The handmade revival is in full swing, with more and more people taking up crafts writes Rachel Quilligan.

What was once a ubiquitous skill among young women had become nearly obsolete – until now. Craft, knitting, crochet and quilting are all experiencing a 21st century revival thanks to new trends and technology.

Judy Newman, craft consultant for the Queensland Craft and Quilt Fair, says it is part of a societal shift towards ethical consumerism.

People are enjoying sitting down and actually making something. “There is a movement in all kinds of areas that
values handmade products; that values where our things come from,” she says. “We have an interest in where it’s come from, who made it, and what kind of conditions they were in when they made it.”

Craft crazy

She adds that things like yarn bombing – where trees, tanks and statues are covered in fabric – and ever-growing internet groups, like knitting and crochet community, Ravelry, which boasts over four million members, are boosting the public profile.

“There seems to be a fresh new audience,” she says. “The internet feeds a lot of sharing of crafts – Pinterest is a great way to share pictures, and YouTube is full of craft tutorials.

“People are enjoying sitting down and actually making something. In our day-to-day work life we don’t get the chance to slow down and produce something with our hands very often.”

It’s this ‘hands-on’ element that Ellen Thompson, founder of the Brisbane Northside Knitting and Crochet Group, credits as giving rise to the popularity of knitting.

“It’s achievable problem solving,” she says. “I took to it and found it quite a comfort when I had bigger problems
that were taking more effort and longer to solve.

“Being able to learn a stitch or work on a small project that took your whole focus but was contained – it was enough of a challenge, but it was achievable. You get a little win, when some other things in life were not controllable.”

Men’s knitting therapy

Kaye Healey says the calming effect of knitting is why she began ‘War & Peace – the Men’s Knitting Project’, which
asks men to knit a small sampler to go in a hanging in an exhibition marking the Anzac Centenary in April 2015.

“Knitting is very therapeutic and it makes you feel good and relaxed, so I thought it would be a good thing for
men to help them deal with loneliness, stress, isolation or feelings of depression,” she says. “It’s not just the pleasure one derives from learning something new, or the feeling of relaxation from the endorphins that get released when doing something repetitive and pleasurable, but also that you’re doing something that’s going
to give pleasure to somebody else.”

It’s for this reason that the Men’s Knitting Project has partnered with an organisation that helps returned soldiers who have been affected psychologically or physically by their service.

“Any men who join the project are asked if they would like to make a discretionary direct donation to Soldier On to help men and women who are coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq,” she says.

With 40 men involved in the project, Healey says that while still quiet in Australia the men’s knitting scene is growing. “I think there is definitely a renaissance of interest amongst men who learned to knit when they were children and are taking it up again, or men who are just deciding that they’ll pick it up,” she says.

This is mirrored by young women who are learning to quilt, says Lyn Crump, president of Queensland Quilters Inc. “There’s a movement called the Modern Quilt Group,” she says. “These ‘modern quilters’ are just sewing fabric together in any old shape – they’re using bright colours, solid colours, and a plain background.”

She says that young mothers are mostly driving the trend but it’s also attracting the interest of a more diverse group. “It’s mostly female but there are a few male members that are finding quilting to be a good hobby or occupation as well,” she says. “And there are a lot of established quilters who also have a large interest in this modern style of quilts, going to bright fabrics and the freedom of doing their own thing rather than traditional quilt-making. It’s an interesting revival!”

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