Sewing Bee Challenge – 5 Hour Buffet Dress

by | Apr 26, 2021

Last week I set myself a Sewing Bee Challenge… to sew a “buffet” dress in less than 5 hours.

Inspired by the first episode of the current series of The Great British Sewing Bee on Wednesdays at 9pm on BBC1. I decided to take on the made to measure challenge to sew myself a Buffet Dress in under 5 hours, just like the contestants in the show.

For the uninitiated, that was everybody in the world before the show aired, a Buffet Dress is a voluminous dress without a waistband. The concept is that it is a dress that allows room for overindulging at an all you can eat buffet.

I already had a perfect pattern the Friday Pattern Co Wilder Gown and I have the perfect fabric in my stash. I originally bought this fabric during the first lockdown in 2020, I think it was from a Facebook Fabric Seller group, but I can’t remember which. (Sorry! ☹)

Sewing Bee Challenge

The plan was to start at 10am and finish by 3.30pm (with 30 minutes for lunch).

I was slightly delayed starting, but by lunch time I was feeling relaxed and felt I was making good progress.

With 1 hour left to go, I could feel the panic starting to set in. Pins were slipping out of the fabric and I was starting to make silly mistakes!

At 3.30pm the dress was not finished: the bottom tier was pinned ready for sewing but I couldn’t have shown it to the judges like that!

By 3.45pm I tried the dress on unhemmed! Patrick & Esme would have ripped me to shreds!

There were threads hanging everywhere, my bottom tier was only basted in place and my gathers were uneven.

Another 30 minutes of more relaxed sewing and I’d finished with a buffet dress I was proud of!

Sewing Bee Challenge


After I started the timer, I realised that on the show they have already done a practice run at home. Which means that they have already cut out the paper pattern, which probably cost me about 30 minutes.

One of the slowest parts for me on this make was turning the neck tie. I foolishly started turning it without using any tools and that seriously slowed me down.

I wanted a dress that I was happy to wear and I didn’t want my standards to drop. So all my seams are properly finished. I want my Wilder Gown to be something I could wash and wear without the dress falling apart. From what I understand on the Sewing Bee, they don’t worry about finishing their seams. They just get it sewn!

In conclusion the timescale on the Sewing Bee is really tight. But I would have completed the challenge within the 5 hours if I had evened the playing field by cutting out my paper pattern first and not worried about finishing my seams.

They are now looking for contestants for the next series of the Great British Sewing Bee – Click here to find out more!

Love & Stitches

Alison xx

I’m hoping the Wilder Gown will be a Sew Along in the Love & Stitches Club soon. It all depends on the members as they vote every month for the next month’s Sew Along.

The Love & Stitches Club

An exclusive membership club where you can learn to sew and create your own handmade clothes, from the comfort of your own home

Learn to create an entire wardrobe of wonderful, stylish outfits. Whatever your personal style, size and tastes, you’ll learn to make beautiful clothes that will last for years and gain compliments wherever you go.