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Craftpod – Mimosa Embroidery

Another lovely kit from Craftpod for Spring, this time inspired by the Mimosa tree with it’s fluffy yellow flowers. There were two projects in the kit; an embroidered needle book, and a greenfinch cross stitch.

Included in the box was:

  • Pre-printed fabric
  • Felt (green and cream)
  • Cross stitch canvas
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Embroidery thread x6 (dark green, light green, yellow, grey green, pink, and black)
  • Pins
  • Needles
  • Button
  • Cardboard bobbins
  • Stickers
  • Tea bag

I started off with the needle book as I have never made one before. I thought it looked quite complicated but it was actually surprisingly easy to make! Starting off with the pre-printed fabric in the hoop I followed the design using mainly one strand of thread for back stitch and split stitch for the stems and leaves and French knots to create the little flowers. Once the embroidery was finished I cut around the border to create a little rectangular patch. I then cut the rest of the white fabric away from the green and trimmed the cream felt to size so I had all the pieces ready to start construction.

Stitching the embroidered patch onto the green rectangle I was a bit worried that the fabric would fray too much, but as I sewed around it I felt like the stitches would keep it in place and the raw edges give it quite a nice rustic feel. Adding the button finished off the front of the book nicely.

To keep the book shut you had to finger knit a crochet chain. I couldn’t quite remember how to do this from my previous crocheting attempts so I used the video tutorial on the Craftpod YouTube channel to remind myself. The video was really demonstrative and I picked it up straight away. The only thing I found was that they didn’t show how to cast off to keep your chain secure, but it wasn’t too hard to figure out! This chain was sewn to the back of the book, allowing enough give to go around the button once the book was shut with all the felt layers inside.

After sewing the green felt to the cream with some back stitch down the middle to create the ‘pages’ of the needle book, the cream felt was then attached to the completed cover using blanket stitch. As the edges of the green fabric had also been left raw this added to the rustic aesthetic of the book.

The second project was the cross stitch of the greenfinch sitting on a Mimosa branch. I love all the colours in this embroidery, it’s so bright and Spring-like. I thought it was going to take me a really long time as cross stitches usually do, but it was actually quite quick. The design is fairly small and the stitch chart was very easy to follow. I also liked the use of a French knot for the eye, rather than just another cross stitch, it seems to bring the design to life.

Another very enjoyable box from Craftpod. I liked that neither of the projects were too time consuming, and they were both things that could be put down and picked up at leisure, there was no need to dedicate hours to them all in one go. I particularly liked the needle book, although it’s not really my usual style it will actually be really useful and I will definitely be filling it up and putting it in my sewing box.

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Craft Box Club – Needle Punch Tote Bag

It’s been a little while since I did a punch needle project so I was quite looking forward to the latest Craft Box Club, embellishing a jute shopping bag with a Spring-themed motif. 

Included in the box was:

  • Jute shopping bag
  • Green yarn
  • Yellow yarn
  • Punch needle
  • Chalk
  • Paper template

Also included was the link to the ‘how to’ guide on the website. As well as the video tutorial they have also started to include a basic step-by-step photo guide for how to complete the project. I find this really useful, especially when I already know how to do the craft technique. However, the video for this project was quite short and worth a watch as the technique was slightly different to normal due to the lack of embroidery hoop to keep the fabric taut. The first stage was to cut out the paper template of the cheese plant leaf and draw round it onto the bag using the chalk.

Then all that was left to do was punch! I did the outline of the leaf and some veins in the middle and then free styled some daffodils around the edge. The instructions said to do five, but that upset my sense of symmetry a bit so I decided to stick to four, one in each corner! Once all the punch needling was complete I ironed it on the back which apparently helps to relax the fibres to keep the design in place.

Although I liked the project in principal (I always like making useful things and being eco-friendly) I did find the execution of it a little bit problematic along the way. I found the jute material very difficult to punch through and without a hoop to keep the fabric taut I found that several of my stitches fell out after I was too far past them to unpick all the way back to redo them. I also thought that the yarn was a bit too thin for this project. It kept falling out of my needle, which was a little tricky as I needed one hand to hold the needle and the other on the reverse side of the fabric pulling the stitches through. If the yarn had been a bit chunkier I feel that the stitches would have stayed in place better. The problem with only doing a single line of stitches is that usually with a larger area of punch needle the stitches on either side will help to hold the whole design in place. Without any neighbouring stitches the design felt a little precarious. I will be interested to see how long the design lasts once I have used the bag a few times.

Nevertheless, it was good to try a different technique of a craft I am already familiar with. I’m always keen to expand my skill set and try new things. And I love the Spring-like feel of the design, it makes me feel joyful and ready for the new season!

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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.

Ceramics

Easter Decorations – Air Dry Clay

Under normal circumstances I usually go to a ceramics class once a week. It’s not really a formal class, more of a relaxed space where you can make what you want and use the studio space, materials and equipment. The teacher Sue showed me how to make coil pots when I first started three and a half years ago and is always on hand if you have any questions or want a demonstration of how to do something, otherwise she just lets us all get on with it! She does not teach how to make ceramics on a pottery wheel and doesn’t have any wheels in her studio. She also taught me how to carve and that is my favourite thing to do. I love to make a big pot and then spend weeks carving the design.

However, we are of course not able to go out and about at the moment, which means that I haven’t been able to attend the class. I do have an unfinished piece waiting for me, but I suspect it will probably have dried out too much by the time I get to go back to it. I decided that I want to keep my ceramics going during this time, but due to my lack of kiln at home I thought I would give air dry clay a go. I ordered some online just before the official lockdown came into effect and have just got round to having a play with it! My first impression when I unwrapped the clay were that it smells! It has a sharp, almost vinegary scent to it, which I’m not sure if I can get used to! The second thing I noticed when I started playing with it was that it’s really fibrous. It’s quite hard to pull apart and when using a cutter you don’t get a nice clean edge. I did find that the more I handled it and the more it dried out, the easier it was to use, however you don’t want it to dry out too much. I would definitely suggest having a bowl of water and a sponge nearby whilst you are working to smooth off any rough edges.

I decided on an Easter themed project. Easter is one of my favourite times of the year with Spring on the way and so much chocolate around! I decided to make some decorations in the shape of Easter eggs. Using the tools I have for polymer clay I rolled out the clay until it was fairly thin, probably just under half a centimetre. I have some plastic texture sheets which I then rolled on top to give the decorations different textures, but if you don’t have these then you could use anything which has a textured surface; leaves and twigs often work well pressed into clay.

I then used an egg shaped cookie cutter (not recommended for use with food after using with clay) to cut out my shapes. I used a small circle cutter to create a hole at the top for the ribbon to go through and I also found a small flower cutter which I used on some of the eggs to add extra interest. 

Once my textured shapes were all cut out I left them to dry. I read that air dry clay usually takes 24-48 hours to dry out completely. I went down to my studio the next day to see if they were dry enough to turn over to make sure the backs were dry too, but they hadn’t dried at all. As this was quite an experimental project for me I decided to put them in my dehydrator to see if it would speed up the process. I was a bit worried in case the faster drying would cause them to crack. I put the dehydrator on the lowest setting and left them for a few hours. When I went back to check on them they were almost dry so I turned them over and left them again. When I went down at the end of the day they were completely dried out. I left them overnight on a table before continuing to the next stage.

Before painting them I decided to sand them as they still had really rough edges. I think for my next project I will smooth the edges down with some water and a sponge before drying to minimise this. I used a 400 grade sandpaper which is the roughest grade I had to hand. It took a bit of work but it was definitely a step worth doing as the eggs looked so much better once it was done.

I then gave them all a white base coat of acrylic paint. Although the clay dries white I felt that the other colours would pop out more with a white base. Once that was dry I could then start to colour them. I decided to sponge the paint on to make the textures stand out more as I thought if I brushed the paint on they might lose some of their 3D quality. I had a bit of fun blending some of the colour together to create an ombré effect. After the paint had dried I added two coats of PVA glue mixed with some water to seal them, letting them dry in between each layer. Although this won’t make them completely waterproof it should help to prevent water getting in and ruining them.

I’m pretty pleased with my results, although I would like to do some more experimentation to work out how to get them to dry flat! It’s not quite the same as working with proper clay, glazing and firing in a proper kiln, but as an at-home alternative it’s pretty good to play around with and make some fun smaller items. I bought myself a book with some projects in called ‘Make it with Air-Dry Clay’ by Fay De Winter so I will definitely be giving some of them a go, plus I also have a few projects of my own in mind too so watch this space!

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Spring Craftpod 2020

When I started my blog almost a year ago one of the first subscription boxes I signed up to was Craftpod (https://www.craftpod.co.uk/). As a quarterly subscription it is themed around the seasons, usually including an embroidery project and another project, sometimes embroidery based, sometimes not! It also always comes with a flavoured teabag and usually a few other treats too including notebooks, postcards and pins. The subscription only lasts for four boxes, so as soon as I realised I wouldn’t automatically be renewed I got straight on the website and signed myself back up for another year! 

The theme of the Spring 2020 box was ‘Serene Spring’, offering a little bit of calm crafting in this crazy world we are living in right now. Included in the box was:

  • Embroidery thread
  • Peach linen
  • Iron-on interfacing
  • Water soluble interfacing
  • Felt
  • Fleece
  • Velvet ribbon
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Washi tape
  • Needle
  • Keyring
  • Notebook and card featuring Harriet Lee Merrion’s illustration
  • Green teabag

As usual there were two projects included in the box both inspired by Harriet Lee Merrion’s illustration. The first project was an embroidery featuring elements from the picture arranged on a shelf. For this I used both interfacings. The iron-on one was cut down to size and ironed on to the back of the peach linen. I then used the washi tape to secure the water soluble interfacing over the template provided and traced it on to the fabric side. Once this was done I then peeled off the paper side to stick it to my fabric. This is my second time using water soluble interfacing and I actually really like it. It’s great for transferring detailed designs. I then had to stitch over the design, but just the outlines, no details. Once that was done I then had to soak off the interfacing to leave the design stitched to my fabric and when it was all gone I ironed it to get out any creases.

After fitting my stitched fabric into the embroidery hoop I could then go about adding all the details. This project was so good for using a range of stitches and I even learnt a couple of new ones, which was great! There were the usual stitches which I am familiar with such as split stitch, back stitch and french knots…and the dreaded long and short stitch, which I really don’t like doing but looks good when it’s done so I shouldn’t complain too much! 

The new stitches were what really made me excited! The first was daisy chain, which I do already know how to do but haven’t used in a really long time. It’s so effective for the leaves of the plant. The second was a weave for the plant pots. I made some long stitches up and down the outline of the pot and then used my needle to weave in and out of them to create this woven basket look. I started with the larger one and it went quite well at first but unfortunately I must have pulled a bit tight near the top as it went a bit wonky. The smaller pot went much better. Lastly was the ribbed spider web to create the fan, which was created by wrapping the thread around each of the spokes in turn. This was my favourite stitch and I’ll definitely be looking for opportunities to use it in future work.

The second project was a felt keyring. Also taking inspiration from the illustration it is a cute little cherry blossom. There was a paper template included to cut out two flowers in the peach felt and a circle for the centre in a darker pink. I started by attaching the circle to one of the flowers by stitching the stamens going out from the centre to each petal using back stitch finished with a french knot. The two sides were attached together using blanket stitch (another lesser used stitch for me!), leaving a 2cm gap to stuff it with the fleece. I looped the velvet ribbon around the keyring and inserted it into the gap before sewing it shut so that it was securely held in place. This little project only took me about an hour and it’s useful as well as pretty!

I’m already looking forward to my Summer Craftpod, even though it’s months away. I always find the projects a bit different, really achievable even if you are a bit short on time, and I always learn a new technique.

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In Bloom MakeBox

So, I’ve had this MakeBox hanging around for a while. I think it was the second ever box that they released and I started subscribing to MakeBox with the third box (Painted Ladies), because I only started this blog in May and I was searching for lots of crafty things to do. Me being me decided that I needed to have all the boxes so I back ordered this In Bloom box and the Bee Kind box. I finished the Bee Kind box last year, but haven’t got around to doing this box until now!

I have actually been wanting to do it for ages and it’s been sat on my dining room table looking at me! I discovered at Christmas, whilst I was completing the craftvent calendar from The Make Arcade (https://www.themakearcade.co.uk/), that I actually really like working with felt. It’s such a versatile and forgiving material and I was really keen to use it again in another project.

Included in the box was:

  • A range of coloured felts
  • Glue gun
  • Spare glue sticks
  • Paper templates
  • Wire
  • Velvet ribbon
  • Copper metal hoop
  • Embroidery thread
  • Postcard to embroider
  • Needle
  • Brooch back

The first project was a flower wreath. I started off by cutting out all the paper templates and then all the felt pieces. The instructions said to cut out the pieces as you went along but I found that I worked better with them all pre-cut. 

Each of the flowers had a slightly different process, but were mostly quite similar. My favourites were the peonies. The stamens were really fun to make with a strip of felt glued in half, and then snipped down the folded side before rolling it up. I thought it was a great effect for the centre of a flower and once the petals were added it was quite an impressive piece. It was quite a therapeutic process and I really enjoyed playing with the glue gun all day! The only trouble was that I didn’t have enough glue to complete the wreath, let alone the second project. Luckily, being a crafty person, I had some spare glue sticks hanging around down the shed!

The finished wreath looks great, although in hindsight I would have spaced my flowers out a little more as they look a bit bunched together. I just need to find somewhere good to hang it now…

The second project was a brooch. Having already made the wreath this project was so quick and easy to finish. It consisted of a peony, a daisy and some of the eucalyptus leaves. The wires were twisted together at the back to create a cute little bunch and finished off with the brooch back.

I’m really glad I’ve finally done this box. It totally lived up to my expectations and I definitely want to make some more felt flowers now!

You can see all the back boxes from MakeBox + Co on their website: https://www.makebox.co/