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Craft Box Club – Needle Punch Tote Bag

It’s been a little while since I did a punch needle project so I was quite looking forward to the latest Craft Box Club, embellishing a jute shopping bag with a Spring-themed motif. 

Included in the box was:

  • Jute shopping bag
  • Green yarn
  • Yellow yarn
  • Punch needle
  • Chalk
  • Paper template

Also included was the link to the ‘how to’ guide on the website. As well as the video tutorial they have also started to include a basic step-by-step photo guide for how to complete the project. I find this really useful, especially when I already know how to do the craft technique. However, the video for this project was quite short and worth a watch as the technique was slightly different to normal due to the lack of embroidery hoop to keep the fabric taut. The first stage was to cut out the paper template of the cheese plant leaf and draw round it onto the bag using the chalk.

Then all that was left to do was punch! I did the outline of the leaf and some veins in the middle and then free styled some daffodils around the edge. The instructions said to do five, but that upset my sense of symmetry a bit so I decided to stick to four, one in each corner! Once all the punch needling was complete I ironed it on the back which apparently helps to relax the fibres to keep the design in place.

Although I liked the project in principal (I always like making useful things and being eco-friendly) I did find the execution of it a little bit problematic along the way. I found the jute material very difficult to punch through and without a hoop to keep the fabric taut I found that several of my stitches fell out after I was too far past them to unpick all the way back to redo them. I also thought that the yarn was a bit too thin for this project. It kept falling out of my needle, which was a little tricky as I needed one hand to hold the needle and the other on the reverse side of the fabric pulling the stitches through. If the yarn had been a bit chunkier I feel that the stitches would have stayed in place better. The problem with only doing a single line of stitches is that usually with a larger area of punch needle the stitches on either side will help to hold the whole design in place. Without any neighbouring stitches the design felt a little precarious. I will be interested to see how long the design lasts once I have used the bag a few times.

Nevertheless, it was good to try a different technique of a craft I am already familiar with. I’m always keen to expand my skill set and try new things. And I love the Spring-like feel of the design, it makes me feel joyful and ready for the new season!

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Craftiosity – Embroidered Moon Tea Towel

Back to embroidery for me this week with the moon tea towel from Craftiosity. I really like the idea behind the design of this embroidery of the waxing moon representing a period of building energy and achieving goals. Nice to have a reminder of this in the kitchen whilst I’m doing the washing up!

Included in the kit was:

  • Embroidery hoop
  • Cotton tea towel
  • Embroidery thread x4 (dark grey, mid blue, light blue, dusky pink)
  • Needle
  • Paper template
  • Inspirational postcards

The template was used to trace the design lightly onto the tea towel using a pencil and a dotted line rather than a solid line for the clouds as they wouldn’t be filled in completely. The instructions said to only trace the clouds first and then put the outline of the moon and foliage in later, but I doubted my ability to line up the pattern again so I just traced it all at once!

I really liked the use of the different stitches and coloured thread to fill the clouds. It was quite repetitive doing the seed stitch, cross stitch and French knots, but in a mindful and meditative way. I tied off the thread after doing each little grey star as I didn’t want to waste the thread and I didn’t want the stitches on the back to show through to the front. 

The moon was stitched in satin stitch using all six strands of the thread and the leaves were meant to be the same, but I felt as though I didn’t have enough left to complete them so I changed to only using three strands for the leaves. As the area of the leaves was a lot smaller than the moon it didn’t really make a difference to the overall look. 

I’m looking forward to using this and having it hanging in my kitchen, inspiring me to grow and work towards me goals!

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Makerly – Soap and Sugar Scrub

I always think that soap making will be complicated even though I’ve done it before, but it’s actually so easy as this month’s Makerly box has proved to me once again! The kit was to make mini soaps and sugar scrubs flavoured with lavender and Chai tea.

Included in the kit was:

  • Melt and pour soap base
  • Coconut oil
  • White sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Lavender
  • Chai teabags
  • Lavender essential oil
  • Plastic moulds
  • Gift tags
  • String

I made the soap first, melting it in the microwave in short bursts until it was completely runny. I actually had to reheat it because I had trouble taking the lid off the essential oil and it started to congeal! The instructions did say to work fast and I should have prepped everything in advance, but it did take me by surprise just how quickly it started to set. I used the lavender oil and flowers for the first batch of soap and the Chai tea for the second batch. I was expecting it to fill all the moulds as shown in the picture, but mine mixture didn’t quite stretch that far.

Conversely there was so much sugar scrub mixture that I had to set it in several batches! I made up the mixture whilst the soap was setting in the fridge, which only took about 15 minutes. I melted the coconut oil in the microwave and mixed it with both sugars along with the lavender for the first batch and the tea for the second batch. This took me longer than I expected. There was so much of each mixture that in total I filled, set, and emptied the moulds three times!

The soap base and coconut oil came in tins which could then be repurposed as gift boxes for the bath time treats, using the gift tags and string to label them. The sugar scrubs definitely need to be stored in a cool place as the coconut oil does have a tendency to melt if it gets too warm. I left some of them in front of a window whilst I was waiting for the others to set and the sun coming through caused them to start to losing their shape and disintegrate a bit, so take care with your sugar scrub storage!

Although I am more drawn towards textile and embroidery based crafts it is always fun to do something a little different for a change. One thing I’ve found about the Makerly craft subscription is that the projects nearly always push me to try something new that is out of my crafting comfort zone, so whilst producing soap and sugar scrubs may not become something I will make a regular habit of I enjoyed my morning dabbling in toiletries!

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MakeBox – Beatrix Bunny Doll

I’ve been really looking forward to this month’s MakeBox (https://www.makebox.co/), the Beatrix Bunny Doll, not only because I love sewing but also because it has an Easter feel to it and I love this time of year! I love all the egg, chick and bunny themed craft projects, along with that feeling of Spring in the air and the sense of hope and positivity it brings, especially this year. I was particularly interested in this box because, whilst I love sewing, it is always nice to have a go at a different kind of sewing aside from embroidery for a change. I did make the Sugar Plum Fairy heirloom style doll from MakeBox a couple of Christmases ago (see my blog on it here) and this was very similar in style.

Included in the box was:

  • Cream poly cotton
  • Vintage floral linen
  • Pink linen
  • Embroidery threads (black and pink)
  • Sewing thread
  • Stuffing
  • Elastic
  • Needles
  • Pins

Before receiving the kit, MakeBox emailed the subscribers with a choice of box, Beatrix Bunny (which I chose) or Bobby Bunny. Each came with a different vintage fabric to make the ears and outfit. The shirt style was different for each of them as well. Since sending out the subscription boxes MakeBox have also introduced Betsy Bunny who is available to buy in their online shop. I actually think I might have chosen Betsy if she had been included in the original choice! 

The first step was to cut out all the pattern pieces from paper and draw them onto the fabric. For some of the pieces it was important to remember to flip them over to make an opposite; to create a left and a right ear for example. The vintage fabric was also quite limited to so you had to lay out the pattern pieces carefully, ensuring that you still had a good seam allowance around each piece.

The sewing began with the head, which was definitely the most complicated part. The instructions said you could either hand sew or machine sew. I thought machine sewing would be quicker but sheer laziness stopped me from getting my sewing machine out (!) so I decided to hand sew it and actually, I’m glad I did. Machine sewing would have been a lot faster for parts of it, but there were some parts that were at such an awkward angle and had so many pins in to keep it in place that I definitely would have struggled with the machine. 

Making the head felt a lot like piecing a jigsaw puzzle together, but after constructing it all and adding the eyes and nose with the embroidery thread I felt really proud of myself!

Moving on to the body was a lot more straightforward. The arms and legs were easy to sew around, although they took me a little while to turn out. I used a pencil to help push the stuffing down to make sure they were well filled. Attaching the arms and legs to the body was a little tricky but only because the limbs made it bulky to sew. The instructions were a little vague in places, like saying to pin the body into place but not actually saying to sew it, however the step-by-step photographs were pretty clear to follow. Once the bottom floral piece had been sewn on the bunny could then be stuffed. I used rice to stuff the bottom so that she sits up nicely. The instructions also suggest lentils could be used as an alternative. The rest of the body was stuffed with toy stuffing like the limbs and head.

Sewing the body to the head was by far the most difficult part. You had to do a whip stitch with the seam allowance tucked inside, add to this the difficult angle and my neckline ended up looking a bit messy. I actually unpicked my first attempt and started again as it was so bad! My second attempt was a little better but still not my finest sewing!

Lastly it was time to make the clothes. This was the part I was most looking forward to. The bloomers were cut out of the pink linen, hemmed and sewn together before sewing elastic into the waistband and legs. The pinafore top was slightly more complicated and I’m glad I measured it around the body before sewing up the seam allowances because it was a very tight fit so I adjusted it to have less seam allowance, but still have a tidy finish. The flounces were fun to do, although my thumb was glad when they were done after pushing the needle through so many layers of material! I decided to alter the way the straps were attached to the top. In the instructions they are attached to the top of the blouse and just tied around the neck, but I thought this looked a bit messy, so I attached them to the side of the neckline and then sewed them in place to the back of the blouse like proper straps. It means my messy head attachment is more visible, but I think it gives it a more finished look overall.

I’m very proud of my finished Beatrix Bunny. She was quite a labour intensive project and took me a long time to complete, but the end result is a lovely toy. Now I just have to decide whether to keep her or give her away!

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Tea and Crafting – Latch Hook Wall Hanging

Way back in January I attended an online latch hook workshop hosted by Jane from Tea and Crafting (https://www.teaandcrafting.co.uk/) and I’m very excited to say that my wall hanging is now complete! It’s a slow craft, but the results are extremely satisfying.

Before the workshop we were sent the materials in the post. The package included:

  • Latch hook tool
  • Canvas
  • Bamboo cane
  • Length of t-shirt yarn
  • Length of wool 
  • Knooking needle

You had to provide your own yarn to create the wall hanging, but I have a lot of half used balls left over from various projects, so I just rummaged through my basket until I found several colours that I thought went together. I did actually end up ordering a couple more balls of some of the colours because latch hook is quite a greedy craft, and isn’t really any good for using up scraps. Jane had a good tip of waiting for the sales on your favourite stockist’s website and then buying lots of balls for cheap!

During the workshop Jane talked through how to create different lengths of yarn to achieve different effects, how to use the latch hook tool and some advice about trimming at the end as well. We all started our wall hangings during the class, but it is a time-consuming process so we obviously weren’t able to see anyone’s finished pieces. My one is about 60cm long by 43cm wide (62cm including the bamboo stick) and I didn’t time myself exactly, but I estimated that it took me in the region of 32 hours to complete.

Jane also showed us how to use the knooking needle to create a stitch where you have a central piece of yarn running along with another piece of yarn hooking over the top. It’s quite a good stitch for filling in larger areas, but I didn’t use it in my final piece as I love the effect of the latch hook too much, it’s so soft!

Once I had finished my design I then had to finish the back. Jane showed us during the workshop how she had folded the canvas back behind the design and stitched it in place on her example piece. She also showed us how to stitch on the bamboo cane, however I liked the technique I learnt in a previous latch hook project where you create a channel for the stick to go through. I think it looks a bit tidier, so I left some extra canvas at the top of mine to allow for creating the channel.

Lastly is the trimming, the best part! It’s just as satisfying as trimming pom poms! As I had used different lengths of yarn for the different areas and colours I already had an idea of how it would look and it was mainly just a case of neatening up each section and trimming the tassels at the bottom. I decided to leave the beige-flecked-with-yellow section untrimmed to give it a more organic feel and provide a contrast with the rest. I’m also very pleased with the effect I managed to achieve with the yellow flecks fading out at the bottom to leave just beige and then fading back in at the top! 

I still have quite a bit of yarn left and I have ordered myself some more canvas (Jane helpfully emailed her list of preferred brands and stockists after the workshop), so I think I will make some more abstract pieces to use them up. I will definitely be on the look out for discount wool though, I’d love to make a latch hook cushion, it would be so comfy to lie on!

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Craftiosity – Beaded Hanging Shelf

The project in this month’s Craftiosity kit (https://craftiosity.co.uk/) was a beaded hanging shelf. When I first got it out of the box I thought it looked quite complicated, but it actually turned out to be super easy and quick to make. I often struggle to find places to hang things like this in my house, but this one is so small and light that I was able to hang it off the end of my bookshelf!

Included in the kit was:

  • Copper ring
  • Cotton yarn
  • Small wooden beads x9
  • Medium wooden beads x17
  • Large wooden beads x5
  • Needle
  • Palm leaf tray

The first part of the project used some macrame knots. The first was a lark’s head knot to attach the lengths of yarn onto the copper ring. This is quite a simple knot and I thought the instructions were easy to follow. However, I had some difficulty with the second knot. This one was a gathering knot, which I have done before, but I found the first couple of instructions very confusing. It said to cut a 15cm length of yarn and then fold the first 6cm over and back on itself to create a loop. Doing this left me with a very short tail and the yarn in the picture was hidden by a hand, so I watched the video guide to try and figure out what I was doing wrong. The voiceover in the video said 15cm too, but the yarn looked much longer than that to me, so I decided to cut a longer length and try again. I cut a piece around 40cm long and this time I had enough to create the loop with a long enough tail to wrap around and achieve a gathering knot that looked a similar length to the picture. I’m not sure if maybe they meant 15 inches, but I don’t know why they would have changed from metric to imperial half way through…I figured it out in the end anyway! 

From there down the rest of the project was very straightforward and the instructions were easy to follow. It was mainly threading beads and tying knots to keep them at the right height. I liked the way the beads were spaced to support the tray and keep it in place. As it’s quite small it wouldn’t take a lot of weight but it would be perfect for a small plant or other little ornament. 

I also like the suggestions for personalising it by painting the beads or using a natural dye like avocado to dye both the yarn and the beads. Personally I like the natural colours of the beads and yarn, but you could definitely get experimental with this project!

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Craft Box Club – Heart Felt Garland

The project in this month’s Craft Box Club (https://craftboxclub.co.uk/) was a heart felt garland. I have to say that needle felting is not one of my favourite crafts, once you get past the satisfaction of stabbing something I find it becomes a bit repetitive. However, I do think that the rainbow heart design for the garland is very sweet and brings its own message of hope and positivity.

Included in the kit was:

  • Wool skein x7 (rainbow colours)
  • String x7 (rainbow colours)
  • Heart cookie cutters x 3 sizes
  • Felting needle
  • Sewing needle
  • Cotton string
  • Sponge

The basic premise of needle felting is to form the wool into a shape by using the needle to condense the fibres together, thus creating felt. In this case the fleece was formed into hearts using the cookie cutters to mould it into shape. As well as the usual video tutorial at the link provided, there were also instructional photos, which I found really informative. I actually felt that I could do the project without watching the video, however I have done felting before on a couple of occasions. I think having the video there as well would be very useful as a beginner so you could see the technique involved.

The process was repeated for each colour of the rainbow twice, once with the large cookie cutter and once with the small. This was the part I found a bit repetitive! I think that the project probably took me around four hours to complete in total.

Once all fourteen of the hearts were done it was then time to string them onto the cotton using the needle provided. When they were all in place the coloured string was then tied in bows between the hearts. I really liked that each skein of wool was bundled with a co-ordinating coloured string, which was then reused in the project as a decoration.

There was so much wool provided in the kit that I could probably make a second garland if I wanted to, or it could be used in another project like a weaving or something similar. I also now have the heart cutters to use for another project, whether that be cooking or clay!

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MakeBox – Amore Soy Candle

I’m a little late on this one as it was meant to be for Valentine’s Day, but who says you can’t spread a little love any day of the year? February’s MakeBox is the Amore Soy Candle, scented with rose. As always when I make candles I was surprised at how quick it was to do and it was yet another technique for melting the wax.

Included in the box was:

  • 600g soy wax flakes
  • Plastic jug
  • Glass container
  • Rose scent
  • Wooden lollipop sticks x2
  • Wicks x2
  • Labels
  • Gift box

At first when I opened my box I thought that one of my wicks was missing, but after rummaging through all the packaging I found it. It unfortunately was missing its metal base, so I used the complete one and if I decide to make a second candle I will just have to make sure the spare one is attached to the base well. There is enough wax to make two candles (or more depending on the size of your containers and how many wicks you have), but only one glass container included in the kit. I have a nice shaped jam jar in the fridge that I’m eyeing up for my second candle once all the jam has been eaten! As I said, the making process was very simple starting with weighing out half the wax. Only 200g fit in the plastic jug provided, so I weighed out the remaining 100g into a spare container from the recycling. Once the first 200g had been melted down in the microwave, you could them gradually add the rest, stirring it in and using the microwave in short burst to keep melting it down.

Once all the wax was completely melted it was time to add the scent. When I made candles with another kit the instructions said to pour in the whole bottle, but this one said just a few drops. I think it’s really hard to get the balance right as the other candles are a little overwhelming when I smell them now, but with this one, even though I added more scent than it said to, I still find it quite subtle. However the scent may get stronger once the candle is burning.

To create the candle I positioned the wick in the centre of the container and used the lollipop stick to hold it’s position before pouring a small amount of wax into the base and allowing it to set in the fridge for a couple of minutes. This stopped the wick from floating up when I then poured the rest of the wax in up to about a centimetre from the top. 

I left the candle to set for about 24 hours before moving it to ensure an even set and no sinkholes. There were a couple of labels provided, one with the MakeBox logo on and one blank. I decided to use the blank one to create my own handwritten label using a sharpie. I really like the inclusion of the gift box as well, so I can give the candle away to someone I love!

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Print Club London – Screen Printing Kit

On Thursday evening last week I attended a fab online workshop to learn screen printing. I ordered a screen printing kit via The Indytute website (https://www.indytute.com/), which was designed by Print Club London (https://printclublondon.com/). The Indytute offers fab craft kits along with other home experiences and I quite often browse the website if I’m looking for something a little different to try. I decided to try this one as I saw them advertising it on Instagram along with a free workshop worth £20. The kit itself costs £54.95, so I thought this was a great opportunity!

Included in the kit was:

  • Wood framed screen
  • Squeegee
  • Black fabric ink
  • Wooden spatulas x2
  • Vinyl templates

You had to provide your own fabric to print on and they recommended t-shirts, tote bags or tea towels. I found a tote bag which was blank on one side that I didn’t mind experimenting with, so I just used that. The vinyl templates provided in the kit were great. There was one with a blank rectangle which could be used to create a design of your own choice or there were loads of pre-cut shapes to choose from including a speech bubble, the alphabet, stars and other cosmic shapes. I had actually had a migraine on the day of the workshop so thought I would just watch the demo and then log off, but once I was there I decided to join in. The workshop was hosted by Vicky from Bristol Print Collective (https://www.bristolprintcollective.com/) who ran through how to do each stage of the screen printing process before we all tried out our own designs whilst she was on hand for any questions or troubleshooting. 

I decided to keep my design quite basic to start with using the speech bubble and some letters. It was important to remember to create the design back to front on the outside of the screen so that when you placed it over your work with the inside facing up, the word would be spelt the right way round. I had a trial go on some paper before I moved onto the tote bag. 

I found that as the design was quite large it was harder to flood it with the ink before pulling the final print onto the chosen surface. I think this led to me over-inking as I didn’t want to have any gaps and on both my paper trial and the final print on my tote I did get a bit of ink squeezing out the edge of my design. I’m so pleased with how clearly the letters came out though.

I’m glad I made the effort to craft along with everyone else even though I wasn’t feeling great. It was loads of fun and so easy to do. I can see how you could get quite addicted to printing onto things! The only rubbish bit was washing everything up at the end!

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Craft Box Club – Lino Cut

Another week, another linocut! This time its from Craft Box Club (https://craftboxclub.co.uk/). It was interesting to compare the two linocut kits, especially as they were making the same thing; greetings cards.

Included in the box was:

  • Lino
  • Linocut blades
  • Wooden handle
  • Sponge
  • Blank cards and envelopes
  • Tracing paper
  • Paper template
  • Paint powder 

The tool itself (handle and blades) were the same as the Makerly kit I did the other week, however one of the selling points of Craft Box Club is to be as eco friendly as possible and Adam, the founder, puts in an admirable amount of effort to ensure that his kits meet that standard every month. Reading Adam’s blog I found out that the lino was a traditional biodegradable type, the ‘ink’ was made from earth paint which comes as a powder so can be packaged in paper, the sponge was made from wood fibres rather than plastic and the cards were made from recycled paper.

The process was exactly the same in terms of transferring the image to the lino using tracing paper. The image provided was a leafy border and there was a link to print out templates for the alphabet along with the link to the video tutorial. I couldn’t decide which letter to use on my cards as I wasn’t sure who I would send them to if I just chose one initial, so I decided to draw my own design for the centre of the card. I used the leafy border to inspire me and drew a songbird singing a love song as it’s so near to Valentine’s Day.

The cutting out took a long time as the design was quite intricate and there were also a lot of empty spaces to cut out as well, but once I was done it was time to print! The instructions said to keep the paint thick and only use about a teaspoon of water, but I found that the mixture was still quite dry and powdery so I added extra water. My first attempts at printing came out blobby and you couldn’t see the finer details of the design. I added small amounts of water to the paint mixture to try and get it to spread more nicely over the linocut, but I just couldn’t seem to get the consistency right to get a clear print.

In the end I decided to use the ink pad from the other linocut kit to try and get a clear print of my work (sorry Adam!). I just felt that I had spent so long cutting it out that I just wanted to see it in all it’s glory! The standard ink worked well and I printed several good looking cards with it. I hope it’s not too environmentally unfriendly!