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Makerly – Sunburst Sun Catcher

I absolutely loved the most recent box from Makerly! I haven’t done any work with beads and wire wrapping for ages and it was so nice to spend time doing one of my first hobbies on such a beautiful project, the Sunburst Sun Catcher.

Included in the box was:

  • 25cm metal hoop
  • 8cm metal hoop
  • Glass seed beads (red, orange, and yellow)
  • Mixed acrylic beads (red, orange, and yellow)
  • 4cm sun catcher crystal
  • Snips
  • 0.4mm jewellery wire
  • Glue dots

The first step was to anchor the smaller hoop to the larger one with the wire and then create the first ‘ray’ of the sunburst from the top of the smaller hoop up to the centre point at the top of the larger hoop to hold everything in place. I was surprised at how effective the glue dots were at holding the wire in place. I thought the wrapping would be enough, but it was quite a fine gauge and the glue dots were a definite must to keep each ray where it was meant to be. Despite the fine gauge of the wire I found the snips a bit useless for cutting through it. I would normally use these kind of snips for yarn or thread and proper wire cutters were much better for the job. They did get through the wire, but not cleanly in one go like wire cutters would. 

The rays were left loose on the hoops until all of the beads had been strung on each one and then there were secured with the glue dots, allowing them to be positioned evenly around the hoop to create the sunburst design. I followed the design in the picture, alternating rays of larger beads and seed beads and graduating from yellow in the centre through orange to red at the edges, but there was plenty of scope in this kit to use the beads to create any design you liked.

The last thing to do was to secure the crystal in the centre of the small hoop and create a wire hook at the top of the sun catcher so it can be hung in the window. This kit was really straightforward to complete and didn’t take long to do at all. I’m so pleased with my finished sun catcher and I can’t wait for the rainbows to come pouring into my house! 

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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.

workshop

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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Tea and Crafting – Latch Hook Wall Hanging

Way back in January I attended an online latch hook workshop hosted by Jane from Tea and Crafting (https://www.teaandcrafting.co.uk/) and I’m very excited to say that my wall hanging is now complete! It’s a slow craft, but the results are extremely satisfying.

Before the workshop we were sent the materials in the post. The package included:

  • Latch hook tool
  • Canvas
  • Bamboo cane
  • Length of t-shirt yarn
  • Length of wool 
  • Knooking needle

You had to provide your own yarn to create the wall hanging, but I have a lot of half used balls left over from various projects, so I just rummaged through my basket until I found several colours that I thought went together. I did actually end up ordering a couple more balls of some of the colours because latch hook is quite a greedy craft, and isn’t really any good for using up scraps. Jane had a good tip of waiting for the sales on your favourite stockist’s website and then buying lots of balls for cheap!

During the workshop Jane talked through how to create different lengths of yarn to achieve different effects, how to use the latch hook tool and some advice about trimming at the end as well. We all started our wall hangings during the class, but it is a time-consuming process so we obviously weren’t able to see anyone’s finished pieces. My one is about 60cm long by 43cm wide (62cm including the bamboo stick) and I didn’t time myself exactly, but I estimated that it took me in the region of 32 hours to complete.

Jane also showed us how to use the knooking needle to create a stitch where you have a central piece of yarn running along with another piece of yarn hooking over the top. It’s quite a good stitch for filling in larger areas, but I didn’t use it in my final piece as I love the effect of the latch hook too much, it’s so soft!

Once I had finished my design I then had to finish the back. Jane showed us during the workshop how she had folded the canvas back behind the design and stitched it in place on her example piece. She also showed us how to stitch on the bamboo cane, however I liked the technique I learnt in a previous latch hook project where you create a channel for the stick to go through. I think it looks a bit tidier, so I left some extra canvas at the top of mine to allow for creating the channel.

Lastly is the trimming, the best part! It’s just as satisfying as trimming pom poms! As I had used different lengths of yarn for the different areas and colours I already had an idea of how it would look and it was mainly just a case of neatening up each section and trimming the tassels at the bottom. I decided to leave the beige-flecked-with-yellow section untrimmed to give it a more organic feel and provide a contrast with the rest. I’m also very pleased with the effect I managed to achieve with the yellow flecks fading out at the bottom to leave just beige and then fading back in at the top! 

I still have quite a bit of yarn left and I have ordered myself some more canvas (Jane helpfully emailed her list of preferred brands and stockists after the workshop), so I think I will make some more abstract pieces to use them up. I will definitely be on the look out for discount wool though, I’d love to make a latch hook cushion, it would be so comfy to lie on!

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Craftiosity – Beaded Hanging Shelf

The project in this month’s Craftiosity kit (https://craftiosity.co.uk/) was a beaded hanging shelf. When I first got it out of the box I thought it looked quite complicated, but it actually turned out to be super easy and quick to make. I often struggle to find places to hang things like this in my house, but this one is so small and light that I was able to hang it off the end of my bookshelf!

Included in the kit was:

  • Copper ring
  • Cotton yarn
  • Small wooden beads x9
  • Medium wooden beads x17
  • Large wooden beads x5
  • Needle
  • Palm leaf tray

The first part of the project used some macrame knots. The first was a lark’s head knot to attach the lengths of yarn onto the copper ring. This is quite a simple knot and I thought the instructions were easy to follow. However, I had some difficulty with the second knot. This one was a gathering knot, which I have done before, but I found the first couple of instructions very confusing. It said to cut a 15cm length of yarn and then fold the first 6cm over and back on itself to create a loop. Doing this left me with a very short tail and the yarn in the picture was hidden by a hand, so I watched the video guide to try and figure out what I was doing wrong. The voiceover in the video said 15cm too, but the yarn looked much longer than that to me, so I decided to cut a longer length and try again. I cut a piece around 40cm long and this time I had enough to create the loop with a long enough tail to wrap around and achieve a gathering knot that looked a similar length to the picture. I’m not sure if maybe they meant 15 inches, but I don’t know why they would have changed from metric to imperial half way through…I figured it out in the end anyway! 

From there down the rest of the project was very straightforward and the instructions were easy to follow. It was mainly threading beads and tying knots to keep them at the right height. I liked the way the beads were spaced to support the tray and keep it in place. As it’s quite small it wouldn’t take a lot of weight but it would be perfect for a small plant or other little ornament. 

I also like the suggestions for personalising it by painting the beads or using a natural dye like avocado to dye both the yarn and the beads. Personally I like the natural colours of the beads and yarn, but you could definitely get experimental with this project!

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Fundi Box – Woven Raffia Sunburst Mirror

This is my second woven raffia sunburst mirror that I’ve made recently, but this one is from the September Fundi Box (https://www.fundibox.co.uk/). As usual the inspiration for the box is taken from Africa using the tradition of basket weaving joined with the sun motif, which not only makes you think of warmer climes (especially now the weather has turned) but is also bang on trend for home décor at the moment. Not only this but the raffia used is from a species of palm native to tropical regions of Africa, particularly Madagascar.

Included in the box was:

  • Circular mirror
  • Raffia hanks x3 (1 natural, 1 black, 1 colour of choice)
  • Wooden dowel rods
  • Glue
  • Twine rope
  • Circular paper template
  • African gift of the month

The gift this month was a carved box made using soapstone from Kenya. It was handmade by the Kisii people of the Tabaka Hills in Western Africa. This mineral was originally used for domestic purposes, but is now used for handmade carvings exported around the world. Their carvings can be found on Bazaar Africa (https://bazaar-africa.eu/bazaar/).

As with the last project I was emailed for my colour choice for the third raffia hank choosing from six options. I chose teal for mine. I have to admit that I went a bit rogue from the instructions on this one. The first instruction was to cut the dowel rods down to size, but when I measured them up I felt like they would be quite short, especially compared to the photographs where the rods were sticking out quite far from the edge of the mirror, so I decided to skip this stage and leave my rods full length. As I was glueing them on, using the circular template as a guide for where to place them, I staggered them to create an alternating pattern. 

Once all the dowel rods were in place and the glue had dried I could then begin weaving. This was the bit I was most looking forward to. Weaving is such a relaxing craft and it’s so satisfying to see the design building up. This is the second place were I deviated from the instructions, but only in the order in which I did the colours. The suggested order was natural, black, natural then finishing with your colour, but I decided to do a few more layers with natural, black, teal, black, natural.

The last thing to do was create a hook for the back by doubling over a length of the twine rope and wrapping it in some raffia and then glueing it to the back. There was also the option to add a twine rope trim to the front of the mirror but I decided against that as I like the way it looks without it and I was worried that I might not be able to do it neatly enough, which would ruin the look of the mirror. 

The only real issue I had with this kit was that some of the dowel rods kept coming unstuck so I had to keep glueing them back down and then waiting for it to set again before I could continue with the project, which was why it took me so long to complete it, but apart from that I had a great time with this kit!

Ceramics

Easter Decorations – Air Dry Clay

Under normal circumstances I usually go to a ceramics class once a week. It’s not really a formal class, more of a relaxed space where you can make what you want and use the studio space, materials and equipment. The teacher Sue showed me how to make coil pots when I first started three and a half years ago and is always on hand if you have any questions or want a demonstration of how to do something, otherwise she just lets us all get on with it! She does not teach how to make ceramics on a pottery wheel and doesn’t have any wheels in her studio. She also taught me how to carve and that is my favourite thing to do. I love to make a big pot and then spend weeks carving the design.

However, we are of course not able to go out and about at the moment, which means that I haven’t been able to attend the class. I do have an unfinished piece waiting for me, but I suspect it will probably have dried out too much by the time I get to go back to it. I decided that I want to keep my ceramics going during this time, but due to my lack of kiln at home I thought I would give air dry clay a go. I ordered some online just before the official lockdown came into effect and have just got round to having a play with it! My first impression when I unwrapped the clay were that it smells! It has a sharp, almost vinegary scent to it, which I’m not sure if I can get used to! The second thing I noticed when I started playing with it was that it’s really fibrous. It’s quite hard to pull apart and when using a cutter you don’t get a nice clean edge. I did find that the more I handled it and the more it dried out, the easier it was to use, however you don’t want it to dry out too much. I would definitely suggest having a bowl of water and a sponge nearby whilst you are working to smooth off any rough edges.

I decided on an Easter themed project. Easter is one of my favourite times of the year with Spring on the way and so much chocolate around! I decided to make some decorations in the shape of Easter eggs. Using the tools I have for polymer clay I rolled out the clay until it was fairly thin, probably just under half a centimetre. I have some plastic texture sheets which I then rolled on top to give the decorations different textures, but if you don’t have these then you could use anything which has a textured surface; leaves and twigs often work well pressed into clay.

I then used an egg shaped cookie cutter (not recommended for use with food after using with clay) to cut out my shapes. I used a small circle cutter to create a hole at the top for the ribbon to go through and I also found a small flower cutter which I used on some of the eggs to add extra interest. 

Once my textured shapes were all cut out I left them to dry. I read that air dry clay usually takes 24-48 hours to dry out completely. I went down to my studio the next day to see if they were dry enough to turn over to make sure the backs were dry too, but they hadn’t dried at all. As this was quite an experimental project for me I decided to put them in my dehydrator to see if it would speed up the process. I was a bit worried in case the faster drying would cause them to crack. I put the dehydrator on the lowest setting and left them for a few hours. When I went back to check on them they were almost dry so I turned them over and left them again. When I went down at the end of the day they were completely dried out. I left them overnight on a table before continuing to the next stage.

Before painting them I decided to sand them as they still had really rough edges. I think for my next project I will smooth the edges down with some water and a sponge before drying to minimise this. I used a 400 grade sandpaper which is the roughest grade I had to hand. It took a bit of work but it was definitely a step worth doing as the eggs looked so much better once it was done.

I then gave them all a white base coat of acrylic paint. Although the clay dries white I felt that the other colours would pop out more with a white base. Once that was dry I could then start to colour them. I decided to sponge the paint on to make the textures stand out more as I thought if I brushed the paint on they might lose some of their 3D quality. I had a bit of fun blending some of the colour together to create an ombré effect. After the paint had dried I added two coats of PVA glue mixed with some water to seal them, letting them dry in between each layer. Although this won’t make them completely waterproof it should help to prevent water getting in and ruining them.

I’m pretty pleased with my results, although I would like to do some more experimentation to work out how to get them to dry flat! It’s not quite the same as working with proper clay, glazing and firing in a proper kiln, but as an at-home alternative it’s pretty good to play around with and make some fun smaller items. I bought myself a book with some projects in called ‘Make it with Air-Dry Clay’ by Fay De Winter so I will definitely be giving some of them a go, plus I also have a few projects of my own in mind too so watch this space!