Great British Sewing Bee Series 6 – Episode 5 – Lingerie & Sleepwear

Home » Great British Sewing Bee Series 6 – Episode 5 – Lingerie & Sleepwear

We were down to 8 contestants for this weeks show, where we saw them making a basque, refashion pyjamas & nighties & sew a 2 piece sleep set. The contestants were challenged with using luxury but tricky to handle fabrics & boning to make well fitting garments.

Below is a link to my YouTube video review of the show aired on the 20th of May, where I talk about the patterns & fabrics that I have found used in the show or similar. I also talk about my challenge from the previous episode & set myself a new challenge to make another garment using patterns & fabric that I own or can find free for a garment inspired by the episode.

**Spoiler Alert – I reveal the garment of the week & the person who was eliminated **

Round 1 Technical Challenge – Basque

The contestants had 3.5 hours to make basque, there were 13 pieces with 6 channels of boning which was fastened with strips of hooks & eyes. A basque has to fit the wearer as it cannot be adjusted on the body with ties like a corset is, so the fabric chosen needs to hold its shape & support the wearer. The pattern tested their organisational abilities as a lot of the pieces are similar & also needed precision with cutting & sewing. In Patrick’s words – ‘a deceptively difficult challenge’ – although I would say that there is nothing deceptive about it – really tough in the time given, especially if you haven’t made anything like this before. The insertion of the hook & eye strips caused consternation amongst a lot of the contestants, as it was easy to get wrong & there were 3 pages of instructions!


Once again I think that the pattern was drafted for the programme, so no exact match for this pattern. I’ve managed to find a corset rather than a Basque in one of the old GBSB books; Fashion with Fabric which could be used as a starting point, if anyone fancies a go at all of the techniques. It doesn’t have the cups that the one on the show had & has eyelets with ties at the back but could easily be adapted to have the hooks & eyes.

Ralph Pink has a selection of free corset patterns, sadly they are all size 8 & no instructions – so good luck with that! Sew Curvy have a good selection of Corests available including this Vivienne cupped corset. There are a lot of resources on this site such as boning & Coutil fabric, which I believe is the ideal fabric for this type of garment, along with a compendium of techniques including videos. It’s well worth a look if you’re interested in sewing either a corset or a Basque. Simplicity 1183 is a good match for the pattern used & has cup sizes, it seems good value at £5.


Again, it was tricky to source exact matches for the fabrics but I did find a couple of good suppliers of the haberdashery required, such as Sew Curvy above for the coutil, which is a cotton & viscose mix. Also, Vena Cava is a good resource for supplies & B’Wear are based in Europe but ship worldwide I believe, I’ve used both before for bra making supplies & have found them to be very good.

Liz said that she was in her comfort zone as she had sewn undies & bras before. You would think that would be the kiss of death but she actually did ok in this round. She used her favourite colour a black satin with a cobalt blue bias binding around the bottom. Apart from a bit of wonky topstitching, she did a good job & came 3rd.

Ali went for stripes for her Basque, making them vertical down the main bodice & horizontal under the cups. Sadly I think she may have taken too much time matching stripes as she was only sewing in her casings for the boning with 30 minutes left & there was still the hooks & eyes & bias binding to attach, (unless it was edited to look that way!) She missed the boning in the back, which the judges spotted. 6th.

Mark chose a white with silver grey embroidery, similar to the one below from Minerva. It was neatly sewn but he got one side of his hook & eyes wrong & the judges thought it was a bit tight. 4th

Matt chose a grey fabric with embroidery & green bias binding, he sewed at 0.5cm seam allowance instead of 1cm making his too big & the hooks & eyes had been inserted incorrectly. 5th

Therese had a lot of firsts – she’d never used boning or hooks & eyes or sewn any underwear before & cut herself unpicking she chose a cream taffeta. Sadly her hooks & eyes had been inserted incorrectly & the fit was too big & she didn’t finish the bias binding. 7th

Nicole chose a Jacquard with a pale blue/grey background & cream raised floral pattern. (The fabric below is similar but not the one used.) The judges didn’t feel that hers fit as well as Clare’s giving her 2nd place.

Clare chose the same fabric as Nicole which meant that they were going to be directly compared . She chose a cream bias binding & the judges couldn’t find fault with either the stitching or the fit. She seemed shocked to come 1st.

Peter’s fabric was a cream with yellow detail & binding. He managed to omit the 2 back panels & didn’t realise until he came to put it on his dummy at the end causing Patrick to declare it one of the biggest clangers in the history of Sewing Bee. 8th

The basque line-up

Round 2 – Transformation Challenge

The contestants had 90 minutes to transform a nightie & a pair of pyjamas into a piece of wearable summer daywear for a woman, using anything from the haberdashery but no other fabric.The judges were looking for something eye-catching & wearable that didn’t resemble the original garments.

Clare made a shirt with a peplum & skirt with a ruffle at the bottom. She kept the scalloped edge from the bottom of the nightgown to create the hem of the sleeves 4th

Nicole made dungarees & a sleeveless top to go underneath. She used the pocket from the pyjama top on the bib & bias bound the sleeves of the blouse with the pyjama fabric of the dungarees to tie them in 1st

Therese turned the pyjama top back to front & altered the sleeves & added frills made from the nightgown 7th

Ali used the piping edge of the pj top to create a crossover top with a short skater style skirt. 6th

Liz made a maxi dress, mostly out of the pjs & added a frill down the front, which the judges felt looked like an afterthought. 8th

Peter made top with huge statement sleeves. He used the top of the nightie to sit underneath the bust & constructed mini collars to sit underneath the original collar to marry the 2 items together. 2nd

Matt used a draping technique to construct a dress with the seams to the outside & a zip on the back 3rd

Mark made a midi skirt with godets. Patrick remarked that it wasn’t the most complicated garment but was well done. I would say it was the most wearable for me & looked nothing like nightwear. 5th

Round 3 Made to Measure – Sleep Set

The contestants had 5 hours to create a 2 piece sleep set with a lace element. Suggested fabrics were jersey, cotton & silk but the judges were looking for balance with the lace. The set needed to fit correctly & be comfortable. Everyone seemed to be drawn to camisole type tops & shorts for the bottoms, except Peter who took a more Victorian approach!

There is a pattern in the new GBSB book- Sustainable Style, which, although isn’t an exact copy is similar in style to those used by Therese, Clare & Liz. I’ve also found the Saffron Ensemble, a free sleep set pattern from Mood fabrics. I think with the elastic removed from the bottom of the top & lengthened & lace added to the bottom you could achieve a similar look to some of the garments shown on the show. There’s also some information there about sewing French seams, a technique used by a couple of the contestants.

Ali’s outfit was made of cream silk cut on the bias for shaping with contrasting animal print panels (similar to this). Esme liked the combination of fabrics but felt that her sewing wasn’t as neat as usual & she accidentally snipped the front of the top with her scissors, which she disguised with a bow but Esme spotted it! Her pattern was similar to the vogue 9218 below.

Peter used an abstract cotton lawn, which looked like a Liberty print but I was unable to find it. He went for a simple but well done, (his words), sleep set with a deep blue lace trim around the bottom of the shorts & neckline. He had cut around the scallops on the neckline but was criticised for not doing so on the bottom of the shorts as he ran out of time, I think he redeemed himself from the 1st round, as this was the only fault that they highlighted.His pattern looked like the Burda below but without the seams/darts down the front.

Matt’s silky sensual sleep set was made from a Royal blue silk charmeuse, similar to this from Beckford Silk, which was very lightweight. It looks as though he used Vogue V8888,(I caught a glimpse of it on the show) which looks a good value pattern including 2 lengths of dressing gown & the option to sew a nightgown. The judges felt that it was too big across the bust & bulky, he made a rolled hem but sadly stretched it out while sewing which caused it to be uneven.

Mark kept us entertained with his winceyette nod to Victoriana, with a set which included knickerbockers & matching tunic with lace. It looks as though he may have used the vintage pattern below but shortened the bottoms. (I’m giving the Foldline girls full credit for that as I couldn’t see this on the show at all).We also had a insight into Patrick’s schooldays, when apparently he wore a nightcap! While it probably wasn’t the the sexiest of sleepwear outfits, winceyette is a brushed cotton on both sides making it both breathable & warm. The judges said it was very nicely sewn & there was actually a lot of work involved as the bodice had pleats at the neckline buttons & a waist tie channel, along with elastic in the bottom of the knickerbockers.

Therese used a blue & white cotton lawn similar to this Liberty Eloise. Looking at the way that the bias binding was used for the shoulder straps, I’m pretty sure that she used the FiFi set from Tilly & the Buttons & added lace trim to the hem of the top & shorts & along the top of the cups.She used French seams to add comfort for the wearer. Incredibly neat sewing & good fit, which Patrick described as exquisite, saved her bacon & won garment of the week.

Liz was the only one to use a stretch fabric for her sleep set combining a viscose jersey, in black of course & a stretch lace in a contrasting silver grey. I’m not sure which pattern she used, the Butterick 6031 below was suggested on the Foldline but I could see part of the packet but not the pattern number & the picture looked different. It was very similar to the Fifi above though.The judges liked this & it fit the model well. I think that this was possibly in contention with garment of the week.

Nicole made a1970’s inspired babydoll sleep set from grey/lilac silk satin with a darker grey lace over. I’m not sure whether she drafted her own pattern or used a vintage one as a base. View E of the Simplicity one below is similar but hers had flutter sleeves & the shorts were curved. I don’t think that she was happy with the result judging by her face. Patrick felt that her straps were about 6cm too long & the hem of the top was unfinished & the lace seemed really heavy. She had problems with the bottoms & Esme felt that they were baggy under the bum.

Clare’s fine duck egg blue silk sleep set was cut on the bias & had lace trims inserted on the bust cups. She also used French seams but looked as though she may have made seams on the top a bit big as the judges spotted that the top seemed a bit snug, whereas the shorts looked quite big proportionally, she did say she was trying to avoid a hungry bum! She may also have used made the FIfi pattern above & added in the lace inserts but the shorts were much bigger & looser.

The Result

Garment of the week went to Therese for her sleep set & sadly we surprisingly had to say good-bye to Ali.😢

My Challenges

My challenge last week was to make a rugby shirt. I am still in the process of drafting this as I was unable to find a pattern that was free or relatively inexpensive but I think I may have mastered the hidden placket. I will do a seperate blogpost on the process.

I’ve already completed my challenge for this week! I’ve sewed up the sleepset from the GBSB Sustainable Style book. I used some fabric that I’d bought from our local market a couple of years ago, which cost me £1 as I recall. I timed myself so that I could see how long it would take & I managed to sew it just in the 5 hour time limit that the contestants had. Obviously I don’t have a camera shoved in my face & Joe asking me inane questions but I like to see if it’s possible. I’ll write a full review of it this week but for now, here’s the finished set.

Sleep Set from GBSB Book – Sustainable Style

Next week is reduce, reuse recycle week, which promises to be interesting.

What did you think of this episode?  Have you ever made a basque, or has it inspired you to start making your own underwear? Let me know below.

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