The great craft comeback

Whether it’s making your own cards, pottery, wood carving or knitting, anything hand-crafted is having a bit of a renaissance

We’ve probably got The Great British Bake Off to thank for the craft revival. When the country went baking mad after the first series in 2010, we started to take pride in making things ourselves.

This led to Bake Off-style shows about other crafts – Kirstie’s Homemade Home and others from The Great British Sewing Bee to The Great Pottery Throw Down. Now the BBC has an annual event called Get Creative celebrating creativity with events across the UK. 

Of course, many of us have been merrily crafting away for years, having been brought up with a thrifty ‘make do and mend’ mentality. But a decade ago interest in crafts, such as knitting and sewing, was dwindling, and craft shops up and down the UK were closing. As throwaway fashion became the norm, skills such as knitting were overlooked, seen as fuddy-duddy and outdated.

How times have changed. Now, knitting and sewing are uber-trendy, with actresses Sarah Jessica Parker, Cameron Diaz and Cara Delevingne all seen with needles, and youngsters setting up knitting circles. 

Environmental concerns have made people much more aware of the value of up-cycling, so charity shop furniture finds are being turned into works of art in homes up and down the country. People may also be returning to making and working with their hands to get away from screen-time overload. 

"There’s been a steady rise in the popularity of crafts – for example, people are taking up knitting or pottery classes for fun" says Sara Khan of the Crafts Council

"We had a great response to the Crafts Council’s Hey Clay! events, which we ran to coincide with The Great Pottery Throw Down on the BBC. Studios, workshops, museums, galleries and colleges around the UK hosted free events to encourage people to get creative with clay, and there’s been an increase in the demand for pottery classes as a result."

The internet has also given the comeback a big boost. Craft is one of the most popular subjects on the media platform Pinterest, and many crafters have launched new careers by selling their creations on the hugely popular craft showcase sites. Etsy, a worldwide site, has grown from 150,000 active sellers in 2009 to more than 1.5 million now, and Folksy, a stylish UK site, has 5,000 British designers and makers selling their wares and exchanging tips on a crafting community forum. "We’ve seen a massive shift in the way craft is seen over the past few years" says Camilla Westergaard, content editor at Folksy. "Not so long ago 'craft' almost felt like a dirty word and very much inferior to its cousin, 'art'. But now people seem to be recognising skills, such as crochet and knitting, which take years to perfect."

It’s good for your health

Research has shown that crafting is good for our mental and physical health. Using your hands in a productive way triggers activity in 60 per cent of your brain. A study from the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences showed that practising crafts such as knitting or patch-working in middle age decreased the odds of later cognitive impairment and memory loss by 30 to 50 per cent. 

Crafting helps us to socialise, and can lift our spirits and keep us calm. In a study by The British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 81 per cent of respondents with depression said they felt happy after knitting.

Psychiatrists believe that repetitive activities, such as knitting, activate the parasympathetic nervous system, releasing calming, feel good dopamine. The great joy of crafting is that you can share it easily with other people.

"We have many sellers on Folksy who have retired and feel isolated, or who feel as if they have lost their sense of purpose" says Camilla. "Being part of a craft community, where people can talk to other makers and share their skills, can give them a sense of belonging and creative fulfilment."

Pass it on

Teaching skills to your children and grandchildren will help to ensure that crafts are passed on through the generations. There are lots of ways to encourage the youngsters in your life to get crafting. Check out CBeebies which has great ideas, from interactive colouring games to educational activities. 

Politicians are now sitting up and noticing the importance of teaching crafts to children too. The Crafts Council presented its Education Manifesto for Craft and Making in the House of Commons in 2014, calling for crafts to be put back at the heart of education and looking at more opportunities for careers in crafts. At last, crafting is cool again.

Getting started

Want to get a project started, research crafts or meet crafty people? Check out council-run courses or try one of these...

Craft Courses

A really useful directory. Find a local artisan or craft course near you, from pottery and jewellery to ceramics, candle-making, willow work, floristry, calligraphy and more. 

Crafts Council

Devoted to contemporary making, offering a wide-ranging mixture of ceramics, glass, jewellery, textiles, fashion, furniture and more. The council also publishes the beautifully designed magazine Crafts, which comes out six times a year. 

BBC Learning

A host of links to craft-related activities and sites. 

Photos: Alamy, Getty Images, Planet Photos, Rex