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Tag Archives | Cassandra Darwin

Vendor Spotlight: Stampendous Stamp Cleaners

Reported by Cassandra Darwin

I was so excited to get this little package in the mail from Stampendous!  I am reviewing the two stamp cleaners – same formula in both bottles, but two ways to apply.  For about the past five years I have been using baby wipes to clean all my stamps and was anxious to see if these cleaners are easier or do a better job.

The green bottle has a felt dauber top (just like acrylic paint daubers) that releases the stamp cleaning solution when you press down on it.  The pink bottle has a fine mist spray nozzle.  Both bottles contain the same stamp cleaner, which is water-based and non-toxic.

Before I got started with my review I had to clean off my work space and noticed a stamp I used about a week ago that never got cleaned (pictured below with metallic gold pigment ink).  Yikes!  I used the dauber on it and plenty of stamp cleaner came out  right away.  I then blotted it on a paper towel (as instructed), but that ink didn’t budge.  I daubed it a second time and the ink started to come off.  I ended up having to scrub it with the paper towel instead of blotting to get all the ink off.  But it had been on there for a week…

The directions are very simple and I decided to jump right in and test the cleaners with four different inks and a clear stamp so you can see any ink residue.  I tested Versafine pigment ink, Memento dye ink, VersaMark Dazzle, and StazOn.

 After inking up a brand new clear stamp with Memento and stamping it once I used the dauber stamp cleaner again and then blotted on a paper towel.  You can see below that the black ink still left some discoloration on the clear stamp.  I’m not sure if this can be avoided though.  I stamped it again on white cardstock and the ink was gone.

After using the dauber cleaner on these two stamps I noticed that the felt on top was starting to get a little pilled.  (click image to enlarge)
It also took me a few tries to get the right amount of cleaner out when using the dauber.  Pushing down on the applicator releases a tiny bit of cleaner, but I squeezed the bottle to get a little more.  Oops!  Squeezed to hard – see below.

After this I moved on to the spray applicator.  I pulled out another brand new clear stamp and inked it up with VersaFine pigment.  I stamped once on cardstock and then sprayed twice with the stamp cleaner.  This bottle gives you a nice even and fine mist, but it is still a bit hard to contain it just on the stamp.  After spraying I used a paper towel to “scrub gently and blot” as instructed.  This worked, but left little white fibers on the stamp from the paper towel.

I also used the spray applicator to clean off stamps with VersaMark Dazzle and StazOn.  As expected it did a great job cleaning the VersaMark, but not so much on the StazOn.  It did manage to get a little of the green StazOn off my clear stamp, but since it is a solvent ink I would need to use a special cleaner for that one.  Just testing!

In the end I found the best results using both stamp cleaners with a stamp scrubbing pad that I had on hand (above), instead of the paper towel that the directions recommend.  I just applied the stamp cleaner directly to the stamp and then scrubbed on the pad and let the stamp air dry.

Comparing these cleaners to my old method (baby wipes), I would say that they are more effective, but not easier.  So let’s sum it all up with some pros and cons for the Stampendous Stamp Cleaners.

Pros:

  • Able to remove pigment and dye inks from clear, cling, and rubber stamps
  • Water based and non-toxic – no funky smells and I feel safe having this around the family
  • Very nice applicator bottles – I liked both!
  • Inexpensive and easy to find locally and online
Cons:
  • A bit more messy than I’m used to in my small working space – hard to get just the right amount of cleaner directly onto the stamp
  • Multi-step process (but cleaning stamps almost always is)
  • Needed a stamp scrubber pad to use these cleaners to the best of their ability
I also have to mention that the new Stampendous jumbo cling stamps are SOOOO nice to use with their Jumbo Perfectly Clear Handle.  It is so much thinner and lighter than my old acrylic blocks and I love all the new cling stamp designs.
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Vendor Spotlight: Letraset Aqua Markers

Reported by Cassandra Darwin

I was excited to test out a set of the Letraset Aqua Markers, because using markers makes me just as happy as it did when I was in grade school!    I looked up this line of twin-tip markers online and noticed that the sets came with a “blender” pen.  So I (incorrectly) assumed that they would function like my Copic markers – blending colors together but without the alcohol ink.  Turns out that these markers actually work just like a watercolor pencil, so you can blend them with a brush on watercolor paper.  A set of 12 Aqua Markers retails for just under $37.

I received “Set 1” colors and am very happy with the variety and packaging.  The plastic case opens flat so you can see every color while you’re working.  And there was a small insert with a few tips, including this important one – you really should be using watercolor paper with these markers.  I didn’t have any, so my first few tests are using cardstock (more pictures in a bit).

 The back of the Hints & Tips insert has a color chart for each set, and I found the colors on this chart to be much more true than the colors on the barrels of the markers themselves.  You can also see the illustration of the twin tips below: fine nib for detail and broader brushlike tip for big surfaces.

For my first test, I did three strokes of a variety of colors on three different types of cardstock.  Top is an Avery manila shipping tag, then 80 lb. Neenah cardstock, and at the bottom 100 lb. Bristol paper.

I set the markers aside and used the “blender pen” to try to create a wash between the different colors.  It didn’t work so well and I started to get some pilling on each of the tests.  I also noticed that some colors were easier to blend than others, most notably the orange (Gold Ochre) seemed to have more pigment.

 Then right below then Blender pen wash, I used a watercolor brush and water to try to create a wash between the different colors.  Got even worse results – perhaps the ink had dried too long (about 3 or 4 minutes).  You can click on the photo to zoom in.

Attempted a close up of the pilling on the paper after using the Aqua Markers and then the Blender Pen.

I did one more test on regular cardstock, to see which inks would work best when stamping with these markers.  The top is a stamped image with black Versafine pigment ink and it stayed very true even after blending the markers with a brush and water.  Keep in mind that pigment ink takes a while to dry – I left this overnight before going back to it with markers and water.  The black Memento dye ink (bottom) got a bit washed out after blending with water.  The end result is more grey than black.

At this point I dragged myself to the store to get some watercolor paper to test the makers in their best environment.  I also looked up a few more tips on the Letraset website (see more links at the end of the review) and learned that you can use these markers directly on stamps.

I used the broad nib of the markers directly on the rubber stamp and ended up with this image on the watercolor paper.

To give it more of a watercolor “effect” I used my wet paintbrush to blend the leaves a bit.  I was also able to go over the tree trunk and even out the color quite a bit.  I can already tell that the watercolor paper makes all the difference for blending.
For my final test I wanted to make a few snail embellishments for future projects.  I used the black Versafine pigment ink to stamp the image on watercolor paper.  Let it dry for a few hours then came back and outlined with the markers and blended with a wet brush right away.  By far my most successful use of the markers.

 Even though this set of markers was not what I expected, they turned out to be really fun and different than what I was used to.  It was nice to use a brush for the watercolor effect.  I would absolutely recommend using the online resources that Letraset has on their website, and there are a couple videos on You Tube of crafters giving their own tips and tricks with these markers.

Resources on the Letraset website:

Pros:
  • A different type of marker, can be used alone or blended with a brush for a watercolor effect
  • Well-packaged set includes storage, good variety of colors, and a blender pen
  • Twin-tip is very nice for this type of marker
  • Price is pretty reasonable when compared to fine watercolor sets or other crafting marker sets
Cons:
  • I never really figured out how to use the blender pen, and there was a learning curve for blending with a brush
  • Had to buy watercolor paper to use these markers
  • I could not find any other Letraset markers in my local art and craft stores
  • Would be really helpful to have a video how-to on the Letraset website
What do you think?  Have you tried the Letraset Aqua Markers?  Any tips to share?

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Vendor Spotlight: American Crafts "this to that" Adhesive

Reported by Cassandra Darwin

I first heard about the this to that adhesives about a year ago when they were creating a buzz at CHA and on the blogs.  Since I am a known adhesive collector/buyer/hoarder… I knew that I had to get my hands on these new products!  I finally got my chance and am happy to go over all the ins and out of three different types of adhesives from American Crafts.  I’ll start with a quick video intro (click below to watch via the Craft Critique YouTube channel), then we can get into the product details and some project photos.

3 Pack Adhesive Runners
This multi-pack includes three different types of adhesive: solid, strip, and dot.  All three have permanent, acid-free adhesive and feature refillable cartridges.  These three runners pretty much cover 90% of my adhesive needs.  The runners are comfortable to hold and have a cap to keep them covered for storage.  However, I have to mention that the cap is clear and doesn’t stay on very well, so there is a good chance it will get lost.

I liked using the dot runner to apply to curves or on small pieces where a “strip” would hang off the edge.  The strip runner is great for doing short adhesive strips on square pieces for cards and scrapbooking.  And the solid runner is like the hybrid that you can use on almost any project.  The strip runner is a bit different from the other two, because it is not clear when it is applied (more like white paper) and it contains 16 feet of adhesive (where the other two runners have 32 feet) – you can see this in the video.

Foam Dots + Foam Tabs
To get some dimension, use the Tab (square) or Dot (circle) foam adhesive.  Both come in a variety of sizes so you shouldn’t have to do any cutting – just peel and stick.  This is so much easier than foam tape that you have to roll out and cut.  Both packages that I reviewed were 3 mm thick, giving just the right amount of dimension, but not so much that you couldn’t mail a card or get a scrapbook page into a page protector.  Foam Dots contain 275 foam circles and Foam Tabs contain 272 foam squares.

Double-Sided Tape
This is the one I was most excited about – a double-sided tape that doesn’t require a bulky dispenser or scissors.  You can tear it right off the roll!  The first thing I wanted to do was lay down a strip and apply glitter (see the video above for that).  It comes in a variety of widths, but I am specifically reviewing the 1/4 inch roll, which is 11 yards long.

I made this card using American Crafts cardstock (including the butterflies), Thickers, and This to That adhesives.  Smaller butterflies each have two Foam Dots, and the Strip Runner was used to piece the rest together.
I used the Double-Sided Tape with glitter here, and this card was pieced together using the Solid Runner.  A rubber cement eraser was used to get extra adhesive out of the holes in the red border.

Pros:

  • All three types of adhesive are permanent, archival, and acid free
  • Ease of use!  No scissors or special tools necessary
  • Prices seem to be right in line with other adhesives in the same categories



Cons:

  • I had a hard time finding these in my local stores, and I know that the big chain stores in my area do not carry them
  • Caps do not stay on the adhesive runners
  • “Strip” runner has less adhesive and is not clear when applied

GIVEAWAY!

Our friends at American Crafts have provided a prize pack for one of our lucky readers! Just leave a comment on this post answering the following questions to be entered:

Have you tried any of the this to that adhesives from American Crafts? What do you look for in an adhesive?

One comment per person, per American Crafts’ article, please. Contest will end on Saturday, August 13, 2011.

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Vendor Spotlight and Giveaway: OLFA Chenille Cutter

Reported by Cassandra Darwin

I was very excited to have the opportunity to review the Chenille Cutter by Olfa, because I have a few crafty family members that recently went through a chenille craze.  I wanted to see what it was all about!  I ended up making a baby blankie for my little girl, and got a number of tips from those experienced chenille makers along the way.  I’ll share everything I learned so you can get started right away. 

 This is the chenille cutter as sent to me – instructions at the bottom of the package look easy enough!

Is it really just 4 easy steps to get soft and fluffy chenille?  Turns out the answer is yes (essentially).
The Olfa website describes the Chenille Cutter:  
Designed for both right and left handed use the revolutionary Chenille Cutter cuts multiple layers of fabric, as well as paper, cardstock, photographs, felt, fleece, and more! Features 4 channel guide sizes for narrow to wide widths and 24 new exposed blade edges all with one click. The ultra-sharp, double-honed edge blade is never exposed for extra safety.”

 I gathered my supplies for this project and opened the package to see what I had gotten myself into.  The included instructions were very concise, and easy to follow.  See below for front and back views.

Chenille Cutter instructions (front)
Chenille Cutter instructions (back)

 There were a few vital pieces of information missing from the packaging and instructions.  The first – what type of fabric should I be using?  TIP – A looser weave fabric that will fray a bit on its own works best.  I used flannel in my project, but linen is another great option.

I decided to do two different chenille blocks so you can see some different results.  Instructions recommended 4-8 layers of fabric, and the tool can cut channels from 1/8″ to 1/2″.  The green block has 8 layers of fabric with channels that are 1/2″ apart.  The pink block has 4 layers of fabric with channels that are 1/4″ apart.

I marked the top layer to indicate where I need to sew and pinned my layers together.

And here you can see that I have sewn the channels and started to use the tool to cut every layer except the bottom one.  TIP – It’s important to sew a fairly straight line, because if you have narrow parts in the channels the tool may not be able to squeeze through.  Luckily it has 4 widths so you can always go down a size if you need to squeeze through a problem area.

I ran into another problem with the way I was holding the cutter.  I copied the pictures in the instructions below, which worked okay (it was the 4 layer piece).

But when I moved to the 8 layer block I kept having trouble with the dial turning on its own, and blocking the cutting blade (see below).

Luckily my aunt saw what I was doing and said that she held it a different way and never had that problem.  So I changed my grip and had much better results.  TIP – Adjust your grip to hold the dial in place while you are cutting.  TIP – It also made my life much easier when my aunt suggested cutting through no more than 4 layers at a time.  So do one cut through the top 4 layers, then one more cut through the bottom 4 layers.  This made it smooth like butter!

 This all went pretty quickly, especially after I adjusted my grip on the cutter and limited the number of layers I was cutting through.  So I quickly got 4 blocks sewn together and pieced together a little blanket.  Put it through the washer and dryer one time and PRESTO!  Like magic I have a fun little blanket with lots of texture for my baby to enjoy.

Note the difference between the two blocks (above and below).  In the end, the green block with 8 layers and 1/2″ channels has a “depth” of about 1/4″and lots of texture.  It’s actually quite heavy because it has so many layers.

The pink block with 4 layers and 1/4″ channels has a “depth” of just under 1/8″ and feels very soft.

I also wanted to share a few online resources that Olfa has to help you with your projects.  They have instructional videos on their website, but I couldn’t get the Chenille Cutter video to load more than 30 seconds.  Luckily the company also posted it here on You Tube.  There is also a great selection of ready to print project ideas and instructions specifically for the Chenille Cutter.
Pros:
  • Small tool, but creates chenille fabric that makes a big impact
  • Much easier to use this tool than use scissors for the same purpose
  • Dial on this tool allows you to adjust channel widths (4 sizes) and gives you 24 sharp cutting edges
Cons:
  • Printed instructions missed some important info (best fabric to use, proper grip of the tool, etc.)
  • Once you use all 24 cutting edges you will need to replace the blade in this tool
  • A bit of an investment at about $30
I really enjoyed using the Olfa Chenille Cutter, and would encourage anyone to try it that is looking to add some texture to their fabric creations!

GIVEAWAY!
Our friends at Olfa have given us gift pack to give to two lucky readers. Leave a comment answering the following question to be entered:

Would you make your own chenille? What would you create with it?

One comment per person per article (this is the third of four, over a two-day span), please. Winners will be chosen on Saturday, July 9, 2011.


Disclosure


Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Singer Chainstitch Sewing Machine Review

As an avid paper crafter that also enjoys sewing and quilting, I was hoping to combine the two and start sewing on my cards and scrapbook pages.  But being the cautious person that I am, I didn’t want to risk ruining my sewing machine parts or settings with the paper crafting supplies.  I purchased this mini Singer sewing machine (the Singer Chainstitch Battery Operated Sewing Machine) a few months back to use solely on these paper projects.

Things started out well, with the instructions being easy to follow and the machine packed pre-threaded and ready to sew – it is marketed to young kids after all.  But unfortunately things went downhill from there.  I tested the machine on a single sheet of lightweight cardstock and more than half of the stitches “skipped”.

This was about the time I realized that a “chainstitch” (using just one spool of thread) is going to much different than a standard sewing machine with a bobbin and a spool.  Because not only does that chainstitch need to be continuous to be effective, you have to tie off the end or the whole thing will pull apart – just like crochet.
After this I tried two layers of cardstock to see if a bit of thickness would help.  Just looking at the top, I thought that it had helped, but scroll down to see the reverse where all of the stitches have been skipped.

Then I did three layers just for fun and the machine stopped half way across my test.

Starting to get discouraged, I went back to the test fabric that was included with the machine (blue) and also pulled out a piece of pink felt.  Surprisingly the machine worked perfect on both of these materials!

So at this point I’m guessing there is something about the texture of paper that the machine doesn’t like.  For my final test I used a piece of ribbon on top of some cardstock and got some improved results.

To sum it all up, the machine is perfect for a little one that wants to learn how to sew fabric.  The machine is easy to use and very safe (covered needle and all).  But this is absolutely not the machine for paper crafts or other serious sewing needs because of the nature of a chainstitch.  I’m not quite ready to give up yet, so I’ll keep testing on ribbon.  And if nothing else I’ll save it for my daughter in a few years.

Pros:

  • Easy to use right out of the box
  • Works well on fabric and a single layer of felt

Cons:

  • Does not work on non-fabric materials
  • Chainstitch can ravel
  • Cost of 2 size C batteries is almost as much as the machine
Any one have any advice for someone wanting to sew without using their main sewing machine?  Let me know if you have tested other “mini” machines.
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Southern California Quilter’s Run

Reported by Cassandra Darwin

I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I hopped in the car last month with some fellow quilters who were on a mission to get to 11 quilt stores in the Orange County/Los Angeles area.  I figured it would be like the quilt run I had done with them in San Diego last year (my first) where we went to 6 or 7 stores and then stopped when we were tired.  This journey crossed four different counties in Southern California, took us across several hundred miles, and lasted 15 hours.  All in one day!

The Southern California Quilter’s Run is an annual quilt run sponsored by the Southern California Association of Quilt Shop Owners.  It was very well organized – great info on the website and all of the stores were ready and happy to see participants.

As it turns out, we made it to 12 stores that day.  We completed the whole yellow section (mostly Orange County, CA) and made it to one store in the purple area (in Corona, CA).

I loved seeing the different selections at each store, especially the 1930’s reproduction fabrics.  Not sure if this is a new trend or has been around for a while but I love them!

I also got some great ideas for baby quilts.  The one below was my favorite, with a big sheep in white minky fabric.  The added bonus was that most of the stores had kits ready to buy for a lot of the quilts they had on display at the store.  Some were even on sale with up to 40% off.

Also got to see some new products in the quilting world.  This Texture Magic was brand new and gives a lot of dimension without much effort at all.  You just need to adhere and then steam with your iron.  See end result in green below.

If you’ve never been on a quilt run before you may be wondering why you would want to participate.  Aside from all of the fun you have going to the different stores, you get a pattern at each stop that is one block of a whole quilt.  For this quilt run, each of the four areas (see map above) make up a quilt with the combination of their stores’ blocks.  For this particular run we also got a charm at each store that looked like the completed quilt block.  You can see the pattern and charms below from a few of the stores.
And one of the stores had completed the quilt with all of the blocks from the yellow area (Orange County) stores.

Participating in the quilt run and getting the patterns and charms is free, but all of the fabric that you fall in love with is not.  These are the cuts that I came home with.  A lot of the stores had expanded sale sections especially for the run.
And my mom came home with an assortment of felted wool.
The stores are ready for all of their quilt run visitors with snacks and drinks to keep up your energy levels. And after you stop at each store you get a stamp to prove you were there and can enter to win a variety of prizes.  I know that each store had a gift basket, and if you went to an entire section or all of the stores you were entered for the grand prizes – these included quilting retreats, a Bernina sewing machine, and shopping sprees at participating stores.

I would recommend looking in your area to see when the stores have organized the next quilt run.  If you’re already planning to do some shopping then you may win some prizes and get some extra discounts.  Do you have any quilt run experiences to share?

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Book Review: Fabulous Felt by Sophie Bester

Reported by Cassandra Darwin

I received this book – Fabulous Felt by Sophie Bester – as a birthday gift and was excited to see what kind of project ideas I could work with for my growing collection of wool felt. I also used the book as a reference when writing up the comparison between wool and synthetic felt. You can see below that there is a nice introduction to felt and examples of when you should use the different types.

Also included in the introductory chapters are a few guidelines and techniques for cutting and adhering felt. As well as embellishing with glitter, pastels, and paints. Who knew you could use pastels on felt?

Another page that I really appreciated was the one that review 4 popular embroidery stitches, and included easy to follow illustrations. This is a skill set that I have been wanting to improve…

And then you get straight to the “30 exquisite ideas for sophisticated home decor and stunning accessories.” I flipped through all of the projects pretty quickly and nothing initially jumped out at me. I have to say that the book was published in 2006, and was originally released in France and the UK. So the latest US craft trends are not in any of these projects (cupcakes or cute forest animals for example).

The projects range from Moroccan tea glass cozies (a great pattern to copy!) all the way to butterfly lampshades and a cuckoo clock. Two of the projects that I liked best are pictured below.

I may not be making hairclips, but I can think of about 10 other things that I would love to adhere these felt strawberries to: aprons, tote bags, greeting cards, and maybe even a baby onesie. You can see that the patterns are pictured on the same page as the project and the instruction tell you how much you’ll need to enlarge it for your felt pieces.

The other project involved some snails, leaves, and mushrooms along the edge of a toy box. I fell in love with the coiled felt snail shell below.

Pros:

  • Gave me some great ideas to start using up that growing felt collection
  • Also included useful techniques and felt overview
  • Includes patterns and detailed instructions if you want to make the exact projects that are pictured

Cons:
  • Some of the projects are a bit dated
  • Most projects only include one or two pictures – I would have liked to see more pictures of each item, including at least one showing the entire completed project

Do you have this book? What did you think? Leave us a comment and let us know.

Disclosure

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!