Monday, December 30, 2013

Tools and supplies for beginners (part 1)

As I mentioned in my previous post, I want to spend a little time talking about the tools I'm using -- things that are useful, things that are fun and things that weren't quite worth the money.

Before we get to the specific tools, however, I wanted to mention a few essentials -- things that are must-have for anyone starting out in the wonderful world of card-making. So, I've compiled a list of 10 basic supplies that you will want to buy. These will be posted as a 3-part series, since the posts will be getting quite lengthy.

1- Cardstock

Card stock is like a blank canvas - it will become your card base, background and layers. And one of the first things you'll learn about card stock is that it comes in many varieties. There are different densities (weights), different finishes, different colors and textures. Certain card stock is excellent for one technique or tool, but will not work with another. So, be prepared for a lot of experimenting and working with different types of card stock before you find your own favorites.

Generally speaking, you will want card stock that's 80-120lbs in weight, and 8.5x11" in size. One sheet of 8.5x11" cardstock will make 2 standard (A2) card bases. You will be cutting that one sheet in half, and depending on how you cut it, your card will fold on the side or on the top.

You will want to start building your paper stash with neutral colors. White is basic and works with any color, pattern or shape. Kraft is another neutral option that is more subtle -- it's especially useful for when you want to use darker backgrounds and white creates too much contrast.

For white cardstock, I suggest:
- Bazzill Marshmallow -- this is a heavier (110 lbs) card stock and it makes a very solid card base. It's a very smooth card stock that stamps crisply.
- Neenah Solar White -- this is a less heavy (80 lbs) card stock and it's fantastic for layering or for stamping and cutting out shapes. It's also smooth and stamps crisply. This is the card stock I use to line the brightly-colored card bases.

For craft card stock, I suggest:
- Neenah Desert Storm -- this is a less heavy (80 lbs) card stock that makes a solid card base. It's smooth, and lighter than most craft card stocks. Though it looks textured, it's very smooth and stamps crisply.

I find myself using the Desert Storm card stock very often, so I've bought several packs to have on hand. About 90% of my card stock is from Bazzill, however. I've found that they have the kind of weight and finish in cardstock that I like, and they offer a huge variety of colors and finishes. I've tried off-brands or cheaper brands like Recollections, but I ended up not liking how they work as card bases. It really is a case of paying a little more for a big brand like Bazzill, but knowing you'll be getting a great quality card stock that will work for you.

My other suggestion for card stock is to visit your local paper craft store. My local Michael's carries a lot of Bazzill single card stock sheets, so it's a fantastic place to visit. I can buy a particular color or try a new texture for a quarter. If I find that I like a certain color, I can then order a larger pack on Amazon (25-packs are usually 10$).

Lastly, you might see pre-made card bases for sale in various places. I started out using the premade card bases, but I didn't like how flimsy or expensive they generally were. Your experience might be different, however. So do pick up a cheap pack if you find it on sale. If nothing else, you can use it to practice card layouts or cut them to size to line colored cardstock.

2- Paper Trimmer/Cutter
Whether you're cutting your card stock in half or cutting patterned paper, a paper trimmer makes it much much easier to cut a straight line. The trimmer is also handy because you can use it to measure and cut at the same time.

I've only owned 2 brands of paper trimmers.

The first paper trimmer I got was from EK Success and it was their mini Cutterpede. It worked fantastically, and it stayed sharp for quite a while. However, it was only 6x6 and this meant it was difficult to cardstock to size, as well as cut any large paper. I had quite a bit of 12x12 scrapbook papers that ended up sitting in the back of the craft closed because cutting them manually into 6x6 squares took too long.

Not too long ago, I got the bigger version of Cutterpede, but I ended up not liking it. It was a lot flimsier than the mini Cutterpede, and it actually ended up cutting things in a crooked way (despite the fact it was lined up properly on the cutter).

So, finally, I upgraded to the Fiskars Portable Paper Trimmer. This is a high-quality trimmer, and the one I would recommend getting. The only down-side is that the blades end up getting dull after a lot of cutting (I've gone through 2 blades since I got it, but I did also end up cutting 350 sheets of paper and card stock while making Christmas cards and sets). The trimmer uses these blades, which are not too expensive to replace when Amazon has them in stock.

3- Adhesive
When I first started out, I used liquid glue or Elmer's glue sticks. What a disaster that was! The paper either ended up wrinkly, or it ended up falling off because the glue stick dried. I've gone through a couple of different adhesive runners, and I finally upgraded to an Advanced Tape Glider (ATG). ATG is my preferred adhesive runner now, but it is on a little more expensive side. It's also really large -- which is a problem for those who have limited crafting space.

I've also found that adhesive runner is really hard to use with certain embellishments -- thin strips of paper, small trinkets that need to be firmly glued on or materials like textured fabric that makes it difficult for the tape to stick to. So, I bought a couple of liquid glue varieties.

For basic paper glue, I recommend:
- ATG with general use refills. This is a very strong adhesive, and it's permanent. There's no papers falling apart after you've pressed them together.
- If ATG is out of your price range, you can try the Tombow Adhesive Runner. I have not used it personally, but it's received positive reviews.

For a permanent glue that dries clear and bonds with non-paper surfaces, I recommend:
- Tombow Mono Multi Liquid Glue. It is a very strong glue, but it dries clear and it has a thin applicator side, so you can put just a pinpoint of glue wherever you need it. It also does not dry immediately, so you can wiggle the object around a bit if the placement is off.

See you next time!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Learning and Supplies

Although I have not been making cards for very long (I really only started doing it this year), I've discovered a few things that might be helpful to others - especially those of you who are just starting out and not sure what kind of products to get.

The first and the biggest thing I've learned is that you need to shop for quality rather than the price. I've got a huge boxful of things I bought because they were cheaper alternatives or were on sale. I've used some of them a couple of times, and ended up just disappointed. So, now I save up and buy products from brands I like. This is especially important with tools that you will be using again and again (such as stamps, ink, cardstock and glue).

The second thing I learned is that you don't need everything. This might sound like common sense, but bear with me. There's a HUGE variety of things you can get for card making. From materials, to tools, to embellishments. Before I pruned it a bit, my wishlist on Simon Says Stamp's site was over 700 items in size - and that's just the stuff I really really really wanted to get. If I started counting things I just found interesting, that number would be well into thousands. But, at the end of the day, I find myself always first reaching for a few favorites and letting my creativity turn them into things that are interesting and

And the last big thing I learned is that craft supplies are addictive. I'm still struggling with setting up a small budget figure for myself and keeping my purchases under it. But there's always a temptation that's impossible to resist -- a big sale, a brand new product, a better tool, and so on. So, always be prepared to spend just a little more than you intended to.

I was inspired by Jennifer McGuire's series where she talks about her favorite products and tools (you definitely want to check out her My Crafty Things videos, I learned a ton watching those), so I'm going to be starting a small series about my own favorite supplies. Stay tuned, I'm hoping it will be an interesting read.

Oh, and I need to take more pictures. I've been on a card-making spree, but the cards have been slowly sent off as gifts. I still have a few favorites that haven't been sent, so I will try to take photos before they're gone.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Welcome baby card

While playing around with the stamps from the Stampendous Baby Invite set, I noticed that a lot of the little objects fit perfectly in a 1.5" circle. So, I stamped some baby clothing and colored it in with my watercolor pencils and a water brush.

I tried to keep the card gender-neutral, so I choose a dotted brown background pattern paper, and a green washi dot tape (on the right). I added the light green ribbon at the last minute, and I'm actually really glad I did, because it is probably the best bow I have ever tied.

The pennants are from Ki Memories 6x6 birthday pattern paper. I'm not sure whether you can buy Ki Memories paper pads anywhere online, but I found a whole bunch of them at my local Walmart. They are heavy cardstock, and I think I have 8 or 9 different pads right now. I like the patterns and colors in quite a few of them, and they're double-sided. Plus, they're cheaper than the paper pads I've bought online and at Michael's, so I feel more comfortable experimenting different things when I use them.

Sweet little one was hand-written with a white gel pen. The pen I use is a Sakura Gelly Roll pen that I bought at Michael's. I actually wasn't sure what kind of white pen to get, so I bought it along with some opaque white markers. The gel pen works great, the markers just get soaked into the paper and don't actually appear white.

I got a whole bunch of new stamps on Friday, so expect a lot more cards from me soon! I'll mainly be focusing on holiday cards, as I have to make them for several family members as well as a gift I want to send to my sister-in-law.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Holiday Card #3

This is the second card I made a few days ago. It also features the Gnome for the Holidays stamp set, and I've also added the tree from Merry Trees set. One of my favorite parts of the merry trees set is that it has these small dots that can either be used as ornaments, or just to make a cool polka-dot pattern. There are 3 sizes of dots, and also 3 sizes of stars.

The sentiment is from Lawn Fawn's Winter Gifts set. I find myself gravitating toward this set often. Like all Lawn Fawn sets, it has a ton of small stamps that add the perfect amount of detail. And I just love how the letters in the sentiment look. They just seem so joyful.

I also don't think I mentioned it, but the brown and white paper is from a Recollections Bright Basics paper pack I got at Michaels'. There are many fantastic papers in that pack, and each design comes with 3 8.5x11 sheets -- which makes it very useful when creating matching cards.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Holiday Card #2

Actually, it's technically card #5 or 6, but it's currently my absolute favorite, so I just had to show it off.

This card uses the Gnome for the Holidays stamp set. It's a really adorable set, and I keep wanting to use it again and again.

I've colored the reindeer with my watercolor pencils. I've been trying to practice so the colors have more dimension, and I think it's working pretty well.

I've also used Tea Dye distress ink around the edges of the watercolor paper for a bit of an aged look. The stark white was creating too much contrast otherwise. I need to get a few more colors of distress ink. I only have 2, and they're both on the warm side of the spectrum. I think it would be useful to have some cooler colors - probably blue, since I seem to gravitate toward that a lot in backgrounds.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Holiday Card #1

I've started on this years' holiday cards.

This card is actually created on a kraft carstock base, with the red cardstock layered over it. I cut out a window in the middle and decorated with the green & polkadot pieces.

The green polkadot cardstock is actually shiny, and did not come out very well in the image. I just could not get the right angle for it. But it's a lovely dark-ish olive green, and the cardstock is actually not from a holiday pack. It's from Kaiser Craft's Secret Admirer paper pad. It reflect to a kind of golden color, and I think it went perfectly with the card - adding just the right amount of shimmer.

The red and green cardstock is from a Recollections colors pack I got at Michael's. It's rather thin, but it has quite a few colors - which makes it useful for layered cards or just adding a bit of plain color. I also used a recollections stamp set for the bows (stamped in Ranger's Archival Plum ink). I hand-drew dots and white lines with a white gel pen.

The sentiment is hand-written in white gel pen.

And, lastly, the bakers' twine is from Hemptique. I just received it today, and added it to the card at the last minute. I really like the quality and the color is just great.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Welcome Baby Card

Halloween was yesterday, and while I was sitting around waiting for trick-or-treaters, I whipped up this new baby card.

It's hard to see in the picture, but the card base has these adorable raised dots that give texture without adding color (Sea Salt by Bazzill). I cut a piece of watercolor paper to size and rounded the corners using my EK Success corner rounders - using the 1-inch rounder. After stamping the images with Ranger Archival Jet Black Ink and letting it dry, I colored the images in with watercolor pencils and went over them with a water brush. I then blended some Broken China Distress Ink around the sides of the image, just to make it stand out a little better.

The sentiment (Celebrate) on this card comes from Paper Smooches Sentiment Sampler, and I just love how fun and joyful it looks. One of the things that's really awesome about the sentiments in Paper Smooches sets is that they go perfectly with many other stamps and styles. I actually have 3 sentiment sets from Paper Smooches and I'm always looking for ways to incorporate them into my cards. I've ordered some of the holiday sets from Paper Smooches and I'm waiting (impatiently!) for them to ship. Can't wait to use them!

The elephant, flowers and stars are from the Stampendous Baby Invite set. I picked my set from the local Michael's store, but I think it may be an older/retired set - as I can't seem to find it in online stamping stores. The animals in the set are so sweet and they just seem perfect for a new baby card. The stamp was small enough to fit into the corner of the card envelope (that's what you see sticking out on the left side of the card). I think it ties the card and the envelope together fabulously.

The fun ribbon is from Stampendous Party Invite - which is another set I picked up from my local Michael's.

The dots above/below the sentiment and the hearts are from Lawn Fawn's Winter Gifts. Many of the Lawn Fawn sets have small stamps that can be picked up easily and used as a decoration all over the card, which makes them super useful. The other half of my recent order has a few Lawn Fawn sets. So excited to get them and start making cards with them.

The twine is from Ki Memories that I bought at Walmart and the buttons are from Favorite Findings (Pastel).

Friday, October 18, 2013

I love winter card

I had a little bit of free time today, and I thought I'd get started on some of my holiday cards. Of course, that's not how things worked out, and instead I've created a happy winter card.

This card features Lawn Fawn's charming Yeti Set Go stamp. I just got it a few days ago, and I've really wanted to use it. One of the things I love the most is that it comes with lots of bits and pieces (snowflakes, trees) and several sentiments. The yeti also comes with a set of earmuffs, but I didn't put them on him this time. I was using just the acrylic block and I couldn't get the muffs to line up right and not look like they're floating away from his face. Next time, I'll try using a stamp press.

Now to figure out who to give this card to...

  • EK Success Cutterpede Paper Trimmer: link
  • Bazzil Robin's Egg 8.5x11' cardstock paper: link
  • Recollections White Cardstock Paper: link (note: I bought this pad at my local Michael's store)
  • My Mind's Eye Merry Little Christmas 6x6 Paper Pad: link (note: I bought this pad at my local Michael's store)
  • Lawn Fawn Yeti Set Go clear stamp set: link
  • Ranger Archival Ink Pad Aquamarine: link
  • Ranger Archival Ink Pad Jet Black: link
  • Staedler Color Pencils (36): link
  • Elmer's Permanent Dot Runner: link
  • Inkadinkado Clear Acrylic Block (small): link
  • Favorite Findings Pastel Buttons: link
  • Sharpie Fine Point Pen (black): link