For my new Relaxing Crafts series, I decided to pick up a pile of random craft kits that one of my neighbours was selling on Facebook and see if there was anything interesting for me to try…
It was quite a haul for a few dollars! There are quite a few things I’d like to experiment with in here, and I’ll pass the rest onto someone else who has kids who can use them – nothing will go to waste.
Hiding out in the bottom right corner of the above pic, I found a kit I was intrigued to start first: a small diamond painting kit.
The craft of ‘diamond painting’ – sticking flat-backed plastic ‘gems’ onto an adhesive colour-coded surface to form a pattern – seems to have sprung up from nowhere over the past few years. Have you heard of it before?
A diamond painting kit comes with an adhesive backing (this one is cardboard, but most are canvas), preprinted with the design. You fill in each space with a plastic ‘diamond’. Depending on the kit, the diamonds can be square or round – in this kit, mine were round.
There’s an individual bag for each colour of diamond. With only a few colours in this design, I found it most fun to pour a few colours into the tray at once, and then I got to play a minigame every time: to look for a piece that was a) the right colour and b) the right way up.
Each diamond has a domed front and a flat back. You pick up a diamond by loading the nib of the special pen with a little pink wax, then pressing it gently to the domed side of the diamond, so the diamond sticks to the wax:
Then you press the flat side of the diamond down to the picture. The adhesive grabs the diamond and keeps it in place. (The wax stays inside the nib of the pen, ready to grab the next diamond.)
It’s very satisfying to place all the tiny diamonds into neat rows and watch the picture emerge. It’s faster than cross stitch, much easier than paint-by-numbers(!), and once each piece is placed it stays there, so you don’t have to worry about knocking them out of place before you complete the design.
As you work, you peel back the protective plastic film from the painting a bit at a time, so the rest of the picture stays sticky and doesn’t attract dust or lint before you’re ready to apply the diamonds to it.
And, after a little time, the canvas is filled and the finished picture emerges!
Relaxing Craft Verdict
This kit was just a dollar store special and I don’t love the design, but as a test of the craft it served its purpose admirably: I call diamond painting a win on the relaxing front! Big thumbs up from me.
I’m looking at diamond painting kits now – there are lots with really nice looking designs, and I think I’ll be picking one up. Here are my top choices at the moment:
Clockwise from top left: Miniature Magic, Forest Babe, and Graceful Swimmer kits from Diamond Dotz.
I’m leaning towards the turtle – I think the diamonds may make it look like it’s swimming in a sparkling sea. What do you think?
Have you ever tried diamond painting? Are you tempted to try now? Let me know in the comments below!
Some craft projects require concentration (like following an amigurumi pattern), while other projects are relaxing in their repetitive nature (like crocheting row after row of a simple afghan pattern). I find these more relaxing crafts and projects wonderful for the times when my brain is too tired to concentrate on something complicated, but my hands still want to stay busy.
I’ve started picking up craft kits so I can try different crafts and see what appeals to me. I thought it might be fun to do a series of posts on the crafts I’m dabbling in – maybe you’ll find something you’d like to try too! (And many of these simple crafts are kid-friendly, so these could also be family craft projects, or ideas for gifts for the crafty children in your life.)
So here’s the first post in my new Relaxing Crafts series…
Paint by Numbers
I haven’t painted anything for years, and I thought that a paint by numbers kit might be a good way to practice brush technique and ease me back into the feel of painting so I could try painting something from scratch in future.
The design and the colour-coded numbers are pre-printed onto the canvas in pale blue, so all you need to do is grab a colour of paint and fill in all the indicated areas with that colour, then repeat for all the other colours, and you have a beautiful painting! Or do you…?
I found it more difficult than I’d expected, considering these kits are designed for kids 8 and older – surely, I should have more skill than an inexperienced 8-year old? For me, it was frustrating to have to follow the arbitrary lines separating the shading colours – for example, I think I’d have preferred to try shading the dolphins in my picture myself vs trying to follow all the jagged bands of shadow and light on the dolphins’ bodies.
There are lots of fiddly jagged lines to follow to form this shading.
I also assumed I’d be provided with all the paint colours I needed, but there were lots of mixed colours required:
All the areas with two numbers are colours you have to mix yourself, e.g. “10/20” means a mix of colour 10 and colour 20. It seemed like most of the colours were mixes!
The results of some of that fiddly colour mixing are disappointingly muddy…
Some of the provided paint colours were used a lot – in mixes as well as solo – and I was always scared I’d run out, especially if I mixed too much of a certain shade and had to waste some of it. This was not a very relaxing process! But I did complete the painting…
The end result is okay, but I feel a bit misled by the box art, which shows a coloured picture of the design, not a completed painting (and now I know to look for that, it seems that’s a common trend in these kits). The provided paint colours aren’t the same as shown in the cover picture, and the result is much less subtle, so it’s a bit disappointing.
Where are my blue dolphins from the cover pic?!
Given all that, paint by numbers is not something I’d want to try again. If I do ever brave painting again, I’ll just sketch an outline and then attempt to paint it properly – I think I could do at least as well as following the kit!
The painting is still kind of cute though – especially once I added a glint to each dolphin’s eye (that’s not part of the design).
I did pick up a few painting tips from this experience:
Low quality paint has terrible coverage – once I’d painted over each section, I could still see the numbers printed beneath the paler paint shades and had to give them a second coat (and the white paint took three coats to cover the numbers!)
Acrylic paint dries much darker than the colour appears when the paint is wet.
Painting accurate fine lines is difficult, especially at certain angles. I’m much more comfortable with a pencil than a brush.
Look carefully and you can still see the blue lines around the edges of the paler colours, despite my best efforts to hide them 🙁
Relaxing Craft Verdict
As a relaxing craft, I’m calling Paint by Numbers a fail – for me, anyway.
If you’re inexperienced in painting, taking care not to stick your hand in the wet paint or paint over the lines requires a fair amount of concentration.
If you’re already a painter, you really don’t need a paint by numbers kit – you’d do better without one!
Maybe I was just unlucky with my choice of kits and there are better ones out there. Have you (or your kids) had any success with paint by numbers kits, or do you agree with my assessment? Let me know in the comments!
And now, my search for relaxing crafts continues. I have quite a few lined up already, but I’d love to hear your suggestions for crafts I can try – and review here for you – too. Please leave your ideas below… 🙂
I’ve been experimenting with making my own skincare products using natural ingredients, and I thought you might be interested to hear about it…
I’ll tell you all about these later in this post!
Hand cream and nail oil are secret weapons in my business – it’s only because of them that my hands (hopefully!) never look objectionable, even in close-up tutorial photos.
Not a hangnail in sight!
How I Got Started
My journey to make my own lotions and potions began with a quest to protect my face from the harsh cold of the Canadian winter. After developing eczema while living in South Africa (where it never gets very cold), I discovered I had a whole new set of skin problems to contend with when I came home. I needed to find a way to protect my now-sensitive face, which had become extremely intolerant of the cold.
I bought and tried lots of creams that I’d been recommended, with results ranging from ineffective, to eczema-triggering, to disastrous (e.g. covering my face in Aquaphor without realising that it contained lanolin until my eyes swelled up and the allergic reaction began…)
So I decided to take the plainest moisturising cream that didn’t give me any symptoms, and supercharge it by adding extra skin-friendly oils to rebuild and protect my skin’s moisture barrier. And it worked! My skin is much happier these days 🙂
But this wasn’t just useful… it was fun! I realised I could probably mix my creams and oils in different ways, with a few extras, to make different skincare products for myself.
There are lots of 100% pure oils derived from plants that have beneficial properties for the skin: grapeseed, sweet almond, jojoba, rosehip, argan, marula, and many more. To figure out which I should try, I looked at the ingredients of products I already liked, then did some googling and borrowed books from the library to find out which oils sounded like they’d be most helpful for my needs.
And then there are essential oils: highly concentrated plant extracts that must be diluted before use. They are used for aromatherapy and may have other health benefits. There’s a passionate community of essential oil advocates and I briefly got sucked into that – the potential benefits of certain oils made them sound very appealing. After I bought a few bottles and tried them, I realised that I don’t do well with most scents – giving myself a headache was not what I intended! Now I only use the essential oils that have a scent that makes me feel happy and calm (more on that below).
Once I’d sorted out what to try, I bought some of my supplies from a local health food shop, and some online.
Supplies: ingredients and empty containers
I did some more research to figure out roughly how much of each oil I should be using (here’s a very rough starting point: up to 10% of regular oils and 1% of essential oils), and then started experimenting with adjusting the proportions until I got a result I liked.
Combining the Ingredients
If my end product will be an oil, I use droppers to add the different component oils into the container and then close the container and shake it to mix them together.
It’s a little more difficult when making a cream or lotion. First I measure or weigh out all my ingredients into a bowl and mix them together with a little spoon:
In these photos I’m making my pink grapefruit hand cream, and yes, it looks pretty unappealing at first! But after a good mixing it looks smooth and creamy:
I’ve discovered that you have to mix and mix to get the oils to emulsify properly with a cream or lotion – even if it looks well-mixed, the oils can begin to separate out after a few days or weeks. Now, I stir for an extra minute or two after it looks like its fully mixed.
Then it’s just a matter of decanting into a container and it’s ready to use and enjoy!
(All my containers are reusable: I wash them out when they’re empty and refill them, so I can be a bit more environmentally friendly.)
(I’m calling them products, but these aren’t intended for sale – they’re just for my own use.) These are my favourite skincare products that I’ve made so far:
L-R: headache oil, hand cream, nail oil
I made a spearmint headache oil in a glass rollerball bottle, with a sweet almond oil base. I massage it onto the sides of my forehead when I get a tension headache and it helps. Spearmint essential oil has a sweeter and more uplifting scent than peppermint, it’s gentler on the skin, and I find it very relaxing. And doesn’t the yellow oil look pretty in my blue/clear glass bottle?!
I came up with a really rich moisturizing hand cream enriched with jojoba, rosehip and pink grapefruit oils, which completely stops my hands from getting dry or rough (even with all the hand washing we have to do these days!) I find the sweet citrus scent of the pink grapefruit to be a great mood-lifter and very relaxing.
I replaced my favourite (and pricey) nail oil with my homemade version – sweet almond and jojoba oils and vitamin E in a container with a built-in brush applicator keep my cuticles looking good for all those close-up tutorial photos. It doesn’t have the almond fragrance of my favourite brand, but that’s just an artificial fragrance anyway, so I’m happy to live without the scent. I get the same results as the brand name for a fraction of the price, so I can use my nail oil as often as I want without feeling guilty!
As any crafter knows, it’s always a special feeling to be able to use things you’ve made yourself.
I know this may seem like a small thing, but using my own customized creams and oils with my favourite uplifting natural scents gives me a little happiness boost every time I wash my hands or prepare my cuticles for taking photos, or comforts and relaxes me when I have a headache or eczema symptoms.
Try It Yourself
If you want to try dabbling, it can be as simple as adding a couple of drops of your favourite essential oil to a jar of lotion and then stirring it well until it’s all mixed in. For example, I add a few drops of spearmint essential oil to my tub of foot cream and it adds an extra zing to the unfragranced moisturizer.
Or, if you want to try just one moisturising oil, I’d recommend jojoba oil. Its molecules are close in size to the natural oils produced by the body, so it absorbs very easily, making it a highly effective moisturiser. You can mix it with other ingredients like I do, or use it by itself as a moisturiser (it’s safe to use anywhere on your face and body) or cuticle oil. It’s light and gentle – despite the name, it’s actually a liquid wax, not an oil – and, as it absorbs so well, it won’t leave you feeling greasy or looking shiny. It’s stable, and a little goes a long way, so one bottle will last for ages – my first bottle is still going strong after 18 months!
Do you make your own skincare products? What are your favourite ingredients? Or are you tempted to try something for the first time now? Tell me about it!
Every December from 2006 to 2015 (with only one year off) I designed and made a PlanetJune Poinsettia. As a multi-crafter, it was a fun challenge to keep making the same thing using different tools and materials and slightly different styles, but I’ve let the project drop for the past few years.
But, after designing a new crocheted poinsettia for my Christmas Decor pattern collection this year, I was inspired to revisit my poinsettia collection this holiday and add another craft to the collection: needlefelting!
This Poinsettia is made from Lion Brand Spinnables roving, sent to me by a kind friend many years ago, and it’s been sitting in my craft stash since then, just waiting for inspiration to strike! The most interesting part about Spinnables is that it’s 100% acrylic roving. It’s very soft and fine and has some very pretty and muted variegated colours.
Although Spinnables has the benefit of being completely non-itchy for my wool-sensitive fingers, I found it more challenging to felt than natural fibre roving, so I kept my poinsettia very simple and didn’t worry about making it too perfect – after all, real plants aren’t perfect either.
I’m not going to write up a tutorial for this poinsettia:
If you know how to needlefelt, it should be fairly obvious how to assemble it by making 12 individual leaves and 3 balls, and felting them together.
If you’re new to needlefelting, I recommend you find a book or YouTube tutorial to cover the basics, then look for a tutorial on how to felt animal ears – the leaf shape is very similar to an ear, so that should give you the idea of how to form a leaf shape.
And now let’s take a look at my entire collection to date…
The Poinsettia Collection
11 poinsettia designs – it’s a real collection, spanning 14 years!
(You can find almost all my Poinsettia designs as PDFs in my shop, or use the links above for the free online versions of most of them.)
Which is your favourite?
I don’t know if I’ll continue adding to this collection, but I suspect I’ll be drawn back to it again and again in future – I’ll leave it flexible and just add a new poinsettia whenever the inspiration strikes.
I love seeing how similar and yet different these all look together, and how it’s a tangible record of many different crafts I’ve played with over the years. I wonder what else I could make a poinsettia from..?
I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing my collection, and maybe it’ll inspire you to try (or re-try) a different type of crafting this holiday! 🙂