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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/

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Love Paper MakeBox

The craft for the February MakeBox is paper cutting and the theme is love (well, it is nearly Valentine’s Day!). The lady who creates the boxes each month is Hannah Read-Baldrey and paper-cutting is her signature craft. She has four books illustrated in this style and was originally inspired by the artists Rob Ryan and Helen Musselwhite. You can really tell that she poured a lot of love, passion and enthusiasm into this box.

Included in the box was:

  • Cutting mat
  • Scalpel handle and blades
  • Selection of card
  • Two blank notecards
  • Two envelopes
  • Glue stick
  • Pencil
  • Sticky foam pads
  • Box frame
  • Practice sheet
  • Paper templates

I started off by reading through the instruction book cover to cover. I haven’t done any intricate paper cutting with a scalpel before, only large basic shapes, so I wanted to make sure I was doing it correctly. The nice thing about this box is that there’s not really a set project. Hannah encourages you to just get stuck in using the templates provided and there are plenty of suggestions for arranging your cut outs, but you by no means have to stick to what is pictured and there are some handy tips for sketching your own designs.

I didn’t do all of the designs, although there was enough card included, mainly because my finger and thumb started to hurt! I might do some more though if I need a card for someone or want to create a nice handmade gift. I would be up for trying out my own designs too.

Once I had read all the tips I began by completing the practice sheet. It was good to get a feel for how the scalpel cut and especially practicing curves. Hannah suggested breaking them down to a section at a time, which definitely gets a much cleaner result than trying to do the whole curve in one motion.

I decided to use the pencil rub method to transfer the designs on to my card. I used the pencil to draw around the template and then placed this face side down on my card. I then drew around the design again on the back to transfer the pencil marks onto the card, finally filling in any gaps directly on the card once I had removed the paper template. Once the design is cutout the reverse side of the card which does not have the pencil marks on becomes the front. It’s important to ensure that your design is the correct way round when using this method. It slightly backfired on me when I was cutting out the final and most intricate design. I used the pencil rub method as I had done with the rest of my cuts without realising that the template provided was already in reverse which meant that when I transferred it onto the card it became the right way round, meaning the side I was cutting from was the front. This meant that my final piece ended up looking a little messier than I’d have liked and I had to go over it really carefully with an eraser to get rid of the pencil marks! I didn’t realise this until I was halfway through cutting it out though so I just decided to stick with it, rather than start again.

The first design I did was the love birds in blue, which I layered over a pink heart. I used the glue to stick the heart and one of the birds to the notecard and then I used some of the sticky foam pads for the other bird to create a 3D effect.

I’m a bit of a sucker for the sticky foam pads and making things 3D! I always used to love it when they came out for crafts at school or youth club (what a geek!), so I decided to make all of my pieces 3D! The second design I did was two roses, one in red and the other in pink. I stuck the pink rose down to the notecard and then made the red rose 3D over the top.

Lastly I did the love heart hands (which was the design that ended up being the wrong way round). I cut out a piece of card to fit inside the box frame and attached the cut out to it with the sticky foam pads before mounting it in the frame. I have to say it does look pretty good! 

This was a really relaxed box and you could tell that Hannah is passionate about this craft. The instruction book was so detailed and it was obvious that a lot of love had gone in to this kit. It is a nice, peaceful craft to do whilst listening to some music or your favourite podcast. 

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‘Over the Rainbow’ MakeBox

The theme for the July MakeBox is ‘Over the Rainbow’ and it’s inspired by rainbow babies; a child born after a loss. This is a really personal subject for the couple who run MakeBox+Co and 10% of the profits from this kit are to be given to Tommy’s Baby Charity (https://www.tommys.org/).

There were three projects to make; a large woven rainbow wall hanging, a woven rainbow necklace and an embroidered postcard.

Inside the box was:

• Large rope
• Small rope
• Embroidery thread
• Several different coloured balls of yarn
• Wire
• Ribbon
• Wooden beads
• Wooden birds
• Pearls
• Chain
• Superglue
• Needle
• Postcard

The wall hanging and necklace were made in the same way by wrapping the yarn around varying lengths of rope and wire. The wire gave it stability and allowed you to form it into the correct shape. The balls of yarn were a random selection of colours, which didn’t give you the option of following a regular rainbow pattern, but did mean that your wall hanging would be unique. The rope I had was not the same as the type in the instruction photographs and it meant that it came unravelled really quickly as I was trying to wrap the yarn around it, which made it a bit tricky to keep it under control at times. I think it may also have affected the length of some of my pieces as they didn’t seem to match up as well after I’d wrapped them! Once each length of rope was wrapped you had to add a ribbon (or wire in the case of the necklace) and wooden bead to the top colour before stitching them all together on the back. This ensured that all the pieces were kept in place. The wall hanging then had the wooden songbirds added using super glue. The necklace had the pearls stitched on to look like raindrops and the chain added.

Each stage of the make was easy and I didn’t feel like I had to do it all at once, I just came back to it whenever I had a spare hour and it was nice to do something relaxing and different for a while. The instructions were fairly clear, but if I wasn’t sure about something there were plenty of pictures that showed each stage in progress to refer to.

Lastly I completed the embroidered postcard. Using the leftover yarn from the other two projects I backstitched each layer of the rainbow to create a lovely piece of art which I’m going to hang on my inspiration wall in my studio. I especially love the quote on it – “After the rain clouds there’s a rainbow.”

I’m really enjoying receiving my MakeBoxes and have even ordered a couple of past boxes to complete as well!

They have already announced the August box and it looks pretty exciting!

(Information about MakeBox+Co can be found on their website https://www.makebox.co/)

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Seaside Cottages Craftiosity Box

I had a lovely surprise recently when I received an email to say that I’d won a free Craftiosity subscription box in their prize draw! I was entered into the draw by signing up to their mailing list and my box came in the post shortly afterwards.

As you know I spent a long time deciding which subscription box to sign up for so I was excited to be able to have a trial of the Craftiosity boxes. The boxes normally cost £22.95 per month but with free UK delivery. However, you can’t just subscribe at any time, you have to sign up to the mailing list and wait for them to open subscriptions for the next box, which is how I ended up winning my box but also one of the reasons I ultimately decided not to choose them as my regular subscription box. I was too impatient to get crafting to wait around!

The theme of this box was seaside cottages and the project was to make a decorative hanging of little wooden huts. Inside the box was:

• Four wooden houses
• Wooden baton
• Wooden beads
• Acrylic paints
• Paint brush
• Paint pen
• Thread
• House templates
• Tracing paper

The idea was to paint the little houses, giving them a weathered look and then add details with the paint pen such as windows and doors using the templates and tracing paper to transfer the designs onto the painted wooden blocks. Once they were all painted and dried you could then attach them to the wooden baton using the thread so they hung down. I found tying them on a bit fiddly as it was hard to keep the baton and house still to estimate the correct hanging length. A second pair of hands probably would have been helpful at that point!

This wasn’t my favourite craft project I’ve completed, but looking back at some of the past boxes on the Craftiosity website (https://craftiosity.co.uk/) they have done some really exciting looking projects previously. I suppose that’s the joy of subscription boxes, you never know what you’re going to get and it’s always good to try something new, otherwise how will you know if you like it or not?

I’d like to say thank you very much to Moira, the founder of Craftiosity for picking me as the winner!

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‘Painted Ladies’ MakeBox

When I started this blog celebrating creativity one of the things I wanted to do was subscribe to a monthly craft box that gets delivered to your door, bringing a new project each month. I started researching which ones were out there and found out that there are loads! I narrowed it down to a few I liked the look of and checked out their Instagram and website to have a look at past boxes. In the end I decided to go with MakeBox+Co (https://www.makebox.co/), so each month I’ll be reviewing what’s in their box.

I received my first box a couple of weeks ago and was very excited to open it up and get started. MakeBox+Co share the content of their boxes on social media and their website before it gets sent out, so if you are looking for a surprise this is probably not the box for you. The theme of the June box was ‘Painted Ladies’. The idea was to make three flower pots out of plaster of Paris, paint faces on them and then use them to grow succulents using the seeds provided. There was also a mini project to create a flower ring.

Inside the box was:

• Plaster of Paris
• Paper cups
• Mixing pot
• Flower pots
• Clear round stickers
• Two types of glue
• Paintbrushes
• Practice sheet
• Stirrer
• Sandpaper
• Acrylic paints
• Mosaic tiles
• Ring base
• Succulent seeds

The instructions were clear and each stage of the project was well laid out with good photographs. MakeBox+Co also provide helpful videos on their website and YouTube demonstrating some of the trickier parts.

This is not a quick project you can finish in a couple of hours, it’s a nice big project that actually took me several days to complete. Each step required drying time for the plaster to set or the paint or glue to dry, but I quite liked coming back to it and working on it a little bit each day. It was nice to see it progressing. The drying times varied between half an hour to an hour and a half, however my things took a lot longer to dry than that. Perhaps because I was working on them down in my studio, which is a bit damp, but if you had a nice warm place to dry your pots then you probably could complete this project in a day.

The box costs £19.99 (plus shipping) a month and renews automatically each month unless you stop it. There are also ‘prepay’ options where you can choose to pay upfront for three, six or twelve months, which includes a discount compared to the monthly rate. You can also order past boxes if you see one you missed that you like the look of.

The thing I like most about the monthly subscription box is that it brings something new to try each month. These pots are not something I would have thought to make by myself, but I really enjoyed doing it and that’s the idea behind my journey; to be creative everyday, but also keep learning and trying new things.

I’m looking forward to receiving July’s ‘Over the Rainbow’ kit!

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Craftpod: Spring 2019

I’ve signed up to Craftpod (http://www.craftpod.co.uk), a quarterly creative subscription box. Each of the boxes is inspired by the seasons and usually nature themed. They are mainly focused around embroidery and felting projects. You can either buy each box as it comes out (£23) or subscribe for the whole year (£84). Extra shipping costs are also charged on top of this. I decided to go for the yearly subscription so I could try out all the seasons.

I started my subscription with the Spring 2019 box and was very excited to receive it though the post. It was small enough to fit through the letter box, without needing to be signed for.

Inside the box was:

• An embroidery hoop
• Various coloured embroidery thread
• Fabric: calico, linen, felt and interfacing
• Fleece stuffing
• A packet containing a needle and some pins
• Paper templates
• Artwork that inspired the box
• Stickers of the artwork
• A lemongrass, ginger and citrus teabag!

There were two projects to complete, both with clear step-by-step instructions and photographs of each stage. The larger project used the embroidery hoop, fabric and thread to create an appliqué picture inspired by the artwork Blackbird’s Nest by Gordy Wright. The project was created by building up layers of fabric and adding texture and detail using the thread. It was really satisfying to see the image progress as I added each layer. Some of the stitching was quite fiddly, particularly the positioning and sizing of the blackbird’s eye and also the grass at the bottom of the frame as you had to remove the frame and replace it for each stitch so it looked as though the grass was growing from below the frame. The final result does look good so I think making the effort to get it right was worth it.

The smaller project was a felt pin cushion with small embroidered plants around the edge. This didn’t take me long to finish at all and the result is not only cute but useful too! It was made from three pieces of felt. I embroidered the side piece first. Some ideas for decoration were included on the pattern. The three pieces were then attached together to create the shape and filled with rice and the fleece stuffing. It said in the instructions that you can buy proper beans for filling pin cushions to create the weight at the bottom, but rice or lentils would also be fine. As I already had some rice in the cupboard I decided to go with that!

I haven’t done any embroidery since I was at school so when I first got it all out the box I wasn’t sure I was going to make a very good job of it, but I found the instructions really easy to follow and the pictures were nice and clear so it was easy to just copy what they had done if I wasn’t sure about something. Once I got started a lot of the stitches came back to me (just like riding a bike I suppose!), but I think even if I were a complete beginner I would have been able to complete both these projects. On the Craftpod blog there is a post called Botanical Stitch Practice which does have images and basic instructions, however it was a few posts back so I had to click through several other posts to reach it. I found it quicker to just type ‘botanical stitch practice craftpod’ into Google and it came up straight away. Although the guide is fairly useful it didn’t have all the stitches required for this box, such as blanket stitch. If you are new to embroidery or need a reminder on how to do some of the stitches I found it helpful to watch some of the videos on YouTube where you can watch someone demonstrate the stitches and talk through each step.

The only thing I was slightly disappointed about was that the interfacing I was sent was not long enough for the branch template. I managed to get it to fit by placing it diagonally only to find that the brown linen provided wasn’t big enough either. In the end it didn’t matter because even with a shortened pattern there was still enough fabric to stretch across the frame, I was just a bit surprised at this oversight as the box as a whole was clearly well planned and thoughtfully put together.

Overall I really enjoyed these projects and I will look forward to the Summer 2019 box dropping through my door!