IN recent years, TV shows like the Great British Bake Off, the British Sewing Bee and the Great Pottery Throwdown have helped fuel something of a craft boom in the UK.
Indeed, the craft market in the UK is now worth a massive £3bn (and growing!) and traditional skills such as crocheting, knitting and sewing have seen a real resurgence.
Claire Mackaness, 38, of Gooseberry Green, Billericay, has seen first-hand just how popular crocheting has become. She runs workshops in sewing, dressmaking and crochet at her studio in Brentwood – and now offers classes online.
But why does she think crocheting has become so popular again?
“Crochet and many crafts have skipped a generation,” the mum-of-two explains. “In the past families would sit together and craft and hand down the skills from generation to generation, creating family heirlooms along the way.
“People are now starting to realise that they don’t have those skills anymore and want to create memories and so are coming back to learning the skill again.”
And what’s fuelling the craft movement in general?
“People are starting to understand their need for ‘self-care’ meaning that they are finally taking the time to do something for themselves again.
“Learning a new hobby means taking time out of the day to day and allows you time to escape into a relaxed state. The rise of TV craft personalities such as Kirsty Allsop and the Great British Sewing Bee has also helped bring crafts back to the forefront again.”
How did Claire get into crocheting?
“I had always wanted to learn to crochet, mainly to make granny blankets. My mum paid for me to take a couple of lessons initially, but then the rest of the skills are all self-taught.
“But I’ve been crafting since I can remember! The first thing I ever made was probably a big aeroplane for me to fly round the garden made from cardboard boxes!”
And what prompted her to start teaching?
“I used to make items to sell, but people really were not prepared to pay the cost of an item. It’s hard for people to take into account the time taken to make something alongside the cost of the materials and you can often put hours of work into a single item.
“Lots of my customers were asking for classes so I decided to bite the bullet. Our online classes were set up in 2016 to deal with demand firstly.
“We were finding the studio classes were often fully booked up to six months in advance. The other reason was we were always getting comments on social media from people living in different parts of the country who wished they lived nearer as they had heard our classes were great.
“Developing the semi virtual courses means you can learn from wherever you are in the world. I now have pupils in New Zealand! And the youngest pupil I’ve ever had was six years old.”
But just how difficult is it to learn the basics?
“Our beginners course is delivered across two two-hour sessions with a spot of homework in between. You could be crocheting a rose in just a few hours.”
And what’s the best thing she’s ever crocheted?
“It’s quite simple really, but I made a king size blanket for our family. It’s all made from scrap yarn and is really bright. My kids love to snuggle under it and its super toasty.
“And actually, most people who come to my classes want to learn to crochet so they can make blankets. It’s lovely to be able to gift blankets when new babies are born and create family heirlooms.”
Find out more about Claire’s courses at www.clairemackaness.com
- The Clay Cottage, at Lubbards Lodge, in Hullbridge Road, Rayleigh, is a contemporary art and craft studio offering access to a variety of exciting arts – but ceramic painting in particular. Workshops for children and adults run throughout the year. Find out more at claycottage.co.uk
- Hazles Pottery Barn, at Barleylands Craft Village, Billericay, offers classes and courses for adults in clay modelling, potter’s wheel, ceramic painting and silk screen stencilling. For details, go to hazlespotterybarn.co.uk
- Blue Owl Ceramics Painting Studio, in Mill Street, Naylands, Colchester runs classes in help you make ceramics painting, as well as decopatch and foam clay – and they’ll even help you make personalised keepsakes of your baby’s hand or footprints. Find out more at blue-owl.co.uk
This feature was first published in the Echo newspaper: www.echo-news.co.uk