It’s a buoyant sign of the times when a child chooses to celebrate their birthday not with fat-fuelled tour around the local burger chain kitchens and a game of musical chairs led by a man in a grubby, sinister clown suit but by brushing up on their sewing skills. AS the make-do-and-mend approach to life seeps back into the mainstream public consciousness, the enthusiasm to reskill and bask in the glow of DIY pride is being felt by a new generation very aware of its ecologic and economic environment – and determined to enjoy itself without trampling all over its ethics.
The Makery, a new creative community workshop-cum-DIY help centre in the bustling ‘Artisan Quarter’ of the historic city of Bath, is on hand to help out with this. Husband-and-wife team Kate and Nigel opened The Makery just a few weeks ago – collecting the keys just days after the birth of their first child – and are on a mission to steer Bathonians away from the shopping centres and towards their sewing machines.
“We’ve made things forever,” says Kate who, along with husband Nigel, left television careers in London for the West Country good life a year ago. “We moved here and we thought, ‘Let’s do something we really enjoy.’ So we brainstormed ideas. There’s been so much press about make-do-and-mend, making things is so en vogue again, and people are proud to say they made things themselves. It’s a backlash against everyone spending loads of money. That’s exactly up our street – all our furniture at home is from Freecycle or auctions, and we make it look beautiful ourselves. Friends always comment on it, and say, ‘Ooh I wish I could do that,’ so we thought, ‘Right, well, we’ll teach people how to do that then.’”
Location hunting, key-swapping, floor-board stripping and a birth ensued, with The Makery now running regular workshops in everything from crocheting your own snowmen to making natural soap. “My speciality is sewing, so we run workshops like ‘Get to know your sewing machine’, or making your own clothes and bags,” Kate continues. “But we’ve got loads of freelance tutors so its not just sewing; we teach ceramics, there’s an upholsterer who’s going to get upholstery workshops going, and we’ve been approached by a lady who makes natural toiletries. There will be bookmaking, printmaking – we don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves.”
Split over two floors, The Makery’s workshop space is a crafter’s pick-and-mix dream, lined with piles of recycled fabrics awaiting a new lease of life, rows of eager sewing machines and reclaimed furniture whose drawers spew colourful buttons, yarns and threads. And, of course, there are the parties…
“We’ve got a little girl’s birthday party here on Saturday, and where possible the materials will be re-used. That used to be a jumper!” says Kate, pointing to stocking hanging in the shop’s window. “Each child will bring in an old T-shirt and spend the first half of the workshop designing a monster, and giving it a name and a personality. In the second half of the workshop, they’ll make the monster – they draw the outline, I’ll sew around that and they can stuff it and put the eyes on.” It certainly beats an afternoon trying to build things out of grease-saturated Happy Meal boxes.
In addition to the workshops and shindigs, it won’t be long before The Makery offers itself up as the go-to place for advice and resources for people’s own homemade projects. Pop in, pick a sewing machine and pull up a chair. “We are getting approached by lots of people with lots of different skills, so it’s really exciting,” Kate enthuses about The Makery’s potential directions. “Ultimately, we want to teach people to be a bit more resourceful and do things for themselves rather than having to go out and buy it.”
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