Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Super-Easy Christmas Craft - Simple Paper Covered Tree

I used to be addicted to magazines.  I liked having reading material that was easy and fun, and showed up every month. I started in college with Glamour and Cosmo, then progressed to InStyle, Oprah and RealSimple. I think that's code for "I got old".

In recent years, I've been drawn to crafty magazines. But not Martha Stewart Living, for some reason.  It just doesn't inspire me.  I can't put my finger on exactly why. Maybe it's that her crafts and food are so time-consuming and scream "if you can't be perfect, why bother trying?". I don't need that kind of discouragement! 

I recently made an exception to my no-paper-subscriptions rule to buy a year's worth of Cards magazine, which is just LOVELY.  It's stunningly-photographed handmade cards, one per page.  It has a little bit of how-to content, but is mostly just a GREAT idea book. In addition, it's so inspiring and gorgeous that I'd love to get published there someday.  It's part of my Mondo Beyondo list.

Craft magazines are RIDICULOUSLY expensive when you buy single issues (if you can find them at all). I guess they have such small circulation, with a specialized audience that will pay. So I try not to indulge very often.

I picked up 'Paper Creations' last month because it had a really cool-looking paper Christmas tree on the front.  I had about 2 minutes to make my selection before Trillian started toddler-mauling all the nice magazines at Barnes and Noble.  So I grabbed it and we left.

It turns out the magazine is not really my style.  Lots of overly ornate cards and crafts, with a more vintagey, "busy" feel.  I'm more of a simple girl myself.  Also, the production quality isn't as nice as cards, but for $6 vs the $20 single issue price for Cards (!), I guess that's why.

All was not lost, though, because the Christmas crafts on the cover were neat-o and super-easy.  I loved the paper-covered tree on the front, and found a variation of it inside. 

So the next time we went to Jo-Ann Fabric & Crafts (a regular occurence when they send me xx% off your total purchase coupons!), I bought the (minimal) supplies needed.

And a couple of weekends ago, I got my craft on, while BabyT played nearby, and occasionally came by to ask "What Mama Doing?"

I had originally wanted to make the tree on the cover, with the looped bits of paper, but realized that would be hard to store after Christmas without crushing the loops.  So I chose to make a tree that was covered in flat paper instead.

Materials and Methods
  • Styrofoam cone shape (these appear at Christmas time), about 12" tall, but any size could work
  • Cool Christmas or winter-themed patterned paper, preferably not cardstock but lighter weight
  • Quilting pins with pearlized ball ends (longer is better, I chose 1.5")
  • Sequins or little beads (optional)
  • 1.25-1.5-inch circle cutter or automagic die-cutting machine like the Silhouette

1.  Cut out a TON of circles with your circle cutter or die cutting machine, no bigger than 1.5" diameter.  Cut out a lot, then cut some more.  Nope, more than that.  I needed about 100 to cover my 1 foot tall "tree".

2.  Get into your zen mind.

3.  Start pinning paper circles to the Styrofoam tree shape.  Start at the bottom, and stick the pins in the middle of the circles. Overlap them slightly so that you cover the Styrofoam.  You may have a few gaps which you can fill in later, but should be able to get pretty good coverage if you overlap them by about 1/3. 

4. When you've gone around the bottom, start another row and overlap the bottom row to achieve full coverage.  Do this some more, and then some more, until you've covered up the whole thing.

5. Fill in any small styrofoam gaps by pinning large sequins or beads onto the "tree".

6.  That's it!  You're done!  Join hands and dance around your cool little tree.  Or not.  Just kidding.

Tips and Tricks
  • Plan the rough order of circles in advance.  I had only one piece of the evergreen tree photo paper, so I interspersed it with a shiny red pattern to look like "ornaments" and then had to finish with some white glitter paper at the top to look like "snow".  Of course, you don't have to make it look like a tree - people will get the idea anyway.

  • Lighter weight paper will curve around the tree better.  The glitter cardstock I used at the top is pretty but shows more creases and was less forgiving, especially when pinned at the narrow top of the cone.

  • Remember that you're working with paper - make sure your hands are clean and dry and that you don't handle or reposition each piece of paper more than absolutely necessary.  It'll start looking grungy pretty quickly otherwise.  But you can move circles around if you're careful.

  • If you have a die-cutter, use it.  Punching all those circles by hand was NOT putting me in the Xmas spirit, that's for sure.  But I needed to do it where I could keep an eye on T so the die cutter wasn't an option.  Learn from my mistake :)

  • Older kids would probably dig this craft.  Younger ones will probably poke their eyes out with the pins.  Be safe, yo.

  • The volume of a cone is 1/3 times the area of the base times the height.  You don't need to know it for this particular craft, but it might come in handy some other time.
Um, if you're out there in Internet land, could you leave me a comment?  I'm just curious if anyone is reading :)  Extra credit if you make your own tree.  Super-duper extra credit if you post a link to a photo of your tree.  Minus points if you spam me.  :)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas Sweatshop Craft 2010 - Paper Photo Ornament - Experiment 6

Now that it's December, I feel like it's ok to post Christmas-related projects.  I didn't want to be one of those people pushing Christmas before the turkey leftovers have been consumed.

Last year was when I started collecting papercrafting supplies, at first just to finish BabyT's baby book (which is *still* not done and she's 2 now). With all those supplies, I also wanted to make something little that I could slip into our holiday cards.  Since I love sending regular greeting cards rather than the one-panel photo cards everyone else sends, I figured this craft should include a small photo of us.

On the very excellent blog Christmased, someone commented about a family tradition to have a crafty project that they all participate in, to give out to others. Inevitably they'd end up working on it till the wee hours, hence the name "Christmas sweatshop craft". I love that, so I'm stealing it for my title. 

I decided to make small paper ornaments that people could hang on their Christmas trees.  Since it had to fit inside a card, it needed to be flat, so I decided on a round shape with a little cap to look like the top of an ornament ball.  I had to make at least 45 of these, to fit my Christmas card list.  Since I was so excited about this project, I started in early December, so I didn't go into panic mode during this project.  Hooray for being a project manager in real life.  Sometimes it does pay off in unexpected ways.

Paper photo Christmas ornament 2010
 This was pretty easy to make, and would have been even easier (and neater!) if I had used my Silhouette machine to cut out the ornament circles.  I just wasn't thinking about it at the time, since my machine was brand new!
  1. Using the Martha Stewart Circle Cuttermanual circle cutter, I cut approximately 3.5 inch diameter circles - for each ornament I cut one from holiday themed patterned paper and one in plain cardstock.
  2. I printed the photo I wanted using the Windows Photo Viewer.  I printed them wallet-sized on 8.5 x 11" photo paper and cut each one to about 2 inches square. 
  3. I used my Fiskars squeeze corner rounder punch to round the edges of each photo.  (This takes a while when you have 45+ photos!).
  4. I stuck the patterned paper circles to the cardstock circles using Mod Podge Decoupage Glue
  5. I used double stick tape to adhere the photo to the patterned paper side of the ornament (once the glue was dry on the ornaments, about a day later just to be sure!)
  6. I used the Silhouette machine's software to design the ornament top - it's just a rectangle welded to a circle, with another circle inside.  I then had it cut out all 45 of these, while I sat back and had a diet Coke.
  7. I covered both sides of each ornament top with some matte Mod Podge decoupage glue, to strengthen them.
  8. I stapled the ornament top to the ornament with a colored staple.  They were surprisingly hard to find, but I eventually tracked them down at Michael's.
  9. Using embroidery floss, I tied a small loop to each one so the recipients could attach an ornament hook.
  • Rather than decoupage glue, use a Xyron machine, or just strong double-stick tape to adhere everything
  • Use an electronic die-cutting system if you've got one to cut circles quickly and more accurately
  • Skip using Mod Podge to "strengthen" cardstock on simple projects like these.  Plain heavy cardstock should be fine, or use a clear page reinforcement if it's the right side.
  • Use Photoshop elements to place the photos in the *exact* size needed on the page, then you only need simple cutting and corner rounding.
  • Write your last name and year on the back so you and others can remember your cute project long into the future. (Assuming they don't immediately recycle it...)
  • Make at least one extra to keep for yourself!
  • Don't sweat the small mistakes - people will be charmed by the fact that you made them something.  Unless they're super-critical and mean.  In which case, they don't deserve one anyway.  So there.
  • When making a bunch of the same design, do it assembly-line style after making the first proof-of-concept: cut all circles, glue all, staple all, etc.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

52 Weeks of Mail: Week 2, Follow Your Dream

Back in October, my friend K and I were taking an online class together called Mondo Beyondo.  It's all about figuring out what your big dreams are and how to make them real.  One of the lessons mentioned a book called The Wishing Year: A House, a Man, My Soul by Noelle Oxenhandler.  I read it pretty quickly, and decided that K might like it too, so I packed it up for her. 

Since I was doing 52 Weeks of Mail, I figured I should also include a nice card.  So I made her one:

Basic Grey has some really cool greeting card kits, which contain all the fixin's for 8 greeting cards based on their paper design lines.  The kits have all the papers, conveniently cut into the right shapes and sizes, die cuts, rub-ons, and chipboard embellishments, plus detailed step by step instructions on how to assemble each card.  You don't even need scissors - just some strong adhesive!

I *love* these kits because it's a quick and easy way to make a handmade card, and it helps me get over the initial fear and paralysis of having a blank page staring me down.  Then I can get creative and embellish and change certain parts while keeping the basic idea.

For K's card, I added some super-cute epoxy letters from KI Memories to spell out "dream" and the little rub-on border with the flying bug (bees? butterflies? No idea.) across the bottom border and a tiny spot at the top.

A couple of things I learned from making this one:
  • When applying rub-ons to uneven surfaces, be patient.  It will work, but go slow so you don't break the pattern. 
  • Putting letter stickers in a line with even spacing isn't as easy as it seems like it should be.  Use a ruler or make them delightfully uneven by exaggerating their placement.  As opposed to just a little crooked :)
 So, are you doing 52 Weeks of Mail yet?  Share your links!

Monday, November 21, 2011

52 Weeks of Mail: The Beginning

Hello, poor neglected crafty blog!  I've missed you so much.  But I have a cool new project to write about!  52 Weeks of Mail was started by the Etsy Greetings Team, a group of card sellers.  It's a weekly challenge to handwrite a letter to someone and mail it, with real stamps in a real mailbox.

This was a perfect way to push me into making more cards, and of course, spreading a little love around the world, too.  Back in the Dark Ages of my childhood, we didn't have this newfangled invention called e-mail.  We had to write letters, with a pen, barefoot 10 miles in the snow.  Each way!

I loved writing letters as a kid, and my mom encouraged it.  I wrote to my relatives in India, to other kids I had met at summer camps, and even to a penpal or two I found in Metal Edge magazine, who liked the same cheezy 80s hair metal bands as me.  Mike in Calgary, you rock! \oo/

It started back on Oct 9, and I'm a little behind, of course, so I will be playing catchup.  Fortunately Christmas is around the corner and I've already got a bunch of handmade cards ready! 

Standard personalized stationery with a little zing!
But first, the beginning! It just so happened that my friend G bought one of my handmade copper zipper pulls for her diaper bag in anticipation of her baby's arrival.  So I figured I'd include a little handwritten note to her to kick off my 52 Weeks.  I was scrambling around to find a card, and realized I could make one pretty quickly from some personalized stationery I've had since 2005 (yeah, seriously). 

I used my fancy Fiskars Border Punch to make the scalloped border, then found some coordinating red paper with a subtle pattern and glued a narrow strip to the underside of the front of the card to "fill in" the border.

And that was it. Simple, but just a touch of handmade goodness.  I wrote to wish G and her family happiness and sleep with the arrival of their baby.  Because what new parents couldn't use a little more sleep?

It's not too late to join in!  If you decide to get in on the 52 Weeks of Mail goodness, blog about it and drop me a link here so I can see what nifty things you've sent out!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Kids' Artwork Display Banner - Experiment 6

I just completed this project today but I was so excited about it that I had to write it up. 

Long before I had a baby, I remember seeing photos of homes with kids' artwork framed beautifully and hung up. I loved the idea - I'm not a fan of buying artwork that just matches a room, but for hanging up things that really speak to me or tell a story about the people who live here. 

T's daycare regularly does messy art projects with all the kids, even the infants. We do art projects at home, but they're not as organized and cute as the ones they plan at daycare. Every couple of months her teachers send home the last several projects.

I'm not a pack rat (despite my huge collection of shiny new supplies) so I can easily let go of some of the pieces she brings home. We also have two adoring sets of grandparents who appreciate T's art, so I give them some. But I want to keep and display some of them. Until now I hadn't done much except stick a few  up on the magnet boards in my craft room.

A few months ago, while reading a craft book, I saw a photo of a bulletin board with a cute handmade sign to showcase the kids' art projects.  I knew I wanted to make something like that for our house, so I put it on the list of "someday maybe" projects.

Yesterday, I got motivated to FINALLY pick up all the stuff sitting on the floor of the craft room and DO something with it.  I threw away some things, found better storage places for others, and unearthed a bulletin board that was just the perfect size for the hallway outside T's room. 

I put up the board and tacked on three of her recent art projects.  And today, while my fabulous husband was at the football game, and my fabulous daughter went to her fabulous grandparents' place for an afternoon of fun, I got crafty.

I wanted to make a sign that announced Trillian's art. I love making banners.  Since I didn't have much time and really wanted to finish it in one sitting, I decided to use my largest circle punch and glittery letter stickers from my stash. 

Rather than a typical banner where the letters are attached to each other, I used my jewelry making brainspace and decided to "string" the letters onto ribbon, using brightly colored jump rings.  I figured this would give the sign more motion, and I also wanted to see if I could make what I pictured in my head.  Since the "beads" were made of paper, I thought I should reinforce the holes with metal eyelets.

Fiskars Squeeze Punch X-Large, Round 'n Round
BasicGrey patterned cardstock
Pink Paislee glitter chipboard alphabet stickers
Crop-A-Dile Hole Punch and Eyelet Setter
Satin ribbon, 5/8" wide
Large 3/16" silver eyelets
Large anodized aluminum jump rings (1/4")
Packaging tape or nails/tacks for hanging

  1. I cut out enough circles from the cardstock with the circle cutter to spell out "trillian's art".  12, to be precise, plus a couple extra for mistakes.
  2. I arranged the cardstock circles with the patterns in the order I wanted them, and then stuck on the letter stickers, which I chose in a color and size so they'd be easy to read from a few feet. 
  3. I marked where I wanted the eyelets with a pencil. 
  4. Using the Crop-A-Dile, I punched 1/8" holes at the top of each letter of her name, and then the top and bottom of the ones spelling 'art' since they'd hang vertically.
  5. Using the wondrous Crop-A-Dile, I put in the eyelets. 
  6. Then, using pliers, I opened the jump rings, slipped them in the eyelets, and then closed them.  For the word 'art' I chained the letters together so they'd hang vertically.
  7. I cut a length of ribbon (about 3 feet) and strung the name letters on them, tying a knot at each end to keep the letters on. 
  8. At the beginning, before the knot, I added the string of letters spelling "art" and then tied another knot to keep that in place.
  9. I used clear packaging tape to secure the ends of the ribbon to the bulletin board.  Since the banner is small and light, this should be enough to hold it in place.
Tips & Tricks
  • Doing projects with repetitive elements goes a lot faster if you do it assembly line style - cut all pieces, then punch holes, then add eyelets, etc.
  • Count on making some mistakes, and make sure you have extra paper, eyelets, and stickers as needed.  Sometimes elements can be salvaged from the mistakes (I'm thrifty like that.)
  • When adding eyelets to punched holes,  make sure you've got enough space from the edge of the paper to the rim of the eyelet.  Also make sure the hole you're punching is big enough for the base of the eyelet - I like them to fit a little snugly, so I was using 1/8" holes for a 3/16" eyelet, but with delicate papers, this won't work well.
  • Don't cut ribbon until you're sure you have enough for your project.  You can always cut something shorter, but it's hard to make it longer. I always have to remind myself of this.
  • Look for materials in other departments of the craft store.  The jump rings I used were in the jewelry-making area. You never know what you might find!  In the same vein, when solving an "engineering" problem of how to attach things, or support things, think outside of your own craft, to another craft, or another application entirely!  I've gotten some interesting ideas from my husband, who is not a crafter, but is very mechanically inclined and handy.
BabyT liked the sign, which is appreciation enough for me. And I can assure you that I'll do everything in my power to keep that adorable jellyfish she made. I envision it hanging on the wall in my nursing home far in the future.  But for now, its rightful home is on her new art board, just outside her room.

What do you do with your kids' art projects?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Birthday Card for a Musician - Experiment 5

Yep, I know it's been a looong time since the last post.  Months, in fact.  But I haven't been idle.  I've been chasing around a toddler, starting a new job, and squeezing in a crafty moment wherever I can.  Mostly that's come in the form of supply shopping, but I've made several cards, too.

Back in February, my friend Jenna had a birthday.  We had been lamenting about the fact that we rarely even had time to get a haircut because of the aforementioned toddler-chasing, so I figured the perfect present would be a gift card to a local swanky salon chain.  She just used it a month ago!

I knew I had to make a card with a pocket, similar to the New Mama card I had made.  What I love about making cards individually by hand is that I can personalize each one for the recipient.


I couldn't find all the exact supplies I had used, but these are similar.
Marvy Uchida lever craft punch - 1.25" star
Stampin Up' Curry dye ink pad
A2-sized DCWV textured yellow card base & white envelope
American Crafts Mini-Marks Rub-On Transfers-Celebration Book 2, Color
EK Success Inkadinkado Music Sheet Wood Stamp
Yellow 6X12 Alphabet Stickers (Studio Calico)


1.  I had a new rubber stamp that was a bunch of jumbled sheet music scores, perfect for backgrounds and perfect for my musical friend.  I wanted a subtle tone on tone look, so I used a mustard colored dye ink from Stampin' Up on a pre-cut A2 sized dark yellow card base and stamped randomly to cover the card, re-inking each time.  I let this dry for about 10 minutes.

2.  Using the star punch, I made 5 stars from brown shimmer cardstock from my scrap pile.  I used lowercase cardstock letter stickers in a sparkly yellow that matched the card base for her name.

3.  I arranged the stars in a sort of constellation pattern and stuck them on the card with pop-dots to give them a 3-D look.

4.  My beloved Minimarks rub-ons in a dainty 'happy birthday' make up a border for the bottom of the card.

5.  I cut out a small strip of dark yellow cardstock for the pocket and stuck the sides and bottom down with double sided tape.  I used the same pack of rub ons to add the word "wish" in a corner of the pocket.  I also cut down a border sticker to add a bit of color inside the card, to match the gift card a little better and make it look less plain on the inside.


  • Figure out a color scheme first.  That'll narrow down your choices of "stuff" to put on the card.
  • Lay out all the pieces before sticking anything.  Or use reusable adhesive, similar to the stuff that Post-It Notes use.
  • Heat-set the stamped background with a heat gun to be sure the ink is dry and doesn't smear.  Dye (water-based) inks dry pretty quickly, but pigment inks can take a lot longer to dry, and the stamping will smear if it's not completely dry.
  • Every now and then, put the card down and sit back and look at it.  Does it look "right" to you?  Is there a big empty space somewhere?  Does it need *something* more?
  • I like to add a couple of embellishments inside the card so it doesn't look too plain compared to the elaborate work I've done on the front.
  • When making pockets for gift cards or other thin items, remember to only tape or staple three sides of the pocket so that one side is open to slip the item in.  This is a total "duh" tip, but I can't be the only one who pasted the whole thing down and realized my mistake, right?

This was another fun project that just took a couple of hours from start to finish.  I spent most of my time trying to figure out *what* to do, and actually assembling this simple card was pretty quick.  More to come, so stay tuned!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Experiment 4 - New Baby Girl Card

A friend from work had a baby in January, and I found the perfect (totally impractical) gift for her. These shoes from pink2blue on Etsy are breathtakingly gorgeous in person.

I saw them long after BabyT was too big for them, so I was glad to have another person to buy them for. Those gorgeous shoes could only be presented with an equally cute card, so I worked hard on this one. It was a great project because I just sat down one evening and decided I was going to make it, and finished it in one sitting. That's what I love about making cards - they can be completed in a short time.



1. I cut strips of patterned and plain pink cardstock to fit the width of the card, in different heights, and used the decorative scissors on the piece at the bottom.

2. I stamped 'Welcome Baby' in brown pigment ink onto plain pink cardstock cut in a circle, then quickly poured on embossing powder and tapped to remove excess. I used a paintbrush to get rid of the stray bits (as well as I could), then hit it with the heat tool for a few minutes until the powder melted and became shiny.  It's a pretty dramatic change, so keep going if you don't see it happen.

3.  I mounted the embossed circle onto a dark pink patterned circle, and then mounted that onto a square of textured cardstock with 3 of the 4 corners rounded (I didn't want to be too symmetric!).

4.  Using the double-sided tape, I attached all of the paper strips to the front of the card, then the embossed piece.  I spelled out 'ELLA' using the cardstock stickers, and then used craft glue to stick the hydrangea cutouts to the card.

5.  The card didn't quite look "complete" so I added a row of faux brads along the top strip of paper.

I'm quite pleased with how this turned out.  I had to restrain myself from using a ton of different pink patterned papers (I've got quite a stash) and stuck with the very cool crown print from my friend Jenn's scrap pile, and then a very subtle dark pink floral for one of the circles under the 'Welcome Baby' stamp.

I obviously can use some practice embossing - there were still stray bits of powder that wouldn't come off, making the design look a little "fuzzy" after embossing.  I tried using a plastic tray to easily recover the leftover powder, but it was very sticky plastic so I ended up just throwing out a bunch of it.  Next time, a plain piece of paper might work better.

The inside of the card was too plain - I probably should have used a bit of the patterned paper to tie it together a bit more.  Also, I cut out all the pieces first so I could move them around to find the best layout.  It's hard for me, because I get anxious to just finish it, but it's really better to save the tape and glue for the last step so I can make last-minute design changes.

My friend J liked the card and the shoes, so it's all good.  Thoughts from the Peanut Gallery?  Was this too traditionally girly?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Supply Love: Atyou Spica Glitter Pens by Too

So, as you already know, I have a thing for pens.  When browsing around various scrapbooking and papercrafting suppliers, I saw all kinds of gel pens.  I'm not a huge fan of gel pens - they smear too easily for my liking, especially on coated surfaces, and I'm often just not patient enough to let them dry.   Next thing you know, I've got ink all over my fingers, the item, and my work table, and I feel like that messy 2nd grader who just couldn't get the hang of the cursive 'r'. 

And then I saw two sets of glitter gel pens, made by Too, the same Japanese company that makes the very popular Copic markers. (More on the Copic markers later, because my Xmas present to myself was a set of those.)

I am a sucker for a nicely packaged multicolor pen set, and if you tell me they're from Japan I'm even more interested. My dad used to travel regularly to Japan on business when I was a kid, and he would always bring back intriguing gifts of pens, chiyogami paper-covered pencils and shiny origami paper.

I waffled for a while. These are not inexpensive pens, at around $25 per set. And did I really need 24 glitter pens? What was I going to use them for? In the end, my pen and sparkle craving won, and I bought the brighter Set A. I found another site where I could buy individual pens, and bought the clear pen, which isn't included in either set, apparently, and the handful of pens I wanted from the pastel-heavy Set B.

And man, these are amazing pens. They dry really fast. The glitter is very fine glass, so it's really sparkly in the right light. It doesn't look like the usual sparkly pens you associate with tween girls. Writing with them is really, really smooth and satisfying. They really do "twinkle like stars" as the cute packaging says.

I've found it best to store them on their side rather than upright - when I first wrote with them after storing them in my nifty IKEA hanging buckets, they seemed sort of dry and scratchy. Turned out that was user error and the pens clearly have instructions to store them on their sides. When I do more rubber stamping, I think they'll be great for coloring in small details and adding a bit of sparkle.

I love using them to write my Thank You notes to my Etsy customers, and to address envelopes. Since they dry so quickly, I'm no longer sending out smeary messes. I also use them to write 'handmade by anandi' on the backs of my cards. The sparkle makes my computer-degraded handwriting look a little nicer :)

Do you have these pens? What do you think?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Experiment 3 - Congratulations Card for the New Mama-To-Be

We have all been sick here for the past couple of weeks, passing around the same cold that came from BabyT's daycare.  It came back for me with a vengeance yesterday and I'm only just awake enough to string a couple of words together for a post.  If it's totally incomprehensible, that's the Nyquil talking.

I've got a running list of folks for whom I need to make New Baby cards and it's growing.  I love having specific people to make cards for - it helps me narrow the design options down and tailor it just for them. 

This one was for my friend N, who is about to have her 4th child (a boy).   I got her a Starbucks card, remembering her love of coffee when we worked together, and figuring that she probably had enough stuff for the baby by now.  Sometimes the mama needs a present too!  I got inspiration from a 2010 Cards magazine example that had a pocket for a coffee card. I selected the patterned paper first, to guide the color palette for the rest of the card.

Card for mama-to-be of new baby boy




  1. Using the paper trimmer, I trimmed the gingham paper just smaller than the card base.   I used the trimmed piece to create a pocket for the gift card - cut to slightly smaller than the width of the card.  I stamped the pocket with the 'congratulations' stamp inked lightly with the Tsukineko ink and put aside to dry.

  2. I used the individual rub on letters to spell 'mama' on a circle cut from the olive cardstock then added the chipboard '4' sticker to the circle.

  3. Now it was time to glue - yippee!  I used my Scotch tape runner to tape the gingham piece to the front of the card. I ran the tape on the sides and bottom of the smaller piece and taped it to the inside of the card, to make a pocket for the gift card.

  4. I glued the 'mama' circle to the front of the card, slightly off center, and added a cork flower with an adhesive rhinestone to the edge. With the craft glue, I added four flower jewels to the bottom of the card in a random pattern.

  5. I wrote my message with my wonderful glitter pens (they deserve their own post later!), put the Starbucks gift card in the pocket, wrote 'handmade by anandi' on the back, then left the card to dry for 24 hours.


I was pretty happy with how this turned out, given that I had limited time to complete it.  I like that cards can be quick projects and once I decide on the basic color scheme, I just have to find a few embellishments to dress it up.   My fabulous husband suggested making the card in portrait orientation rather than landscape, when I found that it looked a little empty in landscape.  So hooray for getting a second set of eyes on it before gluing the bits together.

Cutting out the individual rub-on letters was a good idea, to get the right positioning.   I definitely did well by not gluing anything until I was happy with the placement.  Paperclips might be helpful to try out different layout ideas and not lose little pieces.

I stayed up too late working on this the first night, so I left it without gluing anything.  Coming back to it the second day was easier - I had some new ideas about placement and felt a little more inspired.  So taking a break can be a good thing, even with a deadline looming.  In my case, the "deadline" was lunch with N the next day.  At a certain point, one has to declare the project "done" - I could have messed with it longer, with only incremental improvements.  Cards are good for this too, since eventually you have to give it away to your recipient. 

Your thoughts?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Experiment 2 - Baby Birthday Party Banner

Happy Birthday Pennant Banner

As part of BabyT's first birthday papercraft festivities, I wanted to create one of those cool birthday pennant banners.  But all the ones I've seen online were made from fabric, and I didn't have enough time to learn how to sew.  I thought there must be a way to make one from all of the cool scrapbook paper I had.

So I turned to my trusty friend, The Google, and did a little searching. Just entering 'birthday banner' yielded a bunch of shops with very cheapy-looking vinyl banners and some not very helpful websites with duplicated content. Then I got creative and searched on 'birthday banner tutorial paper' and found Katydid and Kid's most excellent tutorial.  Since she already has lovely pictures and step by step instructions, I'm keeping mine short. 


  • Solid colored cardstock

  • Patterned scrapbook paper  (coordinating with each other and the cardstock, but different patterns)

  • White 8.5" x 11 printer paper

  • Curling ribbon




  1. I searched on to find a cute outline font that had upper and lowercase letters.  That site is truly addictive so set a timer, or you'll find yourself still looking at fonts three hours later.  

  2. I entered the text into Microsoft Word and increased the size so it would print two letters per page.  I cut out each letter. (Tedious!)

  3. Using the circle cutter, I cut 6" circles from the cardstock - one per letter plus a couple of extras,  and then cut slightly smaller circles from the patterned paper (5 inches-ish).  (Very tedious!)

  4. I glued the letters onto the patterned paper, then used double-sided tape to tape the patterned paper to the cardstock circles.

  5. I, and my friend Kim who volunteered to help, colored in the letters with the 96-pack of Crayola crayons I've been moving from house to house since college.  I was glad to finally use them for something!  I suppose BabyT will eventually inherit them, so it's all good.

  6. I punched two small holes in each circle, and used curling ribbon to tie them together.  I finally learned how to use a butter knife to make the ribbons curl, and was mildly successful in getting cute ribbon curls between each letter.

  7. I drafted the help of my fabulous husband to hang the banner in our living room, using thumbtacks and embroidery floss.  Everytime T saw it she would point and giggle.

[caption id="attachment_94" align="aligncenter" width="513" caption="top photo by Kristi Lloyd Photography"]Trillian's Paper Birthday Banner[/caption]


This was another project that wasn't technically complex, but took me several days to complete it. Being a mama really cuts down on my uninterrupted crafting time!

  • This time I did use the 'assembly line' system and cut all letters, then all circles, then glued, etc. That made the process go a lot faster. I'd definitely spend less time browsing for fonts - I think I ended up back at one of the first ones I chose anyway.

  • I would have done a better job at coordinating the papers and the crayon colors with each other - I got too much of an eclectic mix of colors and patterns.  I was trying to avoid being too "matchy matchy", but as a result, it didn't come out very cohesive.  Maybe limiting it to a few colors would have been a good start.

  • Next time I might think about printing the letters in color, or using my fancypants Silhouette SD machine to cut the letters out of colored cardstock.  The coloring was fun, but unnecessary.

I've repurposed the banner so that the 'happy' part is hanging in my craft room, and I plan to hang up the 'Trillian' part in her room.  Is this something you might try making?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Stalking my mailbox for craft supplies

Another little known source of craft supplies is my mailbox!

Nah, I'm not talking about something as cool as repurposing junk mail, though I do that for backings on my GeekMagnets.

It's just that with a toddler, going to the craft store is not the relaxing, solitary pursuit it used to be.  Her new trick is to repeat "Mama, all done" when she's tired of whatever we're doing.  I heard it many times today at the grocery, the bookstore, and in the car.  It's cute, but also just a tiny bit stressful, because I can't tell if it's going to turn into a huge meltdown and then therapy when she's 30 because her mama dragged her all over town to find the best deal on patterned paper. 

 So now I order things online after Miss Baby goes to bed. On a side note, hooray for a baby that goes to bed willingly at 6:30pm, to allow mama more online shopping/supply stalking/crafting time!

[caption id="attachment_82" align="aligncenter" width="514" caption="Photos by and"]Lovely, gorgeous patterned paper for crafts[/caption]

So what am I waiting for now, with bated breath?  That's right, more paper.  Because a girl can always use more paper, right?  To be precise, I'm waiting for 550 sheets of paper, from two different shops on Etsy.  Again, it's an assortment, so I'm not sure what I'm getting, but I can't wait to go through it.

And my paper-lovin' friend Jenn will benefit from it too, because she often likes the stuff I don't for her scrapbooks.  So hooray for paper!  Of course, I'll post photos of the good stuff when it arrives. 

But right now, I'm being very diligent about checking the mail and following the USPS tracking website.  Is it here yet?  How about now?  Now?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Most Wonderful Elusive Pen in the World - Uniball Jetstream

(reposted, slightly updated from my personal blog at

When I was a kid, I LOVED back-to-school shopping – all those new writing implements, pristine notebooks, folders, planners, yay!

I would start out perfectly organized, using my best handwriting for my notes (this was in the Dark Ages, before laptops were common). In college, I even had a system of using multiple colored pens and highlighters to take lecture notes. And those were some pretty notes. It hurt to put them in the recycle bin after lugging them from house to house for 10 years.

I now have free access to (mediocre) office supplies at work so I don’t have any major occasions to shop for stationery or school supplies. But I crave them.

[caption id="attachment_76" align="alignleft" width="168" caption="photo from "]Uniball JetStream Pens[/caption]

I found a pen on my desk the day I returned from maternity leave and it was a Marvelous Pen. It was like the Pen Fairy had left me a present welcoming me back to work – the perfect combination of rollerball/gel pen, with a nice squashy grip and unbelievably smooth writing action. I loved that pen. Until my coworker Michelle saw it one day, and told me it was her lost pen. She knew it was a Marvelous Pen, and she wanted it back, so I grudgingly gave it back to her.

For months I sought that pen: Target, Office Depot, Staples. For some reason I never bought the right one – I knew the brand (Uniball Jet Stream RT), but every pack I bought wasn’t quite right.

The Target pens were too light and plasticky and were more traditional ballpoint than rollerball.

TJ bought one pack for me at Office Depot, but those were too inky and not “gel” enough.

I bought another set at Staples, but the point was far too fine. At that point, I had enough pens that we’d never need to buy more, but the quest still continued.

A few months ago, I bought what I thought was a set of 3 Marvelous Pens. Bold, rollerball, from Office Depot, with a nice weight to them. But sadly, these are not the droids (um, pens) I was looking for either. They are too ball-pointy, and don’t have the nice squishy grip.  They are the closest match, but still not quite right.  I feel like Goldilocks.

I thought I was destined not to ever find these pens, but I have one last place to try.  Another coworker introduced me to JetPens, a site that sells Japanese office supplies.  Their Uniball JetStream selection is different, so I'm hopeful.  I haven't placed the order yet, though, because I'm not ready to face the disappointment if they're not the right ones.  Soon, though.

Do you have a pen story?

Monday, January 31, 2011

Newbie Papercrafters, Shop Craigslist!

When you pick up a new crafty hobby, part of the fun is buying all the new and exciting supplies, right?  It would be great if supply money grew on trees! Then you could just go down to the nearest scrapbook store, throw down $1000 and buy everything your heart desires.

Unfortunately the real world doesn't work that way, or at least not here in my real world.  I keep my craft supply money strictly separate from my "day to day life" money, otherwise we'd be broke.  My tag and jewelry business keeps itself running and also funds my other crafty pursuits, so I keep a close eye on those finances.

And of course the startup costs to get into an entirely new hobby can be high - new tools, new consumable supplies, new storage and workspace, etc.  The list goes on.  So I try to save money where I can, especially on supplies.

One of my super-secret (ok, not really) resources for supplies is Craigslist.  Here in Seattle, it's a very active site, so you can find all sorts of deals.   For those who aren't familiar, it's a free local classified ads site, available in many parts of the world.   Transactions are carried out in person, and the site just hosts the ads - it's not responsible for any part of the transaction.  You contact the person via the email address in the listing and work out the details from there.  The site is more active in some locales than others, so check your own city to see what's going on.

Many crafters turn to Craigslist to get rid of old supplies, especially if they're moving on to a different craft, clearing out space for a new baby, or just one day realize they have way too many supplies.  (I can't imagine how that would happen!)

Scrapbooking seems to be a popular craft to downsize, so there's almost always paper and rubber stamping supplies to be found.  But you need to do a little legwork and research on your own to determine whether you're really getting a good deal.  Since you're just buying from another individual, there's no "money back guarantee" if you're not happy.

[caption id="attachment_61" align="aligncenter" width="524" caption="Photo by "]Letter stickers purchased from[/caption]

My tips for supply shopping on Craigslist (CL):


  • Look for photos.  CL has lots of listings without photos.  It's hard to know exactly what condition and type of supplies you're getting without them.  Listings with photos tend to have more responsive and honest sellers, in my experience.  It's worth sending a message to see if someone has photos of a listing you're interested in.

  • Know retail prices.   I occasionally see supply listings on Craigslist asking for full retail price or more (!).  If I'm going to pay that much, I'd rather buy my supplies at a shop with a return policy.   CL is for bargains and deep discounts.  For example, with scrapbook paper, I know the high end stuff typically retails for $0.75 to $1.00 per sheet.  I don't buy paper on CL unless it's 20 cents a sheet or less.  And I'd only pay 20 cents for the high end designer stuff.

  • Ask questions.  This is especially important for tools.  Ask if they're in good shape, still in working condition and whether they have replacement parts.  Do some online research to find out if the replacement parts are available - for example, if you buy a circle cutter, can you still find replacement blades?  Ask how old the tool is and why they're  selling it.

  • Be safe.  CL has gotten a lot of bad publicity lately, with people getting into bad situations after agreeing to meet.  Don't go to someone's house to pick up your items - meet in a public place in daylight hours.  This is probably less of an issue with someone getting rid of craft supplies, but you just never know.

  • Expect some disappointments.  Yes, sometimes you'll buy a "grab bag" of paper and embellishments and then find out that none of them are your style.  Maybe you can swap with a friend, donate them to a school, or resell them.  Minimize this by researching what you'll get before you spend the money.

  • Calculate the real cost.  Someone might be selling a whole boatload of awesome supplies for $5 but they live 50 miles and a ferry ride away.  If it's going to take me all day to get there and back, is it really worth it?  It's not just the price tag, but your time and effort as well. 

  • Bargain confidently.  In general, Americans are not comfortable with bargaining.  I know, because I'm one of them.  But with CL postings, I always ask if a specific lower price is possible - somehow over email it seems less intimidating and awkward.  For example, if they're offering a lot of paper for $25, I ask if they'll take $20 for it.  The worst they can do is say no.  And the secret truth is that I'd probably still buy it anyway.  But it's always nice to spend less money, if the person is willing to take it.  Settle on the price before you meet to pick up the item to avoid awkwardness.

  • Keep checking back.  In active locations like Seattle and the Bay Area, new listings are constantly posted.  Check often to get great deals and jump on them as soon as you can.

I've gotten some really great deals on Craigslist.  I especially like "grab bags" of supplies where I have a general idea of what I'm getting (paper, stickers, stamps) but don't know the specifics of everything that's included.  Part of the fun is getting everything home and then going through it!  I'll highlight a few of my really great finds in some upcoming blog posts.  Happy shopping!

Now, your turn!  Have you used Craigslist to buy supplies for your craft?  What were your big scores?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Craft Supply Sunday: moo Cards and Stickers

I have a deep love for papercrafting supplies.  In fact, when I first started making jewelry and needed to pick up a few things at the local craft store, I had to to walk past the papercrafting section and I coveted all the interesting things available to scrapbookers and card makers.

In the fine tradition of Twitter's Follow Friday, I'd like to start a little feature to highlight supplies and vendors I love, called "Craft Supply Sunday".  Lord knows I have enough supplies to never run out of post topics! 

So here's to the first installment, where I highlight some awesome business cards and stickers.  I love me some personalized paper products!

One of the things people suggested on the Etsy Forums was to get business cards to include in sold orders, or hand them out to people inquired about my jewelry.  One of the companies frequently mentioned on the Etsy forums was MOO, a small printing company based in the UK.

What caught my attention about these cards was the fact that they were double sided, and you could put a photo of your work on one side, and your standard business info on the other.  Pretty cool, right?  But even cooler than that was that *each* card in a pack of 100 could have a *different* photo.  THAT is amazing.    The other nifty thing is that they offer two sizes - standard business card size and a minicard which is half that size (long and skinny).  The minicards are unique and stand out nicely against a sea of boring business cards.

I've ordered both the minicards and the regular business cards, and the quality is outstanding.  The cardstock they use is amazing - a nice velvety, thick and heavy card.  It's like no other business card I've seen.  The finish is sort of in between glossy and matte - luminous but not outright shiny.  Both sides are in color, and you can even add a small photo or logo to the "business" side.   As you can tell, I'm totally sold on these little guys.

The other really neato product they offer is a stickerbook with 90 stickers made from your photos.  These are the ones I used on BabyT's first birthday invitation. The stickers are high quality, with an almost vinyl-like feeling. Just like the cards, you can get 90 different ones, or multiples, if you upload fewer than 90 photos. They'd be really great for scrapbook layouts or gift packaging. I also like to stick them on my laptops to add a little baby cuteness to my work day.

When I ordered my stickers, some of them came out very overexposed, even though the originals weren't that bright.  I sent a quick note to Moo customer service and they responded immediately AND reprinted my order.  They were perfect the second time.  I love this company! cards and stickers that I ordered

If you're not feeling inspired by your own photography, Moo's website offers lots of readymade designs by cool designers.  You can also get colorful cards with text or sayings on them instead of a photo, and you can choose the colors, background design and font. 

Tips for ordering your Moo cards or stickers:

  • Choose high-resolution bright photos.  If they're not high resolution, they'll look grainy when printed, and if they're even slightly dark, that will be magnified on the printed version.  I made that mistake with my first set.  It might even be worth saving a second copy of your photos with the brightness level increased a bit.

  • Plan to spend at least 30 minutes to an hour uploading and cropping photos, especially if your originals are large.  The upload process is slow, and depending on the products you order, you have to crop them to get the best fit.  Some photos will just not fit right on the thin minicards.  Stickers look best with closeup face shots, or zoomed in macro-details, since they're only about 3/4" square.

  • Order multiple sets if possible.  You'll want to keep some for yourself, and if you order enough, the price will go down slightly. 

  • Use this coupon code for 10% off  a pack of 200 business cards: TFENM9. 

  • Contact Moo right away if you're not happy with your order - they are very responsive and helpful!Business Cards, MiniCards, Postcards and more

Once I use up my current stash of non-Moo cards, I plan to reorder.  Once you go Moo, you can't be satisfied with regular cards.   And I'm also looking forward to getting more cute babyT stickers with recent photos.  She's starting to like stickers now, so I might share a few with her, just to watch her little face light up in recognition.

Have you ordered from Moo?  What did you think?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Experiment 1: Baby First Birthday Invitation Card

BabyT's first birthday was approaching, and this crafty mama wanted to *make* stuff.  The first project of course, was the invitations for her baby friends to come to our party.

Having never made a card before, I just figured I'd buy some supplies and sort it out.   After rejecting a dog pawprint theme because I just couldn't figure out how I wanted it to look, I settled on an outdoor scene for the card.  When I was a kid, my limited drawing abilities meant that I always drew pretty much the same thing, until I gave up drawing entirely:  a sun in the upper left corner, some clouds and a blue line representing the sky, and some green grass at the bottom of the page.   On that backdrop, I'd add a house or a tree, if I was feeling adventurous.

So my vision was to have a sun, cloud and green grass on a blue card.  I also had super-cute photo stickers of BabyT that I wanted to use.  More on those in a future post!  My brilliant husband came up with the idea of just having cupcakes hanging out in the grass.   Keep in mind that this was my first cardmaking experiment, so it bears a striking resemblance to an elementary school art project.

Handmade Baby First Birthday Party Invitation


  • Cards and envelopes - Seashore color scheme, Jo-Ann Fabric and Crafts

  • Glittery white cardstock

  • Shimmery brown cardstock

  • Corrugated navy blue cardstock

  • Yellow, bright green, pink, cream plain cardstock

  • Adhesive jewels - K & Co.

  • Photo stickers -

  • Epson High-Gloss Photo Paper, 4 x 6

  • Flower and polka dot cardstock stickers

  • You're Invited rub-on transfers - Martha Stewart Crafts

  • Acid free glue stick



  1. I rounded the corners of a blue card with the corner rounder.

  2. I cut out a strip of green cardstock as wide as the card for the grass, and then cut "fringe" into it with the scissors, and tried to make it look random, which was harder than it seems!  I also rounded the bottom right corner of these pieces to line up with the card edges.

  3. I punched a large circle and several tiny circles for the sun from yellow cardstock with the Jumbo circle punch and the small hole punch.

  4. I cut the cupcake "cups" from the navy corrugated cardstock.  This took a while because they had to be balanced trapezoids.  I used a ruler, and when I finally got a nice one, I used it as a template to trace the others. 

  5. I punched several large circles from the cream, brown and pink cardstock to make the cupcake tops.  I cut them in half with the decorative scissors to get an edge that looked like fancy frosting.  (use your imagination and squint a lot!)

  6. I used the jumbo flower punch on the white glitter cardstock to make the clouds, by lining up the card stock about 2/3 way down the punch to get the top part of the flower.  Pretty cool, huh? These clouds remind me of the ones you see in the old 8-bit Super Mario Brothers game.  Yeah, I'm that old.

  7. After fretting about the design some more, I got brave and decided to start gluing.  There was no turning back at that point.  First to be glued was the "grass".  I lined up the bottom and rounded right edge, then cut the overhang off where it met the card fold after gluing it on.  I then "ruffled" the grass to give it a bit of texture and make it seem more 3-D.  Because I'm awesome like that. 

  8. I glued the circle for the sun in the upper left corner of the card, and then cut the overhang to match the card corner.  I glued the tiny circles around the sun, which was a royal pain with a glue stick

  9. I used the glue stick to glue the cupcake cups in different spots on the grass, and then topped them with a cupcake top with some overlap.  This also gave it a 3-D look since the corrugated cardstock was so heavy.

  10. The fun part!  I added some adhesive jewels and stickers to the cupcakes, and put the baby photo sticker in the sun.  I also added the 'You're Invited' rub-on in the bottom right corner after cutting it out from the frou-frou border Martha had designed it with.

  11. I was shooting for 10 steps.  Oh well.  I printed the invitation info on glossy photo paper using my trusty (cheap) Epson inkjet printer.  I rounded the corners and used double-sided tape to attach it to the inside of the card.  And of course, another baby photo sticker.


This was a pretty simple project but since it was my first, it took a LONG time.  Here's what I would do differently if I had to do it again:

  • Use a different space from where I do my jewelry metalwork.  You can't do nice papercrafts on a dirty surface, and it's hard to find little cutouts if you have a lot of clutter.

  • Round the corners *after* gluing paper together - this way I wouldn't have to be so careful about lining up the edges.

  • Use more double-sided tape than glue stick, and a different type of glue for the tiny dots, to make it easier and cleaner.

  • Practice with the rub-on transfer before trying it on a card that's already been glued together.  I ended up with a couple of wonky ones but didn't want to remake the entire card.  Or maybe add the rub-on before gluing anything so it's not too late to fix it!

  • Be more judicious with the stickers and embellishments and err on the side of minimalism.  I don't feel like I used the baby photo stickers the best way possible - they look like an afterthought.

  • Set up an assembly line for cutting and gluing when making several similar cards at once.  I figured this out towards the end of the cutting, but not soon enough to save much time.

Now, let's open it up to the Peanut Gallery (that's you!).  What do you think?  How would you have designed it?  Any tips and tricks for this newbie?