Was it lovely to get back with Patrick and your new best friend Joe after Lockdown?
It was really great fun, we all get on so well. So good to be with people again who I have known over every series, we are a little community and I really enjoyed seeing them again.
How would you rate the sewing expertise of this year’s Sewers?
There are some amazing and talented sewers in this year, all different ages and from all over the country. Obviously some have more experience than others. Quite a few of the men hadn’t been sewing long at all.
Would you say the level of difficulty in the challenges has increased and can the Sewers cope with it?
I do think the Challenges over time have got more difficult, but that is to match the Sewers expertise. Also they learn a lot on the Sewing Bee, and that’s really rewarding for me and Patrick to see them accept our tips, and they learn from each other as well.
Any sewing disasters this series?
There are always some disasters along the way because they are sewing garments that they might not have ever sewn before. You tend to sew at home in your comfort zone, so they are then thrown into this new sewing environment.
Most difficult fabrics to work with on this series?
The fabrics that are the most difficult to work with are satins, particularly drapey satins. The darker the material the better the mistakes get absorbed. It’s more if a sewer hasn’t worked with a new fabric that they haven’t used before. Stretchy fabrics can be really tricky, you have to use a different technique for each fabric.
Most difficult sewing Challenge?
The challenges really do get more difficult as we progress through the series, the sewers need to be tested and it’s interesting to see how they cope.
Is it always about timing with the Sewers, or what is the common mistake they make?
To work against the clock is difficult, and you have a camera in your face and Joe asking questions, so quite often they don’t finish. It’s the sewing of the buttons at the end, or fastenings, buttonholes that become unravelled, as that’s the last thing they do.
As Judges you work so well together, why do you think that is and what do you have in common … and what are your differences?
We come from very different backgrounds of sewing, and we do have a different view of what we are expecting from the Sewers, and maybe that makes it a good balance as judges.
What has been your favourite garment to sew/design this year?
On the Sewing Bee every series I make something inbetween filming in the Green Room, and this year I cut the pattern and made a dress from fabric that was printed by one of my old students. A sort of 50s look with a full skirt, long sleeves, black background. with slashes of colour on.
How much of your own clothes do you make?
I would say about a third, and I try each year to make more, as I have a big selection of fabrics from all over the world. Vintage and all sorts of stuff, so I like to use those.
What are your 3 favourite challenges from this series?
In 40s week I liked the Transformation challenge of making a parachute into a Garment. In International Week – the Made to Measure: I loved the Frida Kahlo inspired outfit – as I have been to her house. And I really loved the 8 piece Baker Boy cap in the Pattern Challenge in Classic Clothing week – it was a really difficult challenge.
Top 3 tips for a home sewer about to start sewing?
Start off simple, follow the pattern and don’t choose a difficult fabric.
And another top tip is to make sure you cut it on the grain, it needs to be cut out properly, that is really important.
Best bit for you from this series?
This year the Final episode is a great one, and we all felt that we had achieved something special, getting through filming during a pandemic, and pulling it off.
Where do you get your inspiration from… is it hard to keep reinventing style/fashion?
I look back to at least 20 years in fashion to get inspiration. I wouldn’t want to look at last season and replicate that – you need a good space of time. It’s not copying it is reinventing, and I don’t find it difficult to come up with new styles. Anything can inspire you from any aspect of life it could be from – nature, architecture, art, anything really.
Would you use a commercial pattern?
No, I cut all my own patterns, rather than working from a commercial pattern. It is harder but it’s more rewarding and innovative.
Do you find sewing therapeutic?
Yes it’s calming and you are creating something at the same time. You are solving problems and you are slowing down and having to be imaginative. I think it works on a lot of levels as you have to focus on a project, and a change from sitting just looking at a screen.
Are children sewing more, particularly through Covid and what do you feel about the arts and crafts side generally becoming more popular at the moment?
The Sewing Bee was already encouraging people to sew before Lockdown, and since then it has given people time and space to make things. Families were learning from each other where a parent would teach a child, or vice versa, or learn together.
How rewarding is your teaching work?
St Martin’s College is a great place to work, the students are so talented and not difficult to teach. It’s probably one of the only colleges in the world where it’s all about the students, and just trying to make the individual student’s vision happen.
I have been teaching via Microsoft, and it was hard to get used to at first and then became the new norm. It was particularly difficult when you are trying to show something 3D, so I rigged up a tripod that my phone could go in, so I could demonstrate the techniques. It’s not the same as being in a class but I guess we have to just do what we can do.
Have you got some new necklaces
I made a necklace for this year’s Sewing Bee – basically it’s made of the little gel sanitiser bottles. I filled them with coloured water, and I joined it up using the clips that the crew used to loop the sanitisers onto their jeans. It was very colourful and I have still got it. I wear it on one of the episodes half way through the series.