Making the circle bigger

13 February 2013 - 03:08 By Andrea Nagel

At a recent trend conference entitled "The State We're In", analyst and design consultant Dion Chang warned that the future of the world economy did not look bright.

The UK was going into a triple dip recession, he said, and we would soon be living in an even more ''hourglass" economy with the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer and the middle-class squeezed even tighter.

The cost of living in South Africa would rise and rise, he said.

Electricity has already gone up by 66% in the last six months and is set to rise again. E-tolls are being pushed through and there's been a 41% rise in the price of petrol. So, it makes sense that old crafts like cross-stitch are making a comeback.

Instead of spend, spend, spend, the ''make do and mend" mentality of the credit crisis has encouraged people to make their own gifts and decorations, and the process is meditative and entertaining.

Craft groups such as Stitch and Bitch have resurrected the idea of the traditional craft club in London into a place for the young, hip and socially conscious to hang out, gossip and stitch.

Locally, the queen of cross-stitch, Lauren Fowler, is single-handedly reviving the trend.

From her studio, Lost Is A Place Too, Fowler is cross-stitching her way into pages of popular design magazines. Readers are invited to cross-stich the cover of VISI magazine, and House and Leisure gave away her coveted cross-stitch kits.

To get started you need a canvas, preferably the even-weave fabric called aida cloth, two wooden hoops to hold the fabric tant, some two-strand thread and a needle.

Centre the fabric between the hoops, tighten the outside hoop with the screw, thread the needle, tie a knot at the end of your first strand and you're ready to cross-stitch.

Fowler made the process easy by providing a grid-based picture of a fox and simple-to-follow instructions with her kits. Start at the centre of the canvas with the orange thread, she suggests, and follow the pattern by counting your cross-stitches in a paint-by-numbers fashion. Fill in with the cream thread and then use the black to finish, she advises.

It took about an hour of relaxing, methodical meditation to finish the fox. To complete the picture she suggests using a pair of scissors to cut around the back of the canvas, leaving 1cm all around it, and then use clear glue to stick this part of the canvas to the back of the hoop. Then use ribbon or string to tie to the screw on the hoop and hang.

I like my little fox so much that I'm ready to start stitching some good old-fashioned platitudes like ''home is where the heart is" or the more subversive favourite of Fowler's: ''Home Sweet F***en Home".

In fact, ''subversive cross-stitch" has become a popular trend and an outlet for your rage against the world, expressed in the nicest possible way.