A fun day in blogland

Today is a fun day in the part of the crafty blogworld that I spend most of my time.  The Facebook crafting group the ‘Crafting Cafe’ is having its first ever bloghop, and I’m about halfway round at the moment.  There are some lovely projects on there so far.  It’s the first bloghop I’ve ever boinged around on, and I just wish I’d organised my time well enough this week to contribute too.  Hopefully there’ll be another one soon!  If you want to join in, the starting place is my friend Nikki Smith’s blog.

Today is also the start of the 31 day sketch challenge over at the docrafts Creativity Club, and I’m busy planning my project for the first sketch so I can get busy with some paper later.

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docrafts Blog: A Stash Stretching Technique

Bob has been having some slightly longer daytime naps recently – he still doesn’t go to sleep until 9 or 10 at night, but can’t have everything I suppose!  Anyway, this has given me the chance to get a couple of whole projects done, so I hope the trend continues.  A couple of these have been published over at the docrafts blog today: docrafts Blog: A Stash Stretching Technique.  In the post, I describe a thrify way to get the best out of decoupage card kits, using one of the lovely Michael Powell kits as an example.  I hope you’ll take a look – I’d love to know what you think.

Making the most of things – Time

As you may have seen me whinge before, motherhood has drastically curtailed my crafting exploits.  There are opportunities for creativity though, I’ve just had to get a little flexible, and a lot patient…  Step one has been to rediscover cross stitching.  I’ve always taken kits on long journeys, as it’s not too hard to do with all the car jiggling, takes up very little space, and doesn’t need lots of setting up/packing away.  We don’t do many long journeys at the moment, but we do take Molly to the woods every day for walkies, and that’s almost 10 minutes each way.  Sometimes Bob really doesn’t want to be in the car seat, so I have to sing Old Macdonald and play with rattles, but then again, sometimes he falls asleep on the way and I have to sit in the car park for a while, missing part of the walk.  Anyway, here’s what I’ve managed to achieve by reclaiming almost a month’s worth of previously wasted 10 minuteses.  They’re from docrafts So&Sews card kits from a few years ago and they aren’t *quite* finished – I didn’t think it was wise to try to sew on the beads in the car 🙂

When I do miss part of the walk because Bob is asleep, I could do something that isn’t jiggly car friendly, so my next plan is to stick some decoupage, stamped images and my watercolour pencils in the car too.  This could also be the way I tackle one of my new year resolutions – learning to knit!

Favourites among favourites – Blog prompt day 13

My Grandad used to say you shouldn’t pick favourites from those you love, but I suppose there are bits of my stash I love just a teensy bit more than others 🙂

My paper collection takes some beating in my affections, but probably shouldn’t count as my favourite thing. Much as I get a warm and fuzzy feeling from seeing shelves full of paper stacks, the same view often causes a rising panicky feeling when I realise how many packs haven’t even been opened, and how few of my crafting plans I’ve managed to get made! The same applies to my stamp collection. Having said that, I love both collections so much that my current faves ought to get a mention. In the papers it’s Papermania Pampered Pets (I’m not owning up to how many packs of this I’ve bought), the new Lucy Cromwell papers, and DCWV Old World. For stamps, it’s a tie between the John Byars Nostalgia wood-mounted range and my friend Chris Saunders’ super-versatile ‘Build A Landscape’ range. Seeing my choices written down seems a bit odd to me though – there’s a lot of pastel and vintage there, and I really didn’t think that was what I liked best!

There is one bit of my stash that has been getting a lot of my love for awhile now: my collection of XCut nesting dies. I really wouldn’t want to be without them and, although I’ve been trying to prioritise them for shopping, I know I’m going to want them all! The bunting ones are top of my wish list at the moment – I have some plans for Bob’s room!

In the meantime, here are a couple of projects made with nesting dies.  I made the tag book for the docrafts advent calendar – instructions are here.

Nesting all on one layer like this is really economical with your paper, and you can make two complementary cards at once.

New year resolution tag book

Shoptastic – Blog prompts 23 and 24

Today’s blog posts are brought to you from here 🙂

I’ve got a bit more behind than usual this week, as little Bob has just learned to crawl forwards. He’s getting quite speedy now, so needs a lot more watching when he’s playing on his mat, as we appear to live in a death trap, full of inappropriate things to chew and hard pointy corners to fall onto. Ah well, I may not have been able to spend time on my laptop, but I know nearly all the little songs on Bob’s Fisher Price pretend smart phone by heart now 🙂

Anyway, to business. Blog prompts 23 and 24 were “write about your favourite craft shop” and “do you prefer online or bricks-and-mortar shopping?”.

Picking my favourite bricks-and-mortar craft shop is easy. Demoing in shops from Surrey to the West Midlands and from Berkshire to the East Coast, I’ve been to a lot of craft shops! I also see them from a different perspective, as I’m neither staff nor customer (OK, I confess I am often a customer too!). The store that has always stood out for me though is In2Crafting in Wickford. They’re everything a family run craft shop should be – friendly, well-stocked, helpful, and all really keen crafters. And they make a really good cup of tea 🙂 I’ve really missed my demos there while I’ve been off with Bob, there’s a lovely group of regulars and the atmosphere’s always relaxed and fun. My favourite online shop is one that specialises in die cutting – Country View Crafts. It’s run by two of my bestest friends, so I know I’m biased, but I also get to see how hard they work. What they don’t know about die cutting really isn’t worth knowing, and they’re always happy to share that knowledge too.

As for the second question (online or bricks-and-mortar), I enjoy both. When I know what I’m buying, online is so easy, and of course you can keep an eye on what you’re spending before you get to the checkout. What online shopping can’t do though, is give you a sense of the quality of an unfamiliar brand, you can’t be sure about the colours, and of course there’s no ‘Aladdin’s Cave’ feeling of being surrounded by crafty loveliness, or the happy feeling of finding something you didn’t know you wanted needed. Online shops also don’t generally offer demos, and my own crafting didn’t really take off until I went to my first docrafts demo, and that experience was what drove me to be a demonstrator myself.

Which one’s the craft room? – Blog Prompt Catch-up, Day 11

Having confessed yesterday to hoarding far more crafty goodies than I have room for, I thought today would be a good time to catch up with Day 11’s blog prompt – sharing our craft rooms.  Before I talk about mine (which isn’t finished), I thought I’d start by saying whose craft room I’d like – that of the awesomely talented Sarah Youde.  I’d also like to live on the coast, so if you ever fancy a house swap Sarah, I’m your girl 🙂

In the beginning there was the tiny bedroom, some clear plastic boxes from WH Smith, and some old office furniture.  There was one box of peel-offs, one of flowers, and one of die cuts I’d bought on eBay, and on the bookshelf there was one (yes, one) shelf of papers, and one of stamps and random bits.  When I wanted to make a card, I opened all the boxes, picked some things, made the card and then tidied it all away again.

Soon the shelves and cupboards were full.  The magazines went under my bed to make room, boxes appeared on top of the cupboards, and the most used things stayed on the desk, leaving a creative space the size of a cutting mat.  It became known as the craft sty, and it all needed a good sort out. I was demonstrating by then though, and couldn’t be without a working room.  But wait, if I just moved the desk and essentials into the not quite so tiny spare room, I could sort out this room.  Brilliant idea!  Err, except that I didn’t, I just filled up two poorly organised rooms.  Boxes appeared under the guest bed…  By then I was doing store demos, magazine work and Create and Craft demos and I needed an extra desk to keep all the work in progress separate.  Boxes appeared under the dining table, and when I mentioned the craft room, my poor husband would ask “which one’s the craft room?”…

Then along came Bob, so everything had to fit into the tiny bedroom, just like in the olden days.  We decided new shelving was the way ahead, but couldn’t find anything to make good use of the space, so decided to build our own from MDF.  Luckily I have a software engineer for a husband, who wrote me a design program, and a joiner for a neighbour, so all I had to do was decide what I wanted and pick some paint.

Here’s the result.  I had Mondrian in mind when I designed it, and it completely fills up the only unbroken wall of the room.  A true homage to Mondrian would have needed breaks in the verticals, which would have made it too weak, and the bright colours with black outlines that he’s famous for would have been too much for the tiny room.  Instead I chose three pastel shades – green, creamy yellow, and blue – painted each of the three visible walls in these colours, and painted the shelving cells ‘randomly’ in one of the same colours with white dividers.  I say randomly, but it actually took quite a few goes to make it look random!  As you can see from the picture, it’s not quite finished.  As I was pregnant, we had to use low emission paint, which is sadly also low performance.  It needed so many coats that we ran out of time to get it finished before Bob was born and we had to put the room back together to get the rest of the house presentable.  When I’ve had a chance to use it a bit and see how it works, there’ll be a matching shelf unit on the opposite wall, and we’ll finish this one at the same time.  One great thing about them is that they’re not attached to the wall, and can be dismantled when we move 🙂

The shelves are 12″ deep, so I can store my papers nicely, and I decided I didn’t want boxes piled more than 3 high (otherwise I never put anything away), and I didn’t want any hidden.  I also didn’t want to waste the space behind 8×8 and 6×6 papers though, so I’ve put unopened packs of card blanks and envelopes behind them.  As long as I keep a working selection of card blanks accessible all the time, I only have to move lots of things to get more occasionally.

In my original design, I wanted doors on all the cubbyholes, with magnetic push latches, so I could have a smooth finish, no door handles, and no risk of fading for my papers.  That idea got abandoned very early on!  Apart from being a lot of work, it was going to mean spending hundreds of pounds on hinges and latches, which was just daft.  Think of the stamps and paper that would buy!  Err, I mean, think of the baby clothes and toys that would buy 😉  Anyway, my lovely husband had the brilliant idea of making fabric doors and decorating them with different crafts, so that’s the new plan – the shelves will become a long term craft project in their own right, giving me an incentive to try out some new crafts.

To scrap or not to scrap – Blog Prompt Day 16

Today’s prompt challenge is to talk about our attitudes to scrapbooking.

Nowadays I’m a keen but painfully slow scrapbooker with a long To Do list of page ideas.  It wasn’t always this way though.  I bought my first scrapbooking magazine not long after I first started crafting, and I didn’t find a single thing in the mag that I liked.  Everything was quite American, heavily decorated and very sentimental, not a stiff upper lip to be found!  It wasn’t until I saw some cleaner layouts, smaller than 12×12, that I could really imagine myself scrapping.

I love mini books

Smaller formats are still my favourite – I adore maze books and mini books, although that’s normally because they’re made in a clever way, and I’m a sucker for anything trick!  As I mentioned in My Crafting Style, I like the photo or journalling to take pride of place in my layouts.  To me, scrapbooking is a really personal hobby.  It’s about presenting my pictures and memories in a nice way, and helping them tell a story, rather than creating something pretty for its own sake.  That’s not to say I don’t think that’s worth doing, it’s just not what I want to do.  I love the idea of showing my scrapbooks to Bob when he’s older so he can see what we were like before we had him, and what his childhood was like.  It’s almost like being immortal 🙂

Sometimes it’s all about the paper!

The other great appeal to me of scrapbooking is getting to keep my creations!  I have a big box full of cards ready to send and it’s at least half full of cards I don’t really want to part with.  One great thing about scrapping is that you don’t have to feel bad about that.  I often say that I need at least two sheets of all paper designs – one to craft with and one to keep.  Papers used in layouts tick both boxes though, so it’s also a great way to hoard 🙂

There’s just one thing I don’t like about scrapping – printing out my photos – although that says more about my printer than scrapbooking.  I’m trying to get a batch of pics together to get printed, so they’re available whenever I feel like doing a layout.  If you can recommend a printing service, please leave me a comment!

My first ever scrapbook page, done for my application to docrafts – I love to include tickets and other mementos

My Guilty Pleasures – Blog Prompt, Day 15

Tuesday’s topic was guilty pleasures, which is quite an easy one for me, as I only have a couple.  Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of pleasures, I just talk myself out of feeling guilty about them 🙂  I have weaknesses for chocolate, cheese, and ice cream, but I also walk a lot and eat a healthy diet the rest of the time, so I don’t think they quite make it up there to guilt.  Closer is my compulsion for playing web games like Bubble Witch Saga and DrawSomething even though I know there are more productive or instructive things I should be doing when Bob is asleep on my lap.  Again though, I reason that a bit of what you fancy is a good thing, and that maybe it’s even good to be non-productive some of the time.

So what do I feel guilty about?  Well, my collector attitude to craft supplies is the main one.  In as much as anyone needs any craft supplies, I have a lot more than I need, and more than I’ll be able to use in one lifetime, unless all that walking and healthy eating makes me live to 250!  The environmentalist in me feels guilty about having so much, but my main source of guilt is that I have more than I have room for in my little craft room, so it’s invaded most of the rest of the house in one way or another.  Despite this, I still buy more of it, and that’s what makes me feel bad.  It’s just that I enjoy owning it almost as much as crafting with it, and I enjoy the possibilities of what I could make with it almost as much as the making.  In fact, when the making is going to involve lots of measuring and not much technique, sometimes the design process is the most fun!

My only other guilty pleasure is biscuits when I’m out.  They went from being a pleasure to a guilty pleasure when I saw a Panorama about palm oil (an ingredient in all sorts of processed foods), and how our use of it is putting the orangutans at risk of extinction within the next decade.  At home I’ve switched to all butter shortbread, as I reason that the orangutans need trees more than I need chocolate digestives, but I do still eat biscuits of unknown oiliness when I’m out – something I feel bad about almost immediately 😦  Hmm, maybe they don’t count as a pleasure after all…

That’s a bit of a serious way to leave this post, so please help lighten things up by leaving me a comment about your guilty pleasures!

My Crafting Style – Blog Prompt Catch-up, Day 4

Day 4’s blog prompt was ‘my crafting style’, which is a problem for me, as I’m not sure I have one any more! Before I became a do crafts demonstrator, I’d say my style was quite minimalist, symmetrical and obsessively precise.  I measured everything, and the closest I got to distressing anything was tearing mulberry paper along a wet line 🙂  One of my favourite things about demoing is that I get to work with products of all styles and types, not just those I’d automatically choose for myself, and that it pushes me to create projects that will appeal to as wide a range of crafters as possible.  I’m happy to say that it really has broadened my crafting so much that my own style has assimilated all sorts of influences along the way.  I’ve tried a wider range of crafts over the years too, like jewellery making, and that in turn has influenced my papercrafting.  I still do tend towards the minimalist and symmetrical, but the measuring has definitely gone out the window 😉  One style I’ll always enjoy is to make a card or page that looks like something else, or presents a scene.

My scrapbooking is a bit more conservative.  I prefer the photos (or journalling) to be the dominant thing on the page, and I like as many of the embellishments as possible to relate to the story I’m telling on the page.  As a consequence, it takes me an absolute age to complete a layout, and this is a hang-up I hope to get over when I start scrapping in earnest for baby Bob, otherwise I’m going to have to live an awfully long time if I’m going to have something to pass on to him!

I’ve picked a few piccies from my crafting history, oldest ones first, that I think are most typical of what I’ve preferred to make. Looking at these I realise that maybe I do have a style after all!

My minimalist beginnings

I’ve always loved flowers and butterflies

I do like things to match…

Mmm, symmetry 🙂

Ooh look, more symmetry

Uh-oh…

Oh, and I never remember to check it’ll fit in the envelope.

My good friend Chris posted about this blog giveaway over at Keepsakes by Melissa.  There are some really lovely projects on this blog – lots of beautifully crafted vintage cards.  Thanks Chris for taking me there!

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