Tag Archives | Mary Chong

Inque Boutique Stamps

Reported by Mary Chong

I’ve seen the ads for Inque Boutique Stamps online on Splitcoast Stampers and other websites but I had never seen them in person, and quite honestly I thought they were just another hybrid stamp company. Now that I have them in my hands I realize that they are oh so different.

Inque Boutique carries the following stamp collections:

  • Sugar Shoppe Stamps
  • Savoir Faire Stamps
  • Stephanie Barnard Stamps (she is on their DT and writes their blog)
  • Morsels Stamps
  • Lil’ Stamps
  • Inque Boutique Clear Stamps

Why they are fabulous:

  • Price point is great. You can get single small multi pack stamps for under $2 Cdn. and larger sets of 10 stamps or so for around $13. Cdn. (That’s a steal!)
  • They are hybrid meaning that they are unmounted rubber that clings to acrylic blocks. I personally prefer rubber to acrylic/polymer stamps because I always find if you put too much pressure on an acrylic/polymer stamp, the image squishes and gets distorted. PLUS, we aren’t superhuman and we don’t have x-ray vision to see through wooden blocks. Hybrid stamps are the best of both worlds.
  • They have ingeniously taken the step to print the image of the stamp on the back side of the rubber. Now you can see which stamp is which and whether you have it upside down or not.
  • You get a storage case with the large sets. (one tip is that if you wanted to, you could cling your stamps directly to the case instead of using the mounting card)
  • With every stamp set you get what they call “the secret weapon” – a black stamping mat. This is a foam sheet for you to place your card stock on top of so that when you stamp with the rubber – you get a perfect impression – much like stamping on a mouse pad. The mat has some “give” versus the hard surface of a table. Plus, if you stock up on a lot of Inque Boutique stamp sets and you end up with a lot of these mats you can either put one in every crop bag (just in case) or I’m sure you can recycle them into a craft of some sort (wink).

One item they carry are these fab plastic cases called “Stamp Keepers”, that are 3 hole punched so that you can store your cling stamps inside binders….I plan on stocking up on these….but I digress as this is a review on the stamps themselves.

Here is a photo of a typical package.

Stamp set shown is called “Flurries” from the Savoir Faire Collection.

Here’s what you get in the package with a larger set:

  • plastic case for storage
  • black stamp mat
  • die cut rubber
  • image sheet of all the stamps in the set
  • mounting/storage card to cling your stamps to
  • preprinted label to adhere to the plastic case
  • additional cling (just in case you need to replace something)
  • bonus little heart stamp – is stuck to the inside every package as an example.

Here’s what you get in single sets:

  • die cut rubber
  • mounting/storage card
  • image sheet
  • black stamping mat
  • additional cling

photo of the rubber on the cling mounting card

If you visit their website ( you will see that they sell all kinds of items for stamping. While you are there, become a member – it’s free and with it you get access to an idea gallery, contests, tips, downloads, videos, newsletter, blog, store locations etc. The contests are great, specifically the weekly gallery contest – 1 winner every week gets $50 in free stamps and all you have to do to enter is upload to the gallery!

One thing that I should add is that Inque Boutique is trying to promote their products so as an added incentive, get your LSS to carry their stamps and you BOTH will get some freebies (download the consumer referral form from the downloads area)

They did have a designer referral program where if you use their stamps on a project and it gets pubbed you will also get freebies but sadly they have suspended this program for some revisions…but stay tuned.

Here is a layout I created with my Inque Boutique stamp set – “Flurries”

(Basic Grey PP, Bazzill CS, Versamark and Stampin’ Up Night of Navy ink pad and marker)


  • rubber is printed on the back so that you can see the image through the acrylic block
  • comes with a storage case and a preprinted label
  • price point is awesome for this quality
  • stamps are deeply carved and you get a pretty crisp impression when you use their snazzy stamping mat
  • additional cling just in case is a nice touch


  • pink rubber stained easily
  • once I started stamping with them I couldn’t get them to fit back on the mounting card – it’s like a puzzle trying to get them back where they were (or is this just me – LOL??)

I really like this stamp company, the styles are cute and with this price point and quality you can’t help but want more and more and more.

(Inque Boutique was previously known as Sugarloaf Stamps and was relaunched at CHA-Summer 2007. At this past CHA-Winter 2008, they announced the expansion from their stamps, inks and stamping accessories into paper. At time of writing this review I found out that Inque Boutique had been bought out by Darice….not sure what the implications of this are but I do hope that this brand stays as it is.)

Rating: 9 out of 10

Check the Inque Boutique website for full store listings but you can find Inque Boutique stamps at Scrapalicious and Scrapping Turtle in Canada or at Scrap Gal and Scrapbook Dreams in the US.

Do you have any of these stamps? Do we share the same opinions of inque boutique? We’d love to hear from you….leave a comment and share your opinion.

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

Online Sketch Sites

Reported by Mary Chong

This review is on two online sketch sources: Pencil Lines Sketch Blog and Becky Higgins Sketches of Creative Keepsakes Magazine.

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary the word Sketch is defined as:

  • a rough drawing representing the chief features of an object or scene and often made as a preliminary study

What I love about sketches?
I love the fact that half of the work is already done for you leaving your mind free to concentrate on the paper, colors, and embellishments. Sketches are perfect if you are in a hurry or if you’ve lost your mojo and you are trying to get it back.

Where does one get a sketch online?
There are lots of blog sites and websites to chose from on the internet and they are easily found by doing a simple Google search. Sketches can also be found as sketch challenges on scrapbooking forums or if you subscribe to a kit club, you often get sketches to inspire you within your kit.

Speaking of inspiration….sketches are just that. Now that’s not to say that you can’t just copy the sketch exactly. That’s what they are for after all. But another option is to mix it up a bit – rotate the sketch, mirror the sketch, use a 12×12 sketch on a 8.5×11 layout or vice versa – let your imagination go wild. Sketches are just a base to kick start your creativity.

Becky Higgins
Becky Higgins is part of Creating Keepsakes Scrapbooking Magazine. Her sketches are featured in the paper version magazine, the website and a multitude of books including her own authored books.

According to the Creating Keepsakes website “Becky Higgins’ sketches are the little black dress (LBD) of scrapbooking. Whether you dress them up with embellishments or stick to the basics, they work for all occasions.” So true, so true…

Becky Higgins has been around for quite a while. I know that when I first got into scrapping I turned to her website for sketches. That was back oh about 5 years ago before the rise of the BLOG. There were few sources for sketches online and this was the mother lode for me at the time. I must admit that after blogging got big and I discovered other sources for inspiration…I stopped visiting the website.

Now I must be truthful, when I came up with the idea to review sketch sites for Craft Critique I instantly thought of Becky Higgins BUT I should have done some fact checking first! (my bad) As I quickly discovered, the Creative Keepsakes online sketches haven’t been updated since 2006!! Not sure why this is but I can only suspect that its because they want you to buy one of the books that Becky Higgins has written instead.

I do like the sketches that are on the site especially because they are all multi-photo. I know that this is an old trend but hey – we take a lot of photos right? – why not put them all on one layout?? The sketches are all clearly defined and easy to download, well organized by number of photos per layout. But I do find them a little too simplistic – but that may be because they are outdated. If you are a beginner scrapper – these may be perfect for you because they aren’t overwhelming at all.

This is one of her sketches from March 2003.

Here is my interpretation of the sketch. (I only used the left side)

(Supplies are My Minds Eye Garden Party from the August Scrapbookers Clubhouse Kit)

I should add as well that Becky has her own website. On it she has a blog, a store, and a recipe site….no sketches however.


  • well organized, easy to navigate
  • multi-photo layouts
  • clear drawings with clearly defined areas for title and journaling
  • sketches appear with a short paragraph of introduction as well as a layout showing an interpretation of the sketch


  • sketches haven’t been updated since 2006
  • all sketches are multi-photo
  • most sketches are very basic and linear
  • only 1 interpretation of the sketch is shown
  • no where to provide feedback or chat with others about the sketch or to upload your interpretation

Rating: 5 out of 10

Pencil Lines Sketch Blog

Pencil Lines got its start in October 2006, and is a new discovery for me. They have a really neat concept and a well laid out website. There is a core International Design Team that interprets each weekly sketch and either a guest designer or one of the Design Teams designs the sketch. A new sketch gets posted every Sunday night. They have over 100 sketches at the moment available for download.

According to their website “Pencil Lines is a blog all about using sketches to expand your artistic horizons, get you outside your box, and lift you out of scrappers block and to help you get more layouts done. It is about thinking outside your normal processes to create something wonderful.”
There is definitely a lot of fabulous eye candy on this site. Each month the Design Team chooses the best layout from readers’ submissions for a prize plus they often have sponsored prizes from manufacturers. All submissions get loaded into the readers’ gallery (more eye candy!)

I really enjoyed my visit and use of this website – and I plan to return again and again.

Here’s the sketch that I chose to use – It’s Sketch # 52 by Emeline Ng.

Here’s my interpretation of the sketch.

(Supplies are Pink Paislee Vintage Moon PP, Kaiser Rub-ons, Stickers are Pink Paislee Fashion Script – all from Scrapbookers Clubhouse October Kit)


  • lots of finished interpretations of the same sketch
  • its a blog, so you can comment on a sketch or layout
  • contests/prizes
  • opportunity to submit your own layout into the reader’s gallery
  • new sketches appear weekly
  • sketches are available to download in pdf format
  • sketches are organized numerically – there are currently over 100 sketches available
  • international design team


  • No Canadians on the Design Team eh?
  • (sorry I could only think of 1 as I really liked this site)

Rating: 10 out of 10

All in all, I love sketches and I love using sketches from different sources – variety is the spice of life after all. Check out some sketch sites and find some inspiration.

What sketch sites do you use? Do you have a favorite source that you want to share with other Craft Critique readers? We’d love to hear from you….

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

Colored Pencils/Pencil Crayons

Reported by Mary Chong

Colored Pencils/Pencil Crayons…we all have them in our pencil cases. I think I got my first set when I was a child right after I graduated from kindergarten and wax crayons. But the question is – what do you look for and which brand is the best for you? In this review I compare 7 different brands from my stash.

Here’s the scoop on what I discovered in preparing this review.

  • I have a lot in my stash! I’m not sure how I’ve collected so many but I gotta stop!
  • Americans call them Colored Pencils – we Canadians call them Pencil Crayons. Both are the same.
  • For an easy to understand explanation (with video) of how colored pencils/pencil crayons are made visit this link at Laurentien
  • Each brand has a different softness/hardness to the lead. A good quality pencil will be soft enough not to scratch the paper/surface but hard enough not to break (I personally hate it when you sharpen a pencil and the lead is all shattered within the wood)
  • Each brand has a different shape to the wood and thus fits in your hand differently – think ergonomics
  • They really should be blendable and for this I mean truly blendable so that you can mix two colours together and get a “true” third colour. (Remember colour theory? Mixing two primary colours together gets you a secondary colour etc)
  • Price does not equal quality

Explanation of my tests:

  • All pencils were tested on Canson 120 lb Watercolor Paper
  • I tried to find all the same shades of blue and yellow for the tests but you can see variances in the shades
  • Gamsol (odorless mineral spirits) was applied with a fresh cotton swab between each test
  • Dove blender was cleaned between each test
  • Water colour test is plain water and a brush – fresh water and clean brush for each test

Explanation of the results/brands tested
Brands are charted/reviewed in alphabetical order and are all from my stash.
Number of dollar signs = price
Score = number of tests passed out of 6

  • Create Like Crazy (Target Brands Inc.) a USA based company – I wasn’t able to locate where these pencils are manufactured. I consider these to be generic, inexpensive brand – suitable for the kids. The lead was more on the hard side and did not shatter when sharpening. They really only did well at plain colouring and with Gamsol producing a true green when blended with a second colour. ($ – 2 out of 6)
  • Conté a Paris – Made in France. They are considered to be of fine artist grade, soft and smooth on paper, and did not shatter when sharpened. These are actually water colour pencils and they tested well with water (as expected), well with the dove blender but failed with the Gamsol. ($$$ – 4 out of 6)
  • Laurentien – Made in Canada. These are the old standard school brand here in Canada and therefore are fairly inexpensive. I would say that these are better in quality then the Create Like Crazy and Maped brands but I still would leave these for the kids. They passed the Gamsol tests but neither the dove blender or water. ($ – 2 out of 6)
  • Lyra – Made in Germany. They are considered to be of fine artist grade – soft, sharpen without breakage and have a nice ergonomic triangular shape. These are the brand that I normally go to when colouring AND they surprisingly failed the blending test. I’m not sure why I never noticed this before but they produced a mucky shade of “I don’t know” when blended. They did well when used with Gamsol, Blender and water alone though ($$$ – 3 out of 6)
  • Maped Color’Peps – Made in France. These failed all the tests – so give these to the kids – good, inexpensive generic brand. ($ – 0 out of 6)
  • Prismacolour – Made in Canada. They are considered to be of fine artist grade. These are soft and I find shatter when sharpening. They passed the Gamsol test but neither the Dove blender nor the water tests. ($$ – 2 out of 6)
  • Stampin’ Up! – Made in Germany for Stampin’ Up!. Purchased only through a Stampin’ Up independent demonstrator these are labeled as water colour pencils. They sharpen easily without breakage and are soft on paper. They passed all the tests with flying colours (get it – flying colours LOL) ($$$ – 6 out of 6)

I have to say I was quite surprised by the results because my pencil of choice has been the Lyra brand. Now that I’ve done these tests I am switching to the Stampin’ Up! brand just for the versatility and blending (I’ve had these for years and I’ve probably only used them twice.) I realize that you may not be using your pencil crayons to do all these things… but to me why not get your moneys worth and get multiple uses out of one product?

Here’s a pic of a project using my new “go to” brand.


  • To help prevent breakage If your pencils are stored in a tin – cushion the inside. I line my tin with paper towel and make rolled up little “bumpers” for the sides
  • Make a colour reference chart on a scrap piece of card stock and store it with the pencils. With this you can see what the actual colour is without guessing. It’s difficult to tell just by looking at the lead and the paint on the wood is not accurate – don’t forget to label the shades/numbers on your reference chart. (trust me on this – DOH!)
  • Get a good quality pencil sharpener.
  • I take my pencils on vacation with me. I get bored reading and so I pre-stamp a stack of designs using permanent ink, bring my tin of pencils (and sharpener), bottle of water and a brush and paint away. Works perfectly for a long plane ride – great and portable!

In general Colored Pencils/Pencil Crayons are a great, inexpensive, portable, colouring medium with multiple uses. As you can see by my stash, they are easy to find, easy to use and not too expensive to collect all the colours in the rainbow. They can be purchased anywhere but check out Dick Blick, Curry’s, Michaels.

Do you use pencil crayons in your scrapbooking and card making? What brands do you love/hate? I’d love to hear about your experiences!

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