Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Let It Snow!

Hello! I make no excuses for yet again talking about Christmas makes in July.  The clock is ticking and there are so many cards to make!  During a recent show Grace from Manchester emailed us to say she’s already made nineteen Christmas cards.  She’s got the message – well done Grace!  Come to think of it, that was the same show in which Andy Love likened crafting to various sporting events and said that Christmas is the card maker’s World Cup… and how right he is!




This card is one I made during the recent Christmas Fantasy shows.  These dies are a completely different style to the ones I normally reach out for, and as such they took me out of my comfort zone.  That’s no bad thing of course, and I enjoyed the challenge.  Judging by the feedback we’ve received it seems clear that many of you love these dies. In the set you get the Queen of Snowflakes, Snow Castle, Regal Swan and Snowglobe Card Shape, and I had great fun mingling the dies in different combinations. If you’re into Fantasy, Game of Thrones, Narnia, The Lord Of The Rings or whatever, I’m sure these dies will appeal to you.

This card, which I’ve called ‘Let It Snow’ for obvious reasons, uses the Snowglobe set together with the Queen of Snowflakes. I coloured the Queen of Snowflakes myself but you can download the Charisma images by clicking here which means with one pass of the die through your cutting machine you have one fully coloured die cut.



While the Snowglobe makes a fantastic stand-alone card, on this particular make I’ve attached it to a large (8 inch) card base.  The snowflakes were cut from 250gsm card covered in Sticky Roll and after being cut I dipped the sticky die cuts in glitter.  As you’ll see from the photo I managed to tear my snowflake… and the moral of that story is, once you’ve made your Christmas card, look after it much more carefully than I have!

TOP TIP: These dies were brought to you as part of the Pick Of The Week offer so if you like them be quick as the price will go up on Friday!    




Sunday, 16 July 2017

Peek Of The Week - Hubby's Birthday Card

Today I thought I’d show you the birthday card I made for my hubby recently… this card also featured in my blog about making a lightbox.

Sometimes it can be difficult making a card for someone who lives in the same house as you because there’s always the danger that they might see it before it’s ready. Luckily I had no such worries – hubby always stays out of my craft room because he knows if he wanders in there is every chance I’ll give him a job to do!



I used an eight inch square card base – I know it’s larger than usual, but it’s become my favourite size.  I used a nice cream colour as I was looking for something muted - I just wanted to avoid the harshness of stark white.

I cut a black and cream mat layer and embossed the cream layer using a watch embossing folder.   Then I applied my Rare Earth inks – Desert Sand and Henna Brown – to my blending mat, dusting these over the embossed images to enhance them. I added a little bit of black to give that ‘shabby chic’ look.

The large pocketwatch and cogs were cut from Tattered Lace dies and gilding wax was added to these.

The focal point of the card was, again, a black and cream mat layer but this time I embossed the cream layer with the Tattered Lace script embossing folder.

The key and ‘Happy Birthday’ are pre-bought wooden embellishments which I coated with Rare Earth black pigment ink before applying their clear embossing powder and heat setting.

Then it was just a case of layering up all the elements and adding some metal cogs I had lying around to further enhance the ‘shabby chic’ look.



The die across the centre is Tattered Lace Love Birds die.  I used this as I thought it was a good contrast to the other more ‘Steamed Punk’ elements – and I like the two little birds!




Friday, 14 July 2017

Photo Friday – Sometimes The Background Steals The Show!

For this particular Photo Friday I’d like to show a lovely picture taken by my hubby, some years ago.  At first glance it’s just a picture of a tree but  I think this photo can teach us a little about our card designs…

I hope you’ll agree, it’s an eye-catching picture…



Eye-catching it may be, but at the end of the day it’s just a picture of a tree.  A nicely shaped tree, yes, a very old twisted tree, but still, it’s just one tree among thousands.  So the question is, what makes this picture stand out?

The answer, as you’ve probably already guessed by the title of this blog entry, is THE BACKGROUND.

If this was a photo of a tree against a background of greenery, or yet more trees, it would be unexceptional.  But look at what is going on behind the tree; it’s a Winter’s day and the Sun is setting on the horizon at the bottom of the picture. In a couple of minutes the Sun will have gone and darkness will quickly creep in – but before that happens there is one final glorious encore of sunlight, lighting up the steel blue late afternoon Winter sky, highlighting the white clouds and putting the tree in silhouette. Absolutely marvellous, a lovely fleeting moment caught in time.  

So how does this help us when we come to design our cards?

I feel it’s a reminder that we should think of what’s going on in the background of our cards as well as the foreground.  For example, let’s say you’re making a Christmas card with Robin Redbreast.  So you put Robin front and centre of the card.  That’s great as far as it goes… but what is going on in the background of your card?  Nothing at all?  Or is Santa flying high in the sky on his sleigh in the distance, being pulled by Rudolph and his friends? Or is there a snow-covered village or church behind the Robin? Or maybe a frosty beautiful countryside scene of a patchwork of fields and hills?  


If you put interesting detail, no matter how small, into the background of your card, you might find people are drawn towards that detail and that becomes the reason why they think the card is so great… Robin Redbreast suddenly becomes merely a supporting actor and not the star of the show we all thought he was!   


Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Fantastic Foamiran!

Today I want to tell you about the wonderful day I had at the Foamiran workshop with Ewa Constanga, run by Love to Craft and Create. We all had a great time. The workshop was very popular too – although it was held in my home town, some people had travelled a very long way to be there.

The lovely Ewa is Polish and doesn't speak any English; not a problem, as our host Monika is a brilliant interpreter.  

The day was split into two workshops to create two separate projects and attendees choose whether they wish to attend one or both classes. I wanted to learn as much as I could and get as much as possible out of the day (some might say I’m just greedy!) so I opted to attend them both.

As you know, there are always trends in crafting and Foamiran is definitely the current 'Must Have' craft. And I can totally understand why. The projects that you can pull off with this simple product are nothing less than awe inspiring. A five minute browse on social media brings up a host of pictures of some truly beautiful Foamiran flowers that people have made and shared. If you’re anything like me, while looking at some of those pictures you’ll be thinking the same thoughts I did  – “I could never do that!” – BUT let me tell you… you can. I had never made anything with Foamiran before the workshop and look what I made:





Ewa wanted to get us to make two projects using Foamiran ‘cold’.  What I mean by that is, without using an iron. (An iron is very often used with this product). Also, you might be surprised to hear we didn’t use any Dies - all petals and leaves were cut by hand. Trust me, it isn't difficult!

We then coloured the foam. Ewa gave us some guidance but left us to choose how we added the colour. We used pastels and small pieces of kitchen foam pad - nothing complicated or technical. The ‘Top Tip’ that Ewa gave us in my opinion was to add green or yellow to the innermost tips of the petals where they would form the centre of the flowers. This really lifts the finished flower. Our aim was to make realistic looking flowers and I think this was achieved.

Making the flowers without heat is tough on the fingers! There is a lot of rolling involved to get the natural look on the petals… but don’t be put off, it CAN be achieved. When shaping the petals care needs to be taken not to flatten the edges- all that hard work shaping and rolling can easily be undone by a bit of over enthusiasm!  

I have to admit, I’m hooked. In between prepping for my shows I’ve made time to make this lovely poppy in the comfort of my own craft room. I didn’t use any Dies to cut the petals, but I’ll put my hand up and confess right now to using an iron – I hope Ewa doesn’t consider that cheating! The iron heats the foam before the shaping process, making things even easier.




......and I also made this smaller flower using my Fleurs flowers fries from Tattered Lace 

By the end of the day, everyone’s finished flowers looked so great that anyone would assume they are difficult to make.  But that’s the magic of Foamiran – they really are not difficult.  All you need is patience, and away you go.


If you don’t believe me, have a go – pretty soon I’m sure you’ll be hooked just like me! 


Sunday, 9 July 2017

Peek Of The Week - A Little Gold Can Go A Long Way...

Just for a change this week’s Peek Of The Week is very current.  VERY current, as this die was launched in last Thursday’s Blockbuster, I demonstrated it on air yesterday and again at 9am this morning.  I’ll be showing you my take on the die on air on Monday evening at 9pm… I hope you can join me.

The Tattered Lace Spun Sugar Collection is a really beautiful set of dies that work fantastically well with the images on the accompanying CD ROM. The CD ROM includes ten colours for each design with matching backing papers, and has been created especially to coordinate with the dies in the collection. 

I set out to make a totally feminine birthday card; an almost completely white birthday card.  I don’t know why I fancied an almost completely white card, I just did… but almost as soon as I got that idea, I decided that, no, let’s have just a splash of colour to enhance it. That’s the great thing about crafting for me, the freedom to do just about whatever I want on a project is very liberating and certainly increases the fun factor!




My splash of colour came in the form of a little gold; although I added in the gold card, obviously you could substitute this for any colour you like… anything goes with white after all.

I cut the Lavish Floral Die twice – once was in white super smooth card and once using white card covered in good old Sticky Roll (where would we be without Sticky Roll?) which I then dipped into my mega glitter pot.

I must admit I do like my flourishes, and I thought the rather neat elegant ones in the picture tied in on some level with the pearl chain on the flower, even if they are almost imperceptible.

The spun sugar frame die is a really versatile die set, consisting of five dies in all. Stephanie has thought of everything; including the two frames separately means you can cut the detail into or out of your card stock, if you see what I mean. I decided not to use these frames and cut the detail into the card, and I’m very pleased with the result.



The sentiments are new, and are also from the spun sugar collection.  A very clever aspect to these sentiments is that including the flourishes on the words gives us crafters so many options – we can trim them off in part or fully, to give basically as much detail as we want.  A great idea!





Friday, 7 July 2017

Photo Friday - Moon and Willow

I was really pleased to receive an invitation recently to put something together for Create and Craft, and my piece appeared on their blog yesterday.  If you missed it and if you're interested, you can catch it by clicking here. I've never been asked to write for other people before and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Hopefully they'll have me back again sometime! 

But now it's back to business as usual, and so without further ado...

In this week’s Photo Friday I’d like to share with you a picture I absolutely love. 

It’s not the most action-packed shot you’ll ever see, I admit.  There’s not anything going on in the photo at all.  But I think that’s probably why I like it so much.

It was taken by a family member about nine years ago. He was out in the countryside getting away from it all.  He found himself standing by a river underneath a clear blue sky. Behind him was a thick forest that carried on for some distance down the riverbank. In front of him was a very wide river.

He wanted to take a photograph to remind him of the moment but the problem facing him was that there was almost too much scenery around him to try to cram into one photograph.  So, what to do…?



The answer he came up with, and I feel it’s a very effective solution, is to go very ‘minimalist’.  What I mean by that is, if you can’t squeeze a forest and a river into one picture, then just don’t bother trying.  Instead, pick one or two or three elements that suggest your surroundings, and put those together in one photograph. 

That’s what he’s done here.  It was a clear blue sky, so that forms the background to the picture.  He can’t photograph the whole forest, but he can suggest the idea of a forest just by including a branch or two in the shot.  At the time the Moon was high in the sky, even though it was late morning. So he decided to frame the Moon using the branches of a Willow.

As a picture I feel it works really well, because it’s clean and simple and unfussy.  It manages to convey a message without cluttering up the frame.

I feel that perhaps we can learn a lot about designing our cards from photos like these; I know I have.  What I mean is, say you want to make a Christmas card – Christmas images run through your head – a robin sitting on top of a snow-capped post box; a child on a sleigh being pulled down the street by his Father; a garland or a wreath of mistletoe and ivy; carol singers.  The list goes on.  Sometimes the temptation is to try to include as much Christmas symbolism as we can in one card, but if you go the minimalist route like this photographer, you’ll find that two or three elements – for example a holly leaf and red ribbon – convey the Christmas message just as well as including all the whistles and bells you can think of.

Plus, it’s a lot cheaper and quicker to make!   






Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Our Lake District Mini Break

It was my husband’s birthday recently so to celebrate we had a few days away in the Lake District, one of his favourite places.

It’s not hard to see why it’s one of his favourites – the scenery is absolutely spectacular.  There are beautiful views everywhere you look and the pace of life is wonderfully slow (for us tourists it is anyway, I’m sure some of the people who work there, such as farmers, must work all hours).

I’m told the Lake District is one of the wettest places in the UK, and we have had trips there in years gone by when it rained non-stop for days on end.  This time though we were very lucky.



My Mum flew over from her house in France and joined us, as did our two youngest now that their university courses have finished, and my son brought along his partner.  

It’s always difficult to pack the car on trips away, but an added difficulty this time round was having to bring along the birthday cake I’d made without getting it squashed on the journey.  Luckily it ended up there still in one piece!  My hubby is quite older than me, and in his own words, if I’d have put a single candle on the cake for every year of his age we’d have to have the local fire brigade on standby as a precaution… so instead I made do with two sparklers.



Obviously I’d made him a birthday card but his favourite card was a shop-bought one!  He liked it so much because he thought it provided a map of what he was going to do over the next few days – here it is:



Hubby has always been keen to get to the very top of Helvellyn, a mountain which is the third highest point in England. Years ago we had tried on two occasions to get there but each time we had to turn back because of the weather. It’s so high that you can get five different types of weather walking up there!  Mum didn’t feel as though she would be able to manage it, and I was more than happy to stay at ground level with her.  My son and his partner and our youngest daughter went with hubby while Mum and I walked round a country house and gardens.  I’m pleased to say they did make it to the top after all these years! Third time lucky! The difference in the weather was amazing.  When they got to the summit the cloud descended; while they were in winds of between 60 and 70 mph, with rain that came so hard the drops stung their faces when it hit, Mum and I were wandering around a garden wearing a light top, in a gentle breeze…

At the summit of Helvellyn - third time lucky!


We went to the Ullswater Country Fair.  The most interesting thing for me there was the Fell Race.  It started and finished at the Fair but runners had to climb to the top of a very steep, massive hill called Arnison Crag and back again.  The record time was just less than 14 minutes, but looking at Arnison Crag I reckon it would have taken me closer to 14 hours!  

Handmade walking sticks at the Ullswater Country Fair




All in all we had a great time – lots of walking, lots of pub meals, lots of laughs.  Hubby didn’t want to come home on the final day, a sure sign that he’d had a great birthday!




   


Sunday, 2 July 2017

Peek Of The Week - How To Make A Lightbox

Hello again!  Regular readers may have noticed I haven’t updated my blog for a few days.  I’ve had a short holiday – nothing fancy, just a few days in the Lake District – but I’m back now, batteries recharged, so here we go…

For this week’s Peek Of The Week I thought I’d show you how to make a lightbox as these really do improve photographs of our makes.  Taking a photograph of a card, for example, in a lightbox guarantees an even spread of light and it also means your picture isn’t spoiled by having unwanted things in the background – you know the kind of thing, a radiator, or a plug socket for example. You can buy a professional lightbox for hundreds of pounds, or you can make one for a few pounds within an hour…

ITEMS YOU WILL NEED:

A large box (I used a box that contained twelve bottles of wine – you don’t have to drink all the contents first though!)
A sheet of A1 white card
A craft knife
A metre ruler
A marker pen
Parcel tape
Red liner tape
A length of white muslin – enough to go round your large box
White spray paint
Several old newspapers
Two desk lamps – I bought cheap and cheerful ones from Argos and some supermarkets will stock them too.



DIRECTIONS:

Using your parcel tape, tape up the open flaps of the box.  Then using your craft knife, make an incision halfway down the box lengthways on one side, then cut along the top and bottom until you’ve made a gatefold down one side of the box, like this:



This is the front of your lightbox.

Next, using your craft knife, cut out the sides of the box, leaving a ‘frame’ of about an inch or so along the edges, like this:

  

On a nice dry day, spread a few newspapers down in your garden and spray paint the whole thing white, inside and out.  A few thin coats of paint are much better than one heavy spraying. (TIP: after spraying, if you want to take a photo of what you have done, be careful not to get white paint all over Hubby’s camera, like I did.  It doesn’t do his blood pressure any good, and he’ll spend the next hour pulling a face, stomping around and muttering under his breath!)



Next, using your metre ruler, cut your sheet of white card to size.  Don’t worry about the length of the card at this stage – you can always trim that back when the project is finished – for now you need to cut it so it will fit inside your lightbox width ways, like this:



Now cut your muslin to size so it’s the same width as your box, and when you’ve done that it will need a good ironing!



Next, after putting the red liner tape on the edges of the cloth, wrap it round the sides of the lightbox so it tightly covers the ‘frames’ you’ve cut into the box.




Now, using your craft knife, make a slit across the back of your lightbox at the top – then slide your white card into the box through this slit.  When the card is in position and there’s only a couple of inches hanging out of the top of the box you can make a fold across the card that’s outside the box to keep it in place.




Congratulations, you’ve made a lightbox and saved yourself hundreds of pounds!

When you come to take a photo of your project using the lightbox, you can experiment with lighting and backgrounds.  Take your desk lamps and place one each side of the lightbox so that the light from them shines through the side ‘frames’.  The light is gently diffused by the cloth.  (If you are wondering what the ‘flaps’ in the front of the box are for, they help stop any stray light from your desk lamps from entering into your camera lens).Experiment by changing the bulbs – for example, you could try using yellow bulbs or daylight bulbs.  Experiment further by moving the desk lamps up and down, have them at different angles, or just use one… alternatively just use daylight.  You can go further by replacing the white card with some samples of really subtle wallpaper from a DIY store. 

But whatever light source you choose, and whatever background you choose, the great thing about a lightbox is your photos are instantly so much better.  Take a look at these two photos I took – the first was taken using a piece of furniture as background, and the second was taken in the lightbox.  You’ll notice with the second one that there is no distracting elements in the background and the viewer’s eyes are drawn towards the details of the card:




Smaller, more three dimensional projects photograph really well in the lightbox too, like this:



Just a couple more tips before I go; always make sure you switch off the flash from your camera.  If there’s not much light, consider using a tripod.  Also, you might find it impossible to not get the sides of the lightbox in your photograph.  If that's the case, all you need to do is to upload your photo onto your computer and crop the picture so you end up with just the elements you want.

Happy snapping!