GBSB6 – Meet the 8th contestant to leave The Great British Sewing Bee
First, the sewists had to follow a pattern they have never encountered before, as judges Patrick Grant and Esme Young asked them to make a Filipino terno blouse. Delicate-looking but deceptively robust, this garment involved difficult-to-handle fabrics worked into distinctive, voluminous butterfly sleeves and intricate covered buttons.
In the transformation challenge, the sewers had to work with Provencal table cloths from France. These colourful, strikingly patterned cloths must be transformed into a brand new outfit in just 90 minutes, making imaginative use of the distinctive, bold print.
And for the made-to-measure challenge, the sewers had to take on the dramatic Flamenco skirt from southern Spain. They created the perfect figure-hugging fit combined with impactful ruffles achieved by inserting yards and yards of fabric into the skirt.
— Sewing Bee (@sewingbee) June 10, 2020
This week Mark sadly had to leave the show after his transformation jacket didn’t stand out from the crowd and his wrap skirt was well made but didn’t quite do enough to impress the judges. The competition is certainly getting tougher as we head into Semi-Finals week!
GBSB6 – Exclusive interview with week 8’s eliminated Bee!
When did you first start sewing and why do you love it so much?
I first learned to sew in October 2016. I had sewn at school but they didn’t have the resources to teach it properly. My husband studied fashion at uni and he made the bridesmaids dresses when we got married. This encouraged me to start sewing classes.
Who was your mentor?
My mentors have been Jules Fallon whose sewing classes I attended and my husband Clive, who has always been endlessly supportive of my drive and passion to learn this craft.
What is your favourite garment to sew/or your speciality?
My favourite garment to sew so far has been the Victorian-style sleeved cape coat. I’ve made one for myself and my husband now, lovely and warm and swishy. I also love sewing vintage style shirts from 1970s patterns, usually bought from eBay or a local charity shop.
Why did you want to be a Great British Sewing Bee and who did you want to most impress of the Judges?
It was my husband who started my GBSB application, but we finished it together. I never thought I’d actually get on the programme, it still feels quite unreal. I suppose I most wanted to impress Patrick because of his Savile Row background, as I’ve made tailored garments up to now, shirts, jackets, coats and trousers. Although Esme is quite a tough cookie to impress too. She’s vastly experienced in this field of course. Joe is completely lovely and always a welcome happy face to see when the pressure is on. He knew when to give us space and when to chat.
I tried to pace myself nicely so I wouldn’t be stressed or pressured when the clock was running out of time. It didn’t always go to plan though.
Describe your experience on first walking into the sewing room on this year’s Sewing Bee, and which challenge were you fearing the most?
It was a very magical and surreal moment when I walked into the sewing room for the first time, I couldn’t believe I was there. It was just how I imagined it, stuffed full of lovely fabrics and all things haberdashery. I was most worried about the Transformation challenge, as this is something I had never attempted before and I didn’t really know how I could prep for this. I had always worked from patterns, either ones I’ve bought or drawn myself. The transformation round was completely out of my comfort zone.
What was your best and worst moment that first week?
The hardest thing that first day was learning everybody’s names! As far as the challenges were concerned, I wanted to learn from it and most of all, to enjoy it. The time pressures were tough to get used to. At home you can take as much time as you like, but in the sewing room it’s very different. I thought the most important thing was to finish the garment. If it’s not finished the judges will leap on that.
The best feeling was getting the first garment made, finished and on the mannequin. That was a really good feeling, to have got the first one finished.
How did you try and stay calm when things were going badly wrong or you ran out of time?
That was tough, it was easy to start panicking, but that’s not productive. There’s not too much time for going back and worrying about small details when you’ve a whole garment to finish. I always tried to pace myself, not get bogged down with any one point.
Do you have a special attachment to a sewing tool?
My husband bought me a beautiful new sewing box and kit before I started. It’s covered in a classic and lovely Liberty print, ‘the strawberry thief’. That kit and sewing box meant such a lot, very thoughtful indeed. He’s good at that though. And it fitted perfectly in my suitcase too!
In your sewing life: What has been your worst sewing disaster – and your biggest triumph?
I don’t think I’ve had big disasters in sewing so far. I always learn from what I’ve just made. There’s always parts of it I wish I’d done better or differently. Sewing is a pleasurable thing for me, so I’m not going to sulk over mistakes. Learn from it, move on, and try not to do it again. I’m particularly proud of a waistcoat I made, it was my first waistcoat and I was very pleased indeed. It wasn’t perfect, but for my first one it was cracking.
Do you make for family and friends as presents? What is your most asked for garment?
I have made gifts for family, not always clothes, but something they can use or enjoy. Pencil cases; makeup bags, beach bags, aprons. I made a lovely Harry Potter costume for my sister last Christmas as she loves Harry Potter. My most admired item must be my Victorian-style sleeved cape coat. It’s also my most favourite piece so far.
Describe your style, and how much of your own clothes do you make?
I’m quite vintage in style, but eclectic too, and might seem an eccentric dresser some days. I make more and more of my clothes now. The more things I learn to sew, the less inclined I am to buy them from the shops. The exception is vintage clothing which I love too.
Can you give a sewing tip for amateur sewers who have been enjoying the show?
If you have a yearning to make something but don’t feel confident you can, then just do it. You’ll be surprised what you can do. Believe in yourself and give it a crack. I made things on GBSB that I thought were way out of my ability but always ended up making a fairly decent garment.
Was it hard to keep a secret that you were going to be on the show?
The secrecy was super difficult, I just wanted to tell everyone, but of course I couldn’t. My husband, Clive, was super proud and wanted to broadcast it to the world. It’s so nice now I can talk about it a little more.
What is the best way to describe the relationship between this year’s Bees?
The bees are all so different, we come from different backgrounds and came to sewing in different ways. But we are united through our passion and have all become firm friends. It’s been a very bonding experience, I’ve never had anything like it before.
What will you take away from your experience of being on The Great British Sewing Bee?
I’ll take away the confidence it’s given me. The new friends, the wonderful and life changing experience it’s given me.
What’s next for you in the sewing world?
GBSB has made me see that creativity is my passion and I need to bring that to my working life too. To make my career something I’m passionate about is my goal now. No more corporate treadmill, it’s moonlight, music, love and romance both at home and in my career.
Mark studied music at college, before becoming a personal banker but he keeps his love of music alive by playing as a pianist in the evenings after work.
Mark has been sewing for three years. He wanted to sew as a young boy, but never had the confidence. He learned basic skills at the local haberdashery and now sews vintage inspired menswear for himself, his husband and dogs. Mark has a love of big collars and cuffs, with inspiration taken from Dr Who costumes.
Follow Mark on Instagram at sewmarkfrancis