workshop

French Pear Embroidered Brooch

Last week I went to another workshop to make another brooch! This time it was at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London where the Royal School of Needlework are celebrating their 150 year anniversary with an exhibition. One of the tutors from RSN, Kate Pankhurst is running workshops inspired by the collection. This French pear brooch is inspired by traditional 19th century Berlin wool work that is on display in the exhibition.

I wanted to do this workshop because I want to use this technique in my final major project for my diploma and wanted to learn how to do it properly because I have seen some wonderful examples of it being used in other people’s work. The RSN has a reputation for excellence and high standards so I knew I would be learning the industry standard way to use this raised embroidery technique. For the workshop we were provided with printed fabric, needle and thread, wire, and a brooch pin.

The thread we used was variegated so the colour changed from light to dark throughout the skein. This worked so well for creating the colouring and shape of the pear and leaf, without needing several skeins of different colours. And, if applied correctly, you could achieve a really natural shading effect. I am usually quite methodical when working, but the nature of the variegated thread meant that you had to jump around the design to get the colours in the right places, which was a bit strange to me at first, but the more I did the easier it got.

Although the course lasted all day, there just wasn’t enough time to finish the brooch in one sitting. After sewing on the wire in the shape of the leaf and pear we spent all day using the brown thread to fill in the pear shape with French knots and even then I didn’t finish that, although some people did. As this was the case Kate demonstrated the next steps during the day, but also had created videos showing how to complete the brooch which she sent to us after the workshop.

After finishing the French knots, you then had to buttonhole around the edge before cutting the shapes out and joining them together by wrapping the wire with thread to create a stalk, and then finally sewing the pin to the back. Although this was a very labour intensive process I think the result is beautiful and I love the 3D effect you can create.

If you follow me on Instagram you will see that I have already put this technique to good use creating a flower for my final major project at college. It took me a really long time and I’m aiming to make 5-6 in total, alongside other components, so I’m really glad I attended this workshop to learn the correct way to achieve this result. The workshop cost £140 which also included entrance to the exhibition. It is running again on 1st July and there are loads of other events running in celebration of the 150th anniversary, not only at the Fashion and Textile museum, but also at Hampton Court Palace where RSN is based, and online.

workshop

Tea and Crafting – Beaded Ice Cream Brooch

Last week I went to an ‘in real life’ workshop at the wonderful Tea and Crafting. It was so great to be back in a class with other people who are as excited as me about crafting! The workshop was an evening session running from 7pm-9pm and we were making a beaded ice cream brooch. I’ve been eyeing this workshop up for a while now as I’ve recently got into using beads again and it seemed like a good way to get some good professional tips on how to apply beads to a textile piece.

When we arrived there was a place set out for each attendee including all the things we would need to complete the brooch. A piece of felt with the ice cream design drawn on was already fitted into the embroidery hoop. There were three needles, two different sized embroidery needles and a beading needle, alongside bugle beads, sequins, backing felt, cardboard, and a brooch back. We could then choose our own seed beads, embroidery thread, berry bead, and ice cream topper sequins from a selection on the table.

The tutor Daria was really great at explaining each of the techniques and the correct needles to use for the beads and thread. In order to cover all the techniques throughout the evening she showed us each one and then let us have a short go before moving on to the next one. This meant that we didn’t finish the brooch during the workshop, but we had the skills to finish it at home. We covered bugle beads, seed beads, sequins, french knots, and satin stitch.

At the end of the session Daria also demonstrated how to finish the back of the brooch using cardboard to stabilise it, adding the pin so it is hidden, and then applying the backing felt to the embroidered front using glue and a blanket stitch to give it a neat finished edge.

Even though I knew a few of these techniques already I definitely learnt some new tips and tricks and I really enjoyed myself chatting to the other attendees and being out and about. Although Zoom is great you really can’t beat learning and meeting other people in real life. I’m already checking the calendar of events on the Tea and Crafting website for another class!

subscription box

Spring 2022 Craftpod

The long awaited Spring Craftpod is here! Even though the subscription is quarterly with one box per season, the wait between the Winter and Spring boxes always seems the longest, although that may just have something to do with the weather! As usual there were two lovely seasonal projects to complete; the Sweet Violet glasses case, and the Little Lamb soft sculpture.

Included in the kit was:

• Embroidery thread x6 (dark green, light green, dark purple, light purple, black, white)
• Black linen
• Interfacing
• Calico
• Wadding
• Transfer paper
• White felt
• Pink felt
• White wool fleece
• Pipe cleaners x2
• Black elastic
• Wooden button
• Needle
• Pins
• Paper template
• Herb garden notebook and postcard
• Teabag

Although the Little Lamb soft sculpture looked difficult as it was so small I would say that the glasses case project was the more complex of the two as you had to ensure all the layers were in the right order when sewing them together. There were two design options that you could choose from to embroider onto the case, but as I like to give everything a go I decided to do both designs, one on each side of the case. The instructions included in the box were for the sweet violet design, which was probably the more complicated of the two. The instructions for the herb garden design were available on the Craftpod blog which was easy to find via the website. The designs were transferred from the paper template to the black linen fabric using the white transfer paper which worked well, but you did have to be careful not to handle it too much otherwise it would fade and eventually rub off.

The Little Lamb sculpture was quite fiddly as the pieces were so small, requiring delicate stitching. The actual piecing together of the body parts was straightforward though, especially if you took your time at the cutting stage. I found this quite a quick project to complete and I liked the use of the pipe cleaners to fill the legs and give structure and support to the sculpture to enable it to stand freely.

I’m definitely in the mood for Spring now I’ve completed these projects and I’m even ready to head into Summer with my new sunglasses case!

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

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! 

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!

Uncategorized

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!