Using my Chalks

There are some items in my craftroom that rarely see the light of day, yet I'm not sure why.  One example is my Craf-T Decorating Chalks.  I really like them and am always happy with the results, yet I rarely think about them when I'm working on a layout.

I'm trying to make an effort to use my chalks.  The last time I used them was for this card.  This time I used a similar technique, chalking over letters from a Heidi Swapp mask alphabet.  I removed the mask, then used a black pen to outline the letters to make them pop.  Quick and easy!

How do you use chalks?  Any hints or tricks?



I'm sure many of you are familiar with the very popular blog, PostSecret.  Readers mail in their secrets anonymously on a homemade postcard.  The secrets are published weekly on the blog and have been made into books and featured at live events.  (Please be aware that PostSecret is for adults.  Some of the secrets are R-rated.  Here is the link to PostSecret.)

The fantastically-creative Angela Daniels started a PostSecret-inspired project called ScrapSecrets.  She asks readers to submit postcards of their deepest, darkest, and/or most funny scrapbook-related secrets, which she then publishes on her blog.  Check out her ScrapSecrets Archives.  (They're all rated G.)  I'm guessing most scrappers can relate to one or more!

I was inspired to make my own ScrapSecret, which I have decided to share with you.  No longer will this be my shameful secret.  I'm hoping that I can find support out there from others like me who, up until now, have been afraid to admit that:

Whew.  I feel much better getting that off my chest.  Making a postcard with my secret on it was quite therapeutic!  (For the record, I now have a stamp cleaner and scrubber on my wishlist.  So perhaps one day soon, this secret will be in my past.)

Do you have a ScrapSecret of your own?  Or a secret related to crafts in general?  Angela would love to add yours!  Simply email a jpeg of your secret to: angeladanielsdesigns@yahoo.com.  I'm looking forward to reading more ScrapSecrets in the near future!  


Making Do

Imagine if you will... I was working on a layout about our July 4th.  I had the perfect patterned papers, pictures, and chipboard stickers.  It was all laid out- the finishing touch would be three stars, arranged in a visual triangle.  I knew just what stars I would use (some funky self-adhesive ones from BasicGrey).  When I went to get them.... uh oh.  Only two left.

Darn it!  Time to make do.   I found a random piece of chipboard and cut out a star shape, mimicking the style of the ones I wanted to match.  The color was different, so I painted all three pieces "Country Twill"- a color that looks like raw chipboard.  I inked the edges and added the stars.

My star isn't exactly the same as the BasicGrey two, but it's close enough.  Can you guess which one I made?

Inspired by: Shannon Zickel, scrapbooks etc. August 2011

Mine is the large one.  I'm happy with it.  Pretty good for making do.


Ever wonder if rub-ons work on Shrinky Dinks?

Me too.  So I decided to try it.

I put rub-ons from two manufacturers (Making Memories and Cosmo Cricket) on shrink plastic from two manufacturers (Grafix and OTC).  I made sure the rub-ons were thoroughly adhered to the shrink plastic and had no flaws, then followed the manufacturers' instructions for proper shrinking.

Here are a few of the pieces I made:

I was expecting quite a bit of ripping and distortion.  Indeed, some of the rub-ons did rip and/or distort, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was minimal.  In both cases the words look pretty good.  There didn't seem to be any difference between manufacturers; instead, the heat of the oven (and thus the rate and direction of shrinking) seemed to be what caused the variation.  It was also crucial that the rub-on was applied thoroughly.  If there was even a tiny bit that wasn't burnished properly, that area ripped. 

This was an interesting experiment.  I don't know that I'd try it again.  It would make a lot more sense to apply a full-size rub-on to an already-shrunk tag or charm.  But if I needed to make an existing rub-on smaller, this is the way to do it. 


Product Review: Grafix Shrink Film

I am a big fan of shrink plastic. In the late 70's, I spent many hours making Shrinky Dinks charms (which I dangled from the laces of my oh-so-cool roller skates and Kangaroo tennis shoes). Over the years, I've bought various brands of shrink plastic, always clear like my beloved Shrinky Dinks. When I saw that Grafix had shrink plastic in white, I was intrigued.

The package comes with six 8.5x11 inch sheets. They are shiny white and completely opaque. The directions say to start by sanding the surface with 300-400 grit sandpaper. The plastic went from smooth and shiny to dull and scratched. I used a rubber stamp and Staz-on ink to stamp 5 identical leaves. The ink went on very nicely with even coverage. It dried immediately. I cut the leaves out, keeping a small edge around the image.

The directions say that permanent markers, water based acrylic paints and heat set paints work best. I don't do a lot of painting, so I focused on testing the materials I do use.

From left to right:

Glimmer Mist:
Tattered Angels Glimmer Mist is a staple in my craft room, so I grabbed three bottles and lightly misted the leaf. The ink beaded up, leaving some areas nearly white. I let it dry and gave it a second spritz. It looked better.  After it shrunk, the colors were much more intense.

Alcohol-based Markers:
I colored the leaf image with Prismacolor Art Markers. This was very frustrating, as the colors did not blend the way they do on paper. I had to go over each area several times to layer on color.  There was some difference in color after shrinking, but not as much as with the Glimmer Mist.

Colored Pencils:
I had the highest expectations from the colored pencils. However, they did not give good coverage and the small scratches from the sandpaper were extremely obvious with the color over them. They were my least favorite of the materials I tried. I used a variety of brands, including Caran d'Ache, Faber-Castell, and Derwent. Some of the pencils were better than others, but none of them worked as well as I'd expected.  It looked a bit better post-shrinking, but the scratches were still visible.

Next I got some pens from my scrapbooking stash. I loved the way the American Crafts Slick Writer glided color onto the plastic. The Marvy Uchida Le Plume and Le Plume II were not quite as even, but were satisfactory.

Watercolor Pencils:
For my final leaf, I tried Staedtler watercolor pencils. I colored lightly, then wet a small brush to push the color into place.  This ended up being my favorite.

I've always used cookie sheets or pie pans for shrink plastic, so I was surprised that the directions say not to shrink these on metal.  Instead, they recommend cardboard, teflon, parchment paper, or vellum.  I used cardboard.  The directions say to preheat to 300-350 degrees, but the lower the temperature the less distortion will take place.  I preheated the oven to 300 degrees. I turned on the oven light and watched.  Within a minute, the leaves started to shrink.  They did not curl, but instead formed little cones!  After another minute, they began to flatten back out.   I did not need to press them flat at all.

So, would I recomend Grafix Shrink Film in opaque white?  Yes, but with reservations.  The items shrink quickly and easily with minimal distortion, the plastic is easy to cut by hand or punch out, and a variety of media can be used.  However, the opacity of the white plastic means that some colors come out very dark and no matter how lightly you sand, the scratches are visible with certain media.  I'll have to try this product again in the future using the recommended markers and paints. 


A Look Back at Halloweens Past

I love Halloween.  I'm fairly certain that I have dressed up for Halloween every single year of my life.  Other than Christmas, it's my favorite holiday.  

In 2006 for Trevor's first Halloween, I got it in my head that the three of us needed to coordinate our costumes.  Trevor had an adorable hand-me-down Santa suit that probably wouldn't fit by the time Christmas rolled around, so I decided it would be his Halloween costume.  I was an elf and Steve was a reindeer.

In 2007, Trevor had a hand-me-down Mickey suit that was so cute.  Short on ideas and time, Steve and I dressed like over-the-top Disneyland tourists with mouse ears, trading pins, shopping bags, cameras, etc.

In 2008, Trevor had another hand-me-down costume.  This time, it was a tiger.  Steve and I dressed like black cats.

I did not have a hand-me-down costume for Trevor in 2009, and at age 3, he now had strong opinions about what he wanted to be.  When he announced he was going to be a blue crayon for Halloween, I had a moment of panic.  I sketched up some ideas, but I knew that my virtually non-existent sewing skills would not be adequate. 

Fast forward a week.  I won a sewing lesson out of the blue from Gailen Runge at C&T Publishing.  I couldn't believe it.  The timing was absolutely perfect.  Gailen taught me the skills to make a pretty awesome crayon costume. 

Of course, Steve and I dressed as crayons too.

In March 2010, a wasp got stuck in Trevor's shirt and stung him three times.  The next day, he announced that he was going to be a bee for Halloween.  I expected him to change his mind several times between March and October, but he didn't.  He was firm: bee costumes for all of us.  I altered and then painted some yellow shirts.

So what's the plan for 2011?  Well, first Trevor announced that he wanted to be money.  Specifically, a nickel.  An hour later he told me that he had changed his mind and he wants to be a knight.  He assures me that he will not be changing his mind again. 

I asked him what costumes Daddy and Mommy should wear.  He's decided that Daddy should be a blue and green dragon and Mommy should be "the girl with the pink cone on her head."  I have some major concerns about my ability to make these costumes, but I look forward to trying.

Stay tuned!


My Big News

There's a lot of waiting in the scrapbook industry.  See cool product at CHA, wait before it's actually in stores.  Make an awesome layout for a Design Team, wait to post it until it runs elsewhere.  Accept an exciting new opportunity, wait to tell the world....

I can finally announce that I am the newest Contributing Artist at Ideas for Scrapbookers!  I am really excited about this opportunity and already love working with Pam and the rest of the artists there.  You can read my introductory post here.

Below I've shared my first official post:

Time and Date Dot Com

Have you ever been to timeanddate.com?  It's an extremely handy website if you need to do a time zone conversion, look up sunrise/sunset times, or find out when Daylight Savings Time starts or ends.  It's also incredibly useful in scrapbooking.

Here's how.  Imagine you have an awesome picture of yourself with your child.  You'd like to do a heartfelt layout about how much motherhood has changed you, how your life is so much richer since the day he was born, how you can't imagine life without him.  Simply enter the date of your child's birth and the date the photo was taken into the Date-to-Date Calculator.  It will tell you how many years, months, days, hours, minutes, or seconds have elapsed.  

This layout is about the best 1,795 days of my life.

I encourage all of you to play around with the Date-to-Date Calculator.  There are so many possibilities just waiting to be scrapped!


My Many Manufacturer Challenge

I'm not a very product-heavy designer.  My layouts tend to be very simple, with just cardstock, some patterned paper, a little ink, maybe a punch, some letters, and a simple embellishment or two.  In that regard, this layout is no different:

But this layout is actually very different from what I usually make.  Every component of this layout is from a different manufacturer.  In fact, 10 manufacturers (and one sketch artist) are represented on this simple page. 

I didn't originally set out to do this.  I knew I wanted to work with BasicGrey patterned paper.  I happened to have some Fancy Pants scraps from a previous project still out and I loved how they looked together.  I punched some circles from the Fancy Pants using a Marvy punch, then used a Fiskars border punch on Recollections cardstock.  As I was picking up my ColorBox ink, I realized that I'd already used six manufacturers without even trying.  How many others could I use?  I added the Tim Holtz grungeboard and stamped the words "So" (Rubber Stampede) and "Together" (Making Memories).  I did my journaling with a Stampin' Up pen.  That makes ten!

The layout is based on a sketch from the always-fabulous Shannon White.  I rotated it 90 degrees.

I really enjoyed my own little private Many Manufacturer Challenge.  I may just have to challenge myself to beat my own record. 


Crafts of my Childhood: Spin Art

Raise your hand if you love Spin Art!  Everyone, right?  What's not to love? 

Trevor and I got out the Spin Art (Awesome Art, that is) and set to work creating.

It is such a thrill finally seeing the finished art as the machine starts to slow down. 

No matter how much we tried to control what our designs would look like, it was always a surprise to see exactly how they turned out. 

All so different and all beautiful!  These would make fun cards.  I'll have to remember that next time Trevor is making thank-you cards.


Playing with Alcohol Inks

I have mixed feelings about trying out new-to-me art supplies.  Of course, I love learning new things and seeing for myself what all the fuss is about.  On the other hand, I don't want to fall in love with another medium that requires expensive materials that take a lot of storage space! 

I recently invited myself over to my friend Sheena's house to try out Adirondack Alcohol Inks for the first time.  I've read a lot about them and have seen the results, but I wanted to try them out in person.  Secretly, I was hoping to hate them so that I wouldn't be tempted to buy some for myself!  Alas, no such luck.  They were pretty cool.

I brought along a bunch of different materials to try out, including buttons, charms, shrink plastic, metal and plastic tags, brads, ceramic tiles, acrylic shapes, vellum, lace, and ribbon.

I laid out everything on some cardboard and chose my inks. 

I decided not to try a bunch of different colors, as that wouldn't let me best compare how the inks worked on different materials.  Instead, I did one test with pink/orange/yellow and one with blues/greens. 

Here are some of my favorites.  I absolutely loved the way the inks worked on the unglazed tiles. 

Look how different the same exact ink looks on three different materials (from left to right: metal, acrylic, unglazed tile).  All different and yet each very pretty.

I think the star brads are my very favorite. 

Anyone else have Adirondack Alcohol Inks?  Do you love them?  What are your favorite ways to use them?  They're obviously super cool, but are they a must-have?


Ribbon Barrette Tutorial

Several of you asked me for a tutorial about how to make the Ribbon Barrettes.  Ask and ye shall receive!

Ribbon Barrettes

For each barrette, you will need two pieces of ribbon, approximately 1 yard each.  This will leave an 8-9 inch tail.  If your hair is longer than that, start with longer ribbon.

Step 1:  Layer the two pieces of ribbons and center them at the top (the side that opens) of the barrette.

Step 2: Keeping the ribbons together, weave the left side of the ribbon toward the right.  This is a bit tricky at the beginning, but will become easier as the ribbons get shorter. 

Step 3: Weave the right side toward the left, then the left side toward the right.  Pull tight each time, making sure there are no twists. 

Step 4:  Continue the weaving.  It will make a pattern that alternates colors.  Stop when you can no longer get any ribbon through the opening.

Step 5:  Tie a knot and trim the ribbons to length.  You can add beads at the ends of the ribbons if you like.  I prefer to leave mine plain.

Quick and easy!  Enjoy!


Adhesive Pick-Up

The best thing about the old-school scrapbooks of my youth was that if I made a mistake with the rubber cement, a little bit of rubbing and it came right off.  No stain, no mess, no evidence of the mistake.  It's not nearly as easy to remove a line of misplaced adhesive from a tape runner....  unless you have one of these: 

It's the Adhesive Pick-Up by Therm-O-Web.  It is amazing.  It feels like a rigid eraser and is a little smaller than a post-it note.  Simply rub it on the stray adhesive and it comes right up.  Every time.  It is so easy.

As you can see, I bought mine for $1.99.  Therm-O-Web lists them for $2.10.  Their claims that the product is long-lasting is no joke.  I bought mine in 2007 and use it frequently- at least twice a month.  In all that time, I've only made a tiny little dent in it.  At this rate, I should list it in my will, as it will be outliving me!

Here it is after 4 years of use:

Only the tiniest bit of each corner is used up.  A definite must-have for any paper crafter!


Sympathy Cards

In general, I love making cards.  They come together quickly, I can use up scraps, and I feel no pressure to create something that is archival or will be looked at by future generations.  I happily make dozens of birthday, thank you, and congratulations cards each year.  In fact, I make so many that I frequently give away card sets as gifts.

Sympathy cards are another story.  I don't like making them at all.  I struggle with what to do, wondering what could possibly be comforting to the recipient.  I never make them in advance (because I don't like to make them), which makes it even worse when I actually need a card and have no time to do it.  I haven't bought a birthday or thank you card in years, but 9 times out of 10 I send a purchased sympathy card.

A few months ago, three of my friends lost their mothers the same week.  I quickly made and sent sympathy cards.  One of them contacted me to ask how I made the card.  I decided to wait until life settled down a bit and then do a tutorial for the blog.

Well, life never really settles down, does it?  I finally decided to simply make the time.  Here's the finished card:


Step 1: Cut a white rectangle slightly smaller than your card base.  Stamp three butterflies.  If your images don't come out perfectly (like in my example below), it's fine.  They'll be covered. 

Step 2: Stamp the same butterflies on a separate piece of cardstock and cut them out.  This time the images should be nice, as these are the ones that will show.

Step 3:  Fold each of the cut butterflies along the center.

Step 4: Mat your white cardstock with black and attach to your card base.  Then adhere your butterflies to the top. 

Unfortunately, almost immediately after finishing and photographing this card, I learned that a friend's dad had passed away.  The card went into the mail right away.


Staying Creative on Vacation

For the past 11 days, I've been here:

Sea Princess, docked in Victoria B.C.

Dyea, Alaska. Those lumps in the water are salmon jumping.

Tracy Arm Fjord

We had a wonderful vacation aboard the Sea Princess. We traveled round-trip from San Francisco, stopping in Victoria B.C., then Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway, Alaska. We saw whales, bald eagles, and a grizzly bear. We panned for gold and rode a sled pulled by a team of dogs that included Iditarod veterans. We ate a lot. This was my fourth time cruising to Alaska. I highly recommend Princess Cruises and the Inside Passage in general.

I've never brought crafting supplies with me on a cruise. Taking scrapbook stuff is out of the question- I'd need too many things, I wouldn't have space to work, and I'd risk damaging my supplies. But taking a different sort of small project sounded doable.

For months, I've been wanting to try drawing a mandala. Mandalas are basically abstract designs based on a series of concentric circles. Drawing them is supposed to be relaxing- sort of an organized, calming form of doodling. All you need is paper, a ruler, and a compass. That would be simple to fit in my luggage. And since I wasn't flying, I didn't have to worry that the TSA would consider my compass a lethal weapon. I carried my supplies with me pretty much the entire cruise, so whenever I had a few minutes, I pulled out my stuff.

The first step to making a mandala is to use the ruler to find the center of the paper. Then use the compass to draw a series of concentric circles. There's no rhyme or reason to this- do as many as you want, as close together as you want. 

Starting with the inner circle, fill in with doodles. Use circles, triangles, teardrops, waves, whatever, just as long as everything is repeated and symmetric. Keep going until your design is complete. Here's the first one I finished:

And here it is after I colored it:

I have to admit, drawing the mandala was not as relaxing as I'd hoped. I was trying too hard to create something pretty instead of just doodling mindlessly. Coloring it was very relaxing though.

I ended up making two more mandalas. These were much more relaxing. I think that, just like anything, it takes practice before it is familiar enough to be relaxing.

I asked my husband, parents, sister, brother-in-law, and nephew if they would like to make one and let me show it on the blog. Incredulous looks and semi-polite no-thank-yous. Sigh. Thank goodness for Trevor, who was just as eager as I was to try a new form of art. He'd never used a compass before, so it was especially exciting for him. Here's his mandala:

Have any of you tried mandala? Any other suggestions for staying creative while on vacation?