craft kit

Ann’s Orchard – Red Macaw Beadwork

This Red Macaw beadwork kit from Ann’s Orchard is the second kit I bought from The Stitch Festival. Although I used to work with beads a lot as a jeweller, I haven’t used them much in my textile work so when I saw this kit I was really excited. There were loads of designs to choose from on the stand, and the website has even more to offer, not just beadwork, but embroidery, cross stitch, and tapestry kits as well as supplies.

Included in the kit was:

• Seed beads
• Beading canvas
• Embroidery thread
• White sewing thread
• Tapestry needle
• Beading needle
• Card and envelope

I picked the macaw because I thought it was a vibrant fun design, but not too big for an introduction to beadwork. The packaging for this kit was very streamlined with the cover for the kit also doubling up as the pattern and colour chart. The instructions were designed to cover all the kits of this type, rather than specifically this macaw kit so there wasn’t a step-by-step guide on how to complete the design. However, the instructions were really clear on how to start, the order to do things in (beads first, then background), how to follow the chart and how to do the stitches, both with and without the beads. The most useful part I found was how to attach the first bead by looping the thread through itself, without having to tie any knots. It kept the back of the canvas really neat and tidy.

I actually wasn’t expecting the aperture card and envelope to be included in the pack. I thought it was just the materials to do the beading and I would need to frame or mount it myself so it was a nice surprise to find it inside. At first I was thinking I would frame it to hang on the wall and the card would have been useful as a mount, but I really liked the idea of giving it as a gift so I made up the card and gave it to my mum.

I thought that beadwork would be quite a slow, laborious process, but once I got started it was easy to get into a rhythm of following the pattern, picking up the beads and sewing them on. I finished the beadwork section in a few hours and it was actually the needlepoint embroidery background that took the longest to complete. Every time I have done beading in my textile work I always enjoy it and want to include it in my work more. I think it gives such a great textural quality to the work.

I’m very tempted to spend some more money on the Ann’s Orchard website in the near future, there’s some great looking kits available!

craft kit

Wild & Green – Sacred Heart Hoop

The first craft kit that I’ve completed from my visit to The Stitch Festival is the Sacred Heart Hoop from Wild & Green. Wild & Green are a monthly craft subscription company, but they also sell each month’s project as a stand-alone kit as well. The monthly cost of the subscription is £24.99. Although a lot of the projects are textile based there are other projects available too.

The Sacred Heart Hoop project is an appliqué embroidery design including some beadwork. Included in the kit was:

• Felt sheets x4 (white, black, red, blue)
• Patterned cotton fabric
• Embroidery hoop
• Needle
• Pins
• Embroidery thread x3 (gold, blue, red)
• Pompom trim
• Gold seed beads
• Red sequins
• String
• Embroidery scissors
• PVA glue
• White gel pen
• Pencil
• Paper templates

The instructions were easy to follow and included clear photographs showing how to lay out the design and what kind of stitches were used. I did feel that some prior knowledge of basic sewing skills were needed to complete this project, although there were some illustrations of the stitches as well. My only other niggle was that the instructions said to use four pins to hold the felt piece in place but only two were provided with the kit, so a basic sewing kit would also be useful for completing this project. However if you are a regular craft kit subscriber like me you do tend to accumulate things like this!

I really liked the use of patterned fabric as the background for the design as it added extra interest. I also liked the combination of appliqué and beading to give the design texture and dimension. Metallic thread can be tricky to handle, but it always gives a nice finish to a piece once you’ve mastered it. The other part I enjoyed was adding the pompom trim to the edge of the embroidery hoop. I never think to decorate the hoop in that way and make it part of the artwork so it was nice to do something a bit different.

The theme of the kit is inspired by Mexican art and the use of the heart within the art work. The bright colours and shapes really celebrate that theme and are joyful to look at. The use of the metallic threads, beads and sequins give the piece a special luxury feel as well.

These projects are worth a look at if you are interested in art inspired craft projects. They offer something a bit different to other kits in the market and the fact you can choose to either subscribe or buy as a one-off is a real bonus to me. I bought two kits from the lovely Rachel at The Stitch Festival and having finished this one already I’m excited to start the next one!

craft kit

Cosy Craft Club – Black Work Mandala Succulents

This black work embroidery kit is another one I purchased as a one-off through Cosy Craft Club (who also do subscriptions), put together by Purple Rose Embroidery. Black work is a counted form of embroidery using Aida fabric and geometric patterns to build up the design, in this case a mandala style succulent. Although traditionally worked in black thread other colours can be used and the term is nowadays used to refer to the technique, rather than the colour of thread.

Included in the kit was:

  • Aida fabric
  • Wooden embroidery hoop
  • Needles x2
  • Black embroidery thread
  • Gold embroidery thread
  • Magnetic needle minder

The project was worked in four stages; the outline, the geometric designs, the gold highlights, and the background. I’ve been keen to try this technique for a while as I’ve seen a lot of examples of it on social media. The results look incredibly intricate, however once you break them down to their component parts the process is actually fairly simple. The ‘cheat sheet’ included in the instructions does a good job of explaining how to start, the basic stitch you will need, and breaking down the patterns into basic shapes. 

There are three designs included in the instructions for a small, medium and large design. I decided to do the large one as the embroidery hoop was big enough and I like to give myself a challenge! Although the design looks great in just black I really liked the addition of the gold highlights and background design. They really bring the piece to life and add a touch of luxury.

The only negatives in this kit for me were a lack of instructions on how to finish a hoop. I already know how to do this, but this kit would be achievable for a less experienced embroiderer so it would be helpful to have some details about finishing the hoop at the back, especially given the amount of work put into the design. The other thing that would have been helpful is a photograph of the finished design. The template obviously showed all the stitches, but sometimes its good to have a photo for reference too. 

This is not a quick craft. Finishing this hoop took me a long time. I would recommend good lighting, good eyesight and a lot of patience for this type of embroidery. The geometric designs are made up of very small stitches and worked in a single strand of thread. Although it took a long time to complete I did really enjoy doing it and I’m really proud of the finished piece as I put so much hard work into it.   

subscription box

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.

subscription box

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!

subscription box

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.

craft kit

Stitch Club – Badger Shelfie

Earlier this year Stitch Club released their new Shelfie animals as PDF patterns and I’ve been waiting patiently ever since for the full kits to be released, mainly because I’m lazy and don’t want to source my own materials! Well, now they are here and I ordered one straight away! They are cleverly designed to sit independently on the edge of a shelf, table, or any other flat surface, hence the name.

Included in the box was:

  • Felt sheets x3 (grey marl, black, white)
  • Stuffing
  • Embroidery threads x3 (grey, black, white)
  • Needle
  • Pins
  • Freezer paper templates

There was a choice of four animals: badger, fox, hare, or llama. I was torn between the badger and the llama because they looked like they had the most embellishments to sew but in the end I decided on the badger; I am a Hufflepuff after all!

I’ve never used freezer paper to cut out patterns before. It irons on to the fabric rather than being pinned on like standard paper pattern pieces and can be used more than once. I found that when it worked it was great, but when it didn’t quite stick properly it was a bit annoying especially when half way through cutting something out. I definitely think it was better for the smaller pieces though, which can be tricky to cut out using paper and pins.

The best part of the project was creating the front of the badger by building up the layers of felt to create the head and tummy and stitching on the features like the paws and nose. The patterns pieces fit together really well and sewing the front and the back together was really easy. I chose to use blanket stitch, but there was the option to use whip stitch or running stitch instead, all of which were explained in the ‘Learn to Sew with Felt’ booklet along with lots of other useful information about cutting felt, using freezer paper, and using embroidery thread.

The part that took the longest was the stuffing because it’s really important to ensure that all the small parts like the nose and ear are properly filled. To achieve this you need to feed in very small amounts of stuffing at a time, pushing them all the way in with the help of something like a pencil. When I first started the stuffing process I thought there was no way I would use all of the stuffing provided, but I used every last scrap in the end!

The kit cost £19.50, which I think is very reasonable for the amount and quality of materials, plus the great design of the product. I was expecting to pay anywhere between £25-£35 for this kit when I saw it had been released and I think it would be worth that. I’m very pleased with my badger sitting up on the shelf, but now I’m thinking that I might need his other animal friends too…

craft kit · subscription box

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!

craft kit

Paraffle Needle Painting

I recently started following Paraffle Embroidery on Instagram when they showed up under one of the craft hashtags I follow because I really liked the stylistic design of their animal embroideries, especially the sloth! When I saw that they had released a needle painting kit in such a cute size and design I had to get it. There were two colours ways for this orange slice design, navy blue or pink; I chose the navy as I thought the stitched orange looked more striking against the darker colour.

The kit cost £17.50 and included:

  • 3 inch embroidery hoop
  • Needle
  • Embroidery thread x4 (yellow, orange, white, brown)
  • Navy blue fabric
  • White carbon paper
  • Paper template

I really like carbon paper for transferring designs onto fabric as you can usually get a lot of detail and any lines that you don’t stitch over will eventually fade away or be rubbed off as you work so there’s no need to wash them away as you have to do with a fabric pen.

I have done needle painting before, but I’m always keen to practice my technique as it can be a tricky one to get right, especially blending colours like in this project. I’m also always interested to see how other people do it in case I can pick up any tips to improve my own work. The instruction booklet included with this kit was great. It broke down the steps into sections with detailed text explaining which stitches to use, the placement for them, and how your work should look when you’ve finished that step, along with clear photographs. It was especially good at explaining how to achieve the blending technique that gives the painted effect. There was also a useful section at the back for basic sewing skills like starting and tying off and how to do the stitches.

This little kit was perfect for doing in the evenings in front of the TV. It’s small size meant that it wasn’t heavy to hold up and whilst it still required concentration, the repetitive nature of each orange segment meant that you didn’t need to keep referring to the instructions and could get into a rhythm of sewing. It would make a great gift for someone who was fairly new to sewing and wanted to improve their skills.

craft kit

Keep Going Embroidery

I think the inspirational message to ‘Keep Going’ on this paint-by-numbers style embroidery was very relevant as this was quite a labour intensive project all completed in the same stitch! This embroidery kit is one of many positive, uplifting kits available from Hello! Hooray! I’ve been wanting to try out some negative space embroidery for a while and this was a really nice project to work on in front of the TV every evening.

Included in the kit was: 

  • Printed fabric
  • Embroidery threads
  • Length of white cotton thread
  • Embroidery hoops x2

I actually bought it a while ago but didn’t get around to starting it and then when I came to do it I realised that the instructions were sent digitally and the link had timed out because I left it for too long. I contacted Clare, the lovely lady behind the brand, via Instagram and asked very sheepishly if she wouldn’t mind sending it to me again. I thought I might not get a quick reply as it was the summer holidays, but she responded to me the same day and sent the link again as soon as I confirmed my email address, which I was very grateful for. Such a fantastic example of excellent customer service from a small independent business that you would never get from a big company; another excellent reason to shop small!

I thought the numbering system on the pattern and the thread holders worked really well, with each group of three diamonds being made up of a light, medium, and dark shade of the same colour. It was really easy to follow and I did all the diamonds of one colour before moving onto the next colour. Satin stitch was used in a really effective way to create the 3D effect of the pattern.

The project was worked in a larger hoop before being transferred to the smaller blue hoop to finish it off. I thought this was great as it meant you didn’t have to keep moving the fabric around in the hoop to complete the whole design (although some of the outer most diamonds were a bit over the edge of the hoop and required a bit of fabric wriggling to complete), plus you got a spare hoop for another project once it was finished! Putting the finished piece into a slightly smaller hoop meant that the design ran all the way off the edge of the final presentation, which gave a really polished look to the whole thing. 

The white cotton thread was used for running stitch around the edge of the fabric to pull it in and finish it off at the back, as is fairly standard for embroidery hoops. You could stitch or glue another piece of fabric to hide the back of your stitches if you wanted as well. 

I really enjoyed this kit, it was nice to see the pattern start to emerge as I completed each diamond and I like the effect of the bright colours against the negative space of the words. I think I will have to create my own negative space design now. I also like to have a project that I can pick up and put down as needed and this one was especially good for that as each diamond was quite small so you could do as much or as little as you wanted in one sitting.