The Great British Sewing Bee Season 7
Raph's "Dream Girls" playsuit with cape, TGBSB S7 BBC

The Great British Sewing Bee - Season Seven

The Great British Sewing Bee - Season Seven

Season 7 of the BBC reality television series, The Great British Sewing Bee (TGBSB), first broadcast in 2021, was filmed in Trinity Buoy Wharf in London's East End, now a commercial mixed use space.

In the seventh season of The Great British Sewing Bee, 2021, Joe Lycett hosts and Savile Row's Patrick Grant and fashion designer Esme Young of Central Saint Martins, judge the contestants. In this season the audience learned that Grant played U21 rugby, went to boarding school in county Durham and has studied material science, and that Young sat on a balcony with David Bowie during Notting Hill Carnival.

Historical details were provided by fashion historian Amber Butchart, journalist, author and commentator on visual culture Paul Gorman, Meredith More of the V&A, Martin Pel of Brighton Museum, textiles historian Valerie Wilson, fashion curator Circe Henestrosa, fashion historian Darnell Jamal Lisby, childhood historian Dr Clare Rose, author and denim hunter Michael Harris.

The contestants take refreshments at Fatboy's Diner close to the main filming venue.

Pattern Challenges

Week 1- Shell top (a sleeveless, collarless blouse)

3 hours to make a shell top, a favourite from the swinging sixties, perfect to dress up or down. The pattern uses bust darts, a facing sitting at the collar and armholes, and a rear tab with buttonhole and button. There are seven pieces. Darts are inserted into the front, the back is attached at the shoulders, the facing is applied to the inside to support the neckline, it is bagged out then  the side seams are stitched up, and a tab & button and double-turned hem complete the garment.

Shell top
 GBSB Sleeveless shell top

Damien was last, Serena was first.

Week 2 - Summer Week - Paper bag shorts

3.5 hours are given for this challenge. Paper bag shorts have an elasticated waist, bagged out belt and practical for summer. The distinctive feature of a paper bag short is the top looks like a gathered paper bag, achieved with a channel of elastic turned over the top and sewn inside. The pattern demands a turn-up, where the hem is turned under, sewn and then turned back so the turn up conceals the row of stitching.

The paper bag shorts begin as ten pattern pieces. First the front and back pieces are joined at the centre and pockets are attached at the side seams. Turn ups are made at the hem before belt loops are attached and elastic is enclosed in the waistband. A bagged out belt is fed through the belt loops to finish.

To create turn-ups, 3.5cm is pressed up to the inside of each leg and stitched just below the raw edge. The shorts are then turned right side out and turned up again, covering the stitch line.

Model on catwalk wearing Paper Bag Shorts
GBSB Model on catwalk wearing Paper Bag Shorts

Jean was scored last. Raph was first.

Week 3 - Gentleman's Tailoring Week - Bakersboy cap

Contestants are given 3 hours to make a Bakersboy cap, a fuller and more rounded version of the flat cap, both being the uniform of the working man and boy. It is now favoured and worn by some of the most stylish male celebrities, including David Beckham and . It is traditionally made from tailors' offcuts, but can be made in just one colour or out of a patchwork. The cap is made from 8 principal parts sewn onto a band with a peak attached at the front. The baker boy cap is made from 19 pattern pieces. The first stage is to create the crown, sewing together the eight panels along their curved edge. The process is repeated for the silky lining before it is secured into the hat. The peak is formed from a top and bottom piece, joined along the bottom edge with a rep-cut plastic insert, which gives the rim its rigidity. It is then sewn in place, along with an inner headband. Finally a covered top button is attached for a neat finish.

In Tudor England, cap makers faced stiff competition from cheap, fashionable foreign imports. In 1571, Queen Elizabeth I decreed that every English resident, over the age of 6 and below the rank of gentleman should wear, on Sundays and holidays, a cap of wool, thickened and dressed in England, made within this realm, with hefty penalties for common men not wearing a cap, or the wrong sort of cap. Shakespeare's uncle Henry was fined 3 shillings and fourpece (about five days' wages for a skilled tradesman), in 1583, for not wearing a woolen cap. The law proved unworkable and was repealed in 1597. 

Baker's Boy Cap
GBSB Baker's Boy Cap, by Raph (first place)

Damien was in last place. Raph won.

Week 4 - International Week - Breton top

A Breton top (with 21 stripes that are said to represent Napoleon's victories over the British) was invented in Brittany and has been a part of the French naval uniform since 1858, but was popularised by Coco Chanel.

The Breton top starts as 8 pattern pieces cut from cotton jersey. First the front and back are joined at the right shoulder, a placket of horizontal stripes with three buttonholes is inserted at the left shoulder, non-stretch tape is inserted around the raw edge of the neck, top-stitched and folded inside before being pressed flat and top-stitched down. Next the sleeves are attached and the side-seams sewn. The remaining raw edges are hemmed and three buttons sewn to the placket. The placket is formed from four placket pieces in pairs, with one pair sewn along the short edge and the other its long edge. Both are then closed at the curved end and turned inside out. The strip sewn along the short edge is sewn along the front left shoulder, the other on the back at the same shoulder.

Breton top
GBSB Breton top

Farie was last. Serena won.

Week 5 - Children's Week - Romper suit

Four hours to make a child's unisex romper suit, with cross-over straps at the back, snaps and elasticated waist and bottom of the legs. Appropriate fabric is lightweight but durable, and flexible enough to romp around in. The romper is a very practical garment for a child, and very cute. While infants and small children used to wear dresses regardless of gender, but given the lack of movement this implied, the "creeping apron" was introduced in 1908 - a makeshift dress with a fastening pinned between the legs, the forerunner of the romper. 

The romper is formed from nine pattern pieces. First the straps are sewn inside-out and pulled through and sandwiched between the two front bib pieces and stitched. The top of the front leg section is gathered to the exact size of the bib and the two sewn together. A channel is created at the top of the back section and elastic threaded through. The front is joined to the back and buttons and buttonholes added. Finally a reinforcing facing is sewn around the crotch and snap fastenings added to secure.

Romper Suit
GBSB Romper Suit

Adeena came last. Serena won.

Week 6 - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Week - Man's waistcoat

Four hours to produce a man's waistcoat with five buttons and buttonholes using fabric recycled from other garments. In the UK, 1m tonnes of clothing is thrown away every year. A successful waistcoat requires a heavy fabric for the front and lightweight fabric for the back and lining. This is an excellent tailoring challenge as it can easily be made from reclaimed fabrics.

There are fourteen pattern pieces. First the facing and lining are sewn together then attached to the front sections, leaving open shoulder and side seams through which to bag out. The process is completed on both sides. The four back panels are sewn to make an inner and outer layer with a back strap added to the rear. The front is then sandwiched between the two back layers and stitched at the seams leaving a gap in one side seam to pull the waistcoat through. Finally the buttons and buttonholes are added to the front.

Made of three separate panels, the fronts of the waistcoat are constructed inside-out. The back is constructed from four pieces of lightweight fabric. Two are joined to make the outer lining, and two the inner lining. The back pieces are placed right side up and front pieces placed right-side down. 

If the garments the contestants choose are not large enough for the pattern pieces, they can either attempt the tricky task of incorporating original features, or patchwork together multiple sections of fabric. 

Men's waistcoat
GBSB Men's waistcoat, by Damien

Adeena came last. Raph came first.

Week 7 - Winter Week - Flannel shirt

Contestants are given 4 hours 45 to sew a man's flannel shirt with a yoke and two piece collar and a cuff. Flannel has been a cold weather favourite for centuries and the style is most associated with lumberjacks from North America. Flannel is formed from loosely woven cotton or wool. The looser the weave, the more it can move and stretch. First popularised by hardworking North American woodsmen, the checked flannel shirt was originally created in Pennsylvania by an immigrant John Rich, from Liverpool. By the 1990s it was adopted an edgy anti-conformist look.

The collar, the collar stand and yoke could all trip up the contestants, as well as the pattern matching.

The shirt is made of 17 pattern pieces. First attach two yoke pieces to strengthen the back which is then joined to the front at the shoulders. The sleeves are attached, side seams stitched up and then collar, cuffs and a button stand are attached, before nine buttons and buttonholes are sewn.

Farie came last. Serena won.

Week 8 - Music and Movies Week - Satin and chiffon dress

The contestants have 4 hours 30 to sew a satin and chiffon 1960s style dance dress inspired by the one worn by Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing, designed by Hilary Rosenfeld. It has a bagged out top, a circle skirt with a sheer, chiffon overlay and an appliqued lace at the waistband. It requires 2m of satin and 1.5m of chiffon, interfacing, applique lace and a zip.

There are a lot to be sewn and both main materials are challenging to work with. The iridescence of the satin will show any imperfections in the bodice. The pattern calls for the underskirt hem to be overlocked and single turned and the chiffon overskirt to be overlocked at the hem.

There are 28 pattern pieces, keeping track of them is crucial. First sew the four outer bodice pieces together then a second four that will form the lining. The two are joined at the neckline and arm holes. It is the bagged out and the shoulder straps are hand-sewn. The skirt is first constructed from three pieces in the satin fabric, then again in the chiffon. The satin skirt is placed inside the chiffon and both secured into the waistband. The bodice is attached and a zip inserted into the back and a delicate fold of fabric made to conceal it - a lapped zip. Finally the dress is hemmed and a lace band sewn around the waist.

1960s style dance dress inspired by Dirty Dancing
GBSB 1960s style dance dress inspired by Dirty Dancing

Damien came last. Serena won.

Week 9 - Semi-Final - 1940s Week - Oxford bags

The contestants have 4 hours 30 to make a pair of Oxford Bags, (essentially baggy trousers with high waist and turnups, with two front pleats and pockets in the seam) requiring 3.2m of fabric, interfacing, lining fabric, an 8" zip and a trouser hook and bar. They were invented in 1920's Oxford University, seen at dance venues like the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, and were well-established in the 1940's and worn by the likes of Fred Astaire and Frank Sinatra. While they fell out of favour later, the northern soul scene of Manchester, emerging from mod culture in the late 1960's and early 1970's, placed them back in fashion. 

The pattern consists of 16 pieces. First a zip fly is made, then back darts and front pleats, pocket bags are attached to the seams and sewn up, the hems are turned up and finally the waistband, hook and bar are attached. Three elements are used to make the fly - the zip, the fly facing and the fly guard. First the zip is attached to the right side of the trousers, the fly facing and other zip arm are then sewn to the left flap, hiding the zip from the outside; finally the fly guard is stitched internally to the right flap, covering the zip on the inside.

Oxford Bags showing detail of waistband and fly
GBSB Oxford Bags showing detail of waistband and fly, by Raph

Won by Raph, Farie was last.

Week 10 - The Final - Celebration Week - Bridesmaid dress

Contestants have 4 hours 30 to make a child's bridesmaid dress with lots of devilishly tricky details, including a bound buttonhole with two cloth flanges, a gathered skirt and bagged out sash. The pattern requires 1.8m of fabric, plus contrast fabric, lining, 1" crinoline ("crin"), 1 button, 3 poppers, and interfacing. The pattern has 17 pieces. First the bodice and bodice lining are assembled and joined together, then the bound buttonhole is formed, the side seams are sewn, and the sleeves put in place. The skirt is gathered to the waist, crin is sewn into the hem for volume, finally a button poppers and two-metre sash complete the bridesmaid's dress. 

Raph came last. Serena won her sixth pattern challenge.

Transformation Challenges

Week 1 - T-Shirts into any single garment

90 minutes to transform one or more T Shirts into another garment. The judges are looking for one cohesive garment, not combine loads of the T Shirts just because they can.

Girl's skirt and bag made from old T-Shirts
GBSB Girl's skirt and bag made from old T-Shirts, by Cathryn

Damien came last, Andrew won.

Week 2 - Board shorts into a woman's garment for a summer evening

Contestants are given 90 minutes to take men's swimming trunks and board shorts and transform them into a woman's summer evening garment. The judges are looking for re-use of features such as waistbands and pockets and feel it is crucial how they place the colours and patterns together.

Men's swimwear transformed into a dress
GBSB Men's swimwear transformed into a dress, by Serena

Lawratu came last. Adam came first.

Week 3 - Suit Jackets and Blazers into a fashionable woman's garment

90 minutes to turn two jackets into a woman's garment. In a man's tailored jacket you have approx 2 metres of really high quality fine wool and it deserves a new life. You have the lapel, pockets, buttons, and an awful lot of lining. The judges are looking for something that is not a jacket.

Dress made by upcycling a blazer
GBSB Dress made by upcycling a blazer, by Raph

Farie came in last place. Serena won.

Week 4 - Sarongs into any garment

Contestants can choose one or two sarongs (derived from the Malay word for cover, and have been worn by men and women across South East Asian for centuries) and have 90 minutes to make any other garment. Adam noted with glee that there were sarong tying classes on his cruises. Sarongs are rectangles of cloth, often highly patterned and coloured, sometimes with trim, and see-through. 

A pink dress made by upcycling a sarong
GBSB A pink dress made by upcycling a sarong, by Adam
Pink dress made from two upcycled sarongs
GBSB Pink dress made from two upcycled sarongs, by Adam

Serena came last. Adam won.

Week 5 - Wetsuits and swimming aids into a child's fancy dress costume

The contestants have 90 minutes to transform a wetsuit and flotation aids into a child's fancy dress costume inspired by the theme "under the sea". The judges feel that the flotation aids will enable highly structural, 3D shapes to be made. Between them, the contestants make jellyfish, fish, shark, crab, mermaid and octopus costumes.

Child's crab fancy dress costume made from upcycled wetsuit and flotation aids
GBSB Child's crab fancy dress costume made from upcycled wetsuit and flotation aids, by Andrew

Damien was last. Andrew won.

Week 6 - Military Surplus into a Chic Garment for a woman

Contestants have 90 minutes to transform up to 3 military surplus garments into a chic garment for a woman. The judges are looking for a clear transformation with the camo being the hero. Adeena's grandfather was captured by the Germans in WWII and held for two years and released after the war.

Military Surplus Transformed Into A Dress
GBSB Military Surplus Transformed Into A Dress, by Serena

Adeena came last. Farie won.

Week 7 - Scarves into an adult garment

Contestants are given 90 minutes to construct an adult garment from one or more scarves. The judges are looking for the use of good use of colour, pattern and print, with imagination. 

Mannequins dressed with women's garments formed from old scarves
GBSB Mannequins dressed with women's garments formed from old scarves

Damien came last. Farie won.

Week 8 - Curtains into a child's play outfit

The challenge is inspired by The Sound of Music, in which Maria makes the Von Trapp children outfits from drapes. The contestants have 90 minutes to transform one lined curtain into a practical play outfit for a child including a short or trouser. Modern curtains are often made very inexpensively out of pretty tatty fabric but the contestants have been given robust curtains, a perfect material for a robust child's outfit. The only detail on the curtains are the gathers and the judges want to see how these might be incorporated. Buttons, zips or snaps will also have to be added.

Five child's play outfits made from upcycled curtains
GBSB Five child's play outfits made from upcycled curtains

Farie came last. Serena won.

Week 9 - Parachute into a garment using as much fabric as you can

Thrifty sewers in the 1940's reused military fabrics, including parachutes, to make all sorts of clothes, from underwear to wedding dresses. The contestants have 90 minutes for the challenge. The judges are looking for a large quantity of fabric to be used to create something with real volume, plus careful colour choice.

Serena won, Rebecca came last.

Week 10 - The Final - Festival outfit from household items

Contestants are given a lot of household items such as cushion covers, curtains, placemats and need to transform them into a fun, fantastical and flamboyant festival outfit.

Raph won, Rebecca came last.

Made-to-measure Challenges

Week 1 - Woman's Buffet Dress
Buffet dress made from Broderie Anglaise
GBSB Buffet dress made from Broderie Anglaise, by Raph (Garment of the Week)

5 hours to create a loose-fitting buffet dress, which became a big success on the high street in 2019 and has since sold in hundreds of thousands. It is a full dress that does not have a defined waist. While it may look like an easy fit, it is deceptively difficult as there is a lot of fabric to handle and there will be a lot of gathers.

Cathryn uses pattern McCall's M7970.

Raph won garment of the week. Julie was sent home.

Week 2 - Button-down sun dress

A button-down sun dress is a classic item and a deceptively difficult challenge. The dress will feature a lot of buttons down the front and every single one needs to be perfectly lined up. Darts, seams and the waist will prove tricky to create a perfect fit.

Cathryn used pattern Butterick B6674. Damien made his own buttons from coconut shell, cut into the shape of guitar picks.

Sun dress
GBSB Sun dress, by Damien

Adeena wins Garment of the Week. Jean was sent home.

Week 3 - Man's utility jacket

Contestants have 5 and a half hours to produce a workmanlike utility jacket. Workwear or military-inspired with at least three pockets and made from a sturdy fabric without being overly fitted.

Utility jacket worn by a male model
GBSB Utility jacket 

Farie won Garment of the Week. Lawratu was sent home.

Week 4 - Woman's outfit inspired by Frida Kahlo

The contestants have 5 hours 30 to make a woman's outfit inspired by the Mexican artist and feminist icon, Frida Kahlo, born in Mexico City in 1907 to a German father and Mexican mother, is arguably Latin America's most influential painter, best known for uncompromising self-portraits and colourful multi-cultural style. She was a communist and rejected capitalism, including Hollywood-inspired fashion. She broke her back aged 18 and tried to hide her disability with long skirts and by drawing the eye upwards to her hair, hairbands, flowers and headpieces. Her paintings feature lots of pattern and colour. The judges are hoping for embroidered fabrics but also floral prints, interpreted in a modern and exciting way.

Farie won Garment of the Week. Cathryn was sent home.

Week 5 - Unisex Raincoat for a child

Contestants are given 4 hours 30 to make a unisex raincoat for a child. The judges are looking for a raincoat that is practical and waterproof and will keep children outdoors in all weathers while being something the child will love to wear. Some fabrics will be slippery, some can't be unpicked without leaving the holes visible. 

Child's raincoat
GBSB Child's Raincoat, by Farie

Farie won Garment of the Week for the third time in a row. Adam was sent home.

Week 6 - Taking worn-out jeans and transforming them into a woman's dress

The judges are looking for the contestants to reclaim the textile from multiple denim jeans and make something new and chic. It is fine to re-use some of the features from the original garments, but they have to look part of the new design. Most contestants bought jeans from local charity shops. Jeans first found favour in the 19th Century Californian gold rush, the time at which Levi Strauss & Co came into prominence. Over 140 years later, examples of these jeans can still be found. 

Denim Jeans transformed into a made-to-measure dress
GBSB Denim Jeans transformed into a made-to-measure dress, by Damien
Denim jeans into a dress
GBSB Denim jeans into a dress, by Raph

Raph won Garment of the Week. Adeena was sent home.

Week 7 - Festive winter party dress

Contestants have 5 hours to make a festive winter party dress for their models. The judge expect to see heavier, more opulent fabrics, such as velvet or brocade. Cutting, sewing and pressing these fabrics can all be difficult. 

Raph won Garment of the Week. Andrew was sent home.

Week 8 - Outfit for a disco diva, inspired by Dream Girls

Contestants have 5 hours 30 to create a disco diva outfit suitable for the hit movie Dream Girls, inspired by the story of Diana Ross and the Supremes. The judges are looking for a spectacular garment that dazzles on the catwalk / stage. It has to be eye-catching, almost to the point of being too much. They are expecting it to be sexy and well-fitted. These are "look at me" clothes! 

Rebecca won Garment of the Week. Damien was sent home.

Week 9 - An outfit inspired by Christian Dior's "New Look"

In 1947 Christian Dior brought back glamour to his collection following the austerity of the war. The contestants have 5 hours 30 to create an outfit inspired by his New Look. 

New Look outfit design brief, by Raph
GBSB New Look outfit design brief, by Raph

The judges are looking for the classic triangle silhouette emphasising the waist, with peplums, full skirts, and high contrast fabrics, while bringing a modern twist. 

Garment of the week won by Serena. Farie was sent home.

Week 10 - The Final - Off-the-shoulder evening gown, fit for a red carpet

Contestants have 5 hours 30 to make a made-to-measure off-the-shoulder evening gown fit for a red carpet, using models they have chosen from family and friends. Judges are looking for a perfectly fitted corset as no straps are allowed, the most painstaking techniques, and a moment of extraordinary beauty on the catwalk. 

Serena won the final.


The contestants in The Great British Sewing Bee Season Seven were:

Adam - Adam Brooks, a cruise ship entertainments director who plays the piano. Adam was sent home in week 5.

Adeena - Adeena Khatoon, from Birmingham, of Pakistani origin, a "student engagement officer" at University College Birmingham, inspired to sew by her mother who sewed for her and her sisters. She creates bespoke fashion fusing Eastern and Western fashion. Won Garment of the Week in week 2.

Andrew - Andrew Aspland, is a maths teacher, rabbit owner, bellringer (e.g. SRCY) and maker of stained glass windows from Hull whose partner, Paul, is a priest, for whom he makes vestments. Andrew was sent home in week 7.

Cathryn - Cathryn Tosler-Waudby, retired, a dinner lady for 31 years, living in East Yorkshire, and a David Bowie and Stormzy fan, who grows her own vegetables in an allotment. Sent home in week 4.

Damien - Damien Wilton, a 39 year old IT installation engineer, handyman and Bolton resident who famously declared he "would rather be cold than wear a scarf". He loves beer, bikes, computer games and plays the guitar (including in a band), and makes dresses for his girlfriend. Sent home in week 8.

Farie, from Zimbabwe, lives in Dunstable, studied accounting despite a childhood dream to work in fashion. She learned to sew at primary school and loves to create womenswear using colourful and playful fabrics. Used Simplicity pattern S8870 for Dream Girls dress in week 8. Won Garment of the Week in weeks 3, 4 and 5. Sent home in week 9.

Jean, an art psychotherapist in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland, is one of seven siblings and owner of a cat, Yoda, for whom she makes outfits. She has a passion for travel and spirituality along with partner Jo. They attend regular worship at a local Benedictine monastery. She gave jeans to Raph to complete the made-to-measure in week 6. Jean was sent home after week 2.

Julie, a 62 year old resident of Rotherham and amateur burlesque dancer. Julie was sent home after week 1.

Lawratu, a Southwark Council employee, is a Women's Institute member. Lawratu was sent home after week 3.

Raph - Raph Aël aka Raphaël Dilhan (Instagram: Raph), French, a textile artist on feature films (including Jurassic World), and amateur gymnast, and who plays lead trumpet in the London Gay Symphony Orchestra. He discovered sewing very recently during lockdown. He lives in London with partner Keith and cat Theo. Won Garment of the Week in weeks 1, 6 and 7.

Rebecca - Rebecca May, a 23 year old teacher, lives in Scunthorpe with her parents, works in her local supermarket, plays netball and is an ex-dancer and a keen supporter of Scunthorpe United FC. She inherited her creative flair from her mum and nan who taught her to sew when she was just four years old. Her father is a health and safety inspector. She adapted McCalls sewing pattern M7683 to create her made-to-measure red carpet dress from a Scuba fabric in the final. Won Garment of the Week in week 8.

Serena, a 21 year old second-year medical student in Edinburgh. She claims her favourite things are pasta, wine and sewing. Won garment of the week in week 9. Won the final.

The contestants' designs were illustrated for the show by Suzie Kemner aka Suzie London.


Trinity Buoy Wharf London - exterior
Trinity Buoy Wharf London - exterior