We are beyond excited to have the Great British Sewing Bee 2021 on our screens this week!

They have a brand new venue at Trinity Bay Wharf with its iconic lighthouse, right on the river Thames.  Plus twelve new contestants living and sewing together in a Covid-secure cohort for ten wonderful weeks. This year the contestants include a beauty therapist, a cruise ship  entertainment director, and a retail assistant amongst others.  They take on a series of challenges designed to test their precision,  creativity, and nerves to see who will be crowned as Britain’s Best Amateur Sewer.

You can find out more about this year’s contestants here:

Meet the Sewers — The Great British Sewing Bee 2021

The contest will take place under the watchful eyes of the judges, Patrick Grant and Esme Young.  Patrick is a British designer and  businessman whilst Esme is a tutor at Central Saint Martin. Comedian Joe Lycett will once again be hosting the show and making everyone at ease with his humour and unique take on the challenges, the contestants and the world of sewing.


Great British Sewing Bee 2021 – Judges Patrick Grant and Esme Young plus host Joe Lycett

The show maintains its tried and tested format: a pattern challenge, a transformation and a made-to-measure.  The made-to-measure is always the finale of the show – the contestants are given the opportunity to plan and practice at home, but need to create a garment and fit it to their model from start to finish during the show.

Pattern Challenge:

The first pattern challenge of the new series was to create a shell top from the pattern provided.  This contained an all-in-one facing, bust darts, and a button and button tab.

Learn more about all in one facing techniques here:


The contestants completed the shell top using a range of different fabrics, viscose, cotton lawn, and lightweight crepe.   Some found the button tab and buttonhole challenging. Tilly and the Buttons have more details about how to sew buttonholes here:


Damien finished in twelfth position whilst Serena, this year’s youngest contestant. finished in first place with a perfect shell top.

The Great British Sewing Bee contestants show off their completed shell tops

The Great British Sewing Bee contestants show off their completed shell tops

If you would like to create your own shell top then the following fabric and pattern suggestions will be useful.  Our cotton lawns and poplins are a great choice for this type of garment:

Suitable patterns include:

Transformation Challenge:

A staple in everyone’s wardrobe is the standard T-shirt, and this week’s transformation involved taking three T-shirts to remodel into one new garment.

A wonderful variety awaited Patrick and Esme 90 minutes later.  The garments on display included a playsuit, skirt, and dungarees.  There was a comical reminder of the importance of pattern placement with an interesting choice of cat print placement on Jean’s dress which gave Patrick the giggles.  Along similar lines, Adeena wished that she had used another colour instead of red for the inner thigh segment of her harem trousers.   Damien, who only began sewing three years ago, found himself once again in twelfth position.  He produced a tiered skirt using mismatched t-shirt fabrics, with a hole in a seam, and a turquoise sequin trim added hastily and with little coordination.  Andrew, who describes himself as a magpie as he is drawn to bold things, was delighted to finish in first place with a zebra-striped dress with an applique embellishment and sequined heart on the back that Esme was particularly drawn to.

Great British Sewing Bee Episode One T-Shirt Transformation

The winning T-shirt Transformation

Going into the made-to-measure challenge Damien realised that he would need to wow the judges in order to be able to come back next week.

Made To Measure Challenge

For the final challenge the contestants were asked to make a buffet dress.  A buffet dress is a full dress with no defined waist and often has voluminous gathers of fabric.  Many designs have tiers whilst others use pleats for definition. This look has been very fashionable on the high street for the last few years and has the loose fit and comfortable, but smart look that we have all been seeking this year.

The contestants chose a wide variety of designs and fabrics for their made-to-measure dresses.  Raph home dyed the broderie anglaise he chose to use whilst Adam selected a sheer fabric for his design destined for a cruise holiday.  Rebecca used a navy viscose with a ditsy floral that suited the design brief perfectly.

Many patterns had elaborate features.  Accountant Farie found that time wasn’t on her side and wasn’t able to complete all the finishing touches to her dress. Julie needed to line the bodice on her dress as the  broderie anglaise she had purchased online had more defined holes in the lace design than she had anticipated, and this meant she couldn’t add the skirt section to a beautifully made bodice. Damien was commended for the beautiful fit on the dress he made that included a lattice tie detail across the bodice.  He was delighted to have gained back some favour from the previous day of sewing.

If you want to recreate this look then woven viscose is a lovely fabric for this style of dress:

Suitable patterns include:




The garment of the week went to Raph for his use of four different styles of  broderie anglaise in his buffet dress.  This had a cross-over bodice, ties with amber beads, and a full tiered dress skirt.  Sadly Julie was the first of the sewers to leave the sewing room, her transformation challenge was in the mid ranks and due to the additional steps required to line the bodice, her dress was unfinished. Julie encouraged Joe to join her in a dance as she left the room, smiling and although sad to leave was delighted to have had the experience.

The winning buffet dress

The winning buffet dress

An exciting start for a group of talented sewers, some of whom have a lot to learn as they are new to the hobby whilst some have clear experience.  We are sure all will enjoy the weeks ahead of them.

We would love to hear what your thoughts are about the Great British Sewing Bee and you can follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Join us next week for  ‘Summer Week’ which we hear will feature shorts with a paper-bag waist and button-down dresses.