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Craft Box Club – Cross Stitch Buttons

This month’s kit from Craft Box Club was a cute little project using cross stitch designs to create wearable art. The green leafy theme made me feel as though Spring is on the way, despite the wet and windy weather outside! 

Included in the box was:

  • Aida
  • Embroidery thread x2 (light green, dark green)
  • Brooch pins x3
  • Wooden button backs x3
  • Mini embroidery hoop
  • Waxed cotton cord
  • Needle
  • Needle threader
  • Glue
  • Wooden lolly stick
  • Cotton wool

There was also a paper pattern for each of the four cross stitch designs as well as the link to the online instructions and video. I find it really helpful that there are written/photo instructions as it can be frustrating to try to make along with a video and have to keep pausing and rewinding bits. However, having the video as well is useful in understanding how to do more complicated techniques.

Although sewing each of the designs took some time as cross stitch can be quite a slow process, the overall project was very straightforward. After sewing the designs there were three wooden disc blanks to use to create the buttons, which needed the brooch pins glueing on the backs before attaching the sewn designs using a simple running stitch to gather the fabric around the wooden disc. The fourth design was used to make a necklace using the mini embroidery hoop and waxed cotton cord. It was a bit unclear what the cotton wool was for. I thought it was used to pad out the buttons, but this wasn’t mentioned in the instructions or the video. 

I thought this was a really cute project that would be easy for any level of crafter, including beginner, to complete. As always it was eco friendly with no plastic at all and the green theme had me thinking of nature whilst I was sewing away! 

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Craftiosity – Himalayan Salt Soap

I don’t know where the time is going but it seems to be slipping away from me at the moment because I feel like I’m getting a new subscription box through the door every other day and I just don’t seem to have the time to keep up with them all! I have definitely skipped a few, but they are all waiting for me down my shed and I’m hoping one day I’ll have a chance to try them all out. The most recent one I’ve received from Craftiosity is their kit to make Himalayan salt soap. 

Included in the kit was:

  • Melt and Pour soap base
  • Pink Himalayan salt
  • Lavender fragrance oil
  • Wooden lolly stick

To make the soap all you really need is a microwave and a sharp knife. The easiest thing about this kit was that there was no need for special moulds to pour the soap into. The aim was to make blocks of soap, so the Melt and Pour base was melted and set in the original tub it came in, with the addition of the Himalayan salt as an exfoliator. There was also the option of adding the lavender fragrance oil, but I’m not too keen on the scent of lavender so I left it out of mine. If you had other scents at home you could easily use them instead.

Layering the Himalayan salt was the trickiest part as you had to add it in bit by bit and then wait for a skin to form on the top of the liquid soap before adding the next layer to prevent it all from sinking to the bottom. My distribution wasn’t as good as the pictures in the instructions but I did achieve a partial layering effect and I think with some more practice I could get better results.

The other part that required some careful judgement was deciding when it was set enough to cut. You didn’t want it to still be liquid but it also needed to be soft enough to be easy to cut. I liked the idea of wrapping the blocks in baking parchment ready to give as gifts.

I’m always amazed at how easy it is to make soap, although it’s a fairly long process including the setting time it’s always very rewarding. As usual from Craftiosity the instructions were clear and the photos helpful. They are already promoting their next box on social media so I shall look forward to receiving that, probably sooner than I think!

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Cosy Craft Club – Alice and Stars Enamel Jewellery

I heard about Cosy Craft Club on Instagram and started following them as I liked the look of their kits. They do offer a monthly subscription, but I decided to buy a couple of kits as a one off to get a feel for their style. It looks as though Cosy Craft Club collaborates with a maker each month to put a kit together. The first kit I’ve tried is the current kit for this month – enamel jewellery, created by Alice and Stars. I was really excited about this as I’ve done enamelling before as part of my jewellery diploma, but had got it into my head that you needed a kiln. It turns out that this is not the case and all that’s required is a normal kitchen oven!

Included in the kit was:

  • Enamelling powder x5 (green, blue, white, pink, red)
  • Wooden spatula
  • Bunting flag copper blanks x5
  • Round disc steel blank
  • Sieve
  • Chain
  • Jump rings
  • Clasps

I was amazed at how quick and easy this craft was to do, with instant results. The enamelling part was so quick, using the wooden spatula to transfer the powder into the sieve and then creating a nice even layer of powder on the blanks. I liked how easy it was to create interesting effects as well like an ombré. I also played around with using paper to mask areas of the blanks to create lines, but I enjoyed the ombré too much to keep them like that! Once the designs were done they only needed ten minutes maximum in the oven.

The second part of the kit was to turn the enamelled pieces into jewellery. There was enough chain, jump rings and clasps to make a necklace with the bunting and a bracelet with the disc. The instructions for both parts of the kit were easy to follow. There weren’t any pictures of the process included, however I didn’t find this a problem. On Cosy Craft Club’s Instagram there were plenty of videos and pictures showing the process and ideas for designs.

There are lots of kits available on the website covering a range of crafts. The main kits cost between £24-£30, although there are some mini kits available for less. The monthly subscription is £24 and it looks as though you would get a good variety of crafts coming through your door each month.

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Makerly – Zentangle Cushion Cover

This polar bear cushion cover from Makerly inspired by the practise of Zentangle is suitably wintry for this frosty weather we are having at the moment. Zentangle is a combination of art and meditation by focusing on the formation of patterns. It made this a really mindful project to complete as well as being inspiration for creating designs for future projects by taking the same principle of filling each section of the design with a different pattern.

Included in the box was:

  • Cushion cover
  • Embroidery needle
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Transfer paper
  • Paper template
  • Selection of threads including embroidery thread, metallic thread, waxed cotton thread, acrylic yarn, and sewing thread

I had a couple of issues with this project but nothing that couldn’t be overcome. The polar bear design was quite large to fill the space on the cushion cover, however the sheet of transfer paper included in the kit was quite small, which meant that you had to move it over halfway through transferring the design to the cushion cover. Although this wasn’t too tricky, it did feel a bit awkward and I was worried about making sure the design was lined up properly. It was a problem that could easily have been resolved by having a piece of transfer paper just a bit larger. The other issue I found was that the design rubbed off the cushion cover quite quickly and I had to redraw it a few times with some tailors chalk to make sure my sewing didn’t go wonky. This was mainly for the leaf design and the face.

I liked how many different stitches were used in the design and how you could make such effective patterns with even the most basic straight stitch. The instructions for each stitch were clearly written out and the photographs were helpful too. I also thought it was great that there were so many suggestions for patterns included in the instructions outside of the ones used in the main design. This project really allowed for a lot of individuality and opportunity to make it your own. 

There wasn’t a cushion insert included in the kit. I have temporarily filled mine with stuffing, but I will order a proper insert for it as I think that will really finish it off nicely. I like the idea of using Zentangle to inspire designs with each section being a different pattern and the use of different threads for each one gives the piece a lovely texture and highlights the different areas, even though they are all in shades of white and cream.

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Winter Owl Craftpod

Starting the crafting year with my favourite of all the subscription boxes I’ve tried, it’s Craftpod of course! The Winter box this year is no exception delivering three lovely projects to complete. The theme of the box is owls, with the major project being an appliqué embroidery of an owl soaring through a cold starry sky. The second project is an owl shaped case for a pair of embroidery scissors, and lastly a paper garland to cut out and hang in your home.

Included in the box was:

  • Felt (navy, white, beige, brown)
  • Calico
  • Iron-on interfacing
  • Embroidery thread x6 (white, ginger, pale brown, dark brown, yellow, green)
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Embroidery scissors
  • Needle
  • Card pictures (to cut out for garland)
  • Twine
  • Mini wooden pegs

I started the appliqué embroidery first as it looked like the most complicated and time-consuming piece. I really like the composition of the design and it’s quite different to other pieces I’ve sewn. Although the owl was strengthened with the iron-on interfacing it was definitely the trickiest part of the project as the edges still frayed a lot when the initial border was sewn round to keep it in place. Once this was completed it did get a lot easier to manage, and of course it eventually gives the owl his feathery look. I liked the use of the interfacing on the back of the felt to get an accurate crescent for the moon and also the dusting of tiny stitches around it to give it its glow.

The scissor case was a much quicker project which I did all in one evening. Once the cutting out and sewing the feathery details on the front panel were done then the rest was just construction. The instructions were really easy to follow and I especially like the way the eyes were done. It’s a much safer way to carry my scissors around, rather than just loose in my bag!

The paper garland was a fun little project which took all of ten minutes to cut out the images and peg them to the twine. I felt like this box kept me entertained and occupied for many evenings of enjoyment. As always I’m looking forward to seeing what the spring box brings in a few months!

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Happy New Craft!

I can’t believe another year has whizzed by and we are already in 2022! Of course not all of 2021 was plain sailing because every year has it’s ups and downs, but from a crafting perspective I feel like I’ve achieved so much. Scrolling back through my blog I’m amazed at how many craft projects I completed!

I tried several new crafts that I’ve never tried before such as natural dyeing with turmeric and marigolds, and embroidering on organza, but my top new craft of the year definitely has to be latch hook. I had planned to do an online class with Tea and Crafting, but it was delayed and in the meantime I did a latch hook from the Makerly subscription box. I absolutely loved it straight away and was so excited when the Tea and Crafting online class finally happened. It was so great to craft along with other people, even via Zoom. I made one of the biggest and most creative pieces I’ve ever made, and I’ve been latch hooking ever since.

My favourite individual piece from a kit last year had to be the wild rose and strawberry embroidery from Craftpod. There was something so wonderful about the colours and composition of the piece and it was so therapeutic to sew. Every time I look at it I feel joyful and summery.

Although I didn’t make it to any real-life workshops, I did go to several exhibitions and events throughout the year, which was very exciting following the lockdown of 2020. Starting with the Unravel Festival of Yarn I also attended exhibitions for Sophie Taeuber-Arp, David Hockney, and Paula Rego, as well as the Summer Exhibition at the RA. All of these trips were so inspiring, to see all these artists working in different mediums to achieve amazing work. I particularly liked the inclusion of textiles into the Summer Exhibition, it made me feel like my own work has worth and recognition as a true art form.

The biggest thing for me in 2021 was starting a Textiles diploma at Morley College. I began in September and the first term has been packed with so much learning. From back-to-basics techniques like drawing and the importance of conducting primary research to inform your decisions in your own work, to trying so many different textile techniques like mark making, machine embroidery, hand embroidery, felt-making, backstrap weaving, sublimation printing, screen printing, 3D structures, and shibori clamp dyeing. I’m so looking forward to starting back to school for the upcoming term. We will be focusing on fewer subjects, but more in depth including screen printing, machine knitting, and conceptual headwear. 

I can’t wait to see all the crafts I’ll do and the things I’ll learn in 2022. Wishing you all a fabulous year too!

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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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Tate Britain – Paula Rego

This week I went to the Paula Rego exhibition at Tate Britain. We just managed to catch it before it finished, but I’m glad we did because it was a very thought-provoking show. I remember studying Paula Rego’s work at high school, but I was still a bit too young to understand the content and impact of her work. The main theme throughout the exhibition was the oppression of women, particularly relating back to Rego’s life and experiences living under a dictatorship, the Estado Novo, in Portugal. 

I found the first couple of rooms particularly interesting because they focused on Rego’s early work, which was mainly collage. As we have been experimenting with this technique of image making in the last couple of weeks during my diploma it was great to see it used in the creation of art, not only using found images but also cutting up and re-using images drawn by herself.

Self-portrait in Red (1966)

My favourite room was what I thought of as the main room of the exhibition. A group of large paintings in acrylic that Rego completed in the 1980’s culminating in what is probably her most famous piece ‘The Dance’. The group of paintings all prominently feature women and investigate how their identities are shaped by a patriarchal society.

The Policeman’s Daughter (1987)

Continuing through the exhibition this theme remains in her paintings, whether exploring her own interpretation of fairytales and popular stories, or as a commentary on the way women are perceived in society through the male gaze and her attempts to subvert this view. Much of Rego’s work has political undertones in opposition of regimes and issues that she finds unacceptable.

Angel (1998)

I can’t honestly say that I liked all of the work, but I did think that the exhibition was well put together, both in terms of showcasing the breadth and quantity of work that Rego has completed over the seven decades she has been a working artist (and still continues to be), but also in challenging the status quo and providing much needed material to open up conversations about subjects that can still be considered taboo.

I’m disappointed that I visited the exhibition so late as I would have liked to recommend it, but if you do get the opportunity to see any of Paula Rego’s work it is definitely worth a look.

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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.