Shirred elastic test dress

Great British Sewing Bee- The Semi Final

Ooh, the semi final was a brilliant episode. Packed with tension and so much creativity.


The best moments for me were watching the contestants walk in and spot the mini dummies on their stations. How cute were those mini Mannequins!

Challenge 1-Making a child’s summer dress with shirring was a great challenge for this stage of the competition. Whilst shirring is fairly straightforward, you do have to practise a little! The challenge was to follow a pattern and make a dress. Sewing with a short time slot turned the heat up! It was really fun watching those gorgeous dresses come together in under 3 hours. If you fancy making your own dress I found this fab blog on making a child’s shirred dress. She has a great measurement chart for little girls, and I love that the top edge is super snug with a thread elastic channel.

The challenge included using a french seam, which is a great way to enclose raw edges. It also included rouleaux loops, which is a very fiddly task to do under pressure. Rouleaux should look round like these.

Rouleaux straps

I sew around piping cord to make rouleaux, but you can use this clever gadget, a rouleaux turner. It’s seriously genius!

Rouleau Loop Turner

Challenge 2 was tough! 90 mins to transform a dress? That would test me, and most of my work is alterations. Stuart’s wacky zips were no match for Lauren’s brave chopping, or Ann’s skilled darts. If you like the idea of radically transforming a high street buy, there are loads of fab videos over on You tube.

Challenge 3- Make a jacket! This is a toughie. I really felt for the contestants having to be judged by a Saville row tailor.

These were my 2 favourites

Ann’s Chanel style Cardigan Jacket, made up with the famous Linton tweed.

Lauren’s classicly shaped hacking jacket. Lauren also went for a classic tweed, but unlike Ann who traditionally lined her jacket, Lauren used her lining as un “Underlining” Check out this great  tutorial from Threads on  this Technique

Happy Stitching:)



  • Simone

    23.04.2013 at 20:45

    Really enjoy watching this! Thank you so Munch for sharing the inside information. Especially the patterns the contestants USD. hope Laurens pattern of the evening dress will be shared ;-))
    Thanks again from the netherlands.

    • The Thrifty Stitcher

      24.04.2013 at 18:51

      Glad you enjoyed the show, it really was very inspiring wasn’t it. Lauren’s pattern was simplicity 1874

      Happy stitching!

  • Amiee

    18.04.2013 at 22:14

    Could you share how you made the puff sleeve version? My 4yr old daughter has asked the impossible question: Mummy, can you make me one like that?

    • The Thrifty Stitcher

      19.04.2013 at 00:31


      I created a simple bandeau top shirred dress and the cut a pattern for the armhole and sleeve on my mini mannequin, and didn’t really mark up a finished pattern, silly me! You could look at this tutorial to make something similar and then shirr it?

      Best wishes, and happy experimenting!

  • Catrin

    17.04.2013 at 19:43

    What pattern were they following for the girl’s dress?

    • The Thrifty Stitcher

      18.04.2013 at 14:09

      The contestants were using a pattern and instructions that i created.
      You can find similar instructions on this great tutorial online
      Best wishes:)

  • BrightonClaire

    17.04.2013 at 09:24

    Thank you for posting all this detail about the patterns, fabrics and notions. You have been really helpful. I love the programme, and 4 weeks seems far too short!

    • The Thrifty Stitcher

      18.04.2013 at 14:11

      Hi There,

      thanks for your lovely comment.
      4 weeks does seem very short. It was a test series to gauge interest. Whilst sewing is very popular, it doesn’t have the same universal appeal as say cooking.
      Hopefully there will be series 2!

      Best wishes:)

  • Bernie

    16.04.2013 at 21:21

    Wow Claire-Louise, I just love this show, and even ‘though I usually avoid my computer at all costs, I’m straight on it after the show to wait for your latest fantastic blog post. It’s fab that you’re generously sharing all your insider tips, and the pattern, material, haberdashery and technique links are just brilliant, it must have taken you an age to put this all together! Looking forward to next week x

    • The Thrifty Stitcher

      18.04.2013 at 14:17


      thanks for your lovely comments. Next week is a brillaint episode. challenge 1 and 2 are nail biting!

      Best wishes :)