Sewing Bee 2021, Episode 1: A Middle Class Clown Called Prosecco Bubbles

Viva la Revolution!

It’s back, it’s charming and there are more than enough cats for everyone!

Nothing much has changed since the last series, Joe Lycett is as Joe Lycett as ever

I eagerly await the full Joe Lycett Coat Collection.

Patrick and Esme both return, along with their trademark formal wear and statement necklaces

The only real change is the fact that they’ve moved from Brick Lane(?) to The Thames where the haberdashery now sits below the last remaining lighthouse in London, what this has to do with sewing, I don’t know but as a keen lighthouse enthusiast ever since Robert Pattinson went crazy in one, I’m thrilled.

And of course we have a whole host of new sewers (That’s SOH-ERRS) to get to know:

Adam

Unabashedly this year’s Cinnamon Roll Whomst We Must Protect. He has incredible taste in fabrics and has yet to confirm that he doesn’t know Jane MacDonald from his life aboard cruise ships so I’m going to only assume they’re besties.

Adeena

Adeena is a Student Relationship Manager and is absolutely bringing all of the bunged up nervous energy that that has manifested into the Sewing Bee. She has an eye for detail and time management that I’m sure a few sewers are jealous of.

Andrew (on the right)

It’s really unfair, he has God and rabbits on his side!

Cathryn

She’s from Yorkshire and is thus contractually obligated to blare “I’M FROM YORKSHIRE!” like a train conductor asking for tickets every 15 minutes. It’s what we do best.

Damien

Damien fascinates me on an almost molecular level. He’s like a sitcom character from the 80s somehow fell into 2021 and has a taste level that swings wildly from non-existent to making genuinely lovely items, he’s basically a pendulum of chaos.

Farie

A sewer with a bold sense of style, Farie very much knows what she likes and what she likes are chicken nuggets. Relatable.

Jean

Jean is mad as a box of frogs and is some of the best TV casting we’ve ever seen, she’s worth more than her weight in gold just for the fact she is the first person to totally flummox Joe Lycett.

Jean’s Cat

Not to take anything away from Adam and Patrick’s formal wear, but little fluff muffin Yoda here might be the best dressed on the show and is thus my pick for the winner.

Julie

Once again the South Yorkshire local news has been shafted as our best hopes at being involved with the show and being relevant have been RUINED. She had it all: burlesque training, costume designs involving battery packs and a very thick Yorkshire accent. DAMMIT! This could have put Rotherham on the map again.

Lawratu

She makes a lot of her own clothes because the highstreet is yet to fully embrace the fact plus sized women like to wear things that aren’t potato sacks and is a keen proponent of Ladies With Pockets, we can only stan.

Raph

He’s handsome, he has a French accent, he plays the lead trumpet and he once covered Brad Pitt in blood. He’s basically the perfect and sent all of Twitter into Horny Jail with but a single glance to camera.

Rebecca

Rebecca has a natural ability to somehow remind you of every single Soap actress that there has ever been – it’s all in the big smile and the enviable bone structure. But also we have to talk about her sewing room that looks like her own religious temple, it’s a whole vibe.

Serena

A medical student AND she looks like a Disney princess? HOW DARE SHE. Some people just have it all! Hopefully her medical mindset aids her in pattern reading and perhaps the surgical nature that is the Recycle Challenge.

Shell Shocked

The first week of the competition is centred all around wardrobe staples and so the first challenge of the week is that British Heatwave Essential: the shell top! It’s a collarless, sleeveless top (that is definitely not a vest) so perfect for not revealing sweat stains! The judges are specifically looking for a well faced and well darted top that features a single button at the top of the back.

Usually a shell top would be made from a very light, summery fabric but Raph had other ideas and went with a much heavier fabric for those, in his words, “cold summer nights”

and now all I want to do is stroll along the Seine wearing my slightly thick shell top. His pattern is a little skew-whiff on the hem so you get to a point where the polka dots just nosedive off the edge

It’s only marginal but as we know, Esme can smell out unevenness like a bloodhound.

Serena basically made the reverse-world good twin to Raph’s evil twin, not that I think an evil mastermind is wearing a shell top or anything, with her white and black polka dot shell top

It’s immaculately made and I did appreciate Esme falling head over heels because Serena had the good sense to choose a black button that matched the black polka dots.

A couple of the sewers have had some previous experience making shell tops, or at least marginal experience, Farie got halfway through hers and just stopped which is the most relatable thing anyone has one on this show. She chose her fabric because the colours reminded her of a piece of Zimbabwean art, the final result of the shell top though was weirdly rock and roll

You could fray the edges of the sleeves and put it on Travis Barker in 2011 and nobody would bat an eye. I love it, the button hole doesn’t work which is disappointing but we can sell that as a rock and roll statement against functionality. Who knew Farie was such an anarchist?

Lawratu also had experience and churned out a perfectly lovely shell top

the bottom is a touch uneven but if you could tuck it in your trousers and get away with it. It is kind of a boring print though but it’s probably a good idea to go with something a little more pared back and subtle so that you don’t end up getting marked down for a lack of pattern matching as Cathryn did for her Shell Top of Intersectional Feminism

It’s a really fun top but it is unfortunate that you hit the midpoint and get that weird Junji Ito’s Tomei aberration.

The award for best print of the challenge goes to Adam though for his sort of blue, watercolour thatched top

It’s divine and you really can’t see any issue with the pattern lining up, the only thing is his does look slightly baggier than many of the others’ shell tops.
Jean opted for a similar print but in a lot more colours because Jean is Jean

It’s very well made but does look a bit like M&S started making clown clothes, which is a niche market but there has to be a middle class clown called Prosecco Bubbles somewhere out there somewhere.

The biggest struggle for a lot of the sewers was the damn buttonhole and the tab, nobody struggled more than Burlesque Extraordinaire Julie who, along with Adam, had injured herself within moments of the challenge starting but thankfully didn’t bleed all over her fabric like Peter did last year. She never quite got to terms with her buttonhole and more than mangled it beyond repair

which is a shame because otherwise the shell top looked really lovely

This was definitely the best use of a floral print in the episode, I didn’t much care for Rebecca’s choice that had that slightly twee quality to it

It’s incredibly well made and I can think of many an old lady that would wear it and look very pleasant it just doesn’t stick out to me, I had similar issues with Andrew’s

his did have a few sewing issues, the one side of the back was ever so slightly longer so it wouldn’t sit flat – it was truly a minute detail but of course Esme spotted it from across the room two weeks ago, such is her immaculate foresight.
Speaking of minute details, Adeena was struggling a bit and getting more than a little bit lost in a tornado of a partially bagged out shell top

which unfortunately resulted in a mildly rounded corner of the back of her top

the delighted, slightly petty glee that Esme takes in pointing out tiny errors is one of the best parts of the show, beyond the unforgivably rounded corner, Adeena’s shell top looks very nice

a good choice of fabric and everything looks very neat, I could eventually learn to live with the knowledge that a slightly rounded corner lurks behind me at all times like the Time Beetle on Donna Noble.

Everyone knows Sewing Bee as being quite a calm but not entirely sensible show, there’s no great jeopardy, there’s no loud noises and franticness is kept to a minimum. Well Damien had other plans because he crashed into this sewing room like a bull in a china shop. His only goal was to get everything done as quickly as possible and drink tea, you know like The Lads do. This went exactly as you would expect as within seconds he had gone askew and later held up what he thought was excellent sewing with his wildly misaligned bees

“That’ll do, yeah?” he said as Esme circled him like a shark smelling blood

I do hope this print gets a redemption arc later in the series because it deserves to be made into a really fabulous garment, because while Damien’s was deceptively finished

He hadn’t done the facing correctly and decided to just top stitch it off, which Esme once again took great pride in pointing out and when I tell you I gasped when Damien answered back with “I did read the instructions”, readers I GASPED. I thought she was about to incinerate him, or at the least throw him into The Thames – it is a miracle that he survived.

And Official Shell Top Ranking

  1. Serena’s Superhero Shell Top
  2. Rebecca’s Mellow Yellow Shell Top
  3. Jean’s Clown Chic
  4. Raph’s French Villainess
  5. Andrew’s Magic Eye Puzzle Blouse
  6. ADAM WOZZ ROBBED
  7. Lawratu’s Occasional Polka Dots
  8. Farie’s Rock’n’Roll Shell Top
  9. Cathryn’s Misaligned Feminism
  10. Adeena’s CORNER OF BETRAYAL
  11. Julie’s Mangled Buttonholes
  12. Damien Answered Back So Last Place For Him

T-Shirts and Giggles

Welcome to the best 12 minutes of television we’re likely to see all year. The task is simple, take a selection of up to three very ugly t-shirts and try your best to make a suitable garment out of them. Most people would have immediately tried to source three within the same colour family or were complimentary colours. Once again, Damien had other plans and just grabbed three shirts and ended up with a combination that could only spell disaster

Not happy with his combination of neon yellow, tartan and stone grey he rushed to the haberdashery and from its wall of every embellishment you could possibly get your hands on, he proudly returns with turquoise beaded fringe

You know, to match the rest of it!
With his wildly disparate pieces he does manage to make a very long tube skirt

I think it’s the best you could do in his situation which does not entirely excuse the fact that it is one of the most aesthetically upsetting things I have ever seen. This skirt will live in my brain forever, that turquoise fringe will be the last thing I think about before I fall into death’s cold embrace. Although that might not be entirely true because I also can’t stop thinking about how Adeena made a pair of harem pants that seem specifically designed to highlight the crotch like a flower highlights its nectar for bees

but the magic doesn’t stop there because there is a reveal that is better than every reveal that anyone has ever done on Drag Race

THE HIGHLIGHT GOES ALL THE WAY AROUND!
Patrick absolutely loses his mind and I fully imagine they had to stop filming so that someone could administer oxygen to him.

A big component of the challenge is how well you mix your fabrics and another is how brave you are – the judges always prefer spontaneity and more organic looking outfits in this round which is why Adam did so well. He mostly just draped a series of similarly coloured t-shirts into a very late 90s, early 2000s looking dress

You can’t convince me that some minor celebrity didn’t wear this to an event in 2003. With jeans underneath it, obviously.
Patrick takes a huge disliking to the embellishment on the bust which is a little haphazard and unnecessary

and I do love the drama of someone ripping jewellery or some such item off of an item of clothing. It was 90% of the reason I watched Gossip Girl from beginning to end, it happened surprisingly often.

While Adam made 1 tiny superfluous embellishment, Julie’s final garment was entirely embellishments as she agonised over whether the ruffles were “too much” and eventually caved and gave into her burlesque ways and went all in on the ruffles

It’s like a cross between a Grand National winner and a school sports day team bib which is innovative and new if nothing else. Do you know what it really reminds me of though? Tia Kofi’s green dress that she sewed herself, except less of it

When in doubt, stick a ruffle on it.

Serena made the rookie error of getting all of her colours correct and then daring to embrace utter madness and pair florals with a graphic print of 80s Miami

HOW DARE SHE!?
They look like a preppy little skirt but they’re actually a pair of shorts – I think they’re really cute – Miami disparity and all!

Kids clothes were a popular choice, mostly because it meant less sewing and you could do more with the fabrics like Farie did with her very Candyland dungarees with potentially unintentionally asymmetrical straps

For the challenge it’s fine, a kid would love it, that’s pretty much all you could hope for.
Lawratu went a similar route but instead of unicorns and rainbows, she went with that other popular childhood animal: The Lobster

except I only just realised this isn’t for a child and I have to apologise to Esme for thinking she was only as tall as a child’s mannequin. The lobster print did read just a little bit junior to me though.
Back to the actual children’s clothes and Rebecca made a delightful little party dress and I imagine used up all the gold fringe available so good luck blinging everything out with anything other than Damien’s turquoise beading guys

It’s really cute and the panelling is incredibly well done for the short amount of time that they get to make these outfits.
Yorkshire Cathryn got a few extra brownie points for making both a skirt and a matching bag

I’d have liked to have seen the toucans on the bag as well but I still think out of all the garments, it’s the most commercial. I could see this being sold in a number of children’s high street clothing stores.

Raph’s is a mystery to me

I don’t quite know why they loved it so much, Patrick was weirdly obsessed with Miami Vice during this episode, is that what he’s been binge watching during lockdown?
It just doesn’t seem to fit right to me but he must be commended on making the fabled Rouleaux Straps that have been the downfall of many a sewer.

Andrew got the most creative with his graphic t-shirt, which he was mostly forced to given that he grabbed a zebra print shirt with obnoxious Franglish scrawled on it

It’s very Emily in Paris energy.
He repurposed the letters to write a ransom note reading only “Feel it”

Other phrases he could have made include “CASTLE FILE” “FLEA LIST” “FACE LIES” or “CALL FIST”.
The final dress is actually really cool

It’s basically a highstreet version of Chanel’s 2014 Autumn/Winter punk runway. It just has that attitude about it, it’s certainly put Andrew on the map.

And lastly and best we have Jean, sweet Jean. At the start of the challenge Esme unveiled this spectacular shirt that I must own IMMEDIATELY

and when the sewers were allowed to go and claim their fabric you could see the cogs turning in Jean’s brain as she diverted through the chaos to grab that pussy cat shirt as fast as she could

and what did she do with these pussycats and where did she place them? Well…

which did at least give us Patrick struggling to breathe as he wheezed out “Who put the pussies and roses on the front like that?” before descending into absolute hysterics. Give Jean a BAFTA.

An Official Repurposed T-shirt Ranking

  1. Andrew’s Punky Chanel
  2. Adam’s Nickelodeon Red Carpet
  3. Farie’s Candyland Dungarees
  4. Rebecca’s Weight in Gold Fringe
  5. Cathryn’s Skirt’n’Bag
  6. Lawratu’s Deceptively Childish Lobsters
  7. Raph’s Miami Vice?
  8. Adeena’s Loud and Proud Crotch
  9. Jean’s Pussy Bouquet
  10. Serena’s Preppy Shorts Are Weirdly Low
  11. Julie’s Redrum Sack Race
  12. Damien’s Skirt of Many Colours

Buffet Day

Coming into the final challenge it was Julie and Damien that were in severe need of a redemption arc and their last hopes lay in how well they could make everyone’s lockdown favourite: the Buffet Dress. It’s a loose fitting dress that usually has a multitude of layers and requires a not insignificant amount of skill just to wrangle the shear amount of fabric they’re going to have to work with. As ever they will also be making it to be worn by their models and thankfully the mannequins have been padded to their exact proportions, which I feel wasn’t the case in previous series.

Inspiration could come from anywhere, fancy events, your mother, a fashion designer or in Serena’s case, assassin extraordinaire and style icon Villanelle. I momentarily thought she was going to create the big, pink, frothy tulle number that she wears as a buffet dress and I was EXCITED but alas, we were getting a fairly standard buffet dress

It’s perfectly lovely, I think the hem finishes too soon which ages it a little bit, I’d like it to just about scrape the floor but it’s really well made.
Weirdly, I think Lawratu’s dress is more Villanelle than Serena’s

and Lawratu’s dress has pockets so, significantly more handy for stashing a well concealed weapon. You’ve got to think of practicality Serena.
Also, am I crazy or does Lawratu’s model look exactly like Sara Cox in her modelling days?

It could just be the hair though.

In a bid for safety Damien was aiming to create a dress suitable for Ascot, so I have a few questions about his print

I love the colours, I think that green and pink work magically together, but the print really reminds me of the sort of patterns you see on stuff being sold in garden centres which doesn’t scream sophistication.
In order to add a further bit of interest to his dress he was creating a lace up detail on the bust which looked really lovely

It’s so far removed from everything else he’s made that it’s thrown me off entirely. I really don’t know what to make a Damien, he’s a real loose cannon.
Adeena also added a bust detail in the form of a series of very intricate loops that took her about 90 minutes to make

which is almost a third of the time they had to make the whole dress so kudos to her for getting this number out on time

Patrick points out that it gives it a real South Asian feel. I get more of a Japanese feel from it, the blockiness of the front really reminds me of Japanese pyjamas known as Jinbei.

Cathryn was risking it all on her cacti print fabric that you couldn’t really tell were cacti until you got up close and personal

Such a busy print could have easily overwhelmed the dress and while it does a little bit, the addition of the belt helps wrangle it into a more flattering obvious shape

Of course the split up to the knee also helped a lot.
Esme has a mild niggle with the belt and thinks it should have had top stitching, Cathryn is entirely unapologetic that it doesn’t because she made the damn thing in the last 2 minutes.
I’m still trying to work out Jean’s fabric, it’s almost both floral but then I start to see cow print with a little bit of dalmatian, it’s very Cruella on an acid trip

Also her model is the best model and the outfit just suits her tremendously. Which is not me saying that she looks like Cruella deVil on an acid trip. The sleeves could have been exaggerated into a much more obvious bell shape, which might have hindered you at the buffet, nobody like their sleeves skimming through the communal prawn cocktail, but I also like a statement sleeve. Such is the balance of like.

Hands down my favourite print of the night though was Adam with his oversized, chiffon paisley

I would die for this fabric.
He was going slightly left of field with his choice in that he was mostly aiming to create a sort of caftan/buffet dress hybrid that you could wear over your swimming costume or just a nude slip if you’re feeling really racy! He was also incorporating a pair of split sleeves which he had slightly over split which made them look more broken than revealing

It’s still a truly divine dress, and the matching headband gives it a really fun 70s kitsch feel while still managing to be elegant and sophisticated.

One of the toughest issues of the challenge was trying to manage the potential bulkiness of the dress and making it loose but not loose enough to look wildly unflattering. Raph toed with the line of it, opting for 4 different patterns of an enlarged, heavy lace, known as Broderie Anglaise – it’s name comes from the fact it was a very popular in 19th century England, particularly for cuff details, I imagine the sight of a wrist through the cutouts sent quite a few hearts racing. His decision wasn’t based on this history though, he just liked it because he’s French and its name is French. CREPE DE CHINE IS RIGHT THERE.
His final dress is truly breath taking

It’s the sort of thing you’d see some rich woman strutting around in while on her seemingly endless Italian holiday. It’s enviable, I want it. I NEED IT.

Andrew went similarly oversized and I think was slightly less successful, mostly because the print was too reminiscent of a tablecloth

but who would say “no” to more room for snack smuggling?

Broderie Anglaise made a second appearance as Julie was using it, unfortunately because she had to buy it online she hadn’t quite realise how much you could see through the holes and found herself in a desperate rush to line the top of it lest we be treated to a wayward nipple. If Juliet from 2019 was here she’d not have cared a jot but Julie did so line it she did! Or at least the bits which she actually completed, because she seemingly ran out of thread and thus we ended up with a bit of a Sandy in Grease moment

The fact she was carrying the rest of the unmade skirt like a shawl? Ma’am, that’s camp! But, you know what? It’s hell of a look and I think as an outfit, it works. As a buffet dress? Well it’s just not a buffet dress.
She wasn’t the only one having timing issues as Farie was giving herself one of hell of a work load with an invisible zip, three tiers and ginormous caped sleeves, all the better to take an extra dinner roll with

She has a couple of little wobblies when she just gets overwhelmed by the whole experience, I can’t imagine what it must feel like when you’ve probably usually taken maybe 2 days to sew something and you’re now having to do it in 5 hours. Luckily Rebecca was on hand to soothe her with chicken nuggets

Well, Rebecca can win Miss Congeniality this year! She’s clearly dealt with more than one very upset friend in her time.
Needless to say, Farie’s dress isn’t quite what she wanted it to be but it’s also still a dress

and her model looks beautiful in it, that yellow on her skin? Heavenly.
The hems are unfortunately mostly all raw and exposed and the back is held together by safety pins and prayer

Just say it’s a nod to Elizabeth Hurley’s safety pin dress! It’ll be fine!

Despite spending a lot of time comforting Farie and placing orders at MacDonalds, Rebecca managed to sew up a very cute little dress which was inspired by her mother and was somehow the most youthful looking outfit of the night

I could see any number of girls wearing this to music festivals. Whenever they come back. If they come back. PLEASE COME BACK LIVE MUSIC.

An Unofficial Buffet Dress Ranking

  1. Raph’s Italian Vacation
  2. Lawratu’s Snack Pockets
  3. Adam’s Open All Sleeves
  4. Jean and Jean’s Model
  5. Adeena’s Gone Loopy
  6. Cathryn and her Cacti
  7. Rebecca’s Festival Goer
  8. Serena’s Missed Assassin
  9. Damien’s Garden Centre Soiree
  10. Andrew’s Tablecloth Smuggler
  11. Farie and Most of Her Dress
  12. Julie’s Holey Top

It was a pretty undeniable fact that Raph deserved Garment of the Week this week, that buffet dress is just incredible. Damien had managed a swerve right at the end with a well constructed dress and thus Julie became the first casualty of The Sewing Bee 2021.

And so 11 Sewers Remain

One thought on “Sewing Bee 2021, Episode 1: A Middle Class Clown Called Prosecco Bubbles

  1. JB

    Whilst admittedly I am not a woman, I’m not sure even if I were I’d want to wear a dress that said “Feel it” on the lower front. Feels like there’d be certain people out there who’d take that as an imperative – and most likely, the sort of person you’d rather not.

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