Unravel…a Festival of Yarn

Over the weekend I went to the Unravel festival, a festival of yarn hosted by Farnham Maltings, an arts and cultural centre in Surrey. It was the first major outing I’ve done in a very long time and I was a bit nervous about going on the train, mixing with other people, and even being so far away from home!

This is the first time I have been to Unravel, but it is in it’s thirteenth year and due to the impact of Covid this year they not only had an in-person event, but also a virtual event as well. The ticket was only £13 for the in-person event, but this also included access to the virtual event of talks across the weekend as well. There were workshops you could book to attend in real life too, however I decided not to do any of them as they were mainly based around knitting and crocheting and seemed to require a level of skill in these crafts already in order to participate. I love knitted and crocheted items but unfortunately those crafts just aren’t really my forte. 

My main motivation for attending the event was to hunt for new yarn to include in future latch hook projects. I was hoping to find a big range of gauges there, and was especially on the lookout for chunky and super chunky yarns, however I was a little disappointed on that front. The event was very much geared towards knitters and whilst there was a fabulous array of yarns in some amazing hand dyed colours, the main gauges on offer were 4-ply, DK, and Aran. I did see some roving but whilst that would have been great for weaving it doesn’t work quite as well for latch hook. Having said that, I couldn’t resist making some purchases! I bought a lovely trio of blue/purple colour combo DK and an Aran weight stripy brown. I haven’t quite decided what I’m going to use the brown for, but I’m excited about the DK colour combo for a wall hanging.

The Covid safety measures were well managed throughout the event. There were timed tickets to stagger the arrival of visitors, masks were required at all times inside the venue (with the exception of eating and drinking), and a one-way system was operating throughout to guide you round each of the rooms where the stalls were set up. 

From the conversations I heard as I went round sock knitting is a huge trend at the moment! I did also find Katie from the Sewcial Circle there too. I introduced myself as I have been on one of her online pom-pom workshops and we had a nice chat. It was good to see her there selling her Loome tools and other craft supplies amongst all the yarn stalls as the sheer amount of yarn was a little overwhelming! There were a few other stalls selling items like yarn bowls and magnetic needle minders too.

I don’t know if I would attend again next year as it was aimed very much at knitters and crocheters, but I did enjoy my adventurous day out and it was nice to be surrounded by people who are just as enthusiastic about craft as I am.

craft kit

Wild Floss Embroidery

I’m always on the look out for new craft kits to try and I actually saw this Wild Floss embroidery kit advertised on Facebook. I took a look at their Instagram account and Etsy shop and thought that the kits looked really different to the usual embroidery kits that I’ve seen.

The kit includes:

  • 6” wooden embroidery hoop
  • Fabric
  • Needle
  • Needle threader
  • Variety of yarns
  • Water soluble fabric

I actually didn’t realise that there was a sheet of water soluble fabric at first because it was all wrapped up inside the embroidery fabric. In the end I didn’t use it as it felt a bit plasticky and I thought it would annoy me as I stitched through it. I stuck to the age old technique of tracing the design onto the fabric by holding it up to a window to help the design show through. I don’t have a water soluble pen as the instructions suggested using so I used a pencil. The pencil didn’t show up that well on the fabric so after I made the first tracing I went over it back at the table where I could press more heavily with my pencil and used the paper template as a guide to fill in the blanks myself.

There were instructions for four types of stitches; running stitch, straight/satin stitch, seed stitch, and French knots. I thought the diagrams and descriptions for each stitch were well written and easy to follow. However, I wasn’t really sure why the seed stitch instructions were there as it wasn’t used at all in the design and to create the same effect as the example photo I actually used back stitch rather than running stitch for some of the sections. I did really like the technique for finishing the hoop off at the back. I have never seen it done like this before. The messy back was hidden by layering another piece of fabric behind the main fabric before securing them both in the hoop and then glueing it all in place at the back. It gives it a very tidy, finished look.

Although there were lots of different types of yarn included in the kit, I did feel as though I had to be a bit careful which ones I used for various sections as there were only a couple of strands of each type included and I didn’t want to run out halfway through a section. That did actually happen in one of the French knot sections, but it doesn’t really matter because nobody would know once it is finished. I think that is the beauty of a kit like this. Although there is a design and a pattern, you don’t necessarily need to follow that pattern if you don’t want to. It allows for creativity and freedom to make something completely unique. 

I was attracted to this kit because of the different textures and types of yarn used to complete the design. I really like tactile art pieces, particularly textiles, that make the viewer want to touch them. With this piece I also really like how the thicker yarns give the design differing heights as well. My favourite part is the section that looks a bit like cauliflower! 

I don’t think I would recommend this kit to a beginner sewer, but I would definitely recommend it to a more experienced embroiderer who was looking to expand their creativity and try out familiar stitches with new materials. I’m very pleased with my finished piece, it makes me think of a coral reef where lots of strange sea creatures are lurking!

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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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Sage and Tassel Weaving MakeBox

This MakeBox is actually from April, but there was a bit of a delay in sending it out as the MakeBox team took the precaution of closing their studio for the first few weeks of the lockdown, so I’ve only just got round to completing it. I really love weaving and although I liked this project overall and am happy with the finished product, I have to say that I did have a few problems with this box.

Included in the box was:

  • Wooden loom and accessories
  • Warp thread
  • Wooden dowelling
  • 3 balls of double knit wool
  • 1 ball of chunky wool
  • Length of roving
  • Large needle
  • Postcard to embroider

There were actually three projects included in this box; the weaving, woven bracelets, and the postcard to embroider. I began with the weaving and started off by stringing the loom. I have done this before so I was pretty confident about it, but previously I’ve only ever used normal household string. This kit came with a nylon string, which I found really difficult to use. Due to the slippery nature of it I found that the knots I made to anchor it kept coming undone. Once I had rectified this as best as I could I then started to string the loom. However I could not get the string as tight as I would have liked because it kept getting tangled. I laid the bundle of string down really carefully to try and avoid knots, but as soon as I pulled a length out of it it just became one giant knot. Every time I had to sit and unpick it I lost all the tension in my loom and had to start again, which was really frustrating. Eventually I got it strung to my satisfaction and could continue with the weaving.

The first step was to create two layers of tassels at the bottom. I love tassels and they appear all the way up the weaving giving it lots of texture. My tassels ended up a lot shorter than the picture. The instructions said to measure the yarn from fingertip to elbow, so maybe I just have much shorter arms than other people! Once the tassels were done then the weaving could begin. I felt really confident about doing this and the instructions were really easy to follow, telling you how many rows to do in which colour. I had a go at using the warp separator which pushes alternate strings up or down making it easier to slide the shuttle through, but I found that I was spending more time making sure the warp was in the correct slot than I was weaving so I abandoned that and just pushed the shuttle through without it, making sure to weave in and out of the warp. 

I had a bit of trouble with the roving, which is the thick fleecy length of wool. I didn’t feel it was that clear in the instructions that you had to separate it into several lengths so that you had some thinner pieces to use near the top. Creating the puffy row at the bottom took a bit of patience to make sure you didn’t end up with any flat bits, but it was definitely worth spending the time on to make sure it looked good in the end. The length of roving I had been provided with was only just long enough for me to achieve this look and I did have a couple of frustrating moments trying to get it to sit right!

After weaving the majority of the piece I was quite near the top when I noticed the instructions didn’t match the picture. After a section in the cream wool it said to move straight on to the pink, However I noticed that there was a large section of the chunky green, which had been totally missed out of the instructions in between the cream and the pink. I’m sure it wouldn’t matter if it got missed out, the overall weaving would just be shorter, but as I’d noticed it I counted the rows in the picture and added it in.

Lastly it was time to neaten it up. First I trimmed all the tassels. Some of them were trimmed at a diagonal to add more interest to the piece. Next came removing it from the loom. The instructions said to lift it off gently, all at once and then to tie the warp threads off in pairs to secure the weaving. I wish that I had just lifted and tied off one pair at a time as I found that when I lifted it all off my last section of weaving started to become really loose and I really struggled to keep it neat and in line. It was such a shame after all the work I put in to the rest of the weave as the top of my weaving is now quite wonky and doesn’t sit flat. After removing it from the loom you had to use the large needle to sew the loose ends into the back of the piece and finally attach the dowelling to hang it from. 

The second project was a woven bracelet. I absolutely loved this project! It was just like the friendship bracelets I used to make when I was younger and it’s made me want to make some more. I used to be able to do all kinds of designs, not just stripes! The instructions said to cut six strands and then double them over, but looking at the pictures I think it meant cut three strands and then double them over to create six, although you could do it with more to create a wider bracelet.

The last project included was the postcard. You had to perforate the card using the large needle and then sew through the holes to create the woven effect. 

Although I did have some problems along the way, the finished pieces are all great and I had loads of fun making my bracelet. The weaving itself just wasn’t quite as relaxing as I was expecting it to be! Looking forward to a less stressful project in the May box! 

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Sunset Punch Needle

I finally got round to doing my punch needle kit! I’ve been wanting to do it pretty much since I bought it but other projects and jobs kept popping up, so it’s kind of been hovering in the background since I got it at the Handmade Festival in the summer from The Modern Crafter (https://themoderncrafter.co.uk/). This week I feel like I’m getting back on top of everything and managed to find time to sit down and enjoy it.

I chose the sunset kit and included in the bag was:

  • Four different coloured balls of wool
  • Wooden gripper hoop
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Fabric
  • Snips
  • Yarn needle
  • Paper template

I also paid extra to include an Oxford punch needle as I didn’t have one at the time.

The first step was to fit the fabric into the gripper hoop. This keeps the fabric really taut whilst you are working on it, which is essential. Previously when I’ve done punch needle I’ve just used a normal embroidery hoop, but I’ve found that I had to keep pulling the fabric tight again. This gripper hoop was amazing! I didn’t have to pull the fabric at all, it just stayed in place the whole time. Once the fabric was in the hoop I then used the template to trace the design onto the fabric.

I started off with the areas of the design that were in flat stitch. To achieve the flat stitch you punch from the front of the work to the back. It’s important to offset the stitches to give stability to the work.

Once I had finished all the flat areas I then began to work from the back to the front to achieve the loop stitch and create texture on the piece.

When the design was completely filled in I removed the work from the gripper hoop and transferred it to the embroidery hoop for display. I trimmed the fabric to around one inch and then used the yarn needle to whip stitch around the edge, trapping the excess fabric and hiding the hoop. I changed the colour of the yarn for each section of the design. 

I enjoyed the kit so much that I bought their festive kit too, so keep an eye on my Instagram to see how I get on with those during December!

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‘Folksy Punch Needle’ MakeBox

This month’s MakeBox was a punch needle project with a folksy theme. I’ve been quite looking forward to this as I’m keen to try out my newly acquired punch needle skills. I have a few designs of my own I’d like to try soon but it’s always good to practice first!

In the box there was:

  • Embroidery hoop
  • Grey, red and sage green yarn
  • Navy blue thread
  • Punch needle
  • Sewing needle and pins
  • Round cushion pad
  • Hessian fabric
  • Cotton lining fabric
  • Felt backing fabric
  • Paper template and transfer sheet
  • Postcard

The main project was to make a punch needle cushion. I started off by applying the design to the fabric using the waxy transfer paper, tracing over the flower and bird design with a pencil. This left a white mark on the hessian fabric. The hessian fabric was chosen as it has quite a loose weave to allow the punch needle to pass through it easily. Once I had traced the design I fixed the fabric in the embroidery hoop. It needs to be as taut as possible and I found I was constantly pulling it tight again as the process of pushing the needle through easily makes the fabric baggy. I was a little disappointed that the waxy transfer paper was smaller than the actual design which meant I had to do a bit of jigging around trying to line the pattern back up once I’d moved the transfer paper. Although it wasn’t much of a problem I do find small details like this a bit annoying as it seems like something that should be checked and measured when putting the box together.

I really enjoyed the actual punch needle part of the project. It’s a really satisfying craft that gets quick results. You can see the effects of your work straight away and it doesn’t take long to fill in an area. Most of the design was filled in working from the front to the back using the flatter stitch to create the blocks of colour. This meant it was important to be neat and work the stitches closely together. The smaller flowers and anthers of the larger flower were created working from the back to the front to achieve the looped stitches, which gave it a nice 3D effect.

There was the option to leave it as a wall hanging but I wanted to complete the project so I followed the next steps to turn it into a cushion. I marked out the 12 inch circle from the pattern onto each of the three pieces of fabric and then added a 1 inch seam allowance. After cutting out all three I pinned the hessian and lining cotton together and sewed around them. The navy lining cotton is to prevent the white cushion pad showing through the hessian. I then pinned the felt backing to the front of the hessian so that the design was covered over. After sewing these together, leaving a gap to put the cushion pad through, I then trimmed the seam allowance down to 1cm and cut notches in it so that it wouldn’t be bulky when I turned it the right way round. Once I had pulled it through so that the design was showing I stuffed the cushion pad inside, making sure it was pushed right to the edges. Lastly, I pinned the two sides together and sewed up the gap.

There was also a mini project in the box as usual. A ‘peace and dove’ postcard to embroider. There were no holes pre-punched in it, so it was up to me to choose where to place them, which was unfortunate as some of my holes were too close and ended up merging together! It still looked ok in the end though. Another one for the wall!


Punch needle…at last!

I’ve been to the London Craft Club again! (https://londoncraftclub.co.uk/) This time for a workshop in the craft world’s biggest current trend; punch needle. I’ve been wanting to learn this craft for quite a while now as it’s so popular and I recently bought a kit from The Modern Crafter (https://themoderncrafter.co.uk/). 

The London Craft Club have moved venue from Bedford Square to Holloway Road, but for September when I attended this workshop they were using The Upper House near Highbury and Islington tube station as their premises. The room we were in was nice and spacious with big windows and lovely murals on the walls. There was four of us in the class and our tutor for the evening was Zoe. She had the table laid out with piles of yarn in a rainbow of colours and when we arrived she encouraged us to think about what kind of design we would like to do. There were several examples laid out on the table ranging from rainbows and watermelons to abstract pieces.

Zoe explained about which types of cloth were the best to use for punch needle. We used a type called monk’s cloth which we fitted into the embroidery hoop to keep it taut whilst we were working. She then showed us how to thread the needle using the wire threader. The needle we used was not the famous Oxford needle that has become synonymous with punch needle, but an adjustable one. We talked about the settings and how you could create different effects with the different length loops. After Zoe had shown us the best practice for using the needle we were free to start on our designs.

I decided to make a wall hanging with the initial of my nephew to hang in his room. I chose a range of greens to create an abstract background and an orange for the J to stand out against the background. I started off with the J and then worked around it using the greens to create a random pattern, trying out each of the different needle lengths to produce a range of textures and heights.

The workshop was so relaxed and we all had a great time creating our pieces. Some people had a clear design in mind and others just experimented. I’m really pleased that I’ve learnt this technique and I can’t wait to have a go at my kit. I have a few ideas for designs of my own and October’s MakeBox is a punch needle kit too, so watch this space for more of this addictive craft!


Weave Your Genes at The London Loom

Last week I went to the ‘Weave Your Genes’ workshop at The London Loom (https://thelondonloom.com/v2/) and I had such a great time! I booked this workshop a little while ago and when it rolled around I wasn’t really that up for it. The London Loom is based over in East London which is a bit awkward for me to get to so I wasn’t really looking forward to travelling there and back. By the time I left it was a completely different story, the three trains were totally worth it!

I arrived a bit early but Francesca, the founder, gave me a lovely warm greeting and put me to work straight away. The idea of the workshop was to complete a questionnaire relating to various aspects of your genetic make up, for example: eye colour, bitter taste perception, odour detection etc. Each answer was given two letters which correspond to the four ‘building blocks’ or bases that make up DNA: Adenine, Thymine, Cytosine, Guanine. I chose four different coloured yarns and assigned each one to a base, then using my answers I created a design for my weaving.

Once I had completed the questionnaire and coloured in my design Francesca set me up on a loom. She showed me how to wind the yarn onto the bobbin and then feed the shuttle through the weft to begin creating my fabric. I did get into a few knots at the start but once I’d got into a rhythm it was easy to become absorbed in the process. I did have to have a few breaks to stretch my back out…I don’t know how women in the olden days managed!

After I got to the end of my design Francesca cut my fabric off the loom and showed me how to tie the ends so it wouldn’t all come unravelled. Now all I have to decide is what to do with it! I’ve had suggestions of a bag or a cushion so far.

The London Loom is a lovely place to spend an afternoon. Francesca is really welcoming and talks through each stage in a clear, concise way. The people using the other looms were also really friendly. It’s based in a complex with lots of other creative businesses which gives it a really relaxed vibe. I absolutely loved Francesca’s massive rainbow wall of yarn! She recently won in the ‘best workshop’ category at the Mollie Makes Handmade Awards (http://www.molliemakes.com/lifestyle/mollie-makes-handmade-awards-2019-winners/) and she totally deserves it.

If you’re looking to try something relaxing and rewarding I would definitely recommend taking a workshop there. The ‘Weave Your Genes’ one that I did cost £65 for a three hour session including all the materials.


Giant Arm Knitting

So, on the hottest weekend of the year so far I went to a giant arm knitting workshop! It was at Tea and Crafting (https://www.teaandcrafting.co.uk/) which is run by a lovely lady called Jane who has created a peaceful and creative learning space for crafters in Convent Garden. As well as workshops they also run private parties, hen dos and baby showers. Despite the heat I had such a great time! I have been wanting to learn how to do arm knitting for a really long time. I’ve seen blankets made out of giant yarn for sale on Etsy and I’ve seen videos of people doing it. It was right up there at the top of my craft bucket list.

The workshop was in the evening, starting at 7pm, which is perfect to get to if you work up in London. There were eight people in the class and it cost £65. We were asked to choose our wool colour in advance of the class and when we arrived our 2kg balls of wool were all there waiting for us with our names on. I chose a nice mustard yellow because I thought it would go well with some of the décor in my house (but also because it’s a bee colour and also because I’m a Hufflepuff!).

The tutor, Hannah, started off by showing us how to make a slip knot and from there cast on. We had to cast on fourteen stitches to start with, which took some time as we all got used to the tension of the wool and also how tight we could actually make the stitches as they went further up our arms. When we had all mastered this Hannah then showed us how to start knitting, moving the stitches from arm to arm by pulling a loop of wool through to create a new stitch as we went. Once I got into the rhythm of it, it was really satisfying. The blanket grew at a fast rate and I could feel it getting heavier and heavier the more rows I added. It took me about an hour and a quarter to knit a blanket almost as tall as me! When we only had about a metre and a half of wool left Hannah showed us how to cast off and weave the loose ends into the blanket. She was a really great teacher, very patient and encouraging, especially if any of us found ourselves getting in a tangle!

I’m so pleased that I ticked this off my craft bucket list. I loved how quick it was to have a finished and useful piece of work. I have ordered myself some more wool so I can keep practicing, otherwise I will definitely forget how to cast on. I used Woolly Mahoosive (https://woollymahoosive.com/), which is the same place where the wool we used in the class was from. We had 2kg balls in the class but when I went on the website I couldn’t find any of that size so I ordered a 4kg ball. The one I ordered was a man-made fibre and cost £60 (plus postage), for natural wool it was a lot more expensive. Now all I have to decide is if I’m going to make two blankets the same size or one double the size!