The Great British Sewing Bee Farce – a disappointing finale to a disappointing series

What on earth were they thinking?

Like many, last night I watched the final of the Great British Sewing Bee on BBC 2,  cheering on my series favourite, and hoping to get some inspiration from the programme, which has been rather lacking this series.

By the end of the programme, I fell down in my chair, screaming ‘NOOOOOOOOOO” at the top of my lungs at the television in complete disbelief – Chinelo, arguably the best, most naturally gifted, most consistent contestant of the series, was beaten, by a woman who a) was too embarrassed to tell her friends about her hobby, seemingly because they were too posh to sew, and b) failed to demonstrate an original creative concept.

Yes, I may be accused of being biased – my favourite didn’t win, but in my defence, Chinelo from day one of the competition illustrated just how gifted an individual she is.  She designs and makes couture standard clothing having only picked up the art about 2 years ago. Heather, the contest winner, despite 30 years of experience, resorted to using over 20 meters of expensive fabric, to make a dress that was simply dull, finished poorly and didn’t even fit her model that well. For most people 20 meters of fabric would have made an entire wardrobe of clothes. Even one of the judges made a comment questioning how such extravagance managed to pass the budget handlers. Simply using expensive fabric does not in itself show skill and creativity, if anything it illustrates the exactly opposite.

Even the 3rd finalist was hard done by. Tamara was not a favourite of mine, but she did ably demonstrate a lot of original ideas and creative direction in her sewing.

I admit, after sleeping on this result, I am still bitterly disappointed for Chinelo, and a little annoyed at the judges.  I never understood how or even why Heather managed to get past week 5, when other, far better sewists were deemed unworthy to go forward into the next round. When Lynda was left out of the final, I literally had to fight back the tears.

Compared to last years worthy winner, who’s standard of sewing and original design concepts were far superior in my opinion than the 2 judges, encouraged many to pick up a needle and thread and start creating things with cloth. This year, we have a winner, who was too ashamed to tell her horsey set about her sewing, often talked about her fondness for a glass of gin and unlike the other finalists, never won a challenge throughout the entire series. All she did was ‘play safe’. Play safe? Some one please hand over the caffeine enriched tea, I need to stop yawning.

The BBC have really shot themselves in the foot with this one.  For years fabric crafters have tried to encourage people of all abilities and social backgrounds to sew. Last year it was so refreshing to see a lady win because of her truly amazing gifts, and not because she was a size 4, 21 year old from Chelsea. (No offence intended towards size 4, 21 year women from Chelsea.) This years winner, will not have the same effect, unless the idea is to encourage well-to-do equestrians to forgo Bond Street for Berwick Street. Somehow I don’t see that happening.

If it was just a case of an unworthy winner, I don’t think I would have felt as bad as I do. However, overall this year’s series lacked the fun and ingenuity of last year. Complaints were made about the tie-in book as it didn’t include patterns over a certain size, which considering that the average UK dress size is 16, you wonder how this could have been overlooked. This year’s tie-book is said to have addressed the majority of the concerns, but having glanced over the publication, I’m yet to be convinced it is a good buy.  After watching this year’s series I’m left wondering what is the aim – to encourage viewers to get creative with some fabric, or merely to cash-in on the ‘Great British’ tv competition concept.

Why for instance, did they not include the tie making task when there were men still left in the competition? Why was there such a heavy focus on dressmaking? Not everyone has children to make clothes or, so again, why the emphasis? And why little girl outfits and not little boys? Don’t we want more men to enjoy the craft? Surely they could have included soft furnishing making tasks like cushion covers and even soft toys. And why for goodness sakes did they insist on couture standard sewing and then award the one competitor who doesn’t have couture standard skills?

I for one am not looking forward to the 3rd series of this utterly disappointing show. Oddly enough, there is new garden competition based on the ‘Great British’ concept starting next week.  Oh dear!