After the first Covid-19 lockdown was enforced, entry-level sewing machines sold out across the country for months.

People realised just how helpful doing something crafty like sewing can be, not only to help pass the time, but also for our mental health.

A project called the Big Community Sew was even launched, by The Great British Sewing Bee’s Patrick Grant. It encouraged thousands of people to make face masks for their friends and neighbours, and gowns and scrubs for NHS workers – and Grant got fellow Sewing Bee judge Esme Young, plus presenter Joe Lycett, involved too.

As The Great British Sewing Bee returns to BBC One, this is the seventh series of the competition, which sees 12 of Britain’s best amateur sewers take on various creative challenges. Each episode has a different overall theme, and involves three tasks; the pattern challenge, a transformation challenge – where the contestants are given second-hand garments and must up-cycle them into a brand new outfit – and a final sewing challenge, which tests the contestants’ ability to create a made-to-measure outfit for a real life model.

So, how tough was it for the sewers this series?

“There were a lot of tears this year – more than normal,” muses Brummie comedian Lycett, 32. “Straight out of the gate, episode one, everyone’s crying!”

However, when it comes to the creations, expect a lot of exuberance on your screens.

“I don’t know whether it was because we’ve been feeling so kind of lacking in fun clothing opportunities for the year, but there’s loads of fun party stuff, there’s lots of sparkle,” teases fashion designer Grant, who is director of bespoke tailors Norton & Sons of Savile Row.

There’s a reason so many of us like watching The Great British Sewing Bee – it’s nice, warm TV.

“There’s a lot of telly that is based on the assumption that people want to see other people kind of put down, and we’re the opposite end of that spectrum,” suggests Grant.

Indeed, 72-year-old designer Young, who has enjoyed a sewing career spanning 50 years, admits she always feels “really sorry” for the first person to leave the competition.

Elaborating on why the show is such a hit, Bedfordshire-born Young – a teacher at London’s Central St Martin’s College – says: “I love how the sewers express their vision. They all have their own personalities, and that’s what they bring to the room.

“What we’re always looking for in students is who they are, and I think that’s something that happens on the Sewing Bee. It’s about them.”

“It’s celebratory, and it’s instructive, and it’s inspiring – and also there’s a lot of my professional life that we get to talk about,” follows Grant.

“Interestingly, we’ve managed to get some really important messages about sustainability and textiles and the way that people treat their clothes into the show, in a nice way that’s positive.”

  • The Great British Sewing Bee is on BBC One on Wednesdays.