Claudia Winkleman gets ready for The Great British Sewing Bee

Claudia Winkleman gets ready for The Great British Sewing Bee

Claudia Winkleman
Claudia Winkleman

She calls herself a “shrill moron with a big fringe”, but Claudia Winkleman’s vast fan base would beg to differ. Keeley Bolger pins the presenter down to spin a yarn or two.

Claudia Winkleman is searching the room, looking for a piece of wood to touch.

She’s at The Royal School Of Needlework to chat about the second series of The Great British Sewing Bee, but when talk turns to the future happiness of her three children, the otherwise pragmatic 42-year-old comes over all superstitious.

“I just have to keep my kids safe and well-read and hopefully happy,” she says, after finding a cabinet that meets her needs.

Claudia WInkleman will host the new series of The Great British Sewing Bee
Claudia WInkleman will host the new series of The Great British Sewing Bee

Her three children – Jake, 10, seven-year-old Matilda and toddler Arthur – are the driving force behind her career, a job she modestly describes as “reading out loud”.

Refreshingly open, the presenter, who studied at Cambridge and is married to film producer Kris Thykier, says that “no work” would be her ideal situation, joking that she’s “livid” whenever she has to leave the comfort of her bed.

At the moment, Winkleman, who started out on BBC travel programme Holiday and has since hosted Hell’s Kitchen and the Eurovision Song Contest, as well as her weekly arts show on BBC Radio 2 and the Strictly Come Dancing results show, is happy enough with her lot.

A while back, she re-addressed her life when the amount of work she was doing left her “miserable”.

“I like to work when the kids are asleep or with their dad,” she explains, adding that she took her parents’ and friends’ advice to reduce her workload.

“Therefore the film show [Film 2014] works as they’re asleep. The Radio 2 show works as they’re asleep. The Saturday or Sunday when I’m doing Strictly works because they’re with their dad. This is the priority and we all know when the balance is wrong.”

The Great British Sewing Bee, which sees 10 of the country’s best amateur sewers take on challenges judged by Savile Row tailor Patrick Grant and sewing teacher extraordinaire May Martin, works too. It’s also a lot of fun.

“The camaraderie on any film crew is key,” says Winkleman, who is “obsessed” with making cakes and watching The Great British Bake Off.

“I shouldn’t say this but it doesn’t really matter what goes out [on TV]. I hope it’s fine and I hope I can continue to have a job but if I don’t, I don’t.

“I’ll bake. I’ll open a bakery, no one will come. But the key with all these things [TV shows] is that the crew, the hair and make-up, and the sewers all cry with laughter all day.”

Despite describing herself as “shrill”, “orange”, “annoying” and someone she would hate to watch on TV, you get the impression that a lot of that fun on set is down to Winkleman, who regularly takes in baked goods to comfort contestants and keep the crew going.

But as much fun as she is at work, the last thing she wants to do when she gets home is settle down to watch herself on screen.

“I never watch myself, that’s why I haven’t improved. I’m still the same,” she says.

“I’d vomit. It’s the same thing as listening to a voice message you’ve left but worse, because you see your face!”

Claudia with judges May Martin and Patrick Grant
Claudia with judges May Martin and Patrick Grant

She doesn’t even like looking at her reflection. “I don’t have any mirrors in my house really, because I don’t believe in what we look like. And also, I’ve got really bad eyesight.

“In my head, I look a bit like a supermodel and I’m surprised more people don’t crash [when they see me]. I’m like, ‘Dudes, I look amazing’. I’ve got no concept of how I look or how I am.”

That said, she does know she has “an enormous amount of hair across my face”.

Winkleman’s hair, and in particular her fringe, was a bone of contention with one boss. “Someone at work said, ‘You’ve got to chop this’. They were like, ‘You’re having a laugh and you’re really irritating to watch’.”

Cutting comments like that could break other people, but not this lady.

“We’re friends. I love criticism, so when my producer from Strictly goes, ‘I’m not being funny but you can never wear pink again’, I absolutely listen to them,” says Winkleman.

“When the producer of Sewing Bee goes, ‘I don’t really like the way you asked that question’ [I listen to them]. They’re my boss. I believe in bosses.”

While her feet are firmly on the ground, the celebrities she interviews often aren’t so down to earth.

“You have high expectations [of film stars], and then you meet them and they’re a bit weird,” she says. “I don’t want to meet famous people, I don’t believe in them. I think they might secretly all be awful.”

I love criticism, so when my producer from Strictly goes, ‘I’m not being funny but you can never wear pink again’, I absolutely listen to them”

She relishes variety in her work.

“Whatever I’m doing at the time, is the only thing I’m doing,” she says. “Recently on my Radio 2 arts show, I had to do quite a serious interview with a very proper actor and I was like, ‘When you smell the theatre, what goes through your veins?’, and on another day I’ll be talking about how to thread a needle.

“When I leave something, it’s gone, finished. When I’m doing Strictly, there’s nothing else. I’m the colour of George Hamilton and I’m obsessed by fleckerls, the signature move in the Viennese Waltz, but then a week after Strictly’s done, I can’t tell you who’s won.”

Much as she enjoys her TV work, she’s very clear on her priorities.

“My main job is to look after my kids. I love them. I want to be with them because they’re going to be bored of me in a minute,” she says, smiling. “After that, it’s back to dying my skin and reading out loud.”

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