Sunday, 29 March 2015

Condolence Cards

This week has seen a huge tragedy for many families. We are fortunate in that we have not lost loved ones recently but it got me thinking about condolence cards. Not the nicest of subjects, I grant you, but by their very nature they are cards that we have to think about in a hurry, at a time when we may be upset ourselves.

There is not usually a shortage of cards that cater for those of a religious persuasion but these days there are many families who don't believe or maybe you just don't know if they do. The card industry is not good at catering to such people. I for example, would not really want to see cards with religious symbols on them.

At the same time, you will still want to express your sympathy or extend a helping hand and want to send a card.

So I have designed a simple card with a choice of sentiments. The stripes are to be cut in gold foil or tape and the sentiments drawn with a pen in the plotter blade holder - keep to the same colour to get the best effect.

free file

It isn't rocket science or fancy but it does the job and it's there for if you need it. I don't believe in trying to make money off the back of someone else's loss, so the file is free.

Not all Glues are Equal

My husband is always amazed by the amount of different things I need for my craft room. Seldom do we go out window shopping without me saying 'I could do with..'.  Luckily he has his own hobbies so he is not immune to doing the same thing himself and can't really complain at me doing it. People in glass houses and all  that.

However, he does get to use my stuff sometimes and he often comes in my craft room and asks if I have a glue that can stick something odd together. At which point I just raise an eyebrow in the style of  Roger Moore and say 'Of course I have!'  Glues and tapes are stock in trade of any crafter.

So why do we need so many? Won't one thing do it all? Well, no. No one product will do it all. Some will do most things, some are specialised, some are good and some are next to useless.

Let me start with glue guns, those nifty tools that can be heaven or hell, depending on what you have and what you are using it for and the glue you buy for it.

This is my favourite glue gun for fine work. It's tiny, very light and has a detachable cable so you can use it without being plugged in for a minute or two. It also has a very fine point as you can see, which makes it great for getting into small places and delicate sticking jobs.
Now, when it comes to the glue sticks, they all seem to do the job but there is a difference. In colour. I'm not talking about coloured sticks per se, rather that they seem to be slightly different in tint or opacity. 

The ones on the left are ever so slightly milky, while the ones on the right have a blue/white tint.  If anyone knows of a brand of 7mm sticks that comes out like glass, I'd love to know about it! Why? Because I like to use glue for embellishments like this (normally done much better than that one, it was just a test piece). I use a Pilot gold pen to highlight shapes. It adds another dimension.

The problem with glue guns is what makes them work in the first place. Hot glue. I know from experience what it feels like to get a spurt of that stuff up your forearm and I don't recommend it. (Hubby was trying to free his blocked one and accidentally got it over me.) So, if you are clumsy, maybe it is best to avoid them.

Here are some of the glues I use.

Top left is a silicone glue. Cheap, good for sticking card and paper, it doesn't make paper wet like some glues do. However, in a bottle form it lacks good control.
The Tesa (back horizontal in pic) is a similar formula, only it has one pointed end and one spreader end, so the best of both worlds. I got that one from Aldi.
Sakura Quickie Glue (horizontal front) is like a ball point pen only glue comes out. The downfall is that it is not very strong, so has a limited use.
The Zig 2 Way Glue is wonderful. It is like a felt tip, is available in different nib sizes. The glue comes out pale blue but dries clear and it will stick most things, including metal backed stones to paper. I love it. It can be used two ways - normal and a temporary stick if you let it dry a bit first.
Bostick do a similar version only it is not tinted. This chunky one has not really been tested by me yet, so I reserve judgement.
Lastly there is Gem Tac. This is a permanent adhesive suitable for putting gems on clothing that will be washed by machine. It takes 24 hours to cure fully but after that you're ready to go.
You may wonder why I have not included general purpose white glue. It is because I just don't use it much. It makes paper and card buckle, takes a long while to cure and is therefore, not a favourite.

What is your favourite glue and what do you use it for? Are there any that you regret buying? Use the comment box to let me know!

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Have fun with Sticky Tape and Transfer Foils

I know those of us with cutting machines often try to out do ourselves with the technical aspects of card making or scrap booking - and why not? It's fun, keeps us amused and can yield spectacular results. Think box cards, waterfall cards etc.

Sometimes though it's nice to go back to the roots and go simple. Very simple. As in almost no cutting, no fancy footwork. Those things can work too but there is no need to take the fun out of it!

Take this card for example. A few minutes cutting, a couple with a gold pen and a couple more with foil, glue and crystals.

Clean design with a bit of the Midas touch. A card that can be adapted to suit a lot of different occasions just by adding an insert with appropriate sentiment.

I started with a sheet of A4 white card and just folded it in half. I cut hearts out with my Silver Bullet, using a strip of double sided tape. I kiss cut it with a 45 degree blade, holder set to 1 and a pressure of 60 - the backing on my tape is rather strong. If anyone is wondering, it came from Aldi when they had DIY stuff in store and it's a big roll (Top Craft brand).
TIP - To kiss cut DST to make embellishments, first stick the tape to a piece of vinyl backing paper. It will stick to it but peel off when needed. Use masking tape to stick the backing paper to your mat, just to make sure it won't move half way through cutting. Try to make sure the backing paper does not get cut. That way you can lift of your embellishment and only have the top layer to remove!

Placing my cut hearts randomly, I then removed the top layer one at a time and pressed on the gold contact foil. Pull it away fast for best results. Fill in any holes by going over them again. I can't say what brand that is, as I have lost the wrapper. Strings were added with a gold pen, with tiny bows drawn at the base of each heart balloon. Finally, I used my Zig pen (love those!) to secure a few fake glass shapes for a bow (one square and 4 teardrops).
All done!

If you don't have foil, you could press glitter onto the sticky hearts instead. Of course, you can choose other designs and shapes or use the tape just to add a few highlights of gold or sparkle. Use your imagination!  It's a fun thing to do and if you do have crafty children around, you could pre make your sticky shapes  and let them loose.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

How to Cut Craft/Fun Foam with Silver Bullet

There are many people who would like to cut fun foam with their cutters but just don't know how to go about it.
This post gives you the settings I used (yours may differ) and the technique I used to make it as easy and painless as possible!

First, my craft foam is about 2mm deep, including the glitter. About 1.5mm without it.

Before I started, I had to consider if I wanted to risk messing up my clean mat - no.
Did I want to risk an expensive genuine blade? No.

So what did I use? I used a piece of a plastic placemat, one of those flexible thin ones. I'd used it before with my Cameo and it already had some adhesive spray on it from then. Months ago.
For a blade, I used a new but cheap 24mm long, 60 degree one from China. They fitted the LiYu holder I used in my Cameo but are 1mm longer than the standard blades for the Silver Bullet. I used my Click holder (purchased from Thyme Graphics in the UK- love it!) I kept my holder on setting no 1 - because of the extra length of the blade. If you are using a genuine blade, you may need to go up to a much higher click holder setting.
As you can see, it sticks out more than the standard blade would on no1 - the normal one is only 23mm long.
I checked the blade depth against the foam and it looked just right.

For preparation, I took one extra step. I applied a piece of sticky backed plastic to the GLITTER side of my foam. I put the foam GLITTER side DOWN on my mat and taped it in place to make sure it could not move or get caught when moving the carriage. When designing, make sure to reverse your pattern if you need to - letters for example.
I made sure to do a blade height check before cutting, it still needs to be slightly above the foam.

As it happens, the first setting I tried worked beautifully, velocity 120, force 150. It cut all through the foam without going into the sticky plastic. The glitter was barely touched and just came away with the foam as it should. You can see the cut taking place in this video

My only difficulty was trying  to release it one handed while I held the camera!

Using the sticky backed plastic definitely would make clean up a lot quicker if you needed to use your genuine mat. Have you ever tried getting that stuff off a sticky surface? Believe me, you don't want to. Takes the patience of a Saint.

Finally, I made notes in my spiral book, along with a sample. It's good practice to do this because you WILL forget what settings you used in time!

So now there is no excuse not to have fun with this stuff!  Room decorations for children, craft projects, school projects, let me know what you do with it!

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Make your Own Coloured Foils!

I was looking at an Origami project recently and it was made with tissued foil. I guess the reason is that it keeps a fold really well and it is quite strong.

It isn't very exciting to look at but it got me thinking.. (dangerous at my age!)

I came up with something far more glamorous - putting cellophane on foil! 

It's easy to do. Just use spray adhesive to put cellophane on one or both sides of normal BBQ Foil. If you want a nice smooth surface, make sure to smooth the foil first and use new cellophane, not stuff that has become wrinkled like mine was here! If you do it on both sides, you get jewel like foil for making flowers and 3D art.  You can even use different colours on each side!

Do it on one side and you have a coloured foil for embellishments. If need be, get someone to help you do it, smoothing it out to remove air bubbles as you go.

Once done, you can add it to an adhesive backing or not but it becomes quite strong and easy to cut with an electronic cutter.

Cut it in ribbons, dots or other shapes to add a bit of fun to your projects. Make small squares of different colours for cutting out sentiments when you need them, or make up whole A4 sheets to use as needed, of the most popular colours. Keep some around for children to cut for school projects, or screw up into 'beads' for making colourful necklaces and bracelets.  Decorate pencil cases and journals.....anything!

Friday, 13 March 2015

Derwent WaterColour and Inktense Pencils

I received a package this morning, from Amazon. Makes a change for parcels around here to be for me and not my hubby!

The colour swatches are my own, they don't come in the pack. I had chosen the tin of 36 because I think the colour selection is broad enough to be useful while still being a small enough box to take on holiday or out for the day. I was right in that, I doubt if anyone would really need a wider selection unless they don't ever blend colours.

I have a wide selection of paints, from acrylic, to watercolour inks, to palettes and tubes but I find these types of pencils extremely useful. Not just but largely because of the sheer portability. A sketch pad, a water brush and a set of coloured pencils and I am ready to go. (Oh and some kitchen towel). Much easier to take on flights too.

I've made a quick video .  Not only are these pencils great for artwork but also for crafters whose main interest is not painting. They are easy to use, give a great watercolour look and are wonderful for colouring embellishments, stamped and printed images and adding splashes of colour.

So what is the difference between these and Inktense (also from Derwent?)  Well, the latter forms an ink that becomes permanent when dry, while water colour can still be re wet and manipulated, Inktense can't. Once dry, that's it. Like a permanent marker pen. The colours are, well, more intense!

Also, I think these are a great introduction to painting for children or beginners. Those nasty poster paints we tend to have to use when young are enough to put many off painting for life!  The pencils though, are kind of like a bridge to another world, one that goes from dry to wet. For experimentation they are brilliant, try dry on wet, wet on dry, gradients of colour, colour mixing - all without getting into a mess. For arty children going to Grandparents they are a boon, hours of amusement without pots of colour being spilled on the carpet.

For students, fashion, design, engineering, whatever, they can add colour and depth to projects - without being as costly as marker pens. For would be cartoonists and illustrators, indeed anyone who wants some colour.

If you are in retirement and fancy a new hobby, give them a go, you could find a talent you never knew you had!

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Scan2Cut with Sure Cuts a Lot V4.017 and Silver Bullet cutter. A whole new realm of creativity!

How to get a Great Scan2Cut with Sure Cuts A Lot 4

I have to confess to nagging Craft Edge over the last couple of weeks. It appears to have paid off though!  While I have created work arounds, I saw no reason why the software could not get this function worked into it, the building bricks were there, but the company has worked really hard to add this to the menu, as a separate function, really quickly. I was given  betas to test, which is why I can now show you, in detail how it all works.

No special mats needed!  It is also possible to use a Photo to do this instead of a scanner. The advantage of that is that you are not limited to the size of your scanner bed. The disadvantage is that it isn't quite as accurate unless you are very careful.

Click here for the video

 I wanted this feature, largely because I paint in watercolour and it would be nice to be able to cut out some of my doodles for use as embellishments. Stampers will find it invaluable to cut multiple images at a time.

First, find a suitable item that you want to cut out. For the first attempt, choose an image that has a defined edge, for ease of tracing.

You now have two choices, either use the page size from the drop down menu or the Custom Size, where you put in the measurements of your rectangle made by your hand added dots.
If you choose the latter -

Put 4 small dots in a rectangle around your image.

Scan the image to your desktop or take a photo of it.

Open SCAL and choose File/ Scan2Cut.

Click on Load image, locate the file, open and it will appear in the window.
Move the corners of the ‘cage’ to around your dots. NOTE - on the released version, they have added a magnification viewing window to this box.

On the actual paper, measure the distance between the dots and fill in that measurement in the ‘W’ and ‘H’ menu - make sure to get them in the right order. Tick the blue ‘Use custom marks’ box.Click ‘next’ when you are done.

 Move the crosses over the dots. The more accurate you are, the better the result. Click OK when done and the image will import into your SCAL workspace. With the image selected, click on Trace Image and trace as normal.

After tracing and while selected, make sure you go to the Style window and select Print and Cut Cut, or the registration marks will not appear. The registration marks are based on your dots and there will be four. You will use the actual pen dots on your paper as registration marks, nothing gets sent to the printer! That's why it is important to make small dots, make them too big and you will make things harder for yourself.

You can edit your cut lines as normal but it is good practice to go into the layers menu and lock the dots to make sure you don’t lose the reg marks and have to start over.

Here I have chosen to view in 'Line mode' and I have moved the image to one side (the arrow shows you can just see its rectangle outline). I have edited out some of the interior lines that I did not want.

This is what it looks like in Preview mode, you can see the reg marks and the cut lines. You can delete the image itself.

If you are concerned that any white areas may show due to not taking care on the trace, you can now go to Path/ offset and put an offset in place from there (inside obviously!)  NOTE  The offset function is unlike the shadow function in that it DELETES the original line, to avoid confusion.

So now we are ready to do a Print and Cut (without the Print!)

Put the paper on the mat, and use a point near your lower right dot marker as the origin point to set to Zero. After that, check the settings for the material, blade height etc as usual. Use the four dots to line up your laser, the software will automatically  include 4 to line up instead of the usual 3.

So here is the result

The slight white area to the right was due to my not altering the auto trace at all but I have got some extremely good results, as you can see in the following pics.


Although the software allows you to use standard paper size as an option (instead of the Custom one here,) choose from the drop down menu, if you are scanning white paper it is hard to see the edges, if you want to use that option, either mark the corners of the page anyway, or put a dark paper over it in the scanner for contrast. Believe me, I have squinted at the edges too often!  In that mode, you don't get the second window with the crosses to line up - which is why I prefer this one, more accurate.
If you want to do a trace on something that has badly defined boundaries,like this Origami paper either outline things with a black marker or use software like Gimp to mask and fill the shapes of the scanned image  before tracing. The first option is easier (and quicker) unless you know your way around editing.

On very 'busy' papers, put small plain adhesive stickers roughly where you want your dots to be, then put your pen dot on those. I recommend using a 0.1 fine marker for them.

If you have lots of little images you want to cut, instead of doing them one at a time, glue them on to a thin backing paper, put the 4 dots around the whole lot and scan or photograph it in one go.

I made an acetate sheet filled with a grid of 1mm holes, click on the link to download it. The spacing does not need to be a specific measurement, mine are approx 1 cm apart. It is just to make sure you get a true rectangle.

BTW, if you make one of these, put paper under the plastic while you cut. (Do you really want to spend ages scraping them off?) When done, if they have not dropped out, put the plastic over a sheet of craft foam and use either an embossing tool (small one, obviously) to punch them through, or a pencil. The dots will embed in the foam, making it a lot easier! Makes a pretty effect in the foam too...hmmm, I'm sure to find a use for that.

A metal rule can then be used to accurately measure from  one dot to the  next. A minute spent doing that will save you time, paper and nerves!

OK, I think that's it. A long post but I wanted to make sure that I covered everything that you may need to know!   Now you can go through all your old greeting cards and cut the pretty bits out to re use!

Happy Scan2 Cutting and a big Thank You to Craft Edge for making this happen.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Sure Cuts a Lot Scan2Cut Feature Coming Very Soon!

The objective is to make it easy to cut images out of pre printed materials, be it something you have in a magazine, greeting cards, or your own artwork

This feature (at present) will be for the Silver Bullet, and other machines that presently use the Print and Cut feature using laser alignment.

I am very pleased to be able to announce that Craft Edge are hoping to release an update very soon that has a Scan2Cut feature! Yes! Not sure on the date yet  (could be later this week) but will let you know as soon as I find out. I have already drafted an in depth tutorial to post here on its release and will have a video to go with that too.

Craft Edge have let me do beta testing and have been refining it based on some suggestions I made.

I am pleased to report that it works beautifully, that you will be able to use a camera or scanner to capture your image and that it does not need any special equipment for your Silver Bullet.

So well done Craft Edge, you listened and got it done!