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Craft Box Club – Macrame Semilunar

Quite a quick craft this week from Craft Box Club – a macrame semilunar with a bonus keyring project. I’m really glad I’ve done some macrame recently, especially learning the double half hitch which made up the main body of this project!

Included in the box was:

  • Macrame twine – white
  • Macrame twine – forest green
  • Wooden dowel
  • Macrame comb
  • Keyring clip

The instructions say you will also need scissors but you will need a length of string as well to hang the dowel from. The instruction video for this one is great. All the knots are shown slowly and repeated so that you can see them clearly. I paused and rewound the video several times to make sure I was doing it correctly. I think for this project the video was definitely better than the pictures, although the pictures were still useful. With macrame I much prefer to see the knot being created, rather than just a picture or description. It helps me to understand the structure of the knot a lot better.

Both the projects were really quick to complete. The semilunar was much smaller than I thought it was going to be from the pictures I had seen prior to receiving the kit, but I think that was a good thing because it wasn’t too repetitive and I quite enjoyed making something fairly small for a change! 

I thought the addition of the keyring was great too. It was a good chance to use a couple more different knots; a square knot and a gathering knot. There was a separate instructional video for this project and again was clear and slow enough that you could craft along with it.

Although it’s nice to get involved in a longer project I do enjoy completing something a little quicker every now and then. It gives a nice sense of achievement and satisfaction for only a couple of hours of work.

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Macra-weave Workshop

I’ve been trying my hand at macra-weaving this week; a combination of macrame and weaving. I joined an online workshop run by Daisy’s 60 Minute Crafts. The course was run over two evenings, a week apart via Google (I can’t wait to do real life workshops again!). I only signed up about a week before the first date, but the kit with all the supplies arrived well in time for the session.

Included in the kit was:

  • Wooden dowel rod
  • Plastic darning needle
  • Macrame string
  • Selection of yarns in different thickness/types

I was unfortunately unwell for the first session and I couldn’t join in, which I was so disappointed about because I was really looking forward to doing some crafting with other people. I emailed Nicki, the lady behind Daisy’s, to explain that I wouldn’t be able to make it and she very kindly offered to do a short session with just me to catch me up ahead of the second session. I honestly cannot praise her enough for this very kind gesture. She gave up an evening of her time just to show me what to do. I would have been happy with a video of how to do the macrame knots or even written instructions! I just got her to show me the knots and go through their placement to create the base of the wall hanging ready for the weaving so I could complete it at a later date. I didn’t want to keep her all night whilst I made the whole thing! 

We used two types of knots to create the macrame base; a larks head to attach the strings to the dowel rod and a double half hitch for the decorative knots. The lines of double half hitch were spaced out down the length of the wall hanging to create sections for the weaving. There were also a couple of sections where we did a more decorative style knot, using a single half hitch using four strings instead of two and leaving it loose to create a loopy effect.

Having made a ‘loom’ with the macrame, the second session was dedicated to weaving. I was well again for this one as it was a week later, which meant I could join in with the live workshop. Nicki taught us three weaves that we could use to fill in the spaces between the knots. The first was the plain weave, which is the basic in and out stitch. The second was the soumak weave, created by wrapping the yarn around the string, you could make it bigger or smaller depending on how many strings you wrapped it around. Lastly was the Rya knot used to create the tassels at the bottom of the wall hanging.

I really like the effect of combining these two textile crafts together. It’s a very relaxed craft and I think you could create a lot of different effects just with these few techniques, depending on the placement of the knots and weaves. I also like that there’s no pressure to fill up the whole of the piece with weaving, in fact, I actually think it looks better with sections of the string left bare. I have to send my thanks out again to Nicki for her amazing customer service. I’m definitely going to be keeping my eye on her events calendar for another craft workshop that tickles my fancy!

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Makerly – Latch Hook Wall Hanging

This latch hook wall hanging box from Makerly (https://www.makerlycrafts.com/) actually arrived in December, but I just did not have the time to squeeze any more crafts in before Christmas! I saved this one and have been doing it at a fairly leisurely pace over the last week or so. I’ve been wanting to learn latch hook for a while, I love the soft fluffy result, so I was quite excited when I opened this box up.

Included in the kit was:

  • Latch hook
  • Canvas
  • Dowel
  • Chunky wool
  • Pattern
  • Blank pattern sheet

The instructions were really easy to follow, although it did take me a few goes to get the hang of the latch hook tool, mainly I think because I had to translate it to left-handed, which I always find quite tricky. It was definitely worth the practice on a spare bit of canvas though. I decided to follow the pattern provided as I’ve never done this technique before, but now I am more confident with it I might use the spare canvas and the blank pattern sheet to create my own.

I have to say that this is a labour intensive craft! There is quite a lot of prep work, cutting all the lengths of wool before you start, and quite a lot of counting involved. The hooking itself is quite slow work, although I would imagine that the more you do, the quicker you get. I sat up at the dining table to do mine and I think I would have struggled doing it on the sofa with nothing to lean against, and I did find it gave me a bit of a backache leaning over it as I worked, which is why I took my time with this one, doing small sections at a time.

As I was working I was really worried that my pattern wouldn’t show through very well, it looked much messier than the picture and the strands of wool seemed to have a mind of their own, but as soon as I started trimming it down (the most satisfying bit) and getting rid of the uneven ends, it really started to pop out. I did have to spend some time rearranging some of the strands to get them to sit in the right place to neaten up some of the lines.

I’d actually quite like to turn it into a cushion as it is soft! I’m supposed to be doing an online latch hook workshop later in January, so it was a bit of a surprise that this kit came through the door first! I’m looking forward to seeing if there are any different tips, tricks and techniques to learn, and am looking forward to having another go at this craft.

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The Sewcial Circle – Pompom Power Hour!

This weekend I joined the Sewcial Circle for Pompom Power Hour! It’s been a little while since I did any workshops, I’ve mainly just been doing the subscription boxes that turn up at my door for the last few months. Like a lot of people this year I’ve lost my mojo a bit, but recently on my scrolls through Instagram I’ve been seeing some fab online workshops and one-off kits popping up and it’s really inspired me to be more active in my crafting journey again. 

I’ve been following The Sewcial Circle on Instagram for a while and have been very intrigued by the Loome tool they use to create their pompoms, so when I saw this online workshop I decided to sign up for it straight away! The workshop alone was £16, but as I wanted to try the Loome tool I added a pompom starter kit to my order, which was £23.80 (discounted from £28.00 as I ordered it along with the workshop). The starter kit arrived in the post a few days before the workshop and included:

  • Merino wool x2
  • Loome tool
  • Crochet cotton
  • Cardboard size guide

There was a choice of colour combinations for the wool on the website and I chose the rose and mustard option.

The workshop was hosted on Crowdcast rather than Zoom. The upside to this was that the focus was solely on the host (and face behind the Sewcial Circle) Katie. There was a chat feature if you needed to ask any questions, however I did think that without the interaction with the other attendees the social side of the workshop was a bit lost. Along with actually learning a new skill, socialising with other crafters is one of the most important aspects of a workshop for me.

I have made pompoms before so the techniques to achieve the different effects were familiar to me already, but I definitely picked up some good new tips. We made plain, half and half, triple stripe, sprinkles and colour block pompoms. Katie recommends using crochet cotton or another similar string to tie the pompoms as it’s not as stretchy and soft as yarn, so won’t give over time and ensures your pompom remains secure. She also showed us a couple of different ways to knot the string depending on how well you can keep the tension when tying the knot. The Loome tool has a larger and a smaller end so you can regulate the size of your pompom and Katie also showed us how to use the cardboard sizer to trim the pompom to achieve a consistent size, which is important if you are making something like a pair of earrings. I liked the Loome tool, but overall, I think I prefer the circular pompom makers that I have used previously. I feel like they hold the yarn in place more securely whilst you tie it and allow you to snip round the sides to open it out more easily. 

The best part of pompom making is the trimming! As I mentioned we used the cardboard sizer as the initial guide to trim the excess off our pompoms. Once this was done, we could then begin to refine the shape and snip off any straggly pieces of yarn to create lovely round pompoms! I think the best advice that I have both received and can give, and which applies to most crafts, is to make sure you have a good pair of sharp scissors! It makes everything so much easier…but don’t get carried away and trim your pompom to nothing!

Katie also talked through different ideas for using our pompoms, such as garlands and wreaths, showed us how to attached them to rope and a wreath base and also showed us how we could turn them into little animals using bits of felt to create ears, noses, eyes and mouths, which would be a great activity to do with kids.

The Loome tool can also be used to make tassels, cords and mini weavings, so although I favour the circular pompom makers there is still plenty of crafts to try with my new tool. There are loads of lovely kits and tools on the Sewcial Circle website so if you want to get into crafting I would definitely recommend checking it out (https://thesewcialcircle.com/).

I’ve booked a few more workshops in the run up to Christmas and I’m really looking forward to joining them, I just can’t wait until we can attend workshops in person again!

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Taken by the Wind

I started following Hello Bargello! (hellobargello.com) on Instagram last year and really liked the vintage designs they were producing for their craft kits. Bargello is a type of needlepoint embroidery using geometric designs made with upright stitches. The patterns have a very 70s feel to them and Brett Bara, the founder of Hello Bargello!, started modernising the patterns and creating her kits after falling in love with the technique when she found several vintage books on the subject.

‘Taken by the Wind’ is the latest kit and it included:

  • Skeins of tapestry wool x 11
  • Needlepoint canvas
  • Tapestry needle

I found the instruction book very well laid out with a double page spread of how to do the basic Bargello stitch and other tips and tricks, followed by the instructions and pattern chart to complete the kit. The instructions were very thorough including measurements for where to start the design from the edge of the canvas and which section to start with. The pattern was divided into squares like the canvas, but all the lines started to make my eyes go funny and it was quite tricky to read at times, especially where two similar colours met. I found it much easier to follow once I started using a ruler to mark my place and moving it across as I completed each stitch.

Although there were a couple of places where I went wrong, it didn’t really matter as it’s an abstract piece and could easily be sorted out along the way by adjusting the length of other stitches. I really love the design of this piece as it reminds of visiting the Grand Canyon and I can totally understand why it was named ‘Taken by the Wind’. 

As I mentioned, I have been following Hello Bargello! online for a while but haven’t purchased anything from them before now as I’ve been a little put off by the price. This kit costs $48 (around £37 at the current exchange rate) and considering the minimal materials involved it seems like a lot to me. In addition to this is the shipping cost, which is obviously higher as it’s coming from America, plus I also had to pay a customs fee on it too. I actually used a $5 discount code that they were promoting on Instagram, but even with this I paid a total of £59.72 for this kit. If Bargello looks like something you want to get into I would recommend sourcing the materials yourself from UK suppliers as Hello Bargello! has their patterns for sale as downloadable PDFs for $12-$18 (approx £9-£14) depending on the size and complexity of the design. There are also plenty of videos on the website demonstrating how to do Bargello. 

Aside from the cost I found this a very enjoyable kit. As it’s divided up into sections its easy to put down and pick up again whenever you have a moment to craft, but I actually sat and finished the majority of it in one day because I was enjoying myself so much and only stopped because my back and arms were aching! It seems pretty addictive once you get started!

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Punch Needle Embroidery Rainbow

I haven’t done any punch needling for ages, so when I saw this new punch needle embroidery kit from The Modern Crafter (https://themoderncrafter.co.uk/) I just had to buy it! I always really enjoy their kits as the designs are well thought through and the materials are always great quality. This kit was £29 with free shipping (UK based, may be more for international).

Included in the kit was:

  • Punch needle embroidery tool
  • Pre-printed fabric
  • Yarn x 3 colours 
  • Embroidery hoop

This particular kit caught my eye because it was punch needle embroidery using a Lavor needle as opposed to the regular Oxford needle. The Lavor tool has three interchangeable needles and is a lot smaller than the Oxford, meaning you can do more detailed and intricate designs with it. The ladies at The Modern Crafter recommend using an Aran weight yarn with the largest size needle and embroidery thread (all six strands) with the other two smaller ones. I am interested in doing some experimenting of my own though to see what other kinds of yarn and thread work well with this tool.

The pre-printed design is a rainbow with a sun using three different coloured yarns, which is also available in the main punch needle range as well. The guide is really useful and contains plenty of information about punch needle generally and how to complete this kit specifically. I thought that the section on threading the needle was particularly good with clear step-by-step photographs. I also really liked the close up photo of the difference between loop and flat stitches and the trouble shooting page at the back that had lots of handy hints.

The project itself was quite quick to complete. It is smaller than the usual punch needle kits with a 6 inch hoop rather than an 8 inch hoop. As with most punch needle projects (and my favourite thing about it) you could see your progress really quickly, which is very satisfying. 

I’m really keen to have another go with the Lavor needle. It produces a lovely texture that is so soft and tactile and you can get in smaller spaces than you can with the ordinary Oxford needle. As soon as I finish typing this I’m going to be ordering some fabric and yarn so I can have another go!

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Breakfast Time Embroidery

I’ve been eyeing up this embroidery kit for a while now and decided to buy it for myself as a lockdown treat! Having previously done other kits by The Make Arcade (https://www.themakearcade.co.uk/) including the Christmas Craftvent calendar and a cactus brooch I was excited about this one as I have enjoyed the others so much and found them to all be of good quality.

Included in the kit was:

  • Pre-printed cotton
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Embroidery thread
  • Needle
  • Felt

My first thought when I opened the box was ‘Is that it?!” For some reason I had the impression from seeing pictures on Instagram that it was going to be a larger hoop, say about 20cm diameter, but it’s actually only about 10cm, which makes it perfect for a quick embroidery project to do in front of the telly, but took me a bit by surprise! When I looked back at the website and my order it clearly says that it’s a mini embroidery kit, so I’m clearly not very observant!

Once I got over that the whole kit was very straightforward. The fabric went into the hoop and each of the sections to be filled in was numbered, and each number corresponded to a coloured thread. There was an easy to read diagram of the embroidery and a key to show which colours were which, including the DMC number of each thread. This wasn’t really necessary as the threads were loose without any packaging and it was easy to tell where each one went, but useful to know what the colours were if you want to use them again for another project. 

Also included was a guide to embroidery that I thought was very well written. It outlined how to separate the thread and put your fabric into the hoop as well as a number of different stitches you can use in the project. It also had a section about how to finish it off at the back by sewing a running stitch around the edge to pull in the excess fabric and then attaching a circle of felt to hide the mess! I glued my felt on, but I might go back at a later date and stitch around the edge to give it a neater finish.

There was only a small amount of each coloured thread provided with the kit, which obviously keeps costs down, but also meant that I felt like I had to be quite careful and try not to make any mistakes. It wasn’t a problem with some colours like the yellow or pinks, but I was only left with a short length of the brown and lighter green by the end and the blue for the mug and the text completely ran out half way through. I matched it as best as I could with some other thread I had hanging around, but it’s not quite a full match. Hopefully it’s not too noticeable to the casual observer!

The kit cost £13 plus shipping. They have several other designs available too. I quite like the look of the galaxy one!

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Sunset Punch Needle

I finally got round to doing my punch needle kit! I’ve been wanting to do it pretty much since I bought it but other projects and jobs kept popping up, so it’s kind of been hovering in the background since I got it at the Handmade Festival in the summer from The Modern Crafter (https://themoderncrafter.co.uk/). This week I feel like I’m getting back on top of everything and managed to find time to sit down and enjoy it.

I chose the sunset kit and included in the bag was:

  • Four different coloured balls of wool
  • Wooden gripper hoop
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Fabric
  • Snips
  • Yarn needle
  • Paper template

I also paid extra to include an Oxford punch needle as I didn’t have one at the time.

The first step was to fit the fabric into the gripper hoop. This keeps the fabric really taut whilst you are working on it, which is essential. Previously when I’ve done punch needle I’ve just used a normal embroidery hoop, but I’ve found that I had to keep pulling the fabric tight again. This gripper hoop was amazing! I didn’t have to pull the fabric at all, it just stayed in place the whole time. Once the fabric was in the hoop I then used the template to trace the design onto the fabric.

I started off with the areas of the design that were in flat stitch. To achieve the flat stitch you punch from the front of the work to the back. It’s important to offset the stitches to give stability to the work.

Once I had finished all the flat areas I then began to work from the back to the front to achieve the loop stitch and create texture on the piece.

When the design was completely filled in I removed the work from the gripper hoop and transferred it to the embroidery hoop for display. I trimmed the fabric to around one inch and then used the yarn needle to whip stitch around the edge, trapping the excess fabric and hiding the hoop. I changed the colour of the yarn for each section of the design. 

I enjoyed the kit so much that I bought their festive kit too, so keep an eye on my Instagram to see how I get on with those during December!

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Modern Embroidery

This weekend I did something pretty special. The amazing Meg from Nutmeg and Honeybee (https://www.nutmegandhoneybee.com/) visited England all the way from San Diego, California to host a modern embroidery workshop at The London Loom (https://thelondonloom.com/v2/). Meg began her creative journey through baking but branched out into embroidery after feeling like baking on its own wasn’t fulfilling her creative flair. 

The term ‘modern embroidery’ can be interpreted in a range of different ways but often focuses on abstract or geometric shapes, simple lines and patterns, but for Meg the most important thing is introducing texture to the piece. This can be done in a variety of ways such as using a range of fibres, not only embroidery thread but also yarns and rope including sewing over the rope to create raised areas. Beads and the use of French knots are a great way to add more texture to areas of the piece.

To begin the session Meg got us to choose a colour palette from the threads spread out of the table. She then showed us a range of stitches which she uses to create her pieces. We learnt satin stitch, French knots, rope stitch and turkey stitch, which creates lovely fringing or can be used to create flowers.

After the demonstration we drew out designs on our fabric using a water soluble fabric pen which can be washed off when the piece is finished. My aim for the workshop was to try each of the stitches whilst I was there with Meg and she could advise if I had any problems. 

The concept for my piece was a crescent moon with a cloud over the top. This is a time consuming hobby and Meg said that she would spend an average of six to seven hours on one piece but it could be more, especially if it was a larger piece. During the workshop I only got one moon crater and a section of the cloud finished. 

Finished cloud after some work at home

At home I’ve worked to finished it using various textures and different yarns, however it’s still not finished and I want to add some beads and another colour into the sky to give the piece more pattern and depth.

This workshop was a lovely way to spend three hours, with wonderful like-minded people from all around the world. Meg has several other workshops lined up but unfortunately they are all in America. It is definitely worth keeping an eye on her schedule to see if she is going to do any more workshops in the UK. Not only was the workshop great but we were all sent home with a pair of scissors, three different sized needles and plenty of thread, yarn and beads to complete our works of art.

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Punch needle…at last!

I’ve been to the London Craft Club again! (https://londoncraftclub.co.uk/) This time for a workshop in the craft world’s biggest current trend; punch needle. I’ve been wanting to learn this craft for quite a while now as it’s so popular and I recently bought a kit from The Modern Crafter (https://themoderncrafter.co.uk/). 

The London Craft Club have moved venue from Bedford Square to Holloway Road, but for September when I attended this workshop they were using The Upper House near Highbury and Islington tube station as their premises. The room we were in was nice and spacious with big windows and lovely murals on the walls. There was four of us in the class and our tutor for the evening was Zoe. She had the table laid out with piles of yarn in a rainbow of colours and when we arrived she encouraged us to think about what kind of design we would like to do. There were several examples laid out on the table ranging from rainbows and watermelons to abstract pieces.

Zoe explained about which types of cloth were the best to use for punch needle. We used a type called monk’s cloth which we fitted into the embroidery hoop to keep it taut whilst we were working. She then showed us how to thread the needle using the wire threader. The needle we used was not the famous Oxford needle that has become synonymous with punch needle, but an adjustable one. We talked about the settings and how you could create different effects with the different length loops. After Zoe had shown us the best practice for using the needle we were free to start on our designs.

I decided to make a wall hanging with the initial of my nephew to hang in his room. I chose a range of greens to create an abstract background and an orange for the J to stand out against the background. I started off with the J and then worked around it using the greens to create a random pattern, trying out each of the different needle lengths to produce a range of textures and heights.

The workshop was so relaxed and we all had a great time creating our pieces. Some people had a clear design in mind and others just experimented. I’m really pleased that I’ve learnt this technique and I can’t wait to have a go at my kit. I have a few ideas for designs of my own and October’s MakeBox is a punch needle kit too, so watch this space for more of this addictive craft!