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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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Makerly – Mandala Dotting

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been slowly working my way through the mandala dotting Makerly box from last month. This craft trend seems to have completely taken off recently and it seems like a lot of people are doing it at the moment. It certainly has quite a mindful quality to it, whilst at the same time requiring concentration and precision. 

Included in the kit was:

  • Dotting tools
  • Paints
  • Paintbrush
  • Stencils
  • White pencil
  • Black card
  • Round mandala canvases
  • Plastic stand
  • Self-adhesive acrylic gems
  • Rock

The first step was to try out all the different sized dotting tools and have a play around with positioning the dots to create patterns. I much preferred the ball shaped metal tools to the flat plastic ones. I found the flat ones left a texture on the dot, whereas the ball ones gave a much smoother, more precise dot.

There were several stencils included in the kit of varying sizes and spacing which were very helpful for creating even patterns. For my first test pattern I drew lines in the template but I then found that the lines were still visible as I didn’t completely cover them with my dots and they didn’t rub out nicely, so for my next designs I just made dots at each of the intersections. For my second design I ‘dotted’ but then joined the dots with a pattern I copied from the instructions as I knew that if I didn’t have the lines I would make a mistake.

In a typically ‘me’ fashion my first design actually turned out to be my best! Although I did like the design I ended up with on my mandala canvas, especially the limited colour scheme, I managed to go a bit wonky which kind of spoils the effect of the whole piece. 

Lastly I painted my rock. This seems to be the biggest craft trend at the moment, but now I have a painted rock I’m not really sure what to do with it! I started by painting a black circle on the rock and then once it was dry I did my dotting. I kept it quite simple as it’s a lot smaller than the card or canvas and kept to a limited colour palette as well. 

I’m not sure if this craft is for me, but I’m really glad that I had a go at it. I will definitely be using the basic principles of mandala creation for my future embroidery projects and I think the tools will come in handy for other projects too.

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Makerly – Soap and Sugar Scrub

I always think that soap making will be complicated even though I’ve done it before, but it’s actually so easy as this month’s Makerly box has proved to me once again! The kit was to make mini soaps and sugar scrubs flavoured with lavender and Chai tea.

Included in the kit was:

  • Melt and pour soap base
  • Coconut oil
  • White sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Lavender
  • Chai teabags
  • Lavender essential oil
  • Plastic moulds
  • Gift tags
  • String

I made the soap first, melting it in the microwave in short bursts until it was completely runny. I actually had to reheat it because I had trouble taking the lid off the essential oil and it started to congeal! The instructions did say to work fast and I should have prepped everything in advance, but it did take me by surprise just how quickly it started to set. I used the lavender oil and flowers for the first batch of soap and the Chai tea for the second batch. I was expecting it to fill all the moulds as shown in the picture, but mine mixture didn’t quite stretch that far.

Conversely there was so much sugar scrub mixture that I had to set it in several batches! I made up the mixture whilst the soap was setting in the fridge, which only took about 15 minutes. I melted the coconut oil in the microwave and mixed it with both sugars along with the lavender for the first batch and the tea for the second batch. This took me longer than I expected. There was so much of each mixture that in total I filled, set, and emptied the moulds three times!

The soap base and coconut oil came in tins which could then be repurposed as gift boxes for the bath time treats, using the gift tags and string to label them. The sugar scrubs definitely need to be stored in a cool place as the coconut oil does have a tendency to melt if it gets too warm. I left some of them in front of a window whilst I was waiting for the others to set and the sun coming through caused them to start to losing their shape and disintegrate a bit, so take care with your sugar scrub storage!

Although I am more drawn towards textile and embroidery based crafts it is always fun to do something a little different for a change. One thing I’ve found about the Makerly craft subscription is that the projects nearly always push me to try something new that is out of my crafting comfort zone, so whilst producing soap and sugar scrubs may not become something I will make a regular habit of I enjoyed my morning dabbling in toiletries!

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Makerly – Valentine’s Linocut

I’ve been wanting to have another go at Linocut for a while so I was quite excited when the January Makerly box (https://www.makerlycrafts.com/) turned up, with a Valentine’s theme. I always intend to make things in advance for holidays like Valentine’s but I never seem to have the time, so it was nice to have this kit ready to go in plenty of time.

Included in the kit was:

  • Lino blocks x2
  • Lino cutting handle
  • Lino cutting blades x5
  • Ink pad
  • Wooden spoon
  • Pencils
  • Card blanks with envelopes x5
  • Finger protectors

I’ve only done Linocut once before so I was pleased that there was a spare Lino block to practice on. There were five different blades included in the kit and the instructions encouraged some experimentation, so I had a little play around with each of the blades. I found the Lino quite difficult to cut at first but the instructions recommended warming it up by putting it on top of a radiator or in a bowl of hot water to soften it. I put mine on top of my portable radiator for only a minute or so and the difference was incredible! It was so much easier to cut, but I did find that it cooled and hardened quite quickly so I had to keep warming it as I worked through the project.

There were three designs to choose from, or you could create your own if you were feeling adventurous! I chose the one that was probably the easiest, which was probably best for such a beginner, but I mainly chose it because it was my favourite design. I didn’t carve very deeply on my practice Lino block, so I think I could try a second design on the back of it in the future. The image was applied onto the block using tracing paper with the traced design placed face down and then retraced on the back so the pencil marks transferred.

The instructions were full of great tips about how to carve to get the clearest lines. I did make a couple of little slips, but they didn’t show up on the final print luckily! I think I could have spent more time carving away the background of my design some more as some of the ink caught on some of the taller bits and transferred to the paper, but I got a bit impatient and I actually quite like the effect. It gives it a more handmade, rustic quality. When the carving was finished I then applied the ink to the design.

I was a bit confused about the wooden spoon when I first opened my box, but I found out that it is used for rubbing the paper on top of the block to ensure there is a good ink transfer as this won’t press ink into the carved out areas like a hand would.

I’m really pleased with my final prints! I think my technique could do with some refining, but overall I feel like they came out rather well. Now I just have to find some lucky people to send them too! It must be the season for Lino cutting because I have a second Lino cut project from Craft Box Club lined up. I’m looking forward to trying a new design and seeing if there are any different techniques recommended in the other kit.

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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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Makerly – Reindeer Doorstop

This month’s Makerly box (https://www.makerlycrafts.com/) was very festive indeed – a reindeer doorstop! The tartan fabric alone just screams Christmas!  It’s a great seasonal ornament and is so simple to make.

Included in the box was:

  • Tartan fabric
  • Gingerbread felt sheets x2
  • Stuffing
  • Ribbon
  • Needles
  • Pins
  • Thread
  • Bells
  • Eyes
  • Pom-poms
  • Paper template
  • Berry and elderflower teabag

I started off by cutting out all the fabric pieces using the paper templates. The instructions said to leave a one inch seam allowance around each piece, which I thought was quite big, considering some of the pieces were quite small. I made the ears first and after I had sewed the tartan and felt pieces together I trimmed around the edge before turning them right side out, otherwise they would have been too bulky. I then moved onto the arms and once again trimmed the seam allowance down, however this time when I turned it out the seam split apart and I ended up with a hole in the arm as the fabric had just frayed away down to the stitches. I found the whole time I was sewing that the tartan fabric was fraying and it was quite difficult and slippery to work with. I had enough spare material to cut new arm pieces and from then on I didn’t trim down the seam allowance, even though this made it quite tricky when turning the pieces out.

Once all the smaller pieces were sewn together they could then be sewn into the body. After pinning them in place between the two body pieces it was just a case of sewing around. I thought this part would be tricky as the limbs, ears and antlers made it bulky and I was worried about them moving around, but it was actually really straightforward. Once the body was turned out I could really see my reindeer taking shape.

Before stuffing and sewing up the reindeer I added the face using the safety eyes, which are so easy to use as they just press together and they feel so secure, and sewing on a pom-pom nose. There was a choice of brown, red or green pom-poms for the nose. I decided to go with brown as I thought he was jazzy enough with his tartan body! 

After the face was on it was time to stuff! The top half was filled with stuffing and the bottom half was filled with rice. The instructions suggested rice, seeds, dry beans or sand; anything to give it some weight to be able to hold a door open. I raided my kitchen cupboards and found an old pack of brown rice that we had obviously had one serving out of and decided we didn’t like, so I used it to fill up my reindeer! 

With all the stuffing in it was time to sew up the bottom. The instructions suggested whip stitch, but I decided to use ladder stitch as I think it gives a neater finish. Lastly I added the ribbon and bell for a finishing touch! He looks so lovely and friendly that I might have to find a door for him to hold open all year and not just at Christmas!

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Makerly – Sunburst Mirror

I’m so close to being all caught up with my craft boxes after having a break in the summer when the weather was so hot that all I could do was lie on the sofa! I only have a few August boxes left before the September boxes start arriving in the post, one of which is the sunburst mirror kit from Makerly (https://www.makerlycrafts.com/).

Included in the box was:

  • Round mirror
  • Rattan sticks
  • Raffia
  • Glue
  • Elastic bands
  • Rattan decorations

There were instructions for two different designs of sunburst mirror included on the instruction sheet. I thought it was laid out a lot better than the booklet for the Temari balls, and it was really easy to follow this time. I particularly liked the historical note about King Louis XIV, the ‘Sun King’, inspiring the trend for the sunburst motif on furniture and architecture during his reign. I really like to have an understanding and explanation of the crafts I’m making as I think it makes you feel more connected to them.

I decided to go for design two as I wanted to try out the extra technique of soaking and bending the rattan sticks. This is obviously more time consuming as you have to soak the sticks in order to bend them, then soak them in their final shape and then dry them before they can be used. This does however give the glue time to dry on the first lot of sticks you attach to the mirror.

Attaching the bent sticks I found quite tricky as they didn’t want to stay in place and I had to hold each one for quite a while whilst the glue dried to avoid them popping up. A couple of them even caused the straight sticks to move out of place and I had to do a bit of a fixing, which unfortunately lead to me getting glue on the main part of the mirror in my bid to reattach all the sticks and hold them down without also getting my fingers stuck to them too! I’ve read that vinegar is good for getting glue off plastic so I’ll have to give it a try.

The final step was to weave around the outside with the natural raffia. I really enjoyed this part. It was easy to do and gave such a nice finish to the mirror. If I’d had more materials I think I would have liked to do design one as well with just straight sticks as I could have done more weaving. Lastly I added a little raffia hook to the back.

Also included in the box were the plastic rattan decorations. I’m not really sure what to do with them and there aren’t any suggestions on the instruction sheet, but some of them look like they would make good earrings so perhaps I’ll find some ear wires and do a bit of jewellery making!

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Makerly – Temari Balls

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

Included in the kit was:

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

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

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

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

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