The challenges are impressive, the contestants joyous – it's little wonder that millions of us can't get enough of Bake Off's little sister
Asmaa has been crowned the winner (Picture: BBC/Love Productions/James Stack)
The Great British Bake Off’s sister shows continue to captivate as much, if not more, than the mothership contest. The Great Pottery Throwdown has become a kiln-fired winter treat, thanks to adorably soppy judge Keith Brymer Jones.
Now the latest series of The Great British Sewing Bee (BBC One) reached its climax, having built a devoted fanbase – 3 million viewers live, 2 million more on catch-up – making it one of the most popular programmes on-air right now. This delightful finale demonstrated why.
This year’s dozen amateur sewers were impressively gifted and cleverly cast. An endearing mix of characters, united by a love of making their own clothes. I was particularly partial to Francophile retiree Gillie and the enjoyably bonkers Fauve. In her second series as host, comedian Sara Pascoe settled into the role, all giggly banter and supportive kindness.
Fittingly for a grand final, the theme was “glamour”. The three surviving stitchers conjured up Victoriana frocks and menswear so flamboyant, you’d risk arrest (and possibly pneumonia) by wearing it in public. The made-to-measure decider? Ingenious two-in-one dresses, like sartorial Swiss Army knives. Perhaps the show’s trickiest ever task, this was as much about engineering as dressmaking.
Last male standing Tony, the skateboarding postman with a penchant for graphic prints, went for something too simple to truly wow. Tattooed prodigy Mia, who only learned to sew in lockdown, ruled herself out by making unsightly construction mistakes. When she wept, her fellow finalists were quick to offer consoling cuddles. Such cockle-warming camaraderie has been evident all series.
Cardiff breast surgeon Asmaa, who makes bespoke bras for her cancer patients, had been in pole position all series, thanks to her technical prowess and cool head. Her creation was truly jaw-dropping. At the flick of a fastening, a draped cobalt blue dress cascaded down into a green gown.
Judge Patrick Grant compared it to a Cornetto unwrapping itself. As tailor Grant (firm but fair and wryly funny) and costumier Esme Young (fabulously eccentric and the show’s secret weapon) pretended to deliberate, eliminated contestants and family members arrived at Sunny Bank Mill to marvel at the past 10 weeks’ work. Asmaa was the clear winner, deservedly taking home the golden mannequin. An uplifting end to a lovely series. Five million loyal viewers can’t be wrong. Sew long, everyone.