The Great British Sewing Bee 3 – Interview With A Contestant!

Great British Sewing Bee

It’s time to switch off your sewing machine and put the wine in the fridge. Tonight a nation settles down to watch the third series of The Great British Sewing Bee. Who will be our underdog this year, will Patrick still be sporting a moustache, how deep will Claudia’s tan be and who shall get knocked to the ground during the stampede to the haberdashery shelves?

I hope to find out the answers to these and other burning questions this evening when I watch with good sewing friends. I’ll be gripping a champagne flute, biting my nails nervously as someone cuts into … Well, what is going to happen?

Alex of Sewrendipity has commented on this blog … and she also happens to be one of the contestants. I asked if Alex would consider being interviewed about her role on The Great British Sewing Bee, and she agreed!

So settle back, readers, and enjoy this sneak preview of TV – and sewing! –gold.

Hi, Alex. Thank you so much for joining us today of all days. First of all, I’d love to ask about the selection process. How did you become one of the contestants on The Great British Sewing Bee?

Alex: Thanks, Karen! I have been an avid viewer of the series from the beginning. I did think about applying for series two, but ended up missing the deadline. So, as I kept talking about it, my fiancé really encouraged me to apply, proof reading my application form and helping me take pictures of my projects. I hadn’t been sewing for very long and never thought I was good enough, but I really wanted to meet other sewers and share my love for making things with loads of other people.

So yes, it all started with an application form. And then one day I got a phone call (I almost fell down, I was so shocked) during which I chatted to a lovely lady (the casting producer) for over an hour about sewing. Heaven, isn’t it? It was followed by a series of really hard auditions (sorry, that’s as much as I can divulge about that), which whittled the group down to the final ten. I never believed I would end up on the programme, but I think my absolute mad passion for sewing convinced the team to give me a spot. I also think they were swayed by the crazy lengths I would go to sew the absolute best garments I can, when my fiancé told them about the insane adventure of making my own custom sewing dummy. It involved being wrapped in plaster of Paris, fainting twice, raiding a boat supplies shop, hours of polishing the resulting cast by hand and saw hacking a lamp stand for the base. All the gory details available on my blog, if you’re curious.

The judges, Patrick and May, have become the Sonny and Cher of sewing! How did you find each of them and who did you want to please most?

A: I’m really not a nervous person, but being in front of them both for the first time was really scary! And it wasn’t because they were scary, but I really wanted to impress them, I really wanted them to like what I made. It was a bit like being in school again. I think we all felt like that about them. Especially May, she very much reminded me of my favourite teachers in school, the ones that really rooted for you, wanted you to do well, but were also stern when they needed to be, and you really did not want to disappoint them. Patrick is imposing; you can tell he always strives for perfection and would never settle for second best. But both of them could also make a joke and have a laugh, which made us feel less stressed.

TGBSB is known for its challenges against the clock. Are you able to share some insights about how you coped with sewing under pressure?

A: I think this was definitely my weak point. I work in a corporate environment and I never imagined that inserting an invisible zipper would make me lose my head worse than speaking in front of large audiences or delivering events for hundreds of people. But it did! Suddenly, those tasks you think you can do in your sleep, disappear from your head. I swear I felt I could no longer read English because of the stress. One thing I learnt is that if it takes you one hour to complete a task at home, it will take two hours in the sewing room.

Taking part in TGBSB always appears to be life-changing. What did you learn about yourself during filming? Did the experience inspire you to take your sewing further?

A: I surprised myself, both in a positive and a negative way. Things I thought I would be good at (time and stress management, pattern reading) were very hard under the pressure. And what I thought I would not be good at (spontaneity, thinking on my feet), went very well.

As you can see from my blog, since the Bee, I have delved more and more into sustainable fashion, upcycling and refashioning. And if there is one thing I regret it’s that I did not talk about those things enough during the programme. We, home sewers, can work incredible magic. To save clothes from landfill, to breathe new life into an old thing at the back of the wardrobe. And hopefully, the alteration challenge can inspire people to think outside of the box and give it a go. I know that sewing gave me the courage and inspiration to look at what I already have in a new light and not buy so many new clothes. In fact, I have challenged myself not buy any clothes at all this entire year, but sew and remake as much as I can.


Are you able to give us some small clues about a favourite make from the programme – either yours of something someone else created?

A: Oh, we made some craaazy stuff, believe me! But unfortunately, my lips are totally sealed on this one, you will just have to watch it all!

Final question! Would you recommend applying for the show to any of my readers? If so, how could they best prepare themselves?

A: Yes, yes, yes! I would love to see passionate sewing people on the telly every year for many many years to come! Even if you doubt your skills, try it. Because passion for sewing and the desire to share it with other people, to inspire them to take up this incredibly satisfying hobby can take you far! In terms of preparation, there is not much you can do. I practiced all sorts of crazy stuff that never came up and then simple things I thought I could do with my eyes closed really tripped me up! I think mental prep is more important, to enable you to relax, enjoy it and share your love with the viewers.

It was an incredible experience and there are so many good things I’ve taken from it. The most important is the friendship of my fellow bees! I LOVE them all; I feel I have made friends for life! Sewing in a room full of friends, helping each other, cracking jokes, it was one of my favourite things! The Bee also brings people together and it gave me the courage to reach out to the sewing community and start my blog, which I absolutely love writing.

So even if you spend your day in an office like me, are a stay at home mum, or retired, this series proves more than any before that anyone can do it, so fill in the application to the next Bee and don’t hesitate to send it!

Alex, Great British Sewing Bee

Thanks for such a fun interview, Alex. I am intrigued by the picture of you fainting twice for the sake of a bespoke dressmaker’s dummy! I can’t wait to see you on the programme and, like yourself, I hope that this latest series inspires a whole new generation of Sewists.

Readers – what are you looking forward to from this new series? And would you ever follow Alex’s advice and enter yourself?

The Great British Sewing Bee airs on BBC2 at 8pm, from Thursday 5 February for six weeks.

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32 Responses to The Great British Sewing Bee 3 – Interview With A Contestant!

  1. Jenny Lester says:

    I actually applied for the 2nd series egged on by friends. Thinking that they maybe would choose me as their “older” contestant!! Well the lovely Anne was 80 and fabulous. However didn’t get any reply!! Ido have some qualifications from many years ago (well over the 10 years which they stipulate) but they have an entertaining programme to make so novices make the best TV!! may try again once I hit 70 next year!!

  2. Beth says:

    Ahhh so excited to watch it! I’ve got a feeling one of my kids will play up at that time so I’ll have to watch it on iPlayer – hope not!! I don’t think I would ever apply, I’m far too camera shy! If Alex was nervous and not even a nervous person, I imagine I would probably pass out – if I even made it through those doors!

  3. Eeeeep! How lucky that you could interview Alex – what a gorgeous girl she is. I was once a contestant on a Come Dine With Me show and I loved the whole experience but it was totally exhausting in every way. I can’t imagine how scary it must be to be sewing in a time pressured environment with May and Patrick watching and judging your work! I applaud all this years contestants for their bravery and skill in getting onto the show. Good luck to them all.

  4. Nikki says:

    I sky + it and watch it while hubby is at work the next morning. Nothing on earth would make me apply for it, I am a pretty slow at doing everything so there is no way I could finish making anything within their time limits. I would seriously struggle/fail with the refashioning bit – my creative imagination is not that great! Most importantly, I really do not want to be on TV!!

  5. Hurrah for Alex and wishing her lots of luck…are there any other contestants with blogs do we know?
    bestest Daisy J xx

    Ps I take it you are scheduling now?….. me too! So much easier to be organised wish I had done it earlier!

  6. Jenna says:

    Amazing! I would love to apply for one of these. I only took up sewing late last year (after a hiatus for ages as i didn’t have a sewing machine). Hopefully with enough practice, I’ll one day get to the stage where I’ll be comfortable applying for those things!

  7. Alex says:

    Thank you so much Karen for interviewing me! And thank you all for the kind words (on behalf of my fellow bees as well). Really looking forward to maybe seeing one of you in the next series! Now I’m off to do some nail biting while waiting for the first episode tonight :).

  8. Thanks for such an interesting post! I’d never do it – can’t work to time pressures where sewing is concerned. I’m going to follow your lead and have wine too – sadly no sewing friends to share with though!

  9. Becky says:

    Is there any way to watch the show from the USA? I watched Season One on YouTube and fell in LOVE with it!

  10. Catherine says:

    Really looking forward to tonight’s programme now! Good luck to Alex and all the other contestants!

  11. louise says:

    looking forward to this one, have to say I enjoyed the first series best. It will be interesting to see what changes they have made.

  12. James says:

    I wish we got this in the U.S. here for watching because I would so watch it. Our Public TV station gets the BBC cooking show where the contestants are all challenged to make these desserts of various kinds. My mom and I have really enjoyed watching that. Here in the U.S. we get a show called Project Runway. Maybe in the future our Public TV station will pickup and air the British Sewing Bee series.

  13. I was dithering about applying for TGBSB as I was being egged on with friends and family but totally chickened out. I can sew corsets well but would probably pass out if I had to do anything quickly or make trousers. Hat off to the brave souls who are on it and I will join you in that glass of wine later on. Xx

  14. Lou says:

    Whoooohooo!! Much excitement about GBSB!! My colleagues keep telling me to apply but I have enough problems with talking photos for the blog, there’s no chance I’d go on TV….
    Deb @ Dfabricate – is another contestant!

  15. I have love/hate feelings about TGBSB. Some things I love are the things one can learn, the tricks, historical facts, techniques you can learn watching it. But I really really hate the stressing time limits. For me, sewing is just the opposite: it is relaxing and slowing down to construct a piece as perfect as possible, even if that means going back and slowing down and that is totally against the hurrying up and the stressing yourself to finish even if the piece could not even been worn. I enjoyed the fisrts season, but I quited in the middle of the second, it was really getting on my nerves!

    • Miss J says:

      So agree with yoiu mertxelasierra! The series is aimed at non- professional sewers and not people working in production so the timelimits are a bit harsh.
      i found the twee incidental music bloody annoying, but the thing is, it’s the only sewing show there is so you sorta gotta watch it.

  16. Ann says:

    I am in Canada and use HOLA to watch on BBC iPlayer.

  17. Ana says:

    I can’t watch it tonight, but really looking forward to the type of fabrics they’ll use. I haven’t thought of applying at all, maybe by the 40th series.
    This also reminds me that I’ve only managed to do one project from last year’s book!

  18. michelenel says:

    Lovely blog post and interview – thank you. I entered for the second series and made it to the final round but not to the last 10; not too bad considering they had thousands of applicants. In hindsight I was rather relieved because being in a wheelchair and sewing is a HUGE challenge already and I was very nervous about how I would manage in a strange environment and on a film set for weeks at a time; I am not sure they could have handled me and a carer to help with fetching and carrying. I do occasionally get a pang of regret though – but only momentarily – and this disappears when I watch how stressful it can be. A wonderful experience though, seeing all the other hopefuls and their beautiful makes.
    I am SO excited for tonight. 🙂

  19. Booketta says:

    Goodness! I nearly missed it. Thanks for the flag up, now the series is in to record. 🙂

  20. Katherine says:

    Great interview. I don’t know how people sew under such time pressure, I know I couldn’t do it! I am rooting for Neela, who is a very talented lady. Not only does she sew but she bakes the most amazing cakes. In fact they are a very talented family as both of the girls are keen crafters as well. Visit her blog:

  21. Claire says:

    I would LOVE to be on the next show. I applied for series two and three and recieved a phone call interview each time which was fab! I was living in France then so I think they cast me aside because of that? I’m back in Blighty now so will apply again. Third time lucky?! I hope so 😉

  22. margarita978 says:

    Howdy! I have nominated you for the Versatile Bloggers Award. The details can be found here: I hope you will …

  23. Kimmy Rocket says:

    Alas, the time constraints of a Sew Over It class had me at sixes and sevens, so I don’t see the Sewing Bee in my future. I had no idea how slow I was until that clock started ticking, but I’m quite happy in my tortoise ways.

  24. Jo says:

    Great interview, Karen. I missed GBSB on Thursday as I was out but immediately caught up on iplayer when I returned home. The contestants this year look like a fun bunch and I thought Alex came across really well. I’m also a fan of Lorna(?) (the tall, older lady with short hair) – she looks like she has style so I’m intrigued to see what she does next. My only disappointment so far is the lack of Patrick’s beard. Why is the creepy ‘tache still there?!

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