IN recent years, TV shows like the Great British Bake Off, the British Sewing Bee and the Great Pottery Throwdown have helped fuel something of a craft boom in the UK.

Indeed, the country’s craft market is now worth a massive £3bn (and growing!) and traditional “housewife” skills like crocheting, have seen a real resurgence.

And Essex’s “Yarnbombers” have certainly captured people’s attention.

Helen Thomas, 43, Becky Shoobert, 36, Gabby Harding, 40, and Claire Whitehead, 46, are the crafters behind the colourful creations – and set up the Craft Club almost two years ago.

I joined them for a night of crafting to find out what all the fuss was about… but how did it all come about?

“We all work in a school and have always loved crafting and decided to teach ourselves to crochet,” explained Gabby. “Once we were reasonably accomplished we decided to start yarnbombing and then it just continued from there. We did a world record yarnbomb for Havens Hospice, we've raised over £3,000 for charity with further yarnbombs and also been running craft workshops for nearly two years."

“We wanted to attend craft workshops ourselves,” added Becky. “But either found they were held in the daytime, when we were at work, or if they were at the weekend, they were a big investments of time and money which we didn't have.

Echo: Craft Club  Helen Thomas, 43, Becky Shoobert, 36, Gabby Harding, 40, and Claire Whitehead, 46

“We wanted something for a couple of hours in the evening, where you could have a relaxed time with friends and go back home with something you've made... it didn't exist so we decided to set it up ourselves.”

The Craft Club workshops are held monthly at the Fisherman’s Chapel, in Leigh. As we sat making a selection of papercrafts, a pot of tea brewing in the corner and cakes aplenty, I could feel myself unwinding from a day spent running around after my toddler.

“I think everyone is looking for something to help them switch off and craft is a brilliant way to do that,” Helen agreed. “It's uplifting to make something beautiful or practical with your hands.

“It's just so lovely to craft alongside other crafty folk, chatting about your day and then a silence falls in the room and we know everyone is in the zone, fully focused, and that's the point it reduced stress and increases mental well-being. It's really important not to lose your creativity, everyone has it, just not everyone uses it.”

Do they think are homes are becoming more individual nowadays as people craft and get more creative, I wondered?

“Definitely,” exclaimed Becky. “I think people are looking for something that reflects something of themselves. Why buy an identical print from a national retailer when you can produce something truly unique yourself?

And you can’t overestimate the difference a handcrafted item can make to a room. “I think it adds a warmth and a sense of a home that is loved and enjoyed,” said Gabby.

They’ve certainly made a craft convert out of me!




* Blue Owl Ceramics Painting Studio, in Mill Street, Naylands, Colchester runs classes in help you make ceramics painting, as well as decopatch and foam clay – and they’ll even help you make personalised keepsakes of your baby's hand or footprints.

* Beautiful Things has a purpose built studio at Ingrave Enterprise Centre, Brentwood Road, Brentwood, offering classes and workshops in a number of crafts. Founder Claire Mackaness specialises in sewing, dressmaking and crochet, but also offers sessions in many other crafts including glass fusion, embroidery, furniture restoration and paper crafts.

* Hazles Pottery Barn, at Barleylands Craft Village, Billericay, offers classes and courses for adults in clay modelling, potter’s wheel, ceramic painting and silk screen stencilling.