Celebrities make The Great British Sewing Bee

The Great British Sewing Bee: Celebrity Special(BBC One, 7.45pm)

Sara Pascoe, Shirley Ballas, Denise Van Outen, Dr Ranj Singh that up sewing
Sara Pascoe, Shirley Ballas, Denise Van Outen, Dr Ranj Singh that up sewing

Thimbles, scissors and cutting mat at the ready – yes, The Great British Sewing Bee is back.

Celebrities have taken part in the programme before – three Children in Need episodes appeared in 2014 – but this is the first time fans are being treated to two festive specials featuring well-known faces.

Regular judge Patrick Grant is taking up his usual role again. Thanks to his well-groomed looks and ability to run up a skirt (oo-er missus), he’s become something of a heartthrob during the past few years, and the show just wouldn’t be the same without him.

He’ll be joined by Esme Young, co-founder of fashion label Swanky Modes and a tutor in pattern-cutting at London’s prestigious Central Saint Martins art school. Since she took over from original judge May Martin, she’s made the role her own thanks to her funky style and anecdotes – in the last run, she casually let it slip into conversation that she’d once watched the Notting Hill carnival alongside a certain David Bowie.

The show’s format is, of course, tried and tested, having been lifted pretty much wholesale from The Great British Bake Off. But instead of soggy bottoms receiving criticism, it’s crooked zips and mismatched patterns that are the big no-nos here.

On New Year’s Eve, The Vivienne, Lesley Joseph, Sabrina Grant and Sally Phillips are the famous folk showing off – or otherwise – their dressmaking skills while conjuring up a child’s party skirt and a recognisable pantomime character, as well as being tasked with creating a made-to-measure party dress that evokes a particular memory. The programme ends with a performance from The Vivienne in which Grant, Young and presenter Joe Lycett make a surprise appearance.

But ahead of that, there’s this edition to enjoy.

For the past three years we’ve seen Shirley Ballas dishing out criticism and praise to celebrities since taking over the role of Strictly Come Dancing’s head judge from Len Goodman. Now she’s about to find out what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a TV critique, although Ballas probably starts as the favourite to win; as a professional dancer, she will have spent time altering her stage outfits, so should have a good idea of what lies ahead, especially in the transformation challenge.

Former Strictly competitors Dr Ranj Singh (he was the sixth competitor to be eliminated in the 2018 run) and Denise van Outen (she got all the way to the final before losing out to Louis Smith in 2012) are also taking part, as is comedian and writer Sara Pascoe.

Their first task sees them using a pattern to make a pair of festive pyjama bottoms, the kind you might wear while opening your presents on Christmas morning. After that, they can let their imaginations run riot while creating a fancy dress outfit for a dog. Finally, things get serious again as the quartet try to make a perfectly fitted dress.

Which of them will never want to see a needle and thread again once the show is over, and who will be going home with the coveted mannequin trophy?

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