Homemade London: Mystery Workshop

A few weeks ago my friend and I had to cancel our long ago booked Mystery Workshop at Homemade London. The tube strike was in full force, the weather was stormy and traffic in Central London was grid-locked. We rescheduled and the evening came around again yesterday.

You book a place, paying £12, and basically have no idea what you’re going to be doing for the hour until you arrive. Apparently they’ve run Mystery Workshops since May and haven’t repeated one yet.

When we arrived I was slightly dismayed to see a table laid with jewellery making pliers and fixings. I’ve enjoyed the jewellery workshops we’ve done, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do for an hour last night. Then I popped downstairs to the loo and discovered my idea of heaven set up downstairs; a table lined with posh Janome sewing machines. ‘I guess they’re ready for tomorrow’s classes’ I sighed.

Wrong!

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A dainty glass of something vodka based with several raspberries (only wafted near a vodka bottle it has to be said, but that’s probably not a bad thing before handling jewellery pliers) before we started to make earrings. There were 10 in the workshop in all which was a good number. The girl running the workshop was lovely, bubbly, really helpful and fun.

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The atmosphere was good and great fun as we laughed, groaned and muttered all grappling with jewellery links, trying to open the chain links to make four separate chains (from a choice of silver, rose gold and gold) and affix shells (pearly or blue/black.) The girl opposite forgot to breathe as she concentrated hard, prompting concern from her friend as she turned slightly purple!
Half an hour on each activity of the workshop meant we had a little time to play with those super sewing machines; making little bags for our earrings.

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We shared the machines in pairs. It’s the same as G has, so she cranked up the speed and whizzed along.
My sewing’s definitely getting better. My little seams are pretty straight now.

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We’re getting a bit more cocky now that we’ve sewn a few things and think that the basic little bag design could be better, rather than having raw edges at the end of the ribbon seam. But I did enjoy having the chance to use a sewing machine. Before meeting in the afternoon I’d spent some time chatting to the sewing demonstrator in John Lewis, Oxford Street, discussing buttonholes (last week’s revisited skill along with another friend. I need some practice so I haven’t shown you!) The chat had whet my appetite to do some sewing. Good timing all round. We stayed to chat after the class for a few minutes talking about machine embroidery which I’d really like to try sometime. The book below was recommended…

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And that, was another good day.

Polymer Clay Bead Class – London Jewellery School

A couple of months ago I noticed that London Jewellery School had started following me on Twitter. Emboldened by the recent invite from John Lewis to their Open House Blogger Event I cheekily tweeted LJS and asked if they offered any free workshops for bloggers. They replied promptly saying I was welcome to attend a taster class from the very tempting list. “And a friend can come too?” I wondered. “Yes, no problem!’ I know this was even more cheeky but I’m glad I asked. We chose to go to the polymer clay bead class and waited a few months for the date to come around.
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First we looked at samples of the types of beads we could make. I really liked the bracelet above and decided to make my own version.

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This clay is very, very hard to work –  but fortunately there is a secret weapon which you use to ‘condition’ the clay…

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…a pasta maker! We each had one clamped to the table. I suffered some teasing about being a pedant from the tutor for unscrewing the G-clamp to straighten my machine but it was worth it not to have it on a wicked slant. I kind of got my own back by having a friend who whistled and sang her way through the class to Absolute 80s on the radio. Ha! (If you’re reading this –  it really was delightful. Louder whistling next time the tutor calls me names please!!!!)

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There is a pasta maker under our stairs – it’s been quite a while since we made fresh tagliatelle so I’m very tempted to requisition it for polymer! (Someone will be reading this in Brussels and wincing.)

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Roll out two colours, try to make them a similar size, lie them on top of each other, cutting the raggedy ends very carefully with the razor edged cutter. If you want square or rectangular beads then cut to the desire shape and size and you’re done. Spherical beads take a lot of handling, but I enjoyed chatting to the group while moulding mine. One woman has been taking classes with LJS for years, she listed a huge number of different skills she’s learnt and items she’s made.

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Tricky this making a hole business – you want to be gentle and twist the braddle (?) so the beads don’t split open at the ends and also you want them to be as centrally placed as possible. I started off slowly, and carefully, but time was ticking and so the remainder ended up being pierced quickly so they could go into the oven and we could begin making the next batch.

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We could make what I termed ‘swiss roll’ shaped beads next but I was quite taken with the spheres, so made some smaller and more purple versions just by rolling the slices around, and around, and around…. If there’s not enough of a pattern, or one dominant colour, just add small pieces of the other colour to the outside of the ball.

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When out of the oven the beads were plopped into a bowl of water to quickly cool. Aren’t they delicious looking? Just like liquorice allsorts and humbugs. Luckily we all chose different colour combos so there was no confusion about whose were whose.

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A quick dry with some paper towel and then the tricky bit. I found choosing beads from the beautiful range the hardest part of the whole process.

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My rather 80s style beads…a necklace fit for Five Star?!

This bracelet used some of my larger beads. Spot the mistake?!

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Our class tutor was Anna. Here’s her website – be prepared to crave sweeties after viewing!

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The evening taster class lasted 2.5 hours, was a fab experience as I’ve never made any type of beads before, and great fun. I probably need to say that no one asked me to write a blog post or referred to blogging at all. We all completed a standard feedback form at the end of the class (others were paying customers I believe) and that was that.

If you can get to the London Jewellery School, based in the Hatton Garden area, I thoroughly recommend it. I’d definitely like to book some more classes sometime. I’ve just thought – if you’re struggling to buy a present for a crafty person then why not buy them a place on a class, preferably you should go with them!

Jewellery workshop

Last month a friend booked us both on a jewellery workshop with Stones of Isis in South London. She’d seen a Groupon offer for a beginners class for 3 hours at £22 each, it’s very good value and if that deal is still available I’d recommend you book if you can. We went to The Old Biscuit Factory in Bermondsey (spell check wants to change this to ‘spider monkey’ ha ha!) on Saturday. Gok Wan uses a studio there to photograph his collections apparently – there’s a random fact for you.
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I’ve never made any jewellery before, unless threading painted pasta on string counts?
You can see how my attempts improved, though there’s still a long way to go.

So, in a nutshell this is what the equipment’s called and how you make a rosary bracelet Oops, I realise I can’t name the equipment with confidence at all! I need to check the pdf that’s promised to all who attended the workshop.

20130922-161055.jpgIt’s fun, time flies and you realise how very slow you’ve been when you’re racing to complete the earrings by the end of the workshop. A slight downside is that your thumb and finger of your other hand throb by the end of the session, your dominant hand is holding the pliers and fares much better. I expect you toughen up after more sessions, or adjust your technique and this isn’t an issue as there’s no condition, as far as I know, called jeweller’s thumb…

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This is the work of the graphic designer who sat opposite, we both loved her colour choices, repeating pattern and neat work. She insisted she’s never made any jewellery before and we veered between envy at her talent and thinking she couldn’t be new to it at all because it looks so good. Her pearlyish beads on the floating bracelet inspired me to add two to the end of mine.

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Sandwiches, tea, biscuits and cake were provided but to be honest I think we were mostly all too busy to stop and eat much.
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Here are my finished items. As Bola and Mary, the teachers and owners, said you can spend a fortune in Accessorize on similar bracelets. I don’t wear necklaces but have a huge bowl of bracelets so making my own really appeals but I’ll probably need to arrange a follow-up crafting session with my friend Sarah who creates the most lovely jewellery, for a bit of a refresher.

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Next we crossed the river and went to north London to Islington. There’s no way you can really go there without a little visit to Loop. After my recent thoughts about Noro wool feeling too scratchy we discovered they make an absolutely gorgeous variegated cotton. I was soooo tempted to buy some but first need to finish my Rowan and Planet Penny cotton.
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I have a giftcard to spend at John Lewis sometime, plus I’m busy using my Black Sheep Wools haul so didn’t buy anything. It was hard not to buy a ball of each colour combo of that Noro cotton, but I stuffed my hands in my pockets.

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Lush yarn isn’t it? I believe you can just tell looking at these photos. Some is £20 and upwards for a skein, so I’d definitely need to feel more confident about my knitting before I bought enough for a garment.

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Seeing stacks of beautiful yarn is really like heroin for crocheters and knitters isn’t it? OR, is that just me?!

Anchor Freccia Colorful World Project

Recently you might remember that Coats crafts sent me an email asking me to make and blog about my experience of making some crocheted jewellery.

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I had a go and to be honest have not got very far, with good reason. Can you see the section of crochet chains that are no longer fixed to the necklace chain? This is not the first section of crochet that has worked its way towards the join of the link and fallen off despite my double crocheting the thread to the links as tightly as I can. Baring an hour or so spent with jewellery pliers, which I do not own, going along the chain tightening up every link this project is not going to be completed as I can’t bear the though of grappling with a 1.5 mm hook and the absolutely tiny symbol pattern for sections of the necklace to fall off the links and the whole piece to unravel.

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However if would like to see a more successful try at the same kit go to Emma’s Lulu Loves blog. I’d be interested to know if hers is being worn without slippage from the chain, but perhaps her chain was made with tighter links? If you would like to read more about Coats Anchor Freccia Colorful World products then check out their website here.

It’s well known that bloggers are sent books to review and products to test because they are more than likely to give positive reviews. Just the fact of being asked is indeed a huge compliment and gives real pleasure. So the temptation to carry on making the necklace then somehow sew it on to the chain is really tempting. However, I really don’t want to mislead anyone and generally hate to lie so I’m letting this post stand as it is, with the link to Emma’s more postive write-up and making experience.

One good thing is that I’ve found using a 1.5 mm hook and fine three ply crochet thread is actually far easier than I’d anticipated. The Anchor thread is firm so that even if you undo stitches the rest holds steady so that you can go into the adjacent chain or remake the stitch without difficulty. Just make sure you wear your glasses and sit in a well lit room – that’s my only caution.