Getting crafty: A show of hands

By Libby Nicholson-Moon

Craft work is experiencing a huge revival. Libby Nicholson-Moon checks out how you can join in.

Hugo Heaphy, Philippa Burnham and Imogen Pearce get into some craft work at Seven Sisters Sewing Room, Westmere. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Hugo Heaphy, Philippa Burnham and Imogen Pearce get into some craft work at Seven Sisters Sewing Room, Westmere. Photo / Steven McNicholl

In this day and age of all that is cheap, instant and mass-produced, it's refreshing to find that people, young and old are rediscovering and re-inventing some of the traditional hand-making skills of our nanas and great-grandmas. Some are even creating new art along the way. Yarn bombing, for example, is a mash-up of knitting and grafitti to make subversive street decorations. Taking the time to develop the skills needed to make something by hand - and teaching kids some of those crafts - is an extremely grounding experience. We checked out the boom in craft markets, fairs, shops and classes that signal the revival of the handmade.

Whether you want to learn a craft, or just find a unique piece for your home or body, there is definitely something to inspire everyone.

Craft markets

Craft markets are popping up all over Auckland, and the re-birth of all that is handmade is being celebrated. Kraftbomb in Grey Lynn and Crafternoon Tea Craft Market in Kingsland are among several markets citywide drawing large crowds, while over the bridge on Auckland's North Shore, Devonport's craft market (scheduled August 7th) co-ordinated by Sarah Bird and Sarah McCleod, will be bursting at the seams with an astounding 70 plus stallholders.

Passionate crafters, Karla Hansen and City Down launched Kraftbomb in 2008, with a budget of only $100. Their shared desire to provide crafters with a home has been a huge success, and in August this year, the market will celebrate its third birthday at Grey Lynn's Community Centre. Down and Hansen describe Kraftbomb, held on the last Sunday of each month as an "indie, alternative handcraft market, supporting all things handmade, and encouraging the use of both traditional handcrafts, and upcycling". Modestly billing herself the "NZ cupcake queen", Down sells her pretty cakes at the market, alongside her Stitch'd'Ink cross-stitch kits (she also sells through American craft website, etsy.com) , while tattoo artist Hansen collaborates with her husband, Alex, to produce a range of Geek Booteek quirky fabric toys. The Kraftbomb family is an eclectic mix of extraordinary talent, from ethical fashion, to whimsical recycled vintage, salvaged re-invented kitsch, and edibles. The youngest vendor at the market, and an inspiration to potential young crafters, is 9-year-old Fred Booker, who, under the supervision of his mum, Karen, at her fabulous fashioned frippery stall, is famous for his home-made lemonade and sherbet and his handmade cartoon-themed cards, complete with street map envelopes.

Crafternoon Tea Craft Market in Kingsland opens its doors on the third Saturday of each month. Since it was launched by primary school teacher Luisa Longone in October 2009 the market has expanded, with crafty vendors, offering everything from beautifully made clothing, re-worked vintage jewellery, crochet, knitwear, and stationery, and all other manner of inventive and inspiring collections and curiosities plus delicious local artisan food. The new facilitator of Crafternoon Tea, Lisa Madden, who loves everything retro or vintage and is a diehard op-shopper, says "It's incredibly inspiring being involved with such a creative collective of people, who are like-minded". Madden and her mum Dianne sell their range of Monkeej handmade toys and accessories made from vintage and new fabrics. Like many of the young mothers selling at the market Madden loves the process of creating, and with three young children, also hopes to supplement the household income with her work. As with all craft markets, table space is hired, and a few vendors provide Eftpos facilities, but mostly cash is required. Most crafters sell online, and also show at a number of the markets. The coolest thing of all is that many are willing to pass on their skills for a modest fee, and if you are lucky, for love - just ask when you are admiring their work.

Crafting for kids

Friends Lee-Ann Mercer and Philippa Burnham of Westmere, have collaborated to design boutique craft workshops for children, teaching kids how to create "one-off" heirloom pieces. Mercer's background in costume design and film, and Burnham's accountancy skills, her passion for craft, and both their roles as parents, bring the right mix to the project. The Seven Sisters Sewing Room was inspired by a series of books Mercer has recently written. Called appropriately The Seven Sisters her tale is based on Mercer's grandmother; the seven sisters are her and her friends as children. The stories centre on the gift each character possesses, and how they use that gift to capture moments, and create memories and are an integral part of each workshop. Using educational kit sets as well as a craft experience, the women work with each child, instructing and guiding them in the construction of their heirloom piece. Previous kit sets have included vintage fabric bandanas or snowmen, and also aprons, soap bags, journals, and gingerbread men, and each teaches basic skills such as embroidery, how to use a sewing machine, or how to sew on a button.

A number of crafters are now teaching the old nana-art of crochet.

Teacher and mother Natalie Ringland, who sells her Poppy & Bee crocheted pieces at Crafternoon Tea Craft Market, offers crochet lessons to both adults and children, either as home visits, or from her house in Titirangi. Hour long lessons cost $25, which covers the basics of crochet, with follow-up phone calls, and additional ongoing lessons if required. Natalie finds her teaching skills invaluable when she works with young children, as she understands concentration levels, and the techniques required to make the sessions captivating for young minds.

Crafting parties

When I wanted to become crafty and didn't know where to start, a friend sent me along to a Stampin Up party in her neighbourhood. American Shelli Gardner, launched Stamping Up in 1988 after she discovered rubber-stamping and the brand has become a worldwide phenomenon, with its philosophy of inspire, create, and share. Think Tupperware with stamps, the home-based workshops are a relaxed and intimate way to play with the products and learn new skills.

Most of the women are already Stampin Up converts, there's just me and one other woman who are newbies. Our demonstrator Bron Heslop, is a high energy mother of two boys, a wife, and a lieutenant commander in the NZ Navy. On the agenda is card-making and coasters. I'm unfamiliar with the lingo, but as the evening progresses I learn how nifty an edge cornerer is, how cool three-dimensional foam pads are and that the finished product, my card, is actually really funky - all made from our kit of plain, coloured and patterned card, stamps, and stamp pads, adhesive, glue pens, ribbon, and glitter. This is better than primary school.

Our next project is coasters, and when Bron demonstrates one of her favorite Stampin Up accessories, The Big Shot, we're impressed. This die-cutting machine cuts fabric and tin, as well as embosses.

It doesn't take long before I am the proud owner of a pair of coasters made from cork tiling, multi purpose adhesive sheets, designer paper in a retro pattern covered with window sheet acetate, all precisely cut out by The Big Shot. Bron says that Stampin Up is not just for adults, her 6-year-old son loves it, and she also does classes for children. The evening winds down and we relax with coffee, conversation, fabulous cake - and minds full of creative possibilities.

Craft stores

The Little Craft Store in Pt Chevalier, stocks quilting fabrics, yarns, haberdashery and an assortment of craft kits. This shop is also the exclusive NZ importer of Abeulita hand-dyed merino yarns, produced by a family operated business in Uruguay.

Owner Helen Trigg's passion for handmade led her to follow her dreams and open this delightful shop, which has become a hub of inspiration in the community. The store hosts regular knitting groups on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, and a Stitch and Bitch night on the last Friday of every month, complete with tea, coffee and cake, with a small charge of $10.

Over on the North Shore in Devonport, Wild and Woolly Yarns has been a fabulous haven for serious knitters for years.

This shop stocks Rowan wool from Britain, which owner Fran Stafford hails as the "Rolls Royce" of wool, and they also offer weekly knitting classes on request. Also check out Crafty Knitwits in Milford, a knitting store jam-packed with wool and knitting accessories, various craft supplies, and a wealth of knowledge to be shared by the owners, Linda Geor and Kerry Bowles.

Head back over the bridge, and check out The Bread and Butter Letter in New North Rd, a nifty and gorgeous little vintage clothing and handmade craft boutique with a difference, run by Sara Firmston and Rose Howcroft.

This unique shop doesn't stock craft supplies but it's worth checking out for inspiration and for the surprising gems you may find.

If you are crazy about quilting and patchwork, then take the motorway north to the All Things Patchwork and Bernina Sewing Centre in Waimauku.

This boutique shop is well known for its extensive range of amazing fabric prints from the likes of textile guru Kaffee Fassett, who has inspired people worldwide with his colourful work in fabric, knitting, needlepoint, patchwork and mosaics. They also feature designer fabric collections from several other world renowned textile designers, including Amy Butler and Brandon Mably, and specialise in designer patchwork and quilting fabrics from Westminster Fibers, Free Spirit and Echino.

CRAFT MARKETS

Kraftbomb Market
Sunday July 31, 11 am 2 pm. Grey Lynn Community Centre, 510
Richmond Rd, Grey Lynn.

Devonport Craft Market
Sunday August 7, 10 am 2 pm. 32 Clarence St, Devonport.

Crafternoon Tea Craft
Market, Saturday August 20, 10 am 2 pm. Trinity Methodist Church, 400 New North Rd, Kingsland.

We Can Create
Aotea Centre, The EDGE, Auckland City. August 26 and 27.

First Thursdays Craft Event
All over K Rd, October 6, 6pm- 9pm.

Auckland Art and Craft Fair
Aotea Centre, The EDGE, Auckland City, Dec 10.

Titirangi Mums Craft Market

Cassette Supermarkets
9 Vulcan Lane Saturdays, 12 pm 5 pm

JOIN THE CRAFT COMMUNITY

Craft stores:

All Things Patchwork
Factory Road, Waimauku Village.

The Little Craft Store
201 Pt Chevalier Rd, Auckland. Ph (09) 849 3295.

Wild and Woolly Yarns
38 Victoria St, Devonport, ph (09) 445 3255

The Bread and Butter Letter
66 New North Rd, Auckland.

Crafty Knitwits
Corner of Milford and Kitchener Rds. Milford, ph (09) 4862724 craftyknitwits@gmail.com.

Online craft stores and communities:

Toggle
Over 150 New Zealand designers sell jewellery, homeware, art, gifts, T-shirts and baby clothes.

Felt
Designer Lucy Arnold has created a New Zealand-based online marketplace for handmade goods, with a charming blog and a feeling of community.

Foxes
A shopping site and community. As well as her own craft business, Bam Bam Creative, Jessica Whiting runs the Auckland Craft Collective, the bi-annual Auckland Art & Craft Fair and the First Thursdays market on K Rd.

South Seas Knitting
New Zealand-based site sells knitting supplies, with a neat blog.

Etsy
The global grandma of crafters, enabling people to make a living making things - some two-million clever things a month.

Ravelry
A free site for knitters and crocheters, with over 1.4 million members worldwide, patterns, shop guides and more.

Learn to Craft:

Stampin Up
Ph (09) 817 136 or eparkin-wilson@stampinup.com or check out bronheslop.wordpress.com.

The Seven Sisters Sewing Room
Ph (09) 948 4724 or 021 033 4888.

Poppy & Bee
Crochet lessons for children.

- NZ Herald

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