The Great British Sewing Bee- Episode one


NB- If you haven’t watched the show, and are planning to, then please don’t read any further as I will be discussing some of the show’s content and don’t want to spoil it when you watch!

Last year I worked as The Sewing Consultant for BBC 2’s new show The Great British Sewing Bee, which has just aired in the UK tonight at 8 PM. Wow, what a lot of talent on that show, wish you could have seen me rooting for all of them behind the camera!

Challenge 1 –Was all about following a pattern. Since most women own a skirt, and as an A line shape is universally flattering, this is the perfect choice of skirt. Making an a line skirt is also the first building block of most classic dressmaking courses. The Biggest challenge facing some of the stitchers was inserting a zip. If you’ve never put in an invisible Zip, and fancy having a go, then this is the best online tutorial I have found from Colette patterns. I recommend all my students read this post!

Challenge 2- This is all about transforming a high street garment. As a professional Costumier, much of my work is altering and transforming garments and altering a neckline would be a challenge for me in an hour. It was amazing watching 8 stitchers grab bundles of haberdashery, thinking, creating and coming up with lace inserts, fringe trimmed scoops and applied collars.

Challenge 3- This challenge is the only one that the contestants didn’t do blind and were able to prepare for. They were instructed to make a “Made to measure dress” which would need to fit a real life person. Real figures involve Busts that are not in proportion to waists and hips, Waists that are thicker than standard and full or no hips! ARGH!

The biggest issue when fitting women, is making the garment fit the bust, without making the whole garment too broad. This takes practise and a teensy bit of knowledge.

One route, and the one that I personally use, is to do a “full bust adjustment”. If you have a small frame and cut the size applicable for your bust size, then the shoulders, armholes and necklines are all too big. If you cut for frame or chest size alone, then your boobs get squashed like Lauren’s dress. However if you cut for your  Chest (frame) and do a Full Bust adjustment,you’ll get a really good fit. I’ve found an excellent blog post from inspiring dressmaker Alana that shows you how to do this.

Full bust adjustment

Another route is to use a pattern which is cup sized, although there is a limited selection of styles

Happy Stitching:)


  • Sarah

    24.06.2013 at 03:06

    So enjoyed the show! On a related note, I’d love to know what brand the dress forms are – they seem to say “KL” on them.

    • The Thrifty Stitcher

      02.07.2013 at 20:02


      So sorry for slow reply, i am swamped with spam, and your message got lost.
      The Mannequins used were Kennet and lindsell

      happy Stitching CL:)

  • Rachel

    12.05.2013 at 14:51

    Thank you for sharing what pattern was used for sewing the red/white/blue striped dress, I didn’t know which one they used so I used a different one:
    Thanks so much for gathering all of this information & I see that you have done this for all 4 episodes!!!! I will enjoy looking through all of it. I think it would be fun to do a stitch along & knowing what was used for the real thing will be so helpful!

  • Asprin

    17.04.2013 at 02:04


    just found this site and I saw your recommendation of a cup sized pattern, do any patterns go above a D cup to a GG cup? Or any tips for enlarging the cup size of the garment while keeping the back/ribcage size fitting the person?

    My Mum and I nearly always end up working with a larger pattern and struggle to fit it right at the waist and shoulders – the skirt is often full so it isn’t as affected by size problems.

    • The Thrifty Stitcher

      18.04.2013 at 14:16

      Hi There,

      It is very tricky fitting fuller cup sizes. the simplicity amazing fit patterns do only go to a d or dd, but that is an american size which is different to the UK. I would suggest you buy the Palmet pletsch Full busted DVD which is the system i use. I have a very narrow back, small shoulders and only need to adjust my bust area. This system does exactly that, and i have used it very successfully with some modifications. If you want to work with a fitting tutor to get patterns right, contact one of my Teachers Mandy, who does pattern fitting tuition

      Best wishes :)

  • joyce

    13.04.2013 at 19:35

    Thank you for the info on Sandra’s day dress.

    I look forward to following the rest of the series, and to reading your blog.

  • Ruth

    12.04.2013 at 19:34

    Sorry, you recommend a zipper tutorial that advises IRONING a plastic zipper? Invisible zippers were invented to a) be invisible, and b) be quick to install in factories. First of all, if you iron something plastic, and the iron is hot enough to take effect, that effect will be permanent. so, either you are wasting your time, or you are permanently removing precisely the curl that makes the zipper invisible. Secondly, do you really think that factory floor workers are ironing those zippers before they instal them? Nonsense! You use an invisible zipper foot and you uncurl the zipper with your fingers as you stitch it in. Easy peasy, three times as quick, and no damage to your zipper.

    • The Thrifty Stitcher

      13.04.2013 at 10:38

      Hello Ruth,

      Thanks for your comment.
      The debate about ironing an invisible zipper is still a hot one. I personally don’t iron zippers, but many sewing teachers do, and i have done it myself with no ill effects. I picked a tutorial that is very clear in the hope it would inspire someone who is scared of putting in an invisible zip, and having taught many students, i know that a lot of then are fearful of this type of zip.

      Best wishes :)

  • joyce

    11.04.2013 at 14:50

    Do you have details of the day dress pattern used by Sandra in episode one please?

    • The Thrifty Stitcher

      13.04.2013 at 10:35

      Hi There,

      The pattern Sandra used in ep 1 is this one
      It’s a great fit and flare type of dress with a shoulder princess seam that makes fitting very easy

      Happy Stitching :)

  • Sewing Princess

    10.04.2013 at 16:53

    So interesting to read this post. I have been sewing for some years now and love it. I am so happy there is a programme about sewing…Thanks for all the tips. I just discovered your courses now…would have been nice to attend when I am in London…too bad I already booked elsewhere this time…good excuse to go to London again…

    • The Thrifty Stitcher

      13.04.2013 at 10:49


      Thanks so much for commenting. I love your blog by the way. I’m sure wherever you learn sewing in London will be fab!
      maybe next trip?

      happy stitching:)

  • JayKay

    09.04.2013 at 14:13

    Do you know which pattern Stuart used for the made-to-measure dress in the Amy Butler fabric?


    • The Thrifty Stitcher

      13.04.2013 at 10:19

      Hi There,

      Stuart made simplicity 2886
      It’s also available in the book as a printable download

      It’s a great summer dress and pretty easy to put together

      happy Stitching:)

      • JayKay

        13.04.2013 at 14:24

        Great, thanks so much.

  • Nessa

    05.04.2013 at 10:42

    Thanks for all the “insider” information! The show was great fun to watch. I can’t believe the pressure they were all under! I’ll be a new follower of your blog and look forward to more behind-the-scenes posts!

    • The Thrifty Stitcher

      13.04.2013 at 10:20

      Hi There

      Thanks for your comment. It was such a lot of pressure! Each episode was filmed in just 2 days. All the contestants did amazingly well…

      happy Stitching :)

  • A stitch in time

    03.04.2013 at 12:30

    Fantastic web site, you have inspired me to try and come along to a class.
    The programme was excellent, I don’t usually watch this sort of thing, but really enjoyed it and felt the pressure of the contestants.
    Very sad at the end when one has to leave.

    • The Thrifty Stitcher

      13.04.2013 at 10:23

      Hi There,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. It isn’t sad at the end, because i think all the Stitchers were winners. They all did so amazingly well both to get onto the show, and to survive the pressure

      best wishes :)

  • Joelle Harris

    03.04.2013 at 06:33

    Lovely post, tutorial links are always helpful. Great programme – I’m sure it will inspire lots more people to have a go! I’m looking forward to teaching some of them :0)

  • Beverley

    02.04.2013 at 21:16

    Is there a pattern for the dress Mark made on tonight’s show? It was lovely and I’d like to try recreate! Thanks

    • The Thrifty Stitcher

      05.04.2013 at 18:10

      Hello Beverley,

      Both Mark and Ann used the same pattern which was this one.–Q
      It was a free giveaway in Sew magazine, and is part of the project runway range. It’s a really great pattern, and versatile, as displayed in the 2 variations of the dress on the show!

  • Scrapiana

    02.04.2013 at 20:58

    Lots of interesting and useful behind-the-scenes information! Thanks for that. Looking forward to the next episode!

  • Thestitchsharer

    02.04.2013 at 20:48

    What a fabulous post, so interesting to read more. Totally loved the show and will be checking out all your suggestions. Thank you. X