Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Merry Christmas Everyone!


I am in the process of loading a new video but while that is happening, I thought I'd take the chance to wish you all a Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year.

I'm going to take a few days off for the holidays but I shall be back in the New Year with more projects, ideas, hints and tips.

Best Wishes


Monday, 7 December 2015

Airbrushing for Card Makers

I have finally got around to making a short video on basic stuff for people who may want to airbrush for the first time, mainly those who want to use it for card making, not modelling or fine art.

Now I have 3 airbrushes. An Iwata for the more serious stuff, one dedicated to food dyes and another for what I would describe as 'dirty' paint. Stuff like acrylic or enamels.

In this one I am talking about the middle one. A cheap brush but perfectly adequate for basic usage.
I have a small air compressor that I keep under my desk, it's pretty quiet and after a few minutes I forget about the purring!

Now a few things I did not go into on the video.

Protect yourself and your surfaces. We're talking highly atomised paint here, you have no idea how far this stuff can travel!  I usually wear latex gloves when painting because otherwise I end up with multi coloured fingers for a few days. I wear old clothes too, don't want to wreck your decent stuff on this.

To keep the paper in place, I use some adhesive, like Zig that is temporary. It grips enough but not too much. I have masking tape but it ruins the edges of my paper or card.

Always refer to the manufacturers instructions for full clean up. It only should need to be done occasionally, but if you are using paints with solids in it, you need to keep things REALLY clean or your needle and nozzle will get dirty and paint will not flow.

I find an occasional clean out with dilute window cleaner does a great job - but not if using your brush for food use!

If you do have to take your brush apart, have a nice soft towel on the table to catch the bits. You don't want to drop anything as it will most likely damage it.
Again, refer to instructions on how to take apart and reassemble, not all brushes are the same.

Quite often I will spend an entire morning or afternoon making backgrounds. You can make lots of different ones to store and use as necessary, saving money on coloured or patterned card.

Now there are ways of using your markers with a converter -  Copic make one that is in several forms, some for use with a compressor, some with canned air. However, canned air is not going to be a cheap option if you do much. There is also an e-Brush, similar but with it's own tiny compressor and used with various markers. I have not tried these. While they avoid clean up, I can't help thinking they must shorten the life of your marker rather a lot - great for those selling refills!

So it is a matter of choice but whatever you choose, have fun with it!

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Special Friend Card

I have recently got set up with a new heat gun ( from a kit in Lidl) and it is much better than my previous one from Hobbycraft. It has two heat settings which is a bonus. Since I also got some stamps recently from Aldi, I thought I'd try using one of them.

I chose a small flower stamp and chopped the front panel diagonally to add interest. The sentiment was one I made into a stamp myself and I used copper embossing powder on that, putting it onto a plain white banner, then using a pen to add colour to the edge of it.

The flowers were stamped in a slapdash manner for a more random coverage.  This is exaggerated by using a clear embossing powder on it that had a bit of glitter thrown in and this picks out random areas.

It was then mounted onto a brown card stock panel and that was in turn put over another piece of yellow, this time using the Silver Bullet and SCAL to make a scalloped edge. The whole lot was then put onto a scalloped white base.

To finish off, I applied a string of gold beading to top and bottom of the sentiment, using hot glue. This is where my Rapid fine point glue gun excels!

Hard to see here but it is beautifully glittery!  Hope it inspires someone to have a go, it really is a simple card to make.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Stop Press! You CAN now convert STUDIO files to SVG!

I am happy to announce that someone has come up with a way to convert Studio files to SVG format!

It isn't that you never could do it, but Silhouette America took that option away from its Studio software a long time ago and in spite of requests, would not re instate it.  I was not the only one who told them that it was a mistake to do that. The reason for the decision was never made clear, so we could only jump to the conclusion that it was protectionist.

Here follows a message from the creator  of the conversion software   (No, I am not affiliated in any way).

"The online Silhouette Studio to SVG converter is now public :). You may now tell anyone you wish about it. There is also the Silhouette Studio Library File Extractor, and a Desktop Interface to the Online Converter for those who buy Conversion Credits http://ideas-r-us-software.uk/.

The free conversions are now 10 per day for Brother FCM, Graphtec GSD and Silhouette Studio files. Conversion Credits are £3.49 for 200, £6.99 for 500, and £10.99 for 1000. Converting 1 file costs 1 Conversion Credit.

Cutter Controller V1.0.20 now supports Provo Crafts Circuits."

So now you can choose to convert your entire library if you so wish!

Ian has other software there too that you may find interesting, so feel free to spread the word by whatever social media you use!

Thanks Ian!


It appears that some people don't approve of being able to translate a file to another type. WHY ON EARTH NOT?  If I design a file and sell it in one format, do I care that it is then put into another one? NO!
Why? Because I know only too well, that it makes no difference what file type it is, as soon as you sell a file there is pretty much nothing you can do to stop anyone from copying it if they are really determined.
Most people however, are not in the business of stealing files and selling them on. Most people are using their own files for their own pleasure and have every right to do so.

Take the instance of someone upgrading their plotter after a few years. Why should they lose all the files they have bought/ made and loved, just because of a format? To me, to try and put this in conditions of use is unfair, unjust and unreasonable. It is worth noting that a contract also has to be reasonable for it to be upheld in a court of law - just because you put it in a contract, there is no guarantee of that.

Silhouette does not even restrict itself to governing what you can do with its own designs, that would be bad enough -  it governs what you can do with your own, made from scratch designs!  I don't think there is a single tube of paint ever sold that places conditions on what you can do with your painting after painting it, to do so would be seen as plain idiotic.

Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to bash Silhouette America. True, I don't understand them, in not allowing saving to SVG in the first place, but I liked my Cameo and the Studio software (most of the time anyway) I just out grew it. However, I do think they should be more upfront when selling the machines and Software, about the terms and conditions placed on it. As in, it should be on the outside of the box, and in the advertising. You should be fully informed before you lay out your hard earned cash.

There is too, an element of hypocrisy. Studio can OPEN SVG files (from any source) but once you save it, that's it, studio or nothing. Now how fair is that?

The purpose of this translation software is not to break copyright, it is to allow us to share our own designs with whomever we choose, in the format needed to do so. I have friends with Cameos - it has been known for me to use Studio to open MY designs to convert them to a Studio format for them to use but they can't do the reverse for me. Only now, they can. Well done Ian!

Friday, 20 November 2015

Seriously Thinking..


I am seriously thinking of giving up this blog.

As most of you will realise, I have a Youtube channel that is connected with this and doing both takes up a considerable amount of time.

Looking at the stats, I get more people watching videos than reading this and I seldom get feedback on here, so I can only think that people would rather have the video channel.

My suspicion is that many readers here were only doing so for the free files that I previously linked and that now I focus on teaching others how to make their own files, interest in that regard has dropped!
Maybe it is just that you watch the videos and because things are explained you don't feel the need to read about it as well, which is fine. Generally I use the blog to give extra information that maybe I forgot to mention, or that you can see photos of the processes.
Lately I have too, been doing more hands on, craft room videos, I'd like to do more but getting things set up is not so easy in my craft room!

So, if you care one way or another, leave a comment, I'm interested to know what you think!

Monday, 16 November 2015

Card - Pembroke the Polar Bear

Like a lot of people who use YouTube, I get recommendations for things to watch. Sometimes these things inspire me, just by the title and I don't even have to watch them!

The other day, one came up with how to make a sort of night sky. I hadn't painted like that for ages, so thought I'd do one. Of course, once I'd done that, I needed to turn it into a card. It's the sort of image that goes well with ice floats and polar bears. I knew I had a doodle of a bear that I'd only just done..

(Yeah, I know, a bit too mushy!)

My mind, doing what it does best, started thinking of ways to make a better ice surface and what better than texture gel? I tinted some of mine a pale blue and added some glitter to it as well.

The idea was taking shape and I thought I'd use my doodle as a cut out embellishment, just as long as I could reproduce it. The original was far too big and anyway, on printer paper.

It occurred to me that I could use it as a tutorial on tracing in SCAL but after an hour messing around with scanning in and attempting that, it became clear that was not happening. The outer line presented no problem but I was not able to get the inner lines to be single ones. Hmm. I need to work on that!

Plan B was to use Concepts - a great iPad app. I was able to import the scanned image into it and manually trace it with my stylus.

If you are not familiar with this app, go and check it out. It is not like other drawing apps. Concepts has been updated recently and now has improved features. I found I could trace the outer line quite easily as a filled shape - or as a line. It allows you to choose thickness, colour, transparency and degree of wobble, so where you may not draw the perfect line, it sorts it out for you. I used a fixed width marker line to do the interior detail bits. Oh, and I also searched on line to find out how many claws polar bears have - well have to be careful  not to short change the guy!

After it is done, it can be exported as an SVG - with all the lines being single lines, regardless of how thick you had them on screen. I emailed it back to my laptop and then opened it in SCAL for cutting.
The rest was easy enough, turn on draw lines and cut lines and add a sentiment.

Here is the end result. I named him Pembroke, every young bear needs a name!

So that's it, job done. Now for getting to grips with that trace function...

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Happy Accident Card!

We all have those days sometimes, when nothing goes quite to plan. I've been having one of them!
I intended to make another shaker card, made the frame and then couldn't get inspired for the content.  So, I doodled a bit, didn't like the result and had to have a re think.

I ended up stamping flowers inside and colouring them, I'd put some cellophane in the window bit but thought it still needed a bit more tweaking.

Out came the white glitter. I put it all over the back design and stuck it closed. It needed a card base now and I found just the right colour to set it off.

The photo does not do justice to the full amount of sparkle but it has the benefit to the recipient that they won't get covered in glitter when they open it!

And another one - I was supposed to have cut a window in it, but didn't before I removed it from the mat, and the flower was just a test bit done on a scrap of watercolour paper. I hadn't even intended to colour it!

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

SCAL PRO Tutorials

I am very pleased to announce that I shall shortly be making some tutorials on SCAL PRO.

Being completely up front about it, having done so many tutorials on SCAL 4,  I asked the company if they would like to upgrade me to the PRO version so I could answer questions on it and make tutorials and they kindly did just that. While I have been happy to do that with SCAL 4,  (which I did buy myself) when anyone asked if the upgrade was worth it, I had no facts on which to base a reply.

They know me well enough by now to realise that I will be completely honest in my assessment and findings even though I didn't have to pay for it. I am one of those people who calls a spade a spade and not a manually operated soil movement device!

In part, I hope to show the differences between the two versions, side by side on the screen, hopefully the recording will allow that, I don't think it should be a problem. I will go through all the tools and note differences and make videos of the features that the standard V4 does not have.

So, if you have questions on the PRO version you'd like answered, leave a comment and I'll see what I can do.

SCAL has come a long way in the last 10 months. While no software is perfect, I have found that I can do pretty much what I want to do in it and I know they are still working to improve, so I look forward to giving the PRO version a good work out!


First one!

Monday, 9 November 2015

Easy way to Construct a Shaker Card

I was inspired by Kristina Werner to make a snow globe shaker card with the shaker bit on the front, rather than behind.

I thought I would try silicone glue for attaching the front but this stuff squidges out too much!

The trouble with this type is getting things all neat and tidy because most of it is on show and not concealed!
So, my mission on this one was to make it as fool proof as possible.

So, assuming you have  a cut file or the dies for a snow globe, here are the steps needed.

Make your card front panel and put double sided tape on it if you are using that method to adhere to the card base. It should be slightly smaller than your card base for good effect.
The second step depends on what card you are using for the front. If it is a coloured card, then cut out the shaped 'window' in white, to draw/stamp/paint your design on.
Do your design.

Adhere it to the front card panel, making sure to position it so that you can put the frame around it.
Cut out your dam in fun foam. The Silver Bullet can do this easy peasy.
Using your design as the guide, stick the foam around it. Allow to dry before adding your sequins or whatever you are using.

Now for the front bit.  Place card pattern side DOWN on an only slightly sticky mat. Tape down the edges.
In SCAL use WYSIWYG mode. Place your card on the mat and TURN OFF the outer cut line. Place double sided tape all over the total cut area.
Cut just the inside window.

Remove that piece but leave the rest of the frame in place on the mat.

Remove the tape backing

and place a piece of acetate or cellophane over the window and taped area.

TURN OFF the inner cut line and TURN ON the outer cut line. Now you can cut the outer line, giving you the frame already backed with the acetate.

All you need do now, is stick this onto your foam frame and finish off with colouring or sentiment etc. Be careful not to do what I did on this one and put too much glue on the frame...:)

See? Simple when you know how!  If I have left you confused, make sure to check out the video.

How to create the shape in SCAL 4

Friday, 6 November 2015

Heat Embossing

I'm new to this heat embossing malarky, so I have been experimenting with different ways of adhering the powder to the card.

There are two main ways of embossing it appears, one is to use an appropriate coloured 'ink pad' and use either clear or coloured powder.
The other way is to use a clear ink and whatever powder you choose.

So if using the second method, the sticking bit is pretty straight forward. Either buy a clear embossing pad such as Versamark, or make your own version. A shallow tin, some sponge and some glycerin is all you need, but did you know that you could, at a stretch use baby oil? Yup, tried it and it worked!
The glycerin is perhaps capable of a finer stamped image but the baby oil still did the job, much to my surprise, so if you run out of one, use the other!

Turning my attention to the other method, that of using a coloured ink, I had already had some success with acrylic and water colour paints mixed with glycerin but wasn't completely happy that I was getting the very best result. If it was wet enough, it tended not to be as opaque as I may want.

 I've never painted with oils, always thought it too messy, all that drying time....wait a minute, did I just say 'all that drying time?'  Sure did - and what is it we need for heat embossing? Hmm? Drying time! So, I went out and bought a set of 12 tiny oil paint tubes. From the size of them, I think they are 6ml each but they are not marked, so I have no way of knowing. Good strong colours and I am more than capable of mixing them if I need to.

After a bit of a trial, I have found that although I could emboss with paint straight from the tube pretty much, it is quite soft paint, I got the best result by adding a drop of glycerin to make it wetter.  No racing to get the embossing powder on, I could take my sweet time. The paint was still so opaque that I could even use white on black card quite happily. Moreover, the embossing powder stuck to it very nicely, providing good coverage.

I can't think why I didn't try this before, except that the terminology of 'ink' made me ignore the idea of oil paint entirely.  Cleaning up stamps is still easy.

There is another method, and sometimes it is quite useful. Stamp with a water based ink or  your standard fast drying one and then stamp over that with clear ink and use that to emboss. I tend to prefer doing this with black, rather than use black embossing powder. Some of my card is ok but other card just won't keep a clean image with black powder, even if I treat it first.

Monday, 2 November 2015

A Few Recent Cards

Just some pics of some of the cards I have made recently.
Stamped and coloured.

For these cards, I wanted to use up some patterned card that I had in my stash! So this is why they are not my usual style..

A shaker card with the mechanics behind the front panel.

A pull tab card - the cat moves!

Shaker with stand out panel

I heat embossed all over the water coloured flower.

The inside panel was coloured and then glitter applied to all of it. The window has plastic, the advantage of not leaving glitter everywhere.

Embossed with Sea Foam with added glitter, then a silver pen is used to highlight all the shapes.

What I like to call a 'mask and splash!'

If you are very clever, you may notice that this one is made from the piece of watercolour left over from the card above!

Combining glitter embossing and metallic heat embossing

The matching pair for one above!

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Disastrous Docraft Ink Pads and My Alternatives!

You'd better grab a comfy chair and your drink of choice, this is going to be a long one!

Having managed to make some usable photopolymer stamps, I  thought it about time I tested them out with something other than a black Memento ink pad.

 I am normally a patient person but when it comes to getting my supplies, I'd really rather go in a shop and buy them, not order and wait. To this end, I visited our one local art supply shop. The lady in there is very nice but to be honest the amount of stock is depressingly low, so I didn't hold up much hope of a large range of ink pads and I was right. I really wanted a Versamark watermark pad but the only ones there, were a few small Docraft pads. I did manage to find a clear one and then chose a gold, mainly because although I have gold paint, I wanted to see how well a pigment pad worked with embossing powder.

A friend had brought me some embossing powders from the UK  and I had yet to try them out, so I hurried home, anticipating having some fun messing around.

I broke the seal on the wrappers and eagerly opened the clear one. I pressed a finger into it and it came away dry. Hmm. Thinking it was maybe meant to be that way, I chose a stamp and pressed the pad against it. Pressed the stamp onto some white paper and looked to see any change. None. Hmm. I tried adding some embossing powder, just in case there was something there. No. Nothing happened. Strike one. Useless. I let it sit upside down for a couple of hours, just in case and tried again. Nothing.

Ok, so for the second pad. Took the lid off. Pressed a finger in, only to find virtually no ink. What? Again? It wouldn't stamp. Now let me say, that in case you are thinking that the stamp is faulty, it isn't. Using normal ink it stamps just fine. No, it was another dry pad. Strike two.

Now maybe, these are old stock, I have no idea, but there are no expiry dates on them for me to find out.
I can't possibly recommend these things since they were unusable. Ink pads are made to dispense ink and these don't!

So, by this time, I wanted to go ahead, so I used my stash of glycerin to wet the clear pad until I could use it. Then I used some acrylic old gold liquid paint and some more glycerin to wet the gold pad. Eventually I had enough in it to stamp with but many people would have no idea that they could do that and in any case, why should they?

I almost didn't bother but I decided to go back to the shop and was given a refund. The owner tried out some more of her stock and got the same problem. Not a one off then. I wrote an email to Docraft and so far have had no reply. Not even acknowledgement.
So, in light of this complete failure, I proceeded to make my own versions and guess what? They actually work.
It looks odd because it is actually a sparkly one.

Now I am sure that most of you happy stampers buy ink pads on a regular basis but if you find yourself without for any reason, be it lack of shops or whatever, you probably either have or can easily get these simple supplies. This gives lots of alternatives, you don't need all of it!

Kitchen/bath sponges - the sort with a scrubbing side and soft are fine.
Glycerin - usually sold in supermarkets or chemists, often used in making fondant.
Water colour or gouache - tubed is easiest. Any cheap ones will do. Don't bother using best quality, you don't need to. Watercolour is transparent, gouache is not.
A glass coaster/ceramic tile or small china saucer.
Cocktail sticks for mixing
Small pots, as in lip balm sized, or even empty glitter/ powder pots.
Children's washable felt tips.
Alcohol markers.
Pens used for blackboards (especially white!)
Liquid acrylic paints.

Cut some pieces of foam to fit your pots, allowing it to raise slightly above the lip but not so far that you can't get the lid on again.

The main thing to remember is that it is the glycerin that makes it all work. Without that, your paints will dry too fast to add the embossing powder.

Embossing with White

There are two ways of doing this, depending on the surface area of the stamp.  The obvious one is to take your coaster and add about 1 part glycerin to 3 or 4 parts white gouache and mix with a cocktail stick. Use one of your foam filled pots to soak it all up and put a lid on. We are talking tiny amounts here, like 1cm paint and 1 drop of glycerin! The same formulae can be used for any colour you care to mix, you can just use it from the coaster if you don't want to store it.

The second way, for small text stamps for example, is to use the blackboard pen directly on the stamp. It should be wet enough (and is water based) for you to get embossing powder on it before it dries.  This has the advantage of being usable on non porous surfaces, such as acetate, without a problem but is not suitable if you only want to ink something, as it can rub off. Available in a range of colours too - and a fine nib version if you just wanted to write and emboss. No glycerin needed.

This was a test swatch, I did not use anti static measures!

If you don't want to emboss, then there is no need to add the glycerin, a tiny drop of water can be used to dilute the paint if needed. Indeed, glycerin could cause the watercolours to stay wet too long if you are not embossing!

Using cheap felt tips

Scribble some colour onto the coaster /tile/saucer. Add 1 drop glycerin and mix. Use a small bit of sponge to apply it to your stamp. It will look as if nothing is there, but it will stamp just fine. You can still emboss it. I've done some very pretty effects with that method.

Alcohol markers

Yes, you can use those in exactly the same way! Great for all those who are into colouring already.

Liquid acrylic paints can be used in the same way as watercolour, so this gives access to metallics.

The advantage of all these is not only price but the ability to make custom colours or to top up old ink pads. If your pads dry out, you can rinse and repeat or just add more paint and or glycerin!

Empty gel pens and felt tips

These can be cleaned out and the ink replaced with glycerin, making a great heat embossing ink pen. If you have strong watercolour inks, you can add a drop of those to colour it too. I use a syringe to refill them.

I have a load of tiny bottles that look like eye dropper bottles. I use them to dispense the glycerine in tiny amounts. Simply squeeze the bottle, put it into the jar of glycerin and allow it to suck it up and your bottle is filled, ready to use.

If you want to do a lot of small colours on a project, but not keep them,  use a large ceramic tile to mix colours in tiny batches.


When it comes to powders, I am sticking to just a few, clear, white, black and copper. It is worth noting that you can add mica or glitter for extra va va Voom, in small amounts to your embossing powders and they will stick in the same way.

UPDATE  Finally had a reply from Docrafts  (26th Oct)  - Considering the pad was made in China- I guess they just buy them and have their own label put on.

Thank you for contacting the Ecrafters support team. Apologies for the delay in responding to your query, we have recently been receiving especially large volumes of enquiries and have been working hard to meet the increased demand for help. We deal with every enquiry as quickly as possible however during busy periods response times may increase and we appreciate your patience and understanding.

I am very sorry to hear you are disappointed with your recent docrafts purchase. We take quality control very seriously at docrafts and aim for the highest standards and thank you for bringing it to our attention. Retailers do let us know if there are any issues with products so that we can resolve them. However, as a distributer to trade, we are unable to deal with individual product issues directly because we cannot split down bulk volumes to replace/exchange single items and cannot issue refunds for products which were not purchased from us directly.

If you ever experience any problems with a purchase you are entitled to an exchange or replacement (within the qualifying period) from the retailer you purchased it from. They are ultimately responsible for resolving your problem, but they are also in a much better position to be able to. Dealing with the shop you purchased from would be a simpler and quicker way to resolve your issue and we suggest contacting them directly to discuss your options.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Autumnal Birthday Card Test Run!

I really didn't have a need to make a card today but since I'd not done a blog post for a few days, thought I would see what I came up with that you may find interesting.

This is the result.

As you can see, I have yet to get the hang of heat embossing words! It would have helped if I'd lined them up properly.  That was my fifth attempt. No matter what I did, either the powder went all over the place or failed to stick at all... Definitely needs practice (or a proper watermark pad)...I did use powder on the card but I must be particularly static today.

The floral background was a piece I had already  - a play session with Sea Foam embossing powder and watercolours.

 Embroidery backing is used to make the leaves, it gives them just the right texture and they too,  are coloured with watercolour paints. These just happened to be from a stash I had made a while back, see, using up leftovers!  I love the softness of the pinks, blues and apricot.

Monday, 5 October 2015

A Short Break!

For anyone who thinks I've suddenly gone quiet....

I  have a visitor due tomorrow, and although I shall be doing a lot of crafting, I won't have so much chance to blog or post videos for a couple of weeks.  Don't worry, I'll be back soon, hopefully with some new ideas!  I'm also hoping to persuade hubby to rig up an overhead camera mount at some point, to make craft videos a lot easier...shhh.. don't tell him, he has to think it's HIS idea!


Thursday, 24 September 2015

Stamp with Watercolour Pencils and More!

Having watched some videos on using watercolours to paint stamped images, it made me wonder why no one seemed to use them to do actual stamping, instead of ink pads.

As someone who has more paints, markers and felt tips than I care to admit to, having recently started to make my own polymer stamps, I saw no reason not to use them to stamp with! I noticed that people are actually buying special watercolour markers to use - probably at inflated prices.

Baah humbug!
No need to do that! Anyone with kids around most likely has washable markers. IE WATER COLOUR MARKERS! So you can use those. If, like me you also have watercolour paint of various types, you can easily use that too.

Take a thin kitchen sponge - the type that has a very dense construction, that goes like a piece of cardboard when dry, or a scrap of craft foam and put your watercolour on that. If using watercolour pencils, on the craft foam you need to damp it first, then scribble; on the kitchen sponge you need to scribble dry and spritz with water after to get the best amount of colour. You can create ombre stripes if you want!

Take it easy adding the water, you can also add some glycerine to make it thicker if you have it - it's used to make embossing pads damp.

Press your stamp into the ink and use as normal!


Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Silver Bullet Support Table - Free Template

As you may realise by now, I love my Silver Bullet. However, I don't have a support table for it (the sort that supports the mat as it goes through).

Now let me say first, that Thyme Graphics in the UK (and the American and Australian distributors)  sell perfectly good acrylic support tables and if you can afford them, I recommend that you buy some, because cutting without support tables is not making the best of your machine. However, if like me, you live somewhere else and postage is going to push the price over the edge, then I have a simple solution, as long as you have someone who can do some simple MDF or wood cutting for you.

I have made a template in SCAL, a neater version of my own cut outs and a video explaining the set up.  THERE ARE NOTES IN THE FILE. The template is for you to print to use.  THE TEMPLATE IS FOR A 15 INCH SILVER BULLET.

This is the finished item. The dowel I had wasn't long enough, so I joined two pieces. I'll replace it later when I get some more!

The reason I made the templates is that this was the most difficult part of the entire thing. Basically it is two supports with a table over, the supports having a cut out that goes around the base of the SB. I used wood glue to join things. If you have someone willing to counter sink screw holes etc, then feel free!

Add either brackets in the corners for support, or a piece of dowel.  I deliberately chose not to 'fix' it in place using the screw holes as I figured I'd want to remove it for cleaning, so I made it slightly narrower and put some foam pads on either side, forcing it to grip in the opening. It works very well and can be removed when necessary - without using a screwdriver.

I painted the sides of mine silver and added a metal effect vinyl to the top. Hey, you could go nuts with patterned vinyls!

Monday, 21 September 2015

Vinyl and Acetate Card Panel

I love to use acetate. It has many uses and being able to cut it easily with the Silver Bullet means I'm not restricted to simple shapes. I also love cutting vinyl. There is something about weeding, I find very satisfying. I also like the clear, crisp lines and clean, sharp design, so combining the two is a winner.

There are a couple of things to bear in mind for this. The design element that you use for the 'frame' bit needs to be chosen with care, not all will fit well, most can be made to fit with a bit of juggling. The one in the video is not quite right but gives you an idea of how it's done.

The vinyl you use must have a strong enough adhesive to adhere to the acetate, not all do this well. It should ideally, be strong enough to weed accurately, you need to 'kiss cut' so that the vinyl is cut but the acetate under it is not.

This one is done on purple acetate.

Peeling away the vinyl
It is important not to get air bubbles or bumps under the vinyl, so make sure your acetate is free from dust and bits that may be present in the room. For this reason, I tend to keep a mat JUST for  cutting vinyls and wipe over my work area beforehand.

If using text, be sure to weld it together to avoid unwanted cut lines and use WYSIWYG  to ensure that your outer cut line for the acetate only, is cut in the correct place.

I cheated a bit, the dot under the exclamation point was so tiny

And when it is added to the card base, with double sided foam tape under the frame. I used black craft foam for this one, and just cut it really thin, so it would not show.

I added a few sparkles to finish it off.

And here is another one, this time with a silver metallic vinyl.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

How I Make Polymer Stamps For Crafters Only!

This is not meant for industrial stamp producers, only us crafters.

If you read my previous blog, you will have noted that while it is possible to make polymer stamps at home, it isn't perhaps quite as easy as some quarters lead you to believe.

However, if you are determined to have a go, then let me share my hints and tips so that you may at least stand a chance of success before you rip out your hair and sear your eyeballs.

I have made a video showing the equipment I have assembled and the basic how to put it together.  Due to the nature of video, I can't put everything in, it isn't scripted and that means I also forget to mention things!

Anyway, watch the video and then come back here to get the low down. I'll go have a cuppa while I wait for you to catch up. I suggest you get one to have while reading this little lot.

Back now? Sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.

Get your design ready.  Mine were printed (twice) on Vegetable paper/ parchment on a Canon MG3550 using fine print, best quality. If you can do it on OHP film your times may well be different.

Start small so as to test the timing without wasting too much polymer. Make sure to have your TIMER READY - and know how to use it. You don't have time to mess around when it's in use. BTW, it needs to be accurate (digital) or you will be very frustrated!

Get everything ready in advance. If you are not next to a bathroom like me, then also have a bowl of hot water with detergent in it ready.
The stack is made by taping the negative (double layer don't forget) right side up, to the base plate.  This seems to work and there is then no need to reverse words (which you must do if you place it ink side down.) Cover it with a piece of acetate that is a bit bigger. This is to protect your negative for future use and stop mess. Tape it down flat. You don't want wrinkles, which is why I use acetate not thinner cellophane.
Make the dam for your design, leaving (if sensible) about half an inch around the lines you want exposed. If you put it too close, there is a risk that the edges of your design will not be as deep and that will cause bad stamping.  Ensure that the dam is on the dark part of your negative ( to block incoming light.)

Gently pour in the polymer, filling about 3/4 full. Use a pin to get rid of any bubbles on the base - a few minute ones on the top won't matter. While that is being done, warm up the UV lamp for  a short time, but keep it away from your resin! It only takes about a minute but if you don't do that, your times can vary too much.

Make sure to close the lid on the polymer. Mine came from here, so if you are having a go, at least you know which brand I used. It is clear, colourless, a bit of a smell to it but not too bad. Timings on different brands may vary, so I can only give times for what I have tried. Make sure to have changed the top on it before you start. I'm warning you, you'll regret it if you don't.

Put a layer of acetate just bigger than your dam, on top. Press gently in the centre of the design to make sure all the edges get filled and that it is flat on top.

Add the glass and clamp together, you do need to clamp. Alternatively you could glue magnets on the inside but I was unable to find the right size - two must not be deeper than your dam!

Keeping your stack up the same way you made it, put it in for 8 seconds to make the 'floor'. Your stamp has no material on the back to hold it together unless this is done correctly.

Take it out and turn it over, you are now going to set the front, the bit that will contact the paper when you stamp.

Put it in for exactly 60 seconds.

Separate the glass and remove the package from inside. Peel apart and you should just see a vague design in there on one side. It feels like Christmas!

Take it to the hot soapy water and gently scrub in a circular motion, to remove the excess goo. By now, if all is well, you should be able to feel the raised bits under your fingers.

Take it to the small container of cool water and put it under the lamp for a couple of minutes. If it is still sticky, you can give it longer - a minute or so, until it is firmed up nicely. Rinse and dry. Trim off unwanted bits.  If the acetate is still on the back, either leave it there to store or remove it, up to you. If you store it like that, you simply peel it off to use it on your acrylic block, like any other stamp.

You should now be able to give yourself a pat on the back. If not, start again!

NOTE - I did try to use picture glass but it was too thin and could not easily be used without fear of breaking it. I also tried some hard plastic but it still had too much flex in the middle and that led to inconsistency of results.

From my experimentation, for me a total dry cure of 68 seconds works. If making lettering you don't have enough 'floor' to hold it, but the top seems ok, increase the floor time. If letters are losing detail, (letters filling in) decrease the second cure by a couple of seconds. Basically, I know the total time and adjust either layer up or down if there is a problem, but the total stays the same.

For basic images, I have used 6 seconds and 56 seconds. I've not done photo images, since that is not what I want to do, but for that you will need a longer base time and shorter top time.

You can choose to make a thicker stamp - increase the thickness of the foam dam and spacers. However, if you do, you may need to increase times to compensate. I'm only making stamps for fun, they don't have to stand up to a lot of abuse.

So there you have it, I've done all the hard work. This is as basic as it gets regards kit. I've tried every other way of making negatives imaginable and nothing else worked. The thick glass works really well, the thin glass or perspex, did not.

That is a two inch stamp block.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Considering Making Polymer Stamps at Home?

If you had wondered why there was a lack of posts recently it is down to a couple of things. Firstly, practically everyone was on holiday and there was little site traffic, so I thought it was foolish to keep to a schedule that no one was bothered about.

Secondly, I have been VERY busy the last few days having a go at making polymer stamps. Yes, you heard right, polymer stamps. The clear ones like you can buy in the shops.

Now I'm not going to give a tutorial on this, it is only to give my views on the process, so you can decide if it is for you or not. Before I started I read all the stuff I could find, watched all the videos.

Firstly, if your intent is to save money, forget it. Not going to happen.
If you think you'll make a business out of making them, the same goes - unless you go into major industrial production.
If you lack patience, don't do it.
If you want to make your own and I mean REALLY want to make your own designer stamps, then you should consider it.

The process sounds simple but it isn't quite as straight forward as sellers of kits would have you believe.  Basically you have a gel that reacts to light. You add a negative of the design, put UV light through it  and low and behold, bits set and other bits don't, leaving you with a design in the resin.

The kits will not last long before you are crying out for more supplies, either because you love doing it or because you have wrecked all those you have.  One alternative is to get a bottle of liquid polymer. Now before you rush out, if you do that you have to do something to contain it while making your stamp. It isn't rocket science, you have a glass or perspex base, your negative and then, a piece of acetate or cellophane. Then you build a dam to hold the liquid, another piece of acetate and the last lid.  'Easy!' you say.

Well hold your horses, not QUITE as easy as that. This liquid is very thick, very gloopy and even stickier. If you don't pay attention you could end up in a very hot and sticky puddle. (You being hot, the polymer providing the sticky puddle).

IF you buy any, I advise doing what I did (but only after not doing it at the start) and changing the bottle top for one with a pointy nozzle. I found a squeezy sauce bottle bought from a cheap shop had just the right size lid! It was about 2 inches across.  Take my word for it, do this before you pour a single drop. You'll thank me, honestly.  Before I found that, I decanted some into an old cleaned out shampoo bottle. That was better but not brilliant as it had one of those press/flip tops.  I then replaced the lid of that with a top from a large washing up liquid bottle. Keep your supplies in a dark place.

The relief of being able to pour accurately is wonderful.

Back to the basics.

To develop stamps if you don't have the kit, you will need:

A UV lamp like for nail techs
A way of making negatives  -  you need to make good negatives. Black paper or vinyl or other stuff won't work well and it will make it hard for you to get good results.  Believe me when I tell you that, I have spent days trying to get images dark enough. There are many tutorials on it.

Two glass or perspex sheets that will fit in your lamp
Some acetate to put under and over the gel
Damming tape to hold it
Sticky tape
Hot and cold water, detergent and a soft brush
A digital timer -  YOU CAN'T do this without VERY accurate timing. It isn't the sort of thing you leave to make yourself coffee. Suddenly need the bathroom? Suck it up. Not going to happen.

So, you make your polymer sandwich, stick it in under the lamp for a few seconds, turn it over and cook the other side, scrub off the excess polymer, put it in a water bath and return it under the lamp for another couple of minutes.

Not hard on the face of it but the timing is crucial. Too long on the first go and the whole lot will set with no image at all. Too short and any details might be still floating without attachment to the stamp floor. Too little on the second and your image could be incomplete, too long and oops you have nothing again.

See what I mean?  There is a lot of trial and error in here. Even  with the kit, results can change according to the temperature, age of your lamp, how dark you get your negatives ( once you start making your own). We are talking about a difference of SECONDS between success and failure.

The liquid polymer is not cheap but it is cheaper than sachets. However you need determination, time and luck to get it right and even then, sometimes it will go wrong.

When it goes right, it is a wondrous thing and when it goes wrong it is exasperating and makes you want to through it all out the window. So far, my windows are still intact....

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Reversible Card for Christmas

As the first days of September appear, crafters all over the world start thinking of prepping for Christmas. If you buy your cards you can afford to leave it to the last minute but not if you make them. We take pride in our work and don't want to send out shoddy cards!

This one was born, as a lot of my things are, of a play session on SCAL.  The basic concept is simple enough and the card is not hard to make, it just requires a little planning because the card is completely reversible. The back looks just as good as the front.

This is the back.

 I have not put a greeting on the back - but I could, so this is the front.

The trick to this is using two lots of card. Although you could use a double sided card for the top, I didn't. I printed both sides of a piece of card just larger than I needed. Originally, I was just going to do the top bit! The silver parts of the trees are cut out separately and glued on back and front, they are suspended in the cut outs.

The sliver foil card base was glued on and then I added some sparkly tape to finish it off.

I did come a cropper on the sentiment, I didn't check the size well enough and it is a fraction too big. However, considering the trouble it had given me, I wasn't about to do it again. I had tried to cut it several times in blue foil card but it kept falling to pieces on me!

Reversible card

Alternative folds

Friday, 4 September 2015

Make A Score Board

No, not one for games, one for scoring cards etc.

It isn't something I often want and I certainly didn't want to buy one and have it sit unused, so this is why I decided to make my own.

Now I know that if you are handy at woodwork or know someone who is, you could do this in a more solid form - but it is not really Hubby's strength, nor is he inclined that way really, so I didn't even ask him.

I bought an A3 board, the sort that is used for backing art for hanging. Marked it up on two sides and can now use a piece of corrugated card for the scores! OK, so you need to be a bit gentle, but it's good enough for what I want to do. I guess that if you wanted, you could embed the card in rolled out polymer clay to give it more support. I'm just using temporary adhesive, so I can turn it  if I want.
Use an embossing tool, not anything too sharp to follow the lines.

Job done!

Sunday, 30 August 2015

I Set Myself a Challenge!

I decided to set myself a challenge today.

To make two A5 pieces of a single image and to use it to make several different cards until it was all used up. I also challenged myself to use a shade of green that I hate.

The image I chose was a fern leaf. It came from a font, so no drawing was needed. I used a variety of techniques, from stamping with ink, to stamping with texture paste, to stencilling. It got cut out in silver foil; in rubber table mat (to make the stamp); in thin plastic table mat to make embossing shapes that I can keep and use time and time again.  I cut them out in different sizes. I used different colours.

This is the process of embossing the card. This very thin plastic table mat cuts like a dream and will not compress in the same way that card ones will. They give a nice clear impression too.

I learned here, that it would be easier to use texture paste if I made my stamp double thickness. Oh well, there's always next time! It actually looks better in the flesh than it does here.

This one has a stencilled leaf made with clear texture gel. The black stamping is done with  Memento  ink.
Offcuts of the black were used like ribbons in this one.
A bit of glamour is sneaking in...no sentiments as I want to be able to choose what to use them for.
This one is very quick, just some fancy glitter tape either side of the black.
So here is the embossed version. The ribbon is silver florist ribbon, cut down.

So, as you can see, you can do a lot with just one basic shape.
It is worth making a whole sheet of the same thing in different sizes or indeed the same size to use in other projects or, doing as I did and use up scraps of foil card by squeezing in a few bits here and there.

And here is a card I made yesterday with a different home made stamp.