floral Print Viscose; Tiger Queen Print Viscose

Winners and Losers

So, back to the Bee! Peter won this week, with his polka dot tea dress grabbing the accolade of the very first garment of the week.

Sadly, it was Angillia who we said goodbye to in this first episode. The judges loved her attitude but thought that her sewing lacked precision and ambition. We’re sad to see her go, as we would have liked to get to see more of Angillia, unfortunately this is the brutal nature of competitive sewing!

Our Thoughts

Alex says:

I love Liz’s style and her tea dress had me the minute I saw it, so much so that I’ve already bought the pattern she used! I also love Peter’s flair, but I hope that he can be more than a costumer designer in the coming weeks.

Kate says:

Nicole seems very confident, she makes bold choices that might come back to haunt her! Alex seems a little out of his depth, the choice of double gauze for the tea dress really let him down, hopefully it’s just first day nerves! I think Therese is one to watch, I just hope she starts getting a little more adventurous in her choices.

Lisa says:

Ali seems like one to watch, her sewing is neat and she makes good fabric choices, I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on her!

We are so glad that the Sewing Bee is back on our screens and it's lovely to finally meet the contestants. We feel like we've been waiting forever for to to be back on. The judges were very flattering this week, which is nice for Episode 1, but we do hope that they get a little more bite in the coming weeks. Some major sewing flaws were glossed over this week, but hopefully it was just to build confidence in week one! We can't wait to see what next week will bring.

If you want to get involved with our virtual sewing bee, comment on this blog post during next weeks episode. you might even be featured on the overview next Thursday!

Don't forget you can get 10% off our Sewing Bee Specials this week with code Bee Happy at checkout.

Keep Safe and Happy Sewing, the Sew Creative Team x

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