craft kit

Stitch Club – Badger Shelfie

Earlier this year Stitch Club released their new Shelfie animals as PDF patterns and I’ve been waiting patiently ever since for the full kits to be released, mainly because I’m lazy and don’t want to source my own materials! Well, now they are here and I ordered one straight away! They are cleverly designed to sit independently on the edge of a shelf, table, or any other flat surface, hence the name.

Included in the box was:

  • Felt sheets x3 (grey marl, black, white)
  • Stuffing
  • Embroidery threads x3 (grey, black, white)
  • Needle
  • Pins
  • Freezer paper templates

There was a choice of four animals: badger, fox, hare, or llama. I was torn between the badger and the llama because they looked like they had the most embellishments to sew but in the end I decided on the badger; I am a Hufflepuff after all!

I’ve never used freezer paper to cut out patterns before. It irons on to the fabric rather than being pinned on like standard paper pattern pieces and can be used more than once. I found that when it worked it was great, but when it didn’t quite stick properly it was a bit annoying especially when half way through cutting something out. I definitely think it was better for the smaller pieces though, which can be tricky to cut out using paper and pins.

The best part of the project was creating the front of the badger by building up the layers of felt to create the head and tummy and stitching on the features like the paws and nose. The patterns pieces fit together really well and sewing the front and the back together was really easy. I chose to use blanket stitch, but there was the option to use whip stitch or running stitch instead, all of which were explained in the ‘Learn to Sew with Felt’ booklet along with lots of other useful information about cutting felt, using freezer paper, and using embroidery thread.

The part that took the longest was the stuffing because it’s really important to ensure that all the small parts like the nose and ear are properly filled. To achieve this you need to feed in very small amounts of stuffing at a time, pushing them all the way in with the help of something like a pencil. When I first started the stuffing process I thought there was no way I would use all of the stuffing provided, but I used every last scrap in the end!

The kit cost £19.50, which I think is very reasonable for the amount and quality of materials, plus the great design of the product. I was expecting to pay anywhere between £25-£35 for this kit when I saw it had been released and I think it would be worth that. I’m very pleased with my badger sitting up on the shelf, but now I’m thinking that I might need his other animal friends too…

craft kit

Paraffle Needle Painting

I recently started following Paraffle Embroidery on Instagram when they showed up under one of the craft hashtags I follow because I really liked the stylistic design of their animal embroideries, especially the sloth! When I saw that they had released a needle painting kit in such a cute size and design I had to get it. There were two colours ways for this orange slice design, navy blue or pink; I chose the navy as I thought the stitched orange looked more striking against the darker colour.

The kit cost £17.50 and included:

  • 3 inch embroidery hoop
  • Needle
  • Embroidery thread x4 (yellow, orange, white, brown)
  • Navy blue fabric
  • White carbon paper
  • Paper template

I really like carbon paper for transferring designs onto fabric as you can usually get a lot of detail and any lines that you don’t stitch over will eventually fade away or be rubbed off as you work so there’s no need to wash them away as you have to do with a fabric pen.

I have done needle painting before, but I’m always keen to practice my technique as it can be a tricky one to get right, especially blending colours like in this project. I’m also always interested to see how other people do it in case I can pick up any tips to improve my own work. The instruction booklet included with this kit was great. It broke down the steps into sections with detailed text explaining which stitches to use, the placement for them, and how your work should look when you’ve finished that step, along with clear photographs. It was especially good at explaining how to achieve the blending technique that gives the painted effect. There was also a useful section at the back for basic sewing skills like starting and tying off and how to do the stitches.

This little kit was perfect for doing in the evenings in front of the TV. It’s small size meant that it wasn’t heavy to hold up and whilst it still required concentration, the repetitive nature of each orange segment meant that you didn’t need to keep referring to the instructions and could get into a rhythm of sewing. It would make a great gift for someone who was fairly new to sewing and wanted to improve their skills.

craft kit

Keep Going Embroidery

I think the inspirational message to ‘Keep Going’ on this paint-by-numbers style embroidery was very relevant as this was quite a labour intensive project all completed in the same stitch! This embroidery kit is one of many positive, uplifting kits available from Hello! Hooray! I’ve been wanting to try out some negative space embroidery for a while and this was a really nice project to work on in front of the TV every evening.

Included in the kit was: 

  • Printed fabric
  • Embroidery threads
  • Length of white cotton thread
  • Embroidery hoops x2

I actually bought it a while ago but didn’t get around to starting it and then when I came to do it I realised that the instructions were sent digitally and the link had timed out because I left it for too long. I contacted Clare, the lovely lady behind the brand, via Instagram and asked very sheepishly if she wouldn’t mind sending it to me again. I thought I might not get a quick reply as it was the summer holidays, but she responded to me the same day and sent the link again as soon as I confirmed my email address, which I was very grateful for. Such a fantastic example of excellent customer service from a small independent business that you would never get from a big company; another excellent reason to shop small!

I thought the numbering system on the pattern and the thread holders worked really well, with each group of three diamonds being made up of a light, medium, and dark shade of the same colour. It was really easy to follow and I did all the diamonds of one colour before moving onto the next colour. Satin stitch was used in a really effective way to create the 3D effect of the pattern.

The project was worked in a larger hoop before being transferred to the smaller blue hoop to finish it off. I thought this was great as it meant you didn’t have to keep moving the fabric around in the hoop to complete the whole design (although some of the outer most diamonds were a bit over the edge of the hoop and required a bit of fabric wriggling to complete), plus you got a spare hoop for another project once it was finished! Putting the finished piece into a slightly smaller hoop meant that the design ran all the way off the edge of the final presentation, which gave a really polished look to the whole thing. 

The white cotton thread was used for running stitch around the edge of the fabric to pull it in and finish it off at the back, as is fairly standard for embroidery hoops. You could stitch or glue another piece of fabric to hide the back of your stitches if you wanted as well. 

I really enjoyed this kit, it was nice to see the pattern start to emerge as I completed each diamond and I like the effect of the bright colours against the negative space of the words. I think I will have to create my own negative space design now. I also like to have a project that I can pick up and put down as needed and this one was especially good for that as each diamond was quite small so you could do as much or as little as you wanted in one sitting.

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MakeBox – Beatrix Bunny Doll

I’ve been really looking forward to this month’s MakeBox (https://www.makebox.co/), the Beatrix Bunny Doll, not only because I love sewing but also because it has an Easter feel to it and I love this time of year! I love all the egg, chick and bunny themed craft projects, along with that feeling of Spring in the air and the sense of hope and positivity it brings, especially this year. I was particularly interested in this box because, whilst I love sewing, it is always nice to have a go at a different kind of sewing aside from embroidery for a change. I did make the Sugar Plum Fairy heirloom style doll from MakeBox a couple of Christmases ago (see my blog on it here) and this was very similar in style.

Included in the box was:

  • Cream poly cotton
  • Vintage floral linen
  • Pink linen
  • Embroidery threads (black and pink)
  • Sewing thread
  • Stuffing
  • Elastic
  • Needles
  • Pins

Before receiving the kit, MakeBox emailed the subscribers with a choice of box, Beatrix Bunny (which I chose) or Bobby Bunny. Each came with a different vintage fabric to make the ears and outfit. The shirt style was different for each of them as well. Since sending out the subscription boxes MakeBox have also introduced Betsy Bunny who is available to buy in their online shop. I actually think I might have chosen Betsy if she had been included in the original choice! 

The first step was to cut out all the pattern pieces from paper and draw them onto the fabric. For some of the pieces it was important to remember to flip them over to make an opposite; to create a left and a right ear for example. The vintage fabric was also quite limited to so you had to lay out the pattern pieces carefully, ensuring that you still had a good seam allowance around each piece.

The sewing began with the head, which was definitely the most complicated part. The instructions said you could either hand sew or machine sew. I thought machine sewing would be quicker but sheer laziness stopped me from getting my sewing machine out (!) so I decided to hand sew it and actually, I’m glad I did. Machine sewing would have been a lot faster for parts of it, but there were some parts that were at such an awkward angle and had so many pins in to keep it in place that I definitely would have struggled with the machine. 

Making the head felt a lot like piecing a jigsaw puzzle together, but after constructing it all and adding the eyes and nose with the embroidery thread I felt really proud of myself!

Moving on to the body was a lot more straightforward. The arms and legs were easy to sew around, although they took me a little while to turn out. I used a pencil to help push the stuffing down to make sure they were well filled. Attaching the arms and legs to the body was a little tricky but only because the limbs made it bulky to sew. The instructions were a little vague in places, like saying to pin the body into place but not actually saying to sew it, however the step-by-step photographs were pretty clear to follow. Once the bottom floral piece had been sewn on the bunny could then be stuffed. I used rice to stuff the bottom so that she sits up nicely. The instructions also suggest lentils could be used as an alternative. The rest of the body was stuffed with toy stuffing like the limbs and head.

Sewing the body to the head was by far the most difficult part. You had to do a whip stitch with the seam allowance tucked inside, add to this the difficult angle and my neckline ended up looking a bit messy. I actually unpicked my first attempt and started again as it was so bad! My second attempt was a little better but still not my finest sewing!

Lastly it was time to make the clothes. This was the part I was most looking forward to. The bloomers were cut out of the pink linen, hemmed and sewn together before sewing elastic into the waistband and legs. The pinafore top was slightly more complicated and I’m glad I measured it around the body before sewing up the seam allowances because it was a very tight fit so I adjusted it to have less seam allowance, but still have a tidy finish. The flounces were fun to do, although my thumb was glad when they were done after pushing the needle through so many layers of material! I decided to alter the way the straps were attached to the top. In the instructions they are attached to the top of the blouse and just tied around the neck, but I thought this looked a bit messy, so I attached them to the side of the neckline and then sewed them in place to the back of the blouse like proper straps. It means my messy head attachment is more visible, but I think it gives it a more finished look overall.

I’m very proud of my finished Beatrix Bunny. She was quite a labour intensive project and took me a long time to complete, but the end result is a lovely toy. Now I just have to decide whether to keep her or give her away!

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Craftiosity – Needlepoint Journal

There was a very mindful craft from Craftiosity (https://craftiosity.co.uk/) this month, stitching a needlepoint cover for a notebook. It was quite a simple and repetitive design, but very relaxing to do. I actually did mine whilst watching my favourite Disney films!

Included in the box was:

  • Yarn x2 (golden yellow and parchment)
  • Needlepoint canvas
  • Needle
  • Notebook

There was an issue with the supplier who had packed some boxes with 8 holes-per-inch canvas rather than 7 holes-per-inch, which affected the design, however an email was sent out alerting all subscribers to this as soon as they found out. I received my email only a couple of days after I received the box. A new set of instructions and pattern was sent out to accommodate the different canvas, as well as a method for determining which canvas you had. I actually had the larger size, so was pleased that I hadn’t started the project as soon as it arrived!

Once that had been sorted the process of making the cover was very straightforward. Starting with cutting the canvas to size, you needed four pieces to make the cover. Then the sewing could begin. The pattern was stitched as diagonal squares in an alternating pattern with the stitches slanting first to the right and then to the left. I decided to stitch all the parchment coloured yarn first and then go back and fill in the golden colour, but I think you could do it row by row if you were happy to keep swapping colours as you got further down the pattern.

This process was completed twice, once for the front and once for the back cover. The two smaller pieces of canvas were then joined to the larger ones to create a pocket for the covers of the notebook to sit in. This was done using a binding stitch. I thought it was going to be a basic whip stitch but it was actually more complicated than that and gave a nice solid finish to the edge of the cover. The notebook could then be slotted into the separate covers and lastly it was sewn together using the binding stitch up the spine of the book. 

I really enjoyed this project as it was so relaxing and could be done whilst watching the TV or listening to a podcast and the end result is something that can be used day to day.

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MakeBox – Bee Bold

A nice familiar craft to start the year from MakeBox (https://www.makebox.co/). This Bee Bold embroidery kit featured their signature bee emblem and a second hoop with a botanical rainbow, which feels like a hopeful and positive way to kick off January.

Included in the box was:

  • 7 inch embroidery hoop
  • 6 inch embroidery hoop
  • Embroidery thread x5 (pink, black, yellow, green, blue)
  • Linen
  • Felt
  • Needle
  • Pins
  • Velvet ribbon
  • Carbon paper
  • Paper pattern
  • Bee Bold postcard

After cutting the linen in half to fit both the hoops, the paper patterns were transferred onto the fabric using carbon paper. I started with the smaller design of the bee, mainly because that’s what was first in the instruction book! I liked the ‘sketching’ style of the black back stitch around the wings and legs, leaving the focus for the floral design inside the shape of the body. The 3D effect roses were a big part of both designs too giving a nice textural feeling along with the use of French knots.

I particularly liked the use of chain stitch to create the rainbow. I thought it was a really clever way to fill in the stripes using a fairly under used stitch, without resorting to satin stitch which, whilst I love it, can become a bit arduous over large areas. Again, by placing each row of chain stitch so closely together it gives the piece a nice textural quality. 

The hoops were backed with felt stitched on around the edge of the linen which had been tucked in the back. Although I think it is nice to cover the back of a piece so that the messy side is hidden it’s not really my preferred way of backing. I actually prefer to glue the felt on as I feel like this achieves a neater finish over all. 

There were the usual problems with the instruction booklet with some photographs obviously in the wrong place as they did not match up with the numbered instruction, and the colours on the colour chart for the rainbow did not match the photograph of the finished piece. Of course this doesn’t actually matter because you can do the colour placement in any way you like, but when they are on pages next to each other it really jumps out at me. I always try to imagine I am a beginner working my way through the instruction book and how helpful I would find it. I know I have said this before but I’m always so surprised that for a company that values quality and customer service, they are always let down with their printed material.

Lastly there was the Bee Bold postcard to stitch. I punched holes where it was indicated with my needle first and then used the left over thread to decorate it. Another cute addition for my inspiration wall!

The finished pieces are lovely as usual and I always enjoy the variations on design and themes even within the same craft. I’ve just seen a hint on Instagram of what will be in the March MakeBox and it looks pretty exciting, but first there’s candle making in February to look forward to!

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MakeBox – Partridge in a Pear Wreath

The Christmas box is my favourite MakeBox this year (https://www.makebox.co/)! The theme is a ‘Partridge in a Pear Wreath’, and the finished product is gorgeous. I particularly love the pears, they are really satisfying to make and look so effective. I like the traditional style of the decoration as well. I think this kit appeals to me as well because I like working with felt. It’s such a versatile and forgiving material.

Included in the kit was:

  • Wooden partridge shape
  • Felt sheets x5 (marl green, dark green, white, faun and brown)
  • Stuffing
  • Glue gun
  • Glue sticks
  • Embroidery thread
  • Velvet ribbon
  • Needle
  • Pins
  • Copper wreath base
  • Red felt balls
  • Wire
  • Paper templates

The instruction book was very well put together with guidance on how to do whip stitch and the dos and don’ts of using a glue gun at the beginning. It then went through how to make each of the elements and finally how to assemble them all together. As I mentioned above I just love the pears. They came together so nicely and look surprisingly realistic! 

I actually decided to skip about through the instructions. I know from previous experience that you can lose a lot of glue by having the glue gun on all the time whilst you are busy doing other things, so I decided to prep everything else first and then have a big glueing session. I cut out all the pattern pieces, stitched my pears and cut all my wire before turning on the gun. I found this a really productive way to work and actually got it all assembled pretty quickly!

Having said that I love this kit, I do still have a negative to talk about. I don’t like saying negative things because I know how hard the people who create these craft kits work, but I also want to give an honest review. Not for the first time with MakeBox I found myself short of materials. There was not enough wire to make the kit as stated in the instructions. Each leaf and flower was glued onto a 15cm long piece of wire, you were then supposed to attach the leaves to another central piece of wire (x2) and then use two further lengths of wire to attach the branches to the wreath base. I actually ran out of wire cutting the pieces for my flowers and had to cut two in half to create four shorter lengths. I thought maybe I just got a mis-measured coil of wire, but in the instruction booklet it clearly states that a 5 metre length of wire is included. Being pedantic, I went through the instructions and added up all the lengths it asks you to cut. It totals 6 metres and 40 centimetres. None of this actually matters to me because I just twisted the leaves together, leaving out the central wire and then wound the whole branch around the wreath base, which was a bit trickier but not a problem. What I find frustrating about this is that firstly there are people out there who are not as experienced at crafting and may not know what to do to be able to complete their project without the extra wire and secondly, this is not a cheap subscription box, it’s a high quality brand. All the materials are excellent quality and the finished products are always gorgeous, which makes it all the more disappointing when you are short of one of the materials because someone didn’t bother to work out how much was needed, or there is an error in the instruction booklet that could have been avoided with proof reading or a beta test. 

Despite this annoyance I still enjoyed making the project and would make it again if I could find more marl green felt! The wreath is a truly beautiful Christmas decoration that I will be getting out year after year to hang in my home. 

There was in fact enough extra materials to make not one, but two more pears to turn into tree decorations. If you follow me on Instagram (@theinquisitivebee) you will know that I have been doing several projects over the Christmas period that have resulted in my tree being absolutely laden with ornaments, but it makes me smile every time I look at it! I have so many now that I think next year I might need two trees!

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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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Craftpod – Enchanted Woodland

This year’s autumn box from Craftpod (https://www.craftpod.co.uk/) had an ‘Enchanted Woodland’ theme featuring toadstools and an extremely cute badger! Included in the box was:

  • Printed toadstool design fabric
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Embroidery threads x7
  • Stuffing
  • Felt (grey, black and white)
  • Interfacing
  • Pipe cleaner
  • Eyes
  • Paper templates
  • Toadstool pin
  • Woodland stickers
  • English Breakfast tea bag

The first project was an embroidery of a Fly Agaric toadstool, a typical fairytale style red with white spots. Although the majority of the embroidery was made up of long and short stitch, which is one of my least favourite stitches, I still absolutely loved this project! Firstly, it was quite small so it felt really achievable, but the thing I loved about it the most was how effectively the stitches and thread colours were arranged to create the highlights and shadows making the whole piece look really 3D. The addition of the French knots as the warts of the toadstool, which of course are raised off the fabric, made it really special. I also liked that it was done on black fabric. Not only did it make the design really stand out, but it was nice to work on something other than white or cream!

The second project was a small stuffed felt badger. As a Hufflepuff I was pretty excited to make this, and it didn’t disappoint. When I saw how small the paper templates were I was a bit concerned that I would be able to complete it without the badger looking like a wonky mess, but actually the way it was constructed meant that there were very few fiddly bits. I really liked the addition of the little toadstool embroidered on his side as it tied the whole box together. I also liked the use of the pipe cleaners in the legs. I have made this style of pattern before and found that the legs are very tricky to fill with stuffing and often end up quite flat, but by bending and inserting the pipe cleaner into the legs it meant that they were filled and also moveable.

I think I have said this before but Craftpod really is one of my favourite craft boxes. If you are into embroidery I would highly recommend it. I always feel that the projects push my skills and the results are so rewarding. The winter box is launching soon and I cannot wait to receive it! This autumn box is still available in the Craftpod Extras shop over on Etsy (https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/868716864/autumn-2020-craftpod?ref=shop_home_feat_2).    

craft kit

Breakfast Time Embroidery

I’ve been eyeing up this embroidery kit for a while now and decided to buy it for myself as a lockdown treat! Having previously done other kits by The Make Arcade (https://www.themakearcade.co.uk/) including the Christmas Craftvent calendar and a cactus brooch I was excited about this one as I have enjoyed the others so much and found them to all be of good quality.

Included in the kit was:

  • Pre-printed cotton
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Embroidery thread
  • Needle
  • Felt

My first thought when I opened the box was ‘Is that it?!” For some reason I had the impression from seeing pictures on Instagram that it was going to be a larger hoop, say about 20cm diameter, but it’s actually only about 10cm, which makes it perfect for a quick embroidery project to do in front of the telly, but took me a bit by surprise! When I looked back at the website and my order it clearly says that it’s a mini embroidery kit, so I’m clearly not very observant!

Once I got over that the whole kit was very straightforward. The fabric went into the hoop and each of the sections to be filled in was numbered, and each number corresponded to a coloured thread. There was an easy to read diagram of the embroidery and a key to show which colours were which, including the DMC number of each thread. This wasn’t really necessary as the threads were loose without any packaging and it was easy to tell where each one went, but useful to know what the colours were if you want to use them again for another project. 

Also included was a guide to embroidery that I thought was very well written. It outlined how to separate the thread and put your fabric into the hoop as well as a number of different stitches you can use in the project. It also had a section about how to finish it off at the back by sewing a running stitch around the edge to pull in the excess fabric and then attaching a circle of felt to hide the mess! I glued my felt on, but I might go back at a later date and stitch around the edge to give it a neater finish.

There was only a small amount of each coloured thread provided with the kit, which obviously keeps costs down, but also meant that I felt like I had to be quite careful and try not to make any mistakes. It wasn’t a problem with some colours like the yellow or pinks, but I was only left with a short length of the brown and lighter green by the end and the blue for the mug and the text completely ran out half way through. I matched it as best as I could with some other thread I had hanging around, but it’s not quite a full match. Hopefully it’s not too noticeable to the casual observer!

The kit cost £13 plus shipping. They have several other designs available too. I quite like the look of the galaxy one!