This month’s kit from Craft Box Club was a cute little project using cross stitch designs to create wearable art. The green leafy theme made me feel as though Spring is on the way, despite the wet and windy weather outside!
Included in the box was:
Embroidery thread x2 (light green, dark green)
Brooch pins x3
Wooden button backs x3
Mini embroidery hoop
Waxed cotton cord
Wooden lolly stick
There was also a paper pattern for each of the four cross stitch designs as well as the link to the online instructions and video. I find it really helpful that there are written/photo instructions as it can be frustrating to try to make along with a video and have to keep pausing and rewinding bits. However, having the video as well is useful in understanding how to do more complicated techniques.
Although sewing each of the designs took some time as cross stitch can be quite a slow process, the overall project was very straightforward. After sewing the designs there were three wooden disc blanks to use to create the buttons, which needed the brooch pins glueing on the backs before attaching the sewn designs using a simple running stitch to gather the fabric around the wooden disc. The fourth design was used to make a necklace using the mini embroidery hoop and waxed cotton cord. It was a bit unclear what the cotton wool was for. I thought it was used to pad out the buttons, but this wasn’t mentioned in the instructions or the video.
I thought this was a really cute project that would be easy for any level of crafter, including beginner, to complete. As always it was eco friendly with no plastic at all and the green theme had me thinking of nature whilst I was sewing away!
I heard about Cosy Craft Club on Instagram and started following them as I liked the look of their kits. They do offer a monthly subscription, but I decided to buy a couple of kits as a one off to get a feel for their style. It looks as though Cosy Craft Club collaborates with a maker each month to put a kit together. The first kit I’ve tried is the current kit for this month – enamel jewellery, created by Alice and Stars. I was really excited about this as I’ve done enamelling before as part of my jewellery diploma, but had got it into my head that you needed a kiln. It turns out that this is not the case and all that’s required is a normal kitchen oven!
I was amazed at how quick and easy this craft was to do, with instant results. The enamelling part was so quick, using the wooden spatula to transfer the powder into the sieve and then creating a nice even layer of powder on the blanks. I liked how easy it was to create interesting effects as well like an ombré. I also played around with using paper to mask areas of the blanks to create lines, but I enjoyed the ombré too much to keep them like that! Once the designs were done they only needed ten minutes maximum in the oven.
The second part of the kit was to turn the enamelled pieces into jewellery. There was enough chain, jump rings and clasps to make a necklace with the bunting and a bracelet with the disc. The instructions for both parts of the kit were easy to follow. There weren’t any pictures of the process included, however I didn’t find this a problem. On Cosy Craft Club’s Instagram there were plenty of videos and pictures showing the process and ideas for designs.
There are lots of kits available on the website covering a range of crafts. The main kits cost between £24-£30, although there are some mini kits available for less. The monthly subscription is £24 and it looks as though you would get a good variety of crafts coming through your door each month.
I often get so wrapped up in textile projects that I forget to go down my shed and play with clay instead, so the polymer clay box from MakeBox & Co was the ideal opportunity to do so. I was quite excited about the orangery slab design as well. I have made some very simple slabs before but never one as complicated as this so I was really looking forward to giving it a go.
The first half of the instruction book was full of helpful tips for working with, baking, and storing polymer clay, as well as jewellery making. I didn’t agree with the advice to pull open jump rings as this can make them misshapen when you try to push them back together. It’s always better to twist jump rings open and closed for a much neater finish.
There were three slab projects to complete to give you a range to shapes to make jewellery out of. A slab is a flat sheet of clay which a design is created on and then shapes can be cut out either with a knife or a cutter. The first was a marbled sheet, made by twisting the blue and white clay together to create a marbled effect. This is probably the easiest to do but is very effective and can be done in so many different colour combinations, and with three or even four colours, depending on the look you want to achieve.
The second project was an abstract slab, which was great for getting used to attaching different shapes to a sheet of clay and discovering how the clay would react when you pushed it or rolled it. The design was made up of really simple shapes that combined gave a really fun, colourful finish.
The final slab design was the most difficult. It’s called the ‘Midnight Orangery’. It is a dark blue background with oranges nestled amongst green foliage and white blossoms and it was difficult because it was made up of so many tiny parts that had to be placed with care onto the background to create the right effect. I think it’s a beautiful design and love the 3D effect of so many layers built up. It did take me a long time to do and was very fiddly, particularly adding the lighter green stems on top of the leaves. I actually started it and then wrapped it up to stop it drying out and came back to finish it the next day as I could feel myself getting tired and careless and I wanted it to come out looking neat.
Once all the pieces were baked and cooled and the edges had been sanded it was time to make some jewellery. I really liked that some clip on earring backs were included as I don’t have my ears pierced so it’s nice to be able to wear some of my creations!
I’ve been making some chain maille jewellery, courtesy of last month’s Makerly kit. I’ve tried my hand before at chain maille jewellery and I have to admit that it’s not my favourite form of jewellery making, however I do have to give my respect to those that do it regularly as it is a very fiddly technique!
Included in the kit was:
Silver jump rings (various sizes)
Blue and green jump rings
Lobster claw clasps
Blue and green seed beads
Jump ring tool
I was very taken with the jump ring tool. I have been making jewellery for a very long time and have been on many courses including my diploma and have never seen this kind of tool before! I usually use two pairs of pliers to open and close my jump rings, but this can result in pulling them out of shape. The tool included in the kit was a ring worn on the index finger of your non-dominant hand and used in conjunction with the pliers to open and close the jump rings in the correct way. I will definitely be making use of it in my future jewellery projects.
There are lots of practical uses for chain maille, the most obvious being for armour, but nowadays it is used for making things such as cut resistant gloves for butchers and even shark resistant wet suits for divers. The instruction book had a short section about the history of chain maille before introducing three decorative ways to connect the jump rings together. The first, and easiest, was the shaggy loops chain using the decorative green rings hanging off a central silver chain to create a pair of earrings.
The second was the orbital vipera berus, which involved creating a chain using the blue rings and looping the larger silver rings through them. I definitely think I made some mistakes with this one as when I was finished it didn’t sit nicely, but I couldn’t face taking it all apart again to fix them! I also made a basic chain with the smallest rings to create a necklace using a lobster claw clasp.
Lastly was the stepping stones chain. Although this was the hardest it was my favourite once I got into a rhythm with making it and was my favourite design once it was complete. However, it did take me a long time and was very fiddly as you had to link a lot of rings together and it required lots of concentration. I made this chain long enough to create a bracelet and used a lobster claw clasp to complete it.
The kit also included seed beads and charms to add to the designs, but I preferred them plain and I didn’t have enough enthusiasm for the craft to create more pieces with extra bits added. I’m sure I will find another project to use them in! Although it’s not a craft I will be taking up any time soon I always enjoy having a go at something a bit different and I can see myself wearing the bracelet.
The theme for the August Craft Box Club (https://craftboxclub.co.uk/) was paper quilled jewellery. The art of quilling involves rolling strips of coloured paper and glueing them together to create decorative images or patterns. I always thought it looked delicate and difficult to achieve, but I was keen to have a go as it’s a very popular craft that I have seen a lot of examples of. It’s also a great craft to do at home as the materials are cheap and easy to get hold of and it doesn’t make too much mess!
Included in the box was:
Coloured paper strips
Earring hooks x2
And of course the link to the video tutorial was also included. This month there were two separate videos one for the earrings and one for the necklace. I thought that the process was going to be quite fiddly and frustrating, but I actually found it quite relaxing. The quilling needle was easy to use and the template with its cutout holes meant that I wasn’t struggling to regulate the size of my coils. It was also worked on a much larger scale than I thought it would be. I had imagined trying to wrangle tiny little coils of paper, but the holes in the template were quite big and I found it really manageable.
The secondary part of the project was wire wrapping. I am quite familiar with this technique already, but I thought that the video showed each step clearly and although I used my tools it would have been easy to do by hand. In fact I was surprised at how soft and malleable the wire was. I’m not sure what kind of wire it was but it was easily cut with scissors.
The only part of the kit I had a slight issue with was the glue. As Craft Box Club aim to be plastic free the glue is provided in a tin, however both times I have received glue from them it has been brown and the tin stained around the edge as though rusty. I can only imagine that it is a reaction between the metal and the glue. It didn’t have any effect on the glue’s sticking power and I used it just fine, but I don’t think it would have been suitable for a project that was using the glue as a varnish. Honestly, I can only praise Adam (the founder of the company) for his efforts to be as plastic free as possible and I don’t have any solutions to offer for this problem because I am sure he has done extensive research on the matter, so I can’t really complain about it too much.
The finished earrings and necklace are quite large, statement pieces and I love how colourful they are! The paper strips came in a great range of colours so you could make your jewellery in any combination you liked. I have tons of strips left as well, so I can practice my technique and make some more jewellery. I might even have a go at creating a picture as well, but I think I may have to watch some more video tutorials online to learn how to achieve different effects before I attempt that.
This project was so quick to do! It took me a couple of hours to complete and was a really nice way to spend an afternoon. I enjoyed the lack of mess as well as it meant that instead of sitting down in my draughty shed I could sit up at the dining table and quill to my heart‘s content…plus there wasn’t too much clearing up to do!
Also included in the package was a mini kit to make a face mask. I haven’t had a chance to complete this one yet, but I watched the video and it looks like a really easy method to make a reusable mask, so I’ll have to have a go at that soon as I currently only have disposable ones and I feel guilty about creating waste every time I wear one.
I have another new subscription box to share with you! This one is called Knack (https://www.theknackbox.com/) and is a monthly subscription that is a little different to some of the others I’ve signed up to. With Knack you as a subscriber get a say in what the future projects will be. I signed up in time to receive the June box which was polymer clay earrings. After signing up I received an email asking which colour clay I would like included in my kit and have since completed questionnaires about which glass bead project I would like to see in the July box (majority vote wins), what colour beads I would like and a general questionnaire about what kinds of projects I would like to see in the future. The interaction is great and really makes you feel part of a creative community. The instructions for each kit are presented as a live session on Zoom, but if you can’t make the date then you can watch the video either in your account on the website or via the Facebook members group.
Included in the June box was:
Polymer clay (black, white and colour of your choice)
The session was hosted by Eveline Zemla from Flamingo Jewellery and the project was to make some marbled earrings. I couldn’t attend the Zoom session but I followed along with the video on Facebook. The edited video was about an hour long, but I would imagine that the Zoom session was a bit longer than that. Eveline started by going through the equipment included in the kit and extras you might need such as scissors/a knife etc, and what temperature to heat your oven up to. She then demonstrated how to condition the clay and whilst we were doing that she then showed us two different marbling techniques. The first was one I was familiar with, making sausages with the clay and twisting them together, the second I hadn’t done before but I thought it was a great technique once I had had a go. It involved adding small pieces of clay to a larger, flat piece which created a more delicate look than the first technique when it was rolled up.
Although it was a little strange watching a tutorial on something I already know how to do I tried to complete the project as though I were a beginner so I could see how the kit would work for someone who hadn’t used polymer clay before. Eveline mentioned that she would normally use a pasta machine to roll out the clay and cutters to achieve a more uniform look, as I do too, but for the purposes of this kit she was showing us how to do it all without any fancy equipment. I found that I actually really enjoyed getting back to basics and creating more organic pieces just using my hands.
Whilst the beads were baking in the oven Eveline showed us how to make small tassels using thread and a fork. It is a very similar technique to making pom-poms, but you tie them on one side rather than in the middle, cutting only one side open and then transferring them from the fork to a jump ring.
Once the beads were baked and had cooled Eveline then explained about sanding them. She used a basic nail file to do this, but mentioned that some makers use sand paper or sanding blocks to reshape their pieces or smooth rough edges. She also said that it made her smile/laugh when she saw jewellery that had not been sanded or had evidence of finger prints on as it showed that the maker was a beginner or amateur. I have to say that I disagree with this sentiment. I often find that when I have sanded my polymer clay it leaves scratch marks and scuffs on the surface of the clay which ruins the look of the piece, unless you are willing to work through all the different grades of sand paper from roughest to smoothest. I have been playing and making with polymer clay for probably over ten years now and have attended several courses on using it too. I have found that if you take enough care and attention whilst you are making your piece before baking it then you probably don’t need to sand it at all.
After she had demonstrated the filing Eveline then showed us how to construct the earrings using the ear wires, jump rings and pliers. During the video we were encouraged to make enough beads for a couple of pairs of dangly earrings with several connections in each one, however I found that I didn’t have enough jump rings to complete the designs I had in mind. I found some spare in my studio, but not everyone would have some lying around. If I was redoing this kit I would do a bit more planning before making my beads.
Overall it was a fun project and I enjoyed being a ‘beginner’ again. I’m looking forward to the July project as I have never made a hair clip with glass beads before so I really will be a novice! Knack is quite a new subscription box that only started in May. I did actually back order the May box, but the project was candle making which I have done quite recently in another subscription box so I haven’t got around to completing that one yet. As soon as I do it’ll be up on my blog! The monthly subscription for Knack is £22.99 including postage, but there are also options to buy a longer subscription or a one off box.
This week I’ve been playing with dough! The Craft Box Club (https://craftboxclub.co.uk/) for May was called Earth Paint Bracelets and the project was to make beads out of salt dough and turn them into bracelets.
Included in the box was:
• White dough mix • Blue dough mix • Silver wire • 3 lobster clasps • Lolly stick • Cocktail sticks • Baking paper • Wooden shaping tool
This month the link for the instructions included not one but four video tutorials. The first showed what was in the kit, how to make the dough and form it into beads, the second showed how to turn your beads into bracelets and the other two videos showed how to make different kinds of beads. As usual the videos were really clear and easy to follow, although they could have been a little shorter by not showing all the beads being made!
The dough came as two powdered mixes, with the blue one coloured with a powder paint made from naturally occurring minerals. There are some good tips both on the card inside the box and on the website for making your dough the right consistency. I found it was best to add the water slowly and keep mixing it until it felt right and could be formed into balls.
Once the dough was ready you could then make the beads. As I mentioned above there were three different kinds suggested, but of course you can always experiment and make whatever you want, after all these kits are all about being creative!
The first type I made were chunky discs, made by squashing a ball. I think I made mine a little bit big as they were a bit too chunky for my bracelet! The other types were a round bead and then a thin bead which Adam called shell fragments. I like this description because they do feel quite fragile like a shell and they are all irregular. I think they are my favourite because they look really good all threaded onto the bracelet together. When all the beads were finished you had to leave them to dry. I left mine over night but when I went to check on them I found they weren’t quite dry underneath so I turned them all over and left them to dry a second night. They might have dried a bit quicker if the weather was nicer, but there’s not much we can do about that!
The bracelets were made using a technique called wire wrapping. I already know how to do this as it’s one of the first things I learnt to do on my jewellery making journey, however I felt that had I been a novice I would have found Adam’s video very easy to follow. Even though there is no talking on the video and only text he made sure the images of each step were really clear and went through it slowly enough to be able to follow along.
In hindsight I would have made more shell fragment beads as I didn’t have quite enough to go all the way around my bracelet and, as I already said, my chunky beads were too chunky. I would also have made my white dough a bit wetter as a couple of my beads crumbled and I think it was due to the white dough being a little bit too dry. I think this would be a great project to do with older kids, as long as they have the patience to wait for the beads to dry, and you have the patience to help them with the wire wrapping!
I have done this several times previously and have found it a great way to show my products to people who are genuinely interested in handmade jewellery. I have had many conversations with other makers about the value of selling at craft fairs. I have done quite a few fairs in the last couple of years with varying results. Some fairs I have attended have been awful with barely any people, conversely I have been to some that have had great footfall, but still not made any sales. However I have been to a few that have been successful. Unfortunately with craft fairs and selling handmade products a bit of a scattergun, trial and error approach is required to find the appropriate place to sell. The location, venue and marketing for these fairs are all important but the key is finding the right audience. I’ve found that hosting a showcase in my own home gives me the opportunity to invite people who I know are interested and encourage them to invite their own family and friends in turn to spread the word about my jewellery.
We had Buck’s Fizz, mince pies, nibbles and chocolate to get in the festive spirit and start thinking about shopping for Christmas gifts. I have to say I wasn’t as organised with inviting people this time around as I went on holiday a few weeks before. There were definitely fewer attendees than previous years, but there was a regular flow of people throughout the afternoon, all of whom were keen to view my products and I was really pleased with the amount of sales I made.
I showed some of my older pieces, but the main focus of the day was to display my newest collection. Earlier in the year I was struggling with my jewellery making and had hit a bit of a creative wall, which was part of my motivation for starting this blog. As I began to explore my creativity via other outlets such as embroidery, drawing, crafting and baking I felt re-inspired with my jewellery and decided to go back to basics. When I began making jewellery as a hobby, polymer clay was one of the first materials I worked with, which I think led to my love for introducing colour into my work and the inclusion of resin with my silver work. I think the fact that I put no pressure on myself and just let myself play with the clay allowed me to be more creative. I started by making flat beads which I turned into bracelets. They reminded me of the sweetie bracelets we used to have when we were little! I then took the three colours in each bracelet and blended them together to create marbled beads, which I then used to make necklaces and earrings.
Some people bought things as they were, but I also received some commissions as well. I really like it when customers ask for something a little different. It’s great to hear other people’s ideas and see how the jewellery can be personalised to suit their wardrobes and their own tastes. I had a request for my moon earrings in blue instead of white and ace of diamonds in green instead of red. I also took a commission for a ring. A while ago I made a ring as a gift for my friend. One of her friends had seen it and asked me to make her one of her own, however she wanted hers to be a thumb ring and blue rather than pink. I’m really looking forward to getting started with making it.
This week I attended a soldering masterclass at the London Jewellery School where I completed my diploma (https://www.londonjewelleryschool.co.uk/). Soldering is a pretty essential part of silversmithing and something I dread doing. My diploma was now three years ago and I don’t use soldering very often in my work, so although this class was covered in my diploma some of the details have become a bit fuzzy and it’s not a skill I want to lose so I decided I needed a refresher. The class cost £149 and ran from 10am-5pm with an hour for lunch. It included all materials and use of the school’s tools, tea and coffee and most importantly, biscuits!
I have something of a mind block with soldering, it’s just not something that happens for me and it is a skill that requires practice, which obviously I don’t do, so I started the day feeling a little apprehensive. I needn’t have worried! The other students in the class were all at varying skill levels and the teacher Kimberley was really reassuring. She was very knowledgeable about all the processes and showed us each one step-by-step and was on stand-by if we needed any help throughout the day. She started the day by talking us through all the equipment we would be using and the different types of solder; hard, medium and easy.
The first thing we did was make jump rings and then learn to solder them closed and also how to turn them into a chain. Kimberley showed us how to apply the flux and the best place to position our pallions of solder. She then showed us how to heat the piece to encourage the solder to flow in the direction we needed.
The second method we learnt was sweat soldering to join two flat pieces of metal together. We began by covering the smaller piece in pallions and heating it until it flowed so one side of the metal was entirely covered in solder. After pickling it to ensure the surface was clean we then positioned it on top of the larger piece and heated it again until the solder flowed, joining the two pieces together.
After that Kimberley showed us how to attached an earring post using the third hand (reverse tweezers on a movable stand) to keep the post in place. Following that we attached some of our jump rings to the top of a flat piece of metal, again using the third hand, and also to the side.
Lastly we made a 3D shape. We started off by creating a ring using a strip of metal and then soldering the join together. The ring was then soldered to a flat piece of metal to create the base, which we then drilled a hole in to prevent the heat building up inside when we added the final piece of metal and causing an explosion! Finally we soldered another flat piece of metal to the other side. The final step is to cut off the excess metal and file it down to create a smooth 3D shape. As you can see I ran out of time to finish mine in the class, but I’m pretty confident with those skills so I can always finish it at home!
Soldering still isn’t really my favourite thing to do, but I definitely feel more confident about the process now that I’ve had a refresher, especially with such a great teacher. I always love returning to the London Jewellery School. It’s such a welcoming place and makes me feel inspired to keep going with my jewellery. Also, there’s always biscuits!