The thing about... Tapestry kits

The great thing about human beings is the fact that they never do what you expect. God gave us free will, and we're damned if we're not going to use it. Give someone a bath, and they will store coal in it. Give someone a bicycle and they will make a wind sculpture.

This can make things awkward for social planners - not a bad thing - and can be pretty disastrous on the global scale, but, in individual worlds, it's what keeps us from stagnation. It is the most basic expression of human inventiveness: if you don't like something, you just do the opposite.

Hence the resurgence in tapestry. All those years inventing computers and microwaves, designing ebony-effect coffee tables and tubular chairs, and what do we do? We embroider. Modernism, these days, is only really appealing to those whose ruling powers conspire to keep them in the past. The rest of us form queues outside the Glorafilia shop in Mill Hill, London (0181-906 0212), send off for the 72-page catalogue from Readicut Crafts of Osset (01924 275246), and load up with wool with which to make portraits of National Trust houses. No matter that you can buy wall-hangings ready- made from the Past Times shop, no matter that third world children lose their eyesight knotting for our pleasure: the best kelim, it seems, is the one you made yourself.

What's interesting is that the people who are leaping to the loom are the very ones who 30 years ago regarded such handicrafts as symbols of their oppression: middle-class women. A number of men have taken to the habit for its Zen qualities, but it appears that the women who used to keep framed samplers as symbols of their grandmothers' wasted talents are the ones whom Ikea have suborned from the women's movement for an advertising gimmick. The last thing we want to do, it seems, is chuck out that chintz.

Serena Mackesy

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