Sewing machines make a comeback

Do you know your lock stitch from your chain stitch? Or a drop feed from a walking foot? If so, you are probably a practitioner of needlework – a hobby long derided as an activity enjoyed only by ladies of a certain age, but which is making a remarkable comeback.

It seems consumers are shunning disposable high street fashions in favour of home tailoring. As a result, sewing machine sales are at their highest level for years. The number of Singer and Brother models sold by Argos catalogue shops rose by 50 per cent in 2006-7. Sales of Argos's cheapest model, costing £69.99, were up 500 per cent, while sewing machine sales at Woolworth's shot up by 258 per cent over the same period.

Experts say the boom is driven by a greater awareness of social and environmental issues and a desire to stand out from the crowd, which encourages shoppers to make and customise their own clothes. The credit crunch is also playing a role, with needleworkers coming up with creative ways of looking good without spending a fortune.

Richard Webster, sewing machines buyer at Argos, described their revival as a "backlash against a throw-away society". He added: "Following a period when [sewing machines] were seen as unfashionable, we are seeing them return to favour. It's a modern take on the "make do and mend" attitude of previous generations."

News of the sewing revival comes before Alternative Fashion Week, which starts today at Spitalfields in east London. Young designers will present their work and recycled textiles will be a major feature of the shows.

Josie Nicholson, of the Ethical Fashion Forum, said: "Customising your own clothes means you can create your own unique style."

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