In style: Ashley Holdsworth

Pins in the butter, sequins between the floorboards ... knitting, sewing and all the other DIY activities the recession has brought out of the woodwork are all very well for those who live in large homes.

But back in the real world, the means for making a blouse or rustling up a Halloween costume must coexist with the cooker, the telly and the wardrobe, leading to, quite often, the overwhelming desire to fling the lot in the back of the cupboard.

Which is where Make It Glasgow comes in. After years of bedroom-floor pattern-cutting and having to put away the sewing machine when it was time to cook dinner, Ashley Holdsworth had a brainwave. She had read about the Sweat Shop, a Parisien cafe that rents sewing machines by the hour. So why not, she thought, open something similar in Scotland? "If Paris has got one, Glasgow needs one. I thought it was a fantastic idea and saw no reason why it couldn't work here as well."

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At the time Holdsworth, 35, was working in the city's museum service and living in the east end. She had long admired a row of railway arches in Osborne Street, in a quarter of the city that is full of independent cafes, galleries and one-off shops. "I thought they were distinctive and quirky, perfect for a sewing cafe. It's not a run-of-the-mill business, so it needs premises that are not run-of-the-mill either." Now, seven weeks after opening, Holdsworth has practically forgotten what her own flat looks like. She is Make It Glasgow's meeter, greeter, barista, book-keeper, pattern-interpreter and craftwork agony aunt all rolled into one. Need help setting a tricky sleeve? Can't decide which fairy cake to have? Holdsworth is there to answer, advise and hold your hand.

A stitching prodigy, she was taught to use a sewing machine and read a paper pattern by her granny at age four. Her first project was a skirt and she can still remember cutting out the pieces and handling the fragile tracing paper of the pattern. Growing up in Kingston-upon-Thames, in south-west London, she carried on dressmaking throughout her teens. "I liked making my own clothes, having personalised things, and it was much easier on a budget, buying fabric from the market."

As an adult she struggled on, cutting out fabric on the floor, tripping over the sewing machine in the corner. No more. Make It Glasgow has three sewing machines, a full-size cutting table and tailor's dummies. Pins, chalk and all the bits and pieces are also on hand, and there is a changing area for those crucial on-body adjustments.

She has big plans for the new year. There is already a drop-in session on Wednesday nights and one-off classes have been so successful these will grow into mini-courses. The first will be on making curtains and roller blinds. The second may well be on corsetry and costume-making. After that, Holdsworth thinks Make It Edinburgh has a certain ring to it.The recession may be grim, she says, but the need to save money has unleashed an inventive streak many people didn't know they had. She sees absolute beginners who need help to sew on a button or want to make a gift for a new baby. She even has some male customers. "They tend to want to do practical things, like hem trousers. One wanted to make a boat cover out of tarpaulin.

"People want to make something themselves. It's partly an economic imperative but it's also a creative urge that appears in hard times. And they enjoy coming to learn things here because it's not like school, it's about producing something beautiful, meeting new friends and being as sociable as possible." n