Over eight weeks, 10 amateur sewers will face bespoke challenges set by two of the country’s most respected experts: top Savile Row tailor Patrick Grant, and renowned sewing teacher May Martin.
As the weeks progress, the pressure ramps up; each of our hopefuls will have to demonstrate absolute excellence in every element of their sewing skill. From power suits to boned corsets, the tasks will test the limits of their creativity and technical prowess.
These talented home sewers all know their peplums from their plackets, but only one can be crowned Britain’s best. This captivating series captures every tense moment as they compete for the ultimate amateur sewing accolade.
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Occupation: Corporate sustainability manager
Alex was born in Romania and has been living in London with her fiancé Carl for the last five years.
She decided to teach herself the craft and started sewing in 2009 after buying a cheap sewing machine and upcycling her mother’s old clothes. When she moved to London she took up sewing lessons to improve her skills.
Alex loves to combine fabric, and often uses faux leather in her clothes. She is as passionate about sustainability in her sewing as she is in her work, and hopes to encourage people to try and make clothes by recycling, upcycling and using sustainable fabrics.
She admits to being ridiculously competitive and if she had the option, she would be at her machine all day and dream about sewing all night!
Occupation: Deputy head teacher
Amanda is a mother of two and an avid sewer and blogger. She learnt to sew when she was seven years old on her grandmother’s old hand machine.
Amanda is a deputy head teacher and enjoys sharing her skills with her pupils. She would love to inspire all of the nation’s primary school children to learn how to sew.
Amanda was given a tailor’s dummy for Christmas in 2012, which she believes has totally transformed her sewing. She’s more in love with it now than ever and is producing garments that she is more and more proud of as a result.
Occupation: Former dairy farmer and cheesemaker
Annie is a retired Scottish dairy farmer, teacher and artisan cheesemaker. She was an avid sewer in her younger life, having been inspired by an enthusiastic teacher at school.
She took a break from sewing when she had children and a full-time job, but rediscovered her passion for the craft once her children had flown the nest. She loved that she could make a dress on Saturday afternoon and wear it on Saturday night.
Annie describes herself as a ‘larger lady’ who often finds it difficult to find clothes in shops that fit well.
She was once treated rudely while searching for an outfit for her daughter's wedding on the high street. So she decided to make something to wear herself, and now sews every day.
Occupation: Support officer
Originally from Blackburn, Deborah now lives in Manchester with her new husband Terence and works for Manchester Metropolitan University. Before that, Deborah had a job in a fabric shop, which she thinks definitely fuelled her love of sewing.
Deborah learnt sewing from her mum when she was just 11. She describes her style as vintage with a modern twist, and often combines patterns to make clothes perfect for her shape.
Once she’s perfected a garment that fits her well, Deborah makes lots of other versions in different colours and fabrics.
She's currently trying to develop her own wardrobe of dresses and skirts for work, but the garment she is most proud of making is her wedding dress.
Occupation: Retired air hostess
Lorna has been sewing since she was 11 years old, after her mother took her for sewing lessons in Buenos Aires, where they were living at the time. She watched avidly, rushing home to try out her new skills by making clothes for her dolls.
Sewing became Lorna’s saviour when she was sent to boarding school in Scotland. Being dyslexic, she found sewing was the only subject she really excelled at.
Lorna is married with two grown-up sons, and before retiring clocked up a diverse career working as everything from a dental nurse, to an air hostess and a Eurostar customer services representative.
Lorna says she likes the pressure and adrenaline of sewing to a time limit. She also likes to upcycle clothes, and often used her husband’s old shirts to make new ones for her sons. She now sews glamorous gowns and dresses for the cruises she enjoys with her husband Ray.
Occupation: IT consultant
Over the last three years, self-taught Matt's sewing has grown evermore serious. He taught himself dressmaking skills from online tutorials and now proudly makes dresses for his wife Gemma, and fancy dress outfits for their two young children.
Matt finds sewing therapeutic and enjoys the engineering side of making a garment. He has often found himself the butt of his friends’ jokes for his more classically feminine hobby, though all of their wives are jealous of Gemma’s constantly growing new wardrobe!
Matt has recently challenged himself to increase his skills by branching out into more tailored garments.
Occupation: Marketing manager
Originally from Bradford, Neela was taught to sew by her mother when she was just eight. She started collecting patterns when she was young and now has an extensive back catalogue, which she uses for her designs.
Neela loves to make occasion wear and enjoys upcycling old saris to make dresses for her two daughters.
She is keen to pass on her love of sewing to the next generation and has taught both of her daughters to sew. They now have three sewing machines in their house and are looking forward to creating a space at home dedicated solely to sewing.
Occupation: Lieutenant colonel in the Army
Neil started sewing at school out of protest because the girls were allowed to join the football team.
He was mocked by his troops for taking his sewing machine on tour to Bosnia and Afghanistan, until they realised how useful it was for their own uniform repairs and making curtains for their accommodation. Neil was even asked to sew the head back on to someone’s teddy bear!
Aside from his family, Neil has two extreme passions; sewing and rugby. He has been known to rush straight off the rugby pitch and home to finish an evening dress for his wife for dinner that evening.
Neil picked up sewing from his mum and sisters, so is no stranger to womenswear. He has made three wedding dresses, the bridesmaids' dresses for his own wedding and bespoke occasion wear for his wife.
Neil once got roped into making the costumes for a Sound of Music production – which turned out to be over 120 outfits – and at the other end of the spectrum has made ammunition pouches, ski gloves and rugby shirts.
Occupation: Sports physiotherapist
Paul learnt to sew by watching his mother as a child, and finally got his own sewing machine at the age of 20. He has been sewing ever since.
He sews out of frustration at the monotony of men’s clothing, and feels men aren’t well represented in the sewing world. Paul loves the pleasure he gets from creating something unique that you can’t buy in the shops.
Apart from his everyday wear, Paul also likes to make more theatrical clothes and creates costumes for historical re-enactments and dresses for his female impersonator friend.
Paul describes his style as colourful and bright and has experience in a wide range of garments; from shirts to waistcoats; shorts to fleeces and even an English Civil War costume for his re-enactment society.
As well as sewing, Paul also enjoys knitting, gardening and is passionate about elephants.
Occupation: Dresser in West End musicals
Ryan hails from a family of building society managers, but is bucking the family trend with his love of dressmaking.
Ryan was inspired to sew by his granny and taught himself at the age of seven by methodically following patterns to improve his skills. He compares sewing patterns to puzzles and with each new pattern, likes to increase the level of difficulty to really push himself.
Ryan is a fitness addict and likes to make his own sportswear. He has fashioned hoodies and running shorts on his prized possession: his overlocker.
Ryan regularly visits museums and exhibitions to get inspiration for his sewing creations. He likes to dream big, and would love to see one of his sewing creations on the red carpet one day, or to have a display in the Victoria & Albert Museum!
May certainly knows her stuff with over 40 years of teaching experience under her belt.
After training at St Osyth’s college – a teacher’s training college that specialised in needlework courses and home economics – she began her teaching career in secondary schools and then taught adults.
Nowadays, you'll find her teaching at Denman College (Women's Institute Academy), where she specialises in garment making and home accessories.
Patrick started his career in science and engineering and has no formal training in tailoring. However, that didn't stop him buying the renowned Savile Row tailors Norton & Sons in 2005.
The tailors was in serious decline, but since buying the business, Patrick has substantially increased the customer base and tripled the number of suits made.
In recognition for his work with Norton subsidiary E Tautz & Sons, Patrick won 2010 Menswear Designer at the British Fashion Awards.
Patrick is surrounded by the best hand sewers in the world and is in continuous contact with garments of an incredibly high standard. His passion and aesthetic have been responsible for putting Norton & Sons back on the map.
Claudia is no stranger to presenting and she's a regular voice on both TV and radio.
In her weekly The Radio 2 Arts Show with Claudia Winkleman, she loves taking a lively look at the latest films, plays, dance events, books and exhibitions, alongside an eclectic selection of music. She's also previously presented Film 2014 with co-host Danny Leigh.
When not discussing the latest offering on the contemporary art circuit or chatting about Spielberg’s most recent release, you'll find Claudia toe-tapping her way as co-host on Strictly Come Dancing.
Claudia hosted Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two on BBC2 for seven years, getting all the behind-the-scenes gossip. She's now co-hosting the main show with Tess Daly and her chat with the judges, Len's Lens, has become one of the highlights of the programme.
Claudia is a huge supporter of Comic Relief, hosting Red Nose Day, Sport Relief, Let’s Dance for Sport Relief and Let's Dance for Comic Relief.
After encountering a few soggy bottoms on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off, Claudia decided to branch off in a different direction of homemaking and try her hand at presenting The Great British Sewing Bee.