The 'make do and mend' trend is now well and truly mainstream, with TV shows and Sunday supplements full of advice on how to recycle well-worn socks and other assorted bits of junk into must-have accessories or items for the home. But developing the skills to make something that you wouldn't want to throw straight back into the charity shop box has often involved signing up to multi-week courses - not usually an option for the tourist or casual day-tripper.
Over the last couple of years a number of craft cafés have sprung up in and around London which, in addition to longer craft-making courses, offer the opportunity to fashion something desirable in just one afternoon or evening - along with plenty of tea and cake of course. For those tight on time, this is an excellent way to ensure you return home with a truly personal and memorable souvenir. Here's a few of our favourites...
Opened in August 2011, Islington's Ray Stitch is a fresh and modern take on the high street haberdashery store, with a grown-up sweet shop-style range of fabrics, buttons, ribbons, threads, sewing kits and pattern books, along with one-off products and gifts sourced from local designers and makers. Spread over two floors - one for munching muffins and slurping Climpson & Sons coffee, and the other for getting down to some serious stitching - this new year's season of classes includes beginner's sewing sessions on Mondays, single daytime or evening applique classes, and children's sewing lessons on Tuesdays and Thursdays. All classes include complimentary drinks and snacks.
Ray Stitch, 99 Essex Road, London N1 2SJ
Drink, Shop & Do
A one-time pop up shop, Drink, Shop & Do is now permanently housed in an old Victorian bathhouse at the King's Cross end of Caledonian Road; not a place you'd ordinarily expect to find such a gorgeous emporium of retro and vintage design, where everything within sight is for sale. Tongue-in-cheek and more kitsch than its crafty London neighbours, during the day Drink, Shop & Do sells a selection of finger sandwiches, cakes, milkshakes and afternoon teas served on pretty 1950s retro tableware, but is also open until 11.30pm and licenced for cocktails in the evenings - a perfect accompaniment to informal evening classes like the Pin Up Hair and Makeup Session or a Knit Night. For a truly unique takeaway, there's usually one or more bizarre events taking place every couple of weeks - we love the sound of Play With Clay Lionel Ritchie Style where the best likeness of Lionel Ritchie's head wins a prize, or the slightly more sane Fold & Fly Paper Planes. Arguably the cleanest fun to be had in King's Cross...
Drink, Shop & Do, 9 Caledonian Road, London, N1 9DX
Sew Over It
Clapham's Sew Over It was founded by passionate seamstress, dressmaker and designer Lisa Comfort, a graduate of the London College of Fashion who trained under Bruce Oldfield. In the sewing café you can pay £5 per hour to work on your creations on high quality machines, getting advice and help when you need it, along with unlimited cups of tea (free) and Caratelli cupcakes. Sign up for a class in the downstairs workshop and in just a few hours you could be waltzing out the door with a bespoke pair of frilly knickers or boxer shorts, makeup bag, leather purse or cushion cover. All levels are catered for, from complete beginners through to advanced.
Sew Over It, 78 Landor Road, London SW9 9PH
Right in the centre of town between Oxford Street and Marylebone, Homemade London is a self-styled craft salon dedicated to selling beautiful things, and inspiring you to create your own. In addition to a sewing café run on similar lines to Sew Over It above, Homemade London's innovative workshops are run by designers with a real passion for their craft who will help you to make something you'll be genuinely proud of. All workshops include either afternoon tea or a light meal, and the small class sizes ensure you'll enjoy an intimate social experience as well as a high level of personal tuition. We're tempted to sign up for the Afternoon Tea for Two with Perfume Making, the Beauty Balm and Sugar Scrub workshop or learning how to make our own super-stylish sock monkeys.
Homemade London, 21 Seymour Place, London W1H 58H Header photo: © courtesy of Drink, Shop & Do.
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About the author: MaxineMaxine Sheppard
Maxine is the editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.