“There’s been an incredible spike in [sales of] adult craft materials: knitting has boomed, fabrics of all type particularly for quilts like your grandmother used to make, and painting,” said Mr Maguire.
“Art sales this week quadrupled, fabric sales doubled, knitting tripled and craft sales tripled. Kids and games [categories] are up 500 per cent … puzzles are selling out and people are sitting around doing these things together. As crazy as this may seem it [pandemic life] is uniting the family.”
Maria Ludden, marketing manager at Eckersley’s art supplies, has also noted a spike in sales which she feels is in part because art and craft “helps us to express our emotions and connect with one another no matter how much social distance is between us and helps lower stress and anxiety levels”.
In Balwyn, Melbourne craft guru Pip Lincolne – author of four craft books and lately one on coping strategies, When Life is Not Peachy – lost her full-time job writing for a parenting website this week and is finding consolation in knitting and running “craftalongs” through her blog and 22,000-strong Instagram community.
She has noticed an increase in crochet, embroidery and other handicrafts since Victorians started being asked to stay at home, and much “homely and wholesome” Instagram action.
“It’s been a re-set for people. Perhaps they are going back to skills they may have set aside for a while in favour of scrolling through their phones,” she said.
“It’s like ‘rainy day in the middle of the school holidays down at the shack’, a kind of bunker reaction I suppose. It’s so interesting. I think part of it is … linked to nostalgia for what used to make us feel good – let’s do that again because maybe it will be a bit of a tonic,” says Lincolne.. The image below is from her “Easy peasy blanket” project in her crafalong.
She agrees with Quilters Victoria’s Josephine Kelly that “lots of people are doing quilting”. Ms Kelly said fabric shops were reporting busy times in the last two weeks as people get ready for lockdown projects, “lots of designers are giving away free patterns and there are lots of quiltalongs”.
In Newport, events manager Linda Fincke says the enforced slower pace of isolation means she, Dale, and their kids Jemima and Carter have time to structure in activities including reading a book as a group, one chapter a night, making lasagne sheets from scratch and much baking.
“We’re going to do family movie nights – Dale does videos on holidays – and project that onto a wall, we’ll do slide nights because we’ve got all our slides from when we grew up, and my daughter made muffins yesterday, she loves to bake,” says Ms Fincke.
“You realise when working from home you have got the time to spend together to make dinner together and enjoy that process rather than when you’re busy working,” she said. This week’s highlight was Jemima’s aloo gobi (an Indian potato and cauliflower dish).
In Hampton, Diny Slamet says crafts including free-motion machine embroidery have been “what’s keeping me sane”.
She jokes having this kind of time to create is what Melbourne’s fabric hoarders have been “preparing for for years”, and believes people are turning to crafts during the stress of the pandemic because they offer “the ability to delve into an activity where you can put to the back of your mind all of the troubling thoughts: you can just focus on the now”.
This week she wowed her Facebook friends with a fancy piece of machine embroidery she called “sleeping antechinus” (a small native animal) and says jokingly that it helped keep her mind off the news.
“I’m a news junkie, so really tapped into everything that’s going on. But I can step back and go into this and go, ‘Hmm where should this piece of lace sit?’ rather than are we all going to die?”
Wendy Tuohy is Lifestyle editor.