SEWING BEE 2019, EPISODE 7: Appropriately Billowy

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In order to balance out the flagrant nationalism of last week, we’re taking a trip around the world and dipping out toes into the shark infested waters of colonialism and cultural appropriation. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?

As it’s global week Esme has poached some sort of rare lizard

judges and joe

Patrick refuses to acknowledge the theme.

Pleat is a Dhoti Word

The first challenge takes us to India with the sewers making the iconic Dhoti trousers that everyone pretty quickly fell into calling “yoga pants” which when The History Bit™ is about the political past and significance of the garment seemed… iffy. But at least Leah got to show off the results of her Brixton community centre yoga moves

leah yoga

Joe, not so much:

joe yoga

The dhoti pants call for perfect pleating which Patrick will be measuring with his measuring tape which as you can imagine sends the fear of God into Leah. With no guidance being offered on the fabric choice it is completely up to the sewers to make the decision – they all manage to discern that it calls for a fabric with an elegant drape but enough structure to hold the desired puffiness – ideally they will all choose cotton, and they are going to need a lot of it because the pattern for the legs is like an elephant’s ear

dhoti pattern

One gust of wind and Leah is out of there. And because it is the semi final there are no illustrations in the instructions and so Leah just stares are it wishing for the sweet release of death and her jasmine tea. Riccardo and Juliet both opt for cottons in a complimentary blue and orange – together they look like the start of a Bollywood remake of Mad Max. (Someone get on making that immediately please.) Leah also has a cotton and Jen has gown down the silk road (b’dum tish). Because it is Global Week and Juliet has been very open about her Nigerian heritage she has to field the “is it different where you come from” questions – apparently Nigeria is more free hand cutting with no measurements and she begins to say Joe is a size 36 and gives up on the sentence halfway through, before Joe moves on to go and interrogate Riccardo about his choice of underwear

riccardo wear thongs

Now, the first rule of making pants you would expect is Don’t Make a Skirt and in order to do this you would just attach your two leg pieces along the short crotch seem, and in Joe’s words


Words to live by. But it all sounds simple enough, right? Juliet and Leah have other plans and have made 2 massive circle skirts. D’OH. They both also have two very different methods of rectifying it with Juliet opting to unpick (the correct option) and leah just hacking the seam off with her pizza cutter (the wrong choice).

Leah cutting seam

Esme did literally stand next to Leah saying “No, if you do that it wont work. It is a bad idea. Stop immediately” and Leah just steamrolled through it. Leah truly is the Chaotic Evil to Juliet’s Chaotic Good.

The pleating begins with the sewers having to calculated the sizes of the pleats with only the knowledge that there should be 32 of them. And if you were wondering why Leah has maybe been going wrong so much it is because this is her ruler:

leah nail file

McGuyver she is not. Esme torments Riccardo about the fact he isn’t pressing the seams as he goes along and he takes her advice so at least she is happy with someone.


amber butchart clothes

Vintage Air Steward who lives in an attic apparently.

The final stage of The Pants Off is adding the elastic waistband with the sewers having to decide the perfect amount. I’m guessing Riccardo got it wrong because he physically has to wrestle his into place using the ironing board and I can’t see that being a legit method? Juliet also seemed to get it very wrong because no pants with an elasticated waistband should get stuck around your knees.

juliet dhoti knees

Once everyone does manage to hoik up their pants it’s on to judging with Jen’s patterned silk pair up first

jen dhoti trousers

They are appropriately billowy, to the point where farting in them might be dangerous and her pleating is spot on and doesn’t need a tape measure apparently. WE WANT YOUR KINKY TAPE MEASURE PATRICK. The fact she managed to topstitch everything goes down incredibly well with Esme. So with silk doing well it’s down the cottons, with Juliet’s electric blue pair up for examination

juliet dhoti trousers

Hers are a little sloppy, with her early stages of construction, most notably the pin hem, being faultless, and then as she became more pressed for time the elements such as her pleats and wackadoo waistband are kind of a dog’s dinner, but at least her dhotis are the correct shape. Riccardo is a similar tale except his waistband as a strange anomaly that looks like it is threatening to engulf the entire studio in a matter of minutes

riccardo dhoti

Apparently it’s because the elastic is held in place with a single thread (hey, it was good enough for Leah’s buttons) and speaking of Leah

leah dhoti

At least her fabric choice goes down a treat but that’s all that gets praised really with her pleats dropping off into a void, her ankles being a death trap of poor circulation and worst of all The Hungry Bum returns

hungry bum

Which is actually a Level 5 yoga pose. The judges awkwardly beetle off to the side of the room and make the final decision on the pants

  • Jen’s Silken Wonders
  • Juliet’s Thigh Constrictors
  • Riccardo’s Anomalous Waistband
  • Leah’s Dirty Pants

Jen celebrates that she “has credit in the bank” having won the first challenge – it’s a pity that bank turns out to be Northern Rock. Leah just stares at Jen like she’s a character in an Agathy Christie novel about to off her rich aunt.

leah murder

Do it Leah. Do it.

Let’s Have a Dashiki

The sewers arrive and we’re apparently off to Oz

rainbow fabric

No, not really. We’re off to West Africa to make a dashiki – cue some side eyes to Juliet for reasons that will in no way actually benefit her in the challenge. Leah just continues her spiral into possibly ending it all

leah death

Has anyone looked this haggard since Ruby Tandoe made it through to the final of Bakeoff and had to make a 3 tier wedding cake?

The task is to create any garment they want but it must make use of the dashiki’s border and gaping magical vagina print

dashiki print vagina

They can also use the previously pictured plain fabrics in varyingly gross shades of rainbow colours. The sewers very sedately pick a dashiki from a rack of them, the closest it comes to a wrestling match for wedding dresses ala Season 2 of Drag Race is Juliet struggling for quite a while to get her purple one’s hanger off the rail. The colours all have significant meanings in African culture with Riccardo and Leah taking the spiritually aligned green, Juliet drawing purple and its femininity and Jen getting red which means sacrifice, bloodshed and death, which I think her Superman shorts perfectly encapsulate:

jen dashiki shorts

Everyone opts for extra plain fabric with most people going for complimentary shades in the same spectrum and then there’s Leah just going full toddler picking the colours for their bedroom walls

leah lime and pink

Lime green and neon pink it is. I suppose watermelons were quite popular last summer? And you remember how Leah’s pleating ended in the first round? Well, she’s back at it again and does not seem to have learned her lesson about USE A BLOODY RULER, although it does seem to be going better this time and shock of all shocks she actually has time to hem the garment! Maybe there’s something to the spiritual nature of green. Juliet and Riccardo get all of 20 seconds of screentime because they’re efforts went without hitches and haven’t created something that is basically screaming “CROTCH” at you from across the room.

jen crotch shorts

Leah’s whirlwind of a garment is up first

leah dashiki transformation

and it is described only as “dramatic” and then Esme wheeze laughs for a bit before actually praising its construction which for 90 minutes is fairly good. Patrick then says he could see it on a red carpet and I think he’s getting a little too excited.

Riccardo has somehow made a garment that is even more vaginal adjacent

riccardo dashiki transformation

And then crowned it off with a cone of shame to stop you licking your wound. I do think it’s actually a very cool outfit and I could see it being sold and worn – everyone loves effortless layering right? They clock his last ditch effort to add the clasp but give him the benefit of the doubt that it was done in the last minute – Leah never got that sort of leniency! It’s on to Jen’s outfit and Patrick just pulls this face:

patrick bad reaction face

Everything above the waist is fine but the shorts and bottom of the shirt are aggressively crotchy (or “crutchy” if you’re Esme) and thigns are not looking good for Jen in this round to which Leah reacts thusly:

leah reacts to jen

Truly the Cersei of the Sewing Room.

Juliet’s little top and peplum skirt is next and it’s inoffensive enough but does look like a little girl’s dance costume

juliet dashiki transformation

The judges give some middlingly positive praise of her pattern matching and the fit on her top is lauded but Esme things the shoulder detail is a bit stingy and she is absolutely right but I think it was mainly because Julie didn’t have much of her dashiki left to use and didn’t want to use too much of the plain fabric.

The judges make their decision

  1. LEAH?????
  2. Juliet’s Dance Costume
  3. Riccardo’s Fashionable Cone of Shame
  4. Jen’s Crotch Botherer

Out on the streets Leah vaguely mocks Patrick for suggesting her garment could be seen on a red carpet and Riccardo cracks a weak hanging-by-a-thread joke

riccardo laugh

I love him. Juliet pretends that she might be in any kind of danger this week.

Lost in the Fold

The judges muddle about with how everyone is pretty much on a level playing field because Leah has “a refined understanding of colour, shape and design” all the while just using closeups of her pink and green monstrosity and I cannot get over it.

The task is revealed to be making an “origami top utilisating geometric shapes and sculpture” and I was looking forward garments that looked like origami cranes walking down the runway and (QUICK SPOILER ALERT) we get this crumpled Kleenex instead

jen origami top complete

So get excited because it is a bumpy ride. It doesn’t set the sewers for much success when these are the images you use to illustrate origami fashion

origami outfit1origami outfit2

But I don’t blame the sewers because as Esme points out patterns for origami garments aren’t readily available on the highstreet so they have had to construct these themselves. Or in Leah’s case make her work colleagues take time off work to draft her a pattern. Can one claim that on expenses? She’s making a cute little top with an accordion collar which leads to Patrick saying the word “kawaii, that’s their culture” like your dad after he spent too much time on the internet again. Full body cringe. Riccardo meanwhile is channelling Bjork and I well, he’s my favourite now. What can I say, I’m easily swayed. He’s also taking the challenge a step further and using a fabric called Organdi which is as close to paper as a cotton fabric can get. It’s a nightmare to work with – trust me.

Juliet’s inspiration comes from a garment previously made by Shingo Sato that she is adapting into a sort of Fembot cardigan

juliet origami sketch

Once again the sheer size of the patterns is one of the main challenges of creating an origami garment because it’s all one piece – Riccardo’s diamond detail alone measures 1.8metres. Leah’s collar is slightly smaller and also slightly underwhelming because it may be constructed like an accordion but it will always just lie flat and look like a regular collar. It’s like when people put beetroot in a cake and expect you to be wowed by it but you can never actually taste the beetroot. Then when she comes to the most intricate and crucial part of the job Patrick does the most male thing you could do and looms over her watching as she tries not to screw everything up

leah and patrick

Meanwhile Joe is bothering Juliet who is also sewing her boob-spiral together and in true Juliet fashion there is a flagrant display of nipple

joe and juliet nipple

Feminist icon.

Up in the judges’ loft Patrick bemoans the risk of bulky boobs in Juiet’s oufit, Jen’s outfit is looking increasingly like something you wallow in during your most depressive moments

jen origami top

And Leah is just “some level of mild panic” which she confirms by losing control of her iron.

leah iron

but bringing all the drama is Riccardo and his attaching of the origami diamond which is treated to a slow motion sewing scene and several overly dramatic panning shots like it’s the opening scene of Apocalypse Now.

In the final crucial moments it’s Jen and Leah who cock it up by having joint zipper related emergencies with Jen just destroying hers and having to unpick it and then threatening to the throw the garment in the bin which… seems the correct thing to do. It’s then a mad dash to finish with Leah somehow tethering herself to her sewing machine and Joe helping her but not helping at all really

joe and leah

Everyone manages to at least cram some semblance of a garment onto their model and Juliet’s whirly-boob is first up for inspection

juliet origami top

It goes down a treat with Patrick who awkwardly wafts his hands around the model’s boob while saying “big yellow sun” a few times – and the sunshine yellow is a gorgeous colour and suits her model to perfection. Esme likes the modern silhouette of having sleeves longer than the torso, which is an odd way of saying “crop top”. Esme does however think the bow at the back should be bigger

juliet bow

But I think any bigger and it’d look like a bustle. Then Patrick waxes lyrical about the two buttons, which seems more of a dig at the past experiences with buttons literally hanging on until the cameras stop rolling.

Riccardo’s angelic paper top is nice and it looks ethereal and is the most Avant Garde™ of the designs, it does however have the unfortunate design flaw that you look like Lara Croft from the 90’s Tomb Raider games when you turn to your side

riccardo origami top

But hey, those geometric tits were iconic. It also goes down well and I think it is definitely the most on brief with both incorporating an actual 3D folded element and literally looking like paper. The hidden zip is a particular highlight – it is so clean and precise – it’s a sure-fire Garment of the Week. Leah is next and maybe it’s because she followed Riccardo but…

leah origami top

It just doesn’t hit the brief for me, it does read as folded or particularly origami, and looks more like something you might get instructions for in a scrapbooking magazine. The garment is pretty, and I can totally see numerous people wearing it but I kind of feel that’s a detriment on a challenge where going outside of the box was kind of the point. And that collar is pointless

leah collar

IT DOES NOTHING. Esme is just shocked that it’s actually well made and hemmed. Although there are issues with the length of the back and Patrick thinks the bottom band could be better balanced – I personally liked the different thicknesses. Lastly and sadly we have Jen:

jen origami top complete

Oh dear. Has a sadder garment ever folded itself into existence? The only bit of praise the judges can summon up is the fact she managed to draft a pattern, which granted is worth praising and with a different fabric she would probably have been in a much better position but sadly it’s pretty clear she’s the worst dressed at the office party and everyone knows it, most of all her model:

jen model

I’m so sorry sweety. Just grin and bear it, you can almost go home. Riccardo and his Model sit on the sidelines looking like a particularly fabulous couple, knowing they are safe as houses and yet still plotting the demise of everyone around them:

riccardo and model

It’s very Velvet Buzzsaw.

The sewers are dismissed to go and conduct their goodbyes to Jen while the judges pretend to deliberate as to who should go home. And I would like to just take a moment to draw your attention THE PRICE OF THE FOOD AT THE CAFÉ

sewing bee food price

For £42 that chicken better be doing a pre-dinner show.

The sewers return from The Inevitable and Riccardo’s jagged boob is awarded garment of the week and Jen is packed off, but at least she created a garment she can wipe her tears on. She thanks Esme for her tips and advice and it’s altogether a very nice send off, it’s a pity that Jen’s run ended on such a dud note because she has been pretty consistently one of the best. The rest of them get to celebrate making the final and Leah is just siffering from full on imposter syndrome

leah final face

An eternal mood.

Next week, there is A LOT of possibly ill-advised glitter going on

glitter cardigan

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