All those other crazes are sew last year

Star reporter Nik Brear tries her hand at sawing at Running With Scissors in John Street, Sheffield.
Star reporter Nik Brear tries her hand at sawing at Running With Scissors in John Street, Sheffield.
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THE latest craze to sweep the nation - have you heard about it?

And no, it’s not One Direction, the Harlem Shake or Lady Gaga-inspired heel-less shoes.

It’s sewing.

Now, for me, the very word still conjures up images of my dear old Nan, sat in her favourite armchair with her cross-stitch on her lap. Or maybe a classroom of six-year-olds, their tongues sticking out the side of their mouths in concentration, as they try to master a running stitch with a blunt needle.

But it seems the new BBC show ‘the Great British Sewing Bee’ – which faces ‘normal people’ off against one another to find Britain’s best amateur sewer – has really struck a chord.

Now people all over the country are dusting off their sewing baskets, proving that sometimes the old ways really are the cool ways.

“Okay, I can do this,” I tell myself as I take a steadying breath and jab the needle into the material, trying not to poke my finger.

Next to me, Emma Kent, of Sheffield company Running With Scissors, watches carefully.

“That’s great,” she says with an encouraging nod. That’s a backstitch you’re doing there, I teach this stitch in the workshop where I make Sock Monsters.”

And Sock Monsters are every bit as awesome as they sound. Running With Scissors’ other unusual workshops include ‘make a dress in a day’, ‘create your own bath products’, ‘make your own lampshade’ and ‘personalised bunting’.

Emma, aged 40, started Running With Scissors four years ago and teaches workshops all over the city in every type of craft imaginable, from basket weaving and knitting to crochet and screen printing.

“People love taking a day out to do something different and learn a useful skill which they can then apply to their own lives,” Emma explains, as she guides me patiently through my first experience with a sewing machine.

Once I get to grips with the foot-pedal and the ‘spinny wheels’ on the side, I’m amazed by what perfect stitching it produces. Within three minutes I’ve successfully hemmed a cushion cover and begin to wonder why I’ve never owned one of these beauties before.

Emma began working with crafts when she was 10, but it wasn’t until 2008 that she left her job working for Sheffield Council to set up the craft business.

“Teaching crafts makes me so happy,” she says. “I love seeing how much enjoyment people get out of creating things.

“Popularity of workshops like these have really risen in recent years and I now run lots of workshops for hen parties and birthdays - they’re great fun.”

One of Emma’s favourite crafts is something she calls ‘Trashion’ – giving an old piece of clothing a new lease of life. I’m wearing a trashion outfit right now,” she says, indicating her dress.

“I took a plain blue dress, added my own buttons and embellishments, and then a pocket which gives it a new lease of life and – most importantly – makes it completely unique.”

Of course, sewing is not the first retro-skill to make a comeback in recent years. Baking, cooking, knitting, scrapbooking – they’ve all returned as people have shown a desire to get back to their roots and pick up the skills our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers took for granted.

So what’s the reason for this latest return to the sewing machine?

Is it thriftiness in difficult financial times? A desire to get creative and make something unique? Or maybe just a means of escape – the opportunity to work mindlessly with our hands for a couple of hours – in a technology-filled world where our brains are constantly engaged and stimulated. I think it’s probably all of those things to an extent,” Emma says. We’re in the middle of a recession so I’m sure it’s appealing to be able to repair and renew.

“But I think it’s the enjoyment and pride people get out of creating something useful and beautiful using their own two hands.”