4 Norfolk craft kits to help you relax in lockdown
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From embroidery to jewellery, take time out for some creativity and self care with these brilliant kits from Norfolk makers.
Sara runs her embroidery business Pixels and Purls from her studio in north Norwich. She describes herself as super passionate about crafting, supporting small businesses (she runs Fierce Babe Norwich with her friend, Amber) and mindfulness.
"Outside of lockdown, I love hosting craft workshops and parties and have taught 120 people the art of hand embroidery between 2018-20," says Sara. "Sadly in-person workshops are currently on hold whilst we wait for social distancing to ease enough to run them safely, but they will be back!"
Sara started embroidering in January 2017.
"I was struggling with grief after the loss of my Stepdad and wanted a new craft to try to distract my busy brain," she says. "I could already knit, crochet and cross stitch so the obvious choice seemed to be embroidery. I was immediately obsessed as it was so mindful and freeing, but I struggled to find designs that resonated with me – more modern and alternative – so decided to just draw my own. It took a bit of practice but really pushed me to learn new stitches and think about composition, and suddenly the things I could embroider seemed endless!"
Some of Sara's designs are inspired by politics, pop culture, empowerment or nature. " And some designs come about just because I really want to just stitch some pretty flowers and turn off from the world for a bit," she says.
"My first designs were intended just to be used at beginners’ workshops, so I focused on simple scenes made from lines and shapes that could easily be translated into four or five different stitches. Embroidery designing with the intention of teaching the process has really encouraged me to remain mindful of clean lines, use of colour and not overcomplicating ideas too much.
"I also really enjoy collaborating with other creatives and some of my favourite kits were born this way – for example, my Bath Legs kit was initially a monochrome drawing by local illustrator Joe Fear. When I saw the design on their Instagram, I couldn’t stop thinking about stitching it and Joe was thankfully really open to the idea."
Initially Sara started out selling the finished hoop art, but as more people asked if she could show them how to make their own pieces, she held her first embroidery workshops in 2018.
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"I was amazed at the popularity of my workshops and how quickly they were selling out, so in August 2019 I decided to start selling the designs I had made for my workshops as do-at-home kits, and here we are – I’ve sold around 2,000 kits since which blows my mind!"
The kits include everything you need to get started. The cotton fabric already has the design printed on, ready to stitch over, and it comes with all the embroidery thread, a sewing needle, wooden embroidery hoop, colour coded instructions, access to online stitch tutorials and no plastic packaging.
"Most of my kits are designed with beginners in mind, and my website has a section full of tips and tricks to get started if you’re a sewing newbie," says Sara. "All of my kits are achievable by complete novices, but some do take longer to complete or require a little more patience, but I do always make sure to mention difficulty in the product descriptions.
"Whether it’s using crafting as a tool to distract and soothe your mind, a way of clearing your mind to make way for intentional thought, or a simple way to inject some joy into your day, the benefits of creating and crafting can be huge. It can also be a great social activity, even in lockdown over video calls - human contact and shared activities are a great tonic for the soul. I would really recommend embroidery, or any craft, to improve your wellbeing," she says.
See Sara's website for her kits, where you'll also find free tutorials, videos and how to guides.
Make a statement
Jewellery designer Sara Swanson runs The Argentum Design Company from her garden studio in East Winch in West Norfolk. Her creative background is in fine art and ceramics, but having dabbled in jewellery making at university, she decided to teach herself traditional silvermithing techniques. From there she started exploring other materials and now uses polymer clay to create bold and colourful designs. She created her make at home jewellery kits during the first lockdown.
"My aim is to add joy to peoples' lives by bringing them colourful jewellery," says Sara. "Colour can really lift your mood and if you don’t wear much colour jewellery is a great place to start.
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"I’ve always taught jewellery making and other art subjects so the kits seemed like a natural progression. Art and craft is a great way to relax and kits are a great way to introduce people to new skills and hobbies.
"Craft has long been used to help reduce anxiety. It can help you relax and encourage you to take time out, a bit of self care. Craft can also encourage a sense of pride and self esteem. It’s such great fun making things and especially now when we can’t get out and about it’s a great way to reduce stress," says Sara.
The kits include clay, shape cutters, shaping tools and all the connectors and wires needed to make five to six pairs of earrings and a necklace. And there is a Facebook group where Sara has uploaded tutorial videos and instructions, you can ask questions or post pictures of your makes.
"No experience is needed, the material is really easy to use, all you need is some enthusiasm," says Sara.
The kits are available on Sara's website and she's on on Instagram at sara.argentum
Mum, maker and lover of all things crafty Hannah Kilby started The Handmade Florist around five years ago.
Based south of Norwich, she started teaching herself to make felt flowers when she was on maternity leave nine years ago.
"At first it was just a hobby and something to do during nap times - I've always loved being creative and found the process of flower making and doing something just for myself really relaxing. This soon progressed into setting up a small online shop to sell handmade wedding bouquets... I started going to lots of wedding fairs, where I soon realised that the people who loved my work wanted to have a go at doing it themselves!"
After a short break and moving to Norfolk with her family, Hannah had a go at designing and selling a kit so people could make their own bouquet of flowers. Five years on, that one kit has turned into around 20, ranging from make-it-yourself felt flower brooches and headbands to wreaths, bouquets and garlands.
All Hannah's kits come with sheets of high quality wool-blend felt, step by step photo instructions, templates and additional elements needed such as felt balls, wreath hoops and wire. You'll need your own tools such as a glue gun and scissors.
"For me the enjoyment of the kits is about the process as much as the finished result, so always allow plenty of time - a good boxset to watch while making is a must for me when I'm crafting," says Hannah.
The kits range from smaller and easier kits for beginners, to more challenging makes, but they're all designed with beginners in mind.
"As long as you're confident with a glue gun and are willing to spend a few hours losing yourself in being creative, then that's the most important thing," says Hannah.
"For me, crafting is about so much more than just making things. It's about a creative process that can take you away from the day to day and give you time to yourself. I have made hundreds of flowers now, but seeing simple sheets of felt turn into a beautiful bouquet of flowers still makes me so happy! I've received so many lovely messages from customers over the last year who have said how therapeutic they have found crafting to be, especially during the pandemic, and it's so lovely to know that my kits and projects have helped people during these difficult times."
Hannah's kits are available here and on Etsy.
As well as launching her polymer clay jewellery kits, Sara Swanson has recently launched her first tapestry kit. Inspired by vintage automobilia, it is a collaboration with her son.
"I love tapestry cross stitch and he loves all things car related and thought the two would be a good match," says Sara.
"He designs the kits and I promote them for him. There’s a lot of cross stitch out there but we wanted to create something a bit different for people. Vintage automobilia signs are very popular with a lot of people, so they're a great subject choice. They can be made into cushions or frames when they are finished."
More tapestry kit designs will be launched this year.
Find Autostitch on Instagram.