Tag Archives | Morgan Novak

Vendor Spotlight & Giveaway: Plaid Paint By Number

Reported by Morgan Novak

I can honestly say that I’ve never used a Paint By Number kit before, which is surprising with the amount of craft kits thrown my way growing up! When the opportunity came up to review one of these great Plaid Paint By Number Kits I jumped on it, and here’s why. I have a confession to make, I am not an artist! At least not in the painting and drawing sense of the word and, trust me, I’ve tried! I’m great at putting things together, but not so great with the brush. But, whenever I’ve been forced to try my hand at painting, or even just painted chipboard letters, I’ve always found it very relaxing, even though the end result was not so cute. So, Paint By Number seemed like the perfect project for me!

The more I thought about the Paint By Number kit heading my way, the more excited I got! So, by the time “Goldfinches” arrived at my doorstep I was ready and raring to go! Each set comes with the numbered canvas board (think canvas texture on a sturdy board) a sheet of close-ups of different sections of the board in case you can’t read a number, some helpful instructions, the pots of paints and a brush.

After ogling the contents of the box, getting a little freaked out about how small some of the numbered sections were, and dutifully reading the directions, I got myself all set up on the living room couch with some TV on DVD, some water and all my goodies. The only additional things you need are a little bowl of water to clean your brush, some scissors to cut apart the paint pots and an old dishtowel or rag to dry your brush on.

I decided to start at the top left corner with the largest area possible, the sky. I really liked how the paint goes on. These are super easy to use acrylic paints and they dry very quickly, so you really don’t have to worry much about smearing your work, but you do want to be careful that you are smoothing out your coat of paint before it starts to dry, or else you run the risk of turning out a little lumpy bumpy.

Unfortunately, when I was almost completely through hour 2 of painting, I realized that I had been painting the the wrong number with the wrong color for the bulk of the hour. Oops! I freaked out a little and then put my big girl pants on and attempted a cover up with the correct color. I was really pleasantly surprised with how well the correct paint color (dark aqua) covered up the incorrect paint color (dark grey.) phew!

After that little mishap, painting went really well for a whole bunch of hours. I did learn some little tricks like stirring my little paint pot with a flat toothpick every now and again, and also being sure to clean my brush often, even when using the same color, to avoid a chunky brush. I still remained a little freaked out by how I was going to paint the tiny bird feather areas with my brush, but decided that I would save those until the end and just cut some bristles off the brush to make it a little more manageable in those tiny areas. I do think that an extra brush or two, maybe in a couple of different sizes would have been helpful if included in the kit.

This thought definitely rang true partway through hour 6 when my one and only paint brush came apart! The brush top did fit back on so that I could continue painting, but it was a little annoying to keep pushing it further on every 20 minutes or so.

As someone with a previously confessed lack of painting ability, I decided to stick to the basic act of painting by number, but the enclosed directions do provide you with some great instructions if you want to delve deeper with some painting techniques like: sponging, stippling, streaking, wash, feathering and dry brushing. I still might get a little brave and layer on some of these techniques when my paint by number is totally covered.

I am very impressed with how great the painting can look even with just the basic painting techniques! It was really cool to see it coming along.

I am very impressed with how awesome the painting can look using just the basic paint by number technique! This is my painting after 20 hours of work. It was definitely way more time consuming than I initially thought that it would be, but very relaxing, so I didn’t really mind the time passing! I had a lot of fun painting while watching DVDs or hanging out with friends. It does take some concentration, but nothing too crazy.

It was really cool watching the painting come together hour by hour and color by color and I’m really looking forward to spending my time finishing it! I can’t imagine really little kids staying in these lines, but I do think that it could be a really fun summertime or school break project for a very, very patient and coordinated late middle-schooler or a high-schooler, definitely a big kid or kid at heart craft! I can definitely see myself diving into another one of these when this one is done, as a little crafty stress release from time to time. I really loved it!
  • Instructions teach great painting techniques in very plain, easy to understand terms.
  • Hours and hours of painting for a really awesome price. Definitely a lot of bang for your buck!
  • Relaxing, fun and can definitely be done while catching up on your DVR or having a conversation.
  • Paints are really easy to use and have really great coverage.
  • The brush broke after 6 hours of use.
  • A couple of brushes, possibly in a couple of sizes would have been really helpful
The folks over at Plaid are giving away kits to two lucky readers. To enter simply answer any of the questions below in the Comments section of this article on our website. One comment per person, please.

What do you think of these kits? Who would enjoy this craft more, you or the kids?

Winners are chosen at random. Contest closes Sunday, June 12th at 6pm CST. Good Luck!
Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Vendor Spotlight & GIVEAWAY: EK Success Perler Beads

Reported by Morgan Novak

I was really lucky to have a mother who always encouraged me to be crafty, whether it was latch hook rugs, 80’s style puffy paint or me cutting shapes out of the middle of her fabric for craft projects, she always kept me crafting. I definitely remember more than a few Perler Bead projects in my childhood. As much fun as I remember them being back then, Perler Beads have definitely grown over the years. Now there are famous cartoon characters, 3D objects like earring stands and photo frames, stand up playsets & those original craft kits I played with when I was a little crafter.

I don’t have any kids yet, but I definitely love to have a kid-at-heart crafting moment from time to time, so I jumped at the chance to review the Perler Beads and get to play with one of my favorite crafty items from the little Morgan days. I even roped my boyfriend into this review by enticing him with the “Emergency Vehicle Rescue Playset” (he’s a volunteer firefighter.)

Naturally, we had to start with the rescue vehicle set and stick solely to all things fire department-related, haha. I started off making a fire truck by laying the clear peg board over the Perler Bead “map” and placing the beads over the corresponding colors. The Perler Beads come unsorted, in big bags, which is probably great for kids to work on color recognition and sorting. Some adults, especially men (with big hands) helping their kids, may have trouble placing the Perler Beads, but we easily remedied this situation by arming my boyfriend with a pair of tweezers.

The vehicles in the rescue set are able to stand up when you are all done, you simply create little bases for them, which are also outlined on the Perler Bead “map.” Once you are all done with your shapes you want to very carefully place them on your ironing board (we learned the hard way that a little jostle can really send the Perler Beads flying!) Then you simply lay the included ironing paper over the peg board and iron over the shapes in a circular motion for about 20 seconds, then let it cool and flip it over (and off the peg board), put the ironing paper back on and iron the backside as well.

I was really impressed with how easy it was to get a nice, evenly-melted look while ironing. Just be sure to really iron the edges well. When everything is all cooled, I just stood the firetruck in its little bases and voila!

Next, while my boyfriend worked on “free handing” his own helmet front, I decided to morph the emergency cruiser into a Fire Chief’s vehicle. This is one of the shapes that you make with the truck shaped peg board. This definitely takes just a little more brain power since the board is not see through, and little ones may need some help now and again. But, I was able to easily change the cruiser into a Suburban pretty easily, and with a little tweaking from my boyfriend, a Chief’s vehicle it was!

One of the cutest parts of the “Emergency Vehicle Rescue Playset” is that the box folds out into a little emergency scene for your vehicles! I’m sure that this is an awesome way for kids to get a lot of playtime out of their Perler Beads, rather than just the time it takes to make them! We only made a couple of the vehicles and a Perler Bead version of my boyfriend’s helmet front (which will probably be used as a coaster or magnet) but you can make a ton of vehicles to play with from just this one kit; helicopters, police cars, tow trucks, ambulances and a bunch of other shapes like fire hydrants & road blocks.

Next I grabbed the “Jungle Safari Kit” and made myself a giraffe using the “map” included in the kit. While I was carefully placing my Perler Beads over the giraffe image I started thinking about what else I could make with Perler Beads just by placing the clear peg board over other images. So, when I was finished with my giraffe I decided to combine all of my leftover Perler Beads from both kits, which was a lot of beads, and go completely off book for my last project.

My mother had put these cute little fake mustaches in our Easter baskets and so I grabbed them and placed the peg board right on top to start making my own Perler Bead mustaches. Because of where the pegs lined up, I did have to get a little creative with shaping the mustache. But, once I had the perfect mustache shape figured out I made them in every hair color!

Once I had a big pile of finished mustaches I had to figure out what to do with them so I made a whole bunch of them into magnets for our refrigerator using adhesive backed magnets.

Then I used my very last little mustache to make a card! It was really easy to attach the Perler Bead shape to the card using an adhesive runner, and I could see using Perler Bead shapes as kitschy little embellishments for a few other projects too.

After we were all done with all the projects that you see above, we still had a ton of Perler Beads leftover and we will be hanging onto them for a rainy day. I was really pleased with just how much comes in these kits!
We had a lot of fun with Perler Beads, even if we are in our mid & late 20s! I definitely think that these make a great craft project for just about anyone, just as long as there is someone nearby who is responsible enough to wield an iron! I’m still thinking about all the fun images that I can turn into embellishments, Christmas ornaments, magnets, coasters or more using Perler Beads!
  • Great activity for little ones to refine their knowledge of colors and hone their sorting abilities.
  • There is so much product in each kit that you will be able to create a ton of projects.
  • Even with the shape “maps” there is still a ton of room for creativity and imagination.
  • They really are fun for all ages!
  • If all the boards were clear it might be a little easier for smaller kids.
  • You may want to stock up on a couple of extra boards so that you can fill a bunch of them before heating up the iron.
All in all, I’m really pleased that Perler Beads still hold up to my childhood memories, and I’m seriously considering making some gift tags and ornaments with them when the holidays come around.

The folks over at EK Success are giving away Perler Beads to one lucky reader. To enter simply answer any of the questions below in the Comments section of this article on our website. One comment per person, please.
If you had Perler Beads, what would you make? What else can you imagine your kids and yourselves doing with the finished shapes?

Winners are chosen at random. Contest closes Sunday, June 12th at 6pm CST. Good Luck!

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

Vendor Spotlight and GIVEAWAY: Lifestyle Crafts L Letterpress & Epic Six (3 of 3)

Reported by Morgan Novak
Who among us doesn’t love the lush debossed texture and high quality look of letterpressed goodies? I am a total addict, but letterpress can sometimes be a little bit of a hit to the ol’ wallet. So, when Lifestyle Crafts launched their very own home letterpress system a few CHAs a go I nearly died! I was lucky enough to win the Epic Six at CHA, but couldn’t wait to get my hot little hands on all the printing plate sets and beautiful inks as soon as they came out! I bought a whole bunch of goodies when they first arrived in stores, but then I moved, and sadly, all my letterpress stayed packed up… until it came time for this review! I’m so glad that I got that nice little push to unpack it and play!

Usually I’m not really a direction reader, scandalous I know, but I really didn’t want to mess this up. So, the first thing I did was read through the helpful little directions booklet that comes with the Starter Kit. It was really easy to understand and the pictures were very helpful. With my new knowledge I felt ready to lay all my supplies out on my craft table and get letterpressing! I decided to start my experimenting by using the Damask Printing Plate Set to make a mini notecard to attach to a hostess gift for my boyfriend’s grandmother who is hosting the big family brunch on Easter.
Both sides of the hinged Letterpress Platform have a grid printed on them so that it’s super easy to place your Letterpress Paper on one side, and your Printing Plates on the other so that when you close it you know exactly where the plates are going to ink & press into your paper. I also used the Paper Placement Guides, which are little sticky-backed foam rectangles, to help hold my paper into place.
The Printing Plates do not come with the adhesive necessary to attach them to the Platform, so you will have to use the enclosed Printing Plate Adhesive Sheets to make each plate sticky each time you use it. The directions in the booklet show you how to do this by peeling one side of the double-sided adhesive sheet off, placing your desired plates down, and then trimming the adhesive around them as close as possible to the Printing Plate. I found this to be a little bit of a challenge, but later in the article I’ll show you an easier way I found to do this.
Even with the measurements to help me line everything up correctly, I still closed the Platform for a second, before inking it, to double check that I had everything lined up correctly.

With my Printing Plates and Letterpress Paper lined up and ready to go, it was time to ink my plates. Everyone stresses that just a little bit of this dense, sticky ink goes a very long way, so I put just a small dollop onto the Ink Base and carefully spread it out with my brayer, inking the brayer up as I went along. Then I carefully rolled a nice thin, even coat of ink onto my printing plates, being sure to avoid hitting unwanted areas like the Platform itself, or the outside edges of the images.

Then, I carefully closed the hinged Platform and rolled it through the Epic Six. I found that because of the thickness of the plates that although it wasn’t too hard to roll through, it was still a littler easier to do while standing. I was impressed by the quality of the debossing and inking, but I had some inconsistency in the coating of the ink and a little bit of an extra ink “halo” around my sentiment.

I made a bunch more cards until I felt comfortable with what the correct amount of ink was, which was a little frustrating, but well worth the end result when I got it all figured out! I finally settled on a Teal Blue version of my little notecard and I think that it will look adorable nestled in with this little dish towel and ceramic berry container when we show up to Nanny’s house on Easter!

For my next project I wanted to try some texture only letterpress on a card so I decided to go with a Navy Blue inked sentiment and a straight, letterpress only pattern from the Tile Printing Plate Set. This time while attaching my adhesive to the printing plate sheet I cheated a little and just cut a rectangle slightly smaller than the Printing Plate and attached it to the back of the Plate. This was way more stress-free and worked just as well!

Next I laid out my plates and paper on the platform and very carefully inked only the sentiment and brackets.

Watch for ink in places you do not want it! The Cleaning Cloths from Lifestyle are great, and I was really impressed with how well they worked and how much they could do! Be sure to use them to carefully remove any excess ink before you close the Letterpress Platform and roll it through the machine.

As soon as I opened the platform I literally squealed! How amazing does the Tile pattern look straight debossed, without ink?! I couldn’t get over how rich and professional it looked in such a crazy short amount of time.

I love how simple, but chic, this card turned out, and can see cranking them out in large batches and packaging them up with ribbon so that I can easily grab them whenever I need a quick little gift.

Last, but definitely not least, I wanted to test one of the best things about using the Epic Six for letterpressing, the fact that you have it to use for your die cutting too! I grabbed the large pattern from the Jubilee Printing Plate Set, which is actually a Christmas set but has lots of great plates that can be used for non-holiday, and letterpressed it in 4 different colors, 3 6″x 6″ flat cards each of Gray, Yellow, Hot Pink & Teal Green.

I got a little nervous when I saw how the Yellow ink looked more like neon yellow when I inked up the plates, but was very impressed with the beautiful color it turned out to be on paper. I can’t stress enough how rich and beautiful the Letterpress Ink is.

I loved how easy it was to just set up the Paper Placement Guides once and keep loading and re-loading the paper for each pressing without having to line it up each time. These little guys held up perfectly through about 15 rounds of letterpressing and were showing no sign of giving up!

Next I changed my Letterpress Platform out for a Die Cutting Platform and made solid pennants using the Nesting Pennants Dies while my 6×6″ letterpressed pieces were drying. It was so nice to be able to switch gears from letterpress to die cutting so quickly!
Once my letterpressed pieces were dry (and you definitely want to make sure that they aren’t wet or even tacky), I used the Pennant front die from the set to cut the letterpressed papers into pennant fronts. I was really, really impressed with how nicely, and easily, the dies cut through the thicker letterpress paper.

Once I had all my pieces together I attached the pennants to a piece of ribbon using the handy tabs cut & scored by the pennant base die and my trusty tiny attacher. Then I added some little layered detail stickers to make a fun banner to add some color to our kitchen for the Spring and Summer!

I can’t get over how beautifully the colors and large pattern turned out! It fits perfectly in our little (and somewhat messy) kitchen, and has been making me smile every time I pass by.

  • Being able to Letterpress at home will be a great money saver.
  • The Letterpress Cleaning Cloths are amazing, and easily cleaned both the Ink Base & Brayer with just one wipe.
  • Awesome variety of Printing Plates to cover a lot of occasions, and non-occasions, with more being released.
  • Gives you custom letterpress with ease, something that would cost you big bucks any other way!
  • I did have some trouble with the smaller pieces, but I think that they will just take a little more practice.
  • It would have been nice if the Printing Plates came cling mounted or already had the adhesive backing somehow.

I had a ton of fun with the Epic Six, both die cutting and playing with the Letterpress system. I’m definitely leaving it out on my craft desk to play with it even more and can’t wait to see what else I can do with it!

Special Deal for our readers:
Use the promo code: CRAFTCRITIQUE – for 20% off through the end of April!

Our friends at Lifestyle Crafts have generously offered an Epic Combo Kit as a giveaway to one of our readers! Answer this question in the comments below to be entered:

So, what do you think of the Lifestyle Crafts Letterpress? Is this something you would buy? What would you make with it? We would love to hear from YOU!

One comment per person, per Vendor Spotlight: Lifestyle Crafts article (this is the third of three). Winner will be chosen on Saturday, April 23, 2011.

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