With the recession kicking in, reports suggest that more women are taking up sewing.
When it comes to arts and crafts, you can safely count me out.
Artistic in a cerebral, imaginary sort of way, my recurrent attempts over the years to unite my daydreams with a sewing machine have ended in tearful failure.
So it was with much hesitancy and curbed enthusiasm that I walked into my first sewing class at John Lewis.
The haberdashery department is buzzing when my friend Louisa and I turn up for our Learn to Sew workshop.
Manoeuvring in and out of people buying ribbons, fabric, zips and buttons, our sewing instructor Stephanie Vickers explains why this department is so much busier than the others.
"Making your own clothes is one of the most rewarding things you can do for yourself," she says.
"It's time-consuming, yes, but it's also a skill that you learn to develop and which gets easier and better the more you do it."
Her co-worker Taryn Grenardo agrees. Also based at John Lewis's flagship Oxford Street store, she says that the "haby" departments are surging in popularity.
"We've experienced many first-timers coming into the haberdashery and dress-making departments asking for advice on how to create their own knits and clothes," she says.
In these credit crunch times, it's no surprise that John Lewis has seen a return to what the industry calls "slow clothes".
This term for locally-produced and hand-made clothes contrasts with the fast, disposable clothing culture of the modern high street.
Despite suffering a sharp fall in overall sales, John Lewis has reported a 57% increase in sales of sewing machines. Sales of buttons are up 18%, silk prints up 75% and basic haberdashery up 11% from last year.
But the return to "slow clothes" isn't just for economic reasons. Many first-timers are getting their knitting needles and sewing machines out for social and environmental reasons, too - demonstrating a desire to know where their clothes have come from.
Stephanie's mum taught her to sew, and the shop assistant explains how, for her wedding last year, the mother and daughter team made the wedding dress, veil and four bridesmaids' dresses - all for under £500.
"There's no way you could do that on the high street," says Stephanie. "And what I got was a dress hand-made just for me, with a result that is totally unforgettable!"
I am buoyed by Stephanie's words as we start to make our piece for the day, a small tote bag with a square bottom. We start by cutting out paper designs of the bag, to use as fabric templates. Sadly, Louisa is miles ahead of me as I manage to cut over the lines and have to start again.
Stephanie then shows us how to spool our machines - a somewhat complicated process involving two bobbins of thread - and we're off.
Stepping on the machine's pedals to sew the fabric bright-side up, I am still petrified, so much so that I nearly sew over my own finger.
"There's no rush," Stephanie reassures me, seeing my zigzag stitches (yes, they're meant to be straight) and obvious envy at Louisa's perfect handles.
"The thing with sewing is that you get better the more you do it. A lot of it has to do with confidence. Once you practice enough stitches, you realise you can do them with your eyes closed."
She adds: "Actually, you wouldn't want to be that cocky."
The design we're following is a reversible one by American designer Amy Butler and is one of the easiest in John Lewis's "learn to sew" range.
Butler's designs are brightly funky - a sort of Midwest America take on Seventies retro - and are Stephanie's favourite in the store.
In fact, her cute pink dress, with its dipped neck and puckered sleeves, is a Butler design, as is her matching pink cardigan with silver pearls stitched on the sleeves and back.
Spurring us on to the finish line, we quickly cut out box corners, sew in some lining, use a "turning tool" to turn the fabric inside out, and cross-stitch our handles together.
And the next thing I know, I've got a bag in my hands. A bag I've made. Some of the seams are little less than straight, and one of the handles is slightly longer than the other, but I made it!
I walk out of the store in disbelief. And you know what? I've already signed up for the next sewing class.
Top tips on learning to sew:
1. Prepare yourself: "Make sure you have everything you need laid out in front of you before you get started," says Stephanie. "That way you'll be sure not to miss any steps or skip ahead of yourself."
2. Get supplies: You'll need thread, a sewing machine, pins, an iron and tape measure. "And make sure you also have two pairs of scissors - one for paper, another for the fabric - as paper blunts scissors very easily!" says Stephanie.
3. Test your equipment: "Always test your sewing machine on a bit of scrap fabric before you actually get started," says Stephanie. "There's nothing worse than ruining your project because you haven't set the machine up properly."
4. Go slow: "It doesn't matter how long it takes you to get something done, take your time doing it," advises Stephanie. "The more you make yourself rush, the more mistakes you'll make, so be patient."
5. Read patterns: "Look up designs and read patterns you like. If there are terms in there you don't understand, look them up - it will help build your knowledge and confidence," says Stephanie.