Has the recession seen an increase in people taking up crafting?
The weather is cold outside, but a warm welcome awaits inside the Oxfam boutique in Cardiff, where a selection of knitting needles are lined up, on a glass table, awaiting eager knitters to pick them up.
The Oxfam Boutique, Cardiff, home of 'Stitch 'n Bitch'
This is the ‘Stitch ‘n Bitch’ knitting event, held at the shop every Thursday night. It represents the growing number of people in the UK who make their own clothes.
With a sharp increase in crafting in the current economic climate, people are more likely than ever to pick up a new skill. The Oxfam Boutique is one of the many places to have opened in the last few years, offering crafting opportunities for people in the recession.
Becky Mann, manager of the shop, says that attendance at the event fluctuates quite a lot. She says that ‘Stitch ‘n Bitch’, which has been running for the past two years, has had as many as 20 people turn up.
‘Stitch ‘n Bitch’ was originally set up by Debbie Stoller in New York, but the phrase has been used for knitting groups since World War Two. The craze grew so popular that the rest of the world soon joined in.
Knitting needles and wool lined up for the eager crafters at 'Stitch 'n Bitch'
The events teach people the basics of knitting, sewing and crocheting, all good skills to have in the recession. The Oxfam Boutique ‘Stitch ‘n Bitch’ is currently knitting mug cosies in the run-up to Christmas and they aim to teach people crafting in the hope that participants can feel they have accomplished something new.
Brooches, created at the 'Stitch 'n Bitch' event, are then sold to raise money for Oxfam
Becky says, “The participants take their newly-learnt skills home with them and we sell the items for the shop.”
On the other side of Cardiff is the Calon Yarns Craft Studios. Lynne Seymour, owner of the Canton-based studio, says they run a variety of courses, such as their dressmaking course, aimed at people who want to know the basics of sewing. It has proven to be so popular that Calon Yarns have had to add a second course.
The interior of Calon Yarns Craft Studios, in Canton, Cardiff
Lynne Seymour, owner of the Calon Yarns Craft Studios, in Canton, Cardiff
The age ranges vary from students to older people who have come back to the craft and even people who remember their parents having sewed.
Lynne agrees that the recession is the reason for people taking up crafting, but says that it isn’t necessarily cheaper to make your own clothes, as fabric can be expensive. Instead, she thinks, it’s more to do with reasons of sustainability.
She says, “I think people are interested in where their clothes come from and being more economically sensible.”
Calling this the ‘Make do and Mend’ thought process, this relates back to the beliefs of the Second World War, when money was scarce and people were fixing things, rather than buying new. Lynne believes that people today have just the same values and those who attend the course are equally as interested in learning how to make things.
Lynne adds that people, in the recession, are also going to evening classes rather than going to the pub, spending money on crafting as they believe it is money better spent.
Balls of wool on show at the Calon Yarns Craft Studios, ready for the crafting workshops.
Lynne Seymour, owner of the Calon Yarns Craft Studios in Canton, Cardiff, talks about the dressmaking course they run:
Lynne talks about the people who attend the courses:
Eager sewer Rhyannan Hall, from Cardiff, agrees with Lynne’s view that making your own clothes isn’t the cheaper option, but she argues that it is better for the environment.
Rhyannan found that all the clothes she used to buy from the high street were badly or cheaply made. That made her want to make her own and her strong ethical values about where her clothes come from made her want to boycott the high street.
She says, “I don’t think clothes should be regarded as disposable commodities.”
Hanna Leimio, one of the crafters at the 'Stitch 'n Bitch' event, often makes her own clothes
Crafter Hanna Leimio, from Cardiff, also holds this belief. A weekly attendee at ‘Stitch ‘n Bitch’, she is a sewing enthusiast and often makes and customises her own clothes. She does this, she says, because she doesn’t always want to buy new things, due to the throwaway culture of this and the contribution it causes to the wasteland.
She says, “Quite often I buy old clothes from flea markets and add something.”
What is clear though, at ‘Stitch ‘n Bitch’, is the effort that crafters put into what they make. Hanna’s creations are well-made and sewing certainly gives both her and Rhyannan great satisfaction in a period when times are hard. This seems to reflect the thoughts of the country as a whole and it goes to show that crafting is more important than ever.
However, whatever the reasons for people coming back to sewing and crafting, they are picking up skills that are transferable and longstanding.
As a new batch of crafters are embarking on a crafting journey at ‘Stitch ‘n Bitch’, Hanna excitedly shows off her creations, adorning her wonderfully knitted mug cosy with ribbons and a button, in order to sell it for the shop, whilst helping the other crafters to cast off.