Tuesday, 30 August 2011

When an Old Obsession Meets a Blossoming One

You may recall that at the QVC Craft Event  I didn't visit the beading make and take stations and decided that was 'just as well' as I didn't need ANOTHER craft hobby?

Didn't work.

My friend the Caked Crusader (the best cake blog in the universe)(really)(don't visit if you're hungry) pointed out some really sweet yarn ball earrings and as a lifetime knitter I decided to have a go at making myself (and her) a pair.

They were reasonably successful, but not quite as tidy or professional looking as the originals.  (There are also really sweet necklaces and other knitterly jewellery bits and pieces on the site.)

Inspired by the mini needles and little balls of yarn I found myself making these.

And I fear a new obsession has been born....

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Martha Stewart Stamp Around the Page - Review

Thursday was Craft Day on QVC and launched the Martha Stewart Stamp Around the Page system in the UK. I was intrigued and  fell in love with the snowflakes in particular so parted with my £15.72 and when it arrived this rainy Saturday morning I knew what I had to do!

The bottom line:
I really like it!  Even though I wasn't successful with lining up one of the stamps the others worked really well and I can see potential for borders, corners and accent shapes.

What you get:
The set consists of a base unit where you line up the paper, a block where you position and ink the stamp before placing it onto the base unit for stamping and 4 sets of stamps (each with a border and corner) and their corresponding guide sheets.  (In the US they got 6 sets! Jealous!  I really want the butterlies and ferns.)(And they got ink! But I'm less jealous about that.)

 There is also a sheet of instructions which I ignored.

How it Works:
In order to create a border around a page, the dimensions need to be a multiple of 2 (so 2x2, 4x4, 2x4, 6x6 etc).  Accurate measurements are pretty important as if you are out the design won't line up correctly.

You place the guide sheet for the selected design into the base unit (it slides into grooves on the base unit pretty easily) and then slide the paper into the base unit, lining up the top right hand corner with the corner marked on the base unit.

Now you can start stamping!  You take the corner stamp and position it so that the corner marked on the stamp is lined up with the corner marked on the stamping block.  Ink it up as usual and then place the bock into the centre of the base unit.  There are little foam pads that stop the stamp from touching the paper so you can check the paper alignment one last time and then  press press down on the block.

The images are cut deep (or raised high) and the foam pads and block mean that even when the stamp was messy (I'm not the tidiest crafter) there was no ink transferred to the paper.

I used pigment inks for everything I did today (mostly from VersaFine, one or two colours from Papermania).

I found it easy to get even pressure with the block and generally got good results (and when I didn't it was because I was rushing).

After you've stamped the four corners you replace the corner stamp with the border stamp on the block - again lining up the stamp triangles with the block triangles), line up the paper using the guide sheets and then stamp the border sections as required.

This was my first attempt - not bad for straight out of the box!  It seemed a bit faff-y when watching the demos but to be honest I didn't find it any more so than regular stamping which was a relief.

My second attempt was my beloved snowflakes and here I ran into trouble because I didn't line up the first corner correctly.  Lesson learned! If the corner isn't right there isn't much hope for the whole border lining up neatly.  It's not a disaster - but not quite good enough!

I did a couple of other snowflake borders (taking more care with my corners) and really think this is a stamp set I'll use a lot.  Shame about my bad stamping of 'Joy' in the centre of the 4x4 block!

The third pattern was easy enough and  surprised me as I hadn't expected to like it as much as I do!

The fourth pattern was a failure.  Entirely unusable, and despite a few more attempts I wasn't able to line up the borders satisfactorily.

I had sort of expected that as I think lining up that sort of intricate pattern where there are lines that MUST LINE UP is never going to easy. The other patterns are ok with 'close enough' - but this one is definitely not.  I will play with it some more another day and see if practise makes perfect!

I tried a few  more patterns and expect I'll try a few more before the day is out!

And with a bit of embossing powder we can get stuff like this. (Should have used superfine for the sentiment it's a bit gloopy!)

Top Tips:

  • Cutting the paper to size accurately is very important - if the paper isn't the right size (a 2 inch increment) the pattern won't line up.
  • Placing the stamp on to the block accurately is also critical -- it isn't difficult or faffy but you do need to pay attention.
  • Lining up the paper is easier if you are looking at the  unit from above rather than from the front.
  • A small piece of repositionable adhesive on the back of the paper can help keep the paper in place - particularly for really small pieces of paper (like a 2x2).

Saturday, 20 August 2011

QVC Craft Event

A few months ago I had never bought anything from a shopping channel.  I've clearly made up for it since then though as I was one of the lucky recipients of an invite to QVC's annual (I think it's annual) craft event.  I put the invite to the side and changed my mind frequently about whether or not I'd go.  Then I heard rumours of goody bags, and that seemed to tip the scales. (How shallow am I?)

The event was held at QVC head office in Battersea.  In order to accommodate as many attendees as they could, there were actually four sessions over two days.  We (a group of 60 - 70 attendees) were the final group - and big credit to the QVC staff and demonstrators that they managed to hide any boredom/fatigue they must have been feeling by that time really well.

I was by myself so really appreciated that everyone (staff and other attendees)  was so friendly.  On arrival we were corralled into a little waiting area where I met two lovely ladies from Lancashire who were QVC experts.  Every item of clothes, jewellery and make up appeared to be from a QVC brand.  I asked if they were saving money by not being in front of the television - they said yes, but figured they'd make up for it tomorrow!  They were very funny and while we waited they filled me in on the QVC gossip and what to expect.

When we went up to the event area we each got a goody bag, and a little cupcake booklet with details of each of the 'make and take' tables and a couple of raffle tickets.

I had a good time at each of the tables I was able to visit.  I did a bit of experimenting with a Stix-2 glue gun (who knew how much fun you could have making embellishments with glue!) and made a sweet card which sadly I spilled coffee on this morning!

At the second table we created a simple paper decoration with Amy Shaw using Craftwork Cards.

I had a good laugh making a mini photo memory book with Marion Emberson using American Craft papers.  A simple idea - the mini book is modelled on a matchbook and pretty straightforward to make.  It would be a great project for children as well, and a nice way for them to get into scrapbooking.

Apparently Martha Stewart is branching out into yarns and so we got to play with a little flower maker and some Martha merino yarn.  Unfortunately I wasn't able to squeeze in the two jewellery tables (probably just as well as I don't think I can afford another hobby!) or the Imagination Crafts table - which also looked great.

Running alongside the make and take room was a longer workshop led by Lindsay Mason.  Being a fan of any inky fun I made sure to fit that in. We used a lot of new (to me) techniques with Distress Stains and Inks, and it was my first attempt at creating a scene using a number of stamps.  I wouldn't say my final product is great - but I learned so much it was definitely worthwhile.

The day wrapped up with a raffle which had quite a few lovely prizes - but sadly I was not one of the lucky winners.

I really enjoyed the afternoon and meeting so many friendly crafters.  It was nice to hear a bit about the channel's future plans and I was happy to hear that there will be a scrapbook show in October! Overall I got a good feeling about the future of craft at QVC!

Saturday, 13 August 2011

My First Scrapbook Page!

I guess I'm officially a scrapbooker now - here's my first page!

I decided to start my scrapbooking career with a very special photo of my father's parents.  My grandfather died the year I was born so I never knew him - but he was clearly a special man.  My Dad was the oldest of 18 children - and quite unusually for that time in rural New Brunswick 17 survived to adult hood.

My grandmother (Mamie) was so amazing and my hero. There is little I can say about her that does her justice.  She never learned to read or write but taught all of us so much.  She was a feisty woman - I guess you probably had to be to raise all those children - and she loved to be surrounded by her family and friends - and strangers who she would quickly convert to friends.

I faffed about with the layout for DAYS before I got the glue out. I'd look at it every now and then tweak it a little and then ponder it a while and move things back and then...  well you get the idea.

The patterned papers are from an Anna Griffin floral collection, and the solid papers are my beloved Core-dinations.

I used an EK success punch on the sides of the picture mat and then thread through a couple of pieces of pink ribbon.  I wanted to be able to remove the picture easily, so I cut slits in the mat to hold the photo in place rather than pasting it down.   I had to be VERY CAREFUL when I glued on the roses (cut out of another piece of Anna Griffin paper) to make sure the photo was still free to be removed.

The scalloped edges were made with a Martha Stewart deep edge punch, and the title was cut using my trusty Imagine.

I ended up printing the journalling and I couldn't fit what I wanted to say in the space I had available with my handwriting!

It's far from perfect but I'm pretty pleased with my first effort.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Cuttlebug All in One Folders Review

Provocraft have introduced a new line of embossing folders for the Cuttlebug - called the 'All in One' folders.  The system works with existing Cuttlebug machines but the 'A' plate is replaced by the new (sold separately) 'Master Folder'.

Bottom Line 
I want to love it, but I can't quite love it yet.  As much as I can see it being useful for me, I definitely couldn't recommend it without a few reservations - particularly if you hate Coredinations card (can it be? apparently there are some!?) and experimenting.  So bottom line:

* It is fabulous to be able to customise the embossing areas yourself and the monograms are really fun to work with.

* I really like the designs and can see lots of ways to mix and match them.

* It works really well with Core-dinations type card (great for people like me!) BUT with other card and paper it can sometimes crease if you are embossing multiple elements spaced around a page.  I've found that trying different sandwiches (using one B and some card as a shim for instance) the creases can be reduced considerably - but this also reduces the height/depth of the emboss/deboss.

* The biggest annoyance for me- and I don't know if there is a secret I just haven't learned yet - but trying to get the folder through with both B plates when using the large (5x7) embossing elements is nigh on impossible.  I've broken a few nails and said some very unlady-like things while trying! When I can get them through it is HARD WORK. Instead I've used a B plate and a 'No More Shims' mat which is a little easier (but not really easy) to manage and gives a nice emboss.  If I do find out the secret to using the plates you're supposed to use - I'll let you know!

[EDITED 10 August - after a bit of online research it seems I was unlucky and got a faulty Master Folder.  I contacted C&C who got a replacement to me (quickly!) and it's an amazing difference.  The sandwich feeds through easily - even with the regular B plates.  Hurrah!!]

What you get:

Remember that you need a Master Folder which is sold separately- none of the All in One sets are any use without it!  The Master Folder has a green side and clear side - both with holes which the embossing elements fit into.

Each set comes with a storage box (very useful - I can't imagine trying to manage all the pieces without it!), and a number of embossing 'coins' (or as I often call them 'elements').

Most sets contain a large 5x7 element, and 9 smaller elements of various size (which , if used altogether create a 5x7 embossing area).  The alphabet sets contain the full alphabet an '&' and a few small design coins (flowers or birds).  They do not have 5x7 elements.

For each element there is a green piece and a clear piece, and these fit together as the green one is the 'emboss' and the clear piece the 'deboss' (ie they are negaitve images of each other one goes in where the other goes out!)

How it Works:
Setting up the folder is pretty straightforward - the embossing pieces are attached to the Master Folder using a lego like mechanism (ie little sticky up bits that fit into little holes).

The green piece of the embossing element goes onto the green side of the folder.

Rather than trying to put the clear piece into the top half of the folder by counting and guessing you can simply place the clear element is placed on top of the green piece, and then close the folder which pops the clear piece on to the top half.

You place the paper you want to emboss into the folder (with right side up if you want it to emboss, right side down if you want it to deboss), close it and add the 2 'B' plates before running it through the Cuttlebug.

The Results:

Based on my first few hours of playing with the folders I'd say it seems to work best with Coredinations (and I exepct other similar) card. That was the card I started with and overall I'm really pleased with the results it gives and expect this is how I'll use the folders most.

I had no creasing issues when I was embossing a single coin/element on a piece of card the same size.   But when I started taking on embossing multiple coins, and spacing them around a page there were a few issues.

Embossing Coredinations Card
I started by taking a single piece of card, and then adding 4 embossed elements - one at a time!  There was a teeny bit of creasing when the monogram was added - but the beauty of Coredinations/distressed card is that is pretty easily accommodated!

My next test was to use the monogram letters - and use a word with one repeated letter.  My first couple of attempts were crooked - I could not line up the letters 'by eye' through the plastic.

Finally, a very simple solution occurred to me - putting a piece of tape along the bottom of the paper (low tack naturally).  This way after the first pass I could flip the paper up - with the tape holding it in exactly the same place - put the required 'extra' letter down (an 'O' in my case) flip the paper back into place and then emboss again.

I hadn't cut the paper quite wide enough so the 'BLOOM' is a little off centre which is annoying me like you wouldn't believe but it demonstrates the point.

Embossing Mirror Card
Things got less impressive when I moved away from Coredinations.  I next tried some mirror card.  I don't know the weight - but it's a reasonably heavy card.  This creased pretty badly, particularly with the first central element.  And there is no place to hide with mirror card!!

I did the same process of embossing each element one at a time.   (In fairness, the worst area is the most complicated bit - where I tried to emboss the monogram in the centre of a previously embossed medallion. I dropped this from future runs as I think it was just a step too far!) But you can see it's not very tidy and I wouldn't use it on a project.

At this stage I decided to try a few other 'sandwich' combinations to see if that helped - and it did. This gold sample was done using 1 B plate and 7 pieces of card.  The result had no creasing - but the trade off is that the embossing isn't as deep.

I've seen a suggestion that if you place a thin piece of tissue paper in the folder when you are embossing it can help minimise the creases as well.  I tried this but it had no effect for me.

Embossing Vellum
My next experiment was with Vellum (112 GSM apparently) and I didn't really have any issues with creasing although I did a second sample with a thinner sandwich which I think I prefer.  The embossing isn't as deep and somehow it just looks better to me.

Embossing with the Large 5x7 Element (or a Smaller Element at the bottom of the 5x7 Frame)

Edited 10th Aug: It turns out I had a faulty Master Folder which caused the problems below. C&C have replaced the Master Folder and it now feeds through (with regular B plates) smoothly and easily! 

Finally I decided to try the 5x7 elements and here I started to get really annoyed!  Attempts to put the Master Folder, with the 2 B plates (no paper!) through the Cuttlebug were generally hard going.

I tried a different 5x7 element (just in case it was just a wonky set) but had the same problem.

Undeterred - I added a sheet of card and I did eventually get a 5x7 through with the 2 B plates (found it a little easier if the 5x7 element is placed as high as possible inside the folder) but it was tough going (definitely a LOT of effort to turn the handle) and it flew (across the room!!) out of the other side of the machine with a bang.

I was a little more successful with a sandwich of one B plate and a No More Shims mat - the embossing wasn't quite as deep - but it was perfectly fine.

I have no idea if there is some secret I'm missing - I've googled for tips but haven't found any yet although I have seen a couple of other comments about similar issues.  I'll try emailing ProvoCraft and see if I get an answer.

I've seen a few videos with people using the longer 'B' plates - and that might make feeding the folders through easier - but I don't have the longer plates so can't confirm that.

For no useful reason - here is a picture of a piece of blue card which has been embossed by all 6 5x7 elements!!  It was a long crafting/play session and it is now a very tired piece of card.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Butterfly in Colours

I am still playing with my Stampmaker but yesterday took the radical move of actually MAKING something using my stamps.  Not just one thing - but two! (and a half really - but I'll show that one later.)

For whatever reason - messages of the power of new starts are really speaking to me at the moment and  my latest stamp 'just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly' captures that beautifully I think.

I made two cards with the stamp.  The first, a distressed sort of card - using lots of Core-dinations card and a butterfly Spellbinder.

What I used:
Coredinations paper
my caterpillar stamp!
crop-a-dile eyelets
Tim Holtz embossing folder
 Spellbinder butterfly die

I really like the shock of pink on the inside of the card - just another reason why I love Coredinations.

The second card I dubbed 'Butterfly in Blue' when I realised I wasn't going to use any other colours!

What I used:
Coredinations paper
white card stock
 Distress Inks  - Broken China, Faded Blue Jeans
my caterpillar stamp!
a flower stamp (can't remember where it's from - but it's one of my favourites!)
Versa Mark ink (for embossing)
clear embossing powder
Spellbinder butterfly die

I embossed the saying on the plain card and then coloured the page by blending the two Distress Inks, making the colour heavier at the bottom left and thinning out on the rest of the page.  I wiped the ink off the embossed saying leaving the lovely white lettering.

More Soo Stamps to come....