workshop

Easter Pom Pom Wreath

A couple of months ago I booked myself onto an Easter Pom Pom Wreath workshop hosted by Christine Leech from Sew Yeah (https://sewyeah.co.uk/). I was really looking forward to it because I’d seen so many handmade wreaths on Instagram at Christmas and I really wanted to make my own. So then when the country went into lockdown a few weeks ago I was gutted that I wouldn’t be able to attend. 

Imagine my delight when I received a message from Christine asking if I would still like to participate in an online class and that she could post me the supplies! I of course immediately said yes and duly received an exciting parcel through the letterbox. Included in the parcel was:

  • Wreath base
  • Pom pom makers
  • Giant yarn
  • Several small balls of various coloured wool
  • Sheets of felt
  • Felt balls
  • Sequins

Despite being extremely excited to make my wreath I actually ended up not being able to log on for the online workshop, however the lovely Christine made some videos and shared them on IGTV showing how to cover the wreath base and several pom pom tutorials to create a range of different patterns and effects including speckles, stripes and even a flower, plus a tutorial on trimming. I was amazed at how much trimming you should do to get your pom poms looking their best.

I followed the tutorials online so that I was all caught up and then the following week I joined a second Zoom meet up where Christine showed us how to construct our wreaths and how to create little leaves and flowers out of the felt, balls and sequins. It was so lovely to hang out with all the other creative ladies and do our crafting together and to see what their creations were like. Despite all receiving the same instructions everybody’s wreaths turned out so different!

The wreath was so easy to make and Christine’s instructions are so easy to follow. She has even shared some videos on creating your own base and pom pom makers if you can’t get hold of any so it’s definitely worth checking out her IGTV. Pom poms are such a great way to use up scraps of yarn as well so if you have lots of leftover bits lying around then give it a go.  

workshop

Mindful Embroidery with Sew Yeah Social Club

Last Thursday I had such a relaxing evening! I went to the Love Crafts headquarters (https://www.lovecrafts.com/en-gb/) to attend a workshop run by Christine Leech from the Sew Yeah Social Club (https://sewyeah.co.uk/). Christine has an extensive background in the craft world with job titles ranging from author to illustrator, maker to stylist. She’s a bit of a craft guru!

Anyway, I went along to the office in Holborn to take part in a Mindful Embroidery workshop. As we walked in the table looked so colourful. It was laid out with plenty of embroidery thread, piles of vinyl, different types of fabric and lots of example of what we would be making. The idea was to use the iron-on vinyl to create an abstract pattern which we could then embroider over the top of. Christine talked through some of her examples and showed us how some of them had stayed quite random but others had developed into a design where her eye had caught different shapes amongst the randomness.

I made one that was random, although the pieces I chose were in complementary colours, but my other piece was a bit more literal. I couldn’t help myself! My mind just likes to create order even when I’m telling it to be chaotic! I found a piece of vinyl that looked like the top of an umbrella to me so I gave it a handle and created a little rainy scene, cutting clouds out of some glittery blue vinyl and adding some raindrops. Once we had decided on our patterns Christine showed us how to use the iron to attach the vinyl on to our chosen fabric. 

Once we had done that it was time for some embroidery. There were some pre-printed hoops with various stitches on for beginners or just for practice and a handy how-to guide. I’m pretty confident with my embroidery so I didn’t use mine, but I thought it was a great tool for beginners. One of the best things about the workshop was that there was no pressure to do a certain thing or to keep up with the rest of the group. You could just work at your own pace, having fun creating something pretty, and Christine was on hand to help when you needed her.

I just had such a great evening being creative and chatting with other crafty people. It was nice to relax and create something with no pressure on it having to be perfect. I’m looking forward to seeing what Christine’s next workshop will be because I will definitely be signing up!

workshop

Make Your Own Leather Trainers

Yesterday I went to Tea and Crafting (https://www.teaandcrafting.co.uk/) for a very exciting workshop! I put the vouchers I received for Christmas towards a ‘Make your own leather trainers’ workshop. Prior to attending I received an email from the lovely Maddie who works at Tea and Crafting asking for our shoe size and colour preference so that they could have the kits ready for us on the day. It took me ages to decide what colour to go for. I didn’t want to go for white as I already have white trainers but I wanted to pick a colour that I thought I would wear and would go with my wardrobe. In the end I chose a mauve colour as I thought it would be neutral enough to go with most things but still a bit fun.

When we arrived our kits were waiting for us. They included:

  • Coloured leather
  • Rubber soles
  • Insoles
  • Wax thread
  • Needle
  • Paper template

Plus each of our stations had the equipment we would need such as scissors, hole punch pliers and a pen to draw on the leather.

We started off by cutting out the paper templates. There was only one template, which you had to flip over to create the other shoe, so we had to be careful to note which side was which. There were three options to choose from; a low trainer, a normal trainer or a high top. I decided to go with the normal trainer, but some of my classmates made the high top and I have to admit I was a bit jealous as they looked so good! Once the paper template was cut out we positioned it on the leather and drew round it, then flipped it over and drew around it again to create the reverse pattern for the other shoe.

Then it was time to cut the shapes out. The leather was pretty tough to cut and it was important to be as precise as possible.

We then attached the templates back on to the leather pieces so that we could punch the holes. There were two sized holes to punch; the larger holes for the shoelaces and the smaller holes around the bottom to secure the uppers to the soles. Punching was probably the most difficult part of the process. You needed quite a bit of hand strength! The smaller holes weren’t too bad, although there was a lot of them, but the larger holes caused a bit of trouble in the class!

Once the holes had been punched in the leather it was then time to punch the holes in the soles. The holes were marked around the edge of the soles so it was just a case of going round with the smallest size on the pliers and punching through. The rubber was really easy to punch, but there were a lot of holes to match the uppers! When all the holes had been punched with the pliers we then went round with our needles poking out all the little pieces of rubber to make it easier when it came to actually sewing.

After lunch we moved on to construction. Our tutor Alex showed us how to line up the leather with the sole and how to sew it all together with the wax thread in the correct order. Starting along the inside edge we worked our way around to the nose, then down the other side, finishing with the heel, then sewing back around the other way to secure it all. Once the uppers were attached Alex showed us how to create a little stitch on either side to hold the tongue in place.

Lastly the insoles went in and the laces were threaded through! I couldn’t believe I’d made a pair of trainers! They just came together so quickly and with so few materials. I can’t wait to wear them! I think they’ll look good with some of my summer dresses, so roll on summer!

The workshop cost £150 and took place at their Covent Garden studio in London. Jane, the owner of Tea and Crafting, took part in the class along with Maddie and it was great to meet them in person. The tutor was Alex of Sewrendipity (https://sewrendipity.com/) a sustainable sewing blog. She was fantastic and really knowledgeable. I can’t recommend this class enough. It was a lovely day out and not only did I get to meet other creative people and spend the day crafting, I also created something that I’m actually going to use; my favourite kind of crafting!

craft kit · workshop

Block Printing

You may remember that last year I was very excited to attend The Handmade Festival in September and that whilst I was there I bought lots of craft kits. Well, they are still keeping me going even now and I’ve been doing one of them to get back into the crafty swing after new year (and being a bit poorly again)!

One of the workshops I attended at the festival was Indian Block Printing and afterwards I went along to their stall and bought my own starter kit so I could do some more at home as it was so fun! Included in the kit was:

  • Foam mat
  • Paint tray
  • Sponges
  • £15 worth of printing blocks
  • Three fabric paints
  • Tea towel
  • Cotton tote bag

I tried to pick small blocks but they are more expensive than you would expect them to be so I ended up spending extra to get the ones I wanted. As I spent more the very kind lady who served me threw in a fourth fabric paint for me, yay! 

I was a bit worried that I might have forgotten how to do it as it was quite a while ago now, but luckily it all came back to me once I’d got all the equipment out. I was a bit naughty as I did it without an apron on, but next time I will make the effort to go and get it from my studio down the garden as I was a bit worried about getting the paint on my clothes.

I started with the tea towel, positioning the foam mat under the places where I was going to print. I decided to do a repeating pattern with the pineapple stamp, applying two different colours to the block; green for the leaves and yellow for the fruit. 

Moving on to the tote bag I placed the foam mat inside the bag, between the layers of material. This is because some of the paint can go through the fabric and you don’t want it to transfer to the other side of the bag. I noticed this especially with the green paint. One one side of the bag I did a random pattern with the leaves, acorn and dragonfly blocks. On the other I did a little scene with the acorns at the top as though they were on the tree, the oak leaves falling down and the dragonfly and a couple of bees buzzing around.

The last thing I had to do was heat seal them by ironing on the reverse. This means the painted fabric can be washed without ruining the design.

This was a really nice way to spend the afternoon and it got me thinking if I could incorporate some printing into my own work. The Arty Crafty Place (https://theartycraftyplace.co.uk/) who sell the kits do an amazing range of blocks, which they are adding designs to all the time, so I might have to have a look at their website and expand my collection!

workshop

La Basketry

Yesterday I went over to the London Loom again, this time for a basket weaving workshop run by the lovely Tabara N’Diaye from La Basketry (https://labasketry.com/). This was a totally new skill for me, but Tabara was very patient in explaining how to do each step and even though there was seven of us in the class she gave each of us individual attention when we needed it. I felt very well looked after and she was really encouraging, even when our work came out a bit wonky!

To start with we were given a bunch of grass, a special needle with a bent tip and a flexible silicon tube. We had to select which colours we wanted to use for our basket from a selection of plastic strings. You would recognise them if you made scoubidous at school (showing my age)! I chose purple and peach. 

We began by threading a few of the grasses through the silicon tube, which kept them all together and made it easier to begin the pot. Tabara then showed us how to create the first coil by tying the plastic string round, wrapping the grass and creating a stitch to hold it in place. This was the base from where we would continue to build the pot, adding a stitches as we went round. 

When the coloured string ran out you just threaded the new colour into the previous stitch and carried on. As the grass ran out you just had to feed some new stems into the bunch to ensure you maintained a consistent thickness all the way around the basket. 

Once the base was wide enough then you could begin to build up the sides. That was where the peg came in useful if you were having trouble holding everything in place. I didn’t use the peg as I found it much easier to weave going up the sides than I did creating the base. I also found that my stitches became more uniform and fell into a natural pattern, which created a nice look for the basket, and meant that my messy bit was luckily hidden on the base!

The little basket we created was to hold a cactus and Tabara had one for each of us. I didn’t have enough time to build my basket as high as I would have liked but I think it still looks cute with it’s little spiky friend inside it! The workshop cost £55 for two hours and took place at the London Loom studios (https://thelondonloom.com/v2/).

workshop

Soldering Masterclass

This week I attended a soldering masterclass at the London Jewellery School where I completed my diploma (https://www.londonjewelleryschool.co.uk/). Soldering is a pretty essential part of silversmithing and something I dread doing. My diploma was now three years ago and I don’t use soldering very often in my work, so although this class was covered in my diploma some of the details have become a bit fuzzy and it’s not a skill I want to lose so I decided I needed a refresher. The class cost £149 and ran from 10am-5pm with an hour for lunch. It included all materials and use of the school’s tools, tea and coffee and most importantly, biscuits!

I have something of a mind block with soldering, it’s just not something that happens for me and it is a skill that requires practice, which obviously I don’t do, so I started the day feeling a little apprehensive. I needn’t have worried! The other students in the class were all at varying skill levels and the teacher Kimberley was really reassuring. She was very knowledgeable about all the processes and showed us each one step-by-step and was on stand-by if we needed any help throughout the day. She started the day by talking us through all the equipment we would be using and the different types of solder; hard, medium and easy.

The first thing we did was make jump rings and then learn to solder them closed and also how to turn them into a chain. Kimberley showed us how to apply the flux and the best place to position our pallions of solder. She then showed us how to heat the piece to encourage the solder to flow in the direction we needed. 

The second method we learnt was sweat soldering to join two flat pieces of metal together. We began by covering the smaller piece in pallions and heating it until it flowed so one side of the metal was entirely covered in solder. After pickling it to ensure the surface was clean we then positioned it on top of the larger piece and heated it again until the solder flowed, joining the two pieces together.

After that Kimberley showed us how to attached an earring post using the third hand (reverse tweezers on a movable stand) to keep the post in place. Following that we attached some of our jump rings to the top of a flat piece of metal, again using the third hand, and also to the side. 

Lastly we made a 3D shape. We started off by creating a ring using a strip of metal and then soldering the join together. The ring was then soldered to a flat piece of metal to create the base, which we then drilled a hole in to prevent the heat building up inside when we added the final piece of metal and causing an explosion! Finally we soldered another flat piece of metal to the other side. The final step is to cut off the excess metal and file it down to create a smooth 3D shape. As you can see I ran out of time to finish mine in the class, but I’m pretty confident with those skills so I can always finish it at home!

Soldering still isn’t really my favourite thing to do, but I definitely feel more confident about the process now that I’ve had a refresher, especially with such a great teacher. I always love returning to the London Jewellery School. It’s such a welcoming place and makes me feel inspired to keep going with my jewellery. Also, there’s always biscuits!

workshop

Modern Embroidery

This weekend I did something pretty special. The amazing Meg from Nutmeg and Honeybee (https://www.nutmegandhoneybee.com/) visited England all the way from San Diego, California to host a modern embroidery workshop at The London Loom (https://thelondonloom.com/v2/). Meg began her creative journey through baking but branched out into embroidery after feeling like baking on its own wasn’t fulfilling her creative flair. 

The term ‘modern embroidery’ can be interpreted in a range of different ways but often focuses on abstract or geometric shapes, simple lines and patterns, but for Meg the most important thing is introducing texture to the piece. This can be done in a variety of ways such as using a range of fibres, not only embroidery thread but also yarns and rope including sewing over the rope to create raised areas. Beads and the use of French knots are a great way to add more texture to areas of the piece.

To begin the session Meg got us to choose a colour palette from the threads spread out of the table. She then showed us a range of stitches which she uses to create her pieces. We learnt satin stitch, French knots, rope stitch and turkey stitch, which creates lovely fringing or can be used to create flowers.

After the demonstration we drew out designs on our fabric using a water soluble fabric pen which can be washed off when the piece is finished. My aim for the workshop was to try each of the stitches whilst I was there with Meg and she could advise if I had any problems. 

The concept for my piece was a crescent moon with a cloud over the top. This is a time consuming hobby and Meg said that she would spend an average of six to seven hours on one piece but it could be more, especially if it was a larger piece. During the workshop I only got one moon crater and a section of the cloud finished. 

Finished cloud after some work at home

At home I’ve worked to finished it using various textures and different yarns, however it’s still not finished and I want to add some beads and another colour into the sky to give the piece more pattern and depth.

This workshop was a lovely way to spend three hours, with wonderful like-minded people from all around the world. Meg has several other workshops lined up but unfortunately they are all in America. It is definitely worth keeping an eye on her schedule to see if she is going to do any more workshops in the UK. Not only was the workshop great but we were all sent home with a pair of scissors, three different sized needles and plenty of thread, yarn and beads to complete our works of art.

workshop

Punch needle…at last!

I’ve been to the London Craft Club again! (https://londoncraftclub.co.uk/) This time for a workshop in the craft world’s biggest current trend; punch needle. I’ve been wanting to learn this craft for quite a while now as it’s so popular and I recently bought a kit from The Modern Crafter (https://themoderncrafter.co.uk/). 

The London Craft Club have moved venue from Bedford Square to Holloway Road, but for September when I attended this workshop they were using The Upper House near Highbury and Islington tube station as their premises. The room we were in was nice and spacious with big windows and lovely murals on the walls. There was four of us in the class and our tutor for the evening was Zoe. She had the table laid out with piles of yarn in a rainbow of colours and when we arrived she encouraged us to think about what kind of design we would like to do. There were several examples laid out on the table ranging from rainbows and watermelons to abstract pieces.

Zoe explained about which types of cloth were the best to use for punch needle. We used a type called monk’s cloth which we fitted into the embroidery hoop to keep it taut whilst we were working. She then showed us how to thread the needle using the wire threader. The needle we used was not the famous Oxford needle that has become synonymous with punch needle, but an adjustable one. We talked about the settings and how you could create different effects with the different length loops. After Zoe had shown us the best practice for using the needle we were free to start on our designs.

I decided to make a wall hanging with the initial of my nephew to hang in his room. I chose a range of greens to create an abstract background and an orange for the J to stand out against the background. I started off with the J and then worked around it using the greens to create a random pattern, trying out each of the different needle lengths to produce a range of textures and heights.

The workshop was so relaxed and we all had a great time creating our pieces. Some people had a clear design in mind and others just experimented. I’m really pleased that I’ve learnt this technique and I can’t wait to have a go at my kit. I have a few ideas for designs of my own and October’s MakeBox is a punch needle kit too, so watch this space for more of this addictive craft!

Event · workshop

The Handmade Festival

I had an absolute ball this weekend at The Handmade Festival (https://www.thehandmadefestival.com/) hosted by Kirstie Allsopp! I attended on the Friday and it was such a lovely day. The festival takes place in Hampton Court and it was a beautiful sunny day to be walking around outside (thanks late summer sun!). My friend and I decided to pre-book all of our workshops so we would have a schedule for the day, and also some guaranteed sitting down! In total we booked on four workshops throughout the day and they were quite evenly spaced which left plenty for time for browsing the shopping zones and other tents hosted by some familiar names such as Sew Yeah Social Club (https://sewyeah.co.uk/), Mollie Makes (http://www.molliemakes.com/), and the London Craft Club (https://londoncraftclub.co.uk/) amongst others. Lots of these tents were hosting their own workshops too, which you could just attend on a first-come-first-serve basis or sign up to on the day. Next time I might consider booking less workshops in advance so I can participate in these instead. There was also an amazing food tent which had loads of stalls selling delicious produce like honey, wine, cakes and sauces.

The first workshop I attended was Indian block printing. It was my favourite of the day. The tutor from The Arty Crafty Place ran us through how to apply the paint to the blocks to ensure we wouldn’t get a blobby result and the need for a printing mat to provide a soft surface to help the block make full contact with the fabric. There were a variety of blocks for us to share and we used four paint colours during the class. We started off with a piece of practice fabric before moving on to the tote bag provided. As the fabric paint dries immediately we were able to print both sides. There were lots of assistants walking round, giving advice and showing us examples of items that had been printed. They also told us that by heat sealing the printing with an iron it would then be safe to wash it too. I can definitely see myself incorporating this technique into future work.

The second workshop I attended was felting. We made a flamingo. At the beginning of the class Steffi from The Makerss (https://www.themakerss.co.uk/) said that by the end we would be addicted, but I’m not sure it’s the craft for me! The main shape of the flamingo was formed using a wire armature made from a pipe cleaner. The various coloured wool was then formed around the wire and manipulated into shape using the felting needle. The eyes, wings and legs were attached by punching the needle through both layers of the wool at the place where you wanted them to join. I was amazed at how easily the wool joined together and stayed in the shape it was formed into, but I did wish I had an extra pair of hands to hold it all steady!

The third workshop was Honey Hand Reflexology. We started the session talking about the importance of bees and honey and which kinds to buy to get the best health benefits. We then made an exfoliator using honey, cane sugar and coconut oil. It smelt delicious and we all used our scrubs on our hands straight away. It left my hands so soft. I have quite dry skin generally so I will definitely be using it throughout the winter. Katharine from Bee Potion (https://www.bee-potion.com/) said that we could also use it on our faces. The second half of the session was dedicated to hand reflexology. We had a hand map and Katharine talked us through each of the pressure points as we gave each other hand massages. It was very relaxing and my hands felt lovely afterwards!

The last session of the day was a talk hosted by Kirstie Allsopp with the gardener Charlie Hart. He was very amusing and talked about his move to the country and how his decision to become and gardener and transforming his own garden helped him through his grief over his parents’ death. He also talked about how it can help with anxiety and gave some good gardening advice to questions from the audience.

In between all these sessions we browsed all the amazing stalls. Some were selling handmade products such as jewellery, ceramics and art and others were selling craft supplies. I made quite a few purchases of craft kits so expect lots of blog posts about all of them in the near future!

I bought:

• Indian block printing kit from The Arty Crafty Place (https://theartycraftyplace.co.uk/)
• Cushion cover knitting kit from Stitch and Story (https://www.stitchandstory.com/)
• Mosaic kit from Rachel Shilston (https://www.rachelshilston.co.uk/)
• Pom-pom rug making kit from Multipom (https://multipom.com/)
• Woven necklace kit from Stitching Me Softly (https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/Stitchingmesoftly)
• Fox embroidery kit and Sunset punch needle kit from The Modern Crafter (https://themoderncrafter.co.uk/)

I was really excited to see some of the companies and individuals I follow on Instagram. It was great to meet them in real life and see their products. I did see a few people I recognised from Instagram attending the festival, it was a bit like celeb-spotting! I didn’t go up and say hello to any of them though as I didn’t want to seem like a stalker!

I had such a great day out and I will definitely be putting it in my diary for next year.

workshop

Weave Your Genes at The London Loom

Last week I went to the ‘Weave Your Genes’ workshop at The London Loom (https://thelondonloom.com/v2/) and I had such a great time! I booked this workshop a little while ago and when it rolled around I wasn’t really that up for it. The London Loom is based over in East London which is a bit awkward for me to get to so I wasn’t really looking forward to travelling there and back. By the time I left it was a completely different story, the three trains were totally worth it!

I arrived a bit early but Francesca, the founder, gave me a lovely warm greeting and put me to work straight away. The idea of the workshop was to complete a questionnaire relating to various aspects of your genetic make up, for example: eye colour, bitter taste perception, odour detection etc. Each answer was given two letters which correspond to the four ‘building blocks’ or bases that make up DNA: Adenine, Thymine, Cytosine, Guanine. I chose four different coloured yarns and assigned each one to a base, then using my answers I created a design for my weaving.

Once I had completed the questionnaire and coloured in my design Francesca set me up on a loom. She showed me how to wind the yarn onto the bobbin and then feed the shuttle through the weft to begin creating my fabric. I did get into a few knots at the start but once I’d got into a rhythm it was easy to become absorbed in the process. I did have to have a few breaks to stretch my back out…I don’t know how women in the olden days managed!

After I got to the end of my design Francesca cut my fabric off the loom and showed me how to tie the ends so it wouldn’t all come unravelled. Now all I have to decide is what to do with it! I’ve had suggestions of a bag or a cushion so far.

The London Loom is a lovely place to spend an afternoon. Francesca is really welcoming and talks through each stage in a clear, concise way. The people using the other looms were also really friendly. It’s based in a complex with lots of other creative businesses which gives it a really relaxed vibe. I absolutely loved Francesca’s massive rainbow wall of yarn! She recently won in the ‘best workshop’ category at the Mollie Makes Handmade Awards (http://www.molliemakes.com/lifestyle/mollie-makes-handmade-awards-2019-winners/) and she totally deserves it.

If you’re looking to try something relaxing and rewarding I would definitely recommend taking a workshop there. The ‘Weave Your Genes’ one that I did cost £65 for a three hour session including all the materials.