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...

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Ceramic plant pots

I've got another craft class to tell you about today.  I've been so busy with life that I've done very little crafting outside of my classes, so you'll get a few craft class posts for the next few weeks I'm afraid!  I'm missing sewing and crocheting and embroidering so much that I need to carve out some time for it.

Back in January I took a class with Nat of Upsydaisy Craft at The Malt Cross, Nottingham which is a lovely old music-hall turned pub which runs cultural events and craft classes in their basement.

The class was to make a couple of plant pots from scratch.  Form them from clay, embellish and decorate and glaze.  Nat was a great teacher, she showed us the basics and then let us run wild.  You didn't hear any "you can't do that" from her, which I love in a teacher.  Above is a first attempt that I wedged and started again.  I formed it round a cardboard tube covered in brown paper, but didn't like the frilly edge I made.

I liked this attempt better.  A simple rolled pot with some cut out bunnies on it.  They were made with punches, they're not hand cut!

I made two and both featured a  deliberate join.  Some of Nat's examples had this feature and I really liked it.

I used letter punches and cut out the letters to make a cheesy pun on this one.  My parents always thought Aloe Vera was funny and pronounced it "'Ello Vera", so I thought I'd run with it!  I intend to get an Aloe Vera plant (which is turning out to be a lot harder than I imagined) and put this in my bathroom.

For some reason I've included a random photo of a piece of clay rolled out and cut to shape!

This shows the back join on the bunny pot.  I love that thick edge.  When I took this photo I was cleaning up the pot using a paint brush and a small amount of water.

Then we glazed.  There were loads of gorgeous colours, but I stuck to bluey-greens to match my bathroom.

I left the words blank.  I didn't really have time to do the detailed work that painting them would have required, but I'm not keen on the finished look so I may end up filling them in with ceramic paints (I think I have some blue) or with a sharpie... not sure if that'll work.

Seems like I went mad taking photos!

And here are my finished, fired pots!  The 'Ello Vera one is very patchy.  Despite it being a full-day class, there was so much to do that I didn't get a chance to do a second coat of glaze on it.

My painting skills are definitely very lacking!

The inside of this one was painted with a confetti glaze.  A clear glaze with little pieces of glass in it, just like the frit I used in the lampwork class!

I have no idea what colour I painted this one!  It looks like white but I really don't remember doing that.  The clay dries white, but unglazed it is porous, so I'm sure I glazed it (I thought in blue!), maybe not!

Stay tuned for more craft class reports!

Monday, 26 February 2018

lampworking class

I am lucky enough to live near the creative quarter in Nottingham.  It's an area on the edge of the city centre, with a market place and lots of creative businesses, workshops and shops.  I took a lampworking class with Rosie of Bden Glass who also runs the shop which sells lots of different handmade goods.

It was a 2-hour one-to-one class.  I was a complete beginner so Rosie took me through all the equipment, her set-up and safety concerns.  

This is the torch.  It runs on a mixture of gas and oxygen.  I have forgotten which gas!  The silver pipe you can see is an extractor pipe which went out the window.

I made 4 beads.  They are formed on a steel mandrel which has been dipped in bead release.  I couldn't take any in-process pictures as it's very much a 2-hand job.  The beads are made using glass rods which are melted in the torch and wrapped around the mandrel.  The photos above show the beads when I'd made them.  They were plunged into annealing beads to cool down slowly, though you can use a kiln.  Rosie then cleaned them up for me over Christmas and I collected them last week.

This is the first bead I made.  A very simple one-colour bead.  As you can see, I didn't get it round!  There is a lot of skill involved in this technique and it's the kind of thing you need to perfect with lots of practice and experimentation.

This lovely marbled green bead was my second attempt and is actually round on one end!  Still slightly pointed at the other end, but better.

I made this bead from a transparent blue glass, then added opaque blue dots.  I'm very pleased with this one.  The dots aren't particularly even, but the shape is good.

This bead was made from clear glass and then rolled in frit (small pieces of glass) to create the confetti effect.  Unfortunately, it had an air bubble in it.  Rosie did warn me it might break... and it did!  I wasn't too upset though as I'd taken the class for the experience rather than the end product.  I'm going to book another session with her to have another practice, get some more tips and maybe try other techniques.  I'd definitely recommend this if you have a lampworker near you, it's great fun, if a little scary at first!

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Upcoming classes

I went on a craft class booking frenzy before Christmas, then I went on one last week at lunchtime at work.  I did a lampwork class before Christmas (I will show you soon, promise!) which I'd like to do a follow-up class to, and I went on a ceramics course in January.    I thought you might like to see which classes I've booked.  If you click on the link, it will take you to the class listing where it's available as a separate page.

Weaving - at the end of February at Rural Antics at Hanwell Wine Estate.  I'm really excited about this!  I have no idea if I'll enjoy weaving but I do want to give it a go.  And if I do like it, weaving looms don't take up THAT much space do they?

Bentwood chair making - in March at Rural Antics at Hanwell Wine Estate.  I'm going to make a chair!!  I've never taken a class at this venue before, but when I'd booked them, I discovered one of my friends is friends with the owner and apparently she's lovely so I have high hopes!

I want to do another couple of courses here, if these ones go well!  I fancy the table making and the spoon carving.

In March I'll be going to the Creative Craft show at the NEC (click here for a ticket offer).  Not sure if there are workshops on?  Sometimes there's a make and take.

Tatting in April at the Leicestershire Craft Centre.  I bought a shuttle tatting Craftsy class ages ago and gave it a try but just couldn't get it.  I think I need to be shown in person, then hopefully I can follow the Craftsy class.  I'm very excited about this, me and wonderful mum tried to find a tatting class for years and failed.  Another new venue for me.

Then I have the Bag Retreat in April in Wales - this is run by Mrs H.  I went last year and it was brilliant.  Whilst not a workshop, there are a lot of workshops within it, learning about different aspects of bag making, and we get 3 patterns and lots of help, so it is like a very long workshop.  With alcohol.  

Papercutting in May at Two Little Magpies.  Again, another new venue, it's pretty close to my house so I have high hopes for this one as it'd be convenient to go back!  I know I could learn paper cutting from a book/tutorial, but I still haven't picked up my craft knife and at least this will get me going.

Felted Pods in June at Needle and Thread.  This is wet felting with a resist and I've fancied having a go for a while.  Me and mum avoided wet felting classes as she had terrible arthritis and it wouldn't have done her much good as it's very physical.  One of my first ever craft classes was Nuno Felting, so this isn't completely new to me.  It's another new venue and, after I booked it, I realised I don't even know where it is!  Turns out it's in Lincolnshire so it could be up to 2 hours drive for me!!

Well that's the first half of the year sorted for a craft class a month!  Hopefully I can do the same in the second half of the year (or maybe even fit a few more in this half!).  If any of you live in the midlands and have any recommendations for me, please let me know in the comments.  I'll try anything - other than sewing/quilting.  No idea why but I just don't fancy sewing/quilting classes!

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

The Creative Craft Show 2018 - Offer!

Good morning,  I have been up to my eyeballs in paint and polyfilla for a few weeks now.  A friend is coming to live with me temporarily and I've been getting her room finished.  No time for crafting...  I'm missing it so badly!

I have attended a couple of classes which I'll write about soon, the only problem is, I haven't collected the finished products yet - next week!

Today I've got a very special offer for anyone who enjoys a good craft show.

This March, Sewing for Pleasure and Fashion & Embroidery return to the NEC to join The Creative Craft Show for a four-day craft extravaganza. Brimming with supplies and demonstrations, the shows expect to welcome thousands of crafters and would-be crafters through the doors as trends for mindfulness, upcycling and home-made continue to grow.

Taking place at the NEC from 15 – 18 March, visitors will be treated to over 200 stands selling the latest innovations for a multitude of crafts from knitting, cross stitch, paper crafting, jewellery and dressmaking. It’s the perfect opportunity to build your stash or find inspiration for a new mindful hobby.

Make the most of our special reader offer and get 2 tickets for the price of 1! Simply order your tickets online at and enter the code OV101 or phone 01425 277988 quoting OV101
Children under 16 go free when accompanied by an adult.  For more information visit

Terms and Conditions:
All prices relate to a one day adult tickets bought in advance. Offer is not valid on the door. Prices: Manchester & Glasgow £8, Birmingham £12, London £10. Phone lines open 9am to 5pm Monday to Thursday (4.30 Friday) – standard tariffs apply.  Offer valid until 5pm on the Monday prior to the show, and cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer. Use code OV101 at checkout.

I really enjoy the NEC craft shows and I'll be going to this one - anyone else planning on going?