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I'm Heather McGarrigle and this is my blog - a colourful celebration of culture, crafting and creativity in Northern Ireland and beyond.

The Final Countdown: The Great British Sewing Bee Episode 3

It's hard to believe this is the penultimate episode of this wonderful little series! I am genuinely living in hope that once the winner of the first Great British Sewing Bee is crowned next Tuesday, lovely lovely Claudia tells us with a dazzling grin that series two begins the following week. Mark and Tilly left the competition at the end of episode two.

Last week we said goodbye to gorgeous, self-taught sewist Tilly and softly-spoken steampunk enthusiast Mark.

Eight contestants were now four, with three challenges ahead of them as in previous weeks, but there was a noticeably different atmosphere in the Sewing Room. With the final in sight, tasks were becoming more difficult and the judges were expecting higher standards of finish and more adventurous ideas. (The divine Ann even got criticised!)

I really enjoyed their first task, which seemed to be the one the sewists found the most straightforward - making a dress for a small child, employing couture techniques on a small scale.

The pattern required the competitors to create an area of expandable, gathered fabric using a technique called shirring, make tube-like 'rouleaux' straps and add an embellishment.

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Nicole Mallalieu features a great tutorial on making rouleux straps on her blog, You Sew Girl.

Click the pic to see the how-to.

On From an Igloo, Christine has a how-to which is a great example of using shirring to make a girl's summer dress.

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Here's another lovely tutorial from Ashley of Make It Love It on using shirring to make a child's summer dress from a women's skirt.

The customisation task produced some pretty interesting results this week, with some being more...shall we say adventurous than others! Contestants were given a plain, fairly shapeless dress and told to alter its shape. Some opted for simple darts and nips n' tucks. Some completely transformed their dress, for better or for worse...

In all honesty, this was my least favourite alteration task so far and I wouldn't have worn any of those dresses! Let me know if you agree or disagree.

The big challenge this week was creating a made-to-measure jacket and, as ever, results were varied style-wise but I thought they all excelled themselves. Ann's boucle tweed cropped jacket was just beautiful; as a fellow GBSB-loving colleague said to me, it looked like it was part of a classic Chanel two-piece.

Making a jacket is so beyond my capabilities right now, but it was incredibly interesting and informative to see all the different jacket styles, patterns and techniques used to put each one together.

It's actually really easy to forget that a 'simple' jacket or pair of trousers is in fact, a highly complex object, made of so many different odd-looking shapes and layers, all sewn together to lie perfectly on the lumpy, bumpy human body!

At the end of the semi-final another contestant was eliminated, so next week the tension will be higher than on a tightly-wound bobbin as three talented sewists compete for the first GBSB crown.

You can watch episode three on the BBC iplayer. Let me know what you think of the series so far and who you want to win!

The Great British Sewing Bee final is on BBC Two at 8pm on Tues 23rd April 2013. Episodes available to watch on iplayer until 30th April 2013.

All hail, Queen Ann! The Great British Sewing Bee final.

Man, I feel like a-sewin': Episode 2 of the Great British Sewing Bee.