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Craftiosity – Broderie Anglaise Constellation Lantern

The Broderie Anglaise constellation lantern kit from Craftiosity is from a couple of months ago now, but going through my backlog of craft boxes I chose it as my next project because Broderie Anglaise is a technique I was interested to try out and it was also quite a quick project to complete, which is always a bonus when you’re busy!

Included in the kit was:

  • Blue fabric
  • Self-adhesive panel
  • Metal rings x2
  • Base discs x2
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Embroidery thread
  • Needle
  • Edging tool
  • Double sided tape
  • LED tea light

There was also supposed to be a paper template for the constellation design, however this was missing from my box. I’m sure the lovely ladies at Craftiosity would have sent me one if I’d let them know, but I was keen to get started so I created my own design on the computer and printed it out. I used the constellations for mine and my husband’s star signs as the design. This was probably less to embroider overall, but I made sure the design fitted the size of the lamp. I did some extra constellations for star signs of other members of my family just in case, but at the size I created them I only needed the two.

The Broderie Anglaise technique was easy to achieve using simple stitches to create the traditional eyelets. Split stitch was used to outline the hole before piercing the fabric with embroidery scissors and then using a straight stitch round the edge to secure and neaten it. Back stitch was used to join the holes to create the shape of the constellations. Although I tried to make my holes the same size as the photographs I feel that I could have made them a bit bigger so that the light from the tealight shone through more.

I thought that making it up into a lamp would be tricky but with the self-adhesive panel and the double sided tape it was actually really easy to get the metal rings in place before turning in the edges and adding the base discs. 

I really enjoyed this project. I thought it was a really inventive way to learn a new technique and create some cute home décor. It’s always great to make something a bit different, even if it’s a technique you are already familiar with and Craftiosity is great at finding ways to do that each month. This kit is still available to buy on their website in the past boxes section.

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Craft Box Club – Union Jack Punch Needle

The Union Jack punch needle kit from Craft Box Club is such a nice memento of the Queen’s Jubilee year and the celebrations that were held to honour it. Punch needle is one of my favourite crafts; it’s easy, satisfying, and gives really quick results.

Included in the box was:

  • Yarn x 3 (blue, white, red)
  • Punch needle
  • Embroidery ring
  • Monks cloth

As always the contents are eco friendly and plastic free. Also included is the link to the instructions, which are provided in two formats, written/photographic and video. I personally prefer the written instructions as the photos are usually clear, but it is really useful to have the video as well in case there is a technique you aren’t familiar with or an instruction you don’t quite understand.

Trimming the back

The total make time for this project is listed as one hour, which I think is achievable if you speed through it, although it took me about one and a half hours working fairly slowly and just enjoying the craft. I normally prefer a loose weave fabric over the monks cloth for punch needle as monks cloth frays at the edges a lot, but for this design it was useful to have the square structure to follow, which meant there was no design transfer required, just a bit of counting. I liked the use of the directional stitching to create the flag design as well. Another reason to love punch needle – you can stitch in any direction!

Although this kit was from a couple of month’s ago it is still available to buy on the Craft Box Club website as a one-off kit. I’m always pleased when I find that companies offer kits as a one-off and not just as part of a subscription. It can be a big commitment to make monthly payments, so it’s good to know that crafting is still accessible to everyone and you can pick and choose which kit you want.

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Summer 2022 Craftpod

I’ve been really looking forward to getting stuck in to some craft kits since finishing my final diploma project and, about a week before I finished, the summer Craftpod dropped through my letterbox. Although I have lots of older boxes waiting in my studio, I just knew this was the one I was going to dive back in with! The theme of this season’s box is inspired by dreamy sunny days around a lily pond. There were two projects included; a dragonfly embroidery, and a lily pad pin cushion.

Included in the box was:

• 5” wooden embroidery hoop
• Embroidery thread x5 (various shades of green)
• Calico fabric
• Green felt sheet
• Felt squares (white, pink, yellow)
• Needle
• Pins x3
• Wool fleece
• Heat erasable pen
• Vintage post cards x2
• Teabag

I started with the dragonfly embroidery which as usual had easy-to-follow instructions. I would say that the Craftpod projects are pitched at embroiderers that have some experience rather than complete beginners as although the stitches are fairly simple they are nearly all worked with only one strand of thread, which can be fiddly and difficult for a beginner. I really liked using the heat erasable pen. I was a bit sceptical at first because I have used ones in the past that can be tricky to get rid of, but this one was great. The markings disappeared almost as soon as the iron touched the fabric! Not all of the lines for the wings could be drawn on at first as they were so fine and close together that you might have ended up with a big old mess, so the main lines were drawn on and sewn with the option to add extra lines to the wings later, following the paper pattern provided.

The second project was the lily pad pin cushion. I thought it looked really effective, especially with the little felt flower on the top. The only bit I was unsure about was sewing the bulrushes around the sides of the pin cushion. There wasn’t any indication in the instructions of how many to sew and what gap to leave between each one. My spatial awareness isn’t the best so I was worried I would end up with not enough room or a big gap at one end. I estimated as well as I could from the pictures that were included and it did work out fine, although I can’t guarantee that my spacing is totally even all the way round!

This box was so relaxing to complete, especially as I was imagining sitting by a lovely pond the whole time I was sewing. I even put the water feature on in my garden to provide sound effects! The kit is still available on the Craftpod website and in their Etsy shop along with other past boxes. As always I’m looking forward to next season’s box already!

Education

A Year at Morley…

I have officially completed my Foundation Textiles diploma at Morley College! This academic year has absolutely whizzed by and I can’t believe that yesterday was the last day. I feel like I have learnt so much, not only from the tutors but also by being in a group of like-minded individuals who are all there for the same reasons as me.

As you know I am a big fan of textiles as an art form and enjoy learning as many new skills and techniques as possible. My original goal in signing up for the course was not only to learn new techniques but also to formalise my knowledge through learning about keeping a sketchbook, primary and secondary research, and most importantly for me, design development and running a project end to end. I definitely feel that I have achieved this goal, but additionally I found a really welcoming and supportive community of textile fans to share my passion and ideas with.

The course was structured well, beginning with smaller projects and taster sessions in the first term where we covered a range of textile techniques such as weaving, felting, freehand embroidery with the sewing machine, sublimation printing, Shibori dyeing, and constructed textiles to name a few!

The second term went more in-depth in the subjects we covered. For the whole term we worked on a surface pattern project using screen-printing as the method to produce a design we had developed through drawing and research with the end result being a sample book showing a range of printed designs. Alongside this we also did half a term of machine knitting and half a term of conceptual headwear. I thought the machine knitting was brilliant! I had no idea how knitting machines worked, and had never even seen one before the first class, but Alex the tutor was so patient and encouraging and I loved using it so much I bought my own! The conceptual headwear was harder to wrap my head around and I missed the first session of that module due to Covid, so I felt a bit behind all the way through. With a bit of hard work and asking a lot of questions I eventually produced a headpiece to be proud of.

The final term was dedicated to our final major project. This was a project that we could set our own brief for and I found it very helpful writing the proposal of my project idea for the tutors. It was really good for clarifying what you wanted to focus on as I think there could have been a lot of potential to get sidetracked with other good ideas. I actually unknowingly started my project in the first term via some research I did for one of the smaller projects relating to sacred geometry. I decided to follow this theme through to the second term and in doing so developed the idea for my final project before we had even started the third term! My final piece explores the human relationship with nature and the human impulse to find patterns and meanings even in things that are seemingly random or chaotic. I wanted my work to tell a story in three sections. The top section is very textural and three-dimensional showing bountiful nature blooming chaotically. Moving down to the middle section the falling leaves are being turned into geometric shapes and ordered into a uniform pattern. The flatness of the screen-printing and the orderliness are representational of how humans interact with, utilise, and sometimes destroy nature for their own purposes. The final panel mirrors the top panel and shows that no matter how much humans want to control their environments, nature will always win out in the end.

At the end of the course we were able to hang our work in the Morley Gallery for a week long exhibition, which was very exciting! It was such a privilege to see something I had worked so hard on be hung up in a professional space alongside all my classmates work. We had a lovely private view on the opening evening where all our friends and family could come and celebrate our hard work with us.

I’m so pleased that I decided to do this course. I feel like I’ve gained so much from it and it has pushed me to further my textiles journey by taking up a degree in Textile Design at UAL Chelsea College of Arts, starting in September. I cannot wait to get started on this as I think it will open up even more ideas and opportunities. This will be my second degree and I’m interested to see what it will be like as I’ll be a mature student living at home with my husband, rather than an eighteen year old living in halls with my new friends! I’m sure I will have lots of updates on how it’s going once I get started, but in the meantime I now have an even bigger stack of crafts kits waiting for me down the studio than I usually do, so it’s going to be a big summer of crafting for me…watch this space!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!