workshop

French Pear Embroidered Brooch

Last week I went to another workshop to make another brooch! This time it was at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London where the Royal School of Needlework are celebrating their 150 year anniversary with an exhibition. One of the tutors from RSN, Kate Pankhurst is running workshops inspired by the collection. This French pear brooch is inspired by traditional 19th century Berlin wool work that is on display in the exhibition.

I wanted to do this workshop because I want to use this technique in my final major project for my diploma and wanted to learn how to do it properly because I have seen some wonderful examples of it being used in other people’s work. The RSN has a reputation for excellence and high standards so I knew I would be learning the industry standard way to use this raised embroidery technique. For the workshop we were provided with printed fabric, needle and thread, wire, and a brooch pin.

The thread we used was variegated so the colour changed from light to dark throughout the skein. This worked so well for creating the colouring and shape of the pear and leaf, without needing several skeins of different colours. And, if applied correctly, you could achieve a really natural shading effect. I am usually quite methodical when working, but the nature of the variegated thread meant that you had to jump around the design to get the colours in the right places, which was a bit strange to me at first, but the more I did the easier it got.

Although the course lasted all day, there just wasn’t enough time to finish the brooch in one sitting. After sewing on the wire in the shape of the leaf and pear we spent all day using the brown thread to fill in the pear shape with French knots and even then I didn’t finish that, although some people did. As this was the case Kate demonstrated the next steps during the day, but also had created videos showing how to complete the brooch which she sent to us after the workshop.

After finishing the French knots, you then had to buttonhole around the edge before cutting the shapes out and joining them together by wrapping the wire with thread to create a stalk, and then finally sewing the pin to the back. Although this was a very labour intensive process I think the result is beautiful and I love the 3D effect you can create.

If you follow me on Instagram you will see that I have already put this technique to good use creating a flower for my final major project at college. It took me a really long time and I’m aiming to make 5-6 in total, alongside other components, so I’m really glad I attended this workshop to learn the correct way to achieve this result. The workshop cost £140 which also included entrance to the exhibition. It is running again on 1st July and there are loads of other events running in celebration of the 150th anniversary, not only at the Fashion and Textile museum, but also at Hampton Court Palace where RSN is based, and online.

workshop

Tea and Crafting – Beaded Ice Cream Brooch

Last week I went to an ‘in real life’ workshop at the wonderful Tea and Crafting. It was so great to be back in a class with other people who are as excited as me about crafting! The workshop was an evening session running from 7pm-9pm and we were making a beaded ice cream brooch. I’ve been eyeing this workshop up for a while now as I’ve recently got into using beads again and it seemed like a good way to get some good professional tips on how to apply beads to a textile piece.

When we arrived there was a place set out for each attendee including all the things we would need to complete the brooch. A piece of felt with the ice cream design drawn on was already fitted into the embroidery hoop. There were three needles, two different sized embroidery needles and a beading needle, alongside bugle beads, sequins, backing felt, cardboard, and a brooch back. We could then choose our own seed beads, embroidery thread, berry bead, and ice cream topper sequins from a selection on the table.

The tutor Daria was really great at explaining each of the techniques and the correct needles to use for the beads and thread. In order to cover all the techniques throughout the evening she showed us each one and then let us have a short go before moving on to the next one. This meant that we didn’t finish the brooch during the workshop, but we had the skills to finish it at home. We covered bugle beads, seed beads, sequins, french knots, and satin stitch.

At the end of the session Daria also demonstrated how to finish the back of the brooch using cardboard to stabilise it, adding the pin so it is hidden, and then applying the backing felt to the embroidered front using glue and a blanket stitch to give it a neat finished edge.

Even though I knew a few of these techniques already I definitely learnt some new tips and tricks and I really enjoyed myself chatting to the other attendees and being out and about. Although Zoom is great you really can’t beat learning and meeting other people in real life. I’m already checking the calendar of events on the Tea and Crafting website for another class!

craft kit

Box Clever Crafts – Circular Wall Hanging

I was very generously gifted this circular woven wall hanging kit to review by Box Clever Crafts, a new craft kit company that launched their first five boxes last month. Their mission is to make crafting and creativity accessible to everyone by designing craft boxes that offer a step by step guide to learning a new skill and creating something beautiful that can be kept or given as a gift.

Included in the kit was:

• 28cm circular wooden weaving loom
• Plastic needle
• Warp string
• Wool roving x2 (natural, grey)
• Recycled t-shirt yarn (grey)
• Fluffy yarn (pink)
• Mixed strings of recycled fabrics
• Beads x3
• ‘Handmade with Love’ tag

All the yarns felt lovely and of a high quality and having the mixed strings of recycled fabrics included meant that there was lots of variety too choose from to make your weaving really unique and there is plenty left over to include something a little special in future projects.

The instructions were easy to follow with clear pictures and diagrams. I was expecting the instructions to be fairly prescriptive to recreate the design shown in the picture on the front of the booklet. However, whilst the first half did take a step-by-step approach with stringing the loom and wrapping the edge with t-shirt yarn to create a border, the second half of the booklet had instructions for each of the types of weave (plain, twill, soumak, and rya knots), but no specific instructions for designs. This gives the weaver freedom to use their own creativity to create any design they wish with the materials provided. I think this really taps into Box Clever Crafts ethos of championing creativity. Although the instructions are perfect for beginners, being allowed to do whatever you want can be a bit daunting for some people when they first get into crafting, so the inclusion of some circular weaving examples from Pinterest is helpful.

I decided to add my Rya knots first to create tassels hanging down from the bottom of my hoop. This helped by blocking out part of the loom so I could see where I needed to weave up to. I had a go of all the weave techniques included in the booklet and started weaving from the outside, working my way into the centre. I didn’t really plan my design in advance because I wanted to try all the techniques and lots of the yarns and fabrics included, so it is a bit haphazard. I wasn’t sure how to create the loopy texture at the centre, but I knew I didn’t want to do plain weave as I know that the warp gets very tight and is difficult to weave at the end. I decided to use the soumak technique but leave it very loose, which seems to have worked well.

Box Clever Crafts have a range of kits already available on their Etsy shop, ranging in price from £19.99 – £24.99. This circular weaving kit is £24.99 and you can choose from a variety of colour options. It would be nice to see them have a proper website in the future with a subscription option, but for now its great to be able to pick and choose from the crafts they have on offer. I’ll be interested to see what kits they add in the future.

subscription box

Craftiosity – Woven Coasters

I really enjoyed the Craftiosity kit this month. Weaving is a craft I really like, but it can seem like a big commitment to start a new project. These woven coasters were like four mini projects, each with a different design, without the pressure of having yet another large work in progress hanging around!

Included in the kit was:

• Weaving loom
• Warp thread
• Cotton yarn x2 (pink and sand)
• Plastic needle
• Paper templates

I started off with the most basic design, just plain stripes, to get back into the weaving mindset as I haven’t done it for a little while. I do have a tendency to pull too tight which causes the sides to pull in so I was keen to try and improve my technique during this project. I definitely think I made an improvement, but there’s still work to do on that front! The mini weaving loom was easy to warp, although I did find the prongs on either side a little annoying whilst weaving as the yarn kept getting caught around them.

I liked that there were four different designs as it kept the project interesting and meant there was plenty of opportunity to practise geometric shapes. There were two options for weaving around the geometric shapes. One was to weave up to the warp thread next to the shape, but this left a small gap between the shapes so I decided to do the interlocking method instead. This is a lot trickier, but by looping the yarn through the adjacent yarn loop of the geometric shape you can close the gap.

For the first two designs I did use the paper templates as a guide to ensure I was on track with the size and shape, but once I’d mastered the technique of creating the triangles I felt more confident to weave the designs without have to keep holding the templates up to my work.

The other tricky bit was adding the Rya knot tassels. They are fairly easy to loop round the warp threads, but they aren’t secure until the weaving has been taken off the loom and the warp threads are tied off, so there is a moment or two where you feel like it could all fall apart!

This project is quite time consuming. The instructions say that each coaster will take about 2-3 hours to complete, although you obviously don’t have to do this all in one sitting. The good thing about weaving is you can put it down and pick it up again whenever you have the time. I think that the first coaster took me longer than three hours, but as I progressed through the project each one was a bit quicker than the one before. It’s definitely good to get into a rhythm with weaving as it all flows much better. Although I just made the four designs included in the kit there is plenty of yarn and warp thread left over for some more projects, and of course the mini loom can be used again and again!

I’m really pleased that this kit came along when it did. I’ve been looking to get back into weaving for a while now and I have several weaving projects looming on the horizon (pun definitely intended!) so it was good to have a bit of practice before starting something bigger.

craft kit

Cosy Craft Club – Spring Craft Box

At the beginning of March Cosy Craft Club announced their Spring craft boxes filled with various kits from a range of exciting designer-makers. I saw it first on Instagram, but then signed up to the newsletter to make sure I was first in line for one of the boxes as they sell out quick! There were two choices; the large box containing six mini craft kits for £65, or the small box containing three mini craft kits for £35.

Each kit was designed by a different maker and there was a range of crafts included so you could try your hand a several different things. I got the large kit in order to try out as much as possible and below is a round up of each of the crafts.

From The Wood Cottage Crafts was a hanging heart kit. It contained all the materials you needed to make three stuffed fabric heart shapes which could them be attached to a strip of bias binding to create bunting or could be left separate as individual decorations to hang around the house or give as gifts. I hand stitched mine, but the heart shapes could easily have been machine stitched if that’s more your thing, and the whole project was really quick to complete. It took me less than two hours, but probably would have been quicker had I used the sewing machine. I really liked the addition of the cute little heart buttons to embellish the fabric hearts. The instructions were very simple and easy to follow.

The next kit was a felt bumblebee brooch from Hawthorn Handmade. This kit was a little more time consuming, but worth spending the time on as the result is a gorgeous embroidered felt brooch, which feels very Spring-like indeed! Although I did attach the brooch back in the end, as I was sewing I was tempted to leave it off as I thought it would make a great patch for a bag or denim jacket as well. There was a booklet included in the kit filled with handy tips and instructions for working with felt as well as great diagrams of all the stitches you would need. The instructions specific to this kit were well laid out with good diagrams for the placement of all the pieces and the thread colour you would need, along with a clear photograph of the finished product, which I always find helpful.

There was a paper forget-me-not flowers kit from Suzi McLaughlin. Sometimes I find paper craft a little fiddly, but the most difficult part of this kit was making the coils for the centre of the flowers. It was a great kit for a beginner to paper crafting with a single page of instruction that were mostly photos showing what to do, so not too intimidating! Each step was very simple, but the finished look was very effective.

The other paper craft kit included in the box was card making from Okey Dokey Design. I found this really fun. There were no instructions included and other than a postcard with a photo of some finished cards on there was nothing prescriptive about the kit at all, the only limit is your own creativity! At first this threw me off as I am so used to doing kits with very specific instructions, but there was something quite liberating and childlike just being given some materials and allowed to play with them as you wished. Included in the kit was five blank cards, various patterned papers, paper flower shapes, wooden flower shapes, the cutest little wooden bees, and some twine. I decided to make some Easter cards as it is the season and then some other more generic cards that could be used for other occasions like birthdays.

By far the hardest kit for me was the baby bunny felting from The Crafty Kit Company. If you have read my blog before you will know that felting is probably my least favourite craft! Although I’m not a huge fan I still gave it a go and thanks to the thorough instructions and great step-by-step photos I was actually pretty pleased with my end product. It doesn’t look too far off the photos and I’m sure with practice I could get it even better. There was loads of wool included in the kit so I probably could have made at least one more bunny, although there was only one set of eyes so there might have to have been some improvisation. The time for this kit was two hours, but it definitely took me longer than this, especially as I had to do some quite drastic reshaping about halfway through to stop it looking like a sheep!

Lastly there was a mosaic kit from Mosaics by Sadie. Included in this was the wooden bird shape, a range of mosaic pieces including some china and a pre-cut wing shape, glue, grout powder, a hook to attach to the back, and a cocktail stick to help move the pieces around, although I ended up using tweezers. There was a photo of a design included, but there were enough mosaic pieces included that you could play around with your own design. There weren’t any photographic instructions, but the written instructions were so detailed that pictures weren’t needed. Although the active making time on this kit wasn’t that long, there was a lot of drying time required so it was not a project you could complete in a day.

I really enjoyed this bumper crafting box with so many different crafts to try. You often get these kinds of collaborative kits around Christmas, but I always run out of time to complete them as it’s such a busy period, so it was nice to have something like this to complete at leisure. Although I’ve finished them all in time for Easter we still have plenty of spring left to enjoy these themed crafts.

subscription box

Spring 2022 Craftpod

The long awaited Spring Craftpod is here! Even though the subscription is quarterly with one box per season, the wait between the Winter and Spring boxes always seems the longest, although that may just have something to do with the weather! As usual there were two lovely seasonal projects to complete; the Sweet Violet glasses case, and the Little Lamb soft sculpture.

Included in the kit was:

• Embroidery thread x6 (dark green, light green, dark purple, light purple, black, white)
• Black linen
• Interfacing
• Calico
• Wadding
• Transfer paper
• White felt
• Pink felt
• White wool fleece
• Pipe cleaners x2
• Black elastic
• Wooden button
• Needle
• Pins
• Paper template
• Herb garden notebook and postcard
• Teabag

Although the Little Lamb soft sculpture looked difficult as it was so small I would say that the glasses case project was the more complex of the two as you had to ensure all the layers were in the right order when sewing them together. There were two design options that you could choose from to embroider onto the case, but as I like to give everything a go I decided to do both designs, one on each side of the case. The instructions included in the box were for the sweet violet design, which was probably the more complicated of the two. The instructions for the herb garden design were available on the Craftpod blog which was easy to find via the website. The designs were transferred from the paper template to the black linen fabric using the white transfer paper which worked well, but you did have to be careful not to handle it too much otherwise it would fade and eventually rub off.

The Little Lamb sculpture was quite fiddly as the pieces were so small, requiring delicate stitching. The actual piecing together of the body parts was straightforward though, especially if you took your time at the cutting stage. I found this quite a quick project to complete and I liked the use of the pipe cleaners to fill the legs and give structure and support to the sculpture to enable it to stand freely.

I’m definitely in the mood for Spring now I’ve completed these projects and I’m even ready to head into Summer with my new sunglasses case!

craft kit

Ann’s Orchard – Red Macaw Beadwork

This Red Macaw beadwork kit from Ann’s Orchard is the second kit I bought from The Stitch Festival. Although I used to work with beads a lot as a jeweller, I haven’t used them much in my textile work so when I saw this kit I was really excited. There were loads of designs to choose from on the stand, and the website has even more to offer, not just beadwork, but embroidery, cross stitch, and tapestry kits as well as supplies.

Included in the kit was:

• Seed beads
• Beading canvas
• Embroidery thread
• White sewing thread
• Tapestry needle
• Beading needle
• Card and envelope

I picked the macaw because I thought it was a vibrant fun design, but not too big for an introduction to beadwork. The packaging for this kit was very streamlined with the cover for the kit also doubling up as the pattern and colour chart. The instructions were designed to cover all the kits of this type, rather than specifically this macaw kit so there wasn’t a step-by-step guide on how to complete the design. However, the instructions were really clear on how to start, the order to do things in (beads first, then background), how to follow the chart and how to do the stitches, both with and without the beads. The most useful part I found was how to attach the first bead by looping the thread through itself, without having to tie any knots. It kept the back of the canvas really neat and tidy.

I actually wasn’t expecting the aperture card and envelope to be included in the pack. I thought it was just the materials to do the beading and I would need to frame or mount it myself so it was a nice surprise to find it inside. At first I was thinking I would frame it to hang on the wall and the card would have been useful as a mount, but I really liked the idea of giving it as a gift so I made up the card and gave it to my mum.

I thought that beadwork would be quite a slow, laborious process, but once I got started it was easy to get into a rhythm of following the pattern, picking up the beads and sewing them on. I finished the beadwork section in a few hours and it was actually the needlepoint embroidery background that took the longest to complete. Every time I have done beading in my textile work I always enjoy it and want to include it in my work more. I think it gives such a great textural quality to the work.

I’m very tempted to spend some more money on the Ann’s Orchard website in the near future, there’s some great looking kits available!

subscription box

Craftiosity – Painted Stained Glass Craft Kit

Last month’s Craftiosity box was a painted stained glass kit. The box was inspired by Kew Gardens and the beautiful glass houses and foliage found there. I’ve always wanted to have a go at stained glass at home as the real thing is a bit more complicated.

Included in the kit was:

• Arch-shaped glass
• Black relief liner
• Green glass paint
• Paintbrush
• Toothpicks
• Paper template

The process of painting the design was very easy but there was a lot of drying time involved to ensure you didn’t smudge any of the lines. The black liner was easy to use and after a little practice I was able to get a thinner and thicker line. I did have some trouble tidying up some of my mistakes though! I must have missed the window for using the toothpicks to tidy up the lines because it was either too wet so I smudged it or too dry and wouldn’t move.

The green glass paint was quite versatile in terms of varying the shade, getting a darker colour by layering it up on the leaves, or spreading it out to get a more transparent effect. I also liked the use of watered down liner to create the wood effect bench that the pot is sitting on.

The stained glass effect was so easy to achieve with the relief liner and glass paint. It was a lovely project to do at home and would make a great gift, or a nice ornament for a sunny window in your home.

craft kit

Wild & Green – Sacred Heart Hoop

The first craft kit that I’ve completed from my visit to The Stitch Festival is the Sacred Heart Hoop from Wild & Green. Wild & Green are a monthly craft subscription company, but they also sell each month’s project as a stand-alone kit as well. The monthly cost of the subscription is £24.99. Although a lot of the projects are textile based there are other projects available too.

The Sacred Heart Hoop project is an appliqué embroidery design including some beadwork. Included in the kit was:

• Felt sheets x4 (white, black, red, blue)
• Patterned cotton fabric
• Embroidery hoop
• Needle
• Pins
• Embroidery thread x3 (gold, blue, red)
• Pompom trim
• Gold seed beads
• Red sequins
• String
• Embroidery scissors
• PVA glue
• White gel pen
• Pencil
• Paper templates

The instructions were easy to follow and included clear photographs showing how to lay out the design and what kind of stitches were used. I did feel that some prior knowledge of basic sewing skills were needed to complete this project, although there were some illustrations of the stitches as well. My only other niggle was that the instructions said to use four pins to hold the felt piece in place but only two were provided with the kit, so a basic sewing kit would also be useful for completing this project. However if you are a regular craft kit subscriber like me you do tend to accumulate things like this!

I really liked the use of patterned fabric as the background for the design as it added extra interest. I also liked the combination of appliqué and beading to give the design texture and dimension. Metallic thread can be tricky to handle, but it always gives a nice finish to a piece once you’ve mastered it. The other part I enjoyed was adding the pompom trim to the edge of the embroidery hoop. I never think to decorate the hoop in that way and make it part of the artwork so it was nice to do something a bit different.

The theme of the kit is inspired by Mexican art and the use of the heart within the art work. The bright colours and shapes really celebrate that theme and are joyful to look at. The use of the metallic threads, beads and sequins give the piece a special luxury feel as well.

These projects are worth a look at if you are interested in art inspired craft projects. They offer something a bit different to other kits in the market and the fact you can choose to either subscribe or buy as a one-off is a real bonus to me. I bought two kits from the lovely Rachel at The Stitch Festival and having finished this one already I’m excited to start the next one!

craft kit

Cosy Craft Club – Black Work Mandala Succulents

This black work embroidery kit is another one I purchased as a one-off through Cosy Craft Club (who also do subscriptions), put together by Purple Rose Embroidery. Black work is a counted form of embroidery using Aida fabric and geometric patterns to build up the design, in this case a mandala style succulent. Although traditionally worked in black thread other colours can be used and the term is nowadays used to refer to the technique, rather than the colour of thread.

Included in the kit was:

  • Aida fabric
  • Wooden embroidery hoop
  • Needles x2
  • Black embroidery thread
  • Gold embroidery thread
  • Magnetic needle minder

The project was worked in four stages; the outline, the geometric designs, the gold highlights, and the background. I’ve been keen to try this technique for a while as I’ve seen a lot of examples of it on social media. The results look incredibly intricate, however once you break them down to their component parts the process is actually fairly simple. The ‘cheat sheet’ included in the instructions does a good job of explaining how to start, the basic stitch you will need, and breaking down the patterns into basic shapes. 

There are three designs included in the instructions for a small, medium and large design. I decided to do the large one as the embroidery hoop was big enough and I like to give myself a challenge! Although the design looks great in just black I really liked the addition of the gold highlights and background design. They really bring the piece to life and add a touch of luxury.

The only negatives in this kit for me were a lack of instructions on how to finish a hoop. I already know how to do this, but this kit would be achievable for a less experienced embroiderer so it would be helpful to have some details about finishing the hoop at the back, especially given the amount of work put into the design. The other thing that would have been helpful is a photograph of the finished design. The template obviously showed all the stitches, but sometimes its good to have a photo for reference too. 

This is not a quick craft. Finishing this hoop took me a long time. I would recommend good lighting, good eyesight and a lot of patience for this type of embroidery. The geometric designs are made up of very small stitches and worked in a single strand of thread. Although it took a long time to complete I did really enjoy doing it and I’m really proud of the finished piece as I put so much hard work into it.