With the help of funding from the Crafts Council, we set out to start a fibre arts group, to meet every Monday between 12 and 2. Our aim was not only to introduce traditional fibre artists to tech, but also to build a community within the Norris Green/Clubmoor area around the space; hoping to attract local knitters, crocheters, sewists and more, we designed a flyer and started casting about for willing participants.

As always, the head librarian at Norris Green library, Pat Nuttall, proved to be indispensible. Time after time, crafters and even cosplayers turned up, sheepishly citing the unstoppable force that is Pat. But then they came back. And again. And again. And before we knew it, the group did what we’d hoped for; it began to take on a life of its own, growing and evolving without our input. Patterns were exchanged, techniques shared.

Something I noticed when we began introducing equipment such as the lasercutter, was that the technology meant very little to those who haven’t experienced it before. Sure, it’s a laser that cuts – but beyond that, you can imagine almost anything. But when we designed and cut some wooden buttons out of birch ply, it suddenly made a lot more sense. It was a welcome reminder that it’s easy to become so familiar with a tool that you forget how alien it was at first, and how difficult it was to imagine possible applications until you actually got stuck in and did some experimenting of your own.

As of last session, we’ve had two of our very first members cutting vinyl and heatpressing it onto bags. I remember when they arrived; immensely talented knitters (who rapidly became accomplished crocheters), they were very clear at the first session that they just wanted to knit and natter. And they were very welcome to; we’ve been clear from the start that we want the group to determine how the group operates, and we want individuals to decide what they are or aren’t interested in.

But in seeing them engage with the equipment, learn to use these space age sci fi ideals made flesh (or, er, metal) is brilliant, too. Because our hope for the space has always been that it will allow us to make the equipment, the expertise and the sense of community available to the community. And thanks to our Techstyles group, we can.