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

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…

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!

workshop

Biscuit Decorating

I didn’t have anything particularly creative planned for this week, besides my usual hobbies, but earlier in the week as I browsed Instagram, Tea and Crafting (https://www.teaandcrafting.co.uk/) were promoting spaces on their biscuit decorating class on Sunday morning and on the spur of the moment I thought ‘why not’ and booked it there and then!

The class was run by a lovely lady called Bhavi who introduced herself as a henna artist who had branched out not only to food but also applying her designs to gifts, home ware and wedding favours (https://www.bhavismehndi.co.uk/). For biscuit decorating she used henna piping bags fill with icing to create intricate patterns. We started the class working our way through several worksheets she had designed to get us used to using the piping bag and controlling the pressure to create thick and thin lines, dots and other various shapes. We practiced several designs such as flowers and mandalas using a piping bag filled with acrylic paint before moving on to icing our biscuits.

Bhavi allowed us free reign to choose whichever designs we liked but kept a frequent eye on us, giving us advice on using the piping bags and tips on how to get the best out of them. We had six biscuits each which had already been covered in a layer of plain icing and three bags filled with different coloured icing; blue, pink and yellow.

The class was two and a half hours and cost £55. There were only three of us in the class, which in some ways was good because it meant we were sure to receive individual attention, but in other ways was a shame as I think that kind of class would have been better with a larger number of people. I can see why the free spaces were being promoted on social media, but I suppose Sunday morning is a bit of a strange time for a craft class; most people want a lie in at the weekend!

Despite this I had a nice time. It was a very peaceful class and it was nice to spend the morning doing something so calm and quite therapeutic. It was also quite amusing to see how terrible my skills were during the practice phase, however I definitely improved during the course of the morning and was amazed by how intricate you can be with such a small piping bag and nozzle. My family certainly admired my designs before demolishing all the biscuits!