Category Archives: advice

A Christmas Tip

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I just found that Lindsay the Frugal Crafter has a “stash-busting” Christmas card tutorial on her blog from October, using patterned paper and washi tape, here.  If you like crashing your stash, you might want to check it out.

If I find similar things, I’ll add them here too.

UPDATE: Here’s another one at Lostinpaper.  A similar technique, using random strips of paper, but a very different outcome.

Side Project: Embossing Powder Comparison

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It’s ironic. Twice in the last month I’ve held off on working on a post until Friday, when I am off from work, and can take some pictures of my projects in daylight, which is supposed to be the best light.  Both times, it rained all Friday long, and was almost as dark at points as it is when I come home from work.

Oh well. On to the project.

I was so annoyed by my embossing failure on this card that, even though I’m supposed to be on a buying moratorium, I went online and ordered a variety of different embossing powders, to see how they worked.  Maybe the Stampendous powder I buy at Michaels just isn’t very good.  I bought a couple different brands in the colors I use most — black, white, clear and gold.

Black — Tsukineko Imagine and Ranger

White — Zing Opaque White and Wow! White Pearl

Clear — Judikins Clear Detail and Hero Arts Ultra Fine Detail

Gold — Zing and Hero Arts

 

SP1powders

 

I compared them as well to what I already had, which was Stampendous Clear, Midnight Black, Detail Gold, and Martha Stewart Antique Gold. (I think that’s what it’s called, it’s been a while since I bought it. Maybe Florentine Gold, I don’t remember and it doesn’t say on the bottle.)

I cut up some scrap cardstock to try them out, and chose two stamps — a Recollections starfish, for a solid image, and Hero Arts’ Nightflower, for a fine line image.

I tried to follow good technique, as well, to do the best job with each powder — I dusted each page with my Embossing Buddy to minimize static cling:

 

SP1buddy

 

and I used Versamark ink for each sample, which is good embossing ink, so each powder would have a good base to cling to.

SP!versa

 

For the pictures I took, I just used the Autocorrect feature of my photo software, so each image would be treated the same  and not excessively manipulated.

 

Black Powder:

 

Tsukineko Imagine Black

 

SP1TsukB1

This powder is OK, I think.  I don’t think the coverage on the starfish is great — it’s pretty, hm, bubbly, or rumpled.  But the detail on the Nightflower image is good.

 

Ranger Black Super Fine

 

SP1rangerB1

 

The coverage and the detail are good on this one, better than the Tsukineko I think, but what I don’t like  is how much of the stray powder scattered around and stained the cardstock away from the image, as you can see between the starfish and the flower.  Even when I used the Embossing Buddy.  I supposed you can attribute that to user error, but I was as careful with this sample as I was with the rest, and even when I blew the stray powder away, it still stained the paper.  Very annoying.

 

Stampendous Midnight Black

 

SP1stampendousB1

This is the powder whose shoddy results inspired me to conduct this experiment.   And rightly so — the results here are genuinely bad.  Both images are only partially embossed — the rest of the image is only a blurry, flat black line where the powder either sunk into the paper, or blew away upon application of the heat gun, leaving only enough embossing to color the paper.  You can see it better in this close-up of the flower:

 

SP1StampendousB2

The light hits the embossed parts, and the rest — which is most of the image — is flat and dull.

You can also see the very uneven coverage on the starfish as well:

SP1stampendousB3

No wonder I have been getting such bad results!

 

White Powder

Zing Opaque Finish White

This powder is unusual in that it is very coarse, far coarser that the other powders we are working with here:

 

SP1Zingcoarse

 Not coarse enough to be called UTEE though. I wonder how it will affect the results.

 

SP1zingW1

 

I think it looks good.  Coverage on the starfish is good, it’s bright and opaque.  But the detail on the lines of the Nightflower is also good. I like it.  No stray powder elsewhere on the cardstock.

Here’s a close-up:

SP1zingW2

 

Wow White Pearl Regular

 

SP1wowW1

 

This was a surprise.  Although it’s called “White Pearl,” and the powder looks white in the jar, when embossed, it definitely comes out silver, as you can see.  Didn’t expect that.  It’s interesting, but it sure ain’t white. So much for that.

 

Clear Powder

On these samples I have sponged some ink over the embossed images, so you can see them better.

Judikins Clear Detail

 

SP1judiCL1

(Sorry, this was the first sample I made and my starfish stamp was dirty.)

All in all I think this is pretty good, good coverage on the star and good detail on the flower.  No complaints.

 

Hero Arts Ultra Fine Clear

 

SO1HeroCL1

 

Good coverage on the starfish, but for an “ultra fine” powder, I think the lines on the flower look a little burry.  I think I like the Judikins better.

 

Stampendous

 

 SP1StampendousCL1

 This has both better coverage and better detail than the Stampendous black powder which was so unsatisfactory above. I’m surprised.  I like it better than the Hero Arts, even. Hm.

Here’s a close-up.  It is also shinier than the Hero Arts powder.

 

SP1StampendousCL2

 

Gold Powder

Zing Metallic Gold

 

SP1zingG1

 

I quite like how bright, shiny, and golden this powder looks.  But I am disappointed in the lack — indeed the opposite  — of detail on the flower.  Many of the lines are blurred completely together.

You can see this better in close-up, particularly in the center and bottom right:

 

SP1zingG2

 

Hero Arts

 

SP1heroG1

 

This gold embossing powder has a soft, almost frosted finish and color that I quite like.  It is not as brassy as the Zing.  But again, I am disappointed in the lack of detail on the Nightflower.

 

Stampendous Detail Gold

 

SP1StampendousG1

 

This is not good.  it is an ugly, yellowish color, not shiny, and for a “detail” powder, it is very blurry and pebbled both on the stafish and the flower. Very displeased.

 

 

Martha Stewart

 

 SP1msG1

 

I am quite pleased by the detail offered by this powder. Look how clear the lines on the Nightflower are. But comparing it to some of the others, I don’t quite like the brassy, yellowish color.  Not that shiny, but an unpleasant yellow.  Maybe I should try mixing this and the Zing powder together and see what I get.

Here is a close-up, and you can see both how finely detailed it is, and the almost jaundiced yellow color.

 

SP1msG2

 

Results

So, brand to brand, the Stampendous did not come off well, with two of the three Stampendous powders I have performing poorly.  The Hero Arts did not come off as well as I expected from such a premium brand, lacking detail on both samples — although I do like the unusual soft color of the gold powder.  Of the brands in which I have more than one sample, I think I like the Zing best overall, both samples having good coverage and bright color.

The WOW White Pearl powder also has good coverage and detail, but the color is hardly as advertised, so I might be leery of buying any other WOW powders.  The Ranger and Tsukineko are OK.

Colorwise, for the gold, I don’t really have a favorite.  I like the Zing for its shininess, the Hero Arts for its unusual color, and the Martha Stewart for its detail.  I will just have to be careful and use them each for different things.

For white, it would have to be the Zing, as the WOW powder is — not white.  I do think the Zing is quite bright and white.

For the clear, I like the Judikins best.  The Stampendous clear performed better than the other Stampendous colors, but I won’t be running out to buy any more.

For the black, I wasn’t thrilled with any of them. But if I had to pick one, it would be the Ranger, although I am displeased with how much stray powder ended upon the sample. One would just have to be extra, extra careful with it.  Black embossing is just problematical.

I notice, also, that whether a powder is “fine detail” or not doesn’t actually seem to represent how well it will perform on that front.

The upshot is, I threw out the Stampendous powders.  They only cost me a few bucks, I’ve had them forever, and they are noticeably inferior to the other brands.  Why keep them around when I have better options?

I hope this little experiment helps some people.  I know I learned a lot.  Heat embossing is so cool and fun, we always want to do it, but we see here that the results you get can vary widely.  And even a small jar of powder lasts for a long time.  It’s worth it to experiment a little to find a powder you are happy with, I think.  I hope I have given you some guidance on that front.

UPDATE DECEMBER 2015:  Since writing this post, I no longer heat-emboss with black powder at all.  It just doesn’t give good results, and isn’t worth the trouble.  When I want black embossing now, I stamp with black pigment ink and emboss with clear powder.   The ink I use to stamp is VersaFine Onyx Black — an oil-based pigment ink that stamps really dark black and is very crisp and detailed, good for sentiments. Embossing with clear powder means you don’t have to worry about stray black specks getting embossed accidentally onto your project either.  Just a much better way to do it.  I recommend it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Stamper’s Dilemma

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OK, so I have a dilemma.  I just learned that an indie stamp company that I wanted to buy some stamp sets from has gone out of business.   So those stamps are gone forever!  And I know of at least one other company that has gone out of business.

So now I am in a panic, thinking that all these indie stamp companies whose stamps I wanted to buy after my buying moratorium, will be out of business by then!  Well, not all of them, but maybe some.

What to do, what to do?  Should I break my resolution and buy these stamps sets before they’re gone, or tough it out?  Once these companies are gone, they are gone forever.  (Not that I wish that one anyone, of course, but it could happen.)  But once I have those stamp sets, I have them forever.

Plus, buying now would help support these companies.

Of course, this could all be an exquisite rationalization to allow me to cheat.

Thoughts? Advice?  Please leave them them in the comments below.

How I Unjammed My Craftwell eBosser

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Late last year I bought a Craftwell brand eBosser, because I love the look of the new wafer-thin dies, but I find cranking a Big Shot to be seriously tedious.  The eBosser is an electric die-cutting machine with a motor — it automatically sucks through your cutting sandwich, no cranking required.  I thought the eBosser had some advantages over other electric models — it has an 8 1/2 by 11 wide cutting plate surface, so it can cut and emboss larger papers.  And if you overload it with too thick a sandwich, it has an abort function where it is supposed to reject the stack.  And I got it for a good price and free shipping with Amazon Prime, so I got it.

Unfortunately, that abort function doesn’t always work.  Sometimes a too-large cutting plate sandwich just gets stuck, jammed tight in the machine.  That’s what happened to mine the other day.

So I Googled it, of course, and on the Craftwell customer forums on their website, they say to turn the machine off, then press and hold the power button for five seconds, and that is supposed to activate the abort function.

Didn’t work.

The next step is to unlplug the machine for twenty-four hours to make it reboot, and then when you turn it on again, it is supposed to activate the abort function.

You guessed it — didn’t work.

Failing these electrical gambits, the next step was to bang the plate sandwich out from between the rollers with a rubber mallet.  Seriously.

I had to go to a hardware store to buy one — who has a rubber mallet sitting around the house, unless you are some kind of evil clown or something?

So I’m banging away on my eBosser with a rubber mallet at ten o’clock at night and my husband comes up and asks, “What the hell are you doing?”

I explained.  By this time I had managed to make some progress on beating the plates out the front, and the plate sandwich was flush with the back side of the slot in the machine.

“Seriously?” my husband said. “That’s what they said? This isn’t going to work.”  Once the cutting plates were flush with the back of the machine, the mallet would no longer be applying enough force to knock them any further.

We needed a second tool to wedge against the plates to direct the force of the mallet, like a hammer and chisel.

Hammer and Chisel

Image courtesy of dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

But with a blunt end, because a bladed end like a chisel would just chew up the plastic base plates without imparting any force.

We tried various things — a screwdriver. As expected, that just tore up the base plates.  A screwdriver with cardboard wrapped around the point. It punched through the cardboard, same result as before.  A ruler — too flimsy.

(I might mention here that neither hubby nor I are the handiest people in the world — quite the opposite in fact.  Someone with a better mechanical sense probably would have figured this out in seconds.)

So this is what hubby finally found:

handle1

I don’t even know what to call this thing — but what it is, is a handle for an interchangeable screwdriver set.  The business end looks like this:

handle2

In there you socket different sizes and types of screwdriver heads, so you can have a variety of tools in one.  But empty, like that, it is a flat surface that wouldn’t tear up my base plates, and yet was long and thin enough to reach into the slot of the eBosser and keep banging at the plates, and tough enough to take the force of the mallet.

So, I held the eBosser down so it didn’t slide all over the counter, and Hubster limited his attentions with the screwdriver and mallet to the C plate, because if one plate would be knocked free they would all come free.

It took a while.  At one point Hubby just snapped, “Go buy a new machine!”  and I said, “No, dammit, I paid over two hundred dollars for this thing, and I’ve only used it a handful of times.  We’re fixing it.”

And indeed, after enough banging, the C plate popped free of the front of the machine and the jammed sandwich was freed!

TL; DR — you need a rubber mallet and a blunt-tipped, chisel-like instrument to direct the force of the mallet against one of the base plates, and freeing it will loosen the whole stack.

Hubby told me, “You should write this down, you should write a blog post so we remember what to do next time this happens.”

And other people could read it, too, I thought. So that’s what I did. 🙂

Sites and Things to Visit

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Here are some sites and places that you can visit, to get inspiration, find projects, and learn some new techniques, but who won’t ask you to spend any money — or well, not too much anyway.

Split Coast Stampers  — this site bills itself as “the number one papercrafting site on the web.”  Well, I don’t know about that, but it is a good site.  There are forums, you can upload cards to your own gallery, even host a blog.  You can buy a premium “Fan Club” membership for $24.95 a year.   Some stamp and paper companies do have forums on the site, but they aren’t allowed to sell anything or advertise, just present information about their products, offer challenges, show projects and such.  Split Coast is pretty agressive about the noncommercial bent — you can’t even add a line about “hey, buy my stuff” in your profile sig.  There are a lot of banner ads, though. (I guess they have to pay for all that server space somehow.)  But all in all, it’s a good place to communicate with other crafters, learn some new techniques, and showcase your work without constantly being bugged to buy stuff.

Rubber Stamp Chat.net — a similar site to Split Coast, but smaller and a little rougher edged.  Has a more homegrown feel and does not receive as much traffic, but the members are very open and helpful.  Rubber stamping, obviously, is the main focus of this site, which is OK by me as that is my main mode of papercrafting.  Has forums and a gallery.  Vendors have forums, and can advertise and sell items, but since it’s mostly a text-based site, it’s pretty low-key.  One thing they do have is “virtual stamp conventions” a couple times a year, where vendors run sales and present tutorials.  The RSC members also do a lot of card and ATC swaps.

Online Card ClassesOnlinecardclasses.com is a website run by noted cardmakers Kristina Werner and Jennifer McGuire, where they conduct video-based classes on various styles and techniques of card-making.  You have to pay for the courses, of course, but the cost is always reasonable, and once you pay you have lifetime access to the class materials.  You can take classes live throughout the year, during which you can upload your work to the student gallery, communicate with the teachers in a message board, and register to win prize packages.  Or for a reduced cost you can take a finished class as self-study.  You still have access to all the videos, the PDF instructions, and can view the gallery and forum, but not add to it.  I think the classes are a reasonable price to pay to learn new techniques, and new ways to use materials you already have.

Some of the classes I have taken and recommend are:

Clean and Simple Cards 1 and 2 — tons of techniques and sketches to make “clean and simple” cards — cards with minimal embellishments and strong focal images.

Creative Chemistry 101 and 102 — these classes are taught by the famous Tim Holtz, who teaches you some of the science behind Ranger’s many different products — how and why they work — and how to use them.  You create swatch books demonstrating many different techniques to keep for future reference.  These classes are packed with information.

Insider — a mini-class on decorating the inside of your cards, to enhance the outside.  Really will lead you to think of your cards in a new way.

Stretch Your Stamps — a class specifically geared to introducing you to new ways to use the stamps you already have — background stamps, border stamps, letter stamps, line and solid images.  A great class for those wanting to work with what they already have.

Pattern Play — another mini-class about using patterned paper.  I learned some great tips from this class.

Classes I have not yet taken, but which would probably also be good for stash-crashing, are His & Hers — making masculine and feminine versions of the same card sketch — and A Cut Above, about die-cutting.

You can watch a video about how the classes work here.

You can see some of the other cards I have made during the Online Card Classes at my other blog, Kirsten 2.0.

Your Public Library — this might sound unlikely, but I am a librarian at a public library and I am going to mention it. 🙂  What you can find at your library are books about cardmaking, scrapbooking and papercrafting.  Books full of techniques and projects that will help you use what you already have.  (And books on all sorts of other arts & crafts like jewelrymaking, needlecrafts, soapmaking and chandlery, painting, drawing and more.)  Old books that are out of print, but that you can still find, and the newest books off the presses.  And if there is a book you’d like to see before buying, you can ask the library to purchase it and add it to their collection.

I was attracted to the idea of rubber stamps, and the possibility of creating art without having to painstakingly draw or paint everything.  (I can draw, but I can’t paint, I’ve tried, I just don’t “get” it somehow.)  But once I purchased a couple beginner stamp sets, I was puzzled as to what exactly to do with them.  I figured it out at the library.  The book that really turned me on to stamping was Rubber Stamp Extravaganza by Vesta Abel from North Light Books.  North Light makes great craft books, full of gorgeous pictures and clear instructions.  But the book that taught me the most, the basis of the work I do today, was 100 Great Ways to Use Rubber Stamps, by Francoise Read.  The book starts with the basics, inking and stamping, and moves on to progressively more advanced techniques — heat embossing, die cuts, stamped jewelry, and more, with multiple projects for each.  Such a useful book that I finally went out and bought my own copy.

And the best thing of course, is you can read and use these books for free, as many as you like, without having to buy anything.  It’s the public library — you have already paid for it with your taxes.  It’s a great resource.  Seriously, visit your local library, you’ll be amazed.

If you have any other suggestions, add them in the comments!

UPDATE: Here is something cool I found the very next day — the “Shopping Our Stash” challenge blog!  shoppingourstash.blogspot.com  The challenge is to only use things you have dug out of your stash, not new supplies.  It is a weekly challenge, Tuesday to Monday, and winners are announced on the next Saturday.  They choose three winners.  There are occasional prizes.

I’m excited about this. Having a theme and a deadline to meet will really help us “shop our stash,” as they say.  The current challenge is Valentine’s Day or “Love Me Tender.”

UPDATE II: I found more sites! Thankfully I am not alone in my stash-crashing quest.  Blogger Darnell Knauss at DJ Kard Creations also has a program to use her unused stash, which she calls NBUS, Never-Before Used Schtuff. 🙂  I found her because she commented on my blog here! Cool, I will use the NBUS tag on my posts from now on.

And there is also Lindsay of The Frugal Crafter, whose blog is all about getting the most out of your supplies and saving money.  (She does take paid endorsements and sponsorships, though — be aware of that.  Her policy on that is here.)  Lindsay hosts a Youtube video series called “Ask a Crafter” that is often informative.

UPDATE III: Blogger Amy Andrade has a papercrafting blog called All Things Beautiful. She has different themed posts for every day of the week. Thursday is “Using My Tools Thursday,” where she pulls old stuff from her stash and uses it. It’s good to see someone else doing this. 🙂 Her posts can give us ideas of what to work with. She also features other crafters on her blog, which is a nice gesture. Hopefully I’ll be featured someday.
The Sketch N Stash Challenge Blog is a “use your stash” challenge similar to Shopping Our Stash, but you also have to use the chosen sketch. It runs every two weeks, and has prizes, usually from digital stamp shops. I think this blog comes out of the UK, and it features that particularly British style of cards with the layers and layers of patterned paper, a colored focal image, ribbons and lace and diecuts and bling. You know what I mean. (They seem never to have heard of CAS over there.) If you are a CAS cardmaker, you may not get far with this challenge, but if not, it’s another incentive to crash your stash.

UPDATE IV: Here’s another stash challenge blog! The Clear It Out Challenge Blog. You have to use the suggested theme (humor, food, colors, etc.) and the designated item from your stash (punches, DP, charms). Challenges are posted bi-weekly and you have a week to enter. Prizes are offered. Usually digi-stamps — this is a digi-stamp blog where the design team and the entrants seem to use a lot of digital “stamp” images. (I have a problem with calling colored-in printed computer images “stamps,” but let’s not get into that now.) The challenge has the usual sorts of restrictions — new projects, no back-linking, link to the challenge in your post. New challenges are loaded on Tuesdays. I will add it to my blogroll.

UPDATE V:  Thanks to the ladies at Glitter and Glue from WOYWW, I’ve found a new stash-crashy challenge!  It’s called Craft Hoarders Anonymous.  The rules are: use products from your stash; follow the rules of the challenge– theme, color, manufacturer, sketch, etc.; and the usual stuff like no back-linking, linking to the post and not to the blog entire, etc.  You can combine any number of challenges.  Challenges are biweekly. Occasional prizes are awarded to top contestants, and not by random draw.

Remember, if you know of anything else, add it in the comments.  I’d love to know about it.

Sites and Things to Avoid

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Things to avoid if you are trying to crash your stash.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but these are some websites you might want to avoid while you are trying to crash your stash, so you are not constantly tempted to buy new things you don’t need.

Blitsy — you definitely want to stay away from this crafting “daily deals” site, which puts up a whole new raft of good, desirable crafting supplies for sale every single weekday.  Everything from Distress inks to Spellbinders dies to Avery Elle stamps — stuff you actually want, and would pay money for.  Quantities are limited, and some things sell out fast, which increases the sense of urgency.  But the sale prices really aren’t all that great, and that, coupled with the fact they they take PayPal and you don’t have to fuss around with credit cards, means you could easily bankrupt yourself.

You’ll want to stay away from the other crafting “daily deals” type sites, too, like Crafty Steals and Peachy Cheap.  The temptation is just too great.

Scrapbook.com — Scrapbook.com is a great site, where you can buy almost anything you want under the papercrafting sun, and which hosts forums and a community to show your work, and has good sales on a regular basis.  But you at least want to avoid the homepage, which has a “new items” link right on the front, where they list items new in the warehouse every single day. And they carry a LOT of product lines, so you can waste quite a bit of time (and money) just on the homepage.  If you use the gallery and forums, I suggest bookmarking them and then accessing them on your computer that way, and avoiding the homepage altogether.

The Moxie Fab World blog — No onus on Cath Edvalson, who lately wrote this blog, or the staff of Paper Crafts magazine; it’s a good blog, with lots of giveaways and inspirational posts.  But Moxie Fab World is specifically a trend-watching blog, which means they’re always featuring new things.  Things that you’ll want to buy.  New stamp sets, new paper collections, new embellishments, new everything.  Trend-watching I think is something you want to avoid if you are trying to use what you already have. Because trends change constantly, which means, if you want to stay on trend, you have to buy all new stuff.  If you are on a design team, or are submitting your work to the papercrafting magazines, you’ll need to be aware of and use trends.  But if you are just a hobbyist like me, save your money and get inspired from the treasures you already have.  That’s the whole idea of this blog.

These are just the things that came immediately to mind when I thought of sites that would tempt us away from crash-stashing.  If anyone has any other ideas, please add them in the comments!