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Vendor Spotlight & GIVEAWAY – American Girl Craft Kits

Reported by Christian Tamez


Like any crafter who likes American Girl dolls, I was pretty excited to find some American Girl Crafting items at Michaels, and even more excited to get to try some of the crafting kits available. The American Girl Card Making Kit was one that I received, and it wasn’t long before my kitchen was filled with stickers, glue squares and very cool American Girl cards.


The card-making kit is advertised as being able to make 21 cards, but I found that if you really wanted to do a good job decorating the cards, you’ll really be able to make closer to ten. There’s fourteen doll punch-outs you can use; the first one I chose was Addy. I used some of the included glue squares and placed them right over the purple marks on the back of the punch outs to securely adhere them to the card. Following the purple marks, I placed my adhesive squares and placed the Addy punch out right over the area as directed on the card. Then I proceeded to decorate the front with some of the stickers included.


As I moved on to the second and third cards I wanted to make, I realized it would be a good effect to layer some of the flat stickers with the included bubble stickers for texture. Most of the bubble stickers were round and fit nicely into the center of some flower stickers for Kit’s card, and then I used the same idea with the stars stickers when I created Molly’s card.


Each character is divided into a theme, with different coordinating collections of stickers, even though they all can be used interchangeably with any of the characters or cards. One of the nice things about this kit is the included message sticker you can use on the inside of a card to create a personalized message for the recipient.


For Molly’s card I used one of the included punch out messages which included things like: Thank You, Happy Birthday, Good Luck, Thinking of You, Get Well Soon, and a few other little sayings along those lines.

Putting these cards together was simple enough to not even need to read the directions, and the cards are fairly small, so they can be completed quickly without become boring to an easily distracted child. If you want to add a personal touch, put in a picture of one of your own beloved dolls in place of a punch out! Plus it’s all stickers, how can you go wrong?


Pros:

  • Nothing extra needed to complete this kit, other than a pen or pencil to write something in the card. No glue, or messy adhesives, markers any of those dangerously messy kids crafty things.
  • High quality stickers and materials included, the cardstock is firm, and the flat stickers have a nice matte finish. The bubble stickers add a cool dimension when layered on
  • Envelopes are included so you can send these out, if you just happen to be using these on a trip with your kids, or you could make them in advance and send them out, either way the envelopes are handy.

Cons:

  • The cards are made to be used for specific characters and even have a little saying on the back of them about this intended character. I’m not a fan of Rebecca Rubin(she replaced my beloved Samantha) and I didn’t use any of the cards SHE was on the back of.
  • Some of the stickers were really stuck to the page they were supposed to easily peel off of, this resulted in a few torn stickers. If I had problems with them a child definitely would.
  • I would have liked more stickers or fewer cards, because you can’t decorate all twenty one and have them all decorated enough with the included amount of stickers. More bubble stickers please!

I was lucky enough to get another little craft kit a try, and did a video demo to show you just how fun these kits can be! I hope you enjoy it!

GIVEAWAY
The folks over at EK Success are giving away a kit 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.

Have you ever tried any of the American Girl Crafts items? Do own an American Girl doll? Are you excited to give one of these kits a try? Be sure to write a comment and let us know!

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

Disclosure

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

Crafty Business Week – Promoting Your Business: Materials

Reported by Simone Collins

Once your crafty business is up and running, there are things you can do to promote it so that you drive more traffic to your store, designs, or blog. Besides using social media to spread the word, you can also design or purchase products that will also help.


Here is a list of products you can purchase that will help you promote your business to get you started:

1. Business Cards
This is probably the most important thing to have for any business. It is literally your calling card. If you want to give people a way to remember you and your business, this card is the first step. You can design your own card, even make your own if you want, or use a printing service.
This online printing service not only has some very low-cost options but also offers uniquely shaped glossy business cards. You can also design your cards right on their website very easily, so no additional software necessary. They also offer additional products like labels, postcards, and vinyl banners, so all of your  materials will match. I quickly made up some mock cards that are not amazing but also only took me three minutes.
There is one price that I am personally a huge fan of and that price is free. With VistaPrints, you can order business cards for free, you only pay the shipping. This free option has limited designs and will have a VistaPrint logo on the back, but if you are just starting out, you can’t beat this price. There is an online tool for designing the card yourself, or you can choose from their designs.

2. Wearables
Why not be a walking billboard for your business? It’s a simple way to spread the word without even opening your mouth.

 With Cafe Press, you can upload your business logo or a design to promote yourself, then order away. If you are an artist, you can also submit your artwork for T-shirts and products, as well as another product options. Then, put that shirt on! This is especially helpful when attending a craft event like a fair, crop, or even a class. That is where your target audience will be, so why not attend for fun and promote yourself without even trying.
Create your own fabrics with this easy-to-use online service. Whether you want to design fabrics to be used for your projects, or upload your logo to create fabric for your table at a craft fair, this website is both easy and practical.  Imagine creating a cute bunting for your booth at Renegade, or making aprons that feature your own design; really, the possibilities are endless. And the next time you hit the market, be sure to take that reusable tote with your business name all over it. It’s crafty and promotional. Just look at this cute Craft Critique fabric!
3. Packaging
It’s no secret that buyers are drawn to your designs and creations but are wowed by the packaging. I clearly remember the first thing I ever bought from Etsy because it was packaged in the cutest little box with coordinating twine, and a tiny handmade thank-you note. The seller had won me over with those extra little steps.

Stickers
An easy way to add a personalized touch to your packaging is simply with a thank you sticker. At MOO you can get your logo and a thank-you message on 90 stickers for less than $10. If you are a card maker like me, you can just add one to the back of your cellophane sleeve. A jewelry creator can use one as a seal on a gift box. Want to add just a little more? Then why not add some twine and a mini card. MOO is great because they also have some great crafting ideas with their products. If you are on a tight budget, these simple ideas can be easily be handmade with just as big an impact.


Custom Rubber Stamp
If you are planning on creating your own stickers then you can definitely get a lot of use out of a custom rubber stamp. You can even support a fellow crafter by buying a hand carved rubber stamp. Even if you aren’t adding stickers to your packaging, you may have a use for a  custom wood stamp or self-inking stamp for adding your return address info to packages or envelopes. By adding your logo to this important information, you are once again building brand recognition and doing it in an economical way.

4. Digital Watermarks
Now, if you are featuring your crafts on a blog or gallery and want to protect them from being grabbed by internet fiends who will republish your work as their own, you’re going to need a watermark. This is also helpful when you work is featured on someone else’s blog, or on an online gallery because your name will be prominently displayed. It’s pretty easy to create one with a photo editing software, but if you are unsure or prefer to have a pro do it for you, there are several options. Lots of Etsy sellers offer to create one of a kind logos with or without the watermarks included.  And boy are they reasonable. There are craft bloggers who also offer this low-cost service as well.

5. Swag aka Freebies
Like I said before, I am a big fan of things that come with a $0 price tag, and I am sure there are plenty others out there just like me. So, why not put that to good use and promote your business. By choosing small inexpensive items that people would be happy to receive, customers and friends feel like you’ve given them a gift, while you get added exposure. There are also situations where you may be able to provide a company or event a freebie that would also promote your business to a larger audience. Here are just a couple ideas about what you could buy.
Buttons
A great way to spread the love is with buttons. You can either make them yourself with a button maker or order custom 1″ buttons from an Etsy seller. People love flair, especially craft buyers and sellers.
PostCards
Another great idea for an item people love to receive and would not be quick to get rid of are postcards. You can order postcards from several places online including MOO, Uprinting, and VistaPrints. You can either print them with your designs and art work on the fronts for people to use as actual postcards, or do double-sided printing with maybe a cool craft technique or tutorial. If you are a food crafter, maybe print some recipe cards. People will be happy for the extra little freebie, and even if they can’t use it themselves are very likely to pass it on to a friend.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these simple ideas and it has sparked some ideas on how you can promote your own designs or business. What ways do you spread the word about your business? If you are a craft buyer, what ways can sellers promote their businesses to you effectively? I would love to hear what you think!

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

How To: The Ins and Outs of Thickers – Part 2

Reported by Morgan Novak
Whew! Are you still recovering from the length of The Ins and Outs of Thickers – Part 1? I think I might be, but it’s time to jump right back in. There are more than 100 sets of Thickers in American Crafts‘ most recent catalog, and that doesn’t even take into account all the previous sets that don’t happen to be in the catalog anymore! Think about all the possibilities! In part 1 of this article we covered all the chipboard based Thickers (pearl, flocked, glossy, foil, chipboard, natural chipboard, glitter, fabric covered & patterned) and now we’ll learn all about the rest of the Thickers types.

Foam Thickers are how Thickers first came onto the scene. The original Thickers release was all foam! Because of the natural give of foam they adhere amazingly well to just about any surface. They also allow a little bit of flexibility when it comes to re-shaping them a little if you are trying to make a title or word follow a curve, or if you want to squish them a little to make them fit in a smaller space! Foam Thickers currently come in two different forms, glitter-covered and basic.

1. Glitter Covered Foam Thickers are a lot like the Glitter Covered Chipboard Thickers as far as altering, but they have a little more give to them if you need to re-shape.

You won’t be able to fully change the colors of your Glitter Covered Foam Thickers with ink, but you will be able to add another color for some extra dimension. Just lightly rub each letter along the surface of your Staz On ink pad and you’ll get a pretty cool effect. And, because the glitter on these is so fantastic you won’t get any glitter shedding onto your ink pad!
2. Basic Foam Thickers come in a ton of fonts and colors and offer a whole bunch of altering possibilities if you’d like to change them up a little bit.

You can change the color of your Foam Thickers completely with a Copic Sketch Marker. Because of the porous nature of the foam you get a cool velvet kind of look when layering on the color with you marker.

Another cool way to change the color of your Foam Thickers is by carefully pressing them into a soft ink pad like Versamagic or Brilliance. Just remember to give these wet inks some time to set before you start handling them.

I find the Foam Thickers to be the easiest to draw on. You can easily use just about any fine tipped journaling pen, (I like Triplus Fineliners), to draw anything you like right on the letters.

Another fun way to add to your Foam Thickers is as easy as stamping on them, whether you are adding a pattern, a word, or a date like I did here.

Puffy Thickers bring me right back to my sticker book obsessed days in the 80’s! They come in three different forms; Glitter Puffy, Puffy and Patterned Puffy.

The best way to alter the Puffy Thickers is using rub-ons, in this case I chose Hambly rub-ons. I found that, because of the material the Puffy Thickers are made of, the rub-on sheet and subsequently the rub-ons themselves stick very nicely to them.

Vinyl Thickers are another of my favorites in the Thickers family! Just be careful of where you store them! I found that mine were a little too close to my heat register and they began to curl a little and lose the edges of their sticky. Oops! If this has happened to you too, don’t worry! Simply use some Glossy Accents on the back for some additional adhesive and you’ll be all set!

Like the plain Foam Thickers, you can draw on these as well. Just use a smudge proof pen, like the American Crafts Slick Writers, so that the ink stays on the vinyl instead of on your hands.

The same theory applies to stamping on the Vinyl Thickers! Be sure to use a Staz On pad so that you don’t get any smudge, just stamped goodness.

The Vinyl Thickers lend themselves very nicely to rub-ons also. Here I used my favorite mini alphabet rub-ons from Doodlebug to add a little message to a letter.

There are a couple types of Thickers that are no longer in the American Crafts catalog, but I’m sure they are still available here and there, and I know that I certainly still have them in my personal Thickers stash.

1. Velvet Thickers were a super lush, really cool texture. When using them you may want to add a little extra adhesive to the back of them because of the fuzz.

2. Felt Thickers were another early Thickers material, and happen to be another one of my favorites. Because of their natural give they are also really awesome on any type of surface. I’m kind of hoping that they’ll bring these guys back sometime soon!

The last type of Thickers we have to talk about are the Accent Shapes and Borders. The Accent Shapes come in a variety of materials, just like the alphabet Thickers. The Border Thickers are a relatively new addition to the Thickers family. This Winter’s CHA release is the first to feature the Borders with every new collection, but they made their real debut in American Crafts’ last Halloween collection. The Borders are all printed chipboard and a true 12″ long border.

Well, those are all the types of Thickers! I thought I’d end this 2 part how to with a few techniques you can easily use to add a little flair to just about all the types of Thickers.


Remember, Thickers do allow you to easily alter them in all kinds of fun ways, but they are also awesome just the way they are! I hope you’ve been inspired! It’s clear that I have a real Thickers addiction, and I’m sure that a lot of you are with me on that! It seems impossible to choose, but if I had to pick just one favorite Thickers font I think it would be “Platforms.” What’s your favorite Thickers font?
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