Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Glues, Glitter and Gold - Accents Hints and Tips + NEWS for Silhouette Users!

I decided to make a video today of some bits I have in my craft room. It doesn't happen very often because it is a pain to set up my camera, watch what I am filming and do stuff at the same time! Talk about multi- tasking.

Anyhow, my friend had shared a cut file with me for some cute tags and I wanted to show you various options for adding glossy accents, sparkly bits to things like that.

There are a couple of other things in the video too, so take a look!  EDIT  Free file for a xmas place setting   the one that is seen in this video

 I forgot  to mention, that the Carioca things can be re filled when empty, in fact, I made up a black one this morning. It did take a while to clean it out first, but it was worth it!

The gold foil in the video is a great find. You can buy something very similar, sold for nails, on ebay, very cheaply. It comes in all sorts of colours and patterns and is used in exactly the same way. I suspect, but have not tried, that a mix of glycerine and water would work as a glue for it too, just as I believe it does for refreshing glue pads for stamping.

Big NEWS  for Silhouette users!  I have been able to beta test a new version of the software.

A while back I had brought to their attention that the Cameo was not cutting shapes completely, specially in the case of circles used in Rhinestone function. Every one would have a hanging chad. Irritating when there are a few, enough to make me tear my hair out when hundreds are involved!

The Beta version I have tested has put an end to the problem! YAY!  It was so nice to cut something out and not have to pull bits off!  These would never have been left behind on the mat before.

After testing on the Rhinestones, (the ones still in there are still actually cut out)  I did a few random shapes using all the different tools and some pesky stars...

Bliss!  Cutting as it should!  

 Now I did ask when the public can expect a release, and am told that they would LIKE to provide it before the end of the year but you know what software is like, it will be ready when it's ready.  Rest assured, I will let you know when it comes out!  I was really pleased to find that all my own cut settings for materials had been retained too, didn't lose any.

I'll take this opportunity to wish my American friends a  'Happy Thanksgiving' - just don't over do the Pumpkin Pie!


Saturday, 22 November 2014

Adding some Extra Dimension to your Paper Craft! Manual Embossing.

Sometimes it seems that there is no end to the variety of things we can use to make our projects more interesting. We go in phases of using certain methods for a while and then look to do something different and there is always something new (or old) to try.

Like this card. Sorry the colour is a bit off, artificial lighting!

I'm not talking about the butterfly but about the embossed foil beneath it.
I don't have any kind of embossing machine, no Big Shot or anything else like that. I do however have a silicone mat, a piece of craft foam (2mm) and a ball point pen.

Yes, there are a couple of embossing tools too but I didn't end up using them, the pen was better! Pens are designed to glide and so are made nice and smooth. Smoother than my embossing tools. This is important because I am using BBQ foil, not special metal sheets!

I found that straight foil still needs some extra strength, some support for embossing. Experimentation was the key to success but now that I have done the donkey work, you don't have to!

Plain foil with no backing was too fragile and even a pen left cuts and tears in it. I got good results though by putting a piece of glossy paper over the top before drawing with the pen, it was a big improvement, just put a silicone mat or piece of foam underneath the foil (shiny side down), paper on top and off you go.
There is one problem though with that method. In the process of sticking it on something, there is a high chance that you will damage or flatten it, there is still little substance.

Another method is to stick a sheet of adhesive paper on the back before embossing, that worked well.

You can see there is more depth and it looks more substantial.

Now this does mean you would need to tape it on with something else.

Using double sided tape was another option, good for small pieces. However, it does tend to crinkle a bit when you remove the backing.

See the diagonal striations?

I used a sticky backed vinyl on another bit.

It certainly made it stronger and the impression was good (bad photo though!).

Again, you'd need something to stick it onto your project.

I also tried the silver DIY tape found everywhere. It was great but you'd want to keep the backing on and not remove it. 

If you are not artistic, feel free to trace designs, just remember that any words will need to be reversed!  Decorative initials would be fun for cards.

For Cameo users, adding a backing to the foil means you can cut it easily and emboss afterwards, so leaves and flowers would be a great idea for embellishments.  Just make sure to avoid the rollers and unwanted indentations. A clean mat would be a must as any scraps left on it would leave marks.

 It is also possible to cut out small foam shapes by hand and cover them with embossed foil. If you have any, alcohol inks can be used to add colours for dramatic effect, or even 3D glues.

So there are some ideas to get you started!  No special equipment necessary and even the children can have a go.  If they do a big design, you could put it on a foam tile and hang it on the wall!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Handy Bar Stencils

I am a great fan of making your own stencils. I'm not into stamping, so they replace that for me as the effects can be similar.

So what are Bar Stencils? Not stencils of alcoholic drinks, that's for sure! No, they are stencils that are designed to add a bar of pattern or sentiment to a card or other pre made design.
They can be used to add an occasion to a card, to jazz up a plain card or even used in a repeat pattern.

Stencils can be used in conjunction with pens, paints, air brushes, texture  and embossing pastes, glue and glitter and no doubt a myriad of other things. They are truly versatile craft items.

If you don't have a cutting machine or a steady hand with a scalpel, you could use punches to make some.

Start off with a bar the size you want your design. I usually do cards in A5 size, so mine are 148x30mm. Copy that a few times and keep to one side.  One of the copies can be lengthened to give you some room to tape it down, this is your finished stencil size. When you have your design finished in the smaller length, group it and place it into the longer rectangle. Centre it and group again.

You can mix and match shapes, do flowers, leaves, any small shape that is not too complicated, or you can choose a stencil font to make sentiments. If you wanted, you could even make crosshatch patterns or wavy lines, anything you like. Here we have simple dots, but flourishes make nice bar stencils too.

See the video here  and the file (with a couple more) here

Of course you can make them any size you like. It's a good idea to have several size versions of the same thing.   Tip - With stencilling, it is better to go over it a couple of times with a thin coat of paint than to try to get too much on in one go. Not so bad if you are using thick paste, but if your paint is runny it will find a way to run under your stencil!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

I've Been Busy!

I've been busy trying to make improvements to the blog here and may make more changes over the next few days.

If you look to the right of the page when it loads, you should see a fly out with various options on it. I've now made it possible to subscribe and various other things. At the bottom of the page there are some options for sharing etc.

This part of blogging does not come naturally to me, social media is largely an unknown quantity as far as I am concerned! So please be patient, if you have any suggestions, feel free to comment.


Saturday, 15 November 2014

Paper Umbrellas Designed in Silhouette Studio- Free file

Sometimes my husband talks to me and I don't even hear him. It isn't that I have bad hearing, it's just that I can be so lost in thought that I block everything else out. I do it when reading a good book too, but I digress.
The reason for this is usually that I am deep in thought and often my thoughts are about how to do things a different way. How to do it better, more easily, more quickly. Yes, sometimes I want to do something just for the challenge but often I want to do something because I want the result and the method is not so important.

Take paper umbrellas for example.  Of course, you could just go out and buy some but that is not the way of crafters. We don't make stuff because we can't buy it, we make stuff because we like creating, it gives immense satisfaction.

So I  could make them the traditional way, in Origami/Kirigami, with nothing much more than a piece of paper and pair of scissors, after all, I learned Origami when I was about 8 years old - but, even I would say that it is a long process and not for the faint hearted.

Moreover, if you don't have proper Origami paper (which is very thin but quite strong) there is a chance that you will tear it by the time you have finished and that would be soul destroying!

No, there had to be another way, one that even people who have not been paper folders in the past, would be able to understand, that would yield decent results. I put my thinking cap on and came up with a process that uses our beloved cutting machines to do much of the hard work for us and makes it neater and easier for us to get a good result.

You can get the file here and see the Video here

I have designed these so that the paper is placed patterned side down on the cutting mat.  It  enables us to use the sketch pen setting to draw the spokes in, while cutting only the outer edge. It is therefore very important that your mat is not too sticky to release it when you finish cutting! The action of drawing the lines with a biro actually slightly scores the lines, making folding a breeze but not risking any kind of cut. For my paper, I used copy paper setting and a blade at 2.

To make the canopy, all you do is fold the canopy in half along one line, firstly folding wrong sides together and for the next, folding right sides together. Alternate so that it forms a circular accordion fold.

Do the same with the smaller one, if using. Line them up and lightly glue the small one on top, like this.

There are several variations, plain edges, scalloped and spoked. I have given you another copy of the 'spokes' too, so you can design  your own canopy if you want.  Some people like to tie the umbrellas closed, others like to leave them half open.  If you are a glutton for punishment, you could add more spokes, just line up the extra ones and rotate till the spaces are even but it will be quite fiddly to fold, so you have been warned!

If you wanted to use one on a card, you could just make half of one and stick the edges down, like this. Here I have used one small canopy, cut in half and layered. The handle is a cocktail stick with a home made paper bead on the end. I added a tiny bead at the tip of the brolly to finish it off. I mounted it on card to use as a design feature in the future. No doubt I shall put it on a card base and add a frame and some more 3D bits!

You can use two colours of paper or one, the handle can be made of paper, wire, wooden skewer or a mix of any of those. You can leave them plain or decorate with beads, glitter glue, ribbons or gems.

If you make the handle curved, they can be hung on the Christmas tree or you could use temporary adhesive and put them on the walls.

Here you can see some twisted aluminium I found. It makes a great handle!

You will notice that I have not made an interior mechanism for these brollies. The reason?  Most people would end up ruining what they have already done by trying to fit one in. I have however, put one (it's the brown bit)  in the file, in case anyone wishes to try it.
For my part, I see little point in doing it, it's a step too far and life is too short. There are videos out there that show how to fit them, if you are determined!

 If making a handle from paper, it is only a rectangle rolled up - with wire inside if you want to curl the end to hang it.
There are basically two ways to attach the handle. The most obvious is just to glue it into the inside at the top.  For the metal one, I put a big glob of hot glue inside the umbrella and held the handle in place till it cooled. The other is to make the tiniest hole at the top and pop the handle through. It will still need  glue but looks a bit more authentic. You can also add cocktail sticks as spokes if you wish - but be aware it makes things bulky, like this..

The one below (left) has an open scalloped edge, a paper handle and a tiny ribbon bow. The tip is dipped into glitter glue!  The one on the right is tied closed with a paper ribbon bow and has a bead at the tip and a skewer for a handle. I used purple sticky tape to neaten the end. The paper on that one is chequerboard purple and pink, which is how it has the two tone effect. It was the only one made the traditional Kirigami way.

So cut a few out and have some fun! It would be a great thing to do with the kids on a rainy afternoon or once the schools have closed for the holidays. It's also a great use for left over scraps of pretty papers!

Thursday, 13 November 2014


Baubles can be all sorts of sizes, made from different materials according to what effect you want.
The basics of making them will give you the opportunity to get creative, while using very few specialist materials.   Here  is the Video on the making of the Studio files.

Some baubles can be designed to open and close even after construction, others are not able to do that. You may like to make tiny ones for hanging on the tree or big ones for room decor for a party.
As long as you can cut it and the material is stiff enough to hold shape but still flexible, you can use pretty much anything you like, from acetate to metallic crepe paper!
Double sided card is good. You don't have to have the diamond cut out, I just think it adds something to the design, but you could also use a different shape for the cut out, like a circle or holly leaf shape.

So once you have the bits cut out, you can start putting things together. Make sure to thread them on so the outside pattern faces the knot on the base. If doing two colours, you alternate them.

Tie a knot in the ribbon, thread on the strips (you can knot again if you want). Decide how tall you want your bauble and tie another knot before threading the other ends on. Rotate the pieces till you get the effect you want. This 6 inch one takes 14 pieces.

The method is similar for the one piece baubles. For tiny ones, I use a thin wire and beads instead of ribbon and knots..
Start with a loop in the wire, add a bead and push through the centre of the base. Thread on the ends of the arms, uppermost first, in sequence. Get the depth you want, add another bead and close by looping the wire again. It has the advantage of giving you a hanging point too.  If you like you can thread beads on the internal wire to make it pretty, or put a length of drinking straw on it. 
To make it fancier, you can also add tassels to the base and a ribbon bow to the top.

Files for the designs are here.

I've used paper ribbon but you could also use decorative boot laces, fabric ribbons or tapes. These are so easy, a child could put them together, so it makes a good project for you to do together. Obviously, with young children it would be wise to steer away from wire and beads that can be swallowed!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Christmas Ornament Bling! Free Studio File

I admit it, something has got into me. I blame it on living in Spain but I'm losing my British reserve, my stiff upper lip....Ok, so I never did have one of those..
What I am referring to is a warming towards Bling! Glitz, glamour, a bit of sparkle...the Spanish know how to do sparkle. Odd when their homes are often kept so dark, or maybe that is why? The spanish like a bit of bling in matters of clothing, bags, decoration... and it must be rubbing off on me.

I was browsing in the Chinese shop the other day and this stuff was in a roll on the counter as I left to pay for something else. I asked how much it was and it was only €2 a metre. (It's about 4.5 inches  (12cm) wide).

Tiny, shiny metallic discs all held onto a woven web of string. Shiny, cheap and multi coloured, what was not to like? I was pretty sure I could come up with something to use it on. (Think  it is largely used to cover phones). It is not self adhesive but that is not a problem.

I was musing over my purchase and wondering what to use it on when I suddenly had a brainwave.
Somewhere, among my cut files, I knew there was one for a Christmas ornament, one to be put on the tree or dangled from the ceiling.
This is the file  and here is what it looks like (for those who don't have a Cameo or Portrait to cut with).  You could copy this from a screen shot and cut it manually.

Note, I have marked the gaps in the lines with arrows for those trying this manually, also there is a hole cut out in the top to put a ribbon through.

Now, I chose to cut it from a piece of clear colourless plastic from a document sleeve. You could cut from card if you wish.
Follow this pattern to cover your design in bling. the strips for this size are two wide. I put double sided tape directly onto the back of the strips of bling, that way I could cut off required lengths, ready to stick.  Leave a gap at the top for the hole but cover the rest, all except the marked squares.  (Ignore the extra cut marks, I had used a scrap with cuts on it!)
Side 2 should look like this

Put double sided tape where I have marked the squares. Leave the backing on until you need to remove it.
 Here is the first join, I've done it without the bling so you can see it better. Turn it over to do the next one. Repeat.

 Here is a picture of the corner with just the tape on it..

Once one bit is joined, you turn it over and join the next square to itself, so repeat the process. Do it correctly and you should not have any gaps in the bling. Work outwards, turning the ornament over each time. You should end up with something like this!
It is much easier to do if you stick all the double sided tape and bling on before you start to assemble it.   I  LEARNED THAT THE HARD WAY so you don't have to!

Friday, 7 November 2014

Advent Calendars- free files for Silhouette Studio -LET'S CELEBRATE! 100 BLOG POSTS!

Would you believe it? 100 POSTS! I thought we ought to celebrate, so I am giving you two different FREE FILES!
Last year I made two sorts of Advent Calendars. So here they are, just in time for you to make for the coming Christmas season.

The first one was for a special young lady. I designed and made 25 mini handbags to tie onto ribbon. Each one was big enough for one sweet or chocolate.

The only thing I would warn - make sure your glue is up to the job. Sadly mine was not, and most of them ended up coming apart!  Thankfully, she just kept them on the kitchen counter but after all that effort, I was really  disappointed.
You can get the file here.  The number on the front acts as a catch, the flap of the bag tucks in behind it - only the lower portion is glued. A bit fiddly to get the handles in place but effective when done. I topped mine off with nail decorations, Tiny bits of added bling.

The other one, happily did not suffer in the same way. It is an Advent Cottage. Choose deep reds or pale frosty blues for a different look. Add fake snow, hey go to town and add glitter as well...

The basic boxes are matchbox style. They are given brads for handles. They are stacked and bound together with a strip of paper. Then the eaves are put in place, front and back and then the roof is added. I have put a door in the back to allow some battery votives to be placed inside. Mine change colour, it looks really pretty at night.

Ribbons, Bows and Fish? Plus Free Studio File.

OK, I have finally admitted that Christmas will be upon us sooner rather than later. No, the date hasn't changed but you know how time seems to speed up in the weeks approaching the holiday? The Season of Goodwill? If only it were Goodwill. In the UK it is more like the season of traffic jams, non stop Christmas pop music and elbows getting where no elbow should ever go. Or trollies shoved in ankles. Adverts extolling the virtues of perfumes and potions that, magically it seems, turn any man into a version of George Clooney or Justin Beiber and women into a cross between a Victoria Secrets model and Victoria Beckham. Or for older women, into either Dame Helen  or Martha Stewart.

For me, that's a nightmare. Thankfully, in Spain, things are not so bad, the shops don't behave like sardine cans until just before the 6th of January for the celebration of the Three Kings Day. By which time, I don't need to shop, Christmas is done and dusted. Literally. Tree down, lights no longer twinkling and the vacuum has been choked to death with fur balls.

No, for me, the joy of the season is making things. Advent calendars, cards, decorations, bows.....ah bows. The simplest of items you would think, but not these days. With the advent of machine made, glossy, paper ribbon bows no doubt created in some far off sweatshop, the slapdash bow of our youth is no longer seen to be good enough. Bow making has turned into an art form all of its own.

I was thinking about this the other day and remembering from a dim and far too distant past, that I was once taught how to make ribbon Birds like the ones here and Ribbon fish.. Now there are tutorials making a ribbon sphere or heart - takes the patience of a saint and the digital dexterity of a contortionist on steroids!

There are easier tutorials on how to make tiny bows   or giant ones, you can spend hours browsing them!

Here is a free Studio file for a Ribbon 'Ladder' - cut it out and thread a narrow ribbon through for a good contrast effect. Depending on the pattern of the card cut out and the colour of the ribbon, you can get some stunning effects to decorate your cards/ gift tags.
So grab some ribbon and get watching. Something to do in the chilly evenings while watching tv!

Saturday, 1 November 2014

MyBrushes - Mac app - brief overview

I have come across another app from the same company that makes SuperVectorizer.  They seem to specialise in nice, clean cut user interfaces, stripping out unnecessary frippery!

This one is called MyBrushes and it is a painting app. What makes it different is the ease of use compared with other apps designed for adults.
You can find my screencast of it here.

It has a lot of brush styles that you can easily manipulate to your own taste.  There is a cute animated preview of the brush you choose too.
The canvas is huge and the controls clear. Even a novice could learn how to use this app very easily.  It exports to PNG format and can import photos for you to work on.
There is even a whole list of effects that can be applied to them.

EDIT - This app works with Wacom tablets and key shortcuts too.

The software is packed with features. It will import pretty much any format of image you are likely to have and supports layers, so this is great for novices and more experienced graphic artists.

Here is a little doodle I did in all of about 5 minutes.
What I will make clear, is that this is a  FREEHAND PAINTING app,  not one that has pre designed shapes for you to fill.  It does what it does really well.  

MyBrushes also has a playback feature, you can record your art being made!  Fun to do and great if you are trying to teach art classes or demonstrate.

For those with an iPad, the same people make an app for that, called MyBrushes Pro.  Very much the same with a couple of tweaks. The advantage of that is that it supports 4 different brands of pressure sensitive stylus - to date -  the Wacom Creative, Pogo Connect, the Jaja Hex3 and the Adonit Jot Touch, to give you the ultimate digital painting experience.

Here is the link to the web page  for more details.  I believe there is a free trial to be had, so you can see for yourself what great pieces of software these are.