Jane Shaw from Craft Days

Well, you don’t need me to tell you what a crazy and worrying time we’ve had! Despite the worldwide tragedy that has unfolded, small things have happened that still surprised us. Who would have thought there would be a worldwide shortage of knicker elastic, as we went into overdrive making face masks? There were stock supply problems as mills had to use less staff to allow for social distancing and were having problems sourcing raw materials. But there have been many positive things too.

We saw lots of people picking up needle and thread, or wool and needles again, and many taking up crafting for the first time. They discovered that crafts can be very satisfying and incredibly good for our wellbeing (both mental and physical). Given that most of us found we had more time on our hands, turning to craft made good use of it, and many realised that the process is just as important, if not more so, than the finished product. Lots of knitters, crocheters and sewists dived into their stashes and made all sorts of wonderful things. Many people dug out their sewing machines to make scrubs to support the frontline staff. It has been a very creative period.

Since reopening for the third time in the last year, we have had lots of positive comments regarding the benefits of ‘making things’. I’ve heard ‘my knitting kept me sane’, many many times and I totally understand why.

During this time there seems to have been an increase in the awareness of the seriousness of the global environmental crisis happening right now. Whilst the most effective changes need to be made by governments and big business, many of us are thinking ‘what can I do to help?’ Lots of little changes add up and turn into big, collective ones.

The ‘Slow Clothing’ movement has gained momentum and more people are questioning the things they buy, what materials are used, and how and where they are made or grown. The idea is that instead of fast, throw-away fashion, we buy fewer, better quality items and wear them for much longer. Making your own clothes and soft furnishings, sewn, knitted or crocheted, fits into this
perfectly and leads onto mending and caring for them too. ‘Decorative Darning’ is very popular and becoming more mainstream, utilising old craft skills such as embroidery, applique, patchwork and darning to increase the life of any given item. We have a rich textile history to call on in this country, but traditional skills from around the world are being used too, such as Sashiko from Japan and Kantha from India. Both of these techniques involve mending and reusing fabric with a basic running stitch, used in all sorts of creative ways. With this type of mending, moth holes can become flower centres and rips in jeans can be stitched with colourful threads to make a garment truly unique, all the while reducing the staggering amount of clothing that goes into landfill each year.

We have always loved using natural fibres at Craft Days and are looking very closely at their origin. British Wool is one of the most important fibres we stock, and ‘Bluefaced Leicester’ is among the softest, gentlest British breeds to use for hand knitting. We are also trying to source some more unusual and sustainable fibres, such as ‘Wild Wool’ made in the UK using British Wool and Nettle
fibres. These add a subtle lustre to the yarn and the handle is soft and cosy. Another recent addition to the summer yarns is one made with cotton and Tencile. Although Tencile sounds like synthetic fibre, it is derived from wood pulp and is surprisingly supple with a drapey, dry handle, just perfect for summer. Another new yarn that is proving popular is made from cotton that has been recycled from waste from the garment trade, which is mixed with a polyester which has been recycled from single use plastic bottles – a few less in the sea! The resulting yarn handles and wears like a good quality cotton, is relatively inexpensive and comes in an array of lovely colours.

Most of the fabrics we stock are cotton or linen. Whilst these fibres can’t be grown in our climate and sadly hardly any printing goes on in the UK anymore, we try to buy from companies who are based here, using ‘home grown’ designers. Liberty is a big favourite of ours and our customers love it too. To go with the fabrics, we stock patterns from ‘Sew ME Something’ and ‘Two Stitches’, both UK companies, with brilliant designs. We are noticing that packaging is becoming more environmentally friendly, which is brilliant. We have always used paper carrier bags and have sourced biodegradable mail bags for sending out orders, not big changes, but they will all help. One thing we have really missed over the last year has been running our workshops. They have always been an important part of our life at Craft Days and were one of the main focuses when planning the shop initially. We are planning a programme for the coming Autumn and will announce them as soon as they are firm dates. There is, as always at this time, the possibility we will have to postpone them, but this will only happen if it becomes unsafe to run them. It will be so good to have the buzz of happy crafters in the shop again!