Author Archive | Morgan Novak

Vendor Spotlight & Book Review: Handmade Weddings; Chronicle Books

Reported by Morgan Novak

Here’s another look at this great book!

When “Handmade Weddings 50 Crafts to Style and Personalize Your Big Day” arrived in the mail, I was expecting a really well put together, inspiring book because it’s from Chronicle. I was also expecting 50 cute crafts to style a wedding, because it was created by Eunice & Sabrina Moyle, of Hello! Lucky (an awesome stationary & letterpress company) and Shana Faust (former Deputy Style Editor at Martha Stewart Weddings) and because, y’know, it says so right there in the title! But this book completely surpassed my expectations!

Those of you who know me might be thinking, “Did I miss something? Did he put a ring on it?!” the answer is no, haha. Handmade Weddings might have wedding in the title, but the information and projects included are not only awesome for weddings, but crazy easy to translate into all types of parties and even everyday home decor as well! Plus, how could anyone resist this adorable video?

Let’s start at the very beginning! Handmade Weddings doesn’t throw you in the deep end, it starts you off easy, with really interesting sections on finding inspiration and narrowing down your style, unexpected places to source materials for your projects, how to decide what to DIY and what to buy, rent or borrow and a handy checklist of the things you will need to have for your special day.
I really love how the ladies emphasize how important it is that you only DIY what you can handle (keeping in mind time constraints, your budget and how much crafty help you have) and are sure to remind you that your wedding should be fun, not stressful, and not a crafting obligation! I also really appreciated how easily the section on finding inspiration and narrowing down your aesthetic applies to fashion, home decor, or even finding your crafting style.
So, into the (not so) deep end we go! Let’s get to the crafting! The projects are broken up into 6 sections, each of which is a specific wedding style complete with color scheme, inspiration and even suggested fonts, venues, textures and details! Not only do these 6 wedding styles; Retro Homespun, Girly Romantic, Happy Graphic, Organic Minimal, Modern Classic, and Found each include 8 to 10 projects, but at the end of each project they also suggest easy ways for you to adjust the project to fit a couple of the other styles as well. That’s a whole lot of crafting possibilities!
I decided to make a strand of the Cupcake Liner Pom-Poms first! The beginning of each project very clearly maps out the level of difficulty, the amount of time the project should take and when you should start working on it, the budget and even maps out what should be happening at each station if it’s suggested as a group project. It also lets you know if there are any free templates you will need from the book’s website.

Since I was only planning on making one strand I just did a little re-figuring of what supplies would be needed, nixed the group effort and ordered up my cupcake liners from one of their suggested sources. I found the directions clear and easy to understand and the diagrams were really helpful when I was trying to figure out exactly how a certain step was supposed to come together.

After a few hours of flattening and gluing cupcake liners, and with a little help from my boyfriend, I had a super cute garland of pom-poms for our dining room/corner. Although this project was more time consuming than I thought it would be (they did try to warn me) I could see making these again for a shower, party or other fun event for someone that I really, really like.
Next I decided to get really creative and combine two of the projects into a sort of hybrid home decor project. I loved the idea of the Punched Paper Flower Centerpiece…

… but decided to add more texture by swapping out the paper flowers for the the felt ones from the Felt Bud Boutonnieres project.

I am definitely not the sewing type, and I have the pile of unused fat quarters to prove it, but the directions easily guided me through creating cute felt flower buds to bloom from my branches. And, of course I had to go ahead and put a bird on it!

I also fell in love with the idea of these beautiful Terrarium Place Cards & Favors and was totally charmed by the chalkboard painted stick.

But, I have the complete opposite of a green thumb so I decided to cheat on this one a little and just make one of the terrariums at work into a talking terrarium. Wouldn’t it be fun to change the message from time to time based on your little plant’s mood?

There are a whole bunch more projects from Handmade Weddings that I can’t wait to incorporate into our decor or a random party like the cupcake stand, decal water bottle table numbers, crepe paper cracker favors, silhouette signs, and decoupage votives. And, as hard to believe as it may be, Handmade Weddings still has even more to offer after the all the projects! The Appendixes are chock full of more great information including; an expansive list of resources for materials, a glossary of tools, a wedding planning timeline and even the correct etiquette for assembling and addressing your invitations.

I honestly can not recommend Handmade Weddings highly enough. I am not one to hold on to a lot of crafting idea books, but this is one that I am sure I will be using a lot! There so much inspiration to be found in its pages and I’m really excited to keep crafting with it!

Vendor Spotlight & GIVEAWAY!: American Crafts Zing! Embossing Powder

Reported by Morgan Novak

While visiting a local small toy store for my allowance-fueled Hello Kitty & Keroppi fix when I was in 5th grade, my mother and I happened upon a demonstration of embossing powder in a part of the store we had never really noticed before: the rubber stamp wall. One of the store’s owners drew us right in with the heat tool and magical powder; my mother and I were both enthralled. We left with stamps, (leaves, if I remember correctly), and some Autumn-colored embossing powders.  We were totally hooked! We didn’t even have a heat gun at first, we would heat the paper over the toaster (I don’t recommend it, haha!).
So, I guess you could say that embossing powder and I have a long relationship. It’s one of those techniques that phases in and out of my crafting repertoire, so you can imagine how the Zing! Embossing Powder line from American Crafts definitely piqued my interest! American Crafts has released 34 Zing! Embossing Powders in Opaque, Glitter and Metallic finishes, in those American Crafts signature colors that we all love like Cricket, Chestnut, Grapefruit, Mustard and even Clear. Sometimes the shades of embossing powders out there can be a little lacking, so I was really excited to get my hands on these awesome American Crafts shades.

American Crafts was nice enough to send me a bunch of fun goodies like papers, embellishments & stamps to use while testing out Zing!, as well as a few of their Pigment Ink Pads. I know that I’m here to review Zing!, but I have to talk a little about their ink pads because I was really impressed. The ink pads are pigment ink, really rich and beautiful when stamped. The design of the ink pads themselves is very smart; American Crafts has designed their ink pad cases so that the case looks like it’s right side up, while the ink pad itself is actually being stored suspended from the top in the upside-down position! Storing the pad upside down keeps the ink at the top of the pad. Simple, silly and brilliant.

Anyway, enough back story, on to the embossing! The first thing that I wanted to test was how well the Zing! works with different types of images and fonts. For these tests I used the Black Zing! Embossing Powder and I found it to be in line with most of the embossing powders that are out there. On smaller, or more detailed images, I did have a little bit of trouble getting a clean image, but I kind of expected that since these are a regular grade embossing powder, rather than a super fine or detail powder. As you can see, the thinner and more detailed images like the lantern and “celebrate sunshine” sentiment are still totally recognizable and usable, it just took a little practice to get the right amount of inking, sprinkling and tapping figured out.

Next up, I wanted to test just how opaque the Opaque Zing! colors are, and the Zing! passed with flying colors. I stamped the lantern on dark colored solid cardstock, both textured and flat, with the Mustard Pigment Ink and then applied the Mustard Opaque Finish Zing!. I have to admit that I was doubting its ability to cover the dark paper at first, but as soon as the ink and Zing! heated through completely, I couldn’t believe how awesome the color looked! The Opaque powders are very rich and the embossed texture is beautifully even.

The next step in familiarizing myself with Zing! was to get a closer look at the different finishes of Zing! and how well they behaved. I started with the Clear Zing! with a clear watermark pad and then sprinkled over an image stamped with color ink. It did an awesome job with both types of inks. Using Clear Zing! with colored Pigment Ink is a really great way to emboss something in a color that isn’t necessarily available in an embossing powder. It will not cover on darker paper the way an opaque embossing powder would, but still works great on a lighter colored base!
The Metallic Zing! has an amazing brushed metallic finish and I was impressed with the sheen!
The Glitter Zing! is true to it’s name and is truly a simple glitter embossing powder. You will not get the same consistent coverage with this as you would with any of the other Zing! finishes, but it still has plenty of uses. Also, if a more consistent coverage is what you are aiming for, try stamping your image in an ink color that matches your glitter color to help bridge the gaps in the glitter.
Last up was the Opaque, which I’ve already gushed about a bunch, but I do want to share a few quick tips for easy embossing with powder.

1.) To cut down on the excess powder clinging to your paper and making speckles in your background try running a dryer sheet lightly over your paper first. It reduces the static cling just like with your clothes!

2.) I like to heat my embossed images from underneath while moving the heat tool slowly back and forth. It allows me to really keep an eye on the image so that I can see when it’s “cooked” and don’t risk singing my paper!

3.) Be sure to let your Zing! “cook” completely through. If you move your heat tool away too quickly you may end up with a spotty, splotchy kind of finish.

While I was testing out the different Zing! finishes I started wondering about how mixing the different colors and finishes would work, so I put on my imaginary mad scientist lab coat and got to concocting! I just mixed the Zing! powders in little dishes so that they would be ready when I started stamping. My first mixture was 2 Opaque colors, Aqua and Cricket. I think this speckled affect turned out pretty cool.

Aqua Opaque and Copper Metallic make a really cool patina finish when mixed, and the Copper easily maintained its metallic finish. This is my favorite result!

Mixing the Black Opaque with the Red Glitter did make a cool distressed sort of finish, but it did lose a lot of it’s glitter. I could totally envision using this combination on hockey game layouts next season. I think it maintained just enough glitter to still be hockey tough!

The next combination didn’t go so well. I combined Clear with Red Glitter, but the color of the glitter just sort of melted and bled into the clear. It’s not what I was expecting it to do, but I still see some possibilities here!

Last up was mixing the Red and Green Glitters together. Just like with a single glitter color, the finished product is spotty, but might be remedied with a colored ink underneath if you are looking for a more solid finish.
Last up, real world testing! I made a few cards using a couple different Zing! types and, of course, those American Crafts Goodies that I’ve been dying to dig into!

For my first card I used a whole bunch of “Campy Trails” Paper, Bits, Stamps and a Just Write Journaling Card.

I used a clear watermark ink pad and the Clear Zing! Embossing Powder on Kraft Paper to create a tag similar to the Bits tags with the sweet little dear to go along with my, “Just A Note To Say I Miss You Dearly” sentiment.

Then I used one of the Journaling Cards from the Campy Trails Just Write set to give the interior of my card a little love.

For my “Celebrate Sunshine” card I clearly had to use the “Hello Sunshine” collection! For this one I decided to try out a different technique. I stamped my flowers in Chestnut Pigment Ink and then embossed them with Clear Zing!, which effectively sealed in the pigment. This allowed me to use my alcohol based markers, namely Copics, with Pigment Ink colors without the color running! (If you use alcohol-based markers with straight Pigment Ink or colored embossing powders, the colors will run.) This method of sealing the pigment ink in is one that I’m sure I’ll be using quite a bit, a happy discovery!

For my last card I used the “Peachy Keen” collection and the Silver Metallic Zing! to combine a retro color palette, saying and image…

… with a little bit of a more modern twist inside the card! I definitely enjoyed the Zing! Embossing Powders and Pigment Inks and had a lot of fun creating with them. As with every product I had a couple little issues, but they were pretty minor. It’s all just a matter of knowing the right product for your project and learning the tricks, right? Zing! has a nice, easy learning curve. I was pleased with them, and will be adding them to my go-to crafting arsenal for sure!
  • When you combine pigment ink and the Clear Zing! you can emboss in any color.
  • Full and even coverage with all finishes, other than the Glitter, which I don’t think was intended to have a solid finish.
  • Plays well with others! Have fun creating your own mixes by combining colors.
  • Reasonable price ($4.99 for Opaque & Metallic and $5.99 for Glitter)
  • Lots of choices with a great combination of both trendy and classic colors.
  • Glitter Zing! does shed its glitter a little bit.
  • Zing! can be a little blotchy with more detailed images, but it’s not advertised as an ultra fine or detail powder.
Zing! has brought the magic of embossing back into my life in exciting, modern colors! I’m sure I’ll be embossing on cards, layouts and more. I would love to see a clear watermark pad from American Crafts and maybe some matte embossing powders.

edited to add:
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:

What are you adding texture to with Zing! ? What would you love to see American Crafts come out with next?

One comment per person, per American Crafts’ article, please. Drawing will take place on Saturday, August 13, 2011.

Vendor Spotlight: Martha Stewart Double Edge Punch

Reported by Morgan Novak
When I first saw the Double Edge Punches from Martha Stewart I wasn’t so sure about them. I’m a pretty big card maker and love edge punches for the ease with which they add fun shapes to an otherwise angular card, and since these double edged punches cut the strip completely off your paper, I didn’t think that I was really interested. But, leave it to Martha to win me over and get me totally hooked on a whole new range of punches!

Just like the Martha Stewart Edge Punches, the Double Edge Punch has arms that fold down when you are punching, but fold back up for easy storage when you are done. They also work exactly like the Edge Punches, with a guide that shows you where to place your partially punched paper for an easy continuous line.

I really love this particular pattern, “Bangle Chain Trim” and couldn’t wait to start playing around with it. I made my first double edged strip out of Bazzill Swiss Dot Cardstock and the punch worked really well through this regular weight cardstock with next to no wonky edges.

I decided to make a quick little “belly band” for a mini apple pie with some easy layering and a little stamped image that I colored in and then foam taped onto the band after I wrapped it around the box. Be sure to cut the band about half an inch longer than needed so that you can easily hide your adhesive under the overlap when you wrap it around your box, bag, treat or gift!

One of the first things that sprung to mind when I started brainstorming what could be done with the strips punched by the Double Edge Punch was making a good old fashioned paper chain like the ones we used to make in pre-k, but amped up a little bit. I chose some tone on tone patterns from my stash of heavier double-sided patterned papers and got to punching.
The punch did have some trouble punching through these heavier papers, and on a couple of occasions I found myself having to trim off some shredded edges. The handle also got stuck locked down a couple of times, but as I was punching I realized that this was probably happening when I didn’t sweep the excess paper and little bits out from under the punch every couple of punches. It also helps to blow the tiny paper bits out of the punch every now and again, kind of like blowing the dust out of an old Nintendo game cartridge.

I hung my crafty little paper chain in our dining room and I really like the look of the intricate punched pattern way more than just a solid strip of paper. This could be a great decoration idea for all sorts of parties and special occasions.

While I was punching all the strips for my paper chain I got the idea to cut the strip in half and then stagger and layer the halves to create my own pattern. I used strips of paper that were about an inch longer than I wanted the final pattern to be so that I had the freedom to stagger them to create the pattern, and then trim off the excess. I cut my strips in half after they were already punched so that I could see exactly where I was cutting them in half.

I cut a strip each from 3 different colors of tone on tone pattern and cut them in half for a total of 6 half strips. It was really easy to line this particular pattern up, and then adhere it to the page before I trimmed off the excess edges. I would suggest using a clear dot adhesive for the most even adhesive application on the back of these intricate strips.

I only used 6 half strips to make a little patterned area, but imagine how a whole background would look, or a patterned section on a card, or a half strip lining the edges of a cupcake stand!
Despite some hiccups with heavier weight papers, I can really see myself embracing this new line of Martha Stewart punches. I had a lot of fun creating with the “Bangle Chain Trim” Punch, There are lots of possibilities with this punch alone, never mind all the other designs in the Double Edge Punch line!
  • Sides of the punch fold up for easy storage.
  • Versatile Designs that can be used with many different styles of project.
  • Really minimal amount of paper waste left after you punch, only about 3/8″ with this particular punch.
  • Punch sometimes gets stuck closed when working with thicker papers, if not cleaned out often enough.
  • Some issues with shredding the edges of the punched design when working with thicker papers.

Are you already punching away with these new Double Edge Punches? What have you been making with them? And if you don’t already own them, what projects can you see yourself using them for in the future?
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