Monday, 23 April 2018

craft class - concrete

Last month a post popped up on facebook advertising last minute spaces for a workshop at Two Little Magpies.  A gorgeous shop selling handmade goods in a suburb of Nottingham, I'd never visited before so was happy to try out one of their classes.  My ....  agreed to come, with no persuasion.  I really don't know what to call him.  I'll call him Z.  

The workshop was in a space at the back of the shop and led by a lovely tutor, though I didn't get her name (I struggle with names and when I meet someone, it takes me months to address them as I have a terrible fear I've got their name wrong!).  We were making concrete tea-light holders.  Clearly that's not a tea-light holder in the picture above.  That's a flannel draped over a cylindrical plastic pot, covered in wet concrete.  Obviously!

I didn't get any process photos as it was a little messy, which meant that I was covered head to foot in concrete!  Above are my tea-light holders, still wet and still in the mould.  The tutor had made us each 2 geometric shapes from thick fluted cardboard.  We covered the moulds in duck tape to make them more secure, then poured in the concrete.

Luckily, I'd driven (we had discussed getting the bus and going to the pub), as we had 2 very heavy trays at the end of it.  I went to Centre Parcs the next day, so they got a good week to dry.  First up was the flannel.  Well, it's not a flannel anymore, you'd struggle to wash with it.  It's a plant pot!

Here it is displayed on my garden table.  Really funky!

I could paint it with acrylic paints (they will fade outside, but I don't think it matters).  I might do that when the craft room is done and I can find my paints.

This one was an added extra.  Whilst we were waiting for the concrete to start to set, we were given pre-made tea-light holders to sand and decorate as we wished.  I went for turquoise paint and a bit of copper leaf, though my copper leaf came off at one point.

Here are the geometric shapes.  The reason it's taken me this long to post about this class is that they needed sanding.  Yesterday was the first chance I got to do that, sitting in the sunny garden.

You can see in the pictures above that this had gold glitter all over the top.  Unfortunately, most of that came off when I took it out the mould and sanded the edges.  I also added a bit of glitter to the concrete.  You can see it glinting when the sun catches it but it's not obvious.

I'm not sure why the concrete is two different shades of grey.  Whilst making them, I was mixing concrete, pouring, mixing, pouring, I assume it's a different ratio of powder stuff to water?  

The last pouring of this one had turquoise paint added.  Perhaps not quite enough as you can only see it in patches.  I quite like the effect though.

Here they are all together to give you an idea of size.  I only had blue tea-lights - a white one would be better in the little blue holder.  I also had to take them out of their foil cases, seems my tea-lights are bigger than the tutor's!

I really enjoyed this class, and it was great that Z wanted to join in.  It's not a craft I'll be taking up but I'm happy to have experienced it.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

poor defeated spinner ring

One of my earliest projects in silversmithing class was this fiddle ring.  I loved that ring and wore it every day.  I made it to fit on my middle finger.  Then I lost some weight.  You couldn't tell I'd lost weight, none of it came off my fat bits, it all came off my fingers!  The ring was too big... and no, I can't wear it on my thumb, my thumb is smaller than my middle finger.  I gave it to my BFF and set out to make another.

Complete and utter failure!  I only had a small piece of silver that wasn't long enough, so I rolled it through the rolling mill with a texture, and soldered on some copper.  I quite liked the two tone effect.  I made the small outer ring from square wire.  

Once the main ring is soldered, The outside is domed to keep the smaller ring in place.  The join between the silver and copper split.  I straightened, re-soldered, domed, it split.  Again and again.  Finally, I managed it!  I put the smaller ring on, domed the other end, and...

It doesn't spin!!  The outer ring is too small.


Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Craft class - shuttle tatting

Every few months, I go on a little search for craft classes.  I check out the places I already know, to see if they're running anything I fancy, then I do a bit more of a random search trying to find classes in the area.  This technique brought me across The Leicestershire Craft Centre.  Being slightly geographically challenged, I thought that Market Harborough, in Leicestershire, was near where I work.  It's not.  It was a 50 mile journey, each way!  Ah well, I was going there to learn Shuttle Tatting, which I've been trying to find a class for for a couple of years, so I would have probably driven to Glasgow!

This is a shuttle tattle.  The tutor - Phiona Richards - brought loads of different shuttles for us to try.  I have one at home, but it is somewhere in the mountain of boxes that is my craft supplies.

You can see from this side view that it has a bobbin in the middle which we wound the thread onto.  Being beginners, we were using 1mm chinese silk cord.  MUCH easier than the thin crochet or tatting cotton used by the pros!

This beautiful white piece was one of Phiona's.  You can see the difference between her work and mine (the blue)!

And this is my first attempt!  We used two colours to make it easier to see the flip (when you pull the knot and it flips over), and it really did make it easier.  I've tried to learn tatting before from a Craftsy class, but I just couldn't get it.  I guess I needed someone there with me to get it.  I'm glad I have the Craftsy class though, as hopefully, when I get a chance to practice, I can learn more.  I started my tatting journey on the right of the above photo, with some half knots, then progressed to full knots.  You can see the last inch at the end which is almost yellow - that's the good bit!  That's where I got it!

The purple was my attempts at rings.  You can see the progression from left to right!  Then I swapped to the blue and did a ring I was very pleased with.  I then attempted picots.  Hmmm, a LOT more practice needed there!

Finally, on the red cord, I made an attempt at a picot flower, which has turned out very... abstract!  I then did a couple more rings.  I was supposed to do picots to learn how to join them, but fatigue was setting in and I forgot, on both of them!!  One young girl progressed onto the thin 10 weight thread after this, but I don't feel ready!  I enjoyed it, and it's something I'd like to get to grips with, but I think it's a lot slower than bobbin lace.

Meanwhile, my work on the house is starting to come together.  I'm getting close to finishing both the bathroom and my craft studio.  Then I'll have three rooms to show you as the top floor spare room is also finished - but full of my craft stuff!

I'm off on the Bag Retreat this weekend, so I'll have more to post when I get back!  I also have a silversmithing update for you, and a post about a craft class I attended with my new "friend" (he was very willing to come along, no coercion happened!), but I have to do the finishing touches to what we made before I show you that.  

Monday, 26 March 2018

Bentwood chair - part 2

In my last post I talked about the first day of the Bentwood chair making class I attended at Rural Antics.  Today I'll talk about the second day and finishing the chair.

Having finished the arms, it was time to start the back! We had several very long hazel sticks that we were using for the curved part of the back.  To start we only put one of these in place and fixed it.  Then was time to add the cross struts of the back, and time to get creative.  I really wanted forked and bent pieces so I had a good old search through the pile of hazel the tutor had brought with him.

The sticks were nailed into place at the curved piece and the base, but left long to add in additional curved pieces afterwards.

Sorry, blurry photo!  But I think you can see what I'm showing.  This was adding in the other curved pieces.  Each one had to be nailed at each and every joint so this took a while!  Several times I used a nail that was too long.  Because they were threaded nails, they were nigh-on impossible to remove, so instead they were riveted by placing a steel hammer on the pointed end that was sticking through and hammering the back to make a flat "plate" at the front.

Finally the seat was added - lengths of thickish wood all cut to the same length and nailed in place.  Then everything was rasped to neaten the edges.

I was worried about getting it home and thought I might have to send my dad with his big car, but this fit in the boot of a Ford Focus, I only had to remove the parcel shelf!  I never measured it, but I do know that the back legs are 24", the front legs 17" and the long piece at the back going from side to side is 24" so that should give you an idea of the size.

It is an outdoor chair but it's currently sitting in my dining room.  I will put it outside, but thought I'd wait until all these blizzards we keep having finish to give it a chance of surviving!  The tutor said the life-span will be about 5 years if we look after them.  I'm not sure if I'll be able to bring it in in winters, but I do intend to coat it in Danish oil to help it last longer.

Just thought I'd show you from all angles!

I thoroughly enjoyed this class and intend to sign up for the make a stool workshop at some point.  I couldn't believe how much I enjoyed sawing, drilling and nailing and the satisfaction of building a chair was immense!

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Bentwood chair - part 1

It's been ages since I last wrote a post, and this one has been sitting in my drafts folder.  Life seems to be getting busy again, especially as I went to 3 gigs last week! I'm still struggling a little with work / life / craft balance, but I hope this will improve once my craft room is finished.

At the beginning of March, I attended a 2-day craft class at Rural Antics to make a Bentwood chair.  After the stained glass window I made a few years ago, this is probably my biggest project to date!  We started on a freezing-cold and snowy Saturday in the barn.  We were provided with loads of hazel sticks and we had to cut them down.  Above is my first cut with the saw!

The wooden structure is the saw horse we used to cut our sticks.  Here are the first four that I cut - the legs.  The fronts are shorter than the backs.

After cutting, we rasped the ends using a small tool which looks a bit like a cheese grater.  This smoothed off the ends and took the bark from round the sides of the end, giving a lovely finish and helping to prevent the wood from soaking up too much moisture.  

Next up were the cross struts for the sides of the chair.   We were selecting thicknesses of stick as appropriate to the function of that piece, and also how we wanted the chair to look overall.

Then came the drilling and hammering!  I LOVED this part.  Actually, I loved the sawing and rasping too...  The drill made a pilot hole, then long threaded nails were used to hold the chair securely.

Here are my two side panels against the saw horse to give you an idea of scale.  As I was making this, I was posting on Facebook and got a lot of comments as to whether I was making a child's chair or a chair for a gnome.  It's actually a full-size chair and is pretty big!

Balancing the sides to drill and hammer in the back and front struts was tricky to say the least!  With it propped against the wall, I actually had to enlist the help of another course-goer to keep it steady while I worked.

The back-bar is one of the focal points of the chair so that piece of stick was selected with great care.  I wanted a piece that wasn't uniform and straight.  I found the perfect stick and then had to do a bit of sawing, rasping and chiselling to make sure it sat firmly on the back legs.

At this point the backs had to be strapped up to make sure they didn't ping off when we started adding the pieces of bent wood.  As we were basically using bits of twig that were bent to shape, they would exert an upwards pressure on the chair back, so we strapped them up and then periodically checked to make sure the nails hadn't come loose.

Then came the arms.  We chose long, straightish pieces of hazel that were relatively thin and bent and pushed them into place.  At this point, they are just held in place by magic, but afterwards I did nail them all together.

At this point, it was after 4 on Saturday and time for us to go home.  We were all exhausted!  We went back the next day to finish the chair, so I will put that in a separate post (and try not to leave it so long before I publish it!)

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Silversmithing update

It's been a while since I did a silversmithing update.  After the summer break, then a further enforced break whilst I had a broken shoulder, I went back to class in January.  

I've been working on the necklace that I started last year.  The copper was so tarnished it had to go in the pickle before I started.  I don't know what came over me when I decided to completely hand make a chain, madness!  The picture above is me trying to keep track of which rings were soldered, which ones were next and which grade of solder I'd used.  Solder comes in Hard, Medium, Easy and Extra Easy.  Hard has the highest melting point, so you start with this one.  If you solder something and it comes into contact with the flame again, you want it to be a higher grade so it doesn't remelt.  This would have been a lot easier to tackle if I didn't have a pattern to the chain involving copper and silver rings and larger silver rings!

I feel like I'm going to be soldering this forever.

For a bit of a break, I started another project.  Back in 2016 I made a fiddle ring.  I loved that ring and wore it every day.  Then I lost some weight.  None came off my ample behind or tummy, it came off my fingers!  Yeah, great, thanks body!  The ring no longer fits.  It was time for a new one.

I didn't have a long enough piece of silver, so I added in a copper section!  Since this photo, I filed it down and cleaned it up, but when I came to dome it (to accept the spinner ring), the solder cracked.  I'll be re-soldering this tomorrow night.  And hopefully finishing soldering the necklace... which means I have several months of filing and sanding ahead of me!

Thursday, 8 March 2018


I found a new craft class venue!  A very unusual workshop popped up on my Facebook feed (more about that next week) and when I investigated, I found that Rural Antics at Hanwell Wine Estate run a variety of different workshops.  I booked onto the weaving class.

The class was run by a lovely lady called Veronica and we were all looked after by Amanda who served coffee pretty much constantly all day and our 2 course lunch which was delicious!  The lunch came with wine from the estate but I can't stand wine, so I passed on that.

Veronica had bought her two frames to show us, and said that we could use the simpler one, but everyone opted to weave on cards or an embroidery hoop.  Having done a tiny embroidery hoop before, I went with the card option and decided to try out some different stitches.  There are hundreds of weaving stitches, I had no idea!

All materials were provided and there was tub after tub full of yarns of all weights and colours, sparklies, merino unspun and ribbons. I started with blue and silver.

As is my usual style, I put almost no thought into planning and just got on with it!  The black and green is a pattern, 3 strands of black follow the same path, then the green alternates.

I took a photo of the needle I used to show you the size compared to a coffee cup, it's huge!  I definitely need to track one of these down if I fancy doing this again as it made the world of difference.

I carried on for a bit.  Everything you see above is patterns formed just using the different colours and the basic under-over weaving technique.

The green stitch just to the right of the centre shows a stitch I tried.  I'd love to tell you what it's called but I don't remember!  It involved winding the yarn round the warps as I went.  There are a few rows of this.  I also experimented with a different stitch using some teal unspun and navy yarn to form a pattern over the top, that's towards the left of the sampler.

I managed to get a fair bit done in the day, especially considering all the time I spent eating and drinking!  As I had no plan, I had no plan for the finished piece, but Veronica showed us some pictures she'd made by framing a part of the weaving in a chunky frame.  I think that might be the way to go.

This close up shows a couple of the stitches I tried out.

And this is a photo of the fancy 8-something loom that Veronica brought along.  I thought I'd taken a photo of the other loom, but apparently not.  They weren't as big as I thought they would be, so maybe, just maybe, I would have room for one at home...