The new DIY boom: Sales of sewing machines are soaring and craft courses are booming - Interiors - Property - The Independent

The new DIY boom: Sales of sewing machines are soaring and craft courses are booming

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Wallpaper making, quilting and screen-printing have become the hippest ways to get creative with your friends, says Kate Burt

Our love affair with craft started small. Around five years ago, there was the new wave of knitting, with Stitch '* Bitch, the hip, underground needle-clicking movement that inspired many similar groups. Then the Women's Institute got an edgy makeover (see east London's cool Shoreditch Sisters for evidence) and lots of us got excited about making jam, or embroidering things. Hen parties stopped being about stripograms, and began happening at "make your own fascinator" workshops. There are sewing cafés (where tea and cake comes with a Singer for hire), even "guerrilla" craft nights in pubs. And to help it all along: the recession, reviving a "make do and mend" mentality (and a staggering rise in British sales of sewing machines to match – in 2009, we bought up to 500 per cent more than ever before).

However, much of all this craft-mania has been focused on fashion – crocheting hats, revamping vintage dresses, darning socks – but now the trend is hitting the world of interiors.

"Before the recession, the interior-design industry was at its peak and people had cash to spend on designer products," says Claire Heafford, co-proprietor, with business partner Louise Hall, of the Papered Parlour, which started hosting craft classes in south London in May 2009. "We never set out to offer interiors-themed craft workshops," she continues, "but since we began our make-your-own-wallpaper classes in September, demand has outstripped supply and we saw there was a real market for people wanting to make things for the home."

Economics are an obvious driver: the Papered Parlour's screen-printing tutor is the acclaimed designer Lizzie Allen, whose own wallpapers can sell for £350 per roll. This way, you get her expertise, and take home your own roll for a fraction of the cost. And if the striking black-on-lining-paper DIY version on one wall of the Parlour's studio is anything to go by, the end product looks anything but amateur.

They also run contemporary quilting classes taught by Cassandra Ellis, one of the country's best-known quilters. "We encourage people to bring fabric that has a sentimental value – by making something with your hands, you're really connecting with your heritage and will also have something to pass on."

More homesy topics are in the pipeline and Heafford and Hall have been approached by a publisher and a television commissioning agent; "There's a real demand for 'a new Kirstie Allsopp'," Heafford says. "With the popularity of Kirstie's Homemade Home I think people have realised what a huge appetite there is for craft."

Ah yes, the Allsopp factor. The mainstreaming of interiors crafts really hit the big time with the arrival of the television presenter's Channel 4 show last year. In case you missed it, the show focused on Allsopp, previously associated with buying and selling other people's houses, and the craft-heavy transformation of her own country pad.

"Putting craft on TV has definitely helped to raise awareness," says Angie Boyer, editor and director at craft&design magazine, which is launching the first ever Craft and Design Month in May. "People start to see how they can make their homes lovely by creating things no one else has got, something personal and unique to them." Accordingly, hits on her magazine's "courses" pages have risen, she says, by 20 per cent in the past few months.

"We all look longingly at the glossy interiors magazines and would probably love a bigger or more stylish space. But that's not necessarily attainable," says Jennifer Pirtle of The Make Lounge, a venue and shop that has been offering contemporary craft workshops since 2007. "Current property values have had a big impact – but you can still change or brighten up your home without buying expensive stuff or moving," she says. Pirtle recently added four lampshade-making sessions to the Make Lounge repertoire. "They all sold out within six minutes of appearing on the website," she says.

Even designer-rich Elle Decor ran a big feature on "upcycling" a few issues back (revamping old furniture, essentially). Not only has the recession got many of us appreciating the simpler things in life, there's also a broader backdrop of valuing provenance and rejecting mindless consumerism – whether it's Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's horror at the fishing industry, fashion-chain sweatshop exposés or the popularity of growing your own vegetables.

Zoe Hamilton-Peters, who just over a year ago co-launched Crafty Bitches, which specialises in recycling in its creations, and offers workshops in south-east London, agrees. The whole ethos behind her organisation is "to stop people throwing more stuff into landfill," she says. "It's all to do with recycling and reinvigoration. Also, you can create something beautiful and quirky and not just be part of the homogeneous high street – instead you can fill your home with history and stories behind the objects in it."

Craft is booming online, too. Etsy, the biggest marketplace for entrepreneurial crafters, now has 7.2 million members and has seen its total sales jump from $166,000·(around £100,000) in 2005 to $314.3 million (around £195m) last year. In its "homewares" section, there are more than 300,000 items (which, when you consider there are just 400,000 registered sellers among the members, suggests quite a high percentage). And in blogworld, one of the most popular interiors and design sites, Design*Sponge, (220,000-plus Twitter followers) has a heavy emphasis on achievable make-it-yourself projects and features one a week, from shell chandeliers and embroidered napkins to jewellery hangers made of cotton reels.

It all sounds quite girlie – but those who run workshops say that, especially lately, more men are keen. Jo Thorpe teaches a monthly mosaic-making class from her home in London, and recalls the woman who brought her husband, who "loved it – and turned out to be better than his wife". Many come "unashamedly" with specific projects – decorative insets for the patio, a panel for a wall, a piece of furniture to clad. "The great thing," Thorpe says, "is that most people can make great mosaics – you don't need to be a great draughtsman or be able to draw very well. It's time-consuming but people love the pace. We all lead such busy lives these days and many say they find it therapeutic and calming."

Holly Atkins, an actress in her thirties, discovered the joy of making things for the home a couple of years ago. "I've always loved decorating, but never used to think I had skills beyond that – until I got a lot poorer very quickly two years ago and started looking at things in shops in a manner reminiscent of my grandparents. As in, 'That's a beautiful cushion/curtain/doorstop/ light – but it's HOW MUCH? It can't even be that hard to make.'"

At that point, she didn't even have a sewing machine, but got talking to a friend who'd been having similar thoughts. "Christmas was looming," she continues, "and we both had a lot of presents to find but not much cash so we decided to do a weekly 'Kraftnite'. Doing it together kept us focused – and my friend also taught me how to use a sewing machine.

"Now, it is ridiculously exciting going into posh interiors shops and seeing a cushion for 60 quid, then planning how I can make something just as cool for a tenner. However often I walk into a room and see something I've made in it," she concludes, "it never fails to make me feel a little warm burst of pride."

Know what to make of it

* The Papered Parlour offers a variety of workshops taught by practising artists in south London. Prices from around £77. (www.thepaperedparlour.co.uk)

* The Make Lounge runs more than 35 different contemporary craft workshops, plus hen parties, corporate team-building, and more. Classes from £30. (www.themakelounge.com)

* Jo Thorpe teaches contemporary mosaic-making in east London. (www.jothorpemosaic.com)

* A pop-up shop/project Made in Newcastle is based in the city centre, stocks entirely handmade goods by makers from the North-east, runs occasional classes, and offers space for artists and makers to use. (www.madeinnewcastle.org)

* West Dean, near Chichester, a world-renowned college, offers many craft courses including tapestry, ceramics, textiles and furniture making. (www.westdean.org.uk)

* 'Craft&design' magazine offers a thorough, nationwide directory of courses. (www.craftanddesign.net)

* Sew Over It opens in Clapham, south London next month and will offer sewing lessons and parties over coffee and cake. (www.sewoverit.co.uk)

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Life and Style
tech... and together they're worth at least £100 million
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior C++ Developer

£400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

Retail Business Analyst - Retail-J

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Year 1 Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Year 1 Primary Supply Teachers ne...

Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are currently...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week