Thursday, 12 September 2013

Top Ten Basic Craft Tools

Hi Everyone

I've often been asked by people new to crafting what are the first or most important craft tools they should invest in. So I decided to write a list of the top 10 basic craft tools that I can't live without. Now depending on what type of craft or craft technique you are interested in this list could change a little but I think that the 10 items I've picked are pretty core items which have potential uses no matter what you enjoy creating. 

Yes, I know technically I've cheated with no. 1 but what good is a craft knife without new blades every now and then?!

1 through 8 I think are all pretty self explanatory but you may wonder about 9 and 10. 

I can't live with out baby wipes! (You can see my personal brand of choice in the photo.) They are amazing at what they clean up! Not only do they clean rubber stamps but they clean my air brush and paint - whenever I spill anything I always try cleaning it with a baby wipe first. (Goodness only knows how baby's bottoms withstand their power!)

You may think that No. 10 the old blusher brush seems a little bit odd but it's something I first started using when I began enamelling with Efcolor powders. I found it invaluable to clean my work surface of powder and now I find myself using it all the time between and during all sorts of projects!

I know for some crafters that a vital piece of equipment is their rubber stamping heat tool or a die cutting machine but I've not included big items like that as for newbies that's not necessarily viable or needed for their chosen technique when first dabbling in crafts.

So what I'd like to know is: What are your Top Ten items you can't live without in your craft tool kit? 

Please comment below with your 10 top craft tools.  

Thanks and happy crafting!

Fee x

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Needle Felting Show coming soon!

Hi Everyone

Well the kids have gone back to school and, if the temperature is anything to go by, summer is definitely over (boo hoo!) but one really good thing about this time of year is that it's crafting season (yay!). With the changing weather and the nights drawing in you no longer have to find excuses or justify time spent playing with your craft stash! And, of course, it won't be long before we start to see those beautiful and inspirational autumn colours and that pre-Christmas excitement will start to gain momentum (especially with the kids - both small and big!).

But before I get into Christmas mode proper I'm preparing for the new Efco needle felting show on Ideal World's Create and Craft on 21st September. So here's a little taster of what you can create with a polystyrene ball and egg, some of Efco's superfine merino wool fibre and embossed wire and a felting needle...

Peppy Penguin

Material List
70mm Polystyrene Ball
120mm Polystyrene Egg
Black/White Mix Merino Wool Fibre
Needle Felting Tool (Medium needle)
Felting Pad
Black Embossed Wire
Combi Plyers
Craft Knife
PVA Glue
Large Sewing Needle

(All materials available from Efco)

1. Use a craft knife to carve a chunk out of the polystyrene ball.
The aim is to get the ball to sit neatly on the pointed end of the egg.
2. Cover the egg with grey wool, needling it to adhere it to the polystyrene.
3. Then pop the carved polystyrene ball onto the pointed end.
(Optional - you can use a little PVA glue to help hold it in position if you find it easier when it comes to continuing to felt.)
4. Use more grey wool to continue the felting over the ball. Add a little more wool around the neck join, if needed, to create a smooth transition from the egg to the ball. You don't need to cover the entire ball at this point - just make sure to have firmly attached it all the way around and to have covered at least two thirds of it (see photo).
5. For each wing: take one long and one shorter section of fibre. Open out the longer length and lay the shorter length at 90ยบ across one half of it, tucking or folding the ends as necessary. Fold the non covered half of the long length over the shorter and carefully start to needle felt it. When it has started to hold together a little, shape the fibres by folding the folded corners into the middle thereby giving you a gentle point to the bottom of the wing. Fold the edges in slightly towards the upper end of the wing to gently taper it. Continue felting, turning it as you work so that you can lock all the fibres in together and end up with a smooth finish.
6. Needle the upper ends of the wings onto the egg and ball body, making sure they are firmly attached.
7. Needle black wool to create the face. This needs to cover almost half of the ball, ranging from the edge of one wing to the edge of the other.
8. Needle some white wool over the top of the black, leaving two little holes for the eyes and the area down the centre for the nose (see photo).
9. Take a short length of wire and fold it in two, squeezing the folded end tightly. Bend the folded end over slightly to create the end of the beak.
10. Insert the wire ends into the centre of the face. When you are happy with the position use a dab of PVA glue on the wire ends to fix the beak in position.
If necessary, use a large sewing needle to help break through the felting to enable you to insert the wires.
11. Wrap a small piece of black wool around the base of the beak and lightly felt it into position, leaving the tip of the wire exposed.
12. For each foot: Bend a piece of wire (as shown) to create a base. Make sure the wires are tightly folded and slightly bend the tips down. Wrap some black wool around the wire, weaving some in between the 'toes' and needle it to secure it in position.
13. Insert the wire ends into the base of the body just behind the centre line. Flex the feet, bending the wire as necessary, to make sure your penguin will stand up. When you are happy with them, remove them to add a dab of glue to the wire ends and reinsert them.
et voila!

And here's an idea of what else you will be able to create with the kits that will be on the show...

Ollie Owl
Shirley Sheep
Penny Puppy
Cory Cat
Rafferty Reindeer
Felted Bauble
Felted Sheep
Floral Felt Bag
Owl iPad Case

So as you can see you can create all sorts of things with the needle felting technique, including unique Christmas decorations. Project sheets for all the felted animals will be coming soon. However, if you'd like to know how the other items were created just click on them to be taken to the correct page for the step by step instructions.

Happy Crafting Season!

Fee x

Friday, 30 August 2013

Crafting with Foam

Hi Everyone

I hope you have all been enjoying the gorgeous sunshine this summer and topping up your Vitamin D levels. In between family events I've been busy designing felt animals for the upcoming Create and Craft Needle Felting show on 21st September. Having been working on a new twist on an old or traditional craft like felting I thought that maybe it was time I dug out some other craft products or techniques that I haven't used for a few years and see what new ideas I could come up for them. I decided that the first one I would look at was foam sheets. 

Years ago when I first started demonstrating for craft manufacturers I remember using this material in card making, but that was about it. So I set about to see what else I could come up with...

First I wondered whether it would work with my Spellbinders Grand Calibur. Having tested it to find it worked brilliantly I came up with the following mini project ideas:

Using the largest die from the Spellbinders Scalloped Square Small Die Set I punched a square with I then hole punched in each corner. Using 2 pieces of ribbon I tied the opposite holes together forming a tiny parcel, ideal for an after dinner chocolate or a small piece of handmade jewellery. If you hole punch all the way down each side, you can lace the edges together making an even more secure parcel.

Using the same die, if you cut 5 squares you can make a small pot. Hole punch down 3 sides on four of the squares and all the sides on the remaining square to create the base of your pot. Lace each side to the base of the pot first, tying a knot on the inside and trimming the ends. Then, starting at the top of each corner lace down and then up, tying the ends in a bow to secure them. You can decorate the pot as you wish, here a die cut foam butterfly has been stuck on with a hot glue gun. If you want to use the pot to store tiny items eg beads, it's a good idea to cut the bottom of an old juice carton (washed and dried) and insert that.

When I first started using foam for card making I used to ink up a rubber stamp, heat the foam and then stamp into the foam, holding the stamp there whilst the foam cooled. When the stamp was removed it would leave a recessed image. So, knowing that foam has a memory when heated, I decided to see what else I could do with it using a rubber stamping heat tool to heat it...

When heated, foam can be moulded and if held in that position until it cools it will remember and hold that shape. This makes it an ideal material for creating items such as a posy of flowers.
First cut out your flower. If you don't have a Spellbinders Die Cutting machine or dies you can cut your own unique flower shapes with a pair of scissors.
Heat the foam flowers with a rubber stamping heat embossing tool to shape them. You can pop them in a small container such as a ceramic egg cup, blast them with the heat tool for a few seconds and then leave them to cool. Alternatively, blast them for a few seconds with the heat tool and then, whilst still warm, shape them with your fingers, holding them until they have cooled.
If you have cut your own flower shape with scissors punch a small hole in the centre of the flower. With a hot glue gun, place a dab of glue in the centre of the flower and insert a length of 2mm coloured wire. Twist it a couple of times to make sure the glue has adhered to it and all around the edges of the hole. Hold it in position until the glue has cooled.
Add a second dab of hot glue on top of the first and cover it with micro beads, carefully pressing them into the glue. When cool brush off any loose beads.
If you'd prefer you can use fine wire and beads to create your flower centres. Thread on a few beads twisting the wire to lock them in position. Use a dab of hot glue to fix the wire in the centre of the flower.

Of course you can use the flowers as embellishments too. Instead of gluing them to wire stems or adding microbeads you can just swop centres between different coloured flowers and glue them to a card. You can create tiny spirals by cutting narrow strips of foam and wrapping them around cocktail sticks. Hold them in position with a piece of masking tape at either end whilst you heat it. Leave to cool on the cocktail stick and then remove.
...or photo frame! Here a chopping board from a well know Swedish Shop was used to create an altered art photo frame for display on a kitchen wall.

As you can see foam is not just a kid's craft product but can be used for 'big kid's' projects too including creating unique embellishments!

Happy Crafting everyone!

Fee x 

Monday, 29 July 2013

Create your own iPad case

Hi Everyone

So many people have tablets of one kind or another these days. Why not personalize your tablet with it's own unique case...

Needle Felted iPad Case 

Take a 30 x 45cm sheet of felt (2mm thick) and decorate it how you want. If you want to decorate just the front make sure you leave a 5cm strip clear at one short edge of the felt. Then decorate anywhere within the next 14.5cm section.

I decided to needle felt this piece using an Efco owl napkin as the base for the pattern. To do this you take the top layer of your napkin and roughly cut out your design. Iron Vilene onto the back before cutting out the motif more precisely. Remove the backing sheet from the Vilene before ironing the motif in position on the felt. You are then ready to needle felt with super soft Merino wool tops. If you've never needle felted before check out one of the Projects4Crafters needle felting project sheets by clicking here.

Place your iPad on the felt and fold the felt so that the decorated front lines up roughly with the edge of your tablet. Stick 3 loop Velcro coins approximately 15mm in from the top edge (one in the centre and the other two 45-50mm in from either side). Place the hook coins on top of the loop ones and fold the top edge of the felt over the top. Then release the Velcro by opening up the flap. If your Velcro isn't very sticky you can use invisible thread to stitch them in position for extra security.

If you have needle felted your decoration on the front or done any kind of sewing or decoration that has made a bit of a mess of the back it's a good idea to cover it with a thin piece of felt. You can either use more Vilene to stick it in position or, if you prefer, glue.

Use a hot glue gun to seal the left and right edges. (If you don't have a hot glue gun you can stitch the edges instead using either a running stitch or blanket stitch.)


And you are finished!

As you can see it's so easy to do. If you've decorated your own iPad or phone case I'd love to see what you've done so please feel free to post photos!

Happy crafting!

Fee x

Friday, 26 July 2013

Have you ever tried Soapstone Carving?

Hi Everyone

Hope you're still enjoying the sunshine! (Isn't it gorgeous?!)

As I do enjoy a bit of sun but don't want to give up on my crafting pursuits I've been thinking of what activities I can do in the sunshine. Of course there is always Efcolor enamelling (provided you have a sheltered spot away from breezes that is), but I fancied trying something new and a little different for a change. So I turned to soapstone carving!

I was pleasantly surprised at how therapeutic I found it. Not only do you have the pleasure of having something emerge and evolve under your hands (rather like modelling with clay) but you also have the tactile qualities of the soapstone as you work with it. Again, you do need a still day without too many strong breezes as you get a lot of fine powder coming off the soapstone but it is a lot of fun and it's up to you how refined you want the finished piece to be.

To give you an idea of the process here's a simple project of a turtle which uses a pre-cut base as a starting point.

1. Use soapstone rasps to refine the shape of the turtle.

2. Use coarse emery papers to refine the shape yet further, smoothing off any rough patches or sharp edges.

3. Use finer wet emery papers to really smooth the surface, removing any coarse emery paper ruts or gouges.

4. Apply a couple of coats of soapstone oil using a brush, allowing the oil to soak in after each coat.

5. Buff up the soapstone with a soft cloth.

6. Using the corner of the soft cloth, apply some of Efco's special soapstone polish all over.

7. Buff up the soapstone with the soft cloth once again, until you achieve a beautiful sheen. (If necessary you can apply more polish and buff it up again until satisfied.)

The finished Turtle.

Efco do a range of pre-cut shapes as well as boxes of assorted soapstone chunks. They also do all the tools you need to create wonderful, unique carved pieces. So if you've never tried it before I suggest you give it a go and let your imagination run wild...

Happy holidays everyone!

 Fee x


Monday, 15 July 2013

Another great Create and Craft Show!

Hi Everyone

Sorry for the radio silence - it's been a hectic few weeks with preparations for the Create and Craft shows and family visits! 

The show with Jacqui Joseph was great, so thanks to everyone who emailed in and has been in contact with me since yesterday! If you've ordered the Efcolor tealight stove, powders and blanks I'm sure you'll be having a lot of creative fun soon. And to get you inspired I thought you might like to find out how I made the hanger using the square pack of blanks...

This hanger uses 3 of the large/medium square aluminium blanks. 

1. Each square was covered with ivory powder and heated. 
2. Then one of Efco's new stencils was used to create a random pattern with bright pink Efcolor powder. (A patchy effect was created by deliberately not covering them with an even layer of powder.) Then they were reheated.
3. The top layer of a napkin was separated from the back two layers and small flower images were 'cut' out using a wet paint brush.
4. These were stuck randomly on the top and bottom squares with pva glue. (You can use a hair dryer to quickly dry the glue.)
5. When the pva has dried apply light random patches of orange, yellow and gold glitter powders followed by a thin layer of transparent and reheat. (nb. If the glue is not dried before reheating it will make the Efcolor bubble.)
6. Rubber stamp the middle square with a permanent ink pad (I used Jody's Friendship Flower by Rebekka Erickson).
7. When dry, apply light random patches of orange, yellow and gold glitter powders, avoiding the stamped area as much as possible. Use a brush to 'sweep away' any stray powder from the stamped image. Then cover all over with a thin layer of transparent powder before reheating.
8. When cool, cut three squares of card the same size as the blanks. Stick pieces of ribbon to the backs of the blanks with double-sided tape, joining them all together. Make sure to make the centre ribbon longer at the top so that you can fold the end over to create a loop. Use the pieces of card to cover the ribbon and neaten the backs of the blanks.

So, as you can see, it is very easy to create a unique, handmade enamelled decoration. If you are one of those who have decided to give Efcolor a try don't forget to check out the enamelling pages on the website: And I'd love to see what you make so do send me photos of your creations if you can.

Happy enamelling!

Fee x