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Tag Archives | Suzy Haghighi

Posi-Bendr Bow-Easy

The Posi-Bendr Bow-Easy is a simple yet handy invention for tying the perfect bow quickly and easily. Before I get into my review of the Bow-Easy, allow me the indulgence of a bit of reminiscing about the woman behind this tool. After all, the crafting industry is a personal one; paper and glue bond more than our cards together.

Valera Scott has been in the crafting industry for 40 years and has shaped the industry in amazing ways. She has so many wonderful stories to tell. In a brief e-mail interview she mused about the early days of crafting: “The first trade show we had shown the Bow-Easy at was the HIA (now CHA) show in Chicago in about 1982. They had a one day consumer show the Saturday prior to the Trade Show opening on Sunday. That HIA show was also the first show to introduce the use of using embossing powders with ink and rubber stamps. I remember it was extremely hard to get Ranger (then the predominant embossing powder house in the country) to even sell to us. They had no idea what this “Craft Industry” thing was and really were not interested in participating. As with many of our inventions, we were about a decade too early. Needless to say, we could not get the “craft stores” interested. It was just too different at that time.”

The invention of the Bow-Easy came about in 1980 when Valera was only 10 years old and crafting with her mother Betty Scott. As they sat making hundreds of very small bows for a charity project, the invention of the Bow-Easy dawned upon Betty.

Stamp by Toodles & Binks

How It Works
The Bow-Easy is a flat, plastic slotted tool about 4.5×4.5 inches square. It goes beyond dowel and fingers to not only be an extra hand for you as you loop ribbon into a bow, but also to help shape the bow into a perfect pretty little thing.


The original Bow-Easy, which retails for $6 US, can make seven sizes of bows: 3/4 inch, 1 inch, 1 1/4, 1 3/8, 1 3/4, 2 3/8, and 2 3/4 using widths of ribbon from super thin cord style to 3/4 inch wide ribbon.

I admit I had quite the time figuring the instructions out. I am a visual learner and the 2D illustrations and written instructions got me quite confused. I was ready to give up but then I saw Jerri Jimenez’s Video Tutorial, and Sharon Johnson’s wonderful Picture Tutorial. When you realize that each “leg” is a loop of your bow, and the middle slot is where the knot will be, it is a lot easier to understand. You are looping around the whole leg (both sets) then dividing the large loop into a bow by running a tail of ribbon through the center slot. As I make bows “rabbit ears” style, which starts with two loops, this concept was hard for me to grasp at first.

Pros:

  • Gorgeous Bows – even teeny tiny ones look perfect!
  • Double and triple loop bows
  • Inexpensive
  • Made of sturdy plastic that will last

Cons:

  • Legs not marked for size
  • Written instructions were difficult for me to follow

I do recommend practicing on some cheap ribbon that you do not mind ruining until you get the hang of it. Once I figured out how to use it, I fell in love with the Bow-Easy. I admit to being a previously bow-challenged kind of crafter. No longer do I need to tinker and pull and twist forever to make a bow look pretty. Yay! While the instructions say that you are limited to up to 3/4 width ribbon, I found that one set of legs allowed for 1 1/2 inch wide ribbon or even wider if you scrunch it temporarily. Posi-Bendr now makes a larger Bow-Easy that will make larger flat bows in 4, 5, 6 and 8 inch sizes.

The original Bow-Easy retails for $6; the larger Bow-Easy #2 retails for $10.

Vendor Spotlight: Sharpie

Reported by Suzy Haghighi

Since 1964 Sharpie Markers by Sanford Corp have been a staple in homes and offices around the world. Moms use them to label children’s clothing and backpacks, students scribble with them on countless CDs, even celebs use them to sign autographs. President Bush used Sharpies personalized with his signature exclusively in the White House.

Sharpies now come in 39 colors and seven varieties, ranging in tip size from Ultra Fine to Magnum. Rather than messing with the success of what goes into their flagship product, the Permanent Marker, Sharpie has designed a sleek, modern and ultra cool casing for their utilitarian fine tip marker. The Stainless Steel Sharpie has it’s name and logo engraved onto the body, has a great comfortable grip despite the larger size, and is so pretty you won’t want to hide it in the tool drawer. It retails for about $7 US as opposed to the $1.79 for the regular Sharpie. I took this pretty pen on a craft spin to see how I would like it.

Cards made with Magnolia Stamps using Sharpie Permanent and Water Based Markers

I discovered that my favorite ways to use the Permanent markers are for outlining or coloring on acetate. Sharpie Permanent Markers adhere to most surfaces and contains pigments and dyes that are almost impossible to remove (depending upon the surface written on). Glossy surfaces are notorious for not allowing ink to stick to it – it either beads or wipes away. Not with these babies.

The permanent nature of the pen and the wonderful way it bonds to surfaces makes it hard to shade and blend in coloring. Sharpie knows and capitalizes on this in their advertising: The strong, bold ink serves as muse for the company’s slogan Write Out Loud.

While I use Copic Alcohol Markers to color, I love using Sharpies on my cards when I want a really strong, bold ink for accenting. I used the Ultra Fine Tip to create faux stitching on one card, and the Stainless Steel Sharpie with its traditional fine tip to create polka dots on an acetate card, red pencils, and a painted wooden ladybug. The marker was also used over my Copics to color in the polka dots. The ink looks great on all of my projects; the ultra fine did not bleed into my paper or slip on the paint or pencils. It dried quickly on the acetate and the pencil coating; it did however pool a bit on the acetate (see pic below).

Please note a fine tip is rather wide for card making purposes. It could not be used for journaling or writing small letters, however, the Ultra Fine could. The solvent in Sharpie Permanent Markers does contain Propanol so they are not considered acid-free. While I would not use these for archival craft work such as scrapbooking, I have no problem using them on cards.

The Sharpie Water Based Extra Fine Paint Pens in White is also great for accenting over my Copic Marker work and is archival quality and acid-free. I used it here to highlight hair and the ladybug’s face. White is an almost impossible color to formulate without using pigment (as opposed to dye-based inks). These skip less than my white gel pens while remaining about 50% opaque (see picture above). The white is bright which makes them great for accent work or dotting snow on cards, but you do have to be careful of the valve-action tip. While the point is extra fine, the ink is rather watery and seeps out of the valve-action tip when pressed. To avoid problems I press and release the valve over copy paper then do my accenting.

I am not sure if Sharpie Oil Based Paint Pens are acid-free, but they do state that they are xylene-free. They are more opaque than the Water Based Paint Pens, write better, and can be used on any surface. The ink was not watery at all and the color seemed bolder to me.

Besides being useful, Sharpies are also economical and long lasting: someone did a rather scientific measurement to see how long a Sharpie lasts and estimated the total writing distance to be 1800 feet, which is quite impressive. That person is much more organized than I am — I can honestly say I have never run out of ink on my own before I lose them. They need to make a Sharpie with GPS.

Pros:

  • Economical
  • Long lasting
  • Strong, bold ink color
  • Writes on many surfaces
  • Multipurpose types for all craft needs
  • Great for use with acetate or other smooth surfaces

Cons:

  • Limited color variety
  • Bold, strong ink is not good for blending, line marks
  • The lids do not really match the inks so it is best to make a color chart
  • Tips tend to dry quickly
  • Permanent marker bleeds through thin and fibrous papers, fabrics and cloth
  • Paint Marker ink clogs a bit or leaks from valve, can also “spit” ink onto your work

Where to Buy:
Wal-Mart (Sharpie Permanent Marker in assorted colors for $14.88 US)
Office Supply Stores such as Office Depot (12 pack of Permanent Fine Point Black for $7.79)
Amazon.com (Stainless Steel Sharpie Permanent Marker for $5.99)
Wallack’s (Sharpie Paint Extra Fine Oil Based Marker in White for $3.47)

In conclusion I give the Sharpie Permanent Markers a 9/10 and Sharpie Paint Markers a 7/10 overall. As a card maker, Sharpies will not replace my beloved (and much more expensive) Copics, but they are fantastic for certain uses on my cards that make them an indispensable tool that belongs in everyone’s craft room. They are fantastic on acetate or plastic products – the color stays bright and bold, and does not budge once put on a surface. On paper they are bad for blending, but great for pops of permanent color. How do YOU use Sharpies in the craft room?

Follow up: There was a comment in one of our articles about the Sharpie Water Based pens no longer being available. I am happy to announce from our contact with Sharpie that they are continuing to be made, there was only a packaging change. So go get some today!!

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

Ranger Ink Liquid Pearls

Reported by Suzy Haghighi

I sometimes think that I make the world’s most expensive cards. I started this hobby to SAVE money – I hate to think about how much goes into each little work of art after I add all the layers and embellishments. Hallmark is pointing and laughing at me right now. I hear you laughing too! While I refuse to give up my costly embellishments, I do have at least one inexpensive weapon in my card making and scrapbooking arsenal: Liquid Pearls by Ranger Ink.

Liquid Pearls by Ranger Ink is a dimensional paint-like medium with a subtle pearlescence that is used to embellish, paint, or glue paper and fabric projects. Imagine pearlized 3D Puff Paint with a super fine applicator tip bottle allows that you to control flow to write, draw, or create even the tiniest of polka dots. The product comes .5 ounce size bottles, and is available in 13 colors.

Talk about cheap thrills: I can create SO many different kinds of embellishments and detail work for my cards, for about $2 a bottle. With the economy the way it is, we are all looking for ways to save, and this definitely fits the budget. The color I use most is White Opal, which is like an off-white pearl, or Platinum, which has just a touch more ivory in it. The names of the colors can be tricky – for example, Gold is really more of a yellow, and Silver is more a light gray. Most of the colors are light or pastel (Ruby Red and Emerald Green being the exceptions); I do wish they would come out with deeper, more metallic colors.

Project Ideas
Despite the limited color choices, Liquid Pearls is so versatile. Here are just a few of the things I have done with it:

Hellebore Flowers by Magnolia Stamps with White Opal Liquid Pearls

My most common use for Liquid Pearls is applying it in dots onto my cards in place of faux flatback pearls on my projects. To the left you can see that the applicator tip allows you to do dots of different sizes, even fine detail work (Stampin Up! stamp with Ruby Red Liquid Pearls).

I also love to embellish flowers with Liquid Pearls as you see in the photo above.

Images by Magnolia Stamps and Stampin’ Up!

You can create rosettes with Liquid Pearls too! Here I swirled Ruby Red Liquid Pearls into a blob of Pastel Rasberry with my paper piercer, then added “leaves” with markers and a bit of Mint Green.

The white flowers are another embellishment I created by shaping paper punched flowers and topping them with rosettes. Note the tiny dots of different sizes; the applicator tip allows you great flow control.

Inkadinkado Stamp with White Opal Liquid Pearls and Cinnamon Stickles


Apply and swirl Liquid Pearls with a toothpick to get a puffy froth or whip cream finish for coffee and cocoa. Swirl in a tiny drop of brown dye based ink or Cinnamon Stickles Glitter Glue (also made by Ranger).

Try “painting” paper flowers or die cuts with it, then sprinkling glitter. Liquid Pearls doubles as a glue that binds the glitter to the flower. You can create your own flourishes or write letters with it too. I die cut letters then paint them with Liquid Pearls for puffy letters. Add glitter, or even a dusting of cinnamon for a scented card.

Working with Liquid Pearls

Always make Liquid Pearls the last step in your projects because of the long drying time (at least 1-2 hours, more if you apply it thickly). I can’t tell you how many projects I have ruined due to impatience.

Liquid Pearls has a tendency to apply to paper in a pointy cone shape when you separate the product from the applicator tip. To prevent the pointy look of the Liquid Pearls when it flows from the nozzle, apply then gently flick the back of the paper until the Liquid Pearls is rounded. Try this on copy paper first as you need the right pressure. Make sure to hold the paper evenly as well; if it is tilted the Liquid Pearls will move in the direction of tilt.

Control the size of the dot/thickness of your line by squeezing the bottle: the more you squeeze the greater the flow. Always start on copy paper – sometimes a thick glob of the Liquid Pearls comes out at first. To avoid my bonehead move that I do ALL THE TIME, throw away that darn copy paper or cover it with another sheet of paper. I always end up ruining the back of my card by placing it on copy paper that has the slow to dry Liquid Pearls on it. @$*&(*% AHHH every time!

A final tip to remember is that the applicator tip can become clogged. This is easily fixed by inserting a pin down the tip carefully and wiggling it around (not too much as you can stretch/tear the tip easily). Usually I can just pull the dried Liquid Pearls straight out of the tip with my fingers – it has an elastic quality that holds together when you pull it out.

Pros:

  • Versatility: draw, dot, outline, color-in or write on paper and fabric
  • Inexpensive way to embellish your projects.
  • Sticks well to your project: no more faux pearls falling off!
  • Fine point applicator tip allows you to write, draw, or make even the tiniest of dots
  • Acid-free and non-toxic
  • Works on fabric (requires 24 hour drying time and 3 days before you can wash the fabric)
  • waterproof

Cons:

  • Limited color selection
  • Applicator tip can become clogged
  • Separates from the applicator tip in pointy cones
  • Long drying time
  • Even after it is dry, Liquid Pearls can be ruined by pressure – for example if you touch it with your nails the pressure mark can remain. I have also had thicker applications of Liquid Pearls “smoosh” during mailing.
  • Can freeze in very cold weather, or dry out if unused for a long time or left uncapped

Where to buy:
Sweet ‘n Sassy Stamps (online, $2 US; ships internationally)
Ellen Hutson (online, $2.25; ships internationally)
JoAnn Fabric and Craft Store (retails for $2.29)

In conclusion, I rate Liquid Pearls a 9 out of 10; it is a fun and versatile embellishment tool for the crafter, and is easy on your budget. I use it almost every day in my card-making to give my project an extra dimensional pop; that says a lot for the product as I am quite fickle and tend to move on to other shiny new crafting toys with great speed.

What has your experience been with Liquid Pearls? How do you use it on your projects? Our readers would love to hear YOUR tips and ideas!

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

Vendor Spolight: Ribbon Ring (Day 3, Post 1)

Reported by Suzy Haghighi

When it comes to ribbon, I have different forms of organization to suit bulk, spool and scrap ribbon. My spool ribbon, the easiest to organize, is organized on a rack side-by-side. No problem there, but I find the bulk of my ribbon stash is purchased in loose 3-5 yard increments that I wrap around old fashioned wooden clothespins, organized into large jars according to color. As I use up the ribbon on the clothespins, however, I am left with smaller lengths of ribbon that really have no where to go. *Shakes fist at those pesky stragglers* Too short to wrap, too long to toss, these stragglers cost me a ton of space and organizational chaos that just drives me nuts. When I was asked to give the Ribbon Ring a spin, I thought, why not?



The Ribbon Ring is a ribbon organizational system that consists of metal rings (the sizes begin at .75 and go up to 3 inches) and slotted plastic tags. The tags have a textured, matte side (the front) and a shiny, smooth side. Each tag can hold more than one ribbon, depending upon width: the slot on the Standard Tag is 1.125’ wide; the slot on the Jumbo Tag is 2” wide. The picture above shows the 30 Standard Tag Bundle and two and three inch metal rings, which are purchased separately.

The Ribbon Ring Starter Set is $8 U.S. and comes with one 2 inch metal ring & 30 Standard sized tags. This package held about 60 yards of ribbon for me (2 yards of ½ inch ribbon side by side on 1 tag). You can buy both the Jumbo and Standard tags in bulk (without the rings), as well as different sized rings to fit your needs. Ribbon Ring recommends the length of ribbon used in their system to be about one yard. The packages include black inventory dots to use as a reminder for the extra ribbon you cut and store.


How the Ribbon Ring System works:

  • Hold a tag with the hole for the ring on top, textured side as the front.
  • Insert an approximately 1 yard length of ribbon into the bottom slot of a tag from the back to front (1 in the picture above), fit it through the top slot from front to back (2), then into the middle slot from back to front (3), then back down the bottom slot from front to back (4). That sounds so confusing, doesn’t it? Thankfully, every package comes with a piece of ribbon fit into a tag so that you can see exactly how it’s done in person. Trust me; it’s very easy once you are looking at it. Weaving your ribbon through the slots ensures it stays in place on the tag.
  • Put your ribboned tag on the ring. You can also combine the smaller rings that hold the ribbon onto one larger ring so more than one bundle can stay in one place.

How you choose to organize your ribbon is up to you. I used the Ribbon Ring to organize ribbon for my “inspiration station” – the corner of my craft room where I collect seasonal, matching papers and embellishments for easy access. I find that I tend to work according to seasons, so having my ribbon organized this way has really streamlined my creative process. I also keep a neutral ring for the neutrals I tend to use the most: different types of ribbon in black, white, brown and gray.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive way to keep ribbon easily in view and at hand, so you are more likely to use it.
  • Compact, easy solution for storage that is attractive- who can resist strands of luscious ribbon dangling on the wall, beckoning, like craft Sirens, to be used?
  • Great way to tame the unruly ribbon monster – it keeps the ribbon tangle free
  • Room to grow – as your ribbon collection grows, you simply add more tags and rings.
  • Great for travel – take your ribbon stash to your next crop!
  • Did I mention how purty it looks hanging in your craft room??

Cons:

  • Initial organization takes time (what system doesn’t though?)
  • Left uncovered, your ribbon could get dusty (unless you USE IT *wink*)
  • The slot could potentially crimp/wrinkle delicate ribbon such as silk and velvet
  • Not for sizes a lot smaller or longer than 1 yard
  • The sticker dot system is ineffective for lazy, unorganized people like me who will forget to add a dot. I also can’t bear to cut ribbon unnecessarily – it’s a thing I have.

The Ribbon Ring system is available only online at the moment at Ribbon Ring, and at other online retailers such as Scrapbook.com (currently sold out). Shipping is inexpensive and available globally at the Ribbon Ring store; no U.S. sales tax is charged.

In conclusion, I would rate this product a 9 out of 10. I recommend the Ribbon Ring as part of a ribbon storage system because it is simple to use, inexpensive, effective and pretty. I must say all the bright happy lengths of ribbon look so attractive hanging on the rings, and I am now more likely to use those yard length pieces as I can actually see them and have them at hand to easily test against a card. Before I had to dig it out, unroll it, hold it up. This saves a lot of work. Because of length limitation, it is not the only ribbon storage solution you will ever need, but I have yet to find one that is.

How do you currently store your ribbon? Would the ribbon ring be useful to you? How would you organize your ribbon? By color, type, brand, collection, or season? Inquiring, disorganized minds want to know!

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

BasicGrey Wassail Greeting Card Kit

Reported by Suzy Haghighi
In a perfect world, you know the one, that alternate universe run by Martha Stewart where we all wear lace aprons (hand sewn) and create, cook, clean, raise kids and husbands in between work time, we would have all the time in the world to make Christmas cards for every relative, friend, and co-worker. In this universe, however, we often end up in a time crunch and stressed out as we try to do everything. Enter our crafty superhero to save the day: Captain Card Kit, or as he is known to us mere mortals, the BasicGrey Wassail Greeting Card Kit (named after the traditional mulled cider drink served at Christmas time). For around $15.00 you get almost everything you need to make 8 different holiday cards in about an hour.

My assembled cards. Tacky reindeer plant not included

Included in the kit are:

  • 2 Sheets of Wassail patterned paper die-cuts
  • 8 sheets of printed and scored cardstock (2 each in 5×7, 5×5, 4×5, 9×3.5)
  • 2 sheets of BasicGrey rub-ons
  • 1 sheet of printed self-adhesive chipboard
  • Step-by-step instructions with pictures
  • 8 envelopes sized to match the cards (4 different sizes)

Not included in the kit but needed to complete the cards as instructed:

  • your adhesive of choice
  • black permanent ink pen (I used a dark brown Tombow marker)
  • white opaque pen
  • dye based inks (I used Memento in Rich Cocoa and Rhubarb Stalk)

Merry & Bright Card

I am a huge fan of BasicGrey – I have almost every pattern of paper currently in production. This Christmas I have been leaning toward non-traditional, brighter colors of pink, aqua, red and white in my card making. The Wassail collection, with its muted, warm shades of berries and olives, and vintage/country patterns did not excite me. I wasn’t sure what to do with a lot of the patterns like the Spruce Toile and French Hens. Thanks to this kit I now love the Wassail collection. The kit taught me to see the patterns in a new way, and to combine those patterns, which I found kind of tired, dark and boring on their own, into modern, fresh and cheerful cards. That pattern mixing is a lesson I will take with me beyond the kit and to my own card designs.

Each of the eight cards is layered and uses the die cuts and chipboard shapes or letters; most of them use the rub-ons as well. The cardstock, which is the card base, is scored for you and has a lovely, fine pebbled texture with patterns on one side, while the inside is smooth and white. I am guessing the weight of the cardstock to be about 110 lbs – it is nice and sturdy. I really wish BasicGrey would sell this stuff separately, it’s amazing! The size of the patterns on the cardstock are equivalent to BasicGrey’s 12×12 patterned paper. I prefer the smaller scaled size of patterns available on the 6×6 paper pads for my card making, but that is a minor detail, as the larger patterns still look great on the cards.

Normally I add bling of some sort and ribbons to my cards, so I was very hesitant to even buy this kit. I was not prepared to like how they turned out as much as I did. I kept thinking to myself, Self, am I crafting, or am I assembling a puzzle? Then I thought, shut up Self, this is fun either way!

Noel Card

The number one reason I have never bought a card kit is that I like to design my own cards. With all the inking, stitching, lining, scrunching and tearing, you will feel very actively involved in the process, and that you have created something, not just assembled it. The style of cards created is very different from my normal style – these cards are a lot “scrappier”, i.e. geared towards a scrapbooking style, with no rubber stamping involved.

The instructions were easy to follow overall, but there was one persistent frustration: the black & white photos on the Instruction Sheet were dark and very hard to see. I had to refer to the color photos on the back of the packaging (so don’t throw that out!) but cards Two
(Deck the Halls card) and Five (Noel card) are concealed by company graphics and writing.

Noel Trees Card with Optional rub-on inside

One of my favorite cards from the kit is the Merry & Bright Card (see first photo). I loved the cheerful patterns and the dimension of the fun stars that I got to stitch and line with pen. It was fun to scrunch up the strip of paper and stick it under the star. But those tiny chipboard letters *shakes fist at them*, they were a huge pain! The adhesive would not stick and I ended up having to glue each teeny tiny letter to the paper.

I was lulled back to loving this kit by the dozen or so bonus sentiments, which come in a black, casual cursive font. You get 12+ different sentiments, some of which are holiday neutral to send to those who do not celebrate Christmas.

Pros:

  • You can make 8 layered cards with chipboard and layers in under an hour – perfect for those on a time crunch who still want to hand make cards.
  • Good instructions overall that are easy to follow for all skill levels.
  • 12 extra black rub-on sentiments to add where you wish (I put mine inside the card) and a few extra white rub-on snowflakes.
  • You get to play with a different style than yours, and learn new tricks just like a card class but on your own time.
  • Good value – to buy each product separately would cost a lot more than $15. This is a nice way to try out a range of BasicGrey products.

Cons:

  • The black & white photos on the Instruction Sheet are dark and very hard to see, so you are not always sure what piece you need to use on a card.
  • The patterns for the cards are from the 12×12 larger scale print, which is more for scrapbookers. I do not care for large prints when I make my cards.
  • Some people may not like step by step directions during their creative process – but this can be said of any kit in general: it can feel like assembling rather than creating.
  • It would be nice if BasicGrey told you the extra supplies you need to create the cards on the outside of the kit’s packaging as not everyone may own what’s needed.
  • Some odd sized cards i.e. the long thin card may require extra postage.
  • The perforation marks of the die cuts show – easily remedied by sanding the paper, but this is nitpicking as when you ink the edges the perforation marks disappear for the most part.
  • The adhesive on the chipboard stickers is very weak – I recommend using additional adhesive or your tiny letters and small pieces will fall off.

One final tip: Save the leftover chipboard cutout sheet and use it to trace shapes onto patterned paper – instant tree, star and holly leaf template!

Overall, I really enjoyed the BasicGrey Wassail Holiday Card Kit. It is a great value for the money, and perfect for people who want to give hand made cards but are pressed for time. I love the modern style combined with vintage patterns and colors. The quality of the paper and rub-ons is fantastic; my only hesitancy on the chipboard is that the adhesive doesn’t stick. I would rate this product an 8 out of 10.

BasicGrey kits are kind of hard to find in general – I am not sure if that is because retailers do not order many, or that they are just in high demand and sell out quickly. Local scrapbooking and retail stores that carry BasicGrey will often carry the card kits, or be willing to order them for you. The kit is no longer posted on the BasicGrey.com website, so it may be a limited edition kit. I found a few kits still available on eBay.

As of December 15th the only on-line retailer I could find that had the kit in stock was: Embellish-Online.com – on sale for $13.50 U.S. (they do ship internationally)

So what do you think of card kits in general – are they a great time saver and a way to learn new tricks, or are they “cheating”, and just assembling someone else’s work?

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

European Stamps & Card Making Trends

Reported by Suzy Haghighi Add Image

(Editor’s note: This is a LONG article, chock full of fabulous information… go grab yourself a cuppa, and sit a spell…)

While there may be as many different kinds of stamps and card making styles in Europe as there are in North America, I am going to generalize for the purposes of this article and discuss the stamps and styles of five European stamping companies I am addicted to: Magnolia Stamps from Sweden, Whiff of Joy from Switzerland, Stampavie from France, Toodles & Binks from the UK, and Elzybells Stamps in the UK. This article will discuss these European companies, as well as the European style of paper crafting that is often used with these kinds of stamps. I will also briefly talk about the rise in the popularity of European stamps and the European style of card making in North America as it relates to these companies.

Magnolia Stamps
Magnolia Stamps from Sweden are the oldest and most popular of the five companies. Designed by Pauline Bertilsson, their cute, homespun style has been highly influential, and served as a model to many fledgling European stamp manufacturers. They were my first foray into European stamps. I love to color, paper piece and add dimension to my cards, and had been looking for stamps that had a large surface area and the right designs for doing that.

Magnolia Stamps has two different lines within the company that revolve around different characters. The most popular line in the company is the Tilda and Edwin Collection, accompanied by Baby Alvin and Tingla. Often (but not always) with angel wings, they are little children with chubby cheeks that can be seen in different poses wearing clothing from different time periods, events, seasons and holidays. The style is a unique fusion between homespun folk and modern trendy.

They were not easy to find in North America until recently, but are now experiencing a sudden rise in popularity thanks to bloggers, popular paper crafting forums, and retailers.

North American distributor Magnolia-licious owner Diana Crick says, “Magnolia pays great attention to creating landscape stamps that co-ordinate beautifully with the images. When creating a card these accessory stamps take your card making to the next level.” For example, there is a side view stamp of Tilda and chair or step stamps you can buy to seat her and create scenes without having to do a lot of masking (crafters usually cut Tilda out to fit on these prop stamps). The larger designs of these stamps allow for lots of open, solid space. This makes for fun paper piecing. It is the rubber stamp equivalent of playing paper dolls.

Magnolia stamps are lilac colored rubber that come either unmounted or on EZMount (a foam that cushions the stamp and clings to your acrylic block without the use or adhesive). The average size of a Tilda stamp is 3.5 x 1.75 inches. The backgrounds can get quite large – an Oak Tree background stamp is 4.25 x 5.5 inches. Crafters often stamp the image then cut half the tree out to fit within a card, and mask a Tilda in front of the tree.

Whiff of Joy

Owner Katharina Frei loved card-making so much she left her job in the medical field to start her own stamp company, Whiff of Joy, with her husband in July 2008. Using established professional artists, American Elisabeth Bell, and Canadian Alison Acton as illustrators, the unmounted red rubber stamps are highly detailed and the largest of the group (for example, Willow with Lantern is 2 3/4 wide by 4.25 high).

The quality is amazing; of all the stamp companies, Whiff of Joy has the thickest and most deeply etched rubber. The stamps focus around four lines – Guardian Angels with wings Melinda and Matthew, Kids Charlotte and Charlie, and Willow & Oakley, who are a bit older. New characters Lizzie, a teenager and Herb, a snowman, were introduced November 8th for the holidays.

One of the company’s most popular stamps, Willow With Hot Chocolate, can be seen in the card below. Like Magnolia stamps, Whiff of Joy has accessory and background stamps such as books for the reading angel, a pillow heart for the angel holding a heart, and grounded flower backgrounds. Whiff of Joy stamps are the most detailed of the group and perfect for coloring and shading. Alison Acton’s Charlotte and Charlie are kids that are cartoon like, whereas Elisabeth Bell’s designs are whimsical, sweet and romantic.


Toodles & Binks

The newest company of the bunch, Toodles & Binks, opened in October of this year, and has released three stamps so far, all unmounted red rubber. Each character will eventually have a set of accessory and friend stamps that revolve around it. Owner Kay Bolton and her husband manufacture the unmounted red rubber stamps from their farm outside London.

Asked why the European stamp style has gained such popularity in North America recently, Kay replied “I think it might have something to do with the real homespun, folk art feel that emerged from Norway/Sweden over the last 18 months or so; it spread to the UK, and now also recently reached the North American crafters. There is definitely a resurgence in colouring stamped images here in Europe, and this new style has certainly fulfilled that need.”

Toodles & Binks is the “cute” line of parent company Stamp Galaxy, and was created after the owner rediscovered her love of coloring thanks to North American blogs and their recent focus on Copic Markers. Once again, the Internet had its part in the transatlantic exchange of ideas. Toodles & Binks illustrator Genevieve Godbout is a French Canadian who lives in London and works for Disney. You can definitely see a cartoon influence in her stamps. While Celeste the Fairy and Joel the Deer are all about fantasy, the newest stamp, Simone, is a stylish yet cute working woman.

Elzybells UK

Elizabeth is both illustrator and owner of the UK based company Elzybells. Like many other rubber stamp companies, Elzybells was created from her passion for her hobby. Her line is based upon “Girl” and “Boy”, and also various animals and flowers. The Girl reminds me of a female Charlie Brown and is once again, very cute.


Elzybells stamps do not have the fine detailing of some of the other stamps, which makes them easier to color and less intimidating than the more detailed stamps. The stamps have large, open spaces making them very easy to paper piece without a lot of intricate cutting. Elzybells stamps are available in both wood mounted and unmounted red rubber, and Elizabeth also sells a few clear stamp sets. A much smaller stamp version of Elzybells is distributed in North America by A Muse Artstamps.

Stampavie

Stampavie, formerly a scrapbooking retail company, was launched in May of 2008. The company is the only one of the five to sell their images primarily on photopolymer clear acrylic stamps. The French corporation has lines by two different artists so far with a third collection by Alaskan Leeré Aldrich coming soon.

Canadian Rachelle Anne Miller’s Lily and Milo line is taken right off the pages of her children’s book illustrations. Her sweet and happy children are very stylized and detailed with tiny dots, stars, and flourishes.

Illustrator Sarah Kay’s detailed scenes of girls with rag doll dresses and bonnets, or bell bottoms and halter tops hearken back to the art and style of Holly Hobbie. The retro images are tender, sweet and above all very cute.

Commonalities:

Size: As mentioned above, the main images of these European stamps tend to be larger (an average of 3.5 X 4 inches) than their North American counterparts, which leads to different designing methods. Did the size of the stamps influence card design methods or vice versa? While I can’t answer that, I can say that the European style of card making typically involves creating larger sized cards. Inge Groot, a Netherlands based designer for Whiff of Joy, Magnolia and Elzybells Stamps says “My cards are usually 6 x 6 inches, but a lot of ladies make cards 14 x 14 cm (5.5×5.5 inches)”.


Design: When asked about the difference in styles between North American card makers and their European counterparts. Whiff of Joy owner Katharina Frei says “The American/Canadian stamp style is often simpler, but just as beautiful. The advantage to the simpler style is that people produce a lot of cards in less time, but with a great effectiveness. Europeans tend to use a lot of patterned paper, whereas Americans/Canadians often create their own backgrounds. They also tend to use sentiments as their center of cards and embellish around them. With Europeans sentiments only play a minor role when making cards. Complexly coloured images with a lot of embellishments, often overloaded cards form the European style. But I notice an assimilation on both sides.”

A larger canvas allows for more layers and embellishments. These layers are created with the use of patterned papers and embossed cardstock. As for the embellishments used, Primas, buttons, threads, and beads are used for a busy and detailed collage like card.


Layers are not for patterned paper alone: these larger stamps are often cut using a paper tole process whereby an image is stamped two or more times, cut and layered to product a 3D effect. Cutting and masking against backgrounds to create scenes is very popular.

Subject Matter: These companies all have one thing in common: the cute factor. Stamp subject matter often consists of sweet, whimsical or romanticized images of women, children at play, and chubby cheeked angels. Happy and playful, they embody happy childhood memories.

Unmounted: With the exception of Elzybells, the five companies reviewed today all sell unmounted stamps (Elzybells sells both wood mounted, unmounted and photopolymer). All sell rubber stamps except Stampavie, which only sells photopolymer (clear) stamps.

Detailed Images: It is no coincidence that many European card makers love to color their images. These larger stamps are perfect for coloring. Copic markers are quickly becoming the coloring tool of choice alongside colored pencils and Peerless Watercolours.


Pros:
  • High quality overall
  • Large, detailed stamps are fun to color and paper piece
  • Cute and unique, many with a quirky personality
  • Unmounted stamps don’t take up a lot of room

Cons:

  • Shipping and customs clearance can take a long time (although North American retailers stock some of these companies now too)
  • It can be hard to find envelopes for the larger size cards made with these stamps
  • Cost: The average European card costs more to make than than an average North American card because of the embellishments; extra postage is often required for mailing
  • Some people do not like the cutesy card style and/or the time it takes to make a European style card. These type of cards are not easy to mass produce.

Conclusion:

The stamps from these 5 companies have a wonderfully sweet style that allow me to make the most of my coloring and paper tole skills. The subject matter makes me smile and brings back happy childhood memories. The quality of the stamps is very high overall, and the fact that they are unmounted allows room for storage in my small craft room. I highly recommend them. I also like that they are unique and different, and often come with accessory stamps to create scenes.

Where to buy:

Elzybells stamps are available in the larger size I discussed in this article from Elzybells UK. A smaller version, called Elzybells NA, is available through A Muse Artstamps, who distributes them exclusively for North America. Elzybells UK stamps average about £3.25 each for unmounted rubber ($5 US) or £6.50 each for wood mounted ($10 US).

Magnolia Stamps are available directly from the manufacturer in Sweden or in North America from Magnolia-licious. Unmounted EZMount cushioned rubber stamps average in price from $9 – $15 US for the larger background stamps.

Stampavie Stamps (Rachelle Anne Miller, Sarah Kay) are available in North America from the Sweet ‘n Sassy Stamp Shop and many other North American retailers. For a full listing of retailers around the world see the Stampavie site here. They average about $9 US each for unmounted photopolymer (clear) stamps.

Toodles & Binks Stamps are currently only available from Stamp Galaxy. They are £4.50 each (about $7 US) for unmounted red rubber.

Whiff of Joy Stamps are available from the manufacturer in Switzerland or in North America from All That Scraps. For a full listing of retailers around the world please see the Whiff of Joy website. They average about $10-11 US each for unmounted red rubber.

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments concerning European stamps and this article. I will be happy to answer your questions as well.

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Introducing Suzy

All this week we are going to be introducing you to our new reporters. We will run a short article and bio so you can learn a little bit more about them. So lets get started with Suzy Haghighi.

Suzy Haghighi : Staff Reporter

My name is Suzy Haghighi and I am a Californian living on the eastern edge of North American in Newfoundland, Canada. I fell fr a Canadian, and his work in radio brought us here. We live in a small suburb outside of St. John’s with our two American Hairless Terriers. A god friend introduced me to stamping about two years ago and I was instantly hooked. I finally have an excuse to color! I am primarily a cardmaker, but you can also find me scrapping a layout or altering something. My other interests include baking, cooking, reading (love mysteries), and photography.

Zip Dry Paper Glue by Beacon Adhesives

If you are like me, you are obsessed with finding the perfect adhesive. The one that is easy to use, quick to dry, bonds permanently and will work on everything. While I have yet to find the glue that will work with everything, Zip Dry Paper Glue by Beacon Adhesives comes close. Zip Dry is an archival quality glue, which means that it is acid and lignin free, and therefore safe for scrapbooking.

Zip Dry lives up to its name – the glue dries very fast, so you want to be sure to work with one small area at a time. The speed with which it dries depends upon how much you add to your paper. If you add a few thick 1/8″ dots to the corners of your paper, Zip Dry does give you a few seconds to move your paper around for proper placement and centering. This is the main reason I love this glue so much – without Zip Dry most of my cards would be crooked. Another reason I love this glue is that no matter how much Zip Dry I apply, my paper and cardstock never warp.

The glue comes with a screw cap and a “precise applicator tip” which is a long, thin nozzle that also has a cap. The applicator tip needs to be snipped with scissors before you use it – the lower on the tip you cut, the wider the hole will be, and the more glue will flow. I like to cut it at the very tip so that the hole is tiny. The applicator tip is ideal for gluing all but the smallest items to your paper. For gluing very tiny objects onto paper such as a bead, I dip the tip of my paper piercer straight into the glue and dab a dot of glue onto the cardstock, and then place the bead over the glue with tweezers.

Zip Dry is a clear glue that dries to a clear finish. The Beacon website says that you can remove glue mishaps when it is wet, but I prefer to allow it to dry first. If allowed to sit on the surface to dry, it can be rubbed off with an eraser without the glue being pushed into the paper, where it can alter the color.

Pros:

  • Adheres paper, canvas, metal findings, beads, glitter, wire, cardboard, card stock, and papier mâché
  • Fast Drying (depending on how much is applied) yet movable for centering of paper or proper placement of embellishments
  • Dries clear
  • No paper warping
  • Mistakes are easily cleaned up with an adhesive eraser
  • Acid and lignin free

Cons:

  • It will not bond ceramics, fabrics, foam, glass, leather, rubber, stone, vinyl or wood to paper
  • Cost: $5.99 for a two ounce (59 ml) bottle (a little does go a long way though)
  • The precise applicator tip can get clogged and the glue can evaporate if stored without the screw cap

Zip Dry Paper Glue retails for $5.99 US ($8-10 in Canada) and is available in craft stores including:

It was actually pretty tough to think of cons for this product. It has become a staple in my craft room and is used every day, on every card I make. A two ounce bottle lasts me approximately 3 months.

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