The Great British Sewing Bee is returning to our TV screens - here TV judge and Blackburn community clothing company founder Patrick Grant reveals what to expect. 

After the first Covid-19 lockdown was enforced, entry-level sewing machines sold out across the country for months.

A project called the Big Community Sew was launched by Patrick, director of Blackburn-based clothing manufacturer Cookson and Clegg.

It encouraged thousands of people to make face masks for their friends and neighbours, and gowns and scrubs for NHS workers – and Grant got fellow Sewing Bee judge Esme Young, plus presenter Joe Lycett, involved too.

Patrick said: “Those people that were volunteering their time, found it really, really beneficial in lots of ways”

“It gave them a purpose to their day, it gave them a social network to engage with and it simply gave them something that was a very mindful activity.”

The seventh series of the competition returns to BBC One, which sees 12 of Britain’s best amateur sewers take on various creative challenges.

Each episode has a different overall theme, and involves three tasks; the pattern challenge, a transformation challenge – where the contestants are given second-hand garments and must up-cycle them into a brand new outfit -and a final sewing challenge, which tests the contestants’ ability to create a made-to-measure outfit for a real life model.

Joe Lycett said: “There were a lot of tears this year – more than normal,”

“Straight out of the gate, episode one, everyone’s crying!”

Lancaster And Morecambe Citizen:

Joe Lycett, Esme Young and Patrick Grant

Patrick said we should also expect a lot of exuberance on our screens, “I don’t know whether it was because we’ve been feeling so kind of lacking in fun clothing opportunities for the year, but there’s loads of fun party stuff, there’s lots of sparkle,”

As for the standard of the sewers this year, he notes: “In week one, Esme and I looked at each other and we were like, ‘Well this is going to be difficult’ because occasionally there are one or two that maybe aren’t quite as good as the others and you can see it quite early on… We set this first challenge and almost everybody absolutely nailed it.”

Lancaster And Morecambe Citizen:

Esme Young and Patrick Grant (BBC/Love Productions/Mark Bourdillon)

There’s a reason so many of us like watching The Great British Sewing Bee – it’s nice, warm TV.

Patrick said: “There’s a lot of telly that is based on the assumption that people want to see other people kind of put down, and we’re the opposite end of that spectrum.”

Christmas 2020 may have been a difficult one for many of us. But it did bring some festive editions of Sewing Bee, starring the likes of Dame Shirley Ballas, Sally Phillips and Sara Pascoe.

Apparently, many of the celebs went on to buy sewing machines after starring in the show.

“[TV personality] Dr Ranj sent me a picture; he re-did a version of the dress that he did,” revealed Patrick.

“Very few of the celebrity contestants had much – if any – experience of sewing, using sewing machines, and they gave it such a great amount of gusto.

“They totally went for it, and they were really brave in the choices of things they were going to make, and it was really fun.”

Patrick has been keeping himself sane by walking and cycling, but says he has spent most of the last year working.

Lancaster And Morecambe Citizen:

Adam, Lawratu, Julie, Joe Lycett, Cathryn, Damien, Farie, Andrew, Rebecca, Jean, Adeena, Raph, Serena (L-R standing, L-R seated). BBC/Love Productions/Mark Bourdillon

At the end of March last year, Patrick moved to Blackburn to run his factory Cookson and Clegg, which manufactures textiles.

“I’ve never worked longer hours in my life,” he admits. “For about six months we were making PPE, then we went back to making normal stuff.

“And then when the second wave started we were back on PPE, and we just had to re-mobilise; we made all the scrubs for the vaccine centres in our region.

“We’ve got big orders in for reusable gowns. Hopefully, there are some quite big changes to the way some of the NHS procurement happens. I think, certainly in our region, they are looking to try to continue to buy some product from the UK, which will help the textile and the garment sewing industry a little bit.”

The Great British Sewing Bee returns to BBC One on Wednesday, April 14