Sunday, 26 April 2015

What Material to Use for Cutting your Own Stamps - updated research.

I have been playing around with various possible stamp making materials and have  now come to understand what I can do and with what, so I thought I'd share.

Until yesterday, I did not have an acrylic stamp block to use, so I was using a piece of polycarbonate. The problem with it is that it is still slightly bendable, not the best thing to use. So, if you are looking at saving money on stamping, I suggest you buy the blocks in sizes you need and save the money on the stamps instead!

Having a Silver Bullet, I am fortunate to be able to cut most fun foam that I find. If you have a Cameo, you will be stuck with only the thinnest, sorry, but true.

The thin fun foam is ok for sentiments - as long as you are careful with it as it is fairly fragile but you are not going to be talking  extra fine here. To make stamps where the letters are not joined, stick them onto a piece of acetate  with permanent spray glue and use that to adhere to the block with temp adhesive. That leaf doesn't belong here, it's the thicker foam!

The thicker fun foam is great for the not so delicate stuff. Items that have thick lines or solid patches do well with this.

Window Cling  - Cheap, this is great to cut.  It is designed to put on windows - make sure you find a non textured one, as even a texture on the reverse will show up in a stamped image. You can go as fine as you are capable of weeding. The only problem with this is that it is thin - so you must not leave too much paint on the block itself; and that it can have a tendency to bead up. That will depend largely on the inks you are using. I use acrylic paints, thinned down a bit and applied with a cosmetic sponge.  A bit of glycerine helps too.

Just incase you thought the image was big - here is the scale! This stuff is best suited to fine detail, not large areas to cover.

This is a thicker window film, it seems to be made of two layers. They are prone to separating.

There is a knack to cutting this. A sticky mat and only use a piece a bit larger than the design so it can be kept secure. Try to get it done in a single pass, which you can if the setting is correct. Don't  cut it too lightly though as it will be hard to weed especially if the design is intricate. It probably compares to the Silhouette stamp material. 

Friday, 24 April 2015

Print and Emboss with Silver Bullet and SCAL4 (with Video linked)

Ok, I admit it, I'm on an embossing kick.

So today I thought I'd show you how to do a print and emboss,  (That's the SCAL Video link) in a way that is less likely to end up with a big mistake!  In this example, I emboss over the print lines but there is nothing stopping you from embossing an offset around print lines instead for a different effect.

To do it you are going to use the print and cut option, only without the cutting bit. Don't worry, all will become clear soon!

Put your design into SCAL, I suggest starting off with something simple until you get used to the way this works. I have deliberately chosen an image that is not symmetrical.

Now move the design so that it is in the centre horizontally. You can centre it to the page but you don't need to.
Set the lines to 'print and cut print' and send it to the printer. Don't worry that there are no registration marks, we want those on the reverse of the paper.

Now, 'flip' your design and change the lines to 'Print and cut Cut.'
If your printer is like my Canon one, you will need to put it in the printer face up

with the writing reading as it should. Go to the print and cut screen and choose print again.
This time, the printer should print ONLY the registration marks on the back of your design.

Now, you treat this as a print and cut only you put an embossing tool in the SB rather than a blade.
Put your design face down with some craft foam beneath it, on the cutting mat and secure it all with tape. You should be seeing the side with the registration marks only.

Before you actually do the embossing, you may want to create a custom blade setting that does not have an offset - since the embossing tool does not have one. This will give greater accuracy. (I forgot to do that!)

Set the origin point to the bottom right of your mat or paper as you normally do for a print and cut and while in online mode, set the pressure to whatever is appropriate for your card. Start low, you can press repeat to get a better impression if needed, and up the pressure then too. Like I did here

Use the registration marks as usual to set up and off you go!
Remove design carefully after embossing and admire the result. Notice on my example it's a bit off because I didn't put a special blade setting in. Having said that, I quite like the effect of the offset, it seems to add another dimension.
See, not so hard, is it?

Once you are familiar with how it works you can do more complicated designs involving cut lines as well if you want- just make it so that you can remove the foam without moving your card or it will end in tears!

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Freebie - Single line letters and numbers - Limited time only!

To celebrate the first year of my blog, I'm giving away a free SVG file.

Hand drawn letters (both upper and lower case) and numbers. The lower case has been scaled to fit with the upper case. While it isn't a font as such, since you can't load it, the file is suitable for anyone wanting to write sentiments - obviously not for cutting though (since they are single line! )

These are suitable for writing with a pen in a plotter, engraving or embossing.

Free File

Please do not share the file, although I am happy for you to send links to this page for others to download it. For personal use only.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Silver Bullet Embossing Card Basics With Sure Cuts A Lot 4

There are many advantages to having a Silver Bullet cutting machine, one of them is the force that can be used, it's higher than other machines.  Not only does this allow cutting of more materials but embossing and engraving too.

Today I am looking at embossing or de-bossing, depending on which way you choose to use the material!
Embossing can give some very pretty effects for both backgrounds and lettering but there are some basics you need to know before you start. Real time video here  On thin white card a force of 150 (higher than that would break through -

and here on a thicker grey card at a force of 200

I could have made it deeper by repeating the process.

First things first, you need some sort of padding under your card in order to emboss it. It is perfectly ok to use craft foam.
TIP  Did you know that if you have indents in your craft foam, that heating it gently with a hairdryer or heat embossing tool will allow it to 'repair' itself? Just like magic!

So put your foam on the mat and your card on that, making sure to secure it well.

If you are planning on cutting around the edge, make sure you arrange things so that you can remove the foam before you cut, without moving the design.

Don't have an embossing tool?  Don't worry. As long as you have a pen holder that fits, and an old pen, you'll be ok for basic stuff. Clean out the pen, remove the ink tube and re assemble it. I used an old Sakura one in a Silhouette pen holder. I had to wrap some tape around the pen, it was an in-between size but I got it to work. If you are going to be super fussy, then cut the pen down so that it will fit under the hood of the machine!

Set the lines to 'pen' and make sure you have the machine in charge of the pressure, not the software. That way you can more easily adjust it.
The effect you get will depend on the size of the nib and the force you apply. 
Too high a force  and it will tear through the card, too little and you won't see much of a result. The heavier the card the more force will be needed. Practice on some scraps to get the desired effect. The sample below was done at a force of 150 on relatively thin card. It's easy to repeat the section, not so easy to repair it if you mess it up.
Don't forget to set up the tool using your gap guide!

 If doing a design such as lettering, you must flip it if you want the raised pattern. Embossing is fun for monograms or sentiments but not if it is backwards!
For larger elements you can also use 'line fill' effect, play around with the gaps between lines to get the coverage you want.

If you want to have a cut line around your completed design, make sure you don't use 'Origin point' in the cut settings panel. You are better off using WYSIWYG (and setting the origin to the corner of your mat or paper.) Using origin point for cutting will most likely cause you to have the cut line in the wrong place.  Been there, done that, got the T shirt.

If you think you will do much embossing, you will probably want to buy the proper embossing tool for the Silver Bullet but this works well enough to try it out, or if you are only likely to emboss occasionally.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Nail Stamping - How to make your own Squishy Nail Stamper - CHEAP!

 Those who know me well will be rather surprised at this blog post. Why? Because although I qualified in make up and manicure many years ago, I don't wear nail polish. Or at least I may wear it once in about 5 years... Partly because I bake a lot of bread and partly because my hubby hates the stuff and complains bitterly if I use any.

It doesn't stop me taking an interest though and recently I happened to see a few videos about nail stamping. I was fascinated because I think of nail art as hand drawn creations. Anyhow, it became clear that there are a lot of people who like (or would like) a certain brand of squishy, silicone, stamper. Now while the things themselves are probably very good, from what I have seen, they are not cheap by the time postage has been taken into account and you may have to wait a while for them to arrive.

My mind works in mysterious ways, some days I wonder if I'm firing on all cylinders and other days I have flashes of sheer brilliance. Just as well it is put to crafting use because otherwise I may have turned into a female version of "Q".  Today I had one of my flashes (not the hot ones).

There I was in the Chinese shop buying masking tape. Something drew me to the back of the store, where the plastic boxes, egg cartons and lolly moulds are. One item caught my eye and I whisked it off to the checkout. It cost all of under €2. Silicone Shot Glass Ice moulds. A set of 4. Here is one I demolished earlier..

The rest of the kit, I already had at home. A small empty lip balm pot (that had already been repurposed into a paint brush cleaning pot) and cotton wool balls. Yup, that and a pair of scissors is all you need. It's really easy!

In fact, the cotton balls are optional, depending on how squishy you want it to be. No need for glue, just trim to the height you want and pop it in the jar. Job done!

To those who wonder how well it works, it works just fine in picking up paint or polish. If using polish, the only clean up needed is a lint roller, if using acrylic paint, wash in warm soapy water. There is no need to season it at all. It measures about 3.5 cm in diameter.

Even better, is that once you have made one, you have 3 spare for future use!
Although I don't have any proper engraved plates, I did test it on picking up polish and it does it perfectly.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Making More Complicated Stamps

An update on ways to make stamps.

So far I have dealt with one piece stamps, but what do you do if you have a more complex image that will leave you with lots of bits to deal with?

This video will point you in the right direction. While I use craft foam for this, the basic method works for whatever material you prefer to use.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Pens Not Working?

I touched on this in another post but felt that it warrants  a post of its own, for anyone who is specifically searching for this information!

I have a thing about pens, in that I collect them like other women collect shoes. Every year, I go through them and throw out ones that don't work. Largely this has involved throwing away a lot of Sakura pens of various sorts because, no matter what I tried, they wouldn't work.
When  a pen won't write, we often think it is because the ink has dried out. Well, of 20 non working pens yesterday, I can tell you that only ONE of them had run out of usable ink. On the rest, the ink was fine.
We are talking completely non writing or barely marking the surface after  5 minutes of scribbling, warming, shaking etc.

So, how to get them going?

Use a small pair of pliers if needed to completely take the pen apart. Carefully remove the nib (most just pull out), laying the tube flat or the ink may spill. Now, fill a sink with warm water and put the plug in. (Don't want to lose the nib!). Now here is the bit you probably have not tried. Take a piece of thin wire and wriggle it around in the back of the nib, rinsing the ink out. Push the wire in as far as it will go. When done, stick the wire through a bit of tissue and back into the nib, allowing the remaining ink to come out. Re assemble the pen. Put the cap on and tap it, nib down, against your palm. See if it now works. If not, the ink could be a bit separated. Take the wire and  put it into the ink tube (with the nib still on). Wriggle it to mix the ink and remove. Put pen back together again.

In all but one case, this fixed my non working pens.


Take apart and totally clean out if possible. Sakura pens have a wider tube and you can even get a cotton bud in there. When totally clean, put the nib back on and use a hypodermic  syringe to refill with glycerine, or glycerine with a drop of ink. You now have your very own, custom made heat embossing pen, in what ever colour you choose. (I use liquid watercolours).

Another use for a really dead pen, is as an embossing tool, either by hand or in a machine holder.

I've even put life back into cheap kiddies felt tips by removing the sponge pipe inside and re inking it.
You have to let it stand in the ink and absorb it, then replace.

Oh, one last tip. About an hour before you do this, moisturise your hands with a good thick cream or vaseline. Any ink will find it harder to get into your skin! Failing that, wear thin latex gloves...:)

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Coasters and Placemats - Revamp or Make Your Own.

I do love it when you find another unexpected use for something. You know the sort of thing, you buy something, have a little too much of it and look for another way to use it up, or maybe an idea just comes to you.

Our house always seems to have coasters everywhere. At least two per side table. Some upstairs, others in the conservatory. They all get grotty and stained. Yuck.

It comes from having teas and coffees just a bit too full or a drip from a teapot. So before long, a quick wipe will no longer make them clean and shiny again.

In the past I have used my cutter to make new tops for them and then varnished over that. It works if it is tough enough varnish but you need several coats and it is a bit of a smelly process!

Anyhow, I just felt the need to refurbish some coasters and suddenly remembered some nice tough plastic I'd got for another project. The plastic is sold here by the metre for applying to windows or covering tables. It's strong, easily cut and of course, not harmed by liquids. You can buy it patterned in bright colours but mine was just a plain frosted one.

I measured my coasters and used SCAL to make rounded cornered squares. Now here is where you need to be careful. The first thing is to use cheap paper to make your first cut. Compare the corners to the ones on your mat, and check that the diameter of the corner (it's roundness) is the same.

You may need to do this a couple of times to get it right but it makes all the difference to the finished product.

Once you know what size to cut, choose your design card. It's a great way to use up small pieces or you can make a whole matching set. Cut your card and then cut matching sized plastic covers.

Use a permanent spray glue to stick all the layers together and use a brayer to help it adhere properly. (Depending on the original surface, it can be a good idea to give the old coaster a quick swipe with some sand paper).

That's more like it!

To make coasters and mats from scratch

It's easy peasy! Just use craft foam for the base, top with card and then with the plastic. ( I found it is a good idea to make the foam 1mm bigger than the card top - I think it sort of shrinks up a bit as it's cut).  It's fun to make custom  print and cut ones for friends too - or maybe as a souvenir of a special occasion.  

Most of all, have fun, that's what it is all about!

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Make Your Own Embossing Pen!

Lots of people make their own embossing pads or at least refill them, but have you ever wanted to write in your own handwriting and heat emboss it? Or hand draw on your cards and emboss? You may even have seen embossing pens and thought of giving them a try. Or perhaps, like me, supplies are thin on the ground unless you stump up for postage.

Well, help is on hand. I bet you have an old pen that has dried out. As long as it is one that you can take apart, then this should be easy.
This is the type I used. Everything comes apart from the front end.

It's a cheap one, so no need to spend a fortune or use your best pen. Next step is to take it apart, like this

Get a piece of thin wire, put the plug in a sink ( you don't want to lose the nib)  and run some warm water.  Now use the wire in the nib and down the tube to get rid of the rest of the ink.  Run it under the tap. Get it as clean as you can, and shake it out onto a rag to dry it all out. 
Now here comes the fun bit. IF you have got it clean enough, you can use it like a straw to suck up some  food grade glycerine. If not, or you don't feel happy doing that, get a small syringe with its needle to draw up the glycerine and then release it into the tube. Keep your finger over one end to keep the suction, until you reassemble the pen. You are now free to scribble away, dust with embossing powder as normal and heat. If feeling really clever, there is no reason why you shouldn't mix up your favourite coloured ink with glycerine and use that. Minute quantities of both are all that is needed.

I strongly suspect that you could do pretty much the same with a used up felt tip, only you could use a dropper or syringe to get the glycerine into the filling.


I don't know about you, but in the past I have thrown away virtually unused Sakura pens because I could not get them to write.

I had tried warming them, running under a warm tap, soaking, you name it and nothing had worked. Anyhow, I decided to give something else a go and see what happened. A few days ago I had taken a normal ballpoint pen to bits and filled it with glycerine to make an embossing pen. Works great. One of the things I did to clean out the tube was stick a thin wire into it.

Well, With the Sakura pen, I thought I'd probably find the ink in the tube bunged up but it wasn't, in fact I lost the ink on taking off the nib, simply because it hadn't occurred to me that it would run out. Still, nothing was coming out of the nib so I thought I'd give that the same treatment. I stuck the wire in the hole and wiggled it around for a few minutes before washing it under the tap. Still no go, so I did it again. This time, the last of the old ink flowed through the nib (still without the tube on it) so I knew it was working.

Can't have an old pen go to waste, so I put a couple of drops of black liquid watercolour, a drop of alcohol and a few drops of glycerine in a shot glass and mixed it with a cocktail stick. I use a syringe to slowly drop it into the tube, sitting it in some modelling clay to give me both hands free. Do this slowly or it will spurt out. (Do you see that black splodge?)  Stick a finger over the top of the tube, take it out of the clay and re insert the nib.
I now have a black embossing pen to go with my clear one!

Assuming you don't do what I did and lose all the ink, you should be able to just get your pen working again, if you don't want to re fill it.

Happy Crafting!


Sunday, 5 April 2015

Make Your Own Stamps - various methods.

When I look at Youtube, I could be forgiven for thinking I am the only crafter on the planet who does not own any stamps. Not a single one. Partly this is because to me the fun of crafting is making your own stuff and I don't really want the same things as everyone else. The other part is that I can't buy them locally. I went into the local 'craft' shop. They had ONE stamp. That was it.

However, if I could make my own, it would be totally different. Sometimes it would be nice to be able to stamp a sentiment or embellishment, especially if I have a card that is already made but needs something extra.

The other thing I don't have is a Big Shot or anything like that, so if you want to learn how to make stamps with those, you'll have to go elsewhere, sorry! I do have a Silver Bullet though and was keen to see if that could be used in any way to make stamps.

I set about looking for a suitable material (what, me buy custom craft stuff? Pfft!) and started scouring the drawers and cupboards for something that may do the trick.

The first thing that came to mind was craft foam. Give it it's due, it will do great stamps if you are looking at things that are not too detailed but forget making small sentiments. A large one, yes, but hand writing size, no. This snowflake is about an inch and a half across and prints just fine, as you can see. Moreover, you can buy it anywhere here. It literally follows you around the shops.
The next thing to try was some shelf liner, the thick plastic stuff that you can buy anywhere these days. It's cheap and tough but the SB will cut it, no problem!
The problem here is that even on the smooth side, the bumps stop a smooth impression and you end up with a distressed look. Fine for some things and I do quite like the snowflake like that but not for sentiments.  Also may be worth considering if you want to add touches of sparkle, not a solid block. I did cut a sentiment, very small, the weeding was tough but it could be done.
 The effect however was not worth it. If you try it, you'll need a needle or dental tool to get the bits out of letter loops.

Some people use hot glue to make shapes but although happy to use them for embellishments, I have found that they don't stamp well, leaving missing bits. It must be due to the uneven height of the glue.

I even tried cutting up rubber gloves. No, don't bother, they are too stretchy, like the dried silicone I tried to cut, a no go! I tried the sandwich method too but it didn't work. Believe me when I say life is too short. It really is.

Thinking again, I went out and bought some Plastilina - a sort of modelling stuff made in Spain by Jovi. It felt really hard in the block but once warmed in the hand it is wonderful. Smooth, silky and nicely pliable. I could spend hours playing around with it. Oh all right, I admit it, I DID spend hours playing with it. All in the name of research, honest!

I took the snowflake that was cut out of shelf liner and pressed it into the Plastilina. I used a hand embossing tool to push it in a bit more, trying to make it even. I pulled it out and there was a clear mould. I filled it with Silicone (the stuff used in bathroom sealing) and left it to dry out. This was the result, when  inked.
Bearing in mind that I took no care to clean around it, I still got a pretty decent image. The deeper your mould the better.

Playing with the Plastilina, I also found it made good stamping material by itself, if you want a bit of freehand work. You can place shapes on your block and use it as is -
I recommend using shims either side when you do this so you get the clay rolled evenly to avoid missing bits. I didn't do that for this test. The beauty of it is that you can rinse the stuff off under the tap, pat it dry and re use it. You can carve it too if you wish and the kids can have fun doing it too. Maybe a great idea for doing silly T Shirts, bigger stuff that does not need high detail.

In my  quest, I thought of something else (I don't just think outside the box but outside the lorry the box came in) and that was to use the SB to emboss some thin metal sheet and use that as a mould. This met with a problem ( I didn't use any release agent) in that the silicone I used stuck. Oops.
It didn't dry either, though not sure if this was due to me being impatient or the surface. Will have to test that one again!

I did find that you could do an embossed design and then take a mould using the Plastilina, using which ever side you wanted. As long as the emboss is deep enough that works quite well. You can then either make a silicone mould or just use the Plastilina directly.

Another option may be to use the clay on a paper backing, under the metal and emboss directly into it. It would depend on the metal, design and pressure used but is worth giving a try. Again, use shims to make sure the material is rolled flat for best results. I may try to use hot glue in one of these moulds and see what happens but I haven't had time yet.

My final method was to try cutting hot glue (after it had cooled, naturally!) I cut a rectangle in a piece of foam, filled it with glue and tried to spread it. It didn't work too well, maybe because I have a small glue gun and I don't think it gets the glue that runny. Anyhow, I did a sample but I'd made it too thick and couldn't cut it well. If you try this, I suggest you use the thinner foam. The edges adhere to the foam so at least it makes it less likely to move on the mat...
I think that if you could make it a nice even 1mm thick, it would cut and still be tough enough to cut sentiments. The other side feels like it would stamp well. I just  cut a bit of my sample with scissors and it's 2mm thick and really tough. 
This has promise guys!

Incase anyone wonders, I used normal acrylic paints to stamp, applied with a cosmetic sponge in a clip, like this. That way I didn't get paint under my nails.
The paint was just put on a piece of vinyl backing for ease of clean up! For any stamps that don't automatically cling to a block (or in my case a piece of perspex) I used temporary spray on adhesive.

If you want to make your own ink pads, don't forget you can use old make up compacts, single eye shadow ones etc. Just add a thick enough craft foam for the well and add your own inks. Thicken inks with glycerine if needed. Don't use normal acrylic paint on pads as it will dry in the pad. A pad with glycerine added to it will be great for use as an embossing pad.

As yet, no answer to detailed stamping but many alternatives for more basic shapes, trees, snow scenes etc.  To cut craft foam, make shallow cuts first and gradually get the depth you need by repeat cuts and then increasing the blade depth if you need to. You will get a much smoother result. Even the normal 45 blade for the Silver Bullet can cut 2mm foam perfectly.

So there you have it, my foray into the world of stamping. Hope you enjoyed it!

Friday, 3 April 2015

Making Do With What you Have

While I would love to have everything craft related that I want or need, sometimes we have to try to re purpose things or come up with alternatives.
I quite fancy having a go at stamping but really don't want to bother with lots of different pads because I don't see myself doing much of it. Maybe the odd sentiment on a card, embossed or not, an accent here or there. What I do have, is loads of different paints and texture gels, water colours and acrylics. I really don't have room for anything that is too specialist!

If that is the case for you too, there are alternatives. If you have stamps but no pad, you can use a wedge of cosmetic sponge to apply whatever your chosen medium. Don't forget that watercolours can be thickened slightly with Glycerine to make them more controllable and to stick to the stamp. Glycerine on its own can be used as an embossing glue, use it neat or again mixed with a colour and sponge it on your stamp.
Bottle caps are handy too - glue a bit of latex sponge in them to make it easier to pick up without getting stuff all over your fingers. (Yup, I've got the ink stains to prove it.)  If you have acrylic paints to hand, they will stamp well but do your clean up quickly or you will have a terrible job getting your stamps clean again. It's advisable to have a bowl of warm soapy water to hand to drop the stamps into.

If you do have a glue pad, use Glycerine to re wet it and you are good to go. I use eye dropper bottles filled with it to make it a quick clean job. A few drops rubbed in with an old credit card will do the trick. It also keeps water colours nice and juicy if you add a couple of drops to each colour well in your palette.

Don't forget you can use stencils with your Glycerine glue too, basically they are the reverse of a stamp! Make sure your stencil is secured in place (I like to use a temporary spray glue), dab with Glycerine. Add your embossing powder on top and heat as normal. Experiment with removing the stencil before and after adding the powder and see what works best for you.

A little flour tied up in a scrap of fabric can be a substitute for expensive static removers, any excess brushes away.

For those of you who want to try out blending sticks, you can quickly make one of your own to try. If you get on with them, you may want to buy the commercial variety or you may not but at least you have a choice!