workshop

Biscuit Decorating

I didn’t have anything particularly creative planned for this week, besides my usual hobbies, but earlier in the week as I browsed Instagram, Tea and Crafting (https://www.teaandcrafting.co.uk/) were promoting spaces on their biscuit decorating class on Sunday morning and on the spur of the moment I thought ‘why not’ and booked it there and then!

The class was run by a lovely lady called Bhavi who introduced herself as a henna artist who had branched out not only to food but also applying her designs to gifts, home ware and wedding favours (https://www.bhavismehndi.co.uk/). For biscuit decorating she used henna piping bags fill with icing to create intricate patterns. We started the class working our way through several worksheets she had designed to get us used to using the piping bag and controlling the pressure to create thick and thin lines, dots and other various shapes. We practiced several designs such as flowers and mandalas using a piping bag filled with acrylic paint before moving on to icing our biscuits.

Bhavi allowed us free reign to choose whichever designs we liked but kept a frequent eye on us, giving us advice on using the piping bags and tips on how to get the best out of them. We had six biscuits each which had already been covered in a layer of plain icing and three bags filled with different coloured icing; blue, pink and yellow.

The class was two and a half hours and cost £55. There were only three of us in the class, which in some ways was good because it meant we were sure to receive individual attention, but in other ways was a shame as I think that kind of class would have been better with a larger number of people. I can see why the free spaces were being promoted on social media, but I suppose Sunday morning is a bit of a strange time for a craft class; most people want a lie in at the weekend!

Despite this I had a nice time. It was a very peaceful class and it was nice to spend the morning doing something so calm and quite therapeutic. It was also quite amusing to see how terrible my skills were during the practice phase, however I definitely improved during the course of the morning and was amazed by how intricate you can be with such a small piping bag and nozzle. My family certainly admired my designs before demolishing all the biscuits!

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Terrarium + Cocktail

This week I had so much fun when I went to a terrarium making class at Mr Fogg’s House of Botanicals in Fitzrovia, London (https://www.mr-foggs.com/house-of-botanicals/). The class was hosted by Darren and Adam from the Botanical Boys (https://botanicalboys.com/). I was a bit early so I got an opportunity to talk to them before the class started. You could tell that they are both really passionate about plants and caring for them. Darren is one of the founders of the company and one of his main aims in doing so is to bring people back to nature and encourage them to protect the environment. Adam is an extremely creative person who likes to dabble in craft just like me, but when he realised that he had a passion for plants he got in touch with a Botanical Boys and eventually went to work for them.

We started the class off with Darren giving us a talk about the best way to care for indoor plants and some handy hints and tips about why our plants might not be looking their best or responding how we thought they should our ministrations. He said he hoped by the end of the class we would all feel like we could throw off the self-proclaimed ‘plant killer’ title!

After this we began to build our terrariums. Adam took us through how to add each layer to ensure proper drainage and encourage the jar to be self-sustaining, although it does still need watering occasionally. Luckily there is a helpful care guide on their website for clueless people like me! Once we had added all our drainage layers in and then the soil we could choose our plants. Adam showed us how to remove them from their pots and carefully release the roots so the plants were separated and then how to plant them inside our jars. Even though the class was quite large he still managed to give each of us individual attention and made sure we were planting correctly. Once we had finished that we then added some small rocks.

Darren then gave us some instructions on how to care for our new terrariums as well as directing us to the website. Then it was up to us to get our terrariums home upright and in one piece!

I booked the workshop through Obby (https://obby.co.uk/). It cost £45 and included all the materials plus a cocktail! There were twelve people in the class and it took place in one of the private dining rooms inside the bar. The only negatives I found were based on the venue. The space was a little tight for so many people and because it was in the evening the noise level from the bar was really high and sometimes I found I really had to concentrate to make sure I heard what Adam and Darren were saying.

The Botanical Boys have several locations where they sell their terrariums and host workshops including London, Birmingham and Norwich, but they were really excited to be opening a new store in King’s Cross. It opened last week, the day after the workshop, and I wish them the best of luck with it and hope I can get up there to visit soon.

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Candle Making at the London Craft Club

This week I went to the London Craft Club (https://londoncraftclub.co.uk/) in Bedford Square to join in with a candle making workshop. As you know I have tasked myself with trying out as many crafts as possible in my pursuit of a creative life. I really wasn’t sure I would enjoy candle making that much as I’m not particularly a candle person, but honestly, I had the best time!

There was nine people in the class and when we arrived we were offered a drink and took a seat around the table where our own candle making kit was laid out on a tray. The workshop was run by Alice from Scott’s Apothecary (https://www.scottsapothecary.com/). Alice is a chef and nutritional practitioner but has been interested in essential oils and their therapeutic benefits for years. She took us through the various oils, explaining about the top, middle and base notes that make up a well rounded scent and we passed lots of different oils around to smell and work out which ones we liked and which we didn’t. It was fascinating to see the range of personal preferences around the table. One person could love a smell and the next person could absolutely loath it. It meant that in the end all our candles smelt so different. I was surprised to find that although I thought I would hate the floral smells as I tend to stay away from them in perfumes and food or drink I actually quite liked them concentrated as an oil.

After we had smelt all the oils and Alice had talked to us about their properties we were free to mix some together to find a scent for our candle. Alice went around the room talking to each of us and advising us on the most complimentary combinations and the amounts we should use. I decided I wanted to create a citrus candle as that is my favourite scent. I used mandarin, grapefruit, bergamot and lemongrass. I only had a really small amount of the lemongrass in the end. Once we had mixed our oils together we poured them into our melted wax and mixed them thoroughly before pouring them into the jar. Alice had already attached the wick to the bottom of the jar so we just had to keep it central with a wooden stick and leave them to set.

Whilst they were setting we moved on to making a perfume. We could either make a perfume to wear or a therapeutic oil. I decided to make one to assist with headaches made up of peppermint, lavender and clary sage. I haven’t had a chance to test it yet but I’ll be interested to see if it works! For this we only required a small amount of the essential oils and then topped it off with almond oil.

I found learning about all the different oils and their properties really interesting as I’ve never really looked into them before. One of the things that made it so enjoyable though was the other people. Apart from two of them all the others were also there by themselves, which meant that everyone was more inclined to talk to each other and there was a lot of chat and laughter around the table. It was lovely to be crafty with a room full of like-minded people and it just goes to show that you can go along to things by yourself and still have a great time!

I will definitely be heading back to the London Craft Club for another class. They offer a great range of workshops covering a variety of different crafts and they are so welcoming. Now all I need to do is find time to burn my new candle…

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Make a Hand Embroidered Map of London

Last week I attended a workshop at Cockpit Arts (http://www.cockpitarts.com) called Make a Hand Embroidered Map of London. The class was hosted by textile artist Ekta Kaul (http://www.ektakaul.com). Ekta was a fantastic teacher. She was very knowledgeable about her subject and had many years experience working in her field. She was clearly very passionate about her subject area and shared lots of her experiences and previous work with us.

We started the class by completing a sampler of various stitches including running stitch, back stitch, stem stitch, french knots, couching and satin stitch. Ekta gave very clear instructions on how to do each stitch and demonstrated them slowly enough for us to be able to follow along. I was unfamiliar with a couple of these and it was good to have a refresher on the others. It was also good to have a practice and get into the rhythm of it before starting on the proper piece.

The map of London that we had to embroider was hand drawn by Ekta and printed onto fabric. The idea was to use the stitches you had just practiced to highlight areas of the map, such as parks, the river and the various landmarks such as St Paul’s cathedral, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. There was a large selection of coloured thread to choose from, however I only got to choose one as we spent such a long time on the sampler that in the end we only had about 45 minutes to work on the main project. Embroidery is quite a slow process which requires precision and patience. I started with the parks but I only managed to complete one and a half before it was time to pack up. It would have been nice if the class had been a bit longer, or less time was spent on the sampler, as it was a very relaxing way to spend an afternoon and I think I would have felt a greater sense of achievement if I had completed more of the map.

It would also have been nice to have been able to take the embroidery hoop home. The hoop stretches out the bit of fabric you are working on, keeping to taut to make it easier to sew. I’ve continued working on my map, but I had to go and buy myself a hoop. They don’t cost very much, mine was £3.90 from my local haberdashery. I have seen them cheaper on Amazon (although they would probably end up being a similar price by the time you add postage), but I think it would have been a nice touch to send students home with the equipment they need to carry on.

Having said that, it was good to have a project to take home and continue working on. Often during craft workshops you finish the piece and then don’t practice the skill you learnt again. I spent all my spare time this week working on my map as I wanted to get it finished, however I think if you were short on time but wanted to carry on with embroidery each section of the map would make a nice mini project to work on if you had a spare hour or two on a Sunday or in the evening watching TV. Ekta suggested that once it’s finished it could either be framed to hang on the wall or made into a cushion.

Cockpit Arts Holborn was really easy to get to. It’s really close to both Holborn and Chancery Lane tube stations. I got the train into Farringdon and walked from there which took about 15 minutes. I booked the class through Obby (http://www.obby.co.uk). They have hundreds of classes available on there, not just for craft but for all kinds of things. I thought the booking system was really easy to use and they provided good information about the class and also sent a reminder email as well. The class cost £69 and lasted two hours.