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Vendor Spotlight: Teresa Collins Stampmaker

Reported by Rachel Johnson


Custom stamps for my personal crafting needs have always been a wish list item for me, so I jumped at the chance to review the Teresa Collins Stampmaker. With the Stampmaker, you are able to make your own clear polymer stamps, stencils, and embossing templates using just about any image. It won First Runner-Up for the 2010 CHA Innovative Award!

The Stampmaker set sells for $169 and comes with the light unit, magnetic clamp, ten stamp pacs, two emboss and two stencil pacs, acrylic block for mounting your finished stamps and two sheets of Stampmaker Cling (for mounting stamp to acrylic block), wash brush, post exposure tray, CD with the imagepac artwork modifying program and many exclusive Teresa Collins designs, two sheets of negative film for inkjet printers, eight pre-printed samples of exclusive Teresa Collins designed artwork negatives, plus written and video instructions.

For my first session with the stampmaker, I created seven images to turn into stamps. Above is the set of negative images that I created in Photoshop. I love sending snail mail, so most of these first stamps are graphics that I can use over and over on my outgoing packages.

If you do not have Photoshop or a similar program, the Stampmaker comes with “Imagpac” imaging software for PC computers. Or, you can download free negative stamp images from the Teresa Collins blog.

I work on a Mac and am comfortable with Photoshop, so making the negative images was a breeze. You can scan, type, or design just about any black and white graphic and then invert the colors. I printed all seven of my stamps negatives onto one sheet of transparency film (provided with the Stampmaker) using my HP deskjet printer. You can see the resulting transparency below.


You want to be sure to print on the correct side of the transparency film (it is slightly sticky when touched with a damp finger) and the images must be printed very opaque black. If you are running low on ink and your negative images are streaky, they will not produce nice stamps.

Before proceeding, I watched the video instructions for stampmaking twice and then referred to the written instructions while creating my actual stamps. The procedure is a bit complicated, but by following the directions step-by-step I managed to avoid any mistakes (full disclosure: I made polymer stamps using a similar process once before in a print making class, so I was already somewhat familiar with the Teresa Collins Stampmaker procedure).


To create a stamp, you press a negative image on top of one of the “stamp pacs” in between the provided magnetic clamp, and then place the clamp into the light unit for three minutes. The clear areas of the image allow light to hit and harden the liquid polymer in the pac, creating the raised areas of the stamp. The strong magnetic clamp ensures that the liquid polymer is flattened into a perfectly flat surface for your stamp.


Once the stamp has been exposed, you must wash off any remaining liquid polymer. You trim the edges from the stamp pac and then rinse your stamp under warm water. You can use mild dish soap and the provided cleaning brush to clean out all of the details of your stamp. Once your stamp is totally clean, you re-expose it in the light unit and water tray to harden it once more.

Cleaning the stamps is my least favorite part of the stampmaking process. The polymer is a slight skin irritant, it has a strong odor, and it is messy. You must work diligently to clean out all of the stamp crevices, but not scrub too hard and damage your delicate stamp.


The cleaning step is totally worth the final product, though! All of my stamps turned out beautifully and created crisp clear stamped images. You can use the enclosed “Stampmaker Cling” tape to adhere your stamp to the provided acrylic block and start stamping immediately after cleaning and drying your stamp!


The return address stamp that you see above was more finely detailed and a bit more difficult to clean. I suggest using clear, adequately spaced text for your stamps. You can see that the bolded words “packaged with care by:” on the top line in my stamp are slightly harder to read. I would make that text more clear in a second attempt. Also, I had a very thin dashed line above and below my return address stamp design, but it was accidentally brushed off during my rigorous cleaning of the stamp.

Very fine design elements are harder to produce in the stamps, but they ARE possible. There are troubleshooting steps included in the Stampmaker instructions.


I have dreamed of creating the mailing label stamp seen above for years. I basically used to hand draw that same design on most of my out-going packages, which took way too much time. The stamp is a super-simple design, but I know it is one I will use over and over! (I mounted it on my own acrylic block.)

I love that the Teresa Collins Stampmaker has already made it possible for me to create things I have been thinking about for ages – all without having to place any complicated custom orders or deal with the price and shipping delay that would come with ordering these stamps from an office supply company.


I had a lot of fun making all of my stamps and then using them to pre-stamp multiple mailing envelopes. The stamps worked great on bubble envelopes and will make my mailing and shipping life much easier! There are so many more stamps I plan to make! And even though I do not think I will use them quite as often, I am looking forward to creating stencils and embossing templates with the Stampmaker next.


My ultimate opinion of the Teresa Collins Stampmaker? I love it. The stamps it produces are clear and crisp, and if you have a design already in mind, creating a stamp that you can immediately start using takes less than thirty minutes. The price may be restrictive for many, as will the fact that you only get ten stamp pacs and must then purchase additional pacs. But for serious stampers who have lots of ideas that they want to turn into stamps, it will be a valuable tool.

Pros:
  • Everything is included in the Teresa Collins Stampmaker set to immediately start making stamps.
  • Clear video and written instructions.
  • There is no limit to what you can turn into a stamp!

Cons:
  • Price of $169 is an investment.
  • When washing out your stamps the liquid polymer is messy and has an odor.
  • The stampmaking procedure may seem complicated to beginners.
GIVEAWAY
The great group over at Photocentric is giving away an 8 x 8 faux leather storage album to one lucky reader. This is a great way to store your new Teresa Collins Stampmaker stamps as well as all your clear and cling stamps or would be a great scrapbook. 

In order to be entered to win this prize, head on over to the Photocentric Facebook page to “like them” and let them know Craft Critique sent you and please add a comment in the section below this article answering any of the following questions


Have you tried the Teresa Collins Stampmaker kit? Have you always wanted to make your own stamps? Is this a product you would consider purchasing, why or why not?


One comment per person per article, please. Winner will be selected Sunday, June 26th. Good Luck!




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

Vendor Spotlight & Giveaway: Martha Stewart Circle Cutter

Reported by Rachel Johnson
I often need to cut circles for use in my crafts. Previous to owning the Martha Stewart Crafts Circle Cutter, I used my two circle paper punches. For more specific sizes I resorted to tracing cups or other circular objects and then cutting the circles by hand. Needless to say, I was excited to try a more efficient method.
The Circle Cutter consists of a rotating measurement circle and a double-sided blade with a large, comfortable handle. I decided to test out my new tool by making cupcake toppers by layering various sizes and colors of paper circles. I gathered my materials (including my Martha Stewart Crafts Glue and Martha Stewart Crafts Cupcake Stickers) and got to work practicing my circle cutting.
The Circle Cutter comes with three blades, so that you can switch them out when they get dull. It is easy to insert the small blades into the handle using the wide plastic covers that are attached to each blade. The two-sided blades are extremely sharp, so you must be careful (obviously, this may not be the best tool for children to use).

You need a large cutting surface to work on. I used a large cutting board, but a craft mat (like this one) would probably work best. Do not cut directly on your kitchen table or desk. The blade easily cuts through even thicker paper and will scratch any surface it comes into contact with.

To begin cutting, place your paper on your work surface. I found it was easiest to cut from large pieces of paper, but if your paper is small, secure it with some tape or other adhesive. Then, place the measurement circle on top of the paper. You must hold down the outer ring of the measurement circle securely. Insert your blade into the hole that corresponds with the size of circle you would like to cut. You can cut circles from 1 inch to 5-1/2 inches, in 1/16 inch increments. I got the best results when the outer ring of the measurement circle was covering a good amount of the paper and also some of the cutting board. The trick is to hold the outer circle very securely, but to not press too hard with the blade. It takes a bit of practice to start cutting circles with perfect edges.

After some practice, I began to get some lovely circles. I just kept cutting lots and lots of circles of varying sizes so that I would have plenty to mix and match to create my cupcake toppers. Some of my first circles didn’t turn out so well and had to be trashed. Sometimes the paper shifted or the blade got caught up and I couldn’t budge it, but with practice it got easier and easier. I found that thicker paper was actually easier to cut because it didn’t get caught up in the rotation of the tool as easily as thinner papers did.

Overall, the Circle Cutter was not quite as easy to use as I was hoping, but it allows for increased versatility when compared to my previous circle cutting methods and it was quite fast once I got the hang of it. I was able to cut more than enough circles for a dozen large cupcake toppers in a short amount of time.

To finish the cupcake toppers, I glued layers of circles together in interesting color combos and then added a decorative element to the center of each. I cut a corresponding circle from patterned paper for the back of each topper, and glued them to the back of each while simultaneously gluing a toothpick in between the layers.


The end results are cute decorations for the mini cupcakes I purchased for my mom’s birthday. Fun! The Circle Cutter saved me a ton of time on this quick project and I know I will use it often in the future.

Pros:
  • Allows you to cut a wide variety of circle sizes — from 1 inch to 5-1/2 inches, in 1/16 inch increments.
  • Includes three double-sided blades.
  • Works on even very thick paper.
Cons:
  • Sharp blades may not be safe for young users.
  • Takes some practice to produce circles with perfect edges.
  • You need a large cutting surface to work on.
The Martha Stewart Crafts Circle Cutter is available online for $17.99 from the EK Success Brands website.

GIVEAWAY
The kind folks at EK Success Brands will be giving one lucky winner their very own Martha Stewart Circle Cutter. To enter, just leave a comment on one of the Vendor Spotlight: Martha Stewart Circle Cutter. Answer any one of these questions in the Comments Section right below this article on our website.

Have you used the Martha Stewart Crafts Circle Cutter? What did you think? Have you used other circle cutting methods or tools? What are your favorites?

One comment per person, per article, please. You have until Sunday, November 21st 6pm CST to enter.

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

Three New York City Textile Craft Resources

Reported by Rachel Johnson
There are so many neighborhoods, shopping districts, and stores in New York City that it is hard to know where to even start when looking for craft supplies. I felt overwhelmed and lost when I first arrived, but have slowly discovered some fantastic craft supply resources. Today I will share three off my favorite places to go for textile craft (like sewing, knitting, crocheting, etc.) supplies: Purl Soho, Mood Fabrics, and M & J Trimming.
Purl is a beautiful, little store in Soho (obviously) that recently moved to a new location on Broome Street. The shop walls are lined with bins of gorgeous, natural fiber yarn and racks of cotton fabric. They also sell unique trims, thread, craft kits, needles, etc – just about everything you’d need to make unique and lovely craft projects. Last time I was there, I picked up delicate, Japanese pom pom fringe and a cute pack of Sukie stationery. The store is an absolute delight, and even though some of the prices seem high, I can always find a little something that I need to take home.

If you live in NY, you can take knitting, crocheting, and sewing classes at the store. Everyone else can shop Purl’s stylish selection of supplies online.

If you are a serious seamstress, you must visit Mood Fabric in the garment district. It is a giant three-story warehouse space stuffed full of every type of fabric imaginable. It is a bit daunting to visit if you plan to simply browse, but if you are looking for something specific, they are sure to have it. They also have rows and racks of ribbon, thread, and trim, all of which is mainly intended for use in fashion and interior decor. Last time I was at Mood I was too overwhelmed to choose any fabric, but I did manage to purchase some pretty radical neon ribbon.

Mood has been featured on the tv show, Project Runway, which has increased its popularity (and perhaps its prices). There are many other fabric stores in the garment district, but I have not visited any with the amazing selection found at Mood. Visiting the store is definitely a fun experience, but you can also shop much of their selection on their website.
M & J Trimming is a store I learned about years before moving to New York and longed to visit. As evident by the name, it is a store devoted entirely to trim – ribbon, fringe, sequins, tassels, cords, buttons, lace, etc. The store was opened in 1936 in the garment district and it has since grown to 5,000 square feet full of trimming. My favorite is the grosgrain ribbon!

I don’t do a lot of fashion sewing that requires fanciful trim, but I love using it within scrapbook pages and other paper crafts. I also like to use fabric ribbon when wrapping packages, so every time I am in the neighborhood, I pick up ribbon from M & J. Their selection is unrivaled (if you aren’t in the neighborhood, you can shop online).
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If you live in New York, or if you are visiting the city, I recommend putting these three textile craft stores on your crafty sight-seeing list.
What other NY craft stores do you love and recommend?
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