So this week brought us the Quarter Finals of the Great British Sewing Bee and the theme was World Sewing Week. This meant that the contestants would be working with a range of international patterns and fabrics.

Here is a small selection of fabrics we stock that have an international feel:

Clockwise from top left:  Cotton Sweatshirt Tropical Birds OchreGeo Lines Indigo Japanese Cotton, Art Gallery Sage Yuma Lemons Mist and Viscose Print Dress Fabric Lime

The Sewing Bee started this week with a Pattern Challenge from the Phillipines. Contestants were asked to make a Phillipine Terno blouse. These blouses feature butterfly sleeves and were traditionally made from pineapple fibre. It was a style popularised by Imelda Marcos who was First Lady of the Philippines for 21 years. Her family gained notoriety for living a lavish lifestyle during a period of economic crisis and civil unrest in the country, and were forced into exile after a people’s revolution in the country.

There is a really interesting article on the history of the terno HERE 

The judges explained that, as usual, the choice of fabric was important here. The fabric needed to be firm enough to hold the shape of the butterfly sleeves, so contestants shouldn’t choose something too drapey. The sleeves had to be gathered evenly using gathering stitch and tulle net sewn inside to help hold the shape. The neckline needed to be bound and the blouse was fastened at the back with five covered buttons.

Most of the contestants found creating the buttons tricky and time-consuming. There is a useful tutorial on making different kinds of covered buttons HERE.

Clare's winning Terno Blouse

Clare’s winning Terno Blouse

Clare won this challenge – the judges loved the delicate, sheer fabric she used. Esme was particularly impressed with the lovely french seams and both judges felt it was a fantastic bit of sewing. Mark came last in this as sadly his fabric was too drapey to hold the shape properly and he didn’t manage to complete his buttons either.

The next phase was the Transformation Challenge where the contestants were asked to turn a Provencal tablecloth into a garment for a man, woman or child. They could add other fabrics from the haberdashery, but the tablecloth had to be the star of the show. Esme stated that she would be looking closely at the placement of the print and would be expecting a fair degree of pattern matching. Clare won again – the judges absolutely loved the child’s dress she made. They felt she had achieved a lot in a very short space of time, including a rouleau loop fastening and a bound neckline. Nicole came last in this challenge – she made a pair of wide trousers and the judges felt it was a shame she hadn’t matched the bold pattern at the front.

Finally we came to the Made to Measure Challenge. The contestants were instructed to make a flamenco inspired skirt which should hug tightly over the hips and have ruffles at the hem. The judges wanted the fit to be absolutely perfect over the waist and hips, and wanted to see something that was well made as well as looking fabulous.

You can learn more about the history of the flamenco dress HERE.

And there is a good guide to making ruffles HERE.

The most commonly used material for flamenco dresses is known in Spain as ‘crespon’ and is a crepe material. It has the advantage that it doesn’t wrinkle or shrink, drapes beautifully and is lightweight. We have a selection of crepe fabrics HERE.

Matt made a modern flamenco skirt in scuba fabric in red and mustard yellow. The judges loved the way it moved and felt it had drama but the waistband kept falling down. Esme pointed out that it would have been better reinforced with interfacing. Clare used a brocade curtain fabric for her skirt – however, the judges felt the finished garment was too big, not fitted enough and did rather look like a pair of curtains!

Liz went for a bold Dracula-inspired skirt in red and black – Patrick said it was very striking but there was a hole at the top of the zip and the skirt was a little loose at the waist. Mark made a wrap flamenco skirt in a bold print – the judges felt it moved nicely and was a good fit – although Mark had made life easier for himself by choosing a wrap style.

But it was Nicole who won ‘Garment of the Week’ with her amazing skirt that used contrasting Ankara waxed prints, with the ruffles bound with gold braid. Esme loved the choice of fabric and said the fit was good around the waist. Patrick thought it was a fantastic rendition and was the perfect embodiment of International Week.

Sadly it was Mark who was selected to go home – everyone was very sad to see him go. Even Esme had a tear in her eye!

Now we are down to only four contestants, so next week will be the Semi Final and we are told the theme will be ‘The Movies’!

If you want to follow the final four contestants on Instagram, their links are below:

Clare – Hospital Doctor from Winchester.
Instagram username: @clare.bradders

Liz – Product Manager from Middlesbrough.
Instagram username: @x_sewingpunk_x

Matt – Playout Supervisor from London.
Instagram username: @mattgagesewing

Nicole Akong – Jewellery Designer from London.
Instagram username: @nicole_akong