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Beauty + thrift = knitting win

3 Feb

As a teacher of 11 – 18 year olds I spend a lot of time trying to teach young people to be less trusting of the media and to question ‘who is telling [you] this and why?’ And ‘what’s in it for them?’. But in reality, as a self taught crafter, I throw myself on the mercy of the internet and, really, do you ever genuinely know the provenance of the information? Just because a blog has a million followers doesn’t mean it is credible; collective stupidity is still stupidity. This is a noble idea, if only I were able to carry it out. I still end up thinking I need every type of sewing related merchandise vaguely mentioned on the internet. It’s part of the self-inflicted emotional blackmail so many of us endure, as blogged about by Sarai at Colleterie and Tasia at Sewaholic. If I buy all this stuff will it really make me happy? Or my creations so much better? I often long for a Common Sense Crafting Guru to turn to so they could say “nobody buys xxx, you use [insert cheap household item here]” to cut through all this rubbish.

I began knitting in August just as my husband had placed a spending embargo on crafting so I wasn’t allowed to buy any accessories, he had a point, fabric tourism was out of control. I confidently reassured him that knitting was a refreshingly simple craft and I wouldn’t need hundreds of notions and expensive machines. I resisted everything bar basic needles and wool but an awful lot of the online knitting tutorials referred to ‘stitch markers’. I googled this and found lots of these utilitarian little plastic things:

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Now my inner cynic spotted this straight away – did women in Medieval England sit around knitting with plastic stitch markers? No.

For visual learners:


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A little research told me you could make stitch markers out of little tied circles of different coloured yarn. Ha – thrift – love it! So I was happy with my little yarn circles, perhaps a little smug, until I found an online video where the teacher used something like THIS:

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I mean how beautiful are these things!? It is like jewellery for knitting! How did I miss these gorgeous babies!? Clearly ‘he had a point’ was history as I secretly sidled to my nearest knitting shop (on my way home from work so Mr Frog didn’t catch me). I searched the shop but couldn’t find anything resembling even the plastic things. I enquired of the elderly Knitmeister Extraordinaire serving behind the counter. She looked at me rather sternly and said ‘no, they’re a waste of money. I don’t sell them. Just tie wool in little circles’. Hmm, well, it turns out I didn’t want a Common Sense Crafting Guru giving me advice after all. I actually want to fritter my money away on beautiful, yet pointless, pretty things instead. My search of the internet was fruitful yet unsatisfying; products were either more expensive to post than buy or were the price of actual jewellery. I made peace with the realisation I was not destined to have my knitting adorned with beauty. *sniff*

Then, quite unexpectedly, I was reading my sewing blogs – knitting ones scare me (apart from Roobeedoo who does a bit of both) and this tutorial came up:



I mean, surely this is fate!? I even have a few jewellery making bits lying around from when I got married so could make these from what I already have – beauty and thrift: take a bow!

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They are far from perfect – my wire work needs some, well, work – but they are considerably prettier than their predecessors. They were also really fun to make as they were satisfying and quick. The tutorial looked a bit basic but it did exactly what it said on the tin and resulted in passable charms. Another bonus is this technique allows me to liberate some of the beautiful beads I’ve had lying around for years. Utter win! Thank you Portia!

Tell me what you think:
Are you often seduced in to buying from blogs and websites you visit only for information?
Have you ever resisted buying and then found a better solution either cheap or free?
Or do you consider capitulating to creative whimsies on the internet as much fun as making the finished item?


Leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you
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Marbled polymer clay workshop

28 Jan

I’ve already effused over the peg loom workshop at craft for crafters this weekend but I also need to do a review of our other class, Polymer Clay Pendants. It was run by the same company as the other workshop westcountry creative.

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Once again, it was myself and the indomitable Emma who went to the workshop. Neither of us have any prior knowledge of polymer clay and were tempted to buy some at the last big craft fair in September ( Creative Stitches) but we didn’t as we didn’t really know enough about the craft. When I saw this workshop on the facebook page for this show I knew it was perfect for us to find out if we liked it. I emailed in advance and booked us the places, it was super easy.

Upon arrival the lovely lady who ran the workshop called Jo was very welcoming and began by showing us some sample pendants we could make. We then were told to pick four colours from the range of polymer clay blocks. I wanted to create a matching pendant for the I think I got away with it top so chose to accentuate colours from that top:

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Then we rolled them in to a ball to warm them and soften them – if you don’t do this your finished jewellery will be brittle so don’t forget! The next task was to roll the colours in to little sausages then twist the sausages together in a spiral. We then rolled the whole thing in to a smooth sausage again.

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This process is repeated until you get the marbling to your chosen effect. The more you do it, the finer the marbling.

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Next we rolled it in to a ball and found the prettiest bit

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Before flattening it to keep that bit uppermost

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Now we rolled out the clay using the little plastic rolling pin and spacers. I would guess the spacers are about 6mm as she discussed this as a standard later in the workshop.

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The clay was then carefully covered in cling film (saran wrap) making sure there were no creases or air bubbles.

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Then we cut out the main shape using our choice of cutter. I went for a square as that echos the pattern on the top:

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This is really clever as once we stamped out the shape the cling film gave our jewellery a lovely bevelled edge

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I had enough space to do another one and for some unknown reason I chose the same shape – how boring and unimaginative.

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We cut out the little hole with a small pipe like tool.

Now it was time for beads! As my pendant was fairly small I decided to make a smaller bead for the necklace and then have some spares for other projects.

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We drilled holes through the beads using cocktail sticks being careful not to misshape them.

To bake they were placed on a bit of cardboard to avoid the metal of the pan scorching the clay.

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Next to mine here you can see Emma’s work. She’s gone for a lovely purple again. Also she was creative with her spare clay and made a button!

They were baked as per the manufacturer’s instructions whilst we chose our cord – we needed 56cm of it per pendant:

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And collected our ‘findings’ which are all the little metal bits which makes jewellery wearable!

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This is what my bits looked like as they came out of the oven:

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Not massively different!? They shouldn’t be touched for a while as whilst hot they can still be malleable.

We then added our cord and findings and we were done!

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I like my jewellery but wished I’d gone with diferent colours, the olive green doesn’t really go with my top in the end and it is just a bit of a bleugh colour mixed with that cream. The most striking bits of jewellery in the class were those who used very dark colours as accents. However I don’t hate it – I just like Emma’s more!! We liked this craft so much we have gone and bought a starter pack of bits and bobs from various stalls at the show. The instruction was excellent and for just £4 this workshop was an utter bargain. I paid an extra pound for my additional findings and cord but still it was inherently reasonable. I would recommend this craft, this company and this workshop.

Have you ever worked with polymer clay? Have you had any experience of good or bad workshops at craft shows? Are there any crafts you’d love to try but don’t know enough about? Did you do the same workshop? I’d love to hear from you!

I’m linking this post to my favourite Linky Parties!