The countdown to the Fisherman's Walk Fun Dog Show on bank holiday Monday has begun chez moi. If Freddie my Lakeland Terrier were more amenable I'd probably subject him to a swift shampoo and blow-dry as part of our preparations, but he dislikes being bundled into the shower and goes ballistic at the sight let alone the sound of my parlux pro dryer so a quick comb - again deeply resented - a swift teeth clean - ditto - and his best lead - navy nylon a la Wagwear with neon pink accents must suffice. I'll be wearing a vintage s/s handknit jumper and wide 1930s style check trousers and maybe tan brogues so as not to let the side down, but am aware from bitter experience that I'm severely disadvantaged as dog handler in show ring as am neither small child or sweet faced OAP. This is why I maintain we came away rosette-less two years ago.
So could this be a case of second time lucky - tune in tomorrow and find out...
Why yarn is no longer a yawn
Handicrafts are hot as traditional pastimes get a trendy twist and a funky fan base.
Have you noticed that suddenly sewing skills are sexy? Knitting and crocheting are the new rock ‘n’ roll for hip females under 40 with a creative streak, and no longer the exclusive reserve of Marplesque grandmas with a monomania for matinee jackets and an inexhaustible side line in bed socks.
What began with reverential eye witness reports in Vogue and Elle of supermodels such as Erin O’Connor knitting backstage at the runway shows, percolated through the TV adventures of Kirstie Allsopp and her homemade home, only to peak in spring 2011 with a crop of űber-cool handicraft magazines brimming with the brilliance of kooky looking crafters, light years away from pension age, who’re knocking the cobwebs off crochet doilies, crinoline ladies, lace collars, embroidered cushions and the like and reinventing them for the iPhone generation with a lust for retro-chic, rather than 1940s front parlour twee.
As part of the up-cycling movement – making something new from old, cutting down and customising - the crafty comeback is chiming a chord in neo-austerity Britain with more of us embracing the make do and mend philosophy – not least because crochet blankets look set to become the new central heating thanks to yet more rises in energy prices. The opportunity to make something original is very alluring, particularly if you can do it on the cheap – charity shops, jumbles and boot sales are usually a rich source of unwanted craft materials going for a song. It’s stimulating and satisfying to create something from scratch, whether it’s a simple woolly pom-pom or a labour intensive patchwork quilt destined for family heirloom status. The Knitted Garden community project with contributions from 1500 volunteers of all ages and abilities transformed Bournemouth and Kinson libraries into colourful fantasy lawns and allotments with a quintessentially English twist. Fruit and veg, flora and fauna were brought vividly to life in wool and are a testament to the efforts and imaginations of the participants as well as lifting the mood of visitors to the exhibition more effectively than the entire oeuvre of Bill Bryson.
Handicrafts in their new incarnation are highly social pastimes. Book clubs are boring when the alternatives are knit and natter or stitch and bitch sessions – these cabals are currently mushrooming in libraries, coffee bars, college lounges and around kitchen tables across the country. The monthly craft club hosted by my friend Zoe ‘Love From Hetty & Dave’ Larkins, maker of handcrafted leather accessories for a living, is a mixed ability group who like nothing better than to unwind over needle and thread and a drink, cooing over each other’s creations, offering constructive advice and generally having a jolly time in a spirit of the Blitz sort of a way.
Getting together with friends in this fashion has given me the confidence to take my rusty sewing skills to the next level. Having for years confined my needlewoman abilities to shortening Levi 501s, sewing on buttons and putting replacement zips into vintage dresses, I’m suddenly hungry for handicrafts, harking back to those high school years when I breezed through chain and blanket stitch as part of the curriculum, but alas remained on distant terms with the Singer sewing machine never having mastered the art of simultaneous treadling and stitching in a straight line. Nevertheless this handicap hasn’t stopped me from spending hours blissfully hand sewing and maybe it’s watching too much Tenko on the Yesterday digital channel, but suddenly running up a 1940s tea dress along modest lines made from vintage chintz from my textiles stash seems all too achievable, especially when I have my fellow scissor and cotton sisters to call upon for help.