TV preview: The Great British Sewing Bee

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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.

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.

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!”

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. 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.

“But then a week after Strictly’s done, I can’t tell you who’s won.”

The Great British Sewing Bee, BBC2, Tuesday 8pm

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