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Craftiosity – Natural Dye Slow Stitch Project Bag

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

Included in the box was:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Makerly – Macrame Owl

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

Included in the box was:

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

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

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

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

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

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Craftpod – Autumn 2021

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

Included in the box was: 

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

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

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

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

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Inner Canvas – Autumnus

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

Included in the kit was:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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MakeBox – Polymer Clay Jewellery

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

Included in the box was:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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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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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!