Monday, 12 December 2011

Gingerbread Crafting!

(Apologies to those few readers of this AND my knitting blog -- this is a duplicate post! It seemed to belong to both worlds....)

Every year I get together with friends and we build a Gingerbread house.  And amazingly - this year was the 20th anniversary of our Gingerbread House tradition.  20 years!  Construction crew members have come and gone - but the core team remains the same.  Me, by very best friend Caroline, her husband Pat, and as they came along her four children, gorgeous goddaughter Genevieve, scrumptuous Suzy, marvelous Mads and luscious little Louis.  This year we were also joined by my good friends Shirlee and John.

In honour of the 20th anniversary, Gen and I devoted a pizza and gossip session to creating this banner.   It's tricky to photograph but we were quite proud of the finished object and forced everyone to gush over it on the day.

The animated version of 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas' has been viewed every year, while munching on pizza and waiting for the roof to set - so the theme for this year's house just had to be 'Who-ville'.

For this one instead of baking a single house I cut out and baked the pieces for 9 little houses, in 3 styles.  (I'd used the exact same template from a Good Housekeeping magazine from 1986 for the previous 19 houses.)(I'm nothing if not consistent.)

As I expect most of you know, "All the Who's down in Who-ville liked Christmas a lot.  But the Grinch, who lived just north of Who-ville did not."  

At this stage of our story the Who's are enjoying their favourite Christmas tradition - "...all the Who's down in Who-ville, the tall and the small would stand close together with Christmas bells ringing.  They'd stand hand in hand and the Who's would start singing."

And if you look at the back you can see a Who-ville resident who overslept and is joining the singing a little late.

The Who's loved Christmast, but - the Grinch, who lived just north of Who-ville - did not. And he particularly hated the Who singing.

And look, there in his cave in the mountain just north of Who-ville  -- the very green Grinch himself.

He's clearly begun his evil plotting and has put on his fake 'Santy Claus hat and a coat'. Sitting excitedly beside him is loyal dog Max - with the fake antlers attached to his head.

The giant tree and mountain were molded out of rice crispie square mixture. Messy - but fun - and a little tip I picked up last year from Cake Boss. (I think it was Cake Boss. It was a show where some guy made and decorated cakes.)

We had fun using the most colourful icing and sweets to decorate the houses.  The little Who's are all pretty individual - a punk, a bow tie wearing middle aged Who, and a Who based on Madeline (one of my favourite children's books!) are among the little masterpieces.

As usual there was pizza and we watched the Grinch.  There was lots of laughing and singing, some champagne and bags and bags and bags (and bags) of icing sugar.

I expect I won't be blogging again until after Christmas so however you spend it I hope the season brings you peace and joy.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Christmas Cards

I've been meaning to write a blog post but I kept getting distracted by actually making cards.  Go me!

I can't remember the last time I sent a Christmas card - it was possibly as long as 20 years ago.  I always start with good intentions.  Most years I buy a box or two of cards (convinced that not having to look for the cards I bought last year will 'save me time' and 'let me get on with it') and then....nothing.

But this year is going to be different. I'm determined. So I've been busily making cards and here's what I've got so far.  I've had a great time making them - AND - (how proud am I) - today I posted some!

The 'mini' cards.  Cut on the Imagine, embellished with small pieces of card embossed in the Cuttlebug - and of course a bit of glitter, some ribbon and a few gems.

The 'Noel Banner' cards turned out really well I thought.  The banners and flags were print and cut on the Imagine. Background papers made by embossing plain card in the Cuttlebug and then

The 'Green' cards are simple - but I like them.  All of the elements for the cards (including the patterned papers) were cut/print on the Imagine (except the ribbon and rhinestones!).

The 'Red and White' cards - the two square cards have no Imagine cut elements on them!!  The backgrounds are white vellum embossed in the Cuttlebug then layered on pieces of red card. The ornaments were made using an Anna Griffin stamp -  heat embossed  with white powder on red card - then carefully cut out.  The snowman card was cut on the Imagine (the base card and the snowman layer).  The snowman was glittered all over and a couple of rhinestone buttons added.  The 'Let it Snow' was heat embossed clear powder on white card, then cut using a Spellbinders die, and finally inked with the Fired Brick Distress Ink (with the die still in place).

These Cool Yule cards were made to send back to my family in Canada.  All started with white card and the Union Jack 'Special Touch' mask - some stamped with snowflakes, one filled in with Mica Flakes and one heat embossed with ultra thick metallic powders. The sentiments were cut on the Imagine and then glittered (naturally!)

A few fun Santa and Elf cards (yep print and cut on the Imagine)  These always make me smile.

....and this little family of birds for my sister.  The sentiment is 'Being together at Christmas is the best gift at all'  and I made it for her as I'm heading there next week for the holidays!

The 'blue' cards.  The 'Snow' and 'Brrrr' all cut on the Imagine then glittered and layered on to silver mirror card.  The Joy to the World card was made with a Clarity stamp, and the 'O' filled with an angel from a set of  Inkadinkado stamps.

And finally some 'Believe in the Magic of Christmas' cards - featuring the big guy at work.  The first uses a Special Touch mask and a flying santa stamp.  The second is Coredinations card embossed in the Cuttlebug and lightly sanded.  The sentiment was stamped and heat embossed with clear powder.  The final tag card was cut on the Imagine (the base card, and the Santa silhouette layer).  A bit of Distress Ink for the sky and some glitter around the edges finished it off.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Making Lots of Little Boxes

I am addicted to advent calendars.

More specifically I think I'm addicted to making little boxes.  Faced with little boxes it seems sensible to turn them into an advent calendar.  

This little red one was made last weekend.  A bit of a variation here as I made wider boxes, and then stacked them together.  It is decorated with Whitewash Core-dinations embossed with elements from the Christmas and cupcake Cuttlebug All in One sets.

This little blue one was put together last night with gorgeous god daughter Genevieve.  Longer boxes are stacked together and then the panels decorated - again with Whitewash Core-dinations this time embossed with a couple of Cuttlebug folders. 

Want to Make Your Own Boxes??
A few people have asked for some basic instructions on how to make the boxes so here they are!  It helps enormously to have a Boxer Board, or some other score board with measurements.

Each 'drawer' is made up of a box and a sleeve.  In all of my advent calendars (so far!) I've made the box out of plain card and decorate the front later.  

Small boxes:
Cut 24 3 3/4 x 3 3/4 inch square pieces of card.

On each card score each side at 1 1/4 inches.

Cut notches as below.

And then to make the box neater (reduce the bulk when they are folded) I cut the side panels to about 1/4 inch.  (No need to measure.)

Fold along all score lines and use a bone folder (or your thumb) to get sharp creases.

Glue the box together.

Repeat until all of the boxes are done!

For the sleeve:
Using plain or patterned paper 12/12 paper cut 12 strips  each 1 1/4 inch wide.

Score at 1/4 inch and fold card  along this line (this makes the little flap you'll use to glue the sleeve together).

If you have a Boxer Board you now need to  use the BOTTOM MEASURING GUIDE (bottom right hand corner).

Butt the folded card against the bottom right hand corner of the board, and score at 1 1/4 inch mark.  (The Boxer Board is designed so that measurements are a bit bigger than than stated - that gives you enough 'ease' for the boxes to slide in and out.)

Fold along this line butt this fold against the bottom right hand corner of the board, score again at 1 1/4".

Fold along this line butt this fold against the bottom right hand corner of the board, score again at 1 1/4".

Fold along this line butt this fold against the bottom right hand corner of the board, score again at 1 1/4".

Cut along  this last score line and your first sleeve is ready to be glued together!

(If you don't have a Boxer Board you need to score your strip at: 1/4 ", 1 5/8", 3", 4 3/8",  and 5 3/4". Cut strip along final score line.)

Glue along the flap.  Repeat for the remaining sleeves.

Your little box should fit easily into the sleeve.  Stack and decorate as desired!  

To make the wider (or longer) boxes, start with a 5 x 3 3/4 inch piece of card. Score at 1 1/4 inches along all sides.  Cut notches, fold, glue together.

The sleeves for the wide boxes used in the red advent calendar are 1 1/4" strips. Using the same technique as for the small boxes,  score a 1/4" flap, then using the bottom right hand corner of the Boxer Board, score at 1 1/4 inches, 2 1/2 inches, 1 1/4 inches and finally at 2 1/2 inches.  Cut along final score line and glue sleeve together.  (If you don't have a Boxer Board score at  1/4",1 5/8", 4 1/4", 5 5/8", 8 1/4".  Cut strip along the final score line.)

The sleeves for the long boxes used in the blue advent calendar are made with 2 1/2 "  strips.  Score, fold and glue these strips in the same way as directed for the small boxes.

The finished wider and longer drawers!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The Long and Winding Road of Inspiration

I hadn't planned to make this advent calendar.  It just sort of happened and this afternoon I found myself with the finished object on my kitchen table.

The seed was sown last Thursday when gorgeous god daughter Genevieve said she thought it was about time we made something for little Louis (her brother).  Immediately we agreed that the Robotz Cricut cartridge was the place to start and after a few minutes browsing the handbook discovered the 3D models! Hurrah!  Way better than a card we decided and so we began.

A few hours later we had these two cuties.

This awoke some sort of deep buried need in me to make 3D paper things and so I found myself cutting and inking and glueing on Friday and ended up with this little house from Winter Woodland.

I thought it was adorable- but what the heck was I going to do with it?  I pondered a bit and then remembered that the talented Mel Heaton had made a winter scene using the flat houses from the same cartridge and I was off....

I made a couple more houses, some trees and a little sleigh and Rudolph. The houses were all cut from whit card stock and then the pieces coloured with Distress Inks before being glued together.  I used clear embossing powder on the windows to give them a bit of shine, and made the icicles by drawing them with PVA glue on my craft mat and covering them with glitter.  I left them to dry before peeling them off and gluing them to the house. 

The background is white card covered with Faded Blue Jeans and Dusty Concord Distress Inks.  A few drops of water to make the snowy effect and then some glittery snowflakes and the 'Let it Snow' cut on the trusty ol' Imagine.  (Using the Cricut Craft Room which in these few weeks has become ESSENTIAL - I love it!)

I liked it - but I still felt it needed something.... and as I was falling asleep on Sunday night I realised it NEEDED to be an advent calendar.

Resisting the urge to get out of bed and start crafting I waited until Monday morning when the Boxer Board got a real workout as I made the 24 boxes to frame the scene.  Gold ribbon around each box is perfect to open the drawers and green sparkly numbers finished it off.

As proof that this was MEANT to be an advent calendar I will confess that I did not plan or measure the boxes before I began.  I just picked a size (1 1/4" x 1 1/4") and went for it.  In a little crafting miracle the 24 boxes fit around the scene exactly.  I doubt I could have done it if I'd tried!!!

So impressed by my ad hoc creation I made another 24 boxes and created this simpler - but still cute- advent calendar this morning.

So much inky and glittery fun..

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Just Like Christmas Morning!

The Caked Crusader is not only an extremely talented baker and writer, she is also a very generous friend.  She mentioned a few weeks ago that she had dabbled in paper craftiness a couple of years ago but had decided it wasn't really for her and offered to let me have what I wanted from her crafty stash.  She sent me this photo and told me to select what I wanted.

It took a while to respond - I couldn't figure out how to say 'All of it!!!!' without sounding greedy.

We met for lunch yesterday and she arrived weighed down by a HUGE bag of the goodies and I've been oohing and aahing over it since. (The peacock stamp is beyond glorious.)

AMAZINGLY - none of it had been opened. This highlights a fundamental difference between the Caked Crusader and I. I open everything the minute it arrives and play with it as soon as humanly possible - she puts it away and it doesn't get unpacked until she needs it.  My head explodes if I think about that too much.

As a small thank you for her generosity I decided to make her a wall hanging - using lots of gold and glitter.

I started with my trusty Imagine, the Cricut Craft Room and a couple of cereal boxes.

I cut 'Caked Crusader' out of the cereal boxes six times, and layered them to get the right weight and thickness.  I painted the top layer with some gold mica watercolour paint, and then added 3 layers of Ultra Thick Embossing Powder mixed with gold glitter.

The frame was made from 4 layers of cardboard, glued together and then covered in paper mache.   I added splodges of paper mache on the final layer to give the polka dot effect.

Too impatient to wait for the frame to dry naturally (and I apologise to the planet for the flagrant misuse of energy) I sped the process up by alternating 30 minute periods in a low (100 deg C) oven and 20 minutes in front of a fan on full.

To make the most of my amateur paper mache skills I wanted to layer the colours on the frame to give some depth and provide a distressed look to the whole thing.  I started with a layer of deep blue, followed by black and then finished with some gold gilding cream.

I had a lot of fun playing around with the techniques in this project (particularly paper mache - I'd forgotten how much fun it is!) and I'm pretty happy with the final piece.

The Caked Crusader has reported it is now in her office and "is sparkling like mad - the glitter is practically radioactive.  Fab!"

Monday, 26 September 2011

Playing in the Cricut Craft Room

A very long time ago - Provocraft announced that they were due to release a new (free!) web based design tool for Cricut machines.  They originally (and with hindsight - optimistically) said it would be released in April 2011 -- but as often happens with software the first rounds of beta testing highlighted some pretty serious issues.  Here we are in late September and the software is still in 'beta' - but Provocraft are allowing most (if not all) registered  users to login to the Craft Room.

On Thursday I took the plunge and updated my Imagine to the latest release (a painless process which took about 15 to 20 minutes) and fired up the Craft Room.


It's still got bugs, and I've been kicked out a few times with a 'bridge' error, but I've also designed some cool stuff and had a lot of fun.  The system seems to auto save your project about every 30 seconds or so, so even when I was kicked out I didn't lose any work.  That eases the pain of the shutdowns somewhat.

The Craft Room gives you all the functionality of the Gypsy (on a much easier to use screen) plus a whole lot more. Particularly if you are an Imagine user.

Welding shapes and text together is so straightforward - making shaped cards is a couple of clicks.  You can arrange  your images exactly where you want them to be on your mat - which is great for cards with custom apertures, and making sure you use up every bit of your card!

Using a simple small border pattern I made this sweet frame - perfect for a photo on a scrapbook page.

A lace block pattern is welded together four times to make this square -- you could continue the pattern for a full 12x12 paper!

Working with the Imagine patterns and colours is easy and you get a lot of new options when filling shapes:-  you can scale the patterns up or down, and you can move the pattern around to get exactly what you want in the shape.

These two name plates were designed in the Craft Room and print and cut from white card on my Imagine.  (Naturally I inked them up a bit afteward for that extra bit of shabby vintagey feel!)

Delightful Dylann (niece and god daughter) celebrated her birthday recently and I'm embarrassed to admit I didn't get a card out in time. To make up for it I've made her two matched cards which I hope she'll like.

The card bases were made in the Craft Room welding the letters on to rectangle shapes.  I kept the rest of the cards simple with some embossed vellum (Cuttlebug!) and some simple images.  Here again the Craft Room came in handy as I used scraps for these shapes so precise placement of the shapes on the mat was important.

(I chose the tea set because on her last visit to London I took Dyl out for tea at Brown's and it was a real highlight of the trip.  I'm working on luring her back!)

This thank you card is for delightful Dylann's sister scrumptious Sarah.  For this one I flood filled the card base with a pattern from Best Friends (in the Craft Room) and print and cut it on the Imagine.  I then added a couple of Spellbinders frames and finished it off with the cute little dog - also print and cut from Best Friends on the Imagine.

I'll be very very happy when  you can link your cartridges with your account (for now you have to physically load them into the machine) and  even more so when a few bugs are ironed out.

But even as it is - buggy and a wee bit unpredictable - I love it.