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Craft Box Club – Wisteria Flower Felt Mobile

I’m clinging on to summer here with this beautiful wisteria flower felt mobile from last month’s Craft Box Club. I thoroughly enjoyed this project! I always enjoy working with felt, but the simplicity of the process combined with the satisfying results made this one a real hit for me.

Included in the box was:

  • Green felt sheet
  • Purple felt sheet x3
  • Lilac felt sheet x3
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Wooden bead
  • Needle
  • Needle threader
  • Green cotton
  • String

When I unpacked the box I was a bit concerned that there wouldn’t be enough green cotton, but there was actually plenty. As usual the link for the instructions was also included. I found the video more helpful than the photos this time around, especially for knotting the string onto the hoop.

The project started with cutting out the leaves. There wasn’t a template for this, just cut as many as you could from the sheet of green felt. The pictures and video gave quite a good indication of the rough size required. The project used thirty leaves. I cut a few more than this, which was quite good as I could select the best ones as I went along. Some of the leaves were pinched at one end and sewn to create a 3D effect. This process was repeated again at the end to add the final leaves to the hoop, although I would have preferred to do them all at once rather than in two lots.

The best part was making the flowers. They were made by cutting strips of felt which were then threaded on to string creating folds of material as you go, and the less neat the better to achieve a ruffled effect. There was enough material for three flowers of each colour, purple and lilac. Two pinched leaves and a non-pinched leaf were added to the top of each one.

The trickiest part was tying the flower strings onto the embroidery hoop, which acted as the frame for the mobile to hang from. The knot was quite easy to do, especially with the help of the video as I already mentioned, but the hardest part was trying to make sure there were evenly spaced and all the same height. Lastly two pinched leaves were stitched together and sewn to the top of each knot, before tying on the string and wooden bead to hang the mobile from.

This was such a lovely project to complete and I love the results. It was a fairly quick one too and not too much mess either, always a bonus! Even though we are heading into Autumn now I can always be reminded of sunny days when I look at it.

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Keep Going Embroidery

I think the inspirational message to ‘Keep Going’ on this paint-by-numbers style embroidery was very relevant as this was quite a labour intensive project all completed in the same stitch! This embroidery kit is one of many positive, uplifting kits available from Hello! Hooray! I’ve been wanting to try out some negative space embroidery for a while and this was a really nice project to work on in front of the TV every evening.

Included in the kit was: 

  • Printed fabric
  • Embroidery threads
  • Length of white cotton thread
  • Embroidery hoops x2

I actually bought it a while ago but didn’t get around to starting it and then when I came to do it I realised that the instructions were sent digitally and the link had timed out because I left it for too long. I contacted Clare, the lovely lady behind the brand, via Instagram and asked very sheepishly if she wouldn’t mind sending it to me again. I thought I might not get a quick reply as it was the summer holidays, but she responded to me the same day and sent the link again as soon as I confirmed my email address, which I was very grateful for. Such a fantastic example of excellent customer service from a small independent business that you would never get from a big company; another excellent reason to shop small!

I thought the numbering system on the pattern and the thread holders worked really well, with each group of three diamonds being made up of a light, medium, and dark shade of the same colour. It was really easy to follow and I did all the diamonds of one colour before moving onto the next colour. Satin stitch was used in a really effective way to create the 3D effect of the pattern.

The project was worked in a larger hoop before being transferred to the smaller blue hoop to finish it off. I thought this was great as it meant you didn’t have to keep moving the fabric around in the hoop to complete the whole design (although some of the outer most diamonds were a bit over the edge of the hoop and required a bit of fabric wriggling to complete), plus you got a spare hoop for another project once it was finished! Putting the finished piece into a slightly smaller hoop meant that the design ran all the way off the edge of the final presentation, which gave a really polished look to the whole thing. 

The white cotton thread was used for running stitch around the edge of the fabric to pull it in and finish it off at the back, as is fairly standard for embroidery hoops. You could stitch or glue another piece of fabric to hide the back of your stitches if you wanted as well. 

I really enjoyed this kit, it was nice to see the pattern start to emerge as I completed each diamond and I like the effect of the bright colours against the negative space of the words. I think I will have to create my own negative space design now. I also like to have a project that I can pick up and put down as needed and this one was especially good for that as each diamond was quite small so you could do as much or as little as you wanted in one sitting.

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Makerly – Chain Maille Jewellery

I’ve been making some chain maille jewellery, courtesy of last month’s Makerly kit. I’ve tried my hand before at chain maille jewellery and I have to admit that it’s not my favourite form of jewellery making, however I do have to give my respect to those that do it regularly as it is a very fiddly technique!

Included in the kit was:

  • Silver jump rings (various sizes)
  • Blue and green jump rings
  • Pliers
  • Lobster claw clasps
  • Earring wires
  • Blue and green seed beads
  • Charms
  • Jump ring tool

I was very taken with the jump ring tool. I have been making jewellery for a very long time and have been on many courses including my diploma and have never seen this kind of tool before! I usually use two pairs of pliers to open and close my jump rings, but this can result in pulling them out of shape. The tool included in the kit was a ring worn on the index finger of your non-dominant hand and used in conjunction with the pliers to open and close the jump rings in the correct way. I will definitely be making use of it in my future jewellery projects.

There are lots of practical uses for chain maille, the most obvious being for armour, but nowadays it is used for making things such as cut resistant gloves for butchers and even shark resistant wet suits for divers. The instruction book had a short section about the history of chain maille before introducing three decorative ways to connect the jump rings together. The first, and easiest, was the shaggy loops chain using the decorative green rings hanging off a central silver chain to create a pair of earrings.

The second was the orbital vipera berus, which involved creating a chain using the blue rings and looping the larger silver rings through them. I definitely think I made some mistakes with this one as when I was finished it didn’t sit nicely, but I couldn’t face taking it all apart again to fix them! I also made a basic chain with the smallest rings to create a necklace using a lobster claw clasp.

Lastly was the stepping stones chain. Although this was the hardest it was my favourite once I got into a rhythm with making it and was my favourite design once it was complete. However, it did take me a long time and was very fiddly as you had to link a lot of rings together and it required lots of concentration. I made this chain long enough to create a bracelet and used a lobster claw clasp to complete it.

The kit also included seed beads and charms to add to the designs, but I preferred them plain and I didn’t have enough enthusiasm for the craft to create more pieces with extra bits added. I’m sure I will find another project to use them in! Although it’s not a craft I will be taking up any time soon I always enjoy having a go at something a bit different and I can see myself wearing the bracelet.

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David Hockney – The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020

I was very excited to go to my second art exhibition of the summer – The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020 by David Hockney at the Royal Academy, London. I’ve been a fan of Hockney’s work for quite a long time after seeing another exhibition several years ago and was inspired by two of his pieces in particular when I began to create my own artwork; Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Monica (1990), and The Road to Thwing (2006). I really liked his use of mark making to give the impression of these landscapes and the way the paintings can be appreciated from both far away and close up. 

This exhibition was a collection of 116 works created between 11th February to 4th July 2020 with the express purpose of exploring the changing of the Normandy landscape as it moves from winter into spring and even summer. Hockney began using an iPad to create artwork back in 2010 and produced all the paintings included in this collection using an app that had been developed and adapted for his specific requirements. The exhibition itself felt quite small, covering only three rooms of the gallery, but the paintings were hung close together and not always in chronological order. Some had been placed in groups all showing the same view allowing a direct comparison between the stages of spring. 

No. 316, 30th April 2020

For me the enjoyment of each painting was two-fold, firstly enjoying it from a distance and appreciating the scene as a whole and then getting closer to each one to really see what kind of marks had been used to form each element of the piece. I particularly liked all the different ways Hockney depicted the grass whether it be long, short or freshly mown. 

No. 323, 13th May 2020

Another technique I really liked was the paintings in which it was raining. The straight lines Hockney uses across the top of the painting to represent the rainfall seem so basic and almost child-like, but are actually really effective and the paintings showing the rain falling into the pond made me smile. 

No. 346, 22nd May 2020

I think the ones of the pond were my favourites because I found it very impressive the way he managed to capture the reflections in the water. They really brought the painting to life for me and gave the impression of depth and perspective. The other thing that Hockney managed to capture well in all the paintings were the skies. No matter if they were clear blue, heavy cloud or somewhere in between it gave you a strong sense of how that day or night felt and you could tell if it was a crisp early morning or a blazing hot afternoon.

No. 340, 21st May 2020

The exhibition is on until 26th September, so if you are in London I would highly recommend it. The Royal Academy is on Piccadilly so is very close to other things to see and do and as it was such a small exhibition it only took us around 45 minutes to look round. We’ve got tickets booked for the Summer Exhibition in September and I already can’t wait!

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Sophie Taeuber-Arp at Tate Modern

In September I’m going to be starting a foundation diploma in Textiles, which I am very excited about. In preparation for the course we were given some homework to do over the summer. One of the tasks to complete was to visit a gallery or museum that exhibits Art or Design, so last week I visited the Sophie Taeuber-Arp exhibition at the Tate Modern

I had never heard of Taeuber-Arp before and only came across this exhibition because I was specifically looking for one to attend. I’m so glad that I found out about her though as she sounds like my kind of lady! She was a crafts professional (a title which I think I may have to adopt!) and specialised in many different aspects of the arts, crafts and design including wood-turning, sculpture, jewellery making, and performance art as well as editing and producing work for several arts and crafts publications of the time. The majority of her work was produced across the time period spanning both the world wars during which she lived and worked in Switzerland (her home country), Germany, and France. 

Wood-turned marionettes commissioned for an adaptation of Gozzi’s play King Stag

The majority of her early work was exploring abstraction within the grid structures of textiles and featured spaces created within horizontal and vertical lines. She then translated these images into textile pieces such as cushion covers, rugs and wall hangings, as well as beaded bags and jewellery.

It was really interesting to see the progression of Taeuber-Arp’s work throughout her lifetime as you progressed through the exhibition. Towards the end of her career (and life) her work began to include more free-flowing organic forms, although strong linear structures were still very much in evidence. It was clear to see how she had developed her style and artistic expression over the years.

I’m so pleased that I went to this exhibition and if you are in London in the next couple of months I would highly recommend it. Taeuber-Arp was a fascinating lady who knew her own mind and what she wanted to achieve. 

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Craft Box Club – Bargello Tea Lights

I’m still playing catch up with all my subscription boxes, but I feel like I’m getting there at last! I’ve just finished the latest from Craft Box Club; another eco-friendly project creating Bargello tea light holders. 

Included in the box was:

  • Glass jars x3
  • Jute ribbons x3
  • Soy tea lights x3
  • Blue yarn
  • Green yarn
  • Yellow yarn
  • Needle
  • Needle threader

I really like the use of the jute ribbon as the canvas. It’s loose weave is perfect for doing the long stitches of Bargello to create a uniform pattern. At the link for the video guide there was also a step-by-step picture process included with written instructions, plus the stitch pattern for the triangle shapes. The video was well paced and showed how to do both the stitches used clearly. I liked that it showed how to use the needle threader at the beginning as well. For this project I did prefer the photos to follow rather than the video.

The only deviation I made from the instructions was sewing the ends of the jute ribbon together. In the video the ends were sewn together around the jar to ensure the correct fit, but I found this a bit tricky so instead I measured the ribbon around the jar and folded it to mark where I needed to place my stitches.

This was such a great project to have on the go if you don’t have the time to dedicate to a sit-down-for-hours project. Although it looks like quite a simple craft it does take longer than you think it will. I completed mine in several sessions over the course of a week. I just left it on the table and picked it up whenever I had a spare half hour, which I think was a good way to do it as the Bargello stitch can be a bit repetitive. The end result is another lovely eco-friendly piece of home décor! 

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Craftiosity – Gathering Knot Placemat

I feel like I’ve fallen behind again with all my subscription boxes, the next Craftiosity box came in the post before I’d even started the last one and I’ve got several more from other companies lined up too! I’ve been quite busy recently with life in general, but after next weekend I’ll have the whole summer to craft away before starting my Textiles diploma in September, which I’m very excited about! I have now finished the ‘Gathering Knot Placemat’ Craftiosity box and I’m very pleased with the end result.

Included in the kit was:

  • Cotton rope
  • Cotton yarn x3 (grey, dusky pink, sand)
  • White sewing thread
  • Needle
  • Thimble

The placemat design was created using a gathering knot, which I have come across before when doing macrame projects. It’s a really secure way of wrapping yarn around a core material without worrying about it coming loose or tying off the ends properly. It’s also a very easy knot to learn, especially when you are doing it over and over again! I’m glad the instructions said to cut all the lengths of yarn before starting the knots as having them all measured and ready to go made it really easy to get into a rhythm with the wrapping. There was a point where I thought I would definitely have spare lengths of yarn because I would get to the end of the rope before using them all, but they fit perfectly in the end.

I accidentally went a bit astray from the instructions, which is why you should always take time to read them all before jumping in to the project! You were supposed to wrap about a metre of the rope and then begin the coiling process, then return to the gathering knots to the end of the rope before finishing off the coiling. I got so engrossed in the knots that I wrapped the whole rope before I realised I should have done some coiling half way through. Ultimately I think this suited my style of working better though. I prefer to complete one process before moving onto the next, rather than chopping and changing between the two. I think doing the coiling all in one go worked particularly well for me as I think I would have found the half done coil a bit cumbersome when trying to finish the knots.

The coiling of the placemat reminded me of basket weaving, placing the stitches at even intervals on the underside of the mat and making sure to catch some of the rope with the needle to secure it properly. I’m so glad that the thimble was included in the kit, it was a definite thumb-saver! It really helped with getting the needle through the rope properly, something I have struggled with in previous kits of a similar nature. 

The estimated time on the instructions for this kit was 4-5 hours and I would say that is about right. It depends how fast you do your wrapping really. It is a really mindful project and the repetitive nature of it allows you to really get into a zone and is perfect to do listening to relaxing music or a good podcast. Now, straight onto the next kit!

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Craftpod – Wild Rose and Strawberry Embroidery

I’ve been enjoying the summer Craftpod this week with two lovely projects to complete; the wild rose and strawberry embroidery, and the Liberty fabric bookmark.

Included in the box was:

  • Embroidery hoop
  • Printed fabric
  • Liberty fabric
  • Interfacing
  • Embroidery thread x7 
  • Card bookmark template
  • Notebook
  • Postcard
  • Teabag

One of my favourite things about Craftpod is that the projects always seem to have a very tranquil vibe and the wild rose and strawberry embroidery definitely made me think of lying in a sunny meadow, picking and eating wild strawberries straight from the bushes…or maybe that’s just wishful thinking as we’ve been having such dreadful weather so far this summer! Either way, this was a really relaxing embroidery to complete, especially the larger wild roses as you could really get into a rhythm with the stitches. The majority of the piece was completed in statin stitch, but I liked the use of the French knots for the centres of the flowers to give a different texture and the long and short stitch for the strawberries gave them a nice raised effect.

Whilst the embroidery was a slow, mindful project, I found the Liberty fabric bookmark a nice quick make to fit into a Sunday afternoon. I think the whole project only took me about an hour to an hour and a half to finish. The interfacing was ironed on to the back of the fabric and then the shapes for the bookmark cut out using the card template. The two sides were sewn together with blanket stitch and then a hole was cut and blanket stitched ready for the tassel.

I found the instructions for making the tassel really clear, although I wish I’d used a slightly longer piece of thread for tying up the top of the tassel than the instructions recommended. I also found that the suggested metre of thread didn’t give enough body to my tassel so I added a second metre, but to be honest I could have used more. Now I need to give my Kindle a rest and find a real book to read so I can use my new bookmark!

I was actually a bit sad when all the projects in this box were over because I was enjoying them so much. Autumn feels a long way off still before the next Craftpod arrives, but I definitely don’t want to wish the summer away and I hope we get some sunshine to enjoy before that!

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MakeBox – Alice in Wonderland Cross Stitch

I’ve been spending a lot of time over the last few weeks completing the Alice in Wonderland cross stitch from MakeBox. Alice is a universally loved story and there are so many themes and elements to relate to. The release of this box coincides nicely with the ‘Curiouser and Curiouser’ exhibition currently running at the V&A museum in London. I haven’t been yet, but it looks fantastic and is open until the end of the year, so I will definitely be booking tickets. The cross stitch design brings together lots of the elements that make up the story including the white rabbit, the Queen of Hearts’ crown, roses, a flamingo and the Mad Hatter’s hat. The only thing missing for me is the Cheshire Cat!

Included in the box was:

  • Navy blue Aida
  • Navy blue felt
  • Embroidery thread x7 (green, red, pink, yellow, blue, and white x2)
  • Needle
  • Rectangular wooden effect embroidery hoop
  • Blue velvet ribbon
  • Stitch chart

I thought the section at the beginning of the instruction book with techniques about the Aida fabric, using a cross stitch chart and how to do the stitches was very informative and would be especially useful for beginners to this embroidery style. The section about putting the Aida into the frame made it sound quite easy but because of the stiffness of the fabric and the unusual shape of the frame I thought it was rather like wrestling an octopus! I found it very difficult to get the fabric to bend into the frame and even harder to make sure the squares were lined up horizontally and vertically. Mine was at a bit of a slant to begin with but I managed to shuffle it round without popping it out of the frame. 

The instructions also said to cut off the excess fabric leaving a one inch border. I decided not to trim mine as I know this kind of fabric can fray a bit. I’m glad I didn’t in the end as I found that the design was actually too big for the frame. It went right up to the edges of the outer frame, which meant that the inner frame at the back didn’t allow access to that area of fabric to stitch on. I decided to take my embroidery out of frame and I actually found it a lot easier to work on after that. I also found it easier to get back into the frame straight once the cross stitch was complete.

I also deviated from the instructions whilst stitching the design. I started with Alice using the centre point marked on the chart. Once Alice was finished the instructions said to count up from her head to do the crown, but I’m always a bit unsure of myself when counting on blank canvas so I decided to go down to the toadstool which was attached to her feet and then work my way around the design in a clockwise direction using the rose stem to join each section so I was never stitching in no man’s land. I also tried adding the hand stitched ‘10/6’ to the Mad Hatter’s hat, but I couldn’t get it neat enough so I left it off.

When I was finished I compared my one to the picture in the instructions and noticed that the design didn’t seem to go quite so close to the edge in the picture and it looks as though a couple of the elements had had a design change, most notably the brim of the hat and the flamingo’s head. I’m not sure it makes a difference to the overall design, but just like Alice I’m curious as to why the changes were made! 

Finally the felt was cut to size and sewn to the back. Once again I went off piste with this! I decided to use blanket stitch rather than running stitch to attach the felt to the back as I think it looks a bit neater, but again it doesn’t really make a difference what stitch you use as it is on the back.

Also included in the box was a recipe for Queen of Hearts jam tarts by the ‘Great British Bake Off’ contestant Alice Fevronia. They were super simple and quick to make, and tasted delicious! The pastry was lovely and of course they wouldn’t be the Queen’s without the heart shape on the top!

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Makerly – Sunburst Sun Catcher

I absolutely loved the most recent box from Makerly! I haven’t done any work with beads and wire wrapping for ages and it was so nice to spend time doing one of my first hobbies on such a beautiful project, the Sunburst Sun Catcher.

Included in the box was:

  • 25cm metal hoop
  • 8cm metal hoop
  • Glass seed beads (red, orange, and yellow)
  • Mixed acrylic beads (red, orange, and yellow)
  • 4cm sun catcher crystal
  • Snips
  • 0.4mm jewellery wire
  • Glue dots

The first step was to anchor the smaller hoop to the larger one with the wire and then create the first ‘ray’ of the sunburst from the top of the smaller hoop up to the centre point at the top of the larger hoop to hold everything in place. I was surprised at how effective the glue dots were at holding the wire in place. I thought the wrapping would be enough, but it was quite a fine gauge and the glue dots were a definite must to keep each ray where it was meant to be. Despite the fine gauge of the wire I found the snips a bit useless for cutting through it. I would normally use these kind of snips for yarn or thread and proper wire cutters were much better for the job. They did get through the wire, but not cleanly in one go like wire cutters would. 

The rays were left loose on the hoops until all of the beads had been strung on each one and then there were secured with the glue dots, allowing them to be positioned evenly around the hoop to create the sunburst design. I followed the design in the picture, alternating rays of larger beads and seed beads and graduating from yellow in the centre through orange to red at the edges, but there was plenty of scope in this kit to use the beads to create any design you liked.

The last thing to do was to secure the crystal in the centre of the small hoop and create a wire hook at the top of the sun catcher so it can be hung in the window. This kit was really straightforward to complete and didn’t take long to do at all. I’m so pleased with my finished sun catcher and I can’t wait for the rainbows to come pouring into my house!