Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

MoneyAugust 23, 2020

In lockdown 2.0, sewing is the new sourdough

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

The first time around, lockdown birthed a wave of artisan bread makers and K-Fry truthers. This time, it’s the craftspeople’s turn. 

If you live in Auckland, the likelihood is you’ve been spending a lot more time inside than you usually do. Not only because the city has been placed into a level three lockdown, but because the weather has also been characteristically shitty.

Online shopping data suggests a lot of Aucklanders have figured out what to do with the spare minutes we’ve gained by not having to sit through the commute to work, and this time it’s not the home sourdough experts filling our feeds – lockdown 2.0 is shaping up to be the lockdown of sewing.

“As witnessed with bread making and baking goods previously, consumers appear to change their shopping habits when they are in lockdown, looking to buy items that not only assist them in their day-to-day life but also help pass the time, too,” said Liisa Matinvesi-Bassett from PriceSpy.

In April, Foodstuffs reported an increase of 1.5 million kilograms of flour sold than at the same time last year. Searches for bread makers soared 1184% between March 1 and April 13, according to PriceSpy, but this lockdown it’s been the sewing machines that have been collecting clicks.

New figures from PriceSpy show that clicks on sewing machines online went up 70% from mid-July to mid-August last year, and it doesn’t take much scrolling on social media to get a gauge of why their popularity may be soaring. 

With the government and Ministry of Health urging increased mask use, there’s been a surge in companies and individuals creating reusable masks, both for themselves and to sell. The demand is high, and for some, including dozens of businesses and individuals advertising on New Zealand made Facebook page “Chooice” there’s a healthy profit to be made. 

Ashley Bloomfield demonstrates a mask made for him by a family friend. Image: RNZ stream

Last time I visited home, I took my sister’s sewing machine from her room and brought it to Auckland with me. I had big plans to re-hem a couple pairs of pants, take in the waistband of a skirt and fix the giant hole in the crotch of my partner’s favourite pyjamas, but after a couple of months I still haven’t quite figured out how to thread it.

For those with more of a knack, and access to the machine’s manual (which my sister lost years ago), the task of sewing a mask seems relatively simple, and for some selling them has turned into a full-time job. Shiana Weir has been making masks to sell on the Chooice Facebook page, and says the demand has been overwhelming. At this stage it’s just her and her sewing machine, and she says completing all the orders has meant a lot of late nights. 

“I’ve been up until 3am multiple nights,” she said. “I’m looking at bringing on another friend [to help] as demand is high enough to warrant it.”

Weir is usually a sustainable stylist, and when she saw the increasing demand for masks, she thought using her leftover fabrics would be a great way to incorporate sustainability into making masks. In the past three days, she’s made over $1,500 from her masks. “There have been machine issues, courier delays – which affect both sending and waiting on more supplies, it’s a bit insane.”

While I leave talented folks like Weir, who’ve progressed well past learning how to thread their machines, to stick to their sewing, I’ll be in the kitchen trying to save the sourdough starter I haven’t touched since level four.

Keep going!