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East Village, London

Located in Stratford E20, East Village is a strong community in the former Athletes’ Village. Nestled between Westfield Stratford City and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, it offers a selection of services, retail and outdoor space to explore with great access to transport links.

Elephant Central, London

Located in Elephant & Castle SE1. Elephant Central is well-connected for travel, making it quick and easy to get around – perfect for professionals looking to keep their commute short. The neighbourhood offers a variety of arts, bars, cafes and parks to explore.

New Maker Yards, Manchester

Located in Middlewood Locks, M5. New Maker Yards is in a prime location to experience Salford and Manchester with ease via train, car, bike, bus or foot. Within this vibrant up-and-coming neighbourhood you will find a local pub and supermarket, outdoor spaces and local events to enjoy.

Hands up: who’s for hands on?

Craft is our craze this spring

The make-it movement has been gathering speed, and lockdown just made more time for hands-on happenings. Gen-Z and millennials are giving grannies a run for their money, with 65% doing craft of some kind, according to a Crafts Council survey published last summer.

What’s more, doing something repetitive with your hands brings a massive hit of mindfulness – and that’s official, say the BBC. The BBC quizzed almost 50,000 people and around half said making things softened stress and anxiety.

Hooked on crochet

Crochet is leading the craze, according to Hobbycraft who report a surge of on-line sales: “Our customers say crafting makes them feel better and takes their mind of things,” says Katherine Paterson, the brand’s customer director.

Crochet only needs some wool and a hook to get started, and you can soon create simple blankets, hats and so on to give those popular vintage vibes. There are unlimited colours to choose from – from brights to pastels and neutrals, so you can express yourself freely. Hobbycraft make it all very easy with instructions online, where patterns start from just a simple chain.

Hobbycraft can teach you how to make a spring wreath, and it stocks everything you need to make it. There are a number of tutorials on YouTube, and free patterns can be downloaded from the site here.

There are also crochet kits on Etsy include everything for a vintage rainbow blanket for £42.50 and a sheep tea cosy for £19.95.

As you progress, you can move to “amigurumi” but don’t let the scary name put you off. It’s simply the Japanese word for stuffed toys and the way to make cute little stuffed creatures, flowers, hearts and so on. There are how-tos all over the web, including on amigurumi today.

 

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Timely stitching

Coming up on the inside – Embroidery. Coined ‘The Bridgerton effect’, the cult Netflix series, where pretty ladies have embroidery hoops, soft powered stitching into 82-million homes worldwide, and sent internet sew searches soaring. Currently trending is the bargello effect and it’s very easy to learn, using one stitch of the same size on a square canvas and makes a distinctive zig-zag pattern that looks a lot cleverer than it is.

A bargello pin cushions kit on Etsy costs just £15, and is a good intro to the technique. Or you can tackle a full-size cushion for £59.95. If you’re into it, you can even make a couple of necklaces for £11 with a video tutorial thrown in.

This spring, the Royal Academy is lending its support to craft.  It’s chosen 12 artists who ‘make’ rather than paint, and flagged up their inspirational Instagrams in a full-on blog post.

Admittedly some skills look pretty tricky – these are the pros, after all. But a fair bit could be managed by most, with a bit of tuition. You could, embroider hands (think Michaelangelo/Sistine) over the bum of your jeans if you tune in to artist Sofia Salazar’s (@__hiedra__) posts on basic stitches.

 

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Big on Broadway

East London’s queen of craft, Barley Massey, opened her little studio Fabrications in Broadway Market long before the area became fashionable. She teaches sewing and knitting with some great online tuition and kits, all part of her total commitment to sustainability and upcycling.

Barley will be hosting our free workshop on Zoom on May 11, as part of our popular Makers Meet series. Barley will teach “sashiko” stitching, usually used for patches, but adapted here for four personalised felt coasters. Register in advance to receive a free kit of everything you need.

 

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Basket case

Follow weaver, Tabara N’Diaye, inspired by the basket-weaving of Senegal, has kits and tutorials on her page @labasketry, showing followers how to make beautiful baskets, vases and even lampshades of all shapes and sizes.

Tabara has a lovely back story, infused with the joy of craft. She explains that in Senegal, basket weaving is a tradition passed down for generations to women in rural villages. “Travelling there as a child, and many times since, I’ve always found these artisans so joyful, weaving with their children under a baobab tree. It inspired me to launch La Basketry.” On her website, you can make a twine basket for £26, choosing two colours from a huge range. You‘ll get a how-to video included with everything you need, along with written instruction, and it will take about three hours.

 

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Getting knotted

Most people can manage a string plant holder, a candle or a bar of soap, it seems. But if you can learn basic stitches, knots and so on, then you can gravitate towards your own projects which will be cheaper, personal one-offs and ultimately give you much more of a buzz, including macramé which has seemingly become more popular over the last year.

Once again Hobbycraft has the lowdown with a mesmerising video, and there are plenty of kits to help you get started on Etsy, including a hanging decoration kit for £14.29.

 

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Shared secrets

America beats us hands down in the crafting boom so their influencers tend to dominate. Totally hypnotic is @5.min.crafts with over 41.5m followers, their short silent videos make craft beautiful and easy.

Hiding behind @damasklove is Amber Kemp-Gerstel (85.1k) with tons of ideas for home stuff, bright and family-friendly, from DIY baskets to mini balcony gardens.

Stacey Solomon @staceysolomon (from I’m a Celebrity and Loose Women) and famous for her “tap to tidy” blitzes on home clutter, also posts craft ideas, and her book was published at the beginning of March. Tap to Tidy: Organising, Crafting & Creating Happiness in a Messy World is now on Amazon for £8. It’s basically a compendium of her Instagram posts.

Blissfully soothing is Sarah Whiting posting from the Cotswolds @thecraftinvaders. Click through to her blog for the (free!) lowdown on all kind of simple things to craft and cook. Sarah’s intimate style makes everything blissfully clear, such as mixing your own fabric paint, or making mini-plant holders from egg shells.

 

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Off line

And ultimately craft gets you off your screens “where social media can fritter away time, and suck out creativity,” says Sam Lehane, who founded  M.Y.O (Make Your Own) with his partner Diana Muendo, three years ago. They were running a hugely successful craft studio in South London before the Covid crash. Now they have tutorials online – “give your creative muscles a workout and de-stress,” adds Sam “From lino printing to drawing to embroidery to brush lettering and more, we’ll get you making and expressing your creative side through around fourteen arts & crafts.” Kits are available from their sister site Creative Jungle.

You can start lino printing for £40, make a macramé plant hanger for £30, experiment with brush calligraphy for £35, and learn watercolour painting for £30. Remember that skills stay with you beyond the kit, so that you can express your own ideas.

Now the weather is warmer and the evenings deliciously longer, you could even take your needles, wool, cottons, hoops and/or crochet hooks outside. Have a basket or bag to keep everything clean and under control – and don’t forget the scissors.

 

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Header image credit: Karly Santiago on Unsplash

About the author

Award-winning design writer Barbara Chandler is best known for her weekly columns in Homes & Property at the London Evening Standard over the last 30 years. She is also a best-selling photographer, and in her spare time Barbara crafts cards from her photos to sell on the internet – and has just finished a baby blanket of 80 knitted squares!

“I’ve always loved craft. One of my first books, Flat Broke – for people in flats who were broke obvs, had lots of simple way to make things – primarily to save money. If you’ve got a lot on your mind, or are slightly down, a soothing session of making eases the angst. It’s great to see a new generation practising the skills I learned from my mother, and from books and classes. And to pass a little of them on.”

Instagram: @sunnygran
www.barbarachandler.co.uk