Saturday, November 30, 2013

Christmas Ornament #1: Snowflake

Let the Merriment begin.  It's Christmas.  Already.  Seriusly, it is?  Where did 2013 go?  No, seriously, where?  This year flew by...faster than EVER ever.  I hate getting old.
  It's time to commence the Christmas projects. This sweet snowflake ornament was made using my Cricut Expression and a digital cutting file from SVGCuts called Christmas Ornament Kit.  

Reconditioned Cricut Expression® + Extreme Fonts SetSVGCuts sells digital cutting files that use the .svg format.  .SVG can be cut using a variety of electronic cutting machines...except the Cricut.  Why no Cricut? Well, because the company that makes it, Provo Craft, decided to follow in the foot steps of the music industry.  You see, the music companies   stuck hard to the CD as the only viable music format and outright rejected digital music as a viable format.  And they refused to give that up even when it was apparent that their customer's wanted to go to a digital format.  Instead of meeting their customer's needs they went after digital music users-often poor, clueless college students and attacked the biggest digital music website, Napster, shutting it down.  For years they continued to ignore what their customers' wanted until iTunes kicked their butts.

The Cricut  was originally designed to be used with a cartridge that, while full of a hundred or so images, was also quite expensive at about $80 each.  Who wants to pay almost $100 to get the 1 or 2
Carina Gardner "Frame 5" for $0.75
images that looked great and the 60 images that sucked?  Today the cartridges sell for about $20-40 and are often on sale;  but that is still quite a bit of moola if you only want a few images.

Enter Capitalism... a company called Craft Edge developed an aftermarket product called Sure Cuts A Lot (SCAL) which allows electronic cutting machine users (originally that included the Cricut) to cut .svg files.  This was awesome because it not only allowed one to purchase individual .svg images for a few dollars each, but it allowed one to cut 3rd party images and fonts, thus greatly expanding the paper crafter's creative control.  Personally, I love the images from SVGCuts and artists like Kerry Bradford   and Carina Gardner.  Heidi Swapp has even realized some of her handwritten words in .svg files and I ADORE that woman's handwriting.  Thankfully, I bought SCAL2 several years ago because the current version of SCAL-SCAL3- cannot be used with the Cricut...all thanks to Provo Craft.

Heidi Swapp "Words:Enjoy"
Provo Craft didn't want to allow their customers to be able to use SCAL, claiming "Intellectual Property" while they continued to push their expensive cartridges.  Provo Craft sued Craft Edge, who agreed to remove the Cricut platform from their software; SCAL3 is not compatible for the Cricut.  Provo Craft tried to appease their customers by first releasing the Gypsy-which I never owned but it looked like a hot mess and difficult to use.  The biggest downside I saw was that it didn't allow anything more than manipulating (welding or layering images) the still-expensive images from those cumbersome Cricut cartridges.  It still didn't allow 3rd party designs which to be frank was the one thing that we all wanted to be able to use.  You can read more about Cricut's Dumbest Business Move To Date here.

With so many other cutting machines to chose from, customer's began abandoning their Cricuts for the Silhouette's Cameo and SD, Pazzles Inspiration, and Sizzix eClips.  As Provo Craft lost market share in droves, they released their own web-based digital format called Craft Room.  This allows the purchase of individual images but only those from Cricut's inventory...still no 3rd party designs.  UGH!  The one thing they did with Craft Room was to begin offering some of their images for rent.  Right now you want rent the Holiday Basics Bundle with over 700 images from 10 cartridges- for $19.99 for 60 days.  Have a birthday party coming up? You can rent the Celebration Bundle for 30 days for $9.99 which includes 10 cartridges.  Score 1 point for Provo Craft.
Kerri Bradford
"Jingle All The Way"$1.29
***Obviously, a lot of Cricut users want to get ahold of an old copy of SCAL2, I see posts in various forums all of the time.  Where there is demand there will be there scammers pretending to supply...aka there are listings on Ebay.  The catch....SCAL2 can only be loaded onto 2 machines and it has not been available for quite a long time, sooooooo it is unlikely there is a legitimate copy still floating other words don't waste your money***.

There is some evidence that Cricut might be moving toward a platform that allows individual 3rd party designers to sell files for the Cricut, but who knows. 

Now back to SVGCuts.  This company is owned by Mary and Leo- a couple from the Chicago area who produce a "kit" of digital files almost weekly.  You can read more about SVGCuts here .  You can read more about SVGCuts here and their approved cutting machines here.  Leo has produced a lot of tutorials for using .svg files with the various machines and how to manipulate the files in SCAL2 or 3.

They just won the Martha Stewart Maker's Audience Participation Award AND GOT TO MEET MARTHA.  Yes, I am calmed down.  Ok....where was I?  Oh right,  Mary and Leo...they won and I was so proud- they are the only company out of the hundreds in the contest that had even heard of.  Oh,  and they got married in the middle of the contest.  You can read more about Martha and the Maker's here.  You can shop at Martha's Maker's Pop Up Ebay shop as well. They have a rotating lineup of American made, small business products.  

For this rosette snowflake, I used a file in the Christmas Ornaments kit.  Each SVGCuts kit contains multiple projects, in this case 5 ornaments-and sell for $6.99.  However, each new kits is released as a "free gift" with a $9.99 purchase so keep a wish list and always buy 3 at a time for the best value- pay for 2 and get one free.  Kits often contain a card, a scrapbook page, and one or two 3-D projects.  While I do buy images from other designers, Mary's are the most detailed and she makes well-done assembly videos for the 3D and complicated projects.  The design team is pretty talented as well and it is fun to see what they make using multiple kits.  Check out Thienly Azim's designs  They are insanely creative.  So much so that I often check out each element to see where she got it from because it is always crazy and something I would never have imaged.  
I cut the ornament exactly as it came.  Then I added the tinsel and embellishments.  The tinsel came off a garland- there are lots of fun garlands this season which can be pulled apart and used for the tinsel.  I throw away the thicker pieces- I don't like the look but you can use whatever you like. You can see more about how I destroy garland here.  Scroll past all the 4th of July cupcakes to see photos of deconstructing garland.  For this ornament I actually cut the tinsel to 1 1/2 inches before I glued it into the rosette using hot glue.

Don't have SCAL2 or a Silhouette? Never fear, you can still make a similar ornament.  This is about the layers- a star, the rosette layer and the circle and star top layer all sandwiched with tinsel.  You can use die cuts for the various shapes and hand-fold a simple rosette.  You can layer one of Tim's Rosette Snowflakes rather than the one I cut.  Play with it.

I have to admit that I had my Cricut for years and had really not cut much with it- I was terrified of it.  It had all these buttons and very few instructions.  When I did the wedding this summer I needed A LOT of rosettes so I sat down and figured out who to use the damn machine.  And today I am proud to say I am a cutting fool.  All this means is you should expect a lot of paper projects in the near future.  I will never stop stamping, but I like to play with paper and this is another way to do that.  I sit and stamp while I load mat after mat into the Cricut.  I scored new mats at Hobby Lobby so I have 6 and I just load the paper and go for it.  

When the mats start to lose their stickiness...or too much glitter ends up on them- I use a system from Crafter's Companion.  Their Die-Cutting Mat Refurbishing Spray Bundle sells for $19.99 and really works.  I spray the mat with the adhesive remover and let it set for 10 minutes or so before I start to scrap off the gunk.  I found using an old credit card works well to get the majority of the goop off.  Then I respray and use paper towels or the credit card until the entire mat is clean.  Finally, spray with the new adhesive.  This adhesive doesn't last as long as the original mat adhesive but I find I can respray several times before I have to remove the adhesive and start again. 

So have fun.  Enjoy the season.  Ho Ho Ho.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Mrs. Claus' Boots

I am loving Tim Holtz's new Alterations Ice Skating Die and I haven't even used it to make ice skates yet-though that is coming.  Today I used to make Mrs. Claus' boots.  Originally, I wanted to make Santa's boots but upon seeing the finished product I realized they are NOT manly enough to be Santa's boots but are perfect for the wife. 

This photo is form the packaging of the die itself.
I turned them into Witches' boots last month.  
 I love them as Mrs. Claus' boots.  I die cut the skates from Grungeboard.  To embellish them I first cut the blades off and painted the entire boot with Black Soot Crackle Paint.  

When the paint was dry, I added Glossy Accents to the main portion of the boot- avoiding the area around the laces and the heel-and covered it with Black Soot Distress Glitter.  Tim likes to say it looks like glass glitter, but...not so much.  While making the boots, I was also making a pair of skates (for later) using real glass glitter on the blades.   The two sat next to each to dry and I'm sorry to say that the Distress Glitter looks nothing like glass glitter.  However, it is gorgeous and very, very sparkly and I am finding the colors, while at first I thought them a little weird, are perfect and really do add to my projects.  So, I am no longer ONLY addicted to Martha's fine glitters.  Distress Glitter doesn't fly away or static-stick to everything, two huge bonuses. 
When the glitter was all dry I added small back crystals to the area where the laces would go to mimic buttons.  
 I shot another photo-in better lighting- as my husband was packing the car to head to my sister's for Thanksgiving dinner.  You can see the effect of the Crackle Paint on the heel and around the buttons.  

The fun fur trim is actually a mini marabou (from Hobby Lobby) that I simply hot glued into place. 

I hope everyone in America had a terrific Thanksgiving with good food and great company.  I sure did.

Monday, November 25, 2013

November 12 Tags of 2013: Joining Chalkboard Craze

Ok...maybe it is because I haven't touched a craft supply in a month or maybe it was stamp choice or maybe it is because ONLY Tim Holtz can make this technique really work...I have no idea really but my attempt at Tim's Chalkboard Technique was mostly a fail.

Tim made this:

It looks easy enough.  The "trick" (or so he claims) is using Antiquities Frosted Crystal Embossing Powder.  

I have that powder. 

I used that powder.  

I got a hot mess.  
First, I tried it on Black Chalkboard paper. What you are seeing is in fact 3 pine trees and snowflakes ...maybe if you squint?  No?  Try moving the screen back a little?  No?  Hmmm...Ok, so let's try a different stamp.  Maybe it wasn't a good design choice.  Maybe a nice simple line stamp?
Nope!  This is even worse.  The dress all but disappeared (this is also the chalkboard cardstock).  On the other hand, I LOVE the snowflakes (more later).
Third times a charm?  Maybe....this is better at least.  I gave up on the chalkboard cardstock and switched to Ranger's back tags.  This design uses several stamps from Rhonna Farrer's Christmas release from last year.
It is the bird on a complicated swirly nesty thingy, the words "Joyneux Noel" and some random stars.  Can you see that?  I love the images and by adding the crystals...
...I think it looks ok.
My final installment was made using a big bold stamp Tim's that has images of vintage Christmas advertisements called Holiday Past.

Holiday Past Cling Mount Stamp Set
I looked better with the chalk, but it made a very boring card.  So I added the sentiment and jewel.  Now you can hardly see the chalk.  What can I say...I cannot leave it undone!

I lay here trying to figure out if I should try again-I threw a few others away without even photographing them- or give up.  I decided to see what other people were doing by checking the Linky on Tim's blog post.  What I found was that the tags either looked worse then mine or looked awesome. Upon further investigation, I found that probably 95% of the "awesome" tags were made using white embossing powder and in fact no chalk was used in the making of the product.  Well, I could have done that!

What I did love about this was the pretty sparkly snowflakes from this tag fail.
I think it is the black cardstock-something that I am not used to using for Christmas designs- with the silver glitter that had me at hello.  I used Ranger's Sticky Embossing Powder and Martha Stewart Fine Glitter in Silver.  After I got disgusted with the chalk technique I played with the glitter and made this...

The camera never picks up all the sparkle.  Maybe I should make a Vine for you.  In any event you can be sure you will see more of this before Christmas is over.  I guess something good came out of my chalk nightmare.  

I hope you day is filled with Sunshine and GLITTER.  Mine will be!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

I'm Back...

So...I have been gone awhile.

FIRST, I didn't feel well...AT ALL.

THEN I sliced my finger and had to get 4 stitches.  I can laugh about it now but that night...Ugh.  I was home alone with my 8-year-old, Rick was due to get home in 5 hours but the house was still a mess, dishes not know all those things I intended to get that done right before he gets home.   With no other adult in the house, I had to call my neighbor, Heather, to come take me to the ER and her daughter, Kristen, to please come watch Chase.  Thankfully, Heather is that kind of neighbor and they came right over.  Ryann was at a movie with the boyfriend on her first "date".  Kristen texted Ryann "I'm watching your brother while your mom is at the ER".  You know where this is headed... I get a panicked TEXT from Ryann.  Jeez, you would think the situation would warrant a phone call-her entire generation hates speaking on the phone!

THEN I went to my sister's and saw the amazing P!NK Truth About Love Tour for the second time. The first time we saw her last spring we bought tickets the day of the show and literally sat at the very top of the venue.  Literally, in a folding chair on the edge of the top level.  This time
we saw the show FROM THE FRONT ROW...OMG I cannot even put into words what that experience was like.  She is such an amazing performer but seeing it up close, seeing every facial expression, every dance move...was just perfection.  Karma worked in my favor.... from the last row to the front row.  
The woman has some RIPPED abs.  Why?  Because she does this while she sings
We were so close I actually couldn't get a good photo.  Through the entire show she is LIVE singing while performing circus tricks.  It is insane and yet she sounds AMAZING.
Part of her opening number.

THEN my daughter, Ryann, had her first winter formal and I was busy with shopping for dresses, getting nails done, and thanks to my friend Brandin and the wedding-for-free-hair deal, Ryann had GORGEOUS hair for the dance.
THEN our power went out for 5 days this last week.  Hard to craft when it is 50 degrees in the house and no lights.  After freezing the first night and next afternoon, I packed up the kids and we ended up staying at a hotel for 3 nights.  Rick was...conveniently...flying a FedEx jet all over the country so he missed the fun.
I came home Thursday to power and had to immediately empty the fridge and freezer right into trash bags...
...the only positive that can be had after a power outage...a clean freezer.

Whew... you are all caught up.  Oh, one more thing.  This text is from my 8-year-old Chase.  It still cracks me up.  The picture is Ryann and her boyfriend. It was his first visit to the house and my sister wanted a picture so I told Chase to sneak down and get it.  He grabbed his iPad Mini and snapped this...she never knew.  A month plater he send me this text....
The kid cracks me up.  

Hope your day is filled with Sunshine and GLITTER.

Come back tomorrow for my 12 Tags of 2013 November Edition.