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Craftiosity – Winter Felt Wreath

I had so much crafting to do before Christmas that I just couldn’t fit it all in! As we are still in the ‘Christmas period’ I think it’s ok to still be posting wreaths, especially one as nice as this from the December Craftiosity box (https://craftiosity.co.uk/).

Included in the box was:

  • Felt sheets x4 (orange, ivory, light green, dark green)
  • Embroidery thread x4 (orange, green, white, gold)
  • Metal wreath base
  • Needle
  • Paper template
  • Christmas gift of gold flecked baker’s twine

Wreaths, fruit, felt and embroidery seem to be very much the trend of the season, based on what I’ve been making over the last few weeks and this snowberry and orange slice wreath certainly fits the bill. Ever since I saw this kit on Instagram I’ve been looking forward to making the orange slices! The kit was very straightforward to put together, and each step had some great techniques to try. I thought that wrapping the metal hoop in strips of felt to attach the components to was a great idea, and I particularly liked creating the snowberries using a running stitch to gather the circle of felt together. Filling them with off-cuts of the felt was a neat way to use up the scraps and create less waste.

The orange slices were the most time-consuming part. The segments were created using long and short stitch and there were three slices to do, with six segments on each. I’m not really sure how long they took me as I sat and did them in front of the TV, but I do know that I love the result! My only issue was that I ran out of embroidery thread after making only two of the slices. I’m not sure why as I followed the instructions, but I thought I wouldn’t be able to finish the third slice. I looked into buying the thread online, which was easy enough to find on Love Crafts (https://www.lovecrafts.com/en-gb/), but before I bought it I decided to check in my sewing box. I have done a lot of kits and have a lot of leftover thread so I rummaged through and miraculously found a skein that was almost identical in colour to the original thread! It is ever so slightly lighter, but I don’t think it notices at all now that they are all attached the to hoop. Once I’d finished the final slice with my found thread I then added the finishing gold touches.

Once I had all the components and the hoop prepared I could then decide on the placement and sew it all together. Although this wreath didn’t quite get made in time for this Christmas I will look forward to hanging it up in my home next year! 

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Craftiosity – Brush Lettering Baubles

Two more decorations for my Christmas tree with the November Craftiosity kit (https://craftiosity.co.uk/)! Using brush lettering pens to decorate wooden baubles, it had a bit of a Nordic feel to me. 

Included in the kit was:

  • Wooden spindle bauble
  • Wooden diamond bauble
  • Brush letter pens x3 (black, red, green)
  • White acrylic paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Lettering guide

This project took me around 1.5 hours to complete. I started off practising the writing I was going to do on the spindle bauble. I was glad that I had recently done the workshop on faux calligraphy as it set me up really nicely for my lettering. As before you had to remember that upstrokes were thin and downstrokes were thick. It’s quite a strange way of writing and the temptation is to try and do the whole word in one go, but actually you get a much better result if you do one letter at a time and just make them look joined up! I also measured the gap on the bauble where I would be writing and drew some guidelines for myself so I could practice writing the letters to the correct size.

After practising the writing it was then time to decorate the baubles, starting with the white paint and then embellishing with the red and green brush pens. I followed the pattern provided in the instructions, but I think you could be as creative as you like with this. I like the foliage theme though as it has a real Christmas feel in those colours. 

Once they were all decorated and the paint was dry it was time to add the lettering I had practiced. I drew it on in pencil first to make sure I spaced it out nicely and then went over in the black brush pen. There were some surfaces on the bauble where the wood had been cut in a certain way which meant that the pens bled slightly, which makes it look a bit messy, but once they are up on the tree you really can’t notice from a distance.

This was such a simple craft, but so effective in its results. The baubles have a really rustic, traditional feel to them, which is always nice at Christmas time!

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MakeBox – Bugs in a Box

It’s been all about the creepy crawlies with MakeBox this month with their ‘Bugs in a Box’ paper craft kit (https://www.makebox.co/shop/product/3142494719). The kit was a collaboration with Sarah Louise Matthews, a paper engineer and paper cut designer (http://sarahlouisematthews.com/). As well as cutting there was also instructions for folding techniques to create marvellous 3D insects.

Included in the box was:

  • Selection of coloured paper and card
  • Scalpels
  • Cutting mat
  • Pencil
  • Metal ruler
  • Glue
  • Envelope
  • Paper templates

The first project was to create a bug display made up of a moth, a patterned beetle and a winged beetle. Although the moth was flat, it was still a complicated piece with a lot of tiny pieces to glue on. Both the beetles had 3D elements that really brought them to life. 

There was a piece of card to mount them on when they were finished, however a frame was not included in the kit. I happened to have a box frame which was square so I put my backing paper in and glued the bugs on inside the frame to make sure I got the positioning right, as they are positioned for a portrait style frame in the photographs in the instruction booklet. I definitely think getting a frame is a good idea as it gives them a really polished finish and means you can display you work, rather than just leaving it to gather dust in a drawer!

The second project was a pop-up bee card. I really enjoyed this project because I’ve always wanted to have a go at making a card in this style. The bee itself was very delicate and I was worried the whole time that I would make a mistake and cut through a part I wasn’t meant to, but there was enough card for a second attempt if I had gone wrong. Luckily I managed to only cut where I was supposed to. I think the bee would have been lovely as it was, but there were additional wings to cut out and stick on, giving it even more of a 3D feel. I just need to decide what to put on the front of the card now so I can send it to someone!

I thought this whole box was very well curated. All the tools were good quality and there was plenty of spare paper if you made a mistake or wanted to make extras. I found that I mainly skim read the instructions and instead followed the photographs for each step as they clearly showed how to construct the bugs. 

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Fundi Box – No Sew Tote Bag

I’ve just signed up to a new subscription box (surprise, surprise!) called Fundi Box (https://www.fundibox.co.uk/). It’s all about celebrating and support African crafts and small businesses. Each box will contain a craft for you to make inspired by Africa, plus a special gift from an artisan.

Included in the box was:

  • Canvas fabric x2
  • African fabric x2
  • Leather straps x2
  • Chicago screws
  • Fabric glue
  • Wooden lollipop stick
  • Artisan gift

The artisan gift included in this first month’s box was a beautiful fabric covered notebook made by Neema Crafts (https://www.neemacrafts.com/), a not-for-profit organisation helping to train and employ people with disabilities in Tanzania. I thought it was a nice touch that the name of the person who made it was written on the label. It makes it really personal and brings you closer to the artisan. My notebook was made by Eliza. 

The project was to make a no sew tote bag. I love this idea as not everyone has a sewing machine at home and it’s such a simple process to create something both beautiful and practical. The African fabric was used to give the bag a pop of colour and pattern. Prior to receiving the kit Comfort, the lady who set up Fundi Box, emailed to ask which pattern I would like for my bag. It was great being given the choice!

The instructions were easy to follow and the bag was finished so quickly. The instructions to iron the edge of the canvas and to make holes for the handles weren’t really needed as the canvas came with the fold and the holes already in place. My only other issue with the kit was that I ran out of glue half way through! I didn’t feel like I was putting loads on and tried to copy the amounts shown in the pictures, but I guess I used more than I thought as I didn’t have enough to finish. I have some fabric glue in my craft cupboard so I used that to finish my bag, but I would have been a bit disappointed if I hadn’t had any in stock!

The straps were super easy to attach too. You needed a screwdriver to tighten them up, but I honestly think that if you didn’t have one you probably could have tightened them with just your fingers. 

The end result is great and I can’t wait to take it out shopping! I think Fundi Box is a great idea. There are so many crafts and artisans out there who don’t get enough recognition and this subscription box brings them to people’s attention. It’s a fantastic way to support not just small businesses, but black-owned businesses in particular. I am very much looking forward to the next box!

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Craft Box Club – Paper Quilled Jewellery

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
  • Quilling needle
  • Quilling template
  • Glue
  • Earring hooks x2
  • Necklace clasp
  • Wire
  • Cocktail sticks

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.

craft kit · subscription box

Craftiosity – Paper Flower Bouquet

The theme for the July Craftiosity box (https://craftiosity.co.uk/) was a paper flower bouquet. I have to say that I wasn’t very excited about this project as I have made paper flowers quite recently, however once I opened the box I found that rather than tissue paper these flowers were made with card, so although the process was very similar it was nice to work with a different material to produce a different effect in the end product.

Included in the box was:

  • Sheets of coloured A5 paper
  • Paper templates
  • Wire stems
  • Stamens
  • Florist tape
  • Glue stick
  • Vase

I really liked the addition of the vase in the kit as I often wonder how to display my craft projects and this provides the perfect solution!

There were four types of flowers to make: eucalyptus, anemone, craspedia, and tulip. All of the flowers followed the same basic process of cutting out the leaves and petals using the template, wrapping the stem with florist tape and then using the tape to attach the various components of each flower, with some help from the glue. Of course each flower had slightly different methods within that process to achieve the right effect. 

I had no trouble at all with the first three flowers, however I really struggled with the tulips. To start with the instructions said to make two flowers out of the white glitter paper but I just couldn’t find a way to fit all the petal templates onto one sheet of paper in order to cut out the correct amount of petals for each flower. In the end I just cut out enough for one and then cut the second set from some of the pale pink left over from the anemones. In the end I might as well not have bothered because I had to abandon the making of the tulips. I don’t often leave craft projects unfinished as I like to see things through to the end once I’ve started them, but I just could not get the petals to sit correctly, to meet at the top or glue together. I don’t know if it’s just the hot weather we’ve been having but I found the whole thing extremely frustrating and spent so much time manoeuvring the petals to try and get them to behave that they started to rip at the base where they were attached to the stem, so in the end I thought it would be best to leave them. After all, crafting is supposed to be good for your mental health and this was just making me cross! I have saved all the bits so hopefully I will be able to come back to them at a later date when I’m feeling a bit more patient, and the weather is cooler!

One thing I did like about this project was the way that the flowers were put together. The flowers and leaves either had small holes cut into them to slot straight onto the stem or they were held in place with the florist tape, so there was minimal waiting for glue to dry. I particularly liked the craspedias which, although fiddly, were certainly satisfying to put together, creating that little ball of yellow from strips of paper.

Overall I enjoyed this project and am really pleased with my little vase of flowers sitting on the dining table, which I don’t have to remember to water!

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Craftiosity – Woven Raffia Basket

The project for June’s Craftiosity box was basket weaving, which I was really excited about. I have done basket weaving before with La Basketry at The London Loom, but as it was in a workshop we just made a small basket. For this project I got to make a much bigger basket!

Included in the box was:

  • Natural raffia hanks x2
  • Roll of paper ribbon
  • Plastic darning needle

The basket started off similarly to the previous one I’d made by wrapping the raffia in ribbon and curling it around to create the centre of the base, but it used different stitches to hold each layer in place. It was a bit like a blanket stitch so as well as the stitches around the raffia you also had the ribbon running along it as well. This part was supposed to be hidden between the coils, but I think I need more practice than one basket to perfect that!

Once the base was roughly 20cm wide you could then begin to build the walls. I found that the walls built up a lot quicker than the base did and I really enjoyed that part of the weaving. Although I was really happy that the ribbon was paper and not plastic as I had used before because I’m all for being plastic free, I did find it quite frustrating at times as the ribbon ripped quite easily, especially when I was trying to tighten my stitches to make sure it was secure. I found this happened a lot less when building the sides than it did on the base. My sides also slope in a bit! In the top tips on the instructions it says to ensure the coils are stacked on top of each other to create straight sides, which I really did try to do but for some reason mine just wanted to slant inwards! I wondered if it was the tension of my stitches and if I shouldn’t have pulled them so tight. I’ll have to have another go and see if I can make it a bit neater as I do have just under a hank of raffia and plenty of paper ribbon left.

When the sides were as high as you wanted them (the instructions recommend 6cm but I went slightly taller) you can then create the handles by stitching the raffia core by itself without attaching it to the coil below. After that you then had to go around the basket wrapping the top coil in paper ribbon to give it a neat finish. I also went round mine and trimmed any bits of raffia that were sticking out! I found the wrapping part the hardest. Trying to keep the ribbon flat was very tricky as it kept wanting to twist round. 

This is not a quick project. I’d estimate it took me roughly six to seven hours to complete. I saw a lady had posted hers on Instagram and said it had taken her ten hours, however you don’t need to do it one sitting. It can be put down and picked back up again. I started mine yesterday and finished it today. You will need to sweep the floor after you’ve finished though! 

With the subscription boxes (all of them, not just Craftiosity) it’s hit and miss whether or not you’ll like the project that drops through the door each month as they have to cater to all craft interests, but that’s part of the joy of them! I usually find that I enjoy them even if I wouldn’t have picked it out for myself, but I especially love it when something really different like this comes and I have the chance to make something that I will actually use.

Craftiosity: https://craftiosity.co.uk/

La Basketry: https://labasketry.com/

The London Loom: https://thelondonloom.com/v2/

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Knack Box – Polymer Clay Earrings

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)
  • Pliers
  • Greaseproof paper
  • Files
  • Earring wires
  • Jump rings

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.

craft kit · subscription box

Craft Box Club – Earth Paint Bracelets

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!

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Air Dry Clay Mobile

The Craftiosity kit for May is all about air dry clay, which is the whole reason I subscribed! I’m really enjoying experimenting with air dry clay at the moment, in absence of my usual weekly ceramics class, and I’m keen to try out craft kits using this material so I can pick up as many hints and tips as possible. The project is to make a mobile inspired by organic forms.

Included in the box was:

• Air dry clay
• Wooden rolling pin
• Modelling tools
• Sandpaper
• Wire hoop
• Yarn
• Plastic needle

The project was broken down into sections; working with the wet clay to create cones and beads, sanding the pieces once they were dry, and lastly assembling the mobile. This one is not a quick project. It would be ideal to work on over a weekend, spending a couple of hours each day on it. You also need to factor in drying time. The instructions suggest 12-24 hours, however my pieces took an extra day. My studio where I work is quite cool and can be damp, so if you want your pieces to dry quicker think about where you leave them. I put mine in the dehydrator on low for a few hours, which speeded up the process a bit too.

There is a template included to cut out your identical circles to create the cones, but I found this a bit time consuming so I found a circular cutter of almost identical sized, which I found a lot more efficient for cutting out, but if you don’t have a cutter the template works just fine. The cones were assembled by marking and wetting the place on the circle where they would join and then rolling it up and using the modelling tools to smooth the join. I found the clay started to dry out round the edges really quickly and then cracked when you tried to roll it, so I found it best to roll out my clay and cut the circles in small batches. I would also say, take the recommendation in the instructions to keep the circles you are working on covered in a damp cloth seriously! I found that made all the difference, and the only reason I didn’t do it in the first place was because I was too lazy to get up and go to the sink, more fool me!

Once the cones were finished you then had to create the same number of small beads. For both the cones and the beads you needed to ensure that the plastic needle provided in the kit could pass through the hole in order to thread your yarn later. I used the needle to create my holes, but I forgot to factor in shrinkage when it dried (rookie error), so next time I would make the holes bigger than the needle. In the end I used another thinner needle which I already had, but obviously if I hadn’t had that I would have found it quite frustrating.

After everything had properly dried out it was time for sanding. If you are playing with air dry clay wear an apron! I can’t stress this enough! It’s a bit messy when it’s wet, but the sanding creates so much dust it’s unbelievable, so make sure you do it somewhere that’s ok to get dirty and don’t breath any dust in. The clay is so easy to sand and comes up nice and smooth, you just have to make sure you don’t sand too much and end up with nothing but a pile of dust!

Finally it’s time for assembly. First you had to cut the lengths of yarn and attach them to the wire hoop using a larks head knot. There is a really clear picture and description in the instructions of how to do this, but if you’re still not sure you can also access a video on their website, which I always think is useful for more visual learners. Once all the yarn is secure you can then thread on the cones and beads, securing them with a knot. The cones are attached in a cascading pattern around the hoop, which adds some interest to the finished piece. Although I did enjoy the process of this project and picked up some good new techniques to try on my own pieces, it is a little repetitive as there are eighteen cones and beads to make, sand and thread on!

The idea behind the project is that it is a minimalist, mindful piece. None of the pieces are painted or varnished, which means that it is for indoor use only. I’m sure if you wanted to have it outside you could take the time to paint it white and varnish it to make it water resistant before assembling it, but I think this would have an impact on the sound the cones make when they knock together in the breeze.

The Craftiosity subscription is £24.95 a month with free UK postage (https://craftiosity.co.uk/).