Little boxes

Where did December go? Am I the only one that seems to have lost a week somewhere? I need to get a wriggle on!!

Just a quick post, an escape into Blogland before I go back to the ‘to do’ list. That list has magical qualities. No matter how much I cross off it never seems to get any shorter.

This Christmas card offering is from the Craftwork Cards Petite Glitzy Villages kit. I thought they would be quick and easy, but a little bit different and fun too. However, one should always do the research before purchasing! The sections with the houses on them are just printed squares, so if you want the diorama look, you have to cut around the houses and trees. I have mentioned before that I am NOT good at cutting out, and I don’t find it relaxing. So thin, fine detailed fir trees, plus a bit of time pressure meant I was starting to lose the will to live by panel number two. Reader, I fudged it. I cut around the house for the front panel (even I can manage a boxy shape) and applied severe (terminal) landscaping to the trees by chopping them off completely. Then I pulled out my trusty Clearly Besotted Tree Landscape die, cut it in gold and fixed them behind the house panel to replace those I had made into firewood.

The picture of the finished card on the kit also had a gold starry background, but you can only achieve this by sticking the panel with two houses to the very back, thus limiting your layers. Or else use this panel twice and reduce the amount of cards you can make with the kit. So I ended up making my own snowy background with the Avery Elle Falling Snow die I have used for many a card this year!

petite-glitzy-villages

So, a bit of a hybrid, and not quite as quick as I had hoped, but I like the overall effect. Also they fold flat to go into an envelope, which is a big plus.

Hope everyone is doing better with their Christmas preparations than I am!

 

 

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Christmas Countdown

Everyone beginning to feel a little bit festive? Heard your first Christmas songs on the radio? Starting to think about how on earth you will serve the sprouts in the hope of making them palatable this year? Or have you already got all your gifts wrapped, cards written and posted and been on a diet of mince pies and eggnog for a week?

When I looked out onto the street today, approximately mid-morning, for a moment I thought that maybe the neighbourhood had been evacuated for a gas leak and that somehow we had missed the warning. The road, normally nose-to-tail parked, was totally empty. Not one single car in sight. I sniffed. No gas. But perhaps a whiff of credit card meltdown? Everyone was out shopping! It made me realise I need to get a wriggle on.

So far, I have made some cards, experimented with some ornaments and that is it. No decorations up, gifts bought or anything. We usually have the tree up in the first few days of December. Partly because my sister’s birthday is early in the month and as kids it became a tradition to have the decorations in place by then, and I just carried it on in my own home. Also, partly, because I used to spend a whole weekend putting up elaborate garlands, lights and an enormous tree. If you go to all that effort you don’t want to spend the following weekend taking it all down again. You want to get a few weeks’ worth of twinkle for your exertions!

I don’t invest so much time any more – as long as there are plenty of fairy lights and some sparkle I am good. I really used to object to the amount of time it takes to dismantle and pack everything away!

Anyhoo, today as I was sorting through some boxes I came across a few cards I made last year, but didn’t use. They are a more traditional style, using Anna Griffin products. I know I have said it before, but I do love Anna Griffin style. Very classic, very classy.

ag-red-hollyag-reindeer-bowag-holly-with-script

These were all simple to make. The shapes are already cut out and layered for dimension, you just decide how you want to put them together. The kits usually come with inspiration sheets too. I have to say I cannot remember whether all these combinations are my own, or whether I recreated some of the examples. What I would say is that if anyone is thinking of trying their hand at card making, kits like these, with sentiments, 3d elements and coordinating papers and ribbon are a great way to start and build up your confidence. Lots of different companies offer them, and for all occasions.

These will definitely get used this year!

 

Put that reindeer down!

It’s official. I am obsessed with reindeer imagery. I had a lightbulb moment of realisation recently. You know the kind of thing, when you look at your wardrobe and suddenly notice that almost everything is black, or white, or pink (insert your colour here). So many of the cards I have made for Christmas this year feature reindeer in one form or another. And the thing is, I have more reindeer stuff I haven’t even used! Maybe there is a term for this condition. For my dignity and self-respect I hope it isn’t simply ‘fruit loop’.

Anyhow, just a quick post today as I am still feeling a bit queasy. Luckily you can’t catch this sort of virus online. So, another reindeer card. Sorry! Hope there are no reindeer-phobics out there. This card isn’t actually radioactive as the look would suggest. Just silver, with winter sun catching on it. I quite like the incandescent look though!

reindeer-header-1

This was made using a Die’sire header die that I either bought last year or was maybe a freebie with a magazine, I can’t actually remember which. I can’t find the packaging and I am not sure if it is still available, but I think they do something similar anyway. I also used the Crafter’s Companion Elegant Snowfall embossing folder, plus Marianne reindeer and Anna Griffin Joy dies, again from old stash.

 

Giving, and Thanks.

Last night we had another power cut, blacking out most of the evening. Initially I was grouchy. I hadn’t yet cooked dinner and having been a bit peaky for a few days I had a lot of blog catching up to do. Then I got a grip. We were safe, warm (as long as we stayed in the one room), and a supper of cheese and biscuits would often be a guilty pleasure anyway. The situation was hardly dire or dramatic. Having some of your creature comforts taken away for a few hours does sometimes give you a bit of a reality check and remind us how lucky we are to have a home at all.

So, I have a story to share. I also tell this story every time I listen to someone complaining about people living on the streets.

In the UK in the 1980s there were a lot of visible homeless people, or beggars (there is a difference, one does not necessarily mean the other) on the streets in central London. Those years were so difficult for so many, and so lucrative for a small minority. I was OK. I was in my first job, with a decent starter salary and most of my income was at my own disposal. Not exactly a ‘Have’, but lucky enough not to be a ‘Have not’.

Newspapers and TV would often comment on the numbers of homeless, some sympathetically and some not. There were warnings that you should not give money, that it was a trick to steal your purse, or that some people were ’professional’ beggars and went home to a nice cosy house at the end of a lucrative day. Many also said that you were being made a fool of if you gave anything.

I found it hard to accept that all these people were con artists. Another line taken was that they deliberately chose to be homeless. Maybe some did, maybe some preferred this way of life, but I couldn’t believe that was the case for all. You had to consider that if they had made the choice to run away, or live on the streets, what awful things happened at home to make this the better option? Maybe this was not intended, but things had simply not worked out and there was no way back?

Anyway, whatever had happened to someone, however they had gotten there, I (and of course thousands of others) could not simply walk by every day and ignore a person on a pavement. I made a decision that I didn’t care if I was being ‘conned’, or made a fool of by some: that would be their problem, not mine. I didn’t give money to everyone I saw, but used to give a decent amount of money, so a few pounds, not pennies, to some, hoping it meant they could definitely eat that day.

It was Christmas Eve, and we finished work around lunchtime. As was traditional, a visit to the pub was in order for a couple of white wine and tonics (really, not sure I would like that now!!) and then a few of us headed to London’s Oxford Street for some last minute shopping. It was cold, getting a bit dark, there was festive music coming from almost every shop and a sea of Christmas lights. The pavements were thick with shoppers and sightseers, making it difficult to progress, or even just keep track of your friends.

But someone caught my eye. She was a young woman holding a notice. The notice was brief, and I have to be honest and say that now I forget the exact details, but I think it just said she and her small family had been recently made homeless, and asked for any spare change. She was not confronting anyone, not even speaking, just standing quietly. I made a quick decision that I wanted to do something nice that afternoon. My purse was full of cash so I went up, tucked a £20 note into her hand and walked on as she was saying thank you. Now in those times, this amount of money would easily buy enough food for a week. Some of my work colleagues told me I was stupid, that she had probably been given many times that amount of money already, I was lucky my purse hadn’t been stolen etc etc. We carried on up towards Selfridges, with them still telling me I was daft.

And then the worst thing happened. She started to follow me. Someone I was with saw her dodging through the throngs of shoppers “oh look, she’s after you!” Stupidly, we sped up. Now I could hear her calling out ‘Miss, Miss, wait!’. There was a comedy chase on for a few moments and then she caught up with me. I honestly don’t know what I expected to happen next. For sure I didn’t think I would be mugged as all the dire warnings would have me fretting was likely to happen, because she just didn’t seem like that kind of person.

But I was definitely not expecting to hear “this is a lot of money. Are you sure you meant to give me this much?”

I told her I had meant to, and she seemed a bit bemused, or surprised maybe. She thanked me again, quietly. I hope we wished each other a Merry Christmas, but you know, this is not the Hallmark Channel so I cannot be certain. But I remember this woman every year, and I always hope she is OK, that things worked out for her. I hope she had a good Christmas.

To me, I actually don’t care if she raked in ££££s that day, but I really don’t think she did. If she was doing well enough standing where she was, and was unscrupulous enough to ask for money when she had no genuine need, why bother to chase me? No. She was a decent and honest person, that for some reason was in a bad situation and had no other options. I think I got more from the encounter than she did, to be honest.

So this is my ‘giving, and thanks’ story. Happy Thanksgiving to all those that celebrate the holiday.

Oh, and whilst we were in semi darkness last night I managed to make a card.

blue-merry

Supplies: Tonic Rococo Build a Wreath dies; Anna Griffin ‘merry’ die; The Works for the smaller sprig die (it doesn’t seem to have a name)

 

Three degrees

deer-family-multi

Whilst rummaging in the craft room at the weekend I came across some snowy acetate I bought a couple of years ago. Nothing like rediscovering an old friend, is there? I decided to give it a bit of a workout. Also, those who read my posts regularly may remember that a vital Christmas die went missing a few weeks ago. The guilty party is either the cat or a poltergeist, because the die was returned last week. Left in the middle of the living room floor. Hmmm. I am pretty sure forensic testing would detect kitty DNA, or at least tuna… Anyway, it is back so Christmas is no longer cancelled.

To the cards, then. The first ‘degree’ of difficulty, is well, not in the least bit difficult really. I used the Deer Family die as it is, plus a banner greeting. A square of the snowy acetate was layered over royal blue card for the background sky, 3D foam and done. Total absolute beginner level. I think it would be good for a male Christmas card, maybe?

deer-family-simple

For the second degree, well there was a bit more thinking required for the composition, but once that was done it was simple to put together. Here I have used acetate to make the base card: it is sturdy enough to stand up with no problem. This time for the Deer Family I cut away the circular dome, so they are just silhouettes on a strip of card. I stamped and embossed the sentiment onto vellum and then wrapped the vellum around the layer with the Tree Landscape and adhered this to the piece with the deer. For acetate cards you need to tidy up the inside too, so nobody sees the gluey mess that is your shame. Just cover it up with another bit of card and nothing to see here! You also need somewhere to write. Well, unless you don’t like the recipient enough to bother, but then why are you sending the card?! My top tip for this (only thought of it today) is to flip the card over so the front is facing down on your work surface. Now you can easily layer a panel to line up with whatever is on the card front. Then you can turn the card the right way up, open it and align the interior panel perfectly with the one you have stuck to the very back of the card. Hurrah!

deer-family-acetate

Now, the third degree of difficulty. I could have done with a lie down in a darkened room after this. All the dies are from different companies, so not intended to be used together but I had in my head that a diorama style would be fun. Fun for who, exactly?? I jest. It was a good thing to try and I felt I had achieved something. I’m not going to explain how I did it, because part-way in I had a bit of an epiphany and may have come up with a better and easier method. I will test it out and share if it works.

deer-3d

I do have a question to throw out there though. I want a detail gold embossing powder that is a really rich, bright, warm gold. The one I used on the first card here is, to be fair, at least 12 years old, but it is too ‘muddy’. Also, it MUST be a detail powder. Anyone got any recommendations? Oh and acetate, nightmare to photograph. I think you can see the roof of the house across the road in one of these shots and our guttering in another….how picturesque!

Long list of supplies today:

Clearly Besotted Tree Landscape and Mini Basic Banners dies; Lawn Fawn Village Border die; Memory Box Deer Family Circle die; X-Cut Rectangle Parenthesis Large dies; The Ton Holiday Lyrics (Dashing Through the Snow); Clearly Besotted Mini Basic Banners III stamps; Hunkydory snowy acetate. Rest of supplies from stash.

 

 

Another Galaxy…..

This time an overcrowded one. Stars jostling for position. Poking each other and seeing who can twinkle the brightest. And of course there is the big old lairy fella at the end…

Sorry the photo is a bit rubbish, but it was one of those days where the light changed in seconds from too bright (so loads of odd shadows) to gloomier than the inside of an undertaker’s suit pocket.

stars-1

A quick post today. To make this I used two different sets of star dies and a selection of gold and silver card. I then just moved the die cuts about until I was happy with the positioning. Basically I was trying to make sure that there weren’t any odd or ugly shapes or gaps made where the stars or points overlapped. Some are popped up on 3d foam, because I have to. And although it probably means I need to make a box for it now, I deliberately wanted the stars going over the edge of the card, just because I think it looks better really!

This is a card that could probably be rustled up with ready-made supplies from a craft shop. Bags of assorted stars are often available should you feel tempted to pick up a glue stick and get stuck in.

Dies:  Sizzix Bigz Stars and Intricutz Swirling Layered Stars

 

 

The return of the 3d foam…

No, this is not an Edgar Allan Poe rip off.

Today I had a fancy to make a Christmas card that takes a bit more time, hopefully one of the ‘special‘ ones my mum likes to give to immediate and extended family. I decided to park postage cost considerations too, but that was it, no other real plan, except to cut a whole load of shapes and see what happened.

Colour scheme: gold and ivory initially. So I die cut a load of leaves and berries using various Tonic dies. These particular ones are quite large as they were intended to make wreaths I think, so I wasn’t too sure how, or if, I could make them work on a card. But if you don’t try, how will you find out?

So, I had lots of gold shapes to play with, but whilst I was trying to make an arrangement I felt the open areas of the images didn’t work so well with the overlapping effect I was going for – it just looked a bit muddled to me. A background colour was in order, and I decided to use the ivory for this.

I have seen demonstrators doing what they call ‘undercutting’ to make a two-coloured embellishment: basically sticking the die cut to the backing and then cutting around the edge, but at an angle to make sure the edges are clean and neat and don’t have the background colour showing. I can’t do this very well myself. I think you either have scissorhand skills or you don’t. I don’t. But these shapes gave me the option of grabbing the ‘negative’ left from the die cutting and drawing inside it, then snipping just inside the pencil line. Perfect layers – hurrah!

Then I wanted a bit more drama than just gold and ivory, so found a satin red DL card which I cut in half (one side was a bit scuffed), wrapped with ivory ribbon then layered onto a plain ivory DL base card. I arranged and glued various leaves and cones, cutting into some of them if necessary to get smaller pieces, and using a small amount of 3D foam here and there. I also only glued some of the sprigs at the top, under the cones, so they are able to make a shadow.

Finally an extra knot of ivory satin ribbon at the top and time for the mug shots.

tonic-pine-cone-1

Supplies: Tonic Rococo dies Pine Cone; Pine Leaf, Mistletoe Sprig, Holly Leaf, Berry Sprig. Ribbon from The Ribbon Room. All card from stash.

 

‘Tis the season to be blingy

Put your shades on, people….

Now in essence this is a quick card. In practice, far from it. We went through more reinventions and incarnations than Madonna. I think the problem was that I started with the premise that I HAD to use a gilded reindeer but could not find my large antlered beast anywhere, so used a much smaller die instead. I tried stamps for the sentiment because they were to scale, but the embossing powders could not compete with the blingy reindeer. I only have a few Christmas greeting dies and they are too big for this so just overwhelmed the poor little chap. Eventually I decided to cut one down, just to the word ‘Christmas’ which was fine. Then all the positioning went out of whack. Should there be snow up at the top, or snow down at the bottom? Ditto for the greeting. Everything I did fought against something else!

Eventually I decided on putting all the action into the middle of the black layer to give a border of peace and tranquility top and bottom. I think with such a full-on bling thing it was possibly a wise move! This means my brave little Blitzen is now dodging a gold meteor shower, just to bring some Christmas cheer. I hope we are all suitably grateful for his efforts….

blingy-reindeer

To make this card I cut a card blank in gold, then a smaller layer in black. I used the Avery Elle Falling Snow die to create my stardust/meteor shower in the black card and a cut a gold Tattered Lace Happy Christmas, minus the Happy. The recipient will have to take it as given. The reindeer is a Marianne die I have had for years. He doesn’t seem to have a name, just a serial number LR0179. Seems kind of unfriendly, hence the renaming to Blitzen.

blingy-reindeer-detail

Blitzen was a lot easier to gild than the tree decoration from last week. I dug out some double sided sticky paper that is meant to be used with detail dies to save you trying to get adhesive neatly on the back, but of course if you use it in reverse the front of your die cut becomes sticky instead, ready for gilding. So no gluey mitts this time.

I have to confess that the reindeer is raised on 1mm 3D foam, but otherwise the card is again totally flat and will easily meet the lowest postage charge criteria. Lets hope he makes it through the storm!

 

 

If you want to get ahead…

Get a hat!!

I have another two quick card designs to share today, both using the same hat image. I need to ramp up the production now that we are in November. Also so as not to cost a fortune for postage, a lot of the cards I make for me or my mother to send out need to be almost totally flat. In the UK, if your item is more than 5mm thick it incurs an extra postage charge. If you don’t realise this and just stick the envelope in the post box, the recipient has to pay or they don’t get the card! All I have for dimension here is a knot of ribbon, which just about keeps within the frankly miserly, very un-Christmassy stipulation. Now I think about it, I reckon there should be a surcharge amnesty for the run up to 25th December. And of course for every other holiday, religious or state, too. Or maybe ‘happy mail’ should be allowed to be any size, and only bills, junk mail and boring stuff should be subject to regulation? Much better idea!

Totally flat is tough for me, what with the addiction to 3D foam, but needs must. I am sticking with a minimal colour palette and a lot of white space. This time though the white space has been turned into snow using Crafter’s Companion Elegant Snowfall embossing folder for a bit of extra interest.

be-merry

For the first card I have used the Lawn Fawn Winter Big Scripty Words stamps and dies for the ‘be merry’ and a Taylored Expressions Santa’s Hat die.

For the second I used the same Santa Hat and a Tonic Dear Santa die. The hat band and pom pom are glittery but, guess what? Yep, doesn’t show in the photo!

dear-santa

I really wanted to add some jingle bells to the cards but made do with using them as photo props. I think I will make some more with all the bells (literally) and whistles (figuratively) on though, and to hell with the postage costs!

Supplies:

Lawn Fawn Winter Big Scripty Words stamps and dies; Crafter’s Companion Elegant Snowfall embossing folder; Taylored Expressions Santa Hat die; Tonic Dear Santa die; Create and Craft gold linen effect card; ribbons from The Ribbon Room

 

 

 

Not quite a Galaxy….

Not even a Ripple. Just continuing the transatlantic exchange that was kicked off with the mention of Walnut Whips a while ago. I understand at least one person across the pond has sourced and eaten a Walnut Whip as a direct result of that post. Chocolate is powerful stuff!

So, Galaxy is another brand of chocolate in the UK and, having learnt from my last omission to explain the cultural references, here is hopefully pretty much all the uninitiated need to know about Galaxy:

It is one of the major chocolate brands in the UK

It is milk chocolate

It comes in various bars – some just chocolate, some with nuts, biscuit, caramel etc added

A Galaxy Ripple is a long thinnish bar of folded ribbons of chocolate, thoughtfully covered in another layer of chocolate so it (theoretically) doesn’t fall down your front when you bite into it.

Galaxy Counters are little shiny discs (a bit like flying saucers) of chocolate. Initially branded for kids (I think you were meant to learn to count by how many you could shovel into your mouth before your mum stopped you), they disappeared for years. My sister and I were so distraught we nearly wrote to the Prime Minister about it. Now they are happily back, branded for adults and sold in nice, big, big bags.

Minstrels are the same as Counters, but with a hard sugar shell. They were marketed as ‘the chocolate that melts in your mouth, not your hand’. As if one was ever in the hand long enough to test this out! Apparently M&Ms had the same slogan but were not available in the UK then I don’t think.

Can you tell that I like Galaxy chocolate?

Anyway. This is a different kind of mini galaxy. A small scattering of die cut stars. Now I have the layout sorted, this would be a quick card to make in multiples. You could also make it with hearts or flowers instead of stars for a birthday or valentine.

Supplies are minimal: 3 nesting star dies, some pearlescent card, a small bit of glitter card, gold cord and 3D foam. That’s it.

galaxy-card

To make this:

Cut your base card or use a ready made blank. I made mine to UK A6 size, which when folded is 14.8cm x 10.5cm or approximately 4 1/8 x 5¾ inches. Sorry, I am not an inches person!

Cut a smaller layer for the front – I just do 0.5cm smaller than the base card front.

Grab your star dies and, starting with the largest, position them on this piece of card to get a rough idea of your layout. Move down to the middle size and plan where you want these to be too.

Fill in any obvious gaps with the smallest die. If you find it hard to visualise, just cut some spare stars from scrap and use them to help you set your design out.

Once you are happy, get cutting!

It looks good if you have one or two shapes falling off the edge of the panel.

Also, odd numbers are visually more pleasing than even, so I planned for 5 apertures of various sizes.

When all the stars have been cut tie the gold cord around the bottom section of the piece and secure firmly at the back.

Then tie a bow separately and stick it on the front. This is much easier than trying to tie around the card and get a good bow at the same time. It’s not cheating, it is ‘effective use of skills and resources’. Really.

Liberally add 3D foam to the back of the die cut panel, making sure you support it in the middle of the piece as well as the edges; then stick this to your base card.

galaxy-detail

The stars that fill the apertures are cut from glitter card. It doesn’t show up brilliantly in the photo but you can trust me! So I cut two mediums stars to fill the large star aperture, and one small one to fill the medium star aperture. I thought about just layering glitter card underneath the apertures created by the smallest star but decided it didn’t really add anything so, why bother?!

More 3D foam on the back of the stars, position them centrally in your apertures and you are done.

Chocolate, anyone?