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A while back, we ran a piece about the spooky timeslips of Bold Street. A stubborn urban myth about a wormhole in Bold Street that transports you to another place and time.

Maybe there’s something in it. We’ve just walked down the city’s great boho procession and been transported to post war Britain. From Bold Street Sweets’ Willy Wonka-style candy sticks and gobstoppers to Shared Earth’s patchwork pillows, the windows are awash with whimsy.

When the Liverpool Institute legend that is Neil Buchanan starts churning out collectible prints of cabbage patch urchins in Hope Street – and gets an entire window display for his £500 canvases – is it an Art Attack too far?

Maybe, but these cynical scribblings are the darker side of a shift in our tastes from cool and sleek to warm and whimsy. And they’re not representative of its spirit. Home makers and part time crafters know, as the Portlandia people so rightly say above, you can cure all those double dip recession blues by the judicious application of a simple truth: just put a bird on it.

“The vintage, floral theme has been a growing trend for the last year,” Utility’s Dick Mawdsley tells SevenStreets, as he lovingly cuddles up to one of the sleek store’s best-selling lines, a floral patterned owl cushion (£15.99).

Yep. You heard it. Forget the Arne Jacobsen chairs and the Conran shelves, these days, we’re addicted to the patchwork, the feathered and the frilly. Hard times call for soft furnishings.

“They’re cute,” he says. “And they follow on from the growth of texture and pattern that’s been evolving as a trend in interiors.”

But it’s not just cushions. It’s what we put them on, too. Got a transparent Phillipe Starck Ghost Chair? What are you? A Liverpool Lifestyle reader?

“Wooden dining chairs and tables are now much more prevalent than plastic chairs,” Mawdsley says. “Retro styles or re-issues from the 50’s and 60’s dominate our market place.”

So far, so MadMen. But we doubt Don Draper ever got down and dirty with a darning mushroom (actually, we’ve heard a rumour he dabbles with crochet in series 6). Etsy, eBay and the city’s legion craft and makers’ fairs testify to our growing ambitions to be Townswomen’s Guild members, and make free with that old Quality Street tin our mums keep spare buttons in.

But tread carefully. Remember, that’s what God gave us shops for, yeah? Christmas cards might be out in Marks and Spencer, but that doesn’t mean it’s a cue for you to buy a home crafting kit from QVC and get jiggy with your zigzag scissors and fuzzy felt.

Even the Amish follow the 10,000 hour rule. They won’t inflict a patchwork ear defender on anyone, lest it’s been made by a Mennonite with serious stitching skillz.

“People have always wanted interiors that have personality, and when times get harder people take on design challenges themselves,” says Design guru Ashley Sutcliffe from interiors website Live Like The Boy.

“It’s the quality of finish that’s going to sell the design in the end,” he says. “The presence of the nostalgic retro style on the high street is literally giving people what they want but in a higher quality finish.

“There are millions of knitted iPhone cases on Etsy, but it’s all about the quality of the creative process that made them,” he says. Which, we guess, is why Landbaby, Pillbox Vintage, Capstan’s Bazaar and the city’s pop up craft fairs are in rude health right now. They’re real people, just like us, but they’ve got an eye for it.

“If anyone is to blame, think about Kirsty Allsopp with her handmade home. She destroyed a big chunk of what craft is about by bringing it to an amateur level,” Sutcliffe says. In other words, if you want it get it right, call in the experts.

“Our country is filled with great craftsmen and women who produce wonderfully innovative and passionate design that draws on tradition whilst focussing on modernity. There is more to life than twee floral prints and cross-stitched birds.”

So what of the current crop of big name whimsy mavens? Do any pass Sutcliffe’s taste test?

“Orla Kiely’s taken a theme of graphic prints and used them very cleverly to push an appealing collection of appealing fashion and homewares, she doesn’t slavishly recreate,” he says, of the Irish designer’s punchy prints and patterns decorating biscuit tins and pencil cases in Utility, John Lewis and gift shops throughout the world.

“I think the balance of colour and modernity reached its zenith in the 50s and 60s from designers like Robin and Lucienne Day,” Sutcliffe says, “but they had to battle against the enthusiastic amateur.”

Despite it all Sutcliffe falls short of telling us to give up that subscription to cross-stich monthly.

“If the choice is a home filled with whimsy that’s been produced with time and effort over a supposedly glamorous pad that resembles pages from a Next catalogue then give me whimsy just use it sparingly please, you’re not a fairy.”

Maybe. But our advice is simple. If you’ve a sudden urge to fashion a tea cosy out of some left over lagging and an old tea towel make sure there’s an adult present.

Preferably Cath Kidson.

  • PF

    Upcycling*

  • Crap crafter

    Boo!
    What about the enjoyment of making!
    Make away good people! It’s fun!