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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.

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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…

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Craftpod – Wild Rose and Strawberry Embroidery

I’ve been enjoying the summer Craftpod this week with two lovely projects to complete; the wild rose and strawberry embroidery, and the Liberty fabric bookmark.

Included in the box was:

  • Embroidery hoop
  • Printed fabric
  • Liberty fabric
  • Interfacing
  • Embroidery thread x7 
  • Card bookmark template
  • Notebook
  • Postcard
  • Teabag

One of my favourite things about Craftpod is that the projects always seem to have a very tranquil vibe and the wild rose and strawberry embroidery definitely made me think of lying in a sunny meadow, picking and eating wild strawberries straight from the bushes…or maybe that’s just wishful thinking as we’ve been having such dreadful weather so far this summer! Either way, this was a really relaxing embroidery to complete, especially the larger wild roses as you could really get into a rhythm with the stitches. The majority of the piece was completed in statin stitch, but I liked the use of the French knots for the centres of the flowers to give a different texture and the long and short stitch for the strawberries gave them a nice raised effect.

Whilst the embroidery was a slow, mindful project, I found the Liberty fabric bookmark a nice quick make to fit into a Sunday afternoon. I think the whole project only took me about an hour to an hour and a half to finish. The interfacing was ironed on to the back of the fabric and then the shapes for the bookmark cut out using the card template. The two sides were sewn together with blanket stitch and then a hole was cut and blanket stitched ready for the tassel.

I found the instructions for making the tassel really clear, although I wish I’d used a slightly longer piece of thread for tying up the top of the tassel than the instructions recommended. I also found that the suggested metre of thread didn’t give enough body to my tassel so I added a second metre, but to be honest I could have used more. Now I need to give my Kindle a rest and find a real book to read so I can use my new bookmark!

I was actually a bit sad when all the projects in this box were over because I was enjoying them so much. Autumn feels a long way off still before the next Craftpod arrives, but I definitely don’t want to wish the summer away and I hope we get some sunshine to enjoy before that!

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MakeBox – Alice in Wonderland Cross Stitch

I’ve been spending a lot of time over the last few weeks completing the Alice in Wonderland cross stitch from MakeBox. Alice is a universally loved story and there are so many themes and elements to relate to. The release of this box coincides nicely with the ‘Curiouser and Curiouser’ exhibition currently running at the V&A museum in London. I haven’t been yet, but it looks fantastic and is open until the end of the year, so I will definitely be booking tickets. The cross stitch design brings together lots of the elements that make up the story including the white rabbit, the Queen of Hearts’ crown, roses, a flamingo and the Mad Hatter’s hat. The only thing missing for me is the Cheshire Cat!

Included in the box was:

  • Navy blue Aida
  • Navy blue felt
  • Embroidery thread x7 (green, red, pink, yellow, blue, and white x2)
  • Needle
  • Rectangular wooden effect embroidery hoop
  • Blue velvet ribbon
  • Stitch chart

I thought the section at the beginning of the instruction book with techniques about the Aida fabric, using a cross stitch chart and how to do the stitches was very informative and would be especially useful for beginners to this embroidery style. The section about putting the Aida into the frame made it sound quite easy but because of the stiffness of the fabric and the unusual shape of the frame I thought it was rather like wrestling an octopus! I found it very difficult to get the fabric to bend into the frame and even harder to make sure the squares were lined up horizontally and vertically. Mine was at a bit of a slant to begin with but I managed to shuffle it round without popping it out of the frame. 

The instructions also said to cut off the excess fabric leaving a one inch border. I decided not to trim mine as I know this kind of fabric can fray a bit. I’m glad I didn’t in the end as I found that the design was actually too big for the frame. It went right up to the edges of the outer frame, which meant that the inner frame at the back didn’t allow access to that area of fabric to stitch on. I decided to take my embroidery out of frame and I actually found it a lot easier to work on after that. I also found it easier to get back into the frame straight once the cross stitch was complete.

I also deviated from the instructions whilst stitching the design. I started with Alice using the centre point marked on the chart. Once Alice was finished the instructions said to count up from her head to do the crown, but I’m always a bit unsure of myself when counting on blank canvas so I decided to go down to the toadstool which was attached to her feet and then work my way around the design in a clockwise direction using the rose stem to join each section so I was never stitching in no man’s land. I also tried adding the hand stitched ‘10/6’ to the Mad Hatter’s hat, but I couldn’t get it neat enough so I left it off.

When I was finished I compared my one to the picture in the instructions and noticed that the design didn’t seem to go quite so close to the edge in the picture and it looks as though a couple of the elements had had a design change, most notably the brim of the hat and the flamingo’s head. I’m not sure it makes a difference to the overall design, but just like Alice I’m curious as to why the changes were made! 

Finally the felt was cut to size and sewn to the back. Once again I went off piste with this! I decided to use blanket stitch rather than running stitch to attach the felt to the back as I think it looks a bit neater, but again it doesn’t really make a difference what stitch you use as it is on the back.

Also included in the box was a recipe for Queen of Hearts jam tarts by the ‘Great British Bake Off’ contestant Alice Fevronia. They were super simple and quick to make, and tasted delicious! The pastry was lovely and of course they wouldn’t be the Queen’s without the heart shape on the top!

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Inner Canvas – Abstractus

As you probably know I am currently subscribed to quite a few monthly craft boxes and have been considering cancelling some and swapping them for others to make sure I’m trying out a variety of things and not just getting stuck in a rut. It’s hard to cancel any of them though as I’m always excited to see what will come next and I do feel as though I’m sampling a good range of crafts. However, on the hunt for new craft subscription boxes I came across Inner Canvas. I had a look at the website and scrolled through the past boxes to see what kinds of things were included. Most of the crafts I had tried before, but the designs looked unique and the kits looked well curated. The thing that made me do a happy dance was that you could buy past kits on a one off basis! I love it when subscription box services do this as it means you can dip in and out of the kits without committing to a full subscription, which comes with the danger of receiving crafts you aren’t that interested in. I have several boxes stacked up down in my studio that I haven’t got around to making because I’m just not that excited about the contents.

I was attracted to Inner Canvas via Instagram where Nadia, the lady who runs the show, was posting about their latest box, an embroidery entitled ‘Abstractus’. The design is inspired by geodes and features embellishments of Czech glass beads and Aventurine beads – a semi-precious gemstone.  

Included in the kit was:

  • Embroidery hoop
  • Aventurine gemstones
  • Czech glass beads
  • Calico fabric
  • Embroidery thread
  • Embroidery needle
  • Beading needle
  • Carbon paper
  • Paper template
  • Metal keyring blank
  • Metal hook (for hanging embroidery)
  • Care package (tealights and a tea bag)

Also included was a ‘Therapist Approved’ journal that included some self-reflective exercises to help reduce anxiety and improve the mindfulness associated with crafting and creativity. I haven’t had a chance to complete any of the exercises yet (to be honest I find crafting mindful enough), but they do look good and a journal is included with every kit.

The instructions that came with the kit were quite basic, just a paper template for transferring the design over to the fabric using the carbon paper and a photograph of the finished piece with a key to show which stitch and colour embroidery thread, or beads should go in which section. The photograph was really clear and easy to use. More detailed instructions were provided via a video link sent in an email. I was really impressed with the video, the steps were demonstrated well and the voiceover was well-paced and easy to understand. Although I already know how to do the two stitches I thought the step-by-step instructions showed how to do them both clearly, especially the two options for getting the satin stitch to go round a curve, which is sometimes tricky for beginners to get to grips with. 

There was a second instructional video for the bonus keyring project that was just as well created as the main video. The keyring was made first so you could ensure you would have enough fabric for both projects and it was nice to have a practice go at the satin stitch and attaching the beads before moving onto the main one.

I thought the design of the embroidery was really unique and I liked how you could really feel where the inspiration came from. I was also impressed at how what is a fairly simple design using only two stitches and the addition of the beads can have such an impact as a finished piece. It just goes to show that less definitely can be more!

I thoroughly enjoyed this craft kit and am keen to see what projects Inner Canvas bring out in the future. I will definitely be keeping an eye on their Instagram feed and will be ordering any kits that look exciting. I have already ordered another of their past kits, the Abstract Air Dry Clay Ceramic kit. I’m hoping to get the chance to have a play around with that one very soon as it’s been a while since I did any clay work and I’m hoping that I will enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed this one.

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Wild Floss Embroidery

I’m always on the look out for new craft kits to try and I actually saw this Wild Floss embroidery kit advertised on Facebook. I took a look at their Instagram account and Etsy shop and thought that the kits looked really different to the usual embroidery kits that I’ve seen.

The kit includes:

  • 6” wooden embroidery hoop
  • Fabric
  • Needle
  • Needle threader
  • Variety of yarns
  • Water soluble fabric

I actually didn’t realise that there was a sheet of water soluble fabric at first because it was all wrapped up inside the embroidery fabric. In the end I didn’t use it as it felt a bit plasticky and I thought it would annoy me as I stitched through it. I stuck to the age old technique of tracing the design onto the fabric by holding it up to a window to help the design show through. I don’t have a water soluble pen as the instructions suggested using so I used a pencil. The pencil didn’t show up that well on the fabric so after I made the first tracing I went over it back at the table where I could press more heavily with my pencil and used the paper template as a guide to fill in the blanks myself.

There were instructions for four types of stitches; running stitch, straight/satin stitch, seed stitch, and French knots. I thought the diagrams and descriptions for each stitch were well written and easy to follow. However, I wasn’t really sure why the seed stitch instructions were there as it wasn’t used at all in the design and to create the same effect as the example photo I actually used back stitch rather than running stitch for some of the sections. I did really like the technique for finishing the hoop off at the back. I have never seen it done like this before. The messy back was hidden by layering another piece of fabric behind the main fabric before securing them both in the hoop and then glueing it all in place at the back. It gives it a very tidy, finished look.

Although there were lots of different types of yarn included in the kit, I did feel as though I had to be a bit careful which ones I used for various sections as there were only a couple of strands of each type included and I didn’t want to run out halfway through a section. That did actually happen in one of the French knot sections, but it doesn’t really matter because nobody would know once it is finished. I think that is the beauty of a kit like this. Although there is a design and a pattern, you don’t necessarily need to follow that pattern if you don’t want to. It allows for creativity and freedom to make something completely unique. 

I was attracted to this kit because of the different textures and types of yarn used to complete the design. I really like tactile art pieces, particularly textiles, that make the viewer want to touch them. With this piece I also really like how the thicker yarns give the design differing heights as well. My favourite part is the section that looks a bit like cauliflower! 

I don’t think I would recommend this kit to a beginner sewer, but I would definitely recommend it to a more experienced embroiderer who was looking to expand their creativity and try out familiar stitches with new materials. I’m very pleased with my finished piece, it makes me think of a coral reef where lots of strange sea creatures are lurking!

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Craftpod – Mimosa Embroidery

Another lovely kit from Craftpod for Spring, this time inspired by the Mimosa tree with it’s fluffy yellow flowers. There were two projects in the kit; an embroidered needle book, and a greenfinch cross stitch.

Included in the box was:

  • Pre-printed fabric
  • Felt (green and cream)
  • Cross stitch canvas
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Embroidery thread x6 (dark green, light green, yellow, grey green, pink, and black)
  • Pins
  • Needles
  • Button
  • Cardboard bobbins
  • Stickers
  • Tea bag

I started off with the needle book as I have never made one before. I thought it looked quite complicated but it was actually surprisingly easy to make! Starting off with the pre-printed fabric in the hoop I followed the design using mainly one strand of thread for back stitch and split stitch for the stems and leaves and French knots to create the little flowers. Once the embroidery was finished I cut around the border to create a little rectangular patch. I then cut the rest of the white fabric away from the green and trimmed the cream felt to size so I had all the pieces ready to start construction.

Stitching the embroidered patch onto the green rectangle I was a bit worried that the fabric would fray too much, but as I sewed around it I felt like the stitches would keep it in place and the raw edges give it quite a nice rustic feel. Adding the button finished off the front of the book nicely.

To keep the book shut you had to finger knit a crochet chain. I couldn’t quite remember how to do this from my previous crocheting attempts so I used the video tutorial on the Craftpod YouTube channel to remind myself. The video was really demonstrative and I picked it up straight away. The only thing I found was that they didn’t show how to cast off to keep your chain secure, but it wasn’t too hard to figure out! This chain was sewn to the back of the book, allowing enough give to go around the button once the book was shut with all the felt layers inside.

After sewing the green felt to the cream with some back stitch down the middle to create the ‘pages’ of the needle book, the cream felt was then attached to the completed cover using blanket stitch. As the edges of the green fabric had also been left raw this added to the rustic aesthetic of the book.

The second project was the cross stitch of the greenfinch sitting on a Mimosa branch. I love all the colours in this embroidery, it’s so bright and Spring-like. I thought it was going to take me a really long time as cross stitches usually do, but it was actually quite quick. The design is fairly small and the stitch chart was very easy to follow. I also liked the use of a French knot for the eye, rather than just another cross stitch, it seems to bring the design to life.

Another very enjoyable box from Craftpod. I liked that neither of the projects were too time consuming, and they were both things that could be put down and picked up at leisure, there was no need to dedicate hours to them all in one go. I particularly liked the needle book, although it’s not really my usual style it will actually be really useful and I will definitely be filling it up and putting it in my sewing box.