What was it like to film in a new location?
We filmed at Trinity Bouy Wharf, which is an amazing old wharf at the River Thames, where the River Lea meets the Thames. There are incredible views across the river and you can see the cable car and the Millenium Dome. It was wonderful to see the big skies first thing in the morning, and the interior of the building was a spectacular place to shoot. It was cold inside because we had to keep the doors open for ventilation. This amazing location is London’s only surviving Lighthouse, and you will see the views on screen.
What were the Covid restrictions:
On screen about 99% of it is the same. There is a difference when you see the models, they wear a mask for the judging and fitting, but for the catwalk they don’t. It felt very secure and a safe environment to be in. Everyone who was in the close contact cohort was tested regularly throughout. On set there was a great vibe, as everyone was so pleased that we were able to go ahead and make the show. All the usual protocols of social distancing, wearing masks and hand sanitising were followed by the crew.
For me it was a wonderful antidote to everything else that was going on. I didn’t mind having to isolate for the whole shooting period of 7 weeks in a flat in East London.
You are now on Series 7, are you amazed it has come this far, and the reaction to Series 6 was so positive?
The ratings on the last series were one of the highest, the series did move to BBC One and I think also the time it went out really helped. Our show has always been warm, generous and fun and from the comments a lot of people made at the time who said it was the perfect TV for that moment. Generally it was felt that it was comforting to have a show like Sewing Bee on TV during a pandemic.
And interestingly, during Lockdown it was very difficult to buy a sewing machine as sales had gone through the roof as people took up sewing.
I wanted to do the series originally as I thought it would get more people into sewing. People don’t throw clothes away so much now. I wanted to get the nation back into sewing, and it’s now more important than ever. A lot of positive change has happened, and I think that Sewing Bee has played a big part of that.
Reduce Reuse Reycle?
One of our three challenges has always been about upcycling before it became fashionable. The Reduce Reuse Recycle week which we brought in two years ago was such a great innovation, and it consistently captures imagination and in a fun way transforms people’s behaviour towards sustainability. People are inspired to do things differently and creating change.
Community Clothing helped out the NHS – that must have been a personal triumph for you?
My factory produced a lot of PPE and are still doing it now, we are making tens of thousands a week. In total I would imagine we have made well over a million pieces of PPE. I also
became involved with the Community Sew. The sewers got to be part of a collective effort that really helped keep people positive and connected to a local network. They were doing the same things and a community spirit was generated and it was brilliant for me to be a part of it. There are so many stories of people who had been genuinely suffering in isolation and this really helped to pull them through.
Are you still keeping fit?
I still manage to cycle most days, I keep the bike in the office. Near the factory I am able to go hill walking and cycling around the beautiful countryside of Lancashire.
Tell us about this series Sewing Bees?
Well there are 12 of them, and there are some genuinely fantastic sewers in there. It was different circumstances for them but they really enjoyed being able to interact in a group. There was a fun atmosphere on set, they are a very jolly group. We have some younger sewers this series which reflects how younger people have taken up sewing particularly in Lockdown.
Anything you can say about the Challenges this year?
In Sustainability week I Loved the Made to Measure Challenge. The winning garment was a piece of absolute beauty, and the technique was of couture level and highly exceptional sewing expertise. In Children’s Week there is a transformation challenge of Wetsuits and pool Inflatables into an under the sea theme outfit; in that same week the Pattern Challenge is the Baby Romper suit and the Sewers all did a brilliant job of making adorable romper suits.
What was the sewing prowess this time round, better than last year?
I think the level is as good as last year, they were amazing. It’s the vision that they bring to their sewing. We knew from the first week from the very first challenge when they all made a very good shell top in the first Pattern challenge that they were going to be good, they all smashed it.