Interview with new Sewing Bee Judge Esme Young

Meet Esme Young, the brand new judge on Series 4 of the Great British Sewing Bee! 

With The Great British Sewing Bee about to hit our screens we talk to new judge Esme Young about the new series and her own sewing adventures.  She also shares her top sewing tips and tells us how sewists in this series have been allowed to cut out some garments in advance to give them more time to show off their sewing skills.
 
 
Meet Esme Young – the new GBSB Judge replacing May Martin

How did your passion for sewing start?
My passion for sewing started when I was seven and made my first garment at school a red gathered skirt. It must have been hand-sewn because we didn’t have sewing machines. When I was younger I made clothes to go out in on a Saturday night (I’m hoping they’ll come back into fashion!). I find sewing very meditative and I’m sure it’s good for your health. I’ve been sewing for quite a long time now – about 50 years – but I am still learning all the time.

How did being a GBSB judge come about and how did you find being on TV?

I met a producer at a dinner party, who thought I would be good for The Sewing Bee, who then introduced me to Susanne Rock, the Series Producer. Isn’t life strange? You never know what is round the corner.

great british sewing bee producer
Filming the series to begin with was terrifying, with all the cameras and the crew, but Claudia and Patrick were absolutely fantastic. The whole crew gets on really well and made it easy for me to relax – after the first show you just forget about the cameras. Patrick gave me some tips on where to look and what to do and looked after me in general. Claudia is so much fun – you can have a real laugh with her – and Claire Louise Hard (Sewing Producer on the programme pictured above) is fantastic and very thorough!
 
 
What’s the most recent garment you’ve sewn?

I recently made a denim jacket for myself when airlines said that you can’t take hand luggage on a plane – it has lots of pockets! I also made some of my own outfits that I appear in on the new series. I often see fabric that I fall in love with – my most recent buys are from Bilbao. One is a pale pink fabric with embroidery roses and the other has Lurex in it. I like prints, vintage fabric and anything
that catches my eye. I’m quite keen on blue and like natural fibres such as cotton and silk.
 
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You’ve worked on a number of costumes for film. What’s the most iconic costume you’ve made?
 
I suppose it has to be the bunny outfit I created for Bridget Jones’s Diary, and I’m now working on the new Bridget Jones’s Baby film. I’ve met Renée Zellweger at a few fittings, she’ s a very nice woman, very funny and incredibly hardworking. 
 
What are you looking for when you’re judging on The Great British Sewing Bee?
 
When I am judging a garment I look for beautiful seams, I want everything to be perfect. I also want a surprise, to be excited, to see the contestant’s personality show through in their choice of fabric, colour and sewing techniques. Overall, it has to be something beautifully put together 
 
How do you think the contestants get through the pressure of the challenges?
 
It’s a lot about how they deal with the unpredictable. We have the youngest sewist so far in this series, and the contestants range in age from 18 to 71 this time. You need to have patience, be thorough and do things step by step. Contestants often miss out the pinning or tacking stage because it takes longer, but this can end up with something that has tobe unpicked. It’s a false idea that by leaving out a step you will get there quicker, you can’t cut corners when sewing. On this series, sewists have been allowed to cut out some garments before the challenge so they can show off their techniques and complete the garments to the best of their ability. 
 
Being a tutor, how did you find being in the background rather than being hands on with the contestants?
 
I found it very difficult not to be able to help them out. I did gave a little bit of advice early on, but it was hard seeing someone do something that I knew was going to end up as a disaster and not being able to help. 
 
We can’t wait for the series to start. What’s in store for us?
 
I can’t say too much, but there will be a piece of sewing equipment that’s new to the programme and the contestants will be tested with a some challenging technical fabric and new techniques! 

great british sewing bee series 4 600

Make your own #GBSB -style garments with the new book to accompany the series The Great British Sewing Bee: From Stitch to Style by Wendy Gardiner (Quadrille £25)


Esme Young’s top sewing tips

Focus

Be methodical, but practice makes perfect. I’ve mainly learnt through making mistakes.

Favourite sewing tool

My unpicker – I am quite fussy about what type it is, as I am with all my tools.

Fabric

I like fabric I can wash. I often wash the fabric before I make something so I know it won’t shrink when the garment is finished.

Research

I can be obsessive how clothes are finished and how they have evolved, so I am always looking at garments in shops to see how they are made up.

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