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Archive for Other Crafts

Relaxing Crafts: Finger Knitting with Loop Yarn

Have you seen this novelty loop yarn in stores? It’s designed to be finger-knit with no tools – you just pull one loop through the next.

finger knitting with loop yarn

Working straight gives you a standard knitted fabric, and crossing pairs of loops before you ‘knit’ them lets you make pretty stitch patterns.

finger knitting with loop yarn

I picked up a bargain bundle of this Bernat Blanket Alize Blanket EZ from the yarn factory outlet store as part of my quest to find relaxing crafts to try. (And yes, this is the wrong time of year to be making a cozy blanket, but I have air conditioning, so it’s not that bizarre…)

Choosing a Pattern

Once you know what you’re doing, you can probably adapt many knitting patterns for this type of yarn, but I’d recommend starting out by choosing a pattern that’s designed especially for loop yarn.

I chose my favourite pattern, Yarnspirations’ Diamond Lattice Blanket, and looked up other projects on Ravelry to see what other people thought of it. Based on the feedback of a few other ravelers, I started by forming a starting chain so the bottom of the blanket would match the cast-off edge, and pulled up a row of plain knit stitches in the back bumps of the chain before beginning the lattice pattern, to give a straighter bottom edge.

This pattern says it’s rated as ‘experienced’ skill level, and I agree with that assessment. I wouldn’t jump into this as your first loop knitting project like I did unless you really like a challenge. (Luckily, I do!)

finger knitting with loop yarn

As others had noted in their project notes, the pattern is extremely wordy and not clear to follow. I decided to just ignore the pattern directions after the first row, and figure it out myself based on watching where the slanted crossed stitches should go next. I got a bit confused at the edges at first, but apart from that it was fairly straightforward, thanks to my experience with crossed stitches in knitting. Again, I wouldn’t recommend this specific pattern unless you’re familiar with loop knitting and/or regular knitting with crossed stitches.

Loop Knitting: The Process

Loop knitting is actually a little more difficult than I’d imagined it would be:

  • As you never turn the work, you work left to right for one row and right to left for the next, so each hand has to do different things on odd and even rows.
  • It’s definitely a two-handed craft – crossing loops with one hand while finding the next loop of the working yarn with the other keeps you on your toes!

finger knitting with loop yarnCrossing a pair of stitches

Upsides

Although the in-progress project looks like a knitter’s nightmare – just like you’ve dropped all your stitches off the needles! – the textured yarn holds the loops in place well, so the stitches are fairly secure. It even takes a bit of effort to frog these stitches if you make a mistake, so stitches unravelling by mistake doesn’t seem to be a problem.

finger knitting with loop yarn

The yarn is very soft and feels nice to work with (if you’re familiar with plush chenille super bulky blanket yarns, it’s like a looped version of an extra thick one). As each stitch is large, it works up quickly and the resulting fabric is extremely thick and plush – I’d never use this yarn and technique to make anything other than a cozy blanket.

Downsides

I discovered a major problem with using this kind of yarn: as you never turn the work, you don’t see the back until you’ve finished (or stop and flip it over). That wouldn’t be a problem, except that it’s very easy to skip a loop in your working yarn without noticing, so you keep going blissfully along with no problem until the end of your session when you fold up your work and see this:

finger knitting with loop yarnNoooo!

A big loop on the back of the work! The only solutions at this point are:

  • Cut the loop off (which should be just as safe as starting a new ball of looped yarn – there’s just a tiny nub of plain yarn at the end of each ball – but that would leave two extra tiny nubs in your work).
  • Cut the loop in half and weave in each of the resulting ends (again, it’s safe to do this, but I’m not sure how well the ends would stay hidden over time).
  • Undo alllll the way back to the loop and redo it properly.

Can you guess which one I did?! That’s right, I frogged back to fix the mistake whenever I realised that I’d done it again, sometimes unravelling 5 or 6 entire rows, so I could fix the problem – ugh.

And here’s the other problem with this yarn: the fluffy chenille is very ‘grabby’ – when you’ve pulled a loop through another loop, they tend to hold in place. This is obviously a good thing when you have a whole row of loose loops to work with, but it does mean that unravelling takes almost as long as knitting the loops in the first place!

Adding a New Ball of Yarn

I couldn’t find any info on how to add the next ball of yarn, so my solution was to hold the last loop of the old ball and the first loop of the new ball together. Then, on the next row, all I had to do was to remember to pass the new loop through both the loops below.

Tip: As there are free loops all over the place, it’s easy to miss the doubled loop, so I clipped a locking stitch marker around both loops so I could easily spot them again as I worked the next row.

The Result

My finished blanket is 43×57″, which is a nice size for a sofa throw. (It did confuse me though, as the pattern claims the blanket is 56″ wide, not 43″ – I think that must be a mistake in the pattern instructions, as that’s a huge discrepancy.)

loop knitted lattice blanketIsn’t it pretty?

Although it’s far too hot to even contemplate needing a thick cozy blanket at the moment, I know I’ll enjoy using mine when the cooler weather arrives. It’s very soft, has a good weight to it, and I love that lattice stitch pattern.

loop knitted lattice blanket

A couple more angles…

loop knitted lattice blanketHere’s the texture of the back of the blanket.

loop knitted lattice blanketAnd here are the top and bottom edges – they did end up matching nicely.

And, most importantly: it’s passed the Maggie test! She curled straight up on it on my lap and went to sleep – that’s high praise from my discerning girl. 😉

loop knitted lattice blanket

Relaxing Verdict

Loop knitting is definitely a relaxing craft if you’re following a simple repetitive pattern. Once you’ve completed the first row, it’s very easy to form knit stitches by pulling the next loop from the working yarn through the next loop of the row below. I found it to be mostly relaxing once I got used to my more challenging stitch pattern, and if you chose a more straightforward stitch pattern, it would be very relaxing!

Finger knitting with pre-looped yarn means you don’t need to worry about tension – the size of each loop is fixed, so you know you’ll get a nice even result without any effort to control it. But it does give rise to the problem of accidentally leaving a loop on the back of your work – that’s one thing that would never happen with knitting or crochet, or even finger knitting, where you always control the flow of yarn.

Immersing your fingers directly in the soft cozy yarn to create a blanket makes a nice change from holding a hook or needles, but my overall verdict is that looped yarn is a bit of a novelty with limited applications. It’s fun to try, and the results can be lovely – I’m very happy with my chunky blanket! – but I don’t see loop knitting becoming the ‘next big thing’ in fibre arts. What do you think?

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adventures in 3d printing

My husband is a maker like me, but he prefers wood, metal and plastic to yarn and fibre, so our hobbies rarely intersect. But he has his own 3D printers, which means he can make custom plastic stuff for me if I ask. While I love that idea in theory, I’ve struggled in the past to think of anything that would be useful – there’s no point adding more plastic rubbish into the world just because it’s possible to make it.

Lately, though, I’ve been full of ideas for useful items, and Dave has brought them to life for me – I thought you might like to see what we’ve come up with…

USB Cable Holder

I use a long USB cable to plug my camera into my computer so I can transfer my photos without having to remove the memory card every time I want to check if I’ve captured the shot I needed.

I’ve been using a sticky-backed cable clip, but I’ve gone though two of them now – after a while, the adhesive fails and they fall off the edge of my desk. I thought that something that clipped onto the edge of the desk would be sturdier and less likely to fall off.

3d printed USB cable holder

I found this design on Thingiverse – a database of free printable designs – and Dave customized it to fit the height of my desk perfectly. It has a clever swivel barrel so I can remove the cable if necessary, but it’s firmly locked in place the rest of the time. It’s perfect!

3d printed USB cable holder
In case you’re wondering, the matching flower stickers mean I always know which way to insert the USB plug into the socket 😉

Sprouting Jar Tray

You may remember that I grow my own sprouts on my kitchen windowsill. The jars leave watermarks on the windowsill, and, while the marks have wiped off easily so far, I don’t want to risk damaging the wood.

3d printed tray for a sprouting jar

I requested a very shallow tray, just long enough to fit the sprouting jar and no wider than the windowsill. We measured up, Dave designed and printed it, and look what I have now!

3d printed tray for a sprouting jar

It’s just what I needed, and nicely unobtrusive in white to match the windowsill.

Tea Dividers

This is my best idea yet! I designed my kitchen to include a narrow spice cupboard, with the intention of using it for teas instead of spices. It’s great in theory, but boxes of individually-wrapped tea bags took up too much space horizontally and were too tall to fit vertically.

3d printed tea bag dividers

I figured out that by taking the tea bags out of the boxes, we could effectively double the space! We came up with this design between us using a few cardboard prototypes until we figured out that this I-beam shape would work well as a divider that always stays upright.

3d printed tea bag dividers

With these dividers, I can fit 4 different types of tea where 2 boxes used to sit, I can move the dividers to fit the current stock of tea bags, and, as a bonus, the tea bags are more accessible too.


I’m finally seeing the benefit of having a 3D printer (and an experienced operator) in the house! Isn’t technology great? It’s amazing, coming up with an idea and having the physical product in my hands just a few hours later.

I’m sure there must be more handy items that we could design and print to make our lives easier. I wonder what we’ll think up next…

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diamond painting kits compared

After my review of diamond painting, I decided to jump in and buy some kits! I ordered my favourite Diamond Dotz kit – the Graceful Swimmer sea turtle – and I also picked up a cheap but pretty kit from amazon of a purple-tinted landscape so I could compare the quality of the two.

Quality

I’d expect the quality of an expensive kit to be higher than a cheap kit, but what are the actual differences, and do they affect the appearance of the end product and/or how enjoyable the kit is to make? Let’s take a look…

Price: I paid $49 (Canadian dollars) + tax for my Diamond Dotz kit, and only $8 + tax for my amazon cheapy! Although the branded kit is much larger than my cheap one, the smaller Diamond Dotz kits don’t cost much less ($40ish) so there’s still a massive difference in price between them and the unbranded kits.

Packaging: The Diamond Dotz canvas was rolled neatly in a protective box, so it had no creases. The cheap canvas was folded flat around the diamond packets, so the canvas was very creased and it wouldn’t lie flat when I first opened it (although it did flatten out when the diamonds were added).

Canvas: The canvas backing is definitely nicer on the expensive kit, but I’m not sure that matters at all – you won’t see the fabric once the piece is finished and it’s been framed or mounted.

diamond painting canvases
The cheap kit (left) has a rougher canvas backing that’s not finished as nicely as the more expensive kit (right).

Tools: Although the tools provided with both kits are similar, the Diamond Dotz tool has a comfort foam grip, the tray has a spout to pour unused diamonds neatly back into their bag without spillage, and the pink wax comes in a little plastic jar.

diamond painting tools
I prefer the Diamond Dotz toolkit (left) because of the foam grip on the tool and the spout on the tray.

Diamonds: My Diamond Dotz kit has square diamonds, and the unbranded kit has round ones (more on that later…). Both kits included far more diamonds than needed to complete the picture. This is intentional, as some of the plastic diamonds will always be flawed, so you can just discard any that would detract from your finished picture without worrying that you’ll run out.

diamond painting - flawed diamonds
Misshapes, holes, extra material, blobs – you can expect to find a few of these in every kit

Interestingly, I actually found far more flawed diamonds in the expensive kit than in the cheap kit! In both cases, though, there were so many spares that I had dozens of every colour left at the end, despite being very picky and discarding any with the slightest imperfection, so the flaws weren’t a problem in either case.

Adhesion: With my cheap kit, a small section of the adhesive surface stuck to the plastic cover sheet along one of the creases where the canvas had been folded to ship. When I pulled back the cover sheet, the adhesive came away with it, so there was no glue to stick the diamonds to in that area. Apart from that one area, the adhesive surface worked well.

diamond painting - adhesive problem
Oh no! The diamonds just won’t stick in this patch where the letters are visible!

Even though my expensive kit was many times larger, I had no problems at all with adhesion – every diamond stuck down perfectly.

Diamond Shape

While the diamond shape happens to be a difference between my kits, it’s just something to be aware of. Neither round nor square diamonds is necessarily a better or higher quality choice.

  • Square diamonds fill the entire picture without any spaces, so they give an extra-shiny and neat finish. It’s satisfying to line them all up perfectly and the result is stunning, but it is a bit slow and fiddly to place each one exactly straight.
    a diamond painting with square diamonds
  • Round diamonds are very fast to place, as you don’t need to orient them. A little of the backing canvas shows through between the circles, but it’s so much faster and easier to do, it makes for a joyful project!
    a diamond painting with round diamonds

I’d definitely recommend choosing a kit with round diamonds if:

  • you’re buying a kit for a child to use
  • you have less dexterity in your hands or any vision problems
  • you want a very relaxing project

But if you like a little more of a challenge, the square diamonds give a brilliant result.

I did have one small issue with the round diamonds on my cheap kit: some of the letter symbols were so large that there was no way to cover the entire symbol with the diamond. You can only see it if you look closely:

close up of a diamond painting with round diamonds
Can you see the tiny dots of black below the diamonds in the middle of this photo?

It’s very minor, but it frustrates me, as this would have been easy to avoid (don’t use the largest letters M and W as symbols, or use a slightly smaller font when printing the design). Although this wouldn’t happen with square diamonds as there are no spaces between the diamonds for the backing to show through, this is a flaw in this specific kit design, not a problem with using round diamonds in general, so don’t let this put you off round diamonds!

Misleading Imagery

Here’s where things could go wrong if you buy a cheap kit – I recommend you check that the images you see online include a shot of the finished diamond painting or the chart you’ll receive, not just the original artwork the design is based on.

Branded kits like my Diamond Dotz turtle show a picture of the finished product on the box, so you know exactly what you can expect from the kit you’ll be making.

my finished Graceful Swimmer Diamond Dotz kit
My finished project is lovely! And it looks exactly as I expected it would from the box art.

The cheap Chinese kits you can find on Amazon (for example) often only show the original artwork the kit was based on in their listing photos, and the image you’ll be forming will look very blocky and pixelated in comparison. There’s nothing wrong with buying one of these kits, provided you realise what you’re getting. For example, here’s an amazon listing photo (left) and what they left out of the listing: a photo of the completed kit (right):

amazon listing photo of a diamond painting vs the finished kit
I won’t leave you a link to this kit, as I’m not trying to call out this one in particular; this is just one of many misleading examples. You can see how, if you’re buying a kit based on the photo on the left, you may be surprised or disappointed if your artwork ends up looking like the image on the right – they are definitely not the same…

The listings also usually show a digital mockups of ‘the finished kit on a wall’ – not only is the image completely different from the kit you’re buying, but the size is misleading too! For example, here’s a ‘photo’ of my cheap kit:

misleading amazon listing photo of a diamond painting

Let’s compare that with my completed kit:

a cheap diamond painting project

It’s less than 10″ (25cm) square, but the listing image above makes it look twice that size, far more detailed than it is, and pure purple instead of mostly pink!

In general, more abstract and less detailed source images work better for any pixel art, like cross stitch, perler beads, etc. The detail is limited to the size of your pixels (diamonds in this case) – you can’t create a fine line when your ‘paintbrush’ is the width of a diamond! A larger canvas allows for more pixels and therefore more detail.

I’d never consider buying a kit without seeing at least a digitally-rendered example of how the finished product is actually supposed to look. So I recommend, if you’re buying a cheap kit from amazon or similar, you check the reviews for those that include images and see if someone has posted a photo of their finished project. That way, you’ll know in advance whether you’ll like the result, and you won’t be disappointed.

Verdict

I’m happy with both my kits, for different reasons. The square diamonds with the large canvas took a long time and made a beautiful picture, and the round diamonds with the small canvas made for a satisfyingly quick, relaxing project.

With the branded kit, I knew exactly what I was getting and what the finished product would look like, and I imagine the image was carefully selected and customized by hand to be ideal for a diamond painting.

With the cheap kit, I suspect an automated process generated the chart from a pretty picture with little manual input, but if you choose your kit carefully, you can still end up with a lovely result at a fraction of the cost of a branded kit. (I actually prefer the pinky shades in my kit to the purple digital mockup, so I’m not at all disappointed.)

I do have one other recommendation if you’re using budget-friendly kits: I really loved the foam grip and the tray with a spout in my Diamond Dotz kit, so I’d recommend you upgrade your tools! For example, you can buy a Diamond Dotz Accessory Kit (amazon link) including 2 tools, 2 foam grips, 2 trays with spouts and 2 spare wax blocks for only a few dollars. I always recommend investing in good tools, and here’s no exception. You can reuse the same tool and tray while you make as many cheap kits as you want!

closeup of my finished Graceful Swimmer Diamond Dotz kit
It definitely wasn’t cheap, but I think my beautiful sea turtle kit was worth the cost – the square gems are so even and sparkly, and I love the picture!

Next up in my diamond painting adventure…

  • Figuring out how to frame my sea turtle art so I can enjoy it! I’ve bought some wood and I’m going to attempt to mount it like a stretched canvas (although I’m not sure exactly how yet). More on that in my next diamond painting update!
  • I also need to fix that annoying bare spot in my pink landscape diamond painting. I’ve done some research and it sounds like the solution to this is to buy ‘repositionable tacky glue’ to re-tack the surface – I’ll report back on how that worked out next time, too…

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Relaxing Crafts: Diamond Painting

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…

a selection of craft kits

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.


Diamond Painting

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?

puppy diamond painting kit

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.

puppy diamond painting kit

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:

puppy diamond painting kit

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.)

puppy diamond painting kit

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.

puppy diamond painting kit

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!

puppy diamond painting kit

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:

Diamond Dotz diamond painting kits
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!

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Relaxing Crafts: Paint by Numbers

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.

I tried the Royal & Langnickel Dolphins Painting By Numbers kit. It looked like a cute picture, and at about the size of a sheet of printer paper, I thought it’d be a manageable size.

dolphins paint by numbers kit

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.

dolphins paint by numbers kit
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:

dolphins paint by numbers kit
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!

dolphins paint by numbers kit
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…

dolphins paint by numbers kit
Finished!

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.

dolphins paint by numbers kit
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!

dolphins paint by numbers 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.

dolphins paint by numbers kit
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… 🙂

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adventures in making skincare products

I’ve been experimenting with making my own skincare products using natural ingredients, and I thought you might be interested to hear about it…

handmade skincare products
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.

crochet tutorial photo showing my hands
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.

Choosing Oils

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.

handmade skincare products
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:

handmade skincare products

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:

handmade skincare products

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!

handmade skincare products

(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.)

My ‘Products’

(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:

handmade skincare products
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!

Verdict

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!

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Needlefelted Poinsettia

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!

needlefelted poinsettia by planetjune

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!

tsumami kanzashi poinsettia by planetjunecrocheted poinsettia by planetjune
polymer clay poinsettia by planetjunepunchneedle poinsettia by planetjune
felt poinsettia by planetjunebeaded poinsettia by planetjune
thread crochet poinsettia by planetjuneknitted poinsettia by planetjune
origami poinsettia by planetjunecrochet poinsettia by planetjune
needlefelted poinsettia by planetjune

Top (L-R): 2006 kanzashi poinsettia (no tutorial); 2007 crocheted poinsettia
2nd Row (L-R): 2008 polymer clay poinsettia; 2009 punchneedle poinsettia
3rd Row (L-R): 2010 felt poinsettia; 2011 beaded poinsettia
4th Row (L-R): 2012 thread crochet poinsettia; 2013 knitted poinsettia
5th Row (L-R): 2015 origami poinsettia; 2019 crochet poinsettia (paid pattern)
Bottom Row: 2019 needlefelted poinsettia (no tutorial) – this post!

(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! 🙂

Comments (10)

greenhouse photo workshop

Yesterday, I took the opportunity to learn more about photography and plants at a photowalk workshop hosted by Colour Paradise Greenhouses and taught by local photographer Abbi Longmire. It was a great pairing – Abbi encouraged us to experiment with our cameras, and the greenhouse offered beautiful and varied subjects to photograph (and maybe some ideas for future PlanetJune plant designs…)

I used the manual (M) setting on my camera for the first time ever(!) and, after a shaky start, ended up with some half-decent shots. I thought I’d share my favourites with you – bear in mind that composition etc is not my strong suit and I’m very much a beginner at this type of photography!

(These are unprocessed, out-of-the-camera shots – all I did was resize them to blog size.)

Greenhouse Photowalk photo by June Gilbank

Greenhouse Photowalk photo by June Gilbank

Greenhouse Photowalk photo by June Gilbank

Greenhouse Photowalk photo by June Gilbank

Greenhouse Photowalk photo by June Gilbank

Greenhouse Photowalk photo by June Gilbank

Not too bad, are they? 🙂

Thanks to Abbi and Colour Paradise for the inspirational afternoon! I hope I’ll be able to bring what I learnt into my nature photography, and maybe even my pattern photos…

Comments (8)

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