Craft classes abound in Columbus area

Some say it started back in the early 2000s with The Learning Channel’s hit reality show “Trading Spaces.” Others give the economy credit for the resurgence.

No matter the source, crafting and do-it-yourself projects — from artistic expression to home renovation — have seen an increase in popularity over the last few years.

Need proof? I have one word for you: Etsy.

Not to mention TV shows like “Project Runway” and channels such as HGTV and the DIY Network inspiring a new generation to not just consume, but to create and think outside the box.

People decide to start crafting for many different reasons; my upcoming nuptials spurred me to start getting crafty because it’s more fun (and less expensive) to make things like ceremony programs and gift tags than it is to buy them.

Alisha Schultze, an Army wife currently living on Fort Benning, started taking sewing classes at Columbus State University’s Continuing Education Center because she moved often and was tired of having to buy new window treatments for each new house.

Neither of us have an artistic background, just a desire to create.

“All of a sudden I got the bug to do it,” said Schultze. So she went out and got a machine. “I was totally intimidated (at first), which every sewer will tell you they are, and my mom came and she taught me the basics.”

Four years ago, Sue Simoncini, who has an extensive background in wedding gown and costume design, helped create the sewing program at CSU. The university now offers a certificate in sewing that allows graduates to teach, sell their products, work in alterations or get into design school.

But the certificate isn’t necessarily the biggest draw.

“More people are coming wanting clothing that fits them,” said Simoncini, who credits “Project Runway” for an influx in aspiring designers. “People are interested in doing their own thing, being creative, not dealing with what’s in the stores. They want to do a little something different.”

Carolyn Pentecost, a craft instructor at Columbus’ Michael’s craft store, agrees with Simoncini’s sentiment, adding that crafting is also a way for people to “get back to their roots.”

This trend toward self-sufficiency applies across all aspects of life, as evidenced by the massive movement to “go green.”

“People seem to want to go back to that,” said sewing student Christie Jones. “Making their own food, growing their own food, making clothes. We’re kind of going backwards.”

The state of the economy has also encouraged frugality.

“It’s cheaper to stay in and craft than it is to go out,” said Pentecost.

In addition to sewing and at-home crafting, people are also tuning in to their inner Van Gogh.

Katy Kent, owner of Brushes and Beverages, a painting studio in downtown Columbus, said she gets groups of all ages who come in to paint for fun.

“I think it’s a release from the stress of today and the economy,” Kent said. “It’s just kind of a shelter for people to come in and just leave everything at the door.”

Most popular among women, it’s also a time for them to take a break from kids and husbands and just focus on themselves.

“When you’re focused on taking care of the house and making sure dinner’s ready or your husband’s coming home for lunch, it’s good because I get my ‘me’ time (in class),” said Schultze, whose soldier/musician husband is understanding and supportive of her newfound sewing hobby. “You just feel at peace, especially when you’re creating something.”

“We always called our class therapy,” said Jones. “And it’s cheaper than therapy.”

Getting started

As with most hobbies, once you decide you want to craft, sew or paint, there is a start-up investment.

“There’s a little bit (of money to invest),” said Simoncini, about learning to sew. “Classes run about $100” and necessary supplies include scissors, pens, fabric, patterns and other materials for projects. Machines are provided for students.

“If you wanted to start up, you’d need to buy a small machine,” said Simoncini. “You don’t need anything great, but I tell my students don’t get the cheapest machine there because you get want you pay for.”

“Sewing just seems so daunting (at first),” said Jones, who, like Schultze, started taking Simoncini’s classes in January.

Jones and Schultze both said they learn better in the classroom environment, but have no doubt that someone could teach themselves to sew at home using the abundance of resources available in books and online.

Classes offered at Michael’s and Brushes and Beverages require less of an investment because they are single, stand-alone classes.

Unique gifts

One over-arching theme from those who like to craft, sew and paint: their creations make great gifts.

“I think it’s because making it, putting your heart and soul into it, and then you’re giving it to someone and seeing someone’s face light up when they know it’s handmade, that you made it especially for them,” said Schultze, who just finished sewing a button-down shirt for her husband.

But the gift doesn’t just have to be something you give someone else.

Jones said learning to sew has made her feel more self-sufficient. “There’s a pride in being able to create,” she said. “We’re kind of a neat generation because my grandmother had to make clothes and we choose to.”