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Craft Supply Organizers: What to Look For

Reported by Jessica Ripley

Recently, fellow reporter Taylor Usry wrote a great article on organizing your craft supplies. It is that time isn’t it? With Spring right around the corner, it’s time to declare war on any clutter in our craft areas. Both to start the Spring Cleaning off right, and of course to make way for all the new stuff we choose to get our hot little hands on.

Luckily, the craft industry isn’t a fool when it comes to knowing we not only love our supplies, but also love ways to keep them neat and tidy. There are a multitude of organization items geared specifically toward pretty much anything we as crafters own. From stamps and ink, to ribbon and beads, to paper and punches, if you own it someone will sell you something to put it in. In fact there are so many options, it can sometimes make your head spin while trying to decide just exactly what will work best for you. And then before you know it you need an organizer for all your organizers!

So what should you look for when shopping for a supply organizer? Here is a list of five things to have in mind to keep you both centered and sane while you make a creative space fit just for your needs.

1. How much space do I have to devote to storage?
Look at your crafting area (or room if you are so lucky) and decide first where organizers and storage could go.

  • Look Up: Do you have shelves already or can you install some on the wall? Are they nice and deep or narrow?
  • Look Down: Are there places you could have a free-standing unit? Like under your work table or in a closet?
  • Look Around: Do you have ample counter space? Or just a tiny work area that is often cluttered with your latest project?

I have square shelves and a large L-shaped desk. I never use the entire desk surface as I tend to keep my projects consolidated, so I knew I could utilize my desktop space for storage too. This carousel by Making Memories was then something I knew would work well for me.

Craft Critique’s review of the desktop carousel will help convince you. It does take up a lot of surface area, however it was space I could spare, and it’s been wonderful for having items right at my fingertips.

2. What one thing do I tend to own the most of?
Do you have so many flowers you could rival the royal gardens? Do you desire every bit of ribbon you see? Or do you have so many ink pads the police come calling when they run out at the station for fingerprinting? Whatever your addiction, that is what deserves its own specialized organizer or location. There’s nothing worse that digging through other items just to find your favorites.

In my case, I tend to collect pens. I have all sorts. Therefore they have their own drawer where nothing else is allowed, and where I can spread them out liberally for the picking.

3. Will I use it if I can’t see it? (or forget I have it?)
Are you more likely to use something from your stash if it’s staring you in the face? Or do you have a mental inventory of what you have on hand and know exactly which pieces you would like to work with?

I need to see as many of my supplies as possible or I’ll neglect them. I am horrible at neatly putting something away, only to find it months later, and then not be as in love with it as I was before (I admit it, I like the newness of the trends). So, I knew I needed something that would display what I had or I’d never get to it (or just keep buying new). The solution to this for me was the Clip it Up by Simply Renee.

It’s been perfect for keeping me using what I have, and fit my need for counter top items. I also have see through drawers to remind me I do not need any more beads, ink pads, etc. You can read reviews of the Clip it Up on Craft Critique here and here, and also a recent review of the upper extension piece here.

4. Is it functional for what I create with?
Meaning, is it a good fit for what I like to keep on hand? Or am I just wanting it because it makes for a pretty view?

I have been tempted by many an organizer simply because it looked pretty on the wall when filled with certain products. You’ve seen the pictures too, where a perfectly organized wall unit or shelf is filled with embellishments all in the same color and they are placed just so. That’s not a realistic and working craft room, that’s a photo shoot. If you have the room to enjoy such a thing I say have at it, but if not, remember the difference when you shop.

And finally,

5. Can I re-purpose something I already own, or purchase something less expensive?
While there are a multitude of products to choose from for craft organization, this elite description does come with a price tag. There are many times when with a little thinking outside the box, you can create or find something not specifically meant for craft supplies, but that will do just dandy. So ask yourself:

  • Have I checked the hardware of thrift store for something similar?
  • Do they have something in the office supply store that would work?
  • If I just washed out this spaghetti sauce jar and peeled off the label would anyone besides me ever know it wasn’t meant for buttons?

For example, I used a clear over the door shoe holder just like this one for many of my supplies. It was less than $10.00, and is perfect for my punches and stamps.


I’ve also found many options at thrift stores. An old paper towel holder becomes a ribbon spool, or an outdated spice rack a place for bits and baubles. There is also a bonus of getting to re-purpose thrift store items. Raise your hand if you like to alter things too!

So, whether you are reorganizing what you already have, or purchasing new, keep the above five questions in mind when you go. It will keep your organization process as it should be, simple and stress free.

You can also find lots more ideas and reviews on organizational products right here on Craft Critique. Some examples:

Organizing Done Cheaply

Librarian’s Guide to Organizing Scrapbook Paper

ACDSee for Organizing Digital Supplies

An Organization Blog Carnival (and Part 2)

ScrapOnizer Toolbox

Ribbon Ring

Photo Storage Boxes

Scrapbook Organization: A Manifesto

Ikea for Craft Storage

And more! Use the handy Google search box in the sidebar to look for whatever you might desire. And if you can’t find it here, let us know you want us to review it!

What other things might you look for when deciding on which organizational items work best for you? Any tips or tricks to share with our readers? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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

Photo Printing Sites: Shutterfly, Winkflash, & Snapfish

Reported by Jessica Ripley


Chances are, if you have a digital camera, you have also invested in some kind of printer to print out the photos you collect on your memory card. If you nodded your head yes to both of those scenarios, then you most likely also feel the pinch of the cost to purchase photo paper and ink for those printers. And while printing at home is convenient, it can get quite pricey if you print out those photos very often.

Personally, I only print out photos that I scrapbook (which I don’t do as often as I’d like) so the cost does not particularly add up to print at home. However there are times when I need a special print or several of one copy and just would rather have them printed professionally. Luckily, there are a multitude of online options to choose from, but which one is the best? Are they all reliable? And most importantly, are they a good value rather than printing at home? I set out to see for myself and am more than happy to share the results with you.

For this article, I did a mini-test run of 3 popular photo printing sites; Shutterfly, Winkflash, and Snapfish. I ordered the same 5×7 print from each site on the same day (within minutes of each other) and awaited the results. Was there a clear front runner in who I’ll use in the future? Pretty much yes.

The Websites:

Preferred: Shutterfly

Of all three, Shutterfly has the most to offer in my opinion, not only providing the basics of uploading and ordering, but also a community for sharing projects as well as many how to videos and articles. I like Shutterfly’s website for more than just a place where I could order prints, I could actually just spend some creative time there.

My next choice would be Snapfish, due to their editing options once you have uploaded a photo to their site. Complete with fun frame options, it’s a personalization step that has just a little more to offer than the editor at Winkflash.

Snapfish Editor:


Winkflash Editor:

Shutterfly also has similar editing options to Snapfish.

I found each of the three websites fairly easy to navigate, and actually very similar in the way they work as well. Upload your photo(s) of choice, select printing options, pay and you’re done.

Shuttefly Uploader:
Snapfish Uploader:

Winkflash Uploader:


You must create an online account first to do so which is also an easy process.

Something to note, since I created my account with each of the sites I have of course received promotional emails as well with special offers for future orders. The total to date?

Shutterfly – 4 (1 welcome, 2 order related, 1 promotional)

Winkflash – 3 (1 welcome, 2 order related)

Snapfish – 22 (let’s just say the majority are promotional)

I was sometimes receiving 2 emails from Snapfish per day! I have since opted out of their promotional offers due to the sheer volume of them, which is a shame, because they do have some good offers from time to time.

All three websites also offer a majority of products such as photobooks, holiday cards, and calendars as well. For this particular review however I was only interested in an actual photo print.

The Ordering Process:

Preferred: Any are fine. This was quick, easy, and basically the same process for all three sites.

Once photos are uploaded you are able to select the size of print, quantity, shipping options, etc. before check out. All sites also had a low quality warning for the resolution of the photo I chose to upload.

From Winkflash:

As well as resolution suggestions in order to get the best quality print. I found that a nice feature, since sometimes I forget which photos I’ve already re-sized for posting on the web.

Snapfish’s warning was a little harder to see however, if you didn’t click on it to see what that triangle was for:


Cost:

For one 5×7 print with standard shipping:

Shutterfly – $2.85

Snapfish – $1.83.

Winkflash – $1.14

Shutterfly is not necessarily more expensive when it comes to prints, but definitely the most expensive when it comes to shipping. However, they are also the fastest.

Shipping:

Shutterfly – first to arrive. In my mailbox in 3 days. That was very satisfying to receive my order so quickly!

Winkflash – second to arrive. In my mailbox in 5 days.

Snapfish – last to arrive. Not in my mailbox until 11 days after I ordered. (And lots of trees went into all the junk mail that came stuffed inside too).

I’m hoping one of our readers may be able to chime in on timing related to an order they received from Snapfish, as mine seemed to take an abnormally long time to arrive when compared to the other 2 sites. However, when I contacted their customer service about my concern that it hadn’t arrived after 8 days, they were extremely helpful, and sent out a replacement print at no cost which arrived via FedEx in 2 days.


And it certainly wasn’t like pulling teeth either. They were more than willing to believe me and send a replacement.

Quality:

Preferred: Snapfish


All three of the photos were a bit pixilated due to the print size I requested vs. the image size I sent (even with their warnings). However no two were exactly alike, and I found myself drawn to the color in the Snapfish photo over the other two photos (Snapfish uses Kodak paper, the other 2 sites use Fuji).

Overall:

After trying out all three sites and thinking over my experiences I’m a bit surprised at which one I’ll go to next time. While Shutterfly’s super fast shipping was wonderful, for the cost I could probably wait an extra day or two for my prints to arrive from Winkflash or Snapfish. And then, since I was most pleased with Snapfish’s print quality, and I now know that their customer service is ready and willing to help if needed, I would most likely go with them.

The above of course is just one crafter’s trial, of course, and you may have had different experiences. With that in mind a brief summary of each:

Shutterfly Major Pro:

  • Superfast shipping

Shutterfly Major Con:

  • Most expensive

Winkflash Major Pro:

  • Fast shipping mixed with cheapest price

Winkflash Major Con:

  • Didn’t like the website as much and photo quality not quite as good

Snapfish Major Pro:

  • Helpful customer service mixed with high quality print (and fair price)

Snapfish Major Con:

  • Why did my first print take so long to come? Not sure I’d order if I needed something immediately.

Do you order prints online often? There are so many options out there, including having them sent directly to your local drugstore for immediate pickup. We would love to hear about your experiences. Your comments are a major part of helping our readers find the best of the best out there!

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

Fiskars Squeeze Punches

Reported by Jessica Ripley


Good old reliable paper punches. If you are a scrapbooker I’m absolutely certain you have at least 2 or 3 in your crafty arsenal (but if you are a scrapbooker like me, most probably more like 9 or 10). Before there was a die cutting machine for every taste and budget, we collected punches in every shape that appealed to us, from stars to lizards, and every size imaginable, from the tiny to the huge. Unfortunately for most though, we also suffered for our craft… those punches are hard on the hands! There is one brand out there however that in this crafter’s opinion rises far above the rest when it comes to just sheer comfort of use, and that is the Squeeze Punch from Fiskars.

The only paper punch to be awarded the Arthritis Foundation Ease Of Use Commendation, Fiskars Squeeze Punches come in over 50 designs. Besides being very easy on the hands due to the ergonomically designed handles that are easy to operate, another plus is that the punch is meant to be used face up so you can see exactly what you are punching out.


It’s nice to eliminate the guess work that some punches require when you have to place them on a table to punch out your shape (and then push with all your might with both hands, jump up and down, and grunt).

As mentioned above the punches come in many shapes. If I’m going to purchase a separate punch for my stash it has to be a shape that I can use again and again, and Fiskars understands the importance of that. Their designs for the Squeeze Punches include standards like circles, squares, flowers, and even corner rounders. They do also include a few holiday themed punches for Christmas and are currently featuring a special Fall edition. My absolute favorite design is their Seal of Approval scalloped edged circle used to make the tree leaves in the layout below:


Most shapes are also offered in different sizes, from small to extra large. The card below uses the Round and Round design in these two different sizes for example:


There are a few drawbacks of course, size for one. Because of that wonderful design that makes these punches so easy to use, they take up quite a bit more space than a smaller punch would in your drawers. A lot more in fact.


At an average MSRP of $14.00 (going up or down depending on the size), they are also about twice as expensive as their counterparts, and I rarely ever buy them unless they are on sale or I have a coupon.

As far as materials which can be punched, Fiskars recommends that the punches are used only with 65lb card stock or lower. This is definitely not a rule to test, as I have actually damaged one of my squeeze punches so that it no longer lines up properly to punch after trying it on thin chipboard. However, this isn’t something I hold against them at all, considering most other punches can’t handle thicker materials either.

Out of curiosity, I also tried out the Seal of Approval punch on a transparency, but it definitely won’t work. It barely cut out just a portion of the design:

Stick with paper for these punches as you would with most others, and save the thicker materials for your die cutting machine.

With that in mind, if you have a die cutting machine why even bother with paper punches? Honestly even though I do own one, I find myself constantly still reaching for a paper punch just to add a quick element or two to a project, to carry with me if I’m crafting away from home, or if I want to just cut out several of one shape super quickly. And while I may not be collecting as many punches as I would have before die cutting machines, when I do pick one up in the store, it will always be a Fiskars Squeeze Punch. The ease of use and the visibility in punching far outweighs any draw back on size or price for me.

In summary:

Pros:

  • Extremely easy on the hands when using, no grunting and jumping up and down when trying to punch!
  • Open faced design lets you see exactly what you are punching out. Great for when punching out certain details of patterned paper.
  • Comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, especially shapes which can be used again and again (like circles, squares, and corner rounders).

Cons:

  • More expensive that many other punches in stores.
  • Harder to store due to the large size, the handles take up a lot of room.
  • Punching through material which is too thick can damage the punch, stick to the 65lb or lower paper recommendation.

What’s your current paper punch collection like? Do you own any squeeze punches? We would love to hear what you love or dislike about them in the comments.

Disclosure

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