subscription box

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!

craft kit

Floral Modern Embroidery

Last year when I went to Creatival in Manchester I met the lovely Kirsty of Kirsty Freeman Design (https://kirstyfreemandesign.co.uk/), who makes and sells embroidered art, home décor and accessories, and embroidery kits. The subject of her work mainly focuses around animals and nature. When lockdown started this year I knew it would be a difficult time for small businesses so, knowing that workshops and art exhibitions would be out for a while, I went trawling the internet for craft kits so that I could keep blogging about the things I love and support small businesses at the same time! I remembered seeing on Kirsty’s Instagram that she had some kits for sale so I checked out her website and ordered myself the ‘Dark Grey Floral’ kit. It cost £20 including shipping to the UK.

Included in the box was:

  • Grey linen with pre-stitched outline
  • Embroidery needle
  • Beading needle
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Seed beads
  • Variety of thread and yarn

Also included were the instructions which were in three parts; the written instructions telling you what to do in each section, the step-by-step for each stitch and finally there was instructions on how to finish your hoop when you had completed the embroidery. There was also a numbered diagram showing the sections and large colour photograph of the completed piece for reference. Overall I thought that the whole pack was very comprehensive and thorough.

The written instructions were laid out in a table showing the stitch type, thread type and bead type for each numbered section. It reminded me of a paint by numbers, just with thread instead of paint! In fact, the whole project actually reminded me of an art class I did when I was at school where we had to fill in an outline with different pencil marks. The stitches in this project weren’t just the usual satin stitch, back stitch etc that you find in the majority of kits, but patterns and textures that Kirsty had put together to create a modern and visually interesting piece of embroidery. I like to think that I am quite good at embroidery and have done a fair amount of it over the years, but this project really pushed me to have a go at a different style and think about the arrangement of stitches. Some of the stitches I actually found quite challenging because they required a certain amount of spatial awareness, which isn’t something I excel at!

Kirsty suggests working through the piece methodically and one of the ways she recommends is by thread. I found this was the best way for me as it meant I could keep my needles threaded until I’d finished all the sections in that colour. As the sections are listed numerically and not by thread type I did start to get a bit confused, but I found crossing off each section as I went along, both on the instructions and on the diagram, to be really helpful.  

I particularly liked the diagrams of each different stitch. I thought they showed how to do the stitches very well with clear pictures showing where the needle would come out and go back in to the fabric. I haven’t done much beading before so I quite enjoyed having a go of that, the only thing I would say though is that the beading needle does have a very small eye. You are only using the thinnest thread with it and it didn’t give me any trouble, but if you struggle with threading needles generally then using a needle threader might be a good idea with this one.

This is quite small work and requires quite a bit of focus. I did a lot of mine in one sitting, but I think it would have been better to do it over a longer period of time with more breaks for my eyes and my back. As it is split into sections it would be a good project to come back to whenever you have a spare half an hour or so, especially as each section is quite small and can be completed fairly quickly.

The finishing instructions showed how to gather the fabric behind the hoop, but there were other suggestions for what to do with it, including presenting it in a square frame or turning it into a cushion. I have gathered my fabric behind for now, but I haven’t cut the excess off as I like the idea of turning it into a cushion at some point in the future when I get some fabric for the back.

Whenever I do embroidery I’m reminded just how much I enjoy it. I have another couple of embroidery kits waiting for me so I think I might have to get started on them now as well! Watch this space…

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Cockpit Arts Open Studios

Cockpit Arts provides dedicated studio space and business support for creative businesses (https://cockpitarts.com/). They have two bases in London; Holborn and Deptford. Over the last couple of weekends they have been hosting an open studio for their makers and designers to exhibit their work. Having recently visited the Holborn studios for an embroidery workshop (see blog post from 27th May 2019), I decided to go along to the Deptford studios to take a look at what was going on there.

Several workshops were running over the course of the weekend so I booked myself onto ‘Make a Marbled Letter’ run by Lucy McGrath from Marmor Paperie (https://marmorpaperie.co.uk/). It was more of a taster session, which she ran in her studio for me and one other person. It lasted half an hour and she explained how marbling works and the materials you require for it. She also told us about how it originated in Turkey and spread across Europe, with each region adopting their own style and techniques.

Lucy explained that the correct process uses water thickened with Irish moss to allow the paint to spread out on the surface rather than just sink. We each had a go of cleaning the surface of the water, flicking the paint to create different layers and patterns of colour and moving the paint on the surface to make effects such as feathering. We then had two test runs on paper before going ahead with our wooden letters. The results are unpredictable and surprising but this craft creates such organic, original pieces that it’s hard not to like it!

The workshop did feel a little rushed and cramped as other people were coming in to look at the products on display but Lucy does run full workshops in a larger area. I would definitely consider going along to one to see what other patterns I can create and make some lovely unique paper.

There were four floors of studios filled with an amazing array of designers and makers, ranging from leather work and textiles to ceramics and jewellery and lots more in between. Most of the designers were very welcoming and were keen to talk about their work. I had a lovely chat with an illustrator called Ruth Martin (https://www.nothingbuttheruth.co.uk/) who produces some really fun pieces. I bought a biscuit print off her, which I’m hoping to find a space for in the kitchen. I also liked Another Studio’s (https://www.another-studio.com/) metal ornaments and gifts and bought a mini make-it-yourself kit.

Whilst I was there I was also told that Cockpit Arts have another open studio near to Christmas so that could be a great opportunity to stock up on some gifts from independent makers!

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Crafty Fox Market: 1st June 2019

At the weekend my sister and I visited the Crafty Fox Market (http://www.craftyfoxmarket.co.uk) on Saturday. The market runs at Mercato Metropolitano in South London once a month on both Saturday and Sunday, with different stall holders on each day.

The actual market was a lot smaller than I thought it would be, but the stalls that were there were selling lovely, high quality items. There were only a few stalls I wasn’t really interested in, but that was only because they weren’t my style, not because they weren’t selling great stuff. We did purchase a few things. I bought a card and my sister bought some pencils from Oh Squirrel (http://www.ohsquirrel.co.uk), my sister also bought some baby shower presents from HexNex Jewellery (http://www.hexnex.co.uk) and a necklace from Relic the Jeweller (https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/relicthejeweller). All three ladies who were running these stalls were very approachable and engaged us in conversation, which was very welcoming and encouraged us to buy from them.

As part of the market there was a workshop being run by Samantha Warren who creates printed accessories (http://www.samanthawarren.co.uk). The workshop was to make a wax resist card. You drew a design on card in white wax crayon and then painted over it with a wash of watercolour paints. Where the wax was applied the paint didn’t stick and your design was revealed. It was a really fun, quick workshop and reminded me of being a child as we used to do that with my Mum. Samantha was really friendly and talked through what to do clearly with a demonstration. We popped in to the workshop when it looked quiet and we were probably only in there for about 10 minutes. It was a nice little rest from the bustle of the market. We left our pieces to dry and then picked them up after lunch. According to the Crafty Fox Market website there were two workshops running on the Sunday, one free and another you had to book in advance.

Mercato Metropolitano (https://www.mercatometropolitano.com/) is between Borough and Elephant and Castle tube stations. Elephant and Castle also has a train station. The venue was quite hidden away. I felt like you had to know it was there, it wasn’t a place you would just stumble across. But inside was a fantastic array of street-food style eateries with plenty of seating both indoors and outdoors. We started our visit with a smoothie from the Vegan Shack and after strolling around the market and trying out the workshop we shared a pizza from Fresco and then headed to the Gelato Lab for an ice cream. The gelato was so good and another visitor even came over to ask where we had got them! The only thing we struggled to find was a normal soft drink. In the end we bought some fruit cordial but they were very expensive at £6.50 for two. In fact a lot of the food was quite expensive. It was all artisan and prepared on-the-spot, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind if you are planning a visit.

The weather this weekend was beautiful! The sun was out and the temperature was lovely. I think this really added to the vibe of the venue and by lunch time the outside areas were packed with people enjoying food and cocktails. Whether you’re going to the Crafty Fox Market or just heading there to enjoy some food, drink and live music I would recommend arriving early to bag a seat as it’s clearly a popular place to hang out. I’m looking forward to attending my next Crafty Fox event; one of their summer night markets in Brixton which they are holding once a month from June to September. I’ll let you know how it goes!