Crafty move as Hobbycraft to open stores in Northern Ireland
A major arts and crafts business has announced its expansion into Northern Ireland, creating 18 new jobs.
Hobbycraft Newtownabbey will start trading on October 30 followed by a grand opening on November 2.
Plans are also under way to open a second store at another Northern Ireland location, expected to create a further 18 jobs.
The chain describes itself as the UK's largest arts and crafts retailer and has promised the Co Antrim store will have the best crafting experts on hand to help customers develop their artistic skills.
These include specialists in sewing, knitting, crochet, papercraft and baking.
Revealing some of the latest trends, Hobbycraft said the digital era is inspiring a new generation to pick up knitting needles.
The "rise of the millennial maker" is said to be fuelled by social media, with younger people sharing their enthusiasm and using new digital crafting tools.
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At the cutting edge of the craze are digital cutting machines, which allow users to create a design on a computer which can then be cut precisely from a range of materials from paper to fabric.
The positive mental health benefits of arts and crafts are said to be another major draw, with the rhythmic and repetitive nature of knitting or crochet proving an ideal technique to distract the mind from everyday worries.
In textile, crocheting is going from strength to strength with sales of patterns up by 179% this year. Paint by numbers is another top pick for mindfulness and relaxation, with sales up 80%.
The so-called 'Meghan Markle effect' has also boosted sales of calligraphy sets, a favourite hobby of the royal, with a 14% boost in sales this year.