Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Cyanotype with Craftiosity



Before I tell you all about this fantastic new craft I’ve discovered, I’m going to start with a disclaimer: I’ve always had mixed feelings about subscription boxes. I’m all for a lovely surprise every month, but as a self-confessed control freak, I like to know – and choose – where my money is going. That said though, I’m also a craft slut. Why buy it for £10 when you can spend £87 on all the materials and have a go yourself?!?
And this is where Craftiosity come in. Moira started her business to free people up to be creative and try out new things in their own time, in their own home. She has scoured the web for the most modern techniques (or modern projects using traditional techniques!), and brings them to us monthly, in a smartly designed box containing all the materials plus instructions. No massive outlay, and no need to spend hours researching – unless of course you get hooked, having had the opportunity to try something you’ve been interested in for a while, but never had the chance or excuse to get started!

Cyanotype with Craftiosity

That out of the way, I was super excited to receive my Craftiosity box, and it was such a treat to unwrap. Beautifully packaged and put together, with small glassine parcels to explore (it’s all mostly recyclable too, which is obviously another big thumbs up), I was like a kid at Christmas!
I knew in advance that it was going to be a ‘cyanotype’ kit, and that it would be something to do with making images using the sunlight, but the postcard inside explained that the process was invented by scientists back in 1842, and then soon after repurposed by botanists and architects.  I would be using special chemicals, mixed together and ‘painted’ onto a set of greetings cards. I’d then pop some bits and bobs on top, and expose it in the sunlight to create a silhouetted print.
As well as the necessary chemicals and equipment, the kit contained some skeleton leaves, string, and small wooden pegs – just some examples of items that would produce some clear/interesting silhouettes.
Cyanotype with Craftiosity

I had some good fun looking around for things that I thought would produce a crisp, clear shape, and decided to go for a crafts theme… I’m nothing if not predictable on-brand! Paintbrushes and rolled up paint tubes, some ornate scissors, a large needle, crochet hook, pliers, buttons, and some laser-cut charms. Ready!
Then I read the instructions. Nope. Not ready.
First I needed to do the sciencey bit and prepare my cards with the chemicals, and leave them to dry in a dark place for a few hours. I donned my protective gloves and cracked on, feeling like Doc Brown or Albert Einstein or similar, and then hid my freshly painted cards (and some A4 watercolour papers – I got carried away) in the utility room Cupboard Of Doom overnight.



Right! Ready again! Faff around styling all my objects, checking Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration (cards and paper still in Cupboard of Doom, as I was utterly paranoid about accidentally exposing them ahead of time). Realised it was only 15 minutes until I had to leave to pick up my daughter from her first day at pre-school, and decided to try again later.

Agh! Right. Finally! The sunshine was out and I had nowhere to go for an hour or two. I was mostly excited to try out the crochet themed objects, so rather than go slowly and use the provided items first, I jumped straight in. I soon found out that (surprisingly), the tips in the instruction booklet were pretty bang on: ‘If your object is pressed down onto the paper, you’ll get sharper lines. If it comes away, you’ll see a fuzziness where the light gets underneath’. My objects were all different thicknesses, so when I sandwiched them between my piece of glass and the greetings card, my crochet hook rolled around, and my teeny granny square wasn’t pressed down firmly enough. The scissors looked great though, as they were heavy enough to not allow much sunlight to get underneath.

This craft is actually really good for me, as I like to see quick results (no delayed gratification here, thank you very much), and so 10 minutes of bright sunlight later, I was able to take my print inside to give it a quick wash. All of the area that had been exposed to the sun had turned a gorgeous shade of indigo – my favourite colour – while the bits underneath my objects were a greeny yellow from the remaining chemicals. Once I’d  rinsed the card a couple of times though, the beautiful contrast between the white card and the indigo print became clear. Spurred on, I went back to my collection of crafty bits to decide what to print next! I’d learned from my first print that the items that didn’t lay flat wouldn’t produce such a clear print, so I discarded the paint tubes and a couple of other things, going instead for some sewing-related objects: a needle, safety pin, and some buttons. This probably ended up being one of my most successful prints, but I still wasn’t put off from experimenting with a more fibre-based theme… see if you can guess what this is:

Cyanotype with Craftiosity


I used large and small granny squares for the A4 papers, and think I’m actually going to do a few more of these, once I’ve really got the technique down: I wish I’d been less impatient and used blocked squares, which are stretched out and lie flat, and would have produced much crisper lines. Also I’ve found that I like to see more of the indigo colour, with a rougher edge, from when I’d originally treated the cards with the chemical mixture. The kit contained more than enough chemicals for the pack of greetings cards provided, and so I still have a few more pieces of watercolour paper prepared for another day, hurray!

Cyanotype with Craftiosity


All in all, I’ve really enjoyed the whole Craftiosityexperience, from the initial unwrapping, to the process (and the ways in which I could combine my own ideas with the instructions), results, and even the follow-up – I’ve just joined Moira’s ‘Creative Adventure Tribe’ Facebook group!

Previous months kits have included screen printing, bath bomb making, embroidery, and book binding; and inspiration aplenty can be found on Craftiosity’s social media pages! Boxes can be ordered singly (great for a control freak like me!), or on a fixed term or rolling monthly subscription. They’d make a fantastic gift for anyone who struggles to find something really original for their loved ones (ha, don’t we all?!)

Cyanotype with Craftiosity


My Craftiosity cyanotype kit was gifted to me, but this review was unpaid, and all words and opinions are my own.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Vero - my initial observations

For anyone floating around online over the weekend, maybe you’ll have come across at least one friend mentioning Vero… it’s a social media platform that’s actually been around since 2015, but which for some reason has had the most enormous flurry of hype over the past few days. With the tagline ‘True Social’, they’re marketing themselves as a more true-to-life way of sharing your activites and ideas. I only signed up two days ago, but I’ve had a chance to find my way around a bit, and have straightened out my thoughts into something that might be interesting for another newbie to read… 


THINGS I LIKE

I LOVE the flexibility of having everything within one account on Vero. At the click of a button, I can set anything I post to be shown to all of my followers, or just to close friends/family, and there are even 2 ‘levels’ inbetween! This means that I don’t have to choose between having a personal and a business account - and therefore maintaining both, and it means I don’t have to search my soul too much before sharing a photo of my children (however, I am mindful that there are always risks online, so no bashing there please!) The only problem was choosing my user name, ie whether to be Liz Chan or Fickle Craftroom!

I also ruddy love that the Vero feed is chronological (no stupid algorithm hiding posts from me anymore – yay!), and I think that this one feature alone will pull a LOT of people away from Instagram. I even wonder whether this will cause IG to rethink the very unpopular changes they made last year... and whether they might even be too late...? I realise this is probably a little bit premature of me, but food for thought nonetheless? If I scroll for long enough, I will get to see everything posted by the people I have chosen to follow (y’hear that, Instagram?!). I feel sad that little gems of accounts that I’ve stumbled across get buried beneath the big boys sometimes, and I’ve seen the algorithm damage a lot of small indie businesses this way.


ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

One thing that’s really good about Facebook these days though, is the community feel, specifically talking about the groups. At the moment I do feel a little bit isolated on Vero (obviously this is partly caused by the app being so new, and so I don’t yet have the same number of followers, connections etc yet). Hopefully this will get better the more I myself reach out and interact, but I do think that a group functionality would be a great addition – especially as Vero is potentially one app containing the best bits of FB and IG.

I’ve realised that I do actually really like the grid layout of Instagram; I can see at a quick glance if an account is one I want to follow, whilst also seeing the larger format images in my feed. I don’t really want to spend too much time scrolling through a person’s page in the very first instance. Also, whilst the book recommendations etc have their place, and could be useful if that’s what I was actively seeking, I just don’t want to have to wade through all of that to get to the good stuff.

One thing I'm not sure of yet, is how to find people without knowing their exact user names. Ideally I'd like Vero to give me suggestions of people to follow, based on my interests, my existing followees, or by importing contacts from Insta or Facebook (they don’t yet have this capability). If I could easily find people then this would also contribute to lessening the isolated feel too.

It wasn’t especially clear at first what the difference was between ‘following’ and ‘connecting’ with someone. Turns out that following is kind of like what you do on Instagram with other accounts. Connecting is more like becoming ‘friends’ with someone on Facebook (also – when you connect with someone, Vero asks you to categorise them as a close friend, friend, or acquaintance. This will later help you to filter who can see your posts accordingly.


In conclusion, I’m very excited by what this new app, and the potential it has to offer – I just need all my friends to join now, to keep me company!  I’m going to send a link to this post to Vero themselves, and report back on any feedback I get, so I’ll keep you posted!

If you have anything to add, or can help me with any of the above, I'd love to read your comments!

P.S. come find me on there! I'm Liz - Fickle Craftroom ;-)

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

#CraftAsTherapy

You know that feeling when someone is combing your hair, or tickling your back, or the one just before you drift off to sleep… it’s a kind of floaty, contented, semi-conscious state where you could almost feel yourself going cross-eyed. If you were a dog you’d probably start twitching your hind leg a bit.  

Last night I realised that this is what crochet does to me. The repetitive movements to create each stitch, the tactile squishy softness of the yarn, the gradual changing of the colours…
My brain is fully absorbed in the task at hand, yet strangely free to roam. Problem-solving, imagining, planning… I am relaxed; I am zoned out, but I am busy, happy and productive.

Is this what we call mindfulness?


In today’s fast pace, pressure, and the constant distraction of social media (I must admit to having paused writing this post to scroll through Instagram at least three times!), my crochet hobby – or obsession – grounds me. It’s so important for my mental health, to not only take time out from all of life’s admin, but to reach this state of semi-conscious focus in which to let my mind wander.

I’m not one for sitting still; nor do I watch much tv. I used to devour books like chocolate, but I’m finding I have less patience or motivation for reading these days. My hands need to be busy, and this need - if unmet – can often make me incredibly anxious.

Do you remember last years craze for colouring books? I skipped over this one, but reckon the effect must have been much the same… I’m so glad that there’s a growing awareness that we need to take a step back sometimes. Creativity (without the need for perfection) is such a great outlet for the stress of living a busy life, and it’s fantastic that this message is hitting the mainstream.

Have you experienced this sort of trance within your hobby? If so, what is it?


End note: The hashtag #CraftAsTherapy was launched in 2015 by Mandy of Red Agape, and now has over 300,000 Instagram posts!