Education

A Year at Morley…

I have officially completed my Foundation Textiles diploma at Morley College! This academic year has absolutely whizzed by and I can’t believe that yesterday was the last day. I feel like I have learnt so much, not only from the tutors but also by being in a group of like-minded individuals who are all there for the same reasons as me.

As you know I am a big fan of textiles as an art form and enjoy learning as many new skills and techniques as possible. My original goal in signing up for the course was not only to learn new techniques but also to formalise my knowledge through learning about keeping a sketchbook, primary and secondary research, and most importantly for me, design development and running a project end to end. I definitely feel that I have achieved this goal, but additionally I found a really welcoming and supportive community of textile fans to share my passion and ideas with.

The course was structured well, beginning with smaller projects and taster sessions in the first term where we covered a range of textile techniques such as weaving, felting, freehand embroidery with the sewing machine, sublimation printing, Shibori dyeing, and constructed textiles to name a few!

The second term went more in-depth in the subjects we covered. For the whole term we worked on a surface pattern project using screen-printing as the method to produce a design we had developed through drawing and research with the end result being a sample book showing a range of printed designs. Alongside this we also did half a term of machine knitting and half a term of conceptual headwear. I thought the machine knitting was brilliant! I had no idea how knitting machines worked, and had never even seen one before the first class, but Alex the tutor was so patient and encouraging and I loved using it so much I bought my own! The conceptual headwear was harder to wrap my head around and I missed the first session of that module due to Covid, so I felt a bit behind all the way through. With a bit of hard work and asking a lot of questions I eventually produced a headpiece to be proud of.

The final term was dedicated to our final major project. This was a project that we could set our own brief for and I found it very helpful writing the proposal of my project idea for the tutors. It was really good for clarifying what you wanted to focus on as I think there could have been a lot of potential to get sidetracked with other good ideas. I actually unknowingly started my project in the first term via some research I did for one of the smaller projects relating to sacred geometry. I decided to follow this theme through to the second term and in doing so developed the idea for my final project before we had even started the third term! My final piece explores the human relationship with nature and the human impulse to find patterns and meanings even in things that are seemingly random or chaotic. I wanted my work to tell a story in three sections. The top section is very textural and three-dimensional showing bountiful nature blooming chaotically. Moving down to the middle section the falling leaves are being turned into geometric shapes and ordered into a uniform pattern. The flatness of the screen-printing and the orderliness are representational of how humans interact with, utilise, and sometimes destroy nature for their own purposes. The final panel mirrors the top panel and shows that no matter how much humans want to control their environments, nature will always win out in the end.

At the end of the course we were able to hang our work in the Morley Gallery for a week long exhibition, which was very exciting! It was such a privilege to see something I had worked so hard on be hung up in a professional space alongside all my classmates work. We had a lovely private view on the opening evening where all our friends and family could come and celebrate our hard work with us.

I’m so pleased that I decided to do this course. I feel like I’ve gained so much from it and it has pushed me to further my textiles journey by taking up a degree in Textile Design at UAL Chelsea College of Arts, starting in September. I cannot wait to get started on this as I think it will open up even more ideas and opportunities. This will be my second degree and I’m interested to see what it will be like as I’ll be a mature student living at home with my husband, rather than an eighteen year old living in halls with my new friends! I’m sure I will have lots of updates on how it’s going once I get started, but in the meantime I now have an even bigger stack of crafts kits waiting for me down the studio than I usually do, so it’s going to be a big summer of crafting for me…watch this space!

Uncategorized

Happy New Craft!

I can’t believe another year has whizzed by and we are already in 2022! Of course not all of 2021 was plain sailing because every year has it’s ups and downs, but from a crafting perspective I feel like I’ve achieved so much. Scrolling back through my blog I’m amazed at how many craft projects I completed!

I tried several new crafts that I’ve never tried before such as natural dyeing with turmeric and marigolds, and embroidering on organza, but my top new craft of the year definitely has to be latch hook. I had planned to do an online class with Tea and Crafting, but it was delayed and in the meantime I did a latch hook from the Makerly subscription box. I absolutely loved it straight away and was so excited when the Tea and Crafting online class finally happened. It was so great to craft along with other people, even via Zoom. I made one of the biggest and most creative pieces I’ve ever made, and I’ve been latch hooking ever since.

My favourite individual piece from a kit last year had to be the wild rose and strawberry embroidery from Craftpod. There was something so wonderful about the colours and composition of the piece and it was so therapeutic to sew. Every time I look at it I feel joyful and summery.

Although I didn’t make it to any real-life workshops, I did go to several exhibitions and events throughout the year, which was very exciting following the lockdown of 2020. Starting with the Unravel Festival of Yarn I also attended exhibitions for Sophie Taeuber-Arp, David Hockney, and Paula Rego, as well as the Summer Exhibition at the RA. All of these trips were so inspiring, to see all these artists working in different mediums to achieve amazing work. I particularly liked the inclusion of textiles into the Summer Exhibition, it made me feel like my own work has worth and recognition as a true art form.

The biggest thing for me in 2021 was starting a Textiles diploma at Morley College. I began in September and the first term has been packed with so much learning. From back-to-basics techniques like drawing and the importance of conducting primary research to inform your decisions in your own work, to trying so many different textile techniques like mark making, machine embroidery, hand embroidery, felt-making, backstrap weaving, sublimation printing, screen printing, 3D structures, and shibori clamp dyeing. I’m so looking forward to starting back to school for the upcoming term. We will be focusing on fewer subjects, but more in depth including screen printing, machine knitting, and conceptual headwear. 

I can’t wait to see all the crafts I’ll do and the things I’ll learn in 2022. Wishing you all a fabulous year too!

craft kit · subscription box

Spring Flowers Masterclass MakeBox

I’ve just completed the MakeBox for May; a Spring flower masterclass. The instruction booklet for this month’s box takes you through the steps for how to create five different kinds of flowers using crepe paper and wire. The results are absolutely gorgeous and much bigger than I thought they were going to be! I think the flowers look really realistic, and although delicate are much sturdier than I would have thought too.

Included in the box was:

• Italian crepe paper in cream, yellow, pale pink, hot pink, pale purple and green
• Wire
• Florist’s tape
• PVA glue
• Wire wreath base
• Velvet ribbon
• Paper templates

The instructions started with how to make pollen using the yellow tissue paper and then went on with a step by step guide on how to make anemones, camellias, daffodils, tulips and peonies. The basics were the same for each flower but obviously varied depending on their petal shape, leaf type and whether or not they had pollen. The Italian crepe paper was excellent quality and was really nice to work with. It doesn’t rip easily and holds its shape well. And my new best friend is florist’s tape! It is so satisfying to work with and hides all manner of sins, but between that and the PVA glue be prepared for very sticky fingers!

Once the flowers are all made there are lots of suggestions at the back of the booklet for what you can do with them. I turned some of mine into a wreath using the wire base and velvet ribbon included in the kit, but there were plenty of other ideas including a flower crown, napkin ring, gift wrap, or just styling them in a vase or bouquet.

As usual this project was lovely. It was something different that I haven’t tried before, which is something MakeBox are great at delivering. The supplies were all of excellent quality and the end result is gorgeous. Hannah is obviously very passionate about flowers and this craft is clearly one of her favourites as you can tell from the intro at the start of the booklet. This was not a quick craft that could be done in a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon. I have had this out on the dining table all week and have been coming back to it whenever I have a moment to cut out more petals or stick wire to leaves. Having tried to rush a few bits I can also say that its best to leave the glue to dry if you can as it’ll only make the following steps harder if it’s still a bit wet.

Unfortunately the instructions were once again a bit of a let down. To start with, an email was sent out to everyone who received the kit to say that the tulip instructions had been printed in the wrong order and a link to download the correct ones was provided. I wasn’t ready to make the kit when I received the email so I didn’t download them immediately, but when I tried to get them to make this kit last week the link had expired, less than a month after they were sent. The main problem was that the pictures were out of order and did not match up to the numbered instructions, but as this was the fourth flower in the booklet I could match them up in the logical order as I’d made three types of flower already.

This was not the only problem I found with the instructions. Also in the tulip section it says to cut a piece of wire 5cm by 9cm. This didn’t make sense to me. A piece of wire can only be one length surely? In the end I cut it to 9cm and it all worked out fine, but I’m still unclear as to what was intended by the instruction. The other part that had me confused was in the peony section. It said to cut 6 x 5 sets of petals, a total of thirty petals, however the instructions then went on to say cut six lengths of wire and glue six petals to each piece of wire. This means you would need a total of thirty-six petals. You could use five petals per wire, but I chose to cut six extra petals instead to give the flower more volume. In the instructions for each flower type it said how many flowers you had the materials to make. All of them were to make three flowers, except the peony, which was two. I made the suggested amount for each one but found that when I got to the end I didn’t have enough wire left for the final peony.

It’s these kind of confusing instructions, oversights and miscalculations which I find very frustrating, especially as the overall craft and final products are always lovely and worth the effort in the end. I had debated cancelling my subscription but I know I would regret it and feel I was missing out when I saw the new project each month, but I do hope that MakeBox think about proofreading the instructions and testing the kits before sending them out in the future as this is not the first time that instructions have had mistakes or been omitted, or not quite enough materials have been included.

workshop

Embroidered Origami

Another week, another online workshop! I’m really enjoying online workshops, it’s such a lovely way to spend an evening crafting with other crafters, and it provides a real sense of community and support. This week I did an embroidered origami workshop co-hosted but Est of Origami Est (https://origamiest.co.uk/) and Beth of Freckle and Knot (https://www.instagram.com/freckleandknot/). Prior to the workshop they asked what colour we would like to use for the project and then they both posted out the materials we would need to join in.

Included in the parcels were:

  • Patterned paper x3
  • Plain paper x3
  • Ribbon x3
  • Glue
  • Embroidery thread
  • Needle
  • Tracing paper
  • Stitch practice sheet

Once everyone had joined the Zoom session Est showed us how to fold the paper to achieve the diamond shape we were aiming for. Each diamond was made up of a patterned piece and a plain piece of paper. 

When we had folded our diamond halves Beth then took over for the embroidery section of the workshop. We started off using the practice paper to try out the stitches. Some people in the class hadn’t done any embroidery before so Beth demonstrated each stitch. Sewing in paper is quite different to sewing in cloth, mainly because you have to punch the holes through the paper first. Beth showed us a good trick using a roll of washi tape to raise the paper up and avoid lots of holes in the table! Once we were confident sewing on the paper and had completed the test sheet we could then move onto the real thing. We used the tracing paper to draw our designs on, which meant that when we were punching the holes in the patterned paper we could see where the folds were. This helped with positioning the design. Having punched the holes we could then sew our design onto the paper. I used backstitch and lazy daisy stitch for my rain cloud.

After we had finished our embroidery, during which we all had a lovely chat, Est then showed us how to assemble the diamond. First we cut a small slit in the point of the top half, in my case the patterned side, and threaded the ribbon through to create a loop to hang it from. We put a small amount of glue on the inside to hold the ribbon in place and then finally attached the two halves of the diamond together by glueing around the edge and manipulating each side so that it would slot in nicely and line up.

At first I thought this was quite a time consuming craft, but when I moved on to my second and third ones I realised that it’s actually quite quick! I now have lots of ideas about creating baubles for the Christmas tree, even though that’s still quite a long way off! I’m really enjoying these online workshops and hope I can find more to sign up for. Although I’m missing going out and joining in with them in real life, it’s such a great alternative.

workshop

Crochet Bunny with Tea and Crafting

Last week I attended another online workshop, this time to learn how to crochet. It was hosted by the lovely Jane from Tea and Crafting (https://www.teaandcrafting.co.uk/) who are running several online workshops at the moment so you should check them out if you are interested in learning a new crafty skill. 

I have had a go at crochet before a few years ago now, and actually created a blanket out of lots of basic squares which I sewed together. However, I have since totally forgotten how to do it! Crochet and knitting are two crafts that I would love to be able to do, but unless I continuously practice them I find that they just leak out of my head and I have to relearn how to do them every time I want to have another go. The first time I tried crochet I learnt it left-handed, which was such a pain because most tutorials are for right-handers, which means that you have to resort to finding YouTube videos. At the beginning of the workshop Jane asked if anyone was left-handed and I said I was, but she convinced me to give it a go right-handed. I have to admit that I was a bit sceptical that I would be able to do it ‘backwards’, but I was willing to give it a go to make it easier for the rest of the class.

To start the workshop Jane talked us through how to check the wool label to find out information about what size of hook we would need to use, the tension square and washing instructions. We received all the materials we would need for the workshop in the post a few days before, which included:

  • Chunky wool in light grey
  • Wool in darker grey
  • Length of black wool
  • 6mm crochet hook
  • Darning needle
  • Stuffing

Once we had discussed the wool and hook size Jane talked us through how to cast on and create the chain stitch which would form the base of our square. She took us through each stage slowly and we followed along. Then she showed us how to begin the first row by stitching into the chain stitch. After demonstrating a few stitches she then left us to complete the row. I was absolutely fine whilst I was following along but as soon as I had to do a stitch by myself I just couldn’t keep each step in my head and got in a terrible muddle! I must have some kind of mind-block for crochet because this always happens and I find it incredibly tiresome having to keep referring back to videos or books to find out where I have to put my hook next. Well, Jane was incredibly patient with me. I’d like to apologise to the other people on the workshop for putting up with my painstaking progress as Jane talked me through it very, very slowly! Eventually though I did get it and made it up to the second row. By this point I think I was trying so hard and was so tense that it was showing in my work and the tension of my wool was so tight that I actually managed to snap the hook…by accident of course! I had some spare hooks from my previous ventures into the world of crocheting, which I quickly found so I could keep up with the rest of the class and I finally felt that I had found my rhythm and was starting to get it. I lost a couple of stitches along the way somewhere as my finished piece was more of a trapezium than a square, but I was pretty proud of it! 

During the workshop Jane showed those who were quicker and had finished how to create their bunny by sewing a running stitch across the square which was then pulled to gather the top half and create the head and ears. I put a bit of stuffing inside the head and then sewed the body shut, leaving a small gap for stuffing before finishing it off. Lastly I made a little pom pom with the darker grey wool and attached it to the bunny’s bottom and stitched on some eyes and a nose. For those who didn’t finish or wanted a reminder Jane emailed round a video of the workshop a few days afterwards.

Having completed my bunny I didn’t want to forget what to do so I made another sample piece out of the leftover wool. Unfortunately I ran out of wool so I couldn’t make a second bunny, but it was great practice. I also decided to give my new skills a bit more practice so I looked up a tutorial on how to crochet a granny square and had a go at that too. I’m pretty pleased with my attempt. It’s a bit wonky in places so I think I still need to work on my tension, but I might continue making them to try and imprint the process on my brain so I don’t forget how to do it again! Maybe one day I’ll be able to make something more complicated…

subscription box

Artful – Spring 2020

I recently subscribed to another crafty box (I know, I know, it’s a problem!) called Artful (https://artful.co.uk/). This is a quarterly box focusing on art materials and encouraging people to experiment and play with them to expand their skill set or just to get more creative. I unwittingly signed up for the first ever box without realising that they were such a new company. I saw an advert on Facebook, who obviously have me all figured out because I was very interested and decided to check out their website. Each box will be created in collaboration with an artist who will have an input into the materials that are included and offer projects to get you started. You can either sign up for the quarterly subscription at £35 a month or the annual subscription at £120 a year. The only difference is that you save £5 per box with the annual option.

Included in the box is:

  • A5 sketchbook
  • Posca pens x4 (green, turquoise, pink, orange)
  • 3H pencil
  • Tombow dual brush pen x2 (grey, black)
  • Tombow hard brush pen
  • Tombow Mono twin marker
  • Eraser
  • Artful magazine

As part of the subscription you also get three free months of premier membership with Skillshare (usually £13 a month or £84 a year). This is good because the first project is a video based tutorial which you can find on Skillshare at the link provided in the magazine. Just something to note; when signing up you have to input your card details and you will be billed in three months time unless you remember to cancel your subscription. I’m happy to sign up because I was planning on having a look at Skillshare (https://www.skillshare.com/) anyway so I will just let mine continue, although I will probably forget and be confused why £84 has been taken out of my account at the end of July!

The magazine is full of inspiration. It starts by outlining the materials included and an interview with the featured artist. This issue it is author and illustrator Mike Lowery. The interview covers his career and inspirations and then continues focusing on the first project. After this there are two more projects to complete using the materials in the box. The rest of the magazine is dedicated features on a wide range of various artists from ceramicists to chefs and everything in between. 

Before starting any of the projects I decided to have a go with each of the materials in my new sketchbook so I could see how they felt to draw with. I started off by writing the name of each pen and then drawing some lines so I could get a feel for how each one flowed. On the following page I tested out the Posca pens, drawing lines and a square of each colour. I was surprised by how fluid they were and I accidentally lifted the page too soon causing two of the colours to run together because they hadn’t dried completely. On the next page I decided to try mixing the materials together. I started by drawing some basic shapes with the Posca pens and then used a variety of the finer pens to draw details over the top. Each one had a different effect over the top of the colour, some of which I liked and some of which I didn’t.

Project one was map making. The video of Mike Lowery featured on Skillshare shows how to create an illustrated map. It’s actually broken down into eight short videos taking you on a step by step guide for how to create your map from researching your chosen location, sketching and colouring your map and finally to adding the details with the Tombow brush pen. I really liked that the video was broken down into short tutorials. It meant that you could watch one and then complete the step before moving on to the next one without having to pause or rewind if you missed something. The longest video is just under seven minutes, so it’s the perfect project to complete in stages if you are a bit short on time. I chose to draw a map of the first time my husband and I went on a cruise. It was a cruise around the Mediterranean/Aegean, although I have called it our Mediterranean Adventure! We had such an amazing time and really enjoyed being able to see the highlights of each place we visited and now we have been once we know there are a few places we would like to return to and explore more thoroughly. Mike suggests that you don’t have to do a map of somewhere you have already been, you could gather information about a place you have been dreaming of visiting and create your own sightseeing wish list in the form of a map. I really like this idea and might have to give it a go next time we are planning a trip…soon I hope! I like the stylised feel of the map because it takes away the pressure of it having to be perfect. The only thing I added to mine was the blue roofs of the Santorini buildings. I used a sharpie for the colour as it just didn’t seem right to have them any other colour. 

Project two and three were both focused on the Posca pens, which lets face it, are the most fun things in the box! Project two was decorating terracotta flower pots. Although they suggest in the magazine that you can pick these up cheaply I didn’t want to go out to get some and I also didn’t want to buy them online as I thought they would take forever to come at the moment, so I phoned my parents and got them to rummage around in their shed to see if they could find any! They did have a few knocking around so they said I could have them and very kindly dropped them off on my doorstep. Don’t worry, we observed all the social distancing rules! The terracotta pots were very easy to draw on and the colours looked so vibrant. Some of the lighter colours needed a couple of coats to get a nice even covering.

Project three was drawing on glass. In the magazine they had mason jars and they got three creatives to make their own designs for inspiration. I didn’t have any mason jars but I did have some old Nutella jars which I was saving because I’m a hoarder and in the words of my wise dad “You never know when you might need it!”. Anyway, I decided to decorate them and now they are done I think they would make great tea light holders. I actually copied one of the the designs from the magazine, the stylised rainbows, because I really like it and I’ve seen loads of things done in this style recently so I wanted to have a go at it myself. 

I had a lot of fun with this box. It was something really different to my usual crafting and gave me the opportunity to try out some new things, some of which I’ve been looking at for a while but was too scared to invest the money in them in case I was rubbish at using them! I’m really intrigued to see what the next box holds. Artful also features a daily drawing challenge on their Instagram (@artfulbox) if you are looking for some prompts to practice your drawing.

subscription box

The Baking Club

If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen that I’m quite a keen baker. I usually do my baking at weekends and I really enjoy a good afternoon of making something delicious to eat. In the past I’ve stuck to fairly easy recipes, usually making cakes for birthdays or sugar cookies at Christmas, but since I started this blog last year I’ve been trying to push myself to try more difficult and interesting recipes. And also recipes that I might otherwise have dismissed… I’m a bit of a chocoholic and when left to my own devices that’s what I tend to pick! Obviously I still sometimes go back to basics when I  don’t have much time but still want to bake, but I definitely think I’ve become a bit more adventurous!

One of the ways in which I’ve tried to diversify my range is by subscribing to The Baking Club by BakedIn (https://bakedin.co.uk/). The Baking Club is a monthly subscription box which includes a recipe and all the dry ingredients in pre-measured bags. The box fits through the letterbox so you don’t even need to be in to receive it and they email you before it arrives to let you know what ‘wet’ ingredients you will need e.g. butter, eggs, fruit etc, whilst still keeping the contents a secret, so you won’t know what you are going to be baking until the box arrives. They also ask that subscribers don’t post on social media until after a certain date to ensure that it remains a surprise for everyone. Also included is usually some greaseproof paper, a wooden skewer for testing the bake and a piping bag if needed.

The box only costs £9 a month (or less if you sign up for a three, six or twelve month block), which I think is pretty good for all the ingredients you get, plus a step by step recipe. I think it would be a lovely activity to do with your child to get them interesting in cooking and baking. Some of the recipes are more complex than others but you will find a skill level and times on the back to give you an indication of how much work it is. Also included are the weights of the ingredients so you can make it again if you want to and all the nutrition information, although I prefer not to look at that!

The Baking Club was started five years ago with the support of Michel Roux, who very sadly passed away last week. All of the recipes which the BakedIn team developed for the boxes were sent to him to review, adjust and approve, ensuring a high quality. The team sent out a lovely message in honour of him last week to all the subscribers, and I’m sure they will continue to do him proud. I know I always look forward to my box every month.

I’ve made some great cakes since I started my subscription, ones which I would previously have felt beyond my skill level, but now I feel like could replicate with confidence. If you’re looking to get some more baking in your life I would highly recommend this service and if you don’t want to commit to a monthly subscription they also sell their kits individually. If you don’t want to end up with a load of cake to eat up, they also do a mug cake subscription for those times when you just want a single portion of cake!

Event

Alt Summit 2020

What a week it’s been! The Alt Summit conference is over and I’m finally back in England. I feel like I’ve had a great adventure, but also like I’ve been swept up in a whirlwind of learning, crafting and networking!

One of the best things about Alt has been meeting so many amazing people. I feel like I have made so many great connections. Everybody I spoke to was welcoming and willing to share their experiences and ideas. The networking highlight for me was the craft bloggers meet up. They had an opportunity for attendees to organise meet ups with people who are in to the same things as them. Although I had already met some brilliant people it was so great to have the chance to chat with other creatives who are just as passionate as me about crafting. We talked about lots of different aspects of crafting and blogging and exchanged contact details. That group of women were so genuine and supportive. I know I will definitely be getting in touch with a few of them to tap their knowledge.

My other favourite part of the conference was the opportunity to try out so many different crafts. ‘The Commune’ at the Ace hotel hosted an array of makers running different crafting sessions throughout each day. To be honest I could have just stayed there the whole time, but I thought it was important to do some learning on the business side of the conference too! I tried my hand at a macrame rainbow keychain, sign stencilling, painting a leather business card holder, meditation with macrame, abstract watercolour painting, biscuit decorating and embroidery. It was so fun to have a go at all of them in such a calm environment, looking out on to the sunny pool with a nice breeze blowing through. In fact, it was during the crafting sessions that I met the most people and had the best conversations because everyone was so relaxed.

The other sessions were a bit of a mixed bag. I found some of them really insightful and I was taking notes like crazy because there was so much to learn from the speakers. However, other sessions felt a bit flat or I felt like I already knew a lot of what they were talking about. It’s hard to organise such a large conference with enough content for everyone because everyone is at such different points in their journey. There was plenty of options to choose from, but because the conference took place over three venues sometimes it was hard to get between the hotels in order to reach the sessions you wanted to attend. Having said that, the shuttle bus service between the hotels was fantastic. It was running constantly during conference hours and I never had to wait more than two minutes for one to show up.

There was some great evening entertainment too. In addition to the craft bloggers meet up there was also a 90s themed party which was so nostalgic, and a brilliant improv show on the last night.

Lastly, I’m glad my new friend Ros and I found time for some sightseeing. We took the aerial tramway up to the top of Mount San Jacinto, where there was spectacular views and even snow! Although I had an amazing time at the conference I think it was also important to take that time out to be a tourist. 

If you are a creative entrepreneur I would highly recommend a trip to Alt Summit. It is amazing for personal development and you will come away feeling so enthused and motivated to build your business, not to mention supported by a host of fabulous women.

workshop

Make Your Own Leather Trainers

Yesterday I went to Tea and Crafting (https://www.teaandcrafting.co.uk/) for a very exciting workshop! I put the vouchers I received for Christmas towards a ‘Make your own leather trainers’ workshop. Prior to attending I received an email from the lovely Maddie who works at Tea and Crafting asking for our shoe size and colour preference so that they could have the kits ready for us on the day. It took me ages to decide what colour to go for. I didn’t want to go for white as I already have white trainers but I wanted to pick a colour that I thought I would wear and would go with my wardrobe. In the end I chose a mauve colour as I thought it would be neutral enough to go with most things but still a bit fun.

When we arrived our kits were waiting for us. They included:

  • Coloured leather
  • Rubber soles
  • Insoles
  • Wax thread
  • Needle
  • Paper template

Plus each of our stations had the equipment we would need such as scissors, hole punch pliers and a pen to draw on the leather.

We started off by cutting out the paper templates. There was only one template, which you had to flip over to create the other shoe, so we had to be careful to note which side was which. There were three options to choose from; a low trainer, a normal trainer or a high top. I decided to go with the normal trainer, but some of my classmates made the high top and I have to admit I was a bit jealous as they looked so good! Once the paper template was cut out we positioned it on the leather and drew round it, then flipped it over and drew around it again to create the reverse pattern for the other shoe.

Then it was time to cut the shapes out. The leather was pretty tough to cut and it was important to be as precise as possible.

We then attached the templates back on to the leather pieces so that we could punch the holes. There were two sized holes to punch; the larger holes for the shoelaces and the smaller holes around the bottom to secure the uppers to the soles. Punching was probably the most difficult part of the process. You needed quite a bit of hand strength! The smaller holes weren’t too bad, although there was a lot of them, but the larger holes caused a bit of trouble in the class!

Once the holes had been punched in the leather it was then time to punch the holes in the soles. The holes were marked around the edge of the soles so it was just a case of going round with the smallest size on the pliers and punching through. The rubber was really easy to punch, but there were a lot of holes to match the uppers! When all the holes had been punched with the pliers we then went round with our needles poking out all the little pieces of rubber to make it easier when it came to actually sewing.

After lunch we moved on to construction. Our tutor Alex showed us how to line up the leather with the sole and how to sew it all together with the wax thread in the correct order. Starting along the inside edge we worked our way around to the nose, then down the other side, finishing with the heel, then sewing back around the other way to secure it all. Once the uppers were attached Alex showed us how to create a little stitch on either side to hold the tongue in place.

Lastly the insoles went in and the laces were threaded through! I couldn’t believe I’d made a pair of trainers! They just came together so quickly and with so few materials. I can’t wait to wear them! I think they’ll look good with some of my summer dresses, so roll on summer!

The workshop cost £150 and took place at their Covent Garden studio in London. Jane, the owner of Tea and Crafting, took part in the class along with Maddie and it was great to meet them in person. The tutor was Alex of Sewrendipity (https://sewrendipity.com/) a sustainable sewing blog. She was fantastic and really knowledgeable. I can’t recommend this class enough. It was a lovely day out and not only did I get to meet other creative people and spend the day crafting, I also created something that I’m actually going to use; my favourite kind of crafting!

craft kit

Mosaic Bee

This week I’ve been doing another craft kit that I picked up at the Handmade Festival. This time it’s mosaic. I’ve never had a go at mosaic with actual tiles before, and I’ve never had a go at grouting either so I was a little bit daunted by the prospect of that before I started!

I bought the kit from Rachel Shilston (https://www.rachelshilston.co.uk/) and it cost £25. It was one of the beginner kits, so I didn’t have to buy any extra tools like tile cutters. Any tiles that needed to be a shape other than square came pre-cut in the kit.

Included in the kit was:

  • MDF bee shape
  • Whole tiles on brown backing paper
  • Pre-cut tiles
  • Round tiles (for eyes)
  • PVA glue
  • Sponge
  • Grout powder
  • Glue spreader
  • Cocktail stick
  • Ribbon

The first thing to do was soak the tiles in warm water to release them from the brown paper and give them a dry with some kitchen towel. Once all the tiles were loose it was then time to start creating the mosaic by spreading glue on the MDF shape and placing the tiles in the correct pattern. The kit came with really detailed instructions on how to build the pattern and where to position each tile, along with a nice clear picture on the front of the box. When it was finished you had to leave the glue to dry overnight.

Once the glue was dry and all the tiles were fixed on it was time to grout! As I said, I haven’t done any grouting before, however I needn’t have worried. Again, the instructions were really clear, including descriptions of how the grout should be the consistency of buttercream icing and stressing the small amount of water required to do this. There was no way I could make a mistake with instructions like that! If you were still unsure Rachel also provides a how-to video on her YouTube channel. I didn’t actually check this out as I didn’t need to in the end, but I think that’s great support.

After I had mixed, applied and wiped off the excess grout I used the cocktail stick to clear the grout from the hole used for hanging the piece once it’s finished. I then left it to dry inside a plastic bag. This helps it to cure rather than dry out too fast and crack. Once it was dry after a few hours I gave it another wipe with a clean cloth and threaded the ribbon through, ready for hanging.

I really enjoyed this kit because it was something a bit different and it was learning skills I’ve never used before. I don’t know if mosaic is a hobby I would take up regularly, but if the mood does ever take me again I would definitely feel confident about doing it. As with most crafts it wasn’t quick because you had to allow for drying time, but each section of the process probably only took me an hour or less.

Rachel’s website is really nice and easy to navigate and I had a little explore on there and saw that she offers a monthly mosaic subscription box if you really get into it, and she does workshops. The only warning I would offer is that it is a messy craft so you really need an apron, gloves and a face mask and make sure you cover your work area in newspaper before you start!