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Interview with Esme Young

Interview with Esme Young New Great British Sewing Bee judge
Image credit: BBC/Love Productions/Charlotte Medlicott

Series 4 of The Sewing Bee will be back on our screens next month.  Another 10 amateur stitchers will be battling their way through a series of sewing challenges over 8 weeks.  Patrick Grant is returning as judge, and Claudia as the presenter but replacing May Martin is a new judge Esme Young.  Esme is the co-founder of the fashion label Swanky Modes and collaborates with costume designers for many films including Trainspotting and Bridget Jones’s Baby.

Many of you are dying to find out more about the new judge and what she will bring to the show, find out more in our interview below.

How did you get the job as judge on the show?

I met a producer at a dinner party who thought I would be good in the series, she then introduced me to Susanne Rock, executive producer and we met....Isn’t it strange, with life you never know what is round the corner, meeting the right people at the right time.

When we first started filming I found it terrifying, all the cameras, all the crew, but Claudia and Patrick were absolutely fantastic to me.  We got on really well, and the whole crew were great and made me feel really relaxed. Patrick gave me tips and looked after me, he would say ‘look there’, ‘do this’ and that kind of thing.


What do you think you will bring to the show?

I think I have brought pattern cutting to the series.  I’ve encouraged the contestant’s to make something from scratch to their own taste and style rather than using a pattern.

 

The Great British Sewing Bee Sewing Room



What do you look for when judging the contestant’s creations?

I look for beautiful seams, beautiful sleeving etc I want everything to be perfect.  I also want a surprise, I want to be excited, and I want to see their personalities show in their choice of fabric, of colour, the sewing techniques they use. I like a bit of hand sewing and something beautifully put together, attention to detail, no puckering etc.


What did you think of this year’s contestants?

I was surprised and I think you will be too.  We had the biggest age range this series, from 18 to 71!  It was really interesting watching them on the pattern challenges, to see what they learned.  It’s like a rite of passage how they came through all the challenges.  It think it must be hard for the sewers having cameras around them all the time, constantly interviewing them as they sew.

I found it very difficult not being able to help the stitchers out.  It was hard seeing someone do something that I know is going to end up as a disaster without helping them.

How and when did you learn to sew?

My passion for sewing started when I was 7 and I was taught to sew at school.  My first item of clothing was a gathered skirt, I think it was hand sewn, it must have been because we didn’t have sewing machines and it was a red fabric.   When I was young I made clothes to go out on a Saturday night, we would go out all wearing our outfits, so hopefully that will come back.

I find that sewing is very meditative and I am sure it is good for your health and wellbeing.  You are always learning something.  I have been sewing for quite a long time – about 50 years – but I am still learning things about sewing.  Finish changes, if you look at clothes from the 50s and 60s it’s different it’s always moving on and evolving.  When I look at the clothes that my mum had made for her – seam allowances were much bigger; faces and linings were different.  Nowadays a lot of things are laser cut. I know home sewers can’t do that, but I get a bit obsessive how clothes are finished and how it has evolved, so I am always looking at the results in shops.

Ribbon from The Sewing Bee

What do you like to sew?

I make a lot of clothes for myself, and I recently made a denim jacket for myself.  When they said that you can’t take hand luggage on a plane I made a denim jacket with loads of pockets.  I made some of my own outfits on Sewing Bee that you will see.  I like natural fibres, cottons, and silks, I like sewing with vintage fabrics and I like blues.  I prefer fabric I can easily wash and quite often before I make something I will wash the fabric so I know it won’t shrink the finished garment when I wash it.


What is your top sewing tip?

Practice and be methodical, but practice is what makes perfect and that is how I have learned, through mistakes and disasters.  Don’t be put off by disaster because by that you learn something new and how to avoid it in the future.

What’s your favourite sewing tool?

My unpicker and I am quite fussy about what type it is, and I’m the same with every sewing tool.


What’s your favourite costume you have made for a film?

I suppose the most iconic costume I have made is the bunny outfit I made for Bridget Jones.  Renee is a very nice woman, and very funny, very hardworking and in almost every scene.  When I’m making all the costumes for a film I have to employ other people to sew for me but the bunny outfit is one I made myself.

 

As much as we’ll all miss May we are looking forward to seeing what dynamic a new judge brings to the show.  Not too long to wait for the start of the new series.  We're awaiting official confirmation of the air date and will share as soon as we can.  But in the meantime to check our Sewing Bee section to catch up on the details of the previous 3 series and some fab extracts from the books.

 Sewing supplies from The Great British Sewing Bee 2016

 Sewing room image credits: BBC/Love Productions/Charlotte Medlicott