SEWING BEE 2019, EPISODE 6: An Aristocratic Penguin

If you were a at all wondering why the Sewing Bee is aired post-Watershed it is absolutely because Joe Lycett deep throated an ice cream.

joe lycett ice cream deep throat


It’s British and Irish Week and who knows maybe showcasing the British and Irish wool trade rekindled someone’s sense of patriotism because nothing else that happened this week was going to.

So we return for the quarter finals after bidding Mercedes goodbye (you can’t have a German in British and Irish Week afterall). Janet Hair Update:

Janet hair

Crimped and pinned like a Shih Tzu that just won Crufts. It seems mean that in the preliminary spiel they cut from Riccardo saying “a teeny tiny mistake” to Leah, just standing behind her sewing station. But everyone is just worried at this stage that you can make the tiniest error and be sent home (don’t worry, there aren’t many tiny errors made…)

Linen on a Prayer

The first challenge is introduced and it involves linen, which all of the sewers seem delighted by and lulled into a false sense of security because the task is then to sewing a linen men’s jacket, upon this revelation Leah just completely dies inside and stares at the pattern the same way I looked at my GCSE maths exam

leah linen reaction

I feel you girl.

The main elements of the pattern are symmetrical pockets, even sleeves and a sharp lapel. Patrick teases “an array of linens” at the sewers’ disposal and off the trot to grab them. Their choices are all a bit dull, no one goes for a pattern or any pariculrly jazzy colour and weirdly Riccardo and Jen use the same fabric because in Riccardo’s words “there is not enough” which is even weirder because Juliet scarpered to the back of the room with 3 rolls of varying colours

juliet grabbing fabric

and yet ended up using an astonishingly boring shade of beige:

juliet fabric choice


If you were wondering the difference between cotton and linen, Esme is here for you as cotton comes from the cotton plant and linen comes from, well Esme just hands Joe a ball of hair from her pocket that looks particularly pubic:


It’s flax apparently. The main issues the sewers face with linen is its crinkly nature as it creases at the merest touch so pressing it before and after cutting is essential. Jen is feeling confident and particularly smug about the challenge as she worked with linen a lot over the summer apparently (NO ONE LIKES A KNOW IT ALL JEN). She even apparently once made herself a bright orange linen suit in the early nineties and I want to go back to a time where that ever seemed like a good idea to anyone. Her fabric choice this time is much more sedate:

jen linen

And apparently the same colour as Patrick’s cups of tea which basically killed any sort of sex appeal he had. I bet he pours the milk in while the bag is still in the cup, THE MONSTER. He then goes and looms over Janet and questions why she has folded all her cut pieces of linen and put them in a basket when they crease so easily, Janet is not impressed by his nosiness – because the pattern is his own design (I’m not sure how suit patterns differ from one tailor to the next really) he is going full Paul Hollywood on Bread Week and wandering around the room with his hands behind his back and his nose in the air like an aristocratic penguin

patrick poncy

Leah hates every second of it. The sewing of the pockets isn’t too popular either as everyone spends so much time making sure they are perfectly symmetrical and balanced that it becomes a bit of an obsession. There is a lot of “oh wow” and “oh no” going on as they sew them on.


amber butchart

Carnival Psychic

Leah comes to sewing her collar, or doing her daily Duolingo, I’m not sure:

leah chinese

Sewing the collars descends into a team sport with Janet and Juliet partnering up and Leah running across the room to Jen clutching everything she owns:

Leah sprinting

The air of frantic desperation that surrounds Leah is very relatable. Jen and Leah are the first to go for sewing the collars with a “if one of us is wrong, both of us are wrong” and as it turns out… only Leah is wrong as she sews her inner lapels to the wrong sides and unpicks it at such a frantic rate that she completely butchers the edges of the fabric

leah hems

At the 45 minute mark the sleeves are the new problem everyone faces with particular care having to be taken in order not to end up with 2 left or right sleeves and risk your jacket looking like it belongs to a character from an early 90s Nintendo platform game. Leah can barely sew her sleeves on because her fabric is so frayed and Riccardo is just doing The Robot:

riccardo robot

And coming to the realisation that he has 2 of the same sleeves. Coming to the same realisation after having actually attached her sleeves is Janet, it’s quite impressive really. Joe manages to turn this into an opportunity to get in the token BBC Reference to Flossing that has to be made at least once on every tv talent show.

In the last few frantic minutes everyone sews on their buttons, or if you’re Leah you just press it on with a bit of spit and very pointed comment.

First to face the firing squad is Riccardo’s perpetually fleeing jacket, and of course they immediately clock the sleeve error, however his lapel is even and sits nicely – it’s just a shame the jacket is unwearable. Next is Leah whose jacket just looks like a dislocated pyjama top:

leah linen top

The sleeves are an unmitigated disaster, the lapel is lumpy and I’m surprised the buttons managed to stay on and Leah just finds the whole thing rather hilarious

leah cackling

Here to provide some hope for the judges is Jen whose sleeves are actually on the right way and Patrick actually feels like Jen has done his pattern justice (just in case you had forgotten this is Patrick’s Special Pattern™) Janet is less impressive having done the same thing as Riccardo but the opposite way around (so between both of them 2 adequate jackets were made) It’s a shame because Janet’s jacket is very well sewn. We end on Juliet who at least has two correct sleeves but some rather lumpy sewing and a collar that is going to two different events.

The final decision on this catalogue of errors is:

  1. Jen’s Perfectly Fine Beige Jacket
  2. Juliet By Default
  3. Riccardo’s Running Man
  4. Janet’s Wonky Dandy
  5. Leah’s Dislocated Pyjamas

It’s out onto the terrace for tea and apparently someone has finally done away with the glass cups and gotten some decent china ones in.

jen teajuliet mug

Juliet vows she will never make another linen jacket and her husband will have to heavily bribe her to even try it.

Life’s a Beach

deck chair

I was hoping the transformation challenge would be to repurpose Theresa May’s Brexit proposal into a pair of knickers but alas the challenge is to turn a beach umbrella and some deck chairs into an outfit – there isn’t really much of a guide beyond “do something interesting with the strips”. It’s a pity that the materials are all in shades of dull blue, anaemic red and what-might-be-green – I’m sure Burnley makes some more interesting colours fabrics guys. The rather paltry selection of colours means everyone goes a deck chair and its matching umbrella.

The plus side of ticking fabric is that it is so malleable and hard wearing meaning Leah can’t fray it too badly. Most people seem to be opting for separates whether it be a top and a skirt or a top and a pair of Victorian knickers in the case of Riccardo. Juliet seems to be suffering from Quarter Final Fatigue and decides that an A-line mini dress is the best option.

In order to provide some interest to their garments both Leah and Jen begin pleating their fabrics, Leah going for a slightly more interesting method than Jen, who has created a sort of demure cheerleader:

jen skirt.jpg

Janet meanwhile is just cutting shapes and sticking them to her dress:

janet star

It’s technically very good but woefully unflattering. Janet is worried that hers will end up looking a little too old fashion – could someone tell her that Riccardo is literally making a 19th century bathing costume and she is making a tearaway outfit for a Brighton themed burlesque dancer? Juliet, sensing she is being too simples, decides to being pleating the front of her dress, she is however doing it freehand and you can already see how misshapen the pleats are. She then begins over thinking everything, particularly how someone will get into the dress, which is weird seeing as you just have to put the dress on the mannequin and nobody actually has to wear this garment. I mean Janet literally just stuck hers together with Velcro. Juliet however goes for a very prominent exposed zipper – BAN EXPOSED ZIPS (I will die on this hill)

Leah’s pleated boob-tube took up so much time that in order to make her skirt she literally just cuts a hole in the middle of her umbrella and rouches the fuck out it, creating a sort of collapsing bubble skirt – it’s very striking.

The sewers frantically wrestling garments on and tie things to their mannequins before wheeling them over and it becomes apparent that this challenge existed purely so they could use a public domain copy of Summer Holiday. The judges are delighted by the first impression of the outfits, although I think anything after The Linen Crisis would have gotten them excited – it’s particularly worth noting that nobody except Jen did anything involving sleeves.

Esme and Patrick fall in love with Riccardo’s Victorian bloomers and admire the well-made construction and styling points that he has utilised. Leah’s seaside cheerleader is also well received, particularly her clever use of the parasol binding to create trims – it’s an immaculately made garment. Janet’s is less so – the star while interesting doesn’t quite match up in the centre and the dress doesn’t actually stay up. I liked the ruffle on the bottom of the skirt but the random strip of fabric down the side of the dress is very awkward indeed:

janet strip of fabric

Leah is next and she is bracing herself for impact:

leah reaction shot

But the judges love the origami top and the skirt for all its simplicity and last-ditch effort goes down a treat. Juliet is next and the judges love her zip and tie back but I think it looks an utter shambles:

juliet dress back

But maybe if the bows were tied a little more carefully and less like a toddler learning to tie their shoelaces it would be more aesthetically pleasing. Her pleating is also called out for its unevenness, although I don’t think it would have been as big an issue had Leah and Jen not done such precise pleats. There’s also a couple of pins holding things together and it all turns the leaderboard a bit topsy turvy:

  1. Leah’s Origami Boob Tube
  2. Jen’s Polite Cheerleader
  3. Riccardo’s Victorian Dame
  4. Juliet’s Bondage Fiasco
  5. Janet’s Beachside Stripper

I still think Riccardo should have been second – bloomers are woefully under represented. Juliet is slightly more morose and seems to fully accept she may be going home after the Made to Measure Challenge.

Tweedledee and Tweedledum

The sewers return the next day and so do the glass teacups:

glass tea cup


The judges pre-challenge discussions seems to put Jen as completely safe no matter what disaster she might bring upon us the made to measure challenge and the oens most at risk are Janet and Juliet with Leah being an unpredictable wild card.

The challenge is to create a woollen coat, which in the middle of summer seems a cruel and unusual punishment for the models – I mean Janet literally has to spend the entire time in front of a fan to stay cool and now you’re going to swaddle some poor women in thick woollen coats. WITH STUDIO LIGHTS.

Esme and Patrick are hoping that the sewers will choose fabrics from their hometowns and that their personaliies will shine through, cut-to Juliet and Leah using the same shade of camel brown. Oh. Riccardo and Jen have gone slightly jazzier with both opting for a rich pink Harris tweed and Riccardo pairing his with a second mustard coloured one and Jen going for statement stripes in slate grey.

Once again Riccardo is taking us back to the 70s with a cropped and belted coat. It’s a complicated pattern and just looking at it sends me into a cold sweat:

riccardo coat instructions

That is some DaVinci Code shit.

Juliet meanwhile is still in the throws of Quarter Final Fatigue and making a particularly simple coat in a particularly uninspiring colour – it’s such a departure from her usual loud fabrics and experimental methods that I can’t help but feel a little disappointed. She’s also only doing one button, COME ON. And then you find out she was inspired by the fashion world’s wet blanket du jour Stella McCartney and suddenly it all makes sense. HAVE BETTER ROLE MODELS.
Also dipping her toes into the pachyderm pallet is Leah although she is adding accents of alarming Elmo red in her pockets, buttons and collar.

Lastly we have Janet who is appliqueing London giftshop postcards onto her coat and Patrick just pulls this face through her entire explanation:

patrick face

Janet remains steadfastly oblivious to the rapidly approaching thunderclouds and carries on ironing Big Ben into various scraps of wool. Her piece de resistance isn’t her appliques though, it is the bound finish of her hems which she has dubbed The Honk Kong Finish, which is almost definitely a treatment in some massage parlours.

Sleeves become the recurring issue of the week with a particular care being taken because sleeves in heavy woollen fabric can easily pull a coat out of shape if they aren’t hung correctly. It’s usually done by putting shoulder pads in but Riccardo and Jen both hum and har about whether or not it is necessary (it is) and Riccardo decides against them after asking for Jen’s opinion. But for Juliet the collar is taking most of her energy as she isn’t quite over Patrick rigorous measuring of the lapels in the first challenge. The problem is it is much harder with wool because its thickness can make for a lot of lumps and bumps, as Leah finds out as she frantically sews, unpicks and resews her collar while Esme and Patrick tut from The Loft of Doom. I mean it does look a little bit like a frilled lizard with mumps:

leah coat collar mumps

Riccardo has more success and the judges develop a particular hatred for Jen’s model’s square shoulders and how she should absolutely never wear a raglan sleeved coat and I am pretty sure she can hear them:

jen's model.jpg

It’s then on to the part that completely mystifies me: The Lining of the Coats. I have watched Riccardo doing his 4 times now and I still cannot work out the witchcraft he pulls off. Janet meanwhile doesn’t have to bother with lining and taking the time to make sure the hem is level. Jen wanted to handstitch hers in but goes with the machine instead, which Leah refuses to do and stitches hers in by hand at a rate that very much ensures a shoddy finish.

The final moments are for buttons and accoutrements, Leah having struggled to keep track of sleeves manages to lose a button and goes through the pain every woman has had to go through, the public handbag rummage:

leah handbag rummage

Nothing is more terrifying. Also terrifying is the mad dash to get models into their coats, how nobody dislocated an arm I don’t know. Janet is extremely upset that she didn’t manage to finish, her model attempts a weak sauce pep talk and Riccardo has to step in to really make Janet feel better.

First to the judges is Riccardo

riccardo coat beautiful

and it really is stunning, the colour combination is perfection and the judges are pretty blown away by it. The sleeves are lined but who cares? He top stitched the whole damn thing. Jen is next and her hem is uneven and very quickly the critique just turns into how much Esme and Patrick hate her model’s shoulders. GUYS, SHE IS RIGHT THERE. And then it is onto Janet’s Postcard Rack Coat:

janet coat weird

It looks bizarrely like something a character in an Enid Blyton novel would wear. I love that burnt orange colour, I just think tat the appliques are almost too understated – she didn’t manage to put all of them on so it might have been more significant but the ones on the bottom are just a smidge too small. She also hasn’t finished the sleeves’ hems and her buttons have gone AWOL. Oh Janet… You break my heart. Juliet’s undercover reporter coat is next down the runway and well, Patrick pulls this face when he sees it:

patrick reacts to juliet

And then follows it up with “I like the idea of this coat.” Ouch. She has however managed to redeem her earlier lapel sins but her shoulder pads are too small and her sleeves are collapsing because of it, it’s altogether just a very unbalanced coat that doesn’t sit brilliantly on the model. Her Camel Competitor is next:

leah coat finished

It’s a pretty similar critique to Juliet with a strength in her pockets, although the red should be more pronounced and then the rest of it all being a bit unbalanced and awkward and the collar catches your eye for all the wrong reasons.

It’s a heavy hearted deliberation and clear that the judges are going to have to eliminate a favourite with Janet, Leah and Juliet all circling the drain. I mean, there were quite a number of disasters this week and it seems appropriate that British and Irish Week would be a bit of a shambles.

First it’s the good news and garment of the week is awarded to Riccardo for his divine coat and then it is a very sad goodbye to Janet – particularly sad because who is going to tell all the other sewers how to do everything? Well we’ll find out in Global Week which I am sure will at no point be even slightly culturally insensitive.

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