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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! 

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Craft Box Club – Pink Beach Houses

My second painting project this month, as I mentioned in my previous blog post, was the Pink Beach Houses kit from Craft Box Club. I liked the nostalgia around the theme of this kit as it brings back memories of trips to the seaside when I was little.

Included in the kit was:

  • Wooden house shapes x3
  • Brush
  • Sponge
  • Earth paints
  • Twine
  • Glue
  • Wooden decorations
  • Strip of fabric
  • Sandpaper
  • Paper house template

The first step was to sand down the wooden houses to ensure they were nice and smooth round the edges. As always every effort has been made to keep the kits as eco friendly as possible and the houses were cut by Love HeartWood, a wood turning business specialising in sustainable wooden gifts and toys using FSC wood. I love that a small business has been used to supply these crafts kits to support the creative industry, rather than purchasing them wholesale from a huge supplier.

The earth paints come as a powder and you mix them up to the right consistency. The pink colour was created by mixing the white with a tiny bit of red and it was really easy to apply with the sponge and still let the grain of the wood show through to keep the rustic look. It was very important to let the paint dry between each layer, otherwise it would have smudged together. One of the good things about earth paint is that when it dries out you can just grind it back down to a powder and rehydrate it with a little water again. I smudged my black when I was adding some of the window details, but I revived the white and pink paints and managed to hide the mistake. I’m still not a huge fan of earth paint, I find it still comes away on your hands when you touch the painted pieces even though it is dry, but it does give a nice effect for this project and is of course eco friendly!

Once all the painting is complete the finishing touches were added. I liked the way the twine was used to give the effect of a roof texture and the addition of the bunting was really cute. I definitely felt as though I needed to sit on the beach with an ice cream after finishing them!

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Craftiosity – Marbled Candle Holder

I haven’t done any marbling for a little while so I was quite excited about the Craftiosity marbled candle holder kit! I thought it was a really clever idea to add a unique design to a something that would make a great centrepiece for a table or mantelpiece.

Included in the kit was:

  • Wooden candle holder
  • White acrylic paint
  • Paint brush
  • Marbling tray
  • Marbling inks x2 (black and blue)
  • Disposable gloves

The first step was to paint the candle holder with the white acrylic paint to act as a base for the ink and also to be the third colour of the marbling pattern. The actual making time for this project is actually quite quick but there is quite a bit of drying time involved too. The instructions said that the paint would be dry after 30 minutes, but I actually left mine overnight because I had other jobs to get on with, which made it quite a good project to fit in between other things. I was also painting another project at the same time (see my next blog post!) so it was quite good to have this to alternate with!

Once the paint was dry it was time to get marbling. Using the marbling tray filled two thirds with water you could create your design using drops of the inks. I actually added some extra drops after I swirled my inks with the end of the paint brush but I think I used too much in the end because my finished candle holder took a very long time to dry. Restraint is definitely key here and I think it would still have made a nice pattern, I was just a bit over enthusiastic!

After dunking both sides into the marble pattern on the surface of the water and making sure that all the sides of the candle holder were covered and that it didn’t touch the bottom of the tray, all that was left to do was to let it dry. As I mentioned, mine took a little while to dry completely, but now it is done it looks great. I love with marbling that you never quite get the same design twice so every piece is completely unique. 

I also liked the suggestion of using the inks to marble some paper as well and experimenting with different patterns. It’s always nice to have ideas of what to do with the leftover supplies from craft kits. Now I just need to buy some candles to go in my nice new holder! 

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Craft Box Club – Macrame Semilunar

Quite a quick craft this week from Craft Box Club – a macrame semilunar with a bonus keyring project. I’m really glad I’ve done some macrame recently, especially learning the double half hitch which made up the main body of this project!

Included in the box was:

  • Macrame twine – white
  • Macrame twine – forest green
  • Wooden dowel
  • Macrame comb
  • Keyring clip

The instructions say you will also need scissors but you will need a length of string as well to hang the dowel from. The instruction video for this one is great. All the knots are shown slowly and repeated so that you can see them clearly. I paused and rewound the video several times to make sure I was doing it correctly. I think for this project the video was definitely better than the pictures, although the pictures were still useful. With macrame I much prefer to see the knot being created, rather than just a picture or description. It helps me to understand the structure of the knot a lot better.

Both the projects were really quick to complete. The semilunar was much smaller than I thought it was going to be from the pictures I had seen prior to receiving the kit, but I think that was a good thing because it wasn’t too repetitive and I quite enjoyed making something fairly small for a change! 

I thought the addition of the keyring was great too. It was a good chance to use a couple more different knots; a square knot and a gathering knot. There was a separate instructional video for this project and again was clear and slow enough that you could craft along with it.

Although it’s nice to get involved in a longer project I do enjoy completing something a little quicker every now and then. It gives a nice sense of achievement and satisfaction for only a couple of hours of work.

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Makerly – Mandala Dotting

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been slowly working my way through the mandala dotting Makerly box from last month. This craft trend seems to have completely taken off recently and it seems like a lot of people are doing it at the moment. It certainly has quite a mindful quality to it, whilst at the same time requiring concentration and precision. 

Included in the kit was:

  • Dotting tools
  • Paints
  • Paintbrush
  • Stencils
  • White pencil
  • Black card
  • Round mandala canvases
  • Plastic stand
  • Self-adhesive acrylic gems
  • Rock

The first step was to try out all the different sized dotting tools and have a play around with positioning the dots to create patterns. I much preferred the ball shaped metal tools to the flat plastic ones. I found the flat ones left a texture on the dot, whereas the ball ones gave a much smoother, more precise dot.

There were several stencils included in the kit of varying sizes and spacing which were very helpful for creating even patterns. For my first test pattern I drew lines in the template but I then found that the lines were still visible as I didn’t completely cover them with my dots and they didn’t rub out nicely, so for my next designs I just made dots at each of the intersections. For my second design I ‘dotted’ but then joined the dots with a pattern I copied from the instructions as I knew that if I didn’t have the lines I would make a mistake.

In a typically ‘me’ fashion my first design actually turned out to be my best! Although I did like the design I ended up with on my mandala canvas, especially the limited colour scheme, I managed to go a bit wonky which kind of spoils the effect of the whole piece. 

Lastly I painted my rock. This seems to be the biggest craft trend at the moment, but now I have a painted rock I’m not really sure what to do with it! I started by painting a black circle on the rock and then once it was dry I did my dotting. I kept it quite simple as it’s a lot smaller than the card or canvas and kept to a limited colour palette as well. 

I’m not sure if this craft is for me, but I’m really glad that I had a go at it. I will definitely be using the basic principles of mandala creation for my future embroidery projects and I think the tools will come in handy for other projects too.

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Craftpod – Mimosa Embroidery

Another lovely kit from Craftpod for Spring, this time inspired by the Mimosa tree with it’s fluffy yellow flowers. There were two projects in the kit; an embroidered needle book, and a greenfinch cross stitch.

Included in the box was:

  • Pre-printed fabric
  • Felt (green and cream)
  • Cross stitch canvas
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Embroidery thread x6 (dark green, light green, yellow, grey green, pink, and black)
  • Pins
  • Needles
  • Button
  • Cardboard bobbins
  • Stickers
  • Tea bag

I started off with the needle book as I have never made one before. I thought it looked quite complicated but it was actually surprisingly easy to make! Starting off with the pre-printed fabric in the hoop I followed the design using mainly one strand of thread for back stitch and split stitch for the stems and leaves and French knots to create the little flowers. Once the embroidery was finished I cut around the border to create a little rectangular patch. I then cut the rest of the white fabric away from the green and trimmed the cream felt to size so I had all the pieces ready to start construction.

Stitching the embroidered patch onto the green rectangle I was a bit worried that the fabric would fray too much, but as I sewed around it I felt like the stitches would keep it in place and the raw edges give it quite a nice rustic feel. Adding the button finished off the front of the book nicely.

To keep the book shut you had to finger knit a crochet chain. I couldn’t quite remember how to do this from my previous crocheting attempts so I used the video tutorial on the Craftpod YouTube channel to remind myself. The video was really demonstrative and I picked it up straight away. The only thing I found was that they didn’t show how to cast off to keep your chain secure, but it wasn’t too hard to figure out! This chain was sewn to the back of the book, allowing enough give to go around the button once the book was shut with all the felt layers inside.

After sewing the green felt to the cream with some back stitch down the middle to create the ‘pages’ of the needle book, the cream felt was then attached to the completed cover using blanket stitch. As the edges of the green fabric had also been left raw this added to the rustic aesthetic of the book.

The second project was the cross stitch of the greenfinch sitting on a Mimosa branch. I love all the colours in this embroidery, it’s so bright and Spring-like. I thought it was going to take me a really long time as cross stitches usually do, but it was actually quite quick. The design is fairly small and the stitch chart was very easy to follow. I also liked the use of a French knot for the eye, rather than just another cross stitch, it seems to bring the design to life.

Another very enjoyable box from Craftpod. I liked that neither of the projects were too time consuming, and they were both things that could be put down and picked up at leisure, there was no need to dedicate hours to them all in one go. I particularly liked the needle book, although it’s not really my usual style it will actually be really useful and I will definitely be filling it up and putting it in my sewing box.

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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!