Needlecraft is in the news

Now I know I have blogged before about quilting in the news (click here to see that post) , and in that case it was a local newspaper. There was, however, a longish article in the national newspaper The Observer dated 30 April, entitled ‘A stitch in time saves stress down the line: needlecraft is the cool new way to unwind’ which is remarkable enough in itself, but in addition, it was in the NEWS section, please note.

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I was asked recently how I learnt to sew and I guess it would be true to say ‘at my mother’s knee’, since my mother was a keen (and expert) dressmaker. She kept all the left-over materials in what she called her ‘piece drawer’ (in fact it was several drawers) and as a child I was allowed to make things from this scrap fabric. She had a lovely gold-decorated, black Singer sewing machine set into a work-table and I can never remember not being able to use a sewing machine, so that must be thanks to her. As I teenager, I can recall devising and making a drawstring bag in pale blue chambray with white cord – and I’m still doing that kind of thing…

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Unfortunately, I was very put off ‘needlework’ at school: all that un-picking!  How strange that I later spent a good few years of my working life as a teacher passing on Textiles skills to the next generation. And I’m still teaching now as part of my Amanda Jane Textiles business.

So I’m delighted to read that needlecrafts of all kinds are booming. The Observer article by Karen Kay says that market research firm Mintel ‘reports a 12% rise in women doing some sort of needlecraft as a hobby in the last two years’.  The piece also reports ‘a fifth of women under 45 are interested in taking up knitting and sewing, while 17% of men aged 16 to 24 are keen to try one of these pastimes’.

Much is made in the Observer article of the way in which crafts of all kinds are appearing on the internet, for example on Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube. I certainly enjoy using all of those and I post to them, too. (You should be able to find me there as Amanda Jane Textiles.)

I wrote not long ago about taking up knitting again (click here to see the post) and I need to report that I got completely gripped by making little hats for the Age UK charity scheme and ended up with a small hat shop, which will be posted off tomorrow, well ahead of the 31 July 2017 deadline. They were so delightfully quick to finish and so more-ish, I found them really relaxing to make.

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It is this quality of inducing relaxation which is appealing to the tech-savvy younger generation, apparently, and no less an authority than Polly Leonard, founder of Selvedge magazine is quoted in the Observer article, saying ‘The therapeutic rhythm of knitting, sewing or crocheting is proven to improve emotional wellbeing’. I couldn’t agree more. It is one of the reasons that I so enjoy hand-quilting and hand embroidery, though I enjoy the sewing machine versions of both those activities, too. In this context, I would like to share with you pictures of a most beautiful embroidered sewing-machine cover made by a fellow-member of my quilt group Lynn Gibson. It was made over a period of two years and is an absolute delight:

 

 

Taking up crochet

Two and a bit years ago, my hobby became my business. Now, there are sixteen patterns (so far) for sewing and quilting, and many more in development.  Click here to see them, if you live in the UK/EU) or click here to see them if you live outside the UK/EU.  There have also been five magazine articles (one of them is mentioned here) and there are over a hundred fabric designs (click here to see them).  I love sewing and quilting, so I have every reason to enjoy my work.

But what to do when I’m not working? I’m not good at sitting still doing nothing, so I thought I might head back to something I did in the past.  Crocheting is something I used to do as a teenager, but which I haven’t done much since. Crochet has become somewhat trendy of late so I though I would like to have a go. I came upon the box below on one of my charity shop searches and decided that making a warm hat would be a great idea, as there was a ski trip coming up. I had a longish train journey to fill, so felt that could work…

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Alas, I should have looked more closely at the box and spotted the German words near the top of the lid. Once installed on my train, the box opened, it became clear that all the instructions were in German. Now, I did study German until I was 18, but oddly my course did not in fact cover crochet terminology! It took me most of the three-hour journey just to translate the instructions and to practise a few stitches. Once that hurdle was over, I got on OK, although I did swop the rather vibrant bright green yarn (as depicted on the box-lid) for some white, to go with the purple and peachy-pink colours. Here, then, is the hat.

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While on the subject of the German language and woolly hats, I should also say that when away on the above-mentioned ski-trip, I had occasion to purchase an Innocent mixed-fruit smoothie, which was close in colour to that of the hat above.

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To my delight, I found that the top of my bottle was covered by an exquisitely-knitted small hat. I was aware of the Innocent campaign in the UK, where for every knitted hat a donation is made to Age UK, as can be seen from this article in their magazine.

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Clearly, this happens in Switzerland as well, and donations go to national charities for the elderly in that country.  The label on the hat translates ‘This little hat helps’.  Apparently over one million little knitted hats have been made in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.   So I am in possession of this beautiful, tiny item (it measures 2″/5cm high), which is knitted in a fine cottony yarn, complete with a plaited thread ‘bobble’ at the top. I love it – and sadly, I will probably never know who the skillful maker is.

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