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Makerly – Zentangle Cushion Cover

This polar bear cushion cover from Makerly inspired by the practise of Zentangle is suitably wintry for this frosty weather we are having at the moment. Zentangle is a combination of art and meditation by focusing on the formation of patterns. It made this a really mindful project to complete as well as being inspiration for creating designs for future projects by taking the same principle of filling each section of the design with a different pattern.

Included in the box was:

  • Cushion cover
  • Embroidery needle
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Transfer paper
  • Paper template
  • Selection of threads including embroidery thread, metallic thread, waxed cotton thread, acrylic yarn, and sewing thread

I had a couple of issues with this project but nothing that couldn’t be overcome. The polar bear design was quite large to fill the space on the cushion cover, however the sheet of transfer paper included in the kit was quite small, which meant that you had to move it over halfway through transferring the design to the cushion cover. Although this wasn’t too tricky, it did feel a bit awkward and I was worried about making sure the design was lined up properly. It was a problem that could easily have been resolved by having a piece of transfer paper just a bit larger. The other issue I found was that the design rubbed off the cushion cover quite quickly and I had to redraw it a few times with some tailors chalk to make sure my sewing didn’t go wonky. This was mainly for the leaf design and the face.

I liked how many different stitches were used in the design and how you could make such effective patterns with even the most basic straight stitch. The instructions for each stitch were clearly written out and the photographs were helpful too. I also thought it was great that there were so many suggestions for patterns included in the instructions outside of the ones used in the main design. This project really allowed for a lot of individuality and opportunity to make it your own. 

There wasn’t a cushion insert included in the kit. I have temporarily filled mine with stuffing, but I will order a proper insert for it as I think that will really finish it off nicely. I like the idea of using Zentangle to inspire designs with each section being a different pattern and the use of different threads for each one gives the piece a lovely texture and highlights the different areas, even though they are all in shades of white and cream.

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Winter Owl Craftpod

Starting the crafting year with my favourite of all the subscription boxes I’ve tried, it’s Craftpod of course! The Winter box this year is no exception delivering three lovely projects to complete. The theme of the box is owls, with the major project being an appliqué embroidery of an owl soaring through a cold starry sky. The second project is an owl shaped case for a pair of embroidery scissors, and lastly a paper garland to cut out and hang in your home.

Included in the box was:

  • Felt (navy, white, beige, brown)
  • Calico
  • Iron-on interfacing
  • Embroidery thread x6 (white, ginger, pale brown, dark brown, yellow, green)
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Embroidery scissors
  • Needle
  • Card pictures (to cut out for garland)
  • Twine
  • Mini wooden pegs

I started the appliqué embroidery first as it looked like the most complicated and time-consuming piece. I really like the composition of the design and it’s quite different to other pieces I’ve sewn. Although the owl was strengthened with the iron-on interfacing it was definitely the trickiest part of the project as the edges still frayed a lot when the initial border was sewn round to keep it in place. Once this was completed it did get a lot easier to manage, and of course it eventually gives the owl his feathery look. I liked the use of the interfacing on the back of the felt to get an accurate crescent for the moon and also the dusting of tiny stitches around it to give it its glow.

The scissor case was a much quicker project which I did all in one evening. Once the cutting out and sewing the feathery details on the front panel were done then the rest was just construction. The instructions were really easy to follow and I especially like the way the eyes were done. It’s a much safer way to carry my scissors around, rather than just loose in my bag!

The paper garland was a fun little project which took all of ten minutes to cut out the images and peg them to the twine. I felt like this box kept me entertained and occupied for many evenings of enjoyment. As always I’m looking forward to seeing what the spring box brings in a few months!

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Happy New Craft!

I can’t believe another year has whizzed by and we are already in 2022! Of course not all of 2021 was plain sailing because every year has it’s ups and downs, but from a crafting perspective I feel like I’ve achieved so much. Scrolling back through my blog I’m amazed at how many craft projects I completed!

I tried several new crafts that I’ve never tried before such as natural dyeing with turmeric and marigolds, and embroidering on organza, but my top new craft of the year definitely has to be latch hook. I had planned to do an online class with Tea and Crafting, but it was delayed and in the meantime I did a latch hook from the Makerly subscription box. I absolutely loved it straight away and was so excited when the Tea and Crafting online class finally happened. It was so great to craft along with other people, even via Zoom. I made one of the biggest and most creative pieces I’ve ever made, and I’ve been latch hooking ever since.

My favourite individual piece from a kit last year had to be the wild rose and strawberry embroidery from Craftpod. There was something so wonderful about the colours and composition of the piece and it was so therapeutic to sew. Every time I look at it I feel joyful and summery.

Although I didn’t make it to any real-life workshops, I did go to several exhibitions and events throughout the year, which was very exciting following the lockdown of 2020. Starting with the Unravel Festival of Yarn I also attended exhibitions for Sophie Taeuber-Arp, David Hockney, and Paula Rego, as well as the Summer Exhibition at the RA. All of these trips were so inspiring, to see all these artists working in different mediums to achieve amazing work. I particularly liked the inclusion of textiles into the Summer Exhibition, it made me feel like my own work has worth and recognition as a true art form.

The biggest thing for me in 2021 was starting a Textiles diploma at Morley College. I began in September and the first term has been packed with so much learning. From back-to-basics techniques like drawing and the importance of conducting primary research to inform your decisions in your own work, to trying so many different textile techniques like mark making, machine embroidery, hand embroidery, felt-making, backstrap weaving, sublimation printing, screen printing, 3D structures, and shibori clamp dyeing. I’m so looking forward to starting back to school for the upcoming term. We will be focusing on fewer subjects, but more in depth including screen printing, machine knitting, and conceptual headwear. 

I can’t wait to see all the crafts I’ll do and the things I’ll learn in 2022. Wishing you all a fabulous year too!

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Craftiosity – Natural Dye Slow Stitch Project Bag

This project from Craftiosity is not to be rushed! Not only is the stitching section supposed to be slow and meditative, but the natural solar dyeing of the yarn first takes over two weeks before the yarn can be used. I’ve never done any natural dyeing before so I was keen to see the results from using turmeric, marigolds, and sunlight.

Included in the box was:

  • Skein of wool
  • Dried turmeric powder
  • Dried marigold petals
  • Cotton drawstring bag
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Embroidery thread (blue)
  • Embroidery needle
  • Yarn needle
  • Wooden stirrers x2

You also needed a few other materials in order to complete the project: two large glass jars with lids (I used Kilner jars), a sieve, a tape measure, a tablespoon, and of course scissors. 

After dividing the large skein of wool into three, the dye baths could be prepared. The turmeric one was straightforward as you just mixed the powder with the water and put the yarn straight in. The marigold one had to sit for a week with just the petals in the water before these were strained out using the sieve, leaving you with the water that you could then add your yarn to for another week to dye. 

The drying process then took a further couple of days, leaving them to drip dry over their jars first before transferring them to an airer to spread out and finish drying. Despite tying the mini skeins with lengths of thread to keep them bundled in the jars mine were very tangled when they came out of the dye baths and it took me quite a while to get them untangled. 

I was very impressed with the final colours of the yarn once they were dry, they were vibrant and not diluted at all. Although I do think I could have rinsed and dried the turmeric one again because as I handled it some powder did come off and my fingers got a bit stained, however I was too keen to start the stitching!

I roughly copied the design from the template provided by using a pencil to sketch the shapes onto the project bag. Stitching inside a bag, even with an embroidery hoop to help can be tricky, which is why its good to take this one slowly. I thought the limited use of only three stitches worked really well and adding couching in with satin stitch and seed stitch was nice as it’s not a stitch that is used very often in projects like this. I thought that the mixture of stitches, colours, and shapes gave the piece a seaside vibe.

It was nice having an ongoing project to keep checking on over the couple of weeks it took to dye the yarn and it was exciting to see the results of all that waiting!

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Makerly – Macrame Owl

I’ve done a little bit of macrame before, but I’ve never made anything as exciting as these owls! Makerly have really pushed the creative boat out here to come up with such a fun take on a familiar craft. 

Included in the box was:

  • Cotton macrame cord
  • Jute macrame cord
  • Wooden dowels x2
  • Round wooden beads x4
  • Faceted wooden beads x4
  • Silver feather charms x2

In addition to these materials you also needed some sticks or small branches to complete the project. The project was started on the dowels and there was the option to leave the top of the project on the dowel and just finish it off with a stick for the owl’s feet to perch on, but one of the example pictures included in the instructions had both owls sitting together using a stick for the top and bottom, so I transferred both my owls onto one long stick before finishing off the feet and adding the feathers.

As well as the instructions to make the owl there was also a basic knot guide, which not only included the knots for this project, but some other knots too in case you wanted to try out some different styles. I made the same owl twice, one in the cotton cord and one in the jute cord. The cotton cord was nicer to work with, but I think for this project the jute is actually more effective overall.

I also added the feathers to the bottom of my owls using the contrasting cord for each owl. The cotton cord worked much better to achieve the feathery effect because it unravels better than the jute and has a fluffy look to it. I also added the feather charms. There wasn’t any instructions for using them, they were just a nice little bonus present, but I wasn’t sure what else I would use them for so I attached them to the macrame feathers.

This was such a fun and different project to do, something which I consider to be Makerly’s USP. They quite often have crafts I’ve never tried or even heard of before in their kits, but even if the craft is something fairly common, the project is always inventive.

exhibition

Tate Britain – Paula Rego

This week I went to the Paula Rego exhibition at Tate Britain. We just managed to catch it before it finished, but I’m glad we did because it was a very thought-provoking show. I remember studying Paula Rego’s work at high school, but I was still a bit too young to understand the content and impact of her work. The main theme throughout the exhibition was the oppression of women, particularly relating back to Rego’s life and experiences living under a dictatorship, the Estado Novo, in Portugal. 

I found the first couple of rooms particularly interesting because they focused on Rego’s early work, which was mainly collage. As we have been experimenting with this technique of image making in the last couple of weeks during my diploma it was great to see it used in the creation of art, not only using found images but also cutting up and re-using images drawn by herself.

Self-portrait in Red (1966)

My favourite room was what I thought of as the main room of the exhibition. A group of large paintings in acrylic that Rego completed in the 1980’s culminating in what is probably her most famous piece ‘The Dance’. The group of paintings all prominently feature women and investigate how their identities are shaped by a patriarchal society.

The Policeman’s Daughter (1987)

Continuing through the exhibition this theme remains in her paintings, whether exploring her own interpretation of fairytales and popular stories, or as a commentary on the way women are perceived in society through the male gaze and her attempts to subvert this view. Much of Rego’s work has political undertones in opposition of regimes and issues that she finds unacceptable.

Angel (1998)

I can’t honestly say that I liked all of the work, but I did think that the exhibition was well put together, both in terms of showcasing the breadth and quantity of work that Rego has completed over the seven decades she has been a working artist (and still continues to be), but also in challenging the status quo and providing much needed material to open up conversations about subjects that can still be considered taboo.

I’m disappointed that I visited the exhibition so late as I would have liked to recommend it, but if you do get the opportunity to see any of Paula Rego’s work it is definitely worth a look.

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Craftpod – Autumn 2021

The autumn Craftpod has arrived containing two projects, both giving out very seasonal vibes! The larger project is usually my favourite in this subscription box, but this quarter the smaller mini hoops project definitely won top spot for me. The designs were just so cute and fun to sew.

Included in the box was: 

  • Printed fabric
  • Plain fabric
  • Embroidery threads x5 (dark brown, light brown, red, yellow, white)
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Superglue
  • Mini embroidery hoop frames kit
  • Rose hip enamel pin
  • Teabag

Although the mini autumn embroideries seem like the secondary project in the box I decided to do them first as you needed the large embroidery hoop for sewing the designs and I knew I wouldn’t want to take the larger project back out of the hoop once it was finished. The mini embroideries were my favourite part of this box. They weren’t so small that they were fiddly and they were quick to complete. The designs are simple but very effective. I also love the tiny embroidery hoops, I just need to decide what to turn them into. The instructions have lots of suggestions such as tree decorations, adding to chain to turn them into necklaces, adding brooch backs, or just displaying them on the wall. I like the idea of displaying them as tiny artwork, but I also quite like the idea of turning them into keyrings.

The larger project was embellishing the pre-printed design with a range of stitches. Whilst I liked the design and especially enjoyed creating the trunks of the silver birch trees, I felt that it was quite a simplistic project. I have come to think of Craftpod as a subscription box for embroidery lovers who are more advanced than beginner level, but this felt quite basic compared to other projects I have completed from their boxes. When I first saw a picture of the design I thought that the layers were going to be built up with appliqué, which would have added an extra dimension to the project and I was slightly disappointed when I realised that the design was already printed onto the fabric.

Nevertheless, I still enjoyed the box overall and both the projects were great for doing in front of the TV in the evenings. I think I am slightly addicted to the mini embroidery hoops and might just have to do some designs of my own! I find autumn to be a particularly inspirational time of year so now is the perfect time.

craft kit

Stitch Club – Badger Shelfie

Earlier this year Stitch Club released their new Shelfie animals as PDF patterns and I’ve been waiting patiently ever since for the full kits to be released, mainly because I’m lazy and don’t want to source my own materials! Well, now they are here and I ordered one straight away! They are cleverly designed to sit independently on the edge of a shelf, table, or any other flat surface, hence the name.

Included in the box was:

  • Felt sheets x3 (grey marl, black, white)
  • Stuffing
  • Embroidery threads x3 (grey, black, white)
  • Needle
  • Pins
  • Freezer paper templates

There was a choice of four animals: badger, fox, hare, or llama. I was torn between the badger and the llama because they looked like they had the most embellishments to sew but in the end I decided on the badger; I am a Hufflepuff after all!

I’ve never used freezer paper to cut out patterns before. It irons on to the fabric rather than being pinned on like standard paper pattern pieces and can be used more than once. I found that when it worked it was great, but when it didn’t quite stick properly it was a bit annoying especially when half way through cutting something out. I definitely think it was better for the smaller pieces though, which can be tricky to cut out using paper and pins.

The best part of the project was creating the front of the badger by building up the layers of felt to create the head and tummy and stitching on the features like the paws and nose. The patterns pieces fit together really well and sewing the front and the back together was really easy. I chose to use blanket stitch, but there was the option to use whip stitch or running stitch instead, all of which were explained in the ‘Learn to Sew with Felt’ booklet along with lots of other useful information about cutting felt, using freezer paper, and using embroidery thread.

The part that took the longest was the stuffing because it’s really important to ensure that all the small parts like the nose and ear are properly filled. To achieve this you need to feed in very small amounts of stuffing at a time, pushing them all the way in with the help of something like a pencil. When I first started the stuffing process I thought there was no way I would use all of the stuffing provided, but I used every last scrap in the end!

The kit cost £19.50, which I think is very reasonable for the amount and quality of materials, plus the great design of the product. I was expecting to pay anywhere between £25-£35 for this kit when I saw it had been released and I think it would be worth that. I’m very pleased with my badger sitting up on the shelf, but now I’m thinking that I might need his other animal friends too…

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Inner Canvas – Autumnus

Embroidering on to organza and other transparent fabrics is quite a big trend at the moment so when I saw the Inner Canvas ‘Autumnus’ box I knew I had to try it out. The two main projects in this box were a classic arrangement of autumnal nature (toadstools, leaves, and acorns), stitched onto avocado dyed fabric, and a moth stitched onto organza.

Included in the kit was:

  • Avocado dyed calico
  • Organza
  • 20cm embroidery hoop
  • 15cm embroidery hoop
  • Embroidery thread x7
  • Needle
  • Black seed beads
  • Rhinestones x2
  • Mini embroidery hoop keyring kit
  • Paper templates
  • Carbon paper
  • Care package (tea lights x2, teabag)

Links to a video tutorial for each project were emailed including a basic stitch guide. Nadia, the lady behind Inner Canvas, has a very calm and soothing voice and explains and demonstrates each step very clearly. For the majority of my stitching I followed the guide in the printed instructions, but for a few stitches such as the use of fly stitch for one of the leaves and turkey stitch for the moth’s mane I watched the video as it was much easier to understand how these were done seeing someone else do them, rather than just trying to figure it out from the picture in the book.

Most of the stitches were worked in the full six strands of the thread unless otherwise indicated on the pattern, which is quite unusual as most embroidery projects tend to use a maximum of three at a time, but I quite liked working big for a change! It meant that the pieces were completed quite quickly and kept it fun, instead of painstaking. I did the autumn arrangement first before moving on to the moth.

Stitching on organza wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. The weave is slightly more open than on the calico and you must be careful not to pull too hard otherwise it can tear. The main thing to keep in mind is that the back must be kept as neat as the front because any stray threads will show through, ruining the effect. There were great instructions for finishing off the piece as well. Usually you would just use a running stitch to gather in the back of the embroidery, but obviously this would be visible from the front, so the sides had to be glued into the hoop before the excess at the back was trimmed off completely.

Last but not least was the bonus mini project, an embroidery hoop keyring. Tiny designs of each element from the autumn hoop were included on the paper templates and your chosen design was stitched onto an off-cut of the avocado dyed fabric before being glued into the mini hoop and turned into a keyring using the kit provided. 

I definitely want to try embroidery on organza again. It gives such a great effect once it’s finished and I can’t wait to hang my moth up on the wall!

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MakeBox – Polymer Clay Jewellery

I often get so wrapped up in textile projects that I forget to go down my shed and play with clay instead, so the polymer clay box from MakeBox & Co was the ideal opportunity to do so. I was quite excited about the orangery slab design as well. I have made some very simple slabs before but never one as complicated as this so I was really looking forward to giving it a go.

Included in the box was:

  • Polymer clay blocks x4 (blue, white, orange, green)
  • Rolling pin
  • Scalpel
  • Circular cookie cutters x2 (large and small)
  • Pliers
  • Mixed bag of jewellery findings
  • Toothpick
  • Paper templates

The first half of the instruction book was full of helpful tips for working with, baking, and storing polymer clay, as well as jewellery making. I didn’t agree with the advice to pull open jump rings as this can make them misshapen when you try to push them back together. It’s always better to twist jump rings open and closed for a much neater finish.

There were three slab projects to complete to give you a range to shapes to make jewellery out of. A slab is a flat sheet of clay which a design is created on and then shapes can be cut out either with a knife or a cutter. The first was a marbled sheet, made by twisting the blue and white clay together to create a marbled effect. This is probably the easiest to do but is very effective and can be done in so many different colour combinations, and with three or even four colours, depending on the look you want to achieve.

The second project was an abstract slab, which was great for getting used to attaching different shapes to a sheet of clay and discovering how the clay would react when you pushed it or rolled it. The design was made up of really simple shapes that combined gave a really fun, colourful finish.

The final slab design was the most difficult. It’s called the ‘Midnight Orangery’. It is a dark blue background with oranges nestled amongst green foliage and white blossoms and it was difficult because it was made up of so many tiny parts that had to be placed with care onto the background to create the right effect. I think it’s a beautiful design and love the 3D effect of so many layers built up. It did take me a long time to do and was very fiddly, particularly adding the lighter green stems on top of the leaves. I actually started it and then wrapped it up to stop it drying out and came back to finish it the next day as I could feel myself getting tired and careless and I wanted it to come out looking neat.

Once all the pieces were baked and cooled and the edges had been sanded it was time to make some jewellery. I really liked that some clip on earring backs were included as I don’t have my ears pierced so it’s nice to be able to wear some of my creations!