SEWING BEE 2019, EPISODE 5: Patchwork Librarian

joe lycett rubbish

We’re getting worthy this week with an episode of challenges based on recycling old clothes, unused fabric and the curtain’s your Godmother spent a few hours making but didn’t match the décor so you threw them under the bed.

In keeping with the theme Joe is wearing a pair of undies made out of Mercedes’ disqualified Princess Sunshine costume.

joe lycett underwear

The sewers skip on down Rope Walk and Riccardo and Leah seem to have come for music lessons. Janet is threatening not to be boring and Juliet claims she recycles all of her plastics and then giggles because you know she puts her tetra packs in the brown bin. Jen can’t even say “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” and can barely keep her eyes open in the sun – there’s always a resident Wine Mum.

Step Your Pussy Bow Up

The first challenge is to use the various garments that the poor researchers and runners had to grab from the local charity shops to create a Pussy Bow Blouse and if you wondering on what the standard for the challenge was this is the example garment they use:

recycled pussy bow


The stipulations for the challenge, and these are VERY IMPORTANT, are that you can use up to four garments and one of them MUST be a man’s shirt, because something about a placket and a button stand. The sewer’s make a dash to raid the rails for the least visually offensive clothes of the recently deceased and there is a lot to grab because the shirts are made up of 16 pattern pieces – and Leah struggles to keep track of a single sleeve.
It becomes very apparent rather quickly that not many of the clothes are big enough to cut 2 of the same larger pattern pieces out of and so essentially what we are making is a series of formal clown outfits. As everyone dashes back to the rails in an attempt to find a piece of XXXL clothing Riccardo decides that he’s going to make a pair of colour-blocked sleeves, Patrick and Esme are impressed with his ingenuity. Thinking she has too struck upon an ingenious hack is Mercedes who has pulled out a duvet from one of the shelves. Patrick snarkily remarks that “a duvet is not a garment” which, yes is true, BUT WHY IS IT THERE? None of the following challenges involve the sewers using the charity shops items, so was it just for set dressing? And if so, that is very misleading. Because it arguably makes Mercedes’ life easier (oh sweet summer child) the judges are expecting a much more perfectly polished garment…

Leah begins to have doubts over whether her fabrics compliment each other, and so Joe drapes them over himself and looks like a Tim Burton character:

joe lycett weird shirt

Over with Janet and Joe oohs and aahs over her very nice fabrics and Janet declares and crowns herself as Queen of Classics and I for one welcome our new fascist empress. She has no hang up with the gathering of the back, nor does Juliet and Jen seems to get along find but if you were wondering if someone would sew something inside out this week: Riccardo does and goes from having been very excited about his shirt to “I hate this now”.

Amber Butchart Headware Update:

amber butchart headwear

Axed Cluedo Character.

Also bonus this ensemble:

fahsion moment.png

I live for it.

Placket time and because the show is conforming to weirdly kept gender norms your buttons must overlap the correct way (left over right), so basically they have to take a men’s button strip and turn it upside down. It becomes a lengthy debate in the sewing room and nobody is wearing a buttoned shirt so no one can prove their point. It’s then further confused by Mercedes having completely ignored the men’s shirt aspect of the challenge and is using a ladies’ shirt. I stan her so hard right now. Janet, having provided much of the button-based wisdom hen goes and sews her button band along the side seem and because it is that much shorter than the front seem she trimmed it and now has a button strip 2 inches too short. This challenge is a mess.

death by pussy bow

Pretty much Janet.

Things get even worse when doing the bias binding on the bottom of the sleeves with Mercedes going rogue and inventing a new style of doing it, Mercedes is the Bear Grylls of the sewing room. Meanwhile Leah gives up and moves on. I have never felt more of a connection with a reality TV contestant than right now.

With 20 minutes left it’s a frantic mad dash to make the neckties that have to be sewn, pressed and attached the collar. Leah’s “boingy” fabric is giving her a nightmare and Mercedes hasn’t even begun contemplating a bow because she is riddled with the emotional guilt of having used a duvet and a woman’s shirt.
The end rapidly approaches and Mercedes to cutting it so fine that Joe has to forcefully wheel over a mannequin and tell her to clothe it. Leah, having missed out loads of stuff, becomes a cheering squad for Janet because she is worried about having skipped putting a button on her sleeves. I love Leah.

The sewers wheel the mannequins over and…

homemade pussy bow blouses

It’s not really a ringing endorsement for making your own clothes is it?

Although Riccardo’s style choices are praised, his sleeves in particular he gets away with none of his sins including the upside down / inside out back panel and then his bias binding is dragged through the mud. Leah doesn’t get off much lighter with mega evolved librarian; although praised for her “tonally cohesive” fabrics the bottom of her blouse is varying lengths and her sleeves are his unfinished.
Jen is fine and her critique lasts all of 10 seconds, although I do love how cheeky her blouse is with the lipstick kiss collar while the rest of the shirt is very Your Dad’s Work Shirt.

And now for Mercedes who has absolutely created something for a House Elf:

house elf blouse

It’s unhemmed, randomly tucked, upside down and covered in loose threads as though it’s been attacked by a passive aggressive spider. Mercedes takes it…

mercedes critique

well she looks like she’s about to headbutt Esme when she calls out her lack of pins.
Fairing considerably better is Juliet whose pink blouse looks like every hideous dress your mother made you wear to church on Easter had a baby:

juliet pussy blouse

The judges enjoy that Juliet has a point of view, and it’s true – everything she has created looks like it belongs in the same wardrobe and I kind of want to meet the woman who owns it all – she seems like fun. Patrick struggles to find any fault with her construction, and he almost sounds disappointed but after the grilling Mercedes’ formal dinner house elf got, I think it’s fair. Esme however does not hold back and decides that her bas binding should have been in the same “blue” (IT’S FUCKING LILAC ESME, GOD) as the bow which…. She’s not wrong.
Last up it’s Janet’s blouse, which I think is probably the best mix of fabrics:

Janet pussy blouse

But even then it’s very… naval clown. If the sleeves had just been a plain navy blue it’d be more palatable. The judges praise her ingenuity of attaching the random scrap of bow fabric to the wrongfully trimmed button strip, which sure… but they love it a bit too much. Because of her sewing mishaps unfortunately she didn’t have time to attach a button to the sleeve loops, CRIMINAL.

The final results are:

  1. Juliet’s Easter Bonanza
  2. Janet’s Able Bodied Jester
  3. Jen’s Workplace Affair
  4. Riccardo’s Reverse World Secretary
  5. Leah’s Patchwork Librarian
  6. Mercedes’ Free Elf

It’s off to the rooftop terrace for tea where everyone tepidly encourages Mercedes to do well in the transformation challenge and Janet threatens to unleash her Wacky Granny. It’s worked so far for Mercedes.

Just As I Thought, Trash.

Joe ominously introduced the challenge as “unlike anything in the history of the Sewing Bee”, my immediate thought was Hannibal Lecter skin suits, which would explain where the eliminated sewers had gone. But no, the sewers will have to construct a garment out of the scraps of fabric they have leftover and thrown out in their previous challenges because apparently sewers waste up to 30% of the fabric they purchase.

In the interest of fairness the sewers have to dump their fabric into the middle of the room and mix it up so that the judges don’t know who creates what. Very quickly the challenge disintegrates into a contest as to who can create the most lurid outfit imaginable as everyone grabs very small scraps of zanily patterned fabrics. Leah decides that instead of wasting time piecing together enough fabric to create an adult garment she’s going to make something for a child, which is quite a smart approach given it allows you to make something godawful.

Once the sewers have grabbed all of their fabric Joe has a little sift through and has a little bit of a Mrs. Robinson moment with Riccardo, albeit by way of Elton John

joe lycett and riccardo

My new One True Pairing.

Jen has set off to make a many patterned skirt with an interesting waistband and an outside pocket, I am all for pockets on women’s clothing but maybe keep it internal?
Mercedes is creating a tube dress with a ruffle and in the words of Michelle Visage: “It’s a piece of fabric. Granted she is sewing together three black and white fabrics and then attaching the lime green African wax print that Riccardo used for his jumpsuit as the ruffle to create a truly perplexing outfit. Juliet’s blue outfit is much more cohesive, although as potentially brazen with the nipples as usual:

juliet nipple denim

She promptly decides that she’s going to do a ruffle on the bodice in an attempt to redeem the poor attempt at it during Children’s Week where it looked like she had stitched chopped liver to a child’s chest. Janet and Riccardo are both making fabrics out of various very disparate pieces of fabrics, Riccardo’s for a dress and Janet’s for a “reversible waterproof gilet”.

A few minutes left to go and the sewing room is invaded by the next Doctor Who villain:

joe lycett bin head

In the last few moments Jen has a bit of a brainfart and makes a purposefully uneven hem and has a Sophie’s Choice situation between her belt and pocket (she wrongfully goes with he pocket), Riccardo discovers and falls in love with some pink tulle,  Juliet attaches a fake button and Leah mutilates a mannequin child.

The judges first impressions are “quite fab” which, I think there’s more to say about a lineup that looks like the entertainment for a country fair:

transformatio challenge

The judges really quite love Riccardo’s patchwork dress and to be fair his fabric placement is very well done and the tulle trims do prevent it from looking like a simple tube dress. A less successful use of a frilled trim is Mercedes:

mercedes transformation dress

Oh boy. It’s very Carnival Pillowcase. The fabrics are just too disparate and the design is overall far too simple. Although Jen is here to potentially save her with her packhorse skirt:

jen skirt

The uneven hem is too understated to look purposeful and the pocket is quite frankly an eyesore on an already hard to like garment.
Leah’s girl’s dress goes down very sweetly although I challenge you to find any little girl who would actively want to wear it but it is very well constructed which is worth as much as anything else. Juliet is also a success and as usual the most potentially wearable without getting side-eyes from everyone. Lastly there’s Janet and the result of her unleashing her inner Wacky Granny:

janet transformation waistcoat

Well, she could certainly make a career of dressing the nation’s clowns. The judges rightfully love the bizarreness of it all and the uneven patchwork makes a really interesting, albeit visually offensive, fabric but you can’t deny the workmanship. The reverse side is a little bit muted:

janet reverse waistcoat

But I suppose even clowns have their off days.

The judges make their decisions:

  1. Janet’s Clown Utility Vest
  2. Riccardo’s Patchwork Cocktail Dress
  3. Juliet’s Nipple Reveal
  4. Leah’s Questionable Child
  5. Jen’s Workman’s Kilt
  6. Mercedes’s Carnival Pillowcase

At this point it’s hard to create any sense of tension that Mercedes may at some point be eliminated but they sure do try to convince us that both Leah and Jen face the chop.

Curtain Call:

After a brief detour into menswear we’re back to female models as the sewers are challenged to make a day dress out of upholstery fabrics, amazingly we manage to get through this whole segment without anyone saying “make do and mend” which for the BBC is a bloody miracle. Sadly nobody was willing to rip apart their sofa and everyone goes for curtain fabrics. Esme is pretending that everyone is using literal age old curtains and says the main issue will be cutting around holes, meanwhile it is very obvious quite a few of the sewers just went to Dunelm and bought a roll of curtain fabric. Riccardo however sourced his shiny silver curtains from a charity shop and Leah is using a pair of blinds he godmother gave her and is too polite to throw away.

Leah pretty much instantly regrets her decision to use a striped fabric as she is doing princess seams and pleating which is a nightmare to match on a striped fabric and it eats up her time. Riccardo’s satin curtains are a hit with the judges, as is the fact he found his vintage dress pattern in a charity shop (someone is going for brownie points) and he is going the whole hog and is even making the belt fastening out of the curtain rings. Going in a slightly alternatively vintage route is Mercedes who is using a fabric hse is desperately trying to sell as “retro sci-fi” and is quite clearly contemporary floral:

mercedes floral sci fi fabric

Bless her heart. Keeping with her Sputnik theme she is making a bubble dress. Unfortunately she can’t pattern match it very well because the people that made and designed the fabric didn’t even bother to pattern match. So that is very much Mercedes dead in the water.
Jen is going for a simple a-line dress in a chintzy floral fabric, although she is adding a “complicated hem band” – I’m not quite sure what makes it complicated?

Over on the other side of the room and Janet is boning her off the shoulder bodice which she is making out of a pair of her family’s curtains, which she even has a photograph of as proof of authenticity.
It will surprising no one that Juliet is making something a little more risqué out of net curtains. Juliet’s Nipple Liberation Movement continues apace. She is lining it with a bedsheet which… is that upholstery fabric?

As everyone begins their model fittings, with varying degrees of success, Janet and Riccardo are both happy with theirs while Mercedes’ is too long in the body and Leah is still matching up her striped fabric and mocking Riccardo mercilessly (I love them). Jen is taking in her seams but is still having issues with bulkiness around her model’s right breast and Juliet is perfecting the art of side-boob – on brand as always.

With Riccardo and Leah both doing pleated details it turns into a bit of a faceoff with Riccardo exalting the thinness of his fabric and how good it is for pleating and then just dead cutting to Leah in this situation:

leah pleat skirts

She then hammers it through the sewing machine like a mad woman as Patrick and Esme watch from the loft balcony like the 750th reboot of Batman and Robin. Leah’s hem band is fast becoming a pointless detail as she is doing it in the same fabric as the main dress and forgoes piping in favour of a top stitch, she then realises she does have enough time to embroider all of the flowers as intended and her machine begins packing in. Riccardo and Juliet are already adding the finishing touched of corset ties and Leah is furiously sighing in the corner as the challenge come to a close with this very mean edit:

riccardo perfectionmercedes perfection

My Favourite Things from The Sound of Music kicks in for the judges and up first is Riccardo’s belted mini dress

riccardo dress

which is very nicely made but it looks a little bit like a uniform, I think it’s just the grey fabric. The judges love it, Esme thinks it pulls to much at the front and Patrick goes gaga over the belt. Jen doesn’t strike as much passion with her floral A-line

jen floral curtain dress

Patrick is mortally offended by the pointless hem band and Esme finds it to be 2 dimensional and it absolutely does look like a dress a toddler would draw. Following Leah’s questionable design details is Leah who has pattern matched fairly well, although her skirt is a fraction out and Esme is not having it. There’s also the fact her pleats are various sizes, angles puffiness making the model’s waist look like an accordion that’ll never work.

It’s Mercedes next and the volume of the bubble skirt is really fun and flouncy, the bodice and sporty athletic wear straps are a little bit at odds with it and she made a valiant effort of pattern matching but alas it’s a good 2 inches out and VERY distracting. Still trying to sell that fabric as sci-fi though.

On to some more positive reviews with Janet’s elegant day dress that you would wear to a wedding of someone you don’t really know very well:

janet curtain dress

Janet isn’t called up at all for her lack of pattern matching but her gaping sleeves get the Esme treatment and Janet just shrugs. Lastly it’s Juliet and you can tell she is bloody pleased with herself:

juliet smug queen

And so she should be! It’s really quite the dress

juliet net curtain dress

The lacey curtains work very will with the high-low hem and the pink curtain tie makes for a nice back detail. We then have a brief discussion about Side-Boob and the projection of Juliet’ Unleash The Nipple Campaign is set for the final at this rate. Patrick just awkwardly looks off camera to the floormanager knowing he cannot dip his toe into the conversation:

patrick and esme side book

The judges deliberate and very valiantly try and add a sense of suspense as to who might be going home but they’ve pretty much already cleared Mercedes’ workstation and written her heartfelt thank you letters. There is more suspense over garment of the week with Riccardo’s and Juliet’s curtain dresses being in contention along with Janet’s waterproof clown waistcoat (CAN YOU IMAGINE?)

In the end the winner of Garment of the Week is Juliet’s Formal Side Boob and making a vey sad departure from the sewing room is Mercedes. It’s a very emotional departure as she gets choked up talking about her nan and how she started her off sewing – it’s truly why this show works so well and Mercedes is the perfect embodiment of the positivity of the sewing community – I know I’ll miss her fabric choices!

Next week, as we are running out of ideas for themes it’s British and Irish Fabrics Week.

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