Return to the set

Remember last April when I told you all about my day on set of the Great British Sewing Bee? Well, that was at the very end of Season Two, and I must’ve made a good impression on the production company because by the time that post went live, I had already begun work behind the scenes on Season Three!

Over a span of about four months, I spent a lot of time working on the Bee with a team of fantastic people, including the Thriftystitcher herself, who heads up the entire behind-the-scenes sewing team. Most of it was involved with the pattern challenges (the first portion of each episode, where the contestants are given a mystery pattern to make). I can’t discuss details of how we produce the patterns, but just trust me that a lot of work goes into each one before the contestants ever see them! A lot of this work was done in the production company’s offices – which are a pretty normal looking workplace, except at my desk there was a sewing machine and ironing board instead of a computer, which was quite funny!

My work involved a lot of sewing, fitting, digitising, but also illustration, too. I did the latter together with Rosie from DIY Couture (whom I’m not afraid to admit is way better at these than I am!). This proved to be great practice for my own pattern line, as the more I did these for the Bee, the better I got – it was especially helpful for someone to say “ugh, that one looks weird, do it again!” Seriously, this helped up my Illustrator skills immensely!


The Haberdashery, empty and quiet

I was super chuffed to see some of my drawings made it into the final tv shows, too! Here I thought they’d only have an audience of ten, at most!

I wasn’t actually on the set at all for the third series (which will air sometime in 2015, I believe), which I was ok with as I’d heard enough about the super long filming days, and because I’d been on set before.

Once the third series finished filming, however, we had to start work almost immediately on the BBC Children in Need specials which were commissioned using celebrities who had never sewn before! This was a big challenge in both making the patterns easy enough for absolute beginners, but also spelling out e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g in the instructions. Even though the CIN specials were only three episodes, they probably took nearly as much work as the full season, since we had to make a huge number of revisions to make sure the challenges ran to time and were easy enough for beginners.

To make everything go smoothly on the day, each celebrity was given an afternoon’s very basic sewing lesson, too, so that everyone was on a level playing field. I personally got to teach five how to sew, and they were all honestly absolutely lovely and enthusiastic about making the simplest of items. I don’t work with absolute beginners much so I’d almost forgotten how magic those first few steps can be.

I was also thrilled when I was asked to make the “perfect” version of the Men’s teeshirt pattern challenge – this is the one which is paraded on tv as the one the contestants should aim towards. Sewing a “perfect” version of something to be scrutinised on tv in front of millions of viewers – no pressure then!!


I love the Pudsey ironing board covers, which you can buy for a tenner!!

Because one of the pattern challenges involved using the overlockers (sergers), I was asked to be on set during the filming of that challenge, both to help out should anything need re-threading, but also to assist the celebrities and the crew. I soon found out that filming is another world – I was soon crawling on the floor like a combat soldier to get to the other side of the set without getting in shot of a camera filming behind, then contorting to take out a sewing machine to thread up in the right thread colour and drop back in without interrupting. I even got an overlocker working that 5 separate people couldn’t get to stitch properly. So proud!

It was that day on set that I was given the moniker “the overlocker ninja”. I may have to put that on my CV (resumé).

Really, I had a brilliant morning on set, but it was utterly exhausting – I had to be on my feet and thinking and reacting the whole time, so much that I went home and had a nap afterwards!

When I started work on the Great British Sewing Bee, I was warned that it’d ruin the show for me as I’d know everything that was going to happen before it went on tv, but actually, it hasn’t at all. In fact, I love the show even more now for knowing all the work, care, and love that goes into each episode, and that the people behind the cameras are as skilled as the people you see on tv. And by only being on set for one third of one episode, I figure it’ll still be a surprise to see exactly what the contestants do with the challenges we’ve devised for them, even if I already know what those challenges will be.

And holy crap, my name is actually in the end credits!!

Bring on Season Four!

UK residents can watch all three Children in Need episodes on iPlayer right now, plus donate to the Children in Need charity and bid for items made on the show via the official eBay shop. Please give generously!

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