SEWING BEE 2019, EPISODE 4: Mesh Sandwich

joe lycett sequin shirt

This week Joe will be co-hosting the show with his shirt.

It’s technical week and seeing as many of the sewers have struggled so far even with cotton I can’t see lycra and spandex wielding many positive results – Mercedes threatens glitter and I AM EXCITED.

Swim Suits

The first challenge is to make a 1940s pin-up style panelled bathing suit out of lycra and Power Mesh, which is absolutely my superhero identity. The sewers charge toward the always ugly lycra fabrics and, it’s a little disappointing. Mercedes opts for a sombre polka dot, possibly because Juliet swiped the glitteriest fabric going. Meanwhile Alexei has an 80s disco acid trip and Leah claims hers is “60s” but I’m just getting toddler Easter bonnet

leah floral print

The only sewer who has any experience of making swimwear is Jen who as a lifeguard for bats made her own swimming costumes – did she grow up in the 1800s? Does she know Decathlon has existed since 1976? Meanwhile Esme brags about having made the swimming costume that Tilda Swinton wears in that classic piece of early 2000s cinema, The Beach in which Tilda Swinton doesn’t even feature on the first page of credits on IMDB.

The sewers immediately run into trouble with their lycra stretchiness and the fact it slips out of line extremely easily while putting it through the sewing machine and Riccardo seems to have taken it particularly hard and is covered in plasters and his fabric is scattered around the room as though he had a full on unfilmed mental breakdown. Jane meanwhile is having a grand old time reminiscing about her childhood swimming teach Mr. Grimes who she describes as “really quite round with bits sticking out of him” and I think she may have been taught how to swim by a Gruffalo.
At the halfway point the piecing of the swimsuits begins and Janet becomes the Swimsuit Guru as Leah, Mercedes and Alexei repeatedly run to her for advice and run back to their stations screaming “MESH SANDWICH, MESH SANDWICH!” – it turns out it helped no one all of them end up sewing various bits inside out and upside down, even Jen does it and begins hurriedly unpicking her mistakes. By this point Alexei is running so far behind that it’s looking like all he’ll have are a pair of nipple pasties and a glorified belt to stick on his mannequin.


amber butchart head wrap

It’s a full Danish Pastry Carmen Miranda Moment.

In the last moments of the challenge a new foe appears: The Cover Stitch, the mortal of Power Mesh. The point of the cover stitch machine is to encase the elastic and prevent raw edges, as any hem does… The only person to seemingly come through the experience unscathed in Juliet, however Mercedes completely gives up on hr elastic and I don’t think Alexei even got to the point where he had elastic as an option. While everyone has started putting their straps on Alexei still has 3 pages of instruction and promptly starts attaching things with a bit of a Pritt Stick and some pins, while Leah hand sews her straps on with a single stitch like it’s mean to be a drag queen’s reveal outfit and then everyone wobbles their mannequins on over to the judges.

Janet’s leopard print (which Esme refers to as “leopard skin”) goes down a treat – they don’t meantion it but Janet even managed to align the leopard print spots on her front panel which is GOD LEVEL – no one else bothered to align their prints but it was never mentioned for some reason, it also goes unmentioned that everyone bar Janet and Jen seemingly can’t tie a bow to save their lives. Also successful are Juliet’s disco cozzie and Jen’s red floral number. Completely falling behind (and apart) are Mercedes and her various frayed ends and gaping holes as well as Leah’s snapping strap and Alexei’s… fabric jigsaw puzzle. Riccardo doesn’t manage to attach his straps, but he managed to sew everything in the right way round and his swimsuit, in Patrick’s words, would be “perfectly wearable if you attached the straps.” – I’m just not sure Sofia Loren would wear it as Riccardo so hoped. The judges final ranking stands as:

  1. Juliet’s Space Commander Pool Party
  2. Janet’s Primal Urges
  3. Jen’s Lifeguard Uniform
  4. Riccardo By Default
  5. Leah’s Booby Surprise
  6. Mercedes’ Easy Access Panels
  7. Alexei’s Cooked Noodle

Dogging Around

cute dog bow tie

So with the show being on its 5th series and having a definite fear of repeating challenges it is time for one that was almost definitely conjured up by a ferret in a ball pit; it’s time to make a raincoat for a dog out of a festival tent. And I must say, that while I was excited for the tease of a dog challenge, there is only 1 dog in the sewing room and I feel somewhat robbed. In an attempt to explain the reason for the challenge Patrick laments the fact thousands of cheap tents are thrown away every year and, guys it’s fine, just admit it’s a silly challenge.

The sewers make a mad dash to grab a tent in a scene that horrifically echoes Fyre Fest’s opening day, there is however less fire and no threats of cannibalism. Jen sees herself as having a distinct advantage because she has a dog at home and knows all about their urinary system, she also wants to make paniers, which at first I thought meant she was going to put a dog in a Marie Antoinette style gown, but no, it’s more like Batman’s Utility Belt. Janet also has a dog, the best dog actually – Dexter the miniature schnauzer:

miniature schnauzer

And she is basically doing the same thing as Jen but in ill-advised paisley. Mercedes is more of a cat person and as such is creating a doggy burqa (a barka?) with little earholes out of a lurid pink fabric, I’m glad the old Mercedes is back. Alexei and Leah are also going for full coverage raincoats, Leah in another shade of awful green and Alexei in asphalt grey, you can see his life force slowly being leeched out of him. Riccardo meanwhile is having none of this challenge and is threatening everyone with jail and as a protest he is making what I can only describe as doggy sex swing:

dog swing bag

Juliet appears to be making something for a canine magician and will only use the word “doggy” and I love her for this.

If you thought the sewers struggled with putting clothes on child mannequins watching them dislocate a fake dog’s legs to put it through a sleeve is really rather harrowing. Luckily Winston and the judges don’t have to see it.
They immediately fall in love with the practicality of Jen’s outfit, Leah’s doesn’t fair so well because it is literally just a piece of fabric draped over her dog. They describe Mercedes’ doggy burqa as being “space age” but really it just reminds me of Maggie Simpson in her deep winter coat but the fact she added the zip making it easy to get on and off is commendable, there are concerns over the earholes. Riccardo’s is an over designed masterpiece of popped collars, chaps and straps which makes Janet’s, which is similarly over designed, seem “too simple”. Juliet’s canine magician is next, which Esme and Patrick dub “Cheryl Holmes”, which I still fail to understand because no one is solving crimes looking like this:

juliet dog coat

And then there’s Alexei’s offering which is just a little bit intimidating:

alexei dog coat

It’s like one of those Australian Frilled Lizards. Or a creature from Stranger Things.

Once the judges have finished conferring a mere 4 metres away from the sewers they make their decisions:

  1. Jen’s Doggo the Explorer
  2. Juliet’s David Cockerpoo
  3. Mercedes’ Doggie Burka
  4. Alexei’s Pollywog
  5. Leah’s High Vis Dog
  6. Janet’s Paisley Puppy
  7. Riccardo Is Being Investigated by the RSPCA.

Track Record

So with Alexei dead in the water the final challenge is more of a formality than a requirement, despite the fact he and Riccardo are on average the same for this episode, Alexei errors are pretty much chum in a sea of sharks.

Bringing technical fabric week to a close is a men’s tracksuit and, let’s just take a moment to admire Janet’s model:


The specifications are “a luxury tracksuit with a statement stripe” and I was desperately hoping someone would recreate Katya’s 1980s Lesbian Literary Agent, Disinterested, Pissed Off Ellen Barkin Fantasy. The sewers immediately begin having panic attacks because men have such different proportions to women, Leah just openly starts insulting her model and Mercedes is worried about “men’s angles”, which is an interesting way to describe an unwanted erection.

If it wasn’t obvious enough that Alexei was about to be eliminated we get a very long scene in which he bores Esme with his stories about mountain biking and the need for lightweight fabrics – honestly, I’m sure she rolled her eyes. Leah is also opting for lightweight materials and is using mesh, although not Power Mesh, because “what is more luxurious than wearing air?”. On the other end of the spectrum are our Scuba Trackies, with Jen, Riccardo, Juliet and Mercedes all opting for the more aquatic fabric, which the show is very quick to tell us has been used by Dior and Versace. In order to ensure that her trackie bums are fashionable, Jen may or may not have taken apart a pair of her son’s trousers. And talking of fashion:

riccardo tracksuit sketch

I HAVE NEVER WANTED ANYTHING MORE IN MY LIFE. I want to wear it to the gym just so I can go and shout at people in Russian because no one would question me.

The scuba sewers very quickly run into issues because once doubled over the sewing machine really struggled to get the needle through the fabric, but they needn’t worry too much because Alexei and Leah haven’t even made it to the sewing machines yet. When they do eventually get there Alexei manages to sew his zip shut and in the wrong place, it is so bad that Esme can spot it from across the room.

At the 1 hour mark eveything begins to get frantic with Leah literally throwing garments at her model and Alexei has no sewn parts of his trousers inside out. ASSUME THE FOETAL POSITION AND CRY.
The 5 minute call is made, Alexei is monotone, Leah is screaming and Juliet is simply calling for “death by tracksuit!”, which very nearly happens as she screams “THERE’S PIN IN THERE!” as her model shoves his leg into the trousers, what kind of Saw trap has she sewn together?

The judging approaches and Janet’s Teenwolf inspired varsity jacket is first. They admire the colours, although sorbet orange and navy doesn’t fill me with positive feelings and sadly her zip comes flying off at Esme’s slightest tug. Leah has gone full 80s shellsuit, complete with fire safety hazard. Her panelling is incredibly well don, especially as it is quite elaborate. In true Leah style, she acknowledges this with a self-conscious shrug. And now for the moment we’ve all been waiting for, the reality of Riccardo’s Russian Olympic uniform:

riccardo tracksuit

I still want it, and I did spend a large amount of time afterwards browsing ASOS for anything similar, I had no luck BUT, I did find this:

asos tracksuit

ASOS must be stopped at all costs. Back to Riccardo, the judges are similarly smitten by its boldness and the accuracy of the stripe. Also on a high is Juliet whose charcoal and camo print tracksuit is definitely the most contemporary and high street – she has a very good eye for fashion. Jen gets highly praised, although I personally though her model looked like an avatar from Club Penguin. Less successful is Mercedes who ambitiously went for an assymetrical tracksuit that sadly ended up looking more like a badly painted road.

Lastly (in many ways) we have Alexei who has made his model look like a track and field vicar:

vicar in a tracksuit

Not even God can save him and it becomes glaringly obvious that Alexei is the one to be cut. The real suspense is in Garment of the Week: Juliet’s sparkly swimming costume? Juliet’s modern tracksuit, or Riccardo’s flashback to the Moscow Olympics? Umm. No, none of those. It’s Jen’s Club Penguin Cosplay

jen winning tracksuit

I am baffled.

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