Learning skills from previous eras is all the rage these days.

I have a ball of red wool in one hand and a pair of knitting needles in the other.

The plan, it turns out, is to introduce one to the other. Shame the plan hasn't taken into account my two left thumbs, or the fact that I'm about as creative as a slug. Worse still, everyone around me seems to be getting the hang of it; I wonder if it's too early to admit defeat.

Thank goodness for Tash Barneveld, Wellington's knitting guardian angel, who patiently guides me through the minefield of purl, knit and kitchener stitches. At the end of a morning filled with laughter and new friends, I emerge with a tiny sock. It's not the most attractive thing I've even seen, but it makes me irrationally happy.

That was a year ago, at HANDMADE 2011, the capital's inaugural two-day craft festival which brought together a range of handmade crafts and expert teachers for those wanting to learn the skills of a previous era. There were workshops, lectures and master-classes on everything from soap and cheese making to recycling old furniture, taking the perfect photo and growing organic veg. Socks aside, I managed to produce a passable lace collar and a gorgeous piece of Turkish marbling paper.


But a lot can happen in a year and since last June, I've been practising my skills. While the knitting angels aren't exactly dancing on their pins, they aren't stumbling in a drunken haze, either. I tell Barneveld I've recently graduated to tea cosies and the owner of the Holland Road Yarn Company says she's glad I'll be attending HANDMADE 2012, which takes place in Wellington at Queen's Birthday Weekend over June 2-3.

To say that craft is the new black is to wallow in understatement. The combined effects of the recession, political instability and a desire to get back to simpler things have meant an explosion in craft culture. It's why more than 600 people spent last Queen's Birthday weekend in various venues across the capital getting their hands dirty at more than 150 sessions.

So if you fancy a crafty weekend in Wellington, what can you expect? Along with lectures from chefs Ruth Pretty and Martin Bosley, fashion designer Tamsin Cooper and gardening/self-sufficiency expert Lynda Hallinan, highlights of HANDMADE 2012 include:

Learn how to sew a tote bag and dress from a pillowcase, upcycle broken or outdated jewellery, decoupage fabric on furniture or shape old records into clocks or bowls.

Don't believe them when they say the cupcake craze is over; last year's Cupcake Decorating class sold out in no time. You can also learn how to make your own camembert, quark or cream cheese, fresh pasties or old-school lemon curd. There are master classes with Ruth Pretty and Martin Bosley and radio personality Steve Joll hosts a session entitled Man Versus Kitchen, for blokes needing a culinary hand.

Sock knitting aside, there are classes on crocheting a garland and a necklace, spinning yarn, knitting a frangipani flower, learning the European tradition of using beads in knitting and, I kid you not, how to'read' your knitting.

Home Crafts:
Classes include making fabric baskets, cushion covers, applique wall art and soap, as well as floral styling and how to grow flowers.

Want to learn how to quilt, embroider a locket using antique crochet stitches, master the art of smocking or lacemaking? Then roll on up to these sessions.

Roam the globe in a day with Oriental bookbinding, harakeke weaving, tribal bunting, contemporary tivaevae, Amigurumi toys, traditional Chinese paper cutting patterns and Turkish paper marbling.

Delights include making felt birds, an Albert toy, cloth dolls, fabric stamped pin cushions and a zip pouch.

Free Range:
Have a boring cardy lying around at the back of the wardrobe? Then get it - and yourself - to the Lace Race: An Upcycled Cardigan class where you'll learn how lace applique, panels or trim can give it that cool-right-now vintage touch. Other sessions include creating your own hand scrub, turning your art into a pendant or brooch, carving stamps out of rubber and creating a ring or earrings from recycled silver.