• Going Green.

    Wednesday, 25 February, 2015

    I know that if most of you look out of your rain-swept window this morning you will say that I am crazy but Spring is on it's way!

    How do I know? well, the crocus and snowdrops are bringing a little cheer to our woodland walks and on the roadside verges of every Welsh village the green shoots of daffodils are standing to attention ready to burst into bloom at any moment.

    I know we could still suffer one of those crazy snowstorms but you have to be positive at this time of year. I want to share with you all a new butterfly die and I know it's a little early for vibrant colours so I've gone with some of my favourite shades of green.

    I have chosen to use the new Sizzix Bigz Butterfly Duo die from Tim Holtz which is magnificent by itself, but when paired with it's very own Texture Fades embossing folder well, I'll let you be the judge!

    I die-cut the two butterflies below from watercolour paper to show you the beautiful shapes but I'm only going to use the top one. I then applied Shabby Shutters Distress ink to the centre of the butterfly and Peacock feathers to the wings. I spritzed the inked shape with clean water, this helps the colours blend and also adds a lovely mottled effect. Next, I embossed my die-cut butterfly using it's corresponding folder before gently applying Forest Moss Distress Ink over the embossed detail. 

    I love these three colours together, absolutely stunning!

    For the rubber stamping you can use your Distress Ink pads if you prefer but I chose to use the Distress Markers of the same colours but I added the colour Squeezed Lemonade to freshen things up a little. I went for  a Stampers Anonymous set (Nature's Moments CMS 001) which has always been a big favourite of mine. I started by stamping the text into the centre of the rectangle of white card (85 x 130 mm) using the Shabby Shutters ink pad to form a really subtle background pattern. Next, I coloured my plant stamp (Hogweed anyone?) using the Distress Markers before gently spritzing with clean water. The water just wants to sit on the surface and not run down the stamp. It's good to practice this technique a couple of times before committing to your project. When you are happy, apply to the stamp to the card.

    The rest is easy, distress the edge of the paper with the blade of your scissors and attach the stamped rectangle to an A6 base card made from wood effect paper. Gently curl the wings of the butterfly to add a little dimension and mount onto the finished card. 

    It's a really simple colour palette and the Shabby Shutters green seems to radiate from the centre of the butterfly. I love the mottled effect left by the stamped image too.

    See you all next week!

  • Mixed Media Hearts

    Wednesday, 18 February, 2015

    Mixed media projects were making a big splash at the Creativeworld trade fair in Frankfurt which we attended last week to show off all our new products, I shall share some of the photo's with you in a couple of weeks time.

    Mixed media can sometimes look a bit scary if you have never tried it before, what I want to do today is try to explain a few simple techniques using Sizzix dies together with inks, paints, stains and waxes to create some stunning effects which are really much easier than they may at first appear.

    Becoming proficient with mixed media techniques is all about experimenting and not being afraid to make mistakes because if you believe the old maxim then that is how we learn. As the famous inventor Thomas Edison once said in reference to his attempts to create the first light bulb " I have not failed, I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work". 

    The dies I am using today are from the new Tim Holtz collection, click on each link below to check out the individual dies/sets:

    Sizzix Thinlits Die Set 4PK - Scribbles & Splat
    Sizzix Thinlits Die Set 4PK - Mixed Media
    Sizzix Thinlits Die Set 7PK - Handwritten Love
    Sizzix Thinlits Die Set 102PK - Alphanumeric (1" Tall)
    Sizzix Bigz Die - Heartfelt

    As well as the dies I used a selection of Ranger products including Distress Paints, Distress Stains, Distress Embossing Powders. I also used various gilding wax products, and stamps etc.

    This is a quite a big blog post so let's cut the preamble and get under way!!

    I strarted by die-cutting the scribbled heart and attaching it to a piece of mount board which is a very heavy weight card. I placed this face down over the largest heart on my 'Heartfelt' Bigz die which cuts no less than 11 different hearts. and with one pass through the Big Shot I now have a beautiful heart ready to decorate. As you will see further down the page I am trying to create textures using a faux embossing technique.

    As you can see below, I die cut a selection of different patterns and textures from kraft card (any card will do!) prior to attaching to the mount board and die cutting.
    Below are a selection of die-cut hearts which have been painted with white acrylic, this gives me a great surface on which to make a mess...... I mean, create bespoke embellishments of unrivalled beauty, each one as unique and individual as a snowflake (Whatever Pete!!!)

    1. Here I painted the heart with black acrylic and applied pewter gilding wax with my finger which brings out the detail beautifully.

    2. I painted over this heart with a couple of different shades of green acrylic which I dried with my heat tool before applying a dark blue stain which I then blotted with kitchen roll so that it gives extra definition between the cracks. Next, I applied white acrylic applied with a dry brush technique to pick out the detail before applying the subtle stamped image.

    3. For this heart I used Alcohol inks mixing reds and oranges, I applied the same dry brush technique to lift the detail before applying Perfect Pearls powder to give a pearlised lustre.

    4.Here I scrunched up some tissue paper before partially flattening it and attaching to the mount board. I  die-cut the heart and applied a couple of shades of brown acrylic. Once it was dry with the help of my trusty heat tool I applied a dark brown stain before blotting the excess. After another blast with my heat tool I applied a little gold gilding wax with my fingertip.

    5.The texture was created as with the previous heart but I used green and blue alcohol ink to add colour and once dry I finished off using pewter gilding wax to pick out the detail.

    6.I applied a few shades of green and blue acrylic in a really slapdash manner before applying a deep green stain and blotting away the excess where it gets in the cracks. to enhance the die cut detail I again used a little of the pewter gilding wax.

    7.I coloured  this heart using two shades of metallic Distress Paint. Once dry I applied black Distress Stain. I also blotted a little white acrylic onto the heart before rubbing away most of it with kitchen towel. Finally, I brought out the detail in the letters with gold gilding wax.

    8.I applied an embossing ink pad to the surface before sprinkling with Distress embossing powder which was fixed with a heat tool. I painted with red, brown and orange acrylics and dried with my heat tool. Next I applied a dark blue stain, most of which I blotted away before applying some gold gilding wax to enhance he detail. Notice the wonderful rust texture left by the embossing powder.

    9.I love this one and it is the easiest of the lot, simply apply a slightly watered down solution of black acrylic paint before wiping over with a piece of kitchen roll, dry with the heat tool and stamp the text.... simple!

    10.I took a plain mount board heart and covered it with black acrylic paint. Once dry, I stamped the leafy branch image using an embossing ink pad before applying clear embossing powder and fixing with my heat tool. Next I applied a thin layer of pale Distress Paint (Victorian Velvet is perfect). While the paint was still damp I very gently rubbed over the embossed motif with a damp piece of kitchen roll thereby removing the paint before it had a chance to fully dry (timing is everything with this technique!) Finally, I stamped into the top left corner using a white ink pad to leave a very subtle image.

    11.Here I painted the die-cut heart using shades of green and blue acrylic and dried the paint with my heat tool. Next, I applied metallic Distress Paint before spritzing with clean water, I started to dry with my heat tool and half way through I placed a sheet of kitchen roll flat against the heart and pressed down firmly. When I lifted off the kitchen roll some of the metallic paint has remained and some has been lifted. Timing again is very important with this technique and if you want to see how it is done then why not check out Creative Chemistry 102, a great series of technique demo's from the master himself Mr.Tim Holtz. I finished by adding some stamped detail.

    12.Last but by no means least... I attached the metal cogs using assorted faux screw head brads before applying a coat of white acrylic. Next, I applied a couple of shades of metallic Distress Paint which I dried with my heat tool. I applied black Distress Stain which gets into the cracks and adds definition before blotting most of it away with kitchen roll. Finally, I enhanced the detail with a little white acrylic applied with a dry brush technique

    I attached the hearts to the glass on the front of a box frame and I'm going to take it around trade and retail shows with me to explain some of the several mixed media techniques that can be used to enhance our marvellous die-cuts.

    Take it easy, see you all next week!

  • Just the two of us

    Wednesday, 11 February, 2015

    Another blog, another stolen song lyric! but it's such a great song I just couldn't help myself, not only that it seems a perfect fit with what I want to do today. Valentines is only three days away so if you haven't made your card yet here is a nice little idea.

    I used two dies from the new Tim Holtz collection One is a Bigz die named Heartfelt which features no less than 11 different hearts, how's that for value? The other is a Thinlits set which we looked at last week named Scribbles & Splat and I absolutely adore it! Just click on the links to find out more.

    I started by die-cutting three circular scribbles from heavyweight card before attaching them to a rectangle of mount board, we are using Bigz dies next and they eat mount board for breakfast! Place the mount board with the die-cuts attached face down onto the heartfelt die and die-cut two of the larger hearts.

     To add colour I'm going to use some Distress Paints, I've chosen Fired Brick and Picked Raspberry. I accelerated the drying process with a heat tool before adding some Chipped Sapphire Distress Stain the majority of which I immediately lifted off with a clean cloth. I wanted the stain to seep into the cracks to add contrast, the stain also tones down the vibrancy of the paint.
     Next, I used some white paint (anything with a matt or chalky finish will do) and I applied this over the hearts using a dry brush technique to lift the detail.

    I printed the legend 'just the two of us' onto a white A6 base card and used a text pattern stamp to which I applied Old Paper Distress Ink which gives a very gentle effect.

    And here is the finished card. I love the bold shapes/colours offset by all that white space, I really like the composition of this card, I hope you do too?

    Next, week I'm going to explain some more mixed media techniques using some more dies fro this range...... lots more!!

  • Lucky man!

    Wednesday, 4 February, 2015

    I think any man or woman for that matter who receives an original handmade card is extremely lucky. Valentine's cards are particularly special because you want to give something not only bespoke and personal but something truly from the heart.

    I always smile when I see February editions of paper craft magazines decked out in pink hearts because, and correct me if I'm wrong..... the majority of card makers (and I mean the vast majority!) are women which means that the majority of hand made Valentine cards will be received by men. I wanted to redress the balance by making a VERY masculine card.

    This month sees the release of a collection of dies created by Tim Holtz aimed at mixed-media fans. I think that these dies will adapt to so many different styles that they will become a permanent fixture in my stash.

    The dies I am using are all Thinlits sets namely Scribbles and Splat, Handwritten Love and Mixed Media check out the links, you'll thank me for it!

    I started by applying a piece of blue/grey paper to the face of an A6 base card before inking around the perimeter. Next, I took an A6 piece of cream card (the colours not really important to be honest!) and tore around the edges.

    I chose two of the four mixed media dies and used them to add the corner detail, pretty cool huh!. Next, I die-cut the heart and the word ''Cherish' before attaching them to the cream background as shown.

    I used black chalk board paint (any black paint that dries with a matt finish will do the job!) to cover the assembled die-cut background and dried it with a heat tool. Next I reached for an old friend, my Treasure Pewter gilding wax, (you can buy this in many metallic colours and there are several brands out there too, just pop the words 'gilding wax' into your search engine and see what comes up!) I rubbed the wax over the raised detail and the contrast it gives is amazing!

    Finally, I took three screw head brads and painted them black before applying the wax.

    and that's it really! I attached the background to the base card with a thin strip of double sided tape across the centre before securing with the brads. I'm sure you'll agree that the finished card is designed with a man in mind, I'll just have to send it to myself!

  • With love....

    Wednesday, 28 January, 2015

    Valentine's day is almost upon us again so I am dedicating the next three weeks to creating a few different cards  in a variety of styles featuring some of the new Sizzix dies.

    This week I am showcasing a lovely little Thinlits set called Happy Home designed by Craft Asylum which makes a cute bird house, perfect for fresh, clean contemporary styles I've also used the Meadow Sweet paper pad from Craft Asylum which complements the die collection beautifully.

     I began by die-cutting the main body of the bird house from the wood grain paper before using the heart die to cut an aperture in the centre. I then cut the trim for the roof and attached it to the birdhouse using adhesive foam pads before mounting onto a brown die-cut bird house to create a sense of dimension.

    Once the house is assembled I used a craft knife to cut a strip of the wood grain paper to act as the pole on which the birdhouse stands. Next, I took the sheet of paper with the bird and branch printed on it before trimming to the size of my A6 white base card. I tore the sheet in half applied it to the top of the card onto which I had printed the legend 'make a little bird house in your soul' which was the title of a song released in 1989 by the American band They Might be Giants. it's such a cheery song and never fails to lift the spirits when it comes on the radio as it still does from time to time.

    Before attaching the assembled birdhouse I used a pattern makers wheel to add a faux stitch effect around the edges which I adore as a finishing touch to many of my cards.
    The last detail is provided by a double length of knotted twine. It's such a sweet little card and one that I would be more than happy to receive myself. i do hope you approve?

  • A little more Elegance

    Wednesday, 21 January, 2015

    Today we are taking another look at the Elegance die range, but this week we are hoping to achieve that elusive elegant touch using a very basic colour palette. They say simple is beautiful well I like to think it can also be elegant too!

    The die that I used is a dove named Delicate Wings together with some great stamps from the good people at Darkroom Door. The colours of card are a couple of warm greys together with some pale cream and the Distress Inks are Old Paper and Pumice Stone.

    I started by die-cutting the dove from cream card before applying the text stamp inked up with Pumice Stone Distress ink; these inks are not really designed for rubber stamping but they do give a lovely soft, subtle image.Next, I gently applied Old Paper ink around the edges.

    I cut a rectangle of grey card measuring 95 x 140 mm and rounded off the corners with a punch before stamping the legend 'thank you' onto a strip of darker card before gently inking the edges. I gave the dove a very light spritz of spray adhesive before applying a little Clear Rock Candy Distress Glitter which creates a very subtle effect on the right side of bling!

    Here's the finished card piece mounted onto a standard sized cream base card. Hope you like it! 
    Next Wednesday I will be blogging as usual but I will be on my way to Frankfurt to attend the Creativeworld fair, It's always a very exciting time and I promise to tell you all about it when I return.

  • A touch of Elegance

    Wednesday, 14 January, 2015

    The Elegance in the title belongs to a new collection of dies which shares the same name. The dies in question are very ornate Framelits dies using a Damask style which ties all these dies together thematically allowing us to mix and match.... how thoughtful!

    I created this card with Valentines day in mind and I chose a colour palette which has a more masculine feel, Having said that, I'm probably one of very few men who would appreciate the care and effort involved in it's creation, we're such ungrateful creatures!

    I have used two of the dies from the collection namely Regal Owl and Graceful Flourish. I also used my trusty Framelits Circles and Scallop Circles of which I am very fond as anyone who reads this blog from time to time will be very aware! Click on the words to follow the link.

    I started by dipping into my metallic card box and pulling out some dull gold metallic and some lovely copper coloured card. I die-cut both owls removing the inbetweeny (technical term alert!!) bits from the gold owl. Next, I die-cut the flourish from gold card before gently buffing both gold die-cuts using a fine sanding pad to lightly tarnish the surface. I then took the copper owl and attached it to the rear of the gold owl and I used strips of thin tape to ensure that the tiny bits remain in place.

    I printed the legend 'Happiness is being married to your best friend' onto cream card as shown so that it fits within my chosen circle. Next, I die-cut around the phrase with a Framelits circle die before gently inking the edge and matting onto a larger copper coloured die-cut scallop circle. I then attached the flourish as shown. 
    To make the base card I cut a 35 x 190 mm strip of music pattern paper and snipped one end into a chevron with my scissors. Next, I attached a 70 x 210 mm strip of brown patterned card near the left hand edge of a 130 x 210 mm cream base card. The paper is from my stash and comes from My Minds Eye first Lost & Found collection

     Once the base card was assembled I attached all the other elements using foam pads to create a sense of depth and here it is. I do hope you like it?

  • Ring in the New Year

    Wednesday, 7 January, 2015

    The title is a popular idiom in the English language, the meaning of which is lost to me, however when a good friend becomes engaged at this time then it forms the basis for a blog.

    Before we spend the year showcasing  our new die collections which are many and varied, I want to go right back to basics and visit some old friends. Anyone who regularly reads this blog will know that I am rather fond of my Framelits circles, in fact I have placed every circle from every die set I own in one place so that I have just about every size imaginable at my fingertips.

    I wanted to create a very simple card using very few elements so I started with the ring. I die-cut an aperture in a piece of gold card before placing a slightly larger circle die over the aperture so that it fits perfectly as in the third picture.

    I know what you are thinking..... ' by the time I put this onto my cutting plate and then on my platform and then place my other cutting plate over the top and then run it through my machine, the die will have shifted and I wont get an accurate cut!'

    This is a problem that we have all encountered at some point when we need to produce a really accurate cut. It could be that we want to crop a photograph or a stamped image or maybe we only have one small scrap of card over which the die only just fits only to find that either die or paper have shifted going through the machine.

    Fear not my friends, help is on the way in the shape of the Sizzix magnetic platform for wafer thin dies which keeps the die/card exactly where you want it. I use it all the time and it never lets me down. Once my ring is die-cut I printed the sentiment onto kraft card and trimmed it to size before attaching the die-cut ring, a bow made from thin satin ribbon and a large adhesive gemstone.

    I attached the assembled ring over a piece of patterned pink card onto a simple ivory base card using a stapler. It's quite simple and understated which is what I like especially as I am creating a series of over-the-top show stopping projects for our upcoming trade fairs.

    Hope you like it?

  • New Year (Old Dies)

    Wednesday, 31 December, 2014

    WOW! Where did 2014 go to? One minute we are complaining that the Christmas chocolates are in the shop next to the the barbecue things and the next thing you know it's NEW YEARS EVE!!!

    There have been some terrific die collections in the last 12 months and I am happy to report that there are lots on the way too! 

    Some dies and folders are irreplaceable and will remain in my collection forever and a day. When I was trying to think of an idea for today's blog I found myself wishing that we had a champagne glass/bottle in one of our collections, (I know it's a New Years cliché but there is a good reason for that so I'm not going to fight against it!) That's when the Ovals Framelits set popped into my head.

    I chose three suitable ovals and set about my task by die cutting two ivory ovals and one from gold glitter card before adding a tapered strip of ivory card. I trimmed the top off the large ivory oval along with the gold oval before punching a few holes in the gold ovals with a Crop-a-Dile leaving the resulting glitter circles for later.

    I attached all the bits together to form my champagne glass using adhesive foam pads to add dimension. next I stamped the legend '2015' onto ivory card before trimming to size to form a tint tag, I also punched a hole in one end. Finally, I cut an asymmetric rectangle of pale gold card and embossed it using my trellis folder.
    Here's the finished card. I added a satin bow and attached the tag with a jump ring. Simple yet effective I hope?

    I hope you all have a wonderful 2015 and that you will continue to join me every Wednesday at 2pm for more adventures in Sizzix Land!!!

    ...That champagne looks very appealing, Don't worry, I always stop at two... maybe three but never more....

    ..... Honest!

  • Priceless!

    Wednesday, 24 December, 2014

    Strange title for my blog given the fact that the frame cost £2.99. That's the thing about handmade gifts, they are priceless because of the time, and loving care poured into each one.

    I drew my inspiration for the colour palette from some festive gift bags which I bought at Aldi last week (along with a luxury stollen thank you very much!). As soon as I saw the bags I knew what I was going to do as soon as I got into work.

    Today is Christmas Eve, and tomorrow I will give this frame to my wife amongst other things but I know which gift will be most cherished.

    I used a selection of dies to get what I wanted, The poinsettias come from the Bigz L Wreath, Banner, Holly & Poinsettia die, the snowflakes from the Calendar Months Thinlits set which contains no less than 54 separate elements. The foliage is from Tim Holtz Holiday Greens Thinlits set and finally the pink flower comes from the Bigz Flower Layers & Leaves die. Just click on the highlighted text to see the different dies.

    I chose the colours from my ever growing stash and die-cut all the elements before decorating with some strategic pearl gems. the berries on the holly were die-cut using the wreath die.

    Next, I set about laying all the separate elements onto the frame until I found a balance that I was happy with. At this point I usually take a photo to use as reference before removing all the die-cuts and attaching them one by one with a combination of adhesive foam pads and a hot glue gun.

    I hope you like the finished frame, I'm sure my wife will.

    Have a wonderful Christmas, I'm off to start cutting the veggies for tomorrow!

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