craft kit

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.

craft kit

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.

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Craftiosity – Embroidered Moon Tea Towel

Back to embroidery for me this week with the moon tea towel from Craftiosity. I really like the idea behind the design of this embroidery of the waxing moon representing a period of building energy and achieving goals. Nice to have a reminder of this in the kitchen whilst I’m doing the washing up!

Included in the kit was:

  • Embroidery hoop
  • Cotton tea towel
  • Embroidery thread x4 (dark grey, mid blue, light blue, dusky pink)
  • Needle
  • Paper template
  • Inspirational postcards

The template was used to trace the design lightly onto the tea towel using a pencil and a dotted line rather than a solid line for the clouds as they wouldn’t be filled in completely. The instructions said to only trace the clouds first and then put the outline of the moon and foliage in later, but I doubted my ability to line up the pattern again so I just traced it all at once!

I really liked the use of the different stitches and coloured thread to fill the clouds. It was quite repetitive doing the seed stitch, cross stitch and French knots, but in a mindful and meditative way. I tied off the thread after doing each little grey star as I didn’t want to waste the thread and I didn’t want the stitches on the back to show through to the front. 

The moon was stitched in satin stitch using all six strands of the thread and the leaves were meant to be the same, but I felt as though I didn’t have enough left to complete them so I changed to only using three strands for the leaves. As the area of the leaves was a lot smaller than the moon it didn’t really make a difference to the overall look. 

I’m looking forward to using this and having it hanging in my kitchen, inspiring me to grow and work towards me goals!

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MakeBox – Bee Bold

A nice familiar craft to start the year from MakeBox (https://www.makebox.co/). This Bee Bold embroidery kit featured their signature bee emblem and a second hoop with a botanical rainbow, which feels like a hopeful and positive way to kick off January.

Included in the box was:

  • 7 inch embroidery hoop
  • 6 inch embroidery hoop
  • Embroidery thread x5 (pink, black, yellow, green, blue)
  • Linen
  • Felt
  • Needle
  • Pins
  • Velvet ribbon
  • Carbon paper
  • Paper pattern
  • Bee Bold postcard

After cutting the linen in half to fit both the hoops, the paper patterns were transferred onto the fabric using carbon paper. I started with the smaller design of the bee, mainly because that’s what was first in the instruction book! I liked the ‘sketching’ style of the black back stitch around the wings and legs, leaving the focus for the floral design inside the shape of the body. The 3D effect roses were a big part of both designs too giving a nice textural feeling along with the use of French knots.

I particularly liked the use of chain stitch to create the rainbow. I thought it was a really clever way to fill in the stripes using a fairly under used stitch, without resorting to satin stitch which, whilst I love it, can become a bit arduous over large areas. Again, by placing each row of chain stitch so closely together it gives the piece a nice textural quality. 

The hoops were backed with felt stitched on around the edge of the linen which had been tucked in the back. Although I think it is nice to cover the back of a piece so that the messy side is hidden it’s not really my preferred way of backing. I actually prefer to glue the felt on as I feel like this achieves a neater finish over all. 

There were the usual problems with the instruction booklet with some photographs obviously in the wrong place as they did not match up with the numbered instruction, and the colours on the colour chart for the rainbow did not match the photograph of the finished piece. Of course this doesn’t actually matter because you can do the colour placement in any way you like, but when they are on pages next to each other it really jumps out at me. I always try to imagine I am a beginner working my way through the instruction book and how helpful I would find it. I know I have said this before but I’m always so surprised that for a company that values quality and customer service, they are always let down with their printed material.

Lastly there was the Bee Bold postcard to stitch. I punched holes where it was indicated with my needle first and then used the left over thread to decorate it. Another cute addition for my inspiration wall!

The finished pieces are lovely as usual and I always enjoy the variations on design and themes even within the same craft. I’ve just seen a hint on Instagram of what will be in the March MakeBox and it looks pretty exciting, but first there’s candle making in February to look forward to!

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Craftiosity – Winter Felt Wreath

I had so much crafting to do before Christmas that I just couldn’t fit it all in! As we are still in the ‘Christmas period’ I think it’s ok to still be posting wreaths, especially one as nice as this from the December Craftiosity box (https://craftiosity.co.uk/).

Included in the box was:

  • Felt sheets x4 (orange, ivory, light green, dark green)
  • Embroidery thread x4 (orange, green, white, gold)
  • Metal wreath base
  • Needle
  • Paper template
  • Christmas gift of gold flecked baker’s twine

Wreaths, fruit, felt and embroidery seem to be very much the trend of the season, based on what I’ve been making over the last few weeks and this snowberry and orange slice wreath certainly fits the bill. Ever since I saw this kit on Instagram I’ve been looking forward to making the orange slices! The kit was very straightforward to put together, and each step had some great techniques to try. I thought that wrapping the metal hoop in strips of felt to attach the components to was a great idea, and I particularly liked creating the snowberries using a running stitch to gather the circle of felt together. Filling them with off-cuts of the felt was a neat way to use up the scraps and create less waste.

The orange slices were the most time-consuming part. The segments were created using long and short stitch and there were three slices to do, with six segments on each. I’m not really sure how long they took me as I sat and did them in front of the TV, but I do know that I love the result! My only issue was that I ran out of embroidery thread after making only two of the slices. I’m not sure why as I followed the instructions, but I thought I wouldn’t be able to finish the third slice. I looked into buying the thread online, which was easy enough to find on Love Crafts (https://www.lovecrafts.com/en-gb/), but before I bought it I decided to check in my sewing box. I have done a lot of kits and have a lot of leftover thread so I rummaged through and miraculously found a skein that was almost identical in colour to the original thread! It is ever so slightly lighter, but I don’t think it notices at all now that they are all attached the to hoop. Once I’d finished the final slice with my found thread I then added the finishing gold touches.

Once I had all the components and the hoop prepared I could then decide on the placement and sew it all together. Although this wreath didn’t quite get made in time for this Christmas I will look forward to hanging it up in my home next year! 

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Craftpod – Winter Swans

The winter Craftpod was such a beautiful kit! I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, but there’s just something so magical about the Craftpod kits. The projects are always so delicate and well thought out. The theme for this season was swans and there were three projects to complete; swan and wreath embroidery, felt swans, and a recipe for pine cone ginger biscuits. 

Included in the box was:

  • Pre-printed swan fabric
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Embroidery thread x6 (brown, white, gold, orange, light green, dark green)
  • White felt
  • Brown felt
  • Fleece (for stuffing)
  • Tea bag
  • Swan needle minder

The image for the swan and wreath embroidery was created by illustrator Gordy Wright, who also did the design for my favourite ever Craftpod and the first subscription box I ever did and reviewed for this blog, Blackbird’s Nest! The design for this one was quite simple and the stitches were all very straightforward. The thing that sets it apart for me is the 3D element of the pine cones. I like the way they are cut out of the brown felt and appliquéd on to the wreath with long crisscrossing stitches to give the impression of the pine cone’s spines. I also like the gold crown to give it a little magical touch.

The felt swans were quite fiddly and a lot smaller than I thought they would be from the pictures! I decided to make mine in a production line style, completing each step on all three of the swans before moving onto the next step. I think this stopped me from having that ‘starting again from the top’ feeling and made me more efficient. Getting the fleece in the head and neck was quite tricky and required some patience, but the results are lovely. I liked that there was different options for the wing designs. I chose to do one of each design, but I think they would look nice all the same too. I also liked the option to either leave them as ornaments or add a string for them to hang on the Christmas tree. I decided to leave mine as ornaments as I already have so much going on on the tree! They will take pride of place on the mantelpiece.

Lastly the recipe for the pine cone ginger biscuits. It was such a simple recipe and didn’t require any ingredients I didn’t already have in the cupboard. It was really quick to make too, the longest part being the chill time in the freezer for 30 mins, but in that time I carried on stitching my swans. The idea of creating the pine cone effect by indenting the clay with the back of the knife was great, however my biscuits did quite a lot of spreading in the oven and rather lost the effect…they still tasted delicious though! If I were to make them again I might let them chill for another half hour in the fridge after shaping them and before baking, to help them hold their shape a bit more. 

I always sign up for a yearly subscription with Craftpod as I know I will enjoy all the projects. The Winter box was the last one in my subscription, so I must remember to sign up again as soon as they open for Spring. The boxes individually are £25 and the yearly subscription is now £92 (https://www.craftpod.co.uk/). Although this is a lot upfront it means I don’t have to think about it for the rest of the year, aside from getting excited for them to drop through my letterbox!

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Craftpod – Enchanted Woodland

This year’s autumn box from Craftpod (https://www.craftpod.co.uk/) had an ‘Enchanted Woodland’ theme featuring toadstools and an extremely cute badger! Included in the box was:

  • Printed toadstool design fabric
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Embroidery threads x7
  • Stuffing
  • Felt (grey, black and white)
  • Interfacing
  • Pipe cleaner
  • Eyes
  • Paper templates
  • Toadstool pin
  • Woodland stickers
  • English Breakfast tea bag

The first project was an embroidery of a Fly Agaric toadstool, a typical fairytale style red with white spots. Although the majority of the embroidery was made up of long and short stitch, which is one of my least favourite stitches, I still absolutely loved this project! Firstly, it was quite small so it felt really achievable, but the thing I loved about it the most was how effectively the stitches and thread colours were arranged to create the highlights and shadows making the whole piece look really 3D. The addition of the French knots as the warts of the toadstool, which of course are raised off the fabric, made it really special. I also liked that it was done on black fabric. Not only did it make the design really stand out, but it was nice to work on something other than white or cream!

The second project was a small stuffed felt badger. As a Hufflepuff I was pretty excited to make this, and it didn’t disappoint. When I saw how small the paper templates were I was a bit concerned that I would be able to complete it without the badger looking like a wonky mess, but actually the way it was constructed meant that there were very few fiddly bits. I really liked the addition of the little toadstool embroidered on his side as it tied the whole box together. I also liked the use of the pipe cleaners in the legs. I have made this style of pattern before and found that the legs are very tricky to fill with stuffing and often end up quite flat, but by bending and inserting the pipe cleaner into the legs it meant that they were filled and also moveable.

I think I have said this before but Craftpod really is one of my favourite craft boxes. If you are into embroidery I would highly recommend it. I always feel that the projects push my skills and the results are so rewarding. The winter box is launching soon and I cannot wait to receive it! This autumn box is still available in the Craftpod Extras shop over on Etsy (https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/868716864/autumn-2020-craftpod?ref=shop_home_feat_2).    

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Craftpod – Summer Meadow Embroidery

A bit of a summer throw back, especially as I know the Autumn Craftpod will shortly be on its way, but I really enjoyed doing this summer meadow embroidery kit. I think the Craftpod kits (https://www.craftpod.co.uk/) might be my favourites because, although they are always embroidery based, I always feel as though I’m doing something new or different. I also like that they are quarterly rather than monthly. Whilst I love getting monthly treats in the post it can get a little overwhelming trying to keep up with all the projects!

Included in the box was:

  • Embroidery hoop
  • Square calico x1
  • Rectangular calico x2
  • Rectangular green fabric x2
  • Zip
  • Embroidery threads
  • Pins
  • Needle
  • Cotton thread
  • Paper template
  • Cardboard bobbins
  • Inspirational postcard
  • Bird needle threader
  • Chamomile teabag

There were two projects included in this box; a summer meadow embroidery hoop and an embroidery zip pouch. I started with the hoop which was made up of a floral arrangement inspired by a summer walk in the countryside. Included in the design were chamomile flowers, wild carrots, cornflowers, ferns and lavender. The Craftpod embroidery projects always push me to improve my skills, especially as they are often worked with one strand of embroidery thread. In this project I learned three new stitches. I had done chain stitch before, but this one was done with a method I hadn’t tried so it was great to give that a go. The other two, whipped stitch and bullion stitch, I had never tried before. The whipped stitch was really easy, but it gave the stems more of the 3D effect than plain back or split stitch. The bullion stitch was also quite 3D, but a little more complicated and prone to tangling. I had a few goes on a spare bit of fabric before committing to it on the real thing, but despite a couple of wobbles I think the overall effect is brilliant. I’d love to learn more 3D embroidery techniques as it really brings a piece to life.

The second project was the one I was really interested in! I haven’t put a zip in anything since I was at school so I was really looking forward to re-learning how to do that. I think I sewed a little close to the zip as a bit of the fabric keeps getting caught when I do it up, but it’s a good lesson for next time. You could choose to have the calico or the green on the outside of the pouch and I chose the green as I liked it better, but it meant you couldn’t trace the design onto the fabric before embroidering, so it had to be free hand. This was good as you could do something a little different to the original design, but I think I could have used an outline for my flowers as I felt they came out a bit small! As I’ve mentioned before I like to make useful items so this pouch really appealed to me. It can be used for anything from make-up to pencils or even used as a small clutch bag.

I’m really looking forward to the Autumn Craftpod arriving, especially from the sneak peeks that have been appearing on their Instagram, so I can’t wait for it to drop through my front door!

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Makerly – Temari Balls

I’ve been having a go at making Temari balls from the July Makerly box (https://www.makerlycrafts.com/). These traditional Japanese embroidered gift balls are one of the most difficult and fiddly things I’ve ever made! 

Included in the kit was:

  • Embroidery thread
  • Cotton thread
  • Polystyrene balls
  • Wadding
  • Pins
  • Needle
  • Tape measure
  • Tassels
  • Split rings
  • Key rings
  • Bookmark

The beginning of the process was straightforward, wrapping a ball in wadding and then using a full spool of cotton thread to wrap the ball. It felt a little indulgent to use an entire spool of thread in one sitting, but was pretty satisfying! I decided to create all three of my balls at the same time so I could then go on with the next step for all three balls. My hand ached a bit afterwards but I think it was best to have all the balls prepared in advance.

The next step was the most challenging. The technique of looping the embroidery thread around the guidelines took me a little while to master and I unpicked my first attempt as I was unhappy with how messy it looked and felt I could do better once I had got the hang of the technique. I wasn’t that keen on the layout of the instruction book as it had each instruction next to the picture but in an alternating pattern that I found hard to keep track of when glancing at the book in the middle of stitching. The part I found the hardest was creating the waistband of the ball. The thread, particularly the gold, just did not want to stay put as I was winding it round, which was very frustrating as I didn’t want it to look messy. I did it as best I could and I have to say that the diagonal stitches creating the diamond pattern around the edge did hold it in place eventually.

I’m not sure if it was because I had picked up the technique by the third ball, but the pattern on the last one seemed a lot easier than the first. I think I would have preferred to do them in reverse order in terms of difficulty. 

I don’t think Temari is something I will continue as a regular hobby, but the finished balls are certainly satisfying. Although the tradition is to give them as gifts as they are, I really like the option to turn them into key rings and a bookmark. As much as I enjoy creating art I do like it when my crafting can be made into something practical and useful. I already have the next Makerly box waiting for me so I’m looking forward to trying the next project!