Knitting was the new-again craze five years ago. Everyone was clicking needles, from young professionals in bars and cafes to superstars such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Julia Roberts.

Now sewing is back in vogue.

“Sewing is the new knitting,” says Amber Eden, editor of Threads, a magazine for sewing enthusiasts.

Older women who learned to sew in home-economics class are returning to the craft now that their children are grown or they are retired and have the time for a hobby. But young women – and even some young men – are discovering the lure of sewing their own clothing and home-decor items, says Eden. As a result, Threads launched Sew Stylish, a magazine aimed at younger, first-time sewing enthusiasts.

The reason for the sewing resurgence can be summed up in two words: “Project Runway.”

“Without a doubt, ‘Project Runway’ has been a shot in the arm. The audience watches the contestants sewing, and suddenly everyone wants to sew,” says Louise Cutting of Winter Park, Fla., owner of the Cutting Line Designs pattern company.

She and Linda Lee, owner of The Sewing Workshop pattern collection, hosted a “sewing retreat” at the Mt. Vernon Motor Lodge in Winter Park. For three days, 27 women from a dozen different states labored from dawn until dusk in a conference room equipped with cutting tables and sewing machines. Most ate lunch amid drifts of patterns and mountains of fabric. Some returned after dinner to stitch into the wee hours of the morning.

The trend back to sewing has led to a boom in such retreats, says Cutting. Some are held at resorts or on cruise ships; others include trips to European fashion centers such as Paris and Milan.

More sewing devotees made the trip to Puyallup, Wash., for that town’s annual Sewing and Stitchery Expo in February. Usually drawing about 30,000 enthusiasts from across the country, the expo this year attracted an additional 1,000 attendees, says spokeswoman Rita Farro.

“I noticed a lot more young people this time. Simplicity ‘Patterns’ and the Brother sewing machine company have licensing agreements with ‘Project Runway.’ They run ads in magazines like Seventeen. That gets the kids excited,” says Farro.

“What I want to see now is Hannah Montana using a sewing machine on her show.”

Sewing newbies often begin “with deconstruction and reconstruction – taking the sleeves off a jacket and turning it into a vest, or taking jeans apart and turning them into a purse or a pillow,” says Janet Pray, president of the Houston-based American Sewing Guild. “It’s an easy place to start – no patterns, no rules.

“We hope they will move on to traditional sewing. We’re starting to add new programs and younger teachers, and we’re reaching out to Web sites to attract younger members,” she says.

Among those inspired by the popular Bravo show is 17-year-old Chelsea McHugh of Orlando, Fla., who signed up last year for lessons at The Sewing Studio in Maitland, Fla.

“I’m creative artistically and wanted to put that into something I can wear,” says Chelsea, an aspiring fashion designer and high school student. “But ‘Project Runway’ makes me want to learn to sew even more.”

When her friends discovered she was taking sewing lessons, “They thought it was, like, an old-lady thing. They laughed about it,” she says.

“Then they saw the tunic I made. Now they want me to make them things.”

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