GBSB6 – Meet the 6th contestant to leave The Great British Sewing Bee
The fashion industry is the biggest polluter of our planet besides oil, so for reduce, reuse and recycle week, all the fabric in the haberdashery is replaced with charity shop clothes and soft furnishings. To breathe new life into this old fabric, host Joe Lycett kicks the seven remaining home sewers off with a pattern for a man’s bomber jacket, which must be pieced together from four secondhand women’s garments. Judges Patrick Grant and Esme Young are looking for precision sewing and the ability to design and create garments using attractive colour combinations.
In the transformation challenge, the sewers are tasked with turning laundry bags into stylish, wearable garments, and then have to use old knitwear to create a made-to-measure jumper dress, perfectly fitted to their model. One of the jumpers has to be brought in from home and mean something to them personally. It’s a Sewing Bee first, as the sewers have never been asked to sew with knitted fabrics before.
While the judges couldn’t decide between garment of the week and gave it to both Matt and Nicole(!) it was sadly Pete who left the show this week.
GBSB6 – Exclusive interview with week 6’s eliminated Bee!
When did you first start sewing and why do you love it so much?
I was taught to use a sewing machine by my mum when I was about eight years old but didn’t attempt anything for myself until I was about 15, when I realised that I couldn’t read a commercial pattern and there were no tutorials online back then to learn stuff from so I eventually gave up as there was no one locally that was able to give me the information I needed. Then (many years later) The Great British Sewing Bee launched with the simple infographics and inspiration (along with a lot of time spent online!) I taught myself to sew and realised this is an obsession I have been waiting a long time to realise. Sewing is my meditation, the process is methodical yet creative and there is no better feeling than someone complimenting a piece of clothing you are wearing and being able to reply, “Thanks! I made it…”
Who was your mentor?
In terms of sewing I have always looked up to Vivienne Westwood, a self-taught sewing punk who has taken over the world and makes some of the most original and startlingly beautiful clothes available today.
In real life I have never had a sewing mentor as I taught myself over the course of a few years. I could say my mum as she is a constant source of inspiration to me.
What is your favourite garment to sew/or your speciality?
I mostly make men’s clothes as I tend to make for me so I enjoy the process of making shorts (zip fly and waistband, not drawstring) or shirts as they are a little tricky and fiddly but the end result is so satisfying once you learn how to get it right. Over the last year or so, though, I have started drafting my own patterns and doing much more free form draping, which has become my favourite thing, but tends to work much better for women’s clothing. Once you have seen my style you realise that isn’t too much of a problem for me.
Why did you want to be a Great British Sewing Bee and who did you want to most impress of the Judges?
The Great British Sewing Bee is my favourite TV show and it is what got me sewing. Of course I wanted to be on it, and once I felt I had acquired enough skills I applied. The thing that most attracted me to the show was the chance to push myself and my skills to the next level.
I wanted to impress both the judges in different ways. I wanted Patrick to be impressed with the actual quality of my sewing, as he is a tailor – the finish of a garment is the ultimate bottom line in his business and if I can impress him then I am certainly at the top of my game. Esme I wanted to impress conceptually, although she is, obviously, an incredibly accomplished technical sewer she is more in touch with high fashion and I would like her to recognise my ability to produce beautiful, on trend, couture garments.
Having Joe in the sewing room is like having one of your best friends in there with you, he’s such a comfort and gives you an outside perspective when you are so focused on the task in hand that you ‘can’t see the forest for the trees.’ Although on the other hand with Joe you end up relaxing too much, telling silly jokes and laughing at how terribly funny he is, which can be a distraction, but a welcome one.
Describe your experience on first walking into the sewing room on this year’s Sewing Bee, and which challenge were you fearing the most?
The first walk up the stairs into the sewing room was hugely intense. I wasn’t used to having cameras on me, I didn’t know what to expect of the other sewers work and had, obviously, not been into the sewing room before. So the expectation of what it would actually look like, would it be the same as it looks on telly? Will I get along with the equipment/machines? Will they have a selection of fabric in the haberdashery that I can work with? Will they have changed anything from last season? But the second I got to the top of the stairs and walked into the sewing room I simultaneously felt a huge sigh of relief as all the waiting was finally over but also a massive adrenaline rush as that is the first moment it really becomes real and you realise what is ahead.
It is intense, and I was most worried about the pattern challenges as I am not a particularly swift sewer and being against a timescale was scary as hell. Also the idea of sewing near other people was a bit odd, sewing is something you usually do alone with music/podcast etc and no ticking clock so making the same thing as loads of other people whilst they are sitting next to you is weirdly unnerving.
What was your best and worst moment in the series?
Best moment for me was the transformation challenge. I had been looking forward to the chaos of creating a garment out of unknown materials and I found it hard but loads of fun. I think I was most prepared for the transformation challenge as this is how I like to work most at home, apart from the tight timescale, flying by the seat of your pants and making adjustments as they arise and using pure artistic flair to create beauty without having to worry to much about the finish = FUN!
Worst part was getting used to the timescales. I have never sewn against the clock before and found it very stressful, especially if you make a small mistake as, even if it is minor, it takes time to correct and you immediately know you are going to have to rush other parts of the garments to get it finished in time. For most of the time I had a wadded up ball of tissues under the desk that I had to wipe my hands on constantly as I was sweating so much!
How did you try and stay calm when things were going badly wrong or you ran out of time?
I am generally a pretty chilled out and laid back person and although it’s a huge amount of pressure being part of a televised competition, at the end of the day, it’s just needle and thread. No one is going to die or get hurt, it’s not going to cost me anything, I still have my health and my family and friends so it’s not the end of the world. When times did get stressful I usually just muttered, “just needle and thread” to myself, took a deep breath and got back to it. Not much else you can do.
Do you have a special attachment to a sewing tool?
The one thing I have that I have such a reverence for is my mum’s old sewing machine. I have technical machines and modern machines but the machine I use the most is the one that I ‘borrowed’ off my mum about 12 years ago. It was her 18th birthday present from her parents and people don’t make sewing machines like that anymore. By today’s standards it is a fairly simple machine but it has never broken down, never done the wrong stitch, never needed the tension adjusting, it’s just a proper mechanical machine that was built to last, and I have very fond memories of my mum using it when I was a child.
Do you make for family and friends as presents? And most asked for garment?
I regularly make presents for family and friends and the thing I am most often asked for are clothes/bags/accessories for young children as most of my friends have begun families so I make a lot of simple dresses, leggings and t shirts. As I also screen print fabric I like to personalise things with a picture or emblem that relates to the recipient. Kids especially love when their clothes actually reflect them.
Describe your style, and how much of your own clothes do you make?
My style ranges from the banal to the bizarre. Some days I want to blend in with the crowd so I put on a pair of old jeans and a plain T-shirt, other days I want people to know who I am so I put on one of my own creations, paint my nails and accessorise the hell out of the out fit. Then, like Coco Chanel, before I leave the house I take one thing off. Sometimes I want to look like a time traveller from the past, sometimes from the future. Sometimes I want to look like a trucker, sometime a prince. What I happen to be wearing on any given day usually depends on how I feel when I wake up that morning.
I would like to have the time and patience (and money) to make all of my own clothes but alas I have a mortgage that needs paying so I would guess I currently make about 30-40% of my clothes. That figure is steadily rising though, as I get faster and I get less and less impressed with what is available to buy.
Can you give a sewing tip for amateur sewers who have been enjoying the show?
If you want to learn how to sew, just sew. Use the internet or local resources (fabric shops, knitting circles, knowledgeable friends etc) to get some inspiration and ask about things you don’t understand, sewers are generally a nice bunch and really happy to help out. But keep at it and practise practise practise! You will make some unwearable stuff and make some mistakes that cannot be rectified but learn from that and keep going. One day you will realise you can do something you never thought possible and that will be the day you will become truly obsessed with sewing. Also buy a mass of the cheapest material you can find to practise details with, make toiles with, learn how to put in zips or button holes etc it also helps a little if your practise material has checks, like gingham or printed tartan etc as this is a very quick visual alert as to where the grain line is on your fabric/garment and will help to keep a garment precise and hanging correctly.
Was it hard to keep a secret that you were going to be on the show?
I found it very difficult to keep my involvement with the show a secret, particularly at work as it was hard to hide the fact I wasn’t on the timetable and people kept asking how my holiday was. I found it easier to make up a believable lie so I told people I was shooting a documentary about tattoos, which is something I have done before so no one really asked any questions or was surprised when they over heard me talking about shooting, or ‘the show’ etc.
What is the best way to describe the relationship between this year’s Bees?
This year’s sewers have become firm friends. There isn’t a single one of them I wouldn’t be able to call just to have a chat.
What will you take away from your experience of being on The Great British Sewing Bee?
I will be able to take away from the Sewing Bee the knowledge that I am actually quite good at this. I never thought I would even get through the casting process so being picked to be part of the show has cemented in my mind that this is a pathway I want to follow and that I should have more confidence in myself.
Next for you in the sewing world?
In the future I would like to be able to earn a living from sewing, or a sewing/crafting related industry. I would love to teach and run workshops and inspire people. I’ve also been toying with the idea of instructional videos/vlog etc but I will need to learn video editing first!
Youth Hostel Deputy Manager, Peter was taught to sew by his mum when he was a child but it was watching The Great British Sewing Bee that reignited his passion.
Outside of the Sewing Bee, Peter looks for inspiration from design rebels like Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood when making his own clothes. He has a workshop in the spare room of his flat where he experiments with all things creative.
After leaving school Peter trained as a hairdresser and moved to Brighton when he was 20, where he currently works as the deputy manager of the Brighton YHA.
Follow Pete on Instagram here