Category: Crafting

The Great Zentangle Book by Beate Winkler – Craft Book Review

Title – The Great Zentangle Book – Learn to Tangle with 101 Engaging Patterns
Author – Beate Winkler & Friends
Publisher – Quarry
ISBN – 9781631592577

Although I have other Zentangle books, this one caught my eye as being very useful – and indeed it is.

The book is 140 pages long and 10″ x 8″ in size.  The first 12 pages cover what Zentangle actually is, the materials need and how to get started.

101 Great Patterns

The patterns are presented in a very clear format.  For each pattern there are step by step diagrams of how to form it, together with a finished example and some samples of pieces of art that include the featured pattern.  Some variations may also be included.

Whilst some of the tangles were ones I had seen before, I was impressed at how many new ones were included.  This made the book a very handy addition to my Zentangle library.

 

The tangles are divided into two sections.  The first being “beginners” and the second “tangles for the master class”.  However, they are all clearly described so one would be able to tackle the “master class” ones with just a little practice.

And More…

The final part of the book includes a section of “Questions and Answers”, a list of “Good Reasons to Tangle”, a glossary of technical terms, an article on Zentangle Inspired Art, tangling swaps and classes.  Finally there are handy links to other resources and a list of the “friends” who contributed artwork to the book.  A handy gallery of all the featured tangles is at the back, with page numbers so you can quickly go find the tangle.

I am very pleased with this book.  It has lots of new, fresh tangles that I am enjoying using in my artwork.  Many lend themselves to customization and variation too.  I believe this book would be equally suitable for a new Zentangler or for the more experienced artist.

This link leads to the item on Amazon.co.uk. If you purchase it from this link then I would get a small commission from Amazon for sending customers their way.

Preparing for the Christmas and Holiday Rush

Many craft sellers will be hoping that the upcoming holiday season will bring in lots of sales.  For some it can be quite a stressful prospect with long hours and rushing around.  Whether you sell online or have Christmas stalls, for a short period of time it is a big increase in your workload.

Here are some actions you can take now to help make your Christmas shopping period a bit easier this year:

1 – Shipping Materials

Make sure you have your basic shipping supplies ready in plenty of time.  As well as things like boxes and mailers, don’t forget sticky tape, Sharpy pens and the other bits and bobs you need to safely package your products.

You may also be able to save money by buying shipping supplies in bulk.  If you have a friend who also needs the product, share the cost of buying a larger quantity and you also share the savings.

2 – Materials

Whilst it is very hard to predict how much one will sell, running out of a hard to get material could scupper your Christmas production.  In particular, make sure you have ordered any materials that come from overseas and might take longer to get to you.  It might be worth making a list of alternative sources for important materials, in case you find yourself needing last minute supplies.

3 – Prepare Bases

Are there some products that you could partially prepare in advance?  For example, if you sell painted peg dolls then you could undercoat a big batch now so as to save this step during the holiday rush.  Whilst this is not practical for all shops, for some, it can be a lifesaver.

If you are making products to order, but know that some products sell regularly, have some “in stock” now.

4 – Rope the Family In

Explain to your family that you may need their help in the upcoming seasonal rush.  Allocate any tasks they can help you with.  Consider asking friends if they will be able to help if necessary.

Decide now who will be taking the children to school, who will cook dinners and so on.

5 – Start your Personal Preparations

Avoid panic over your personal holiday preparations by doing what you can now.  Plan the big dinner, buy and wrap presents, create or buy cards and so on.  Then you can concentrate on your business when you need to and still enjoy your own celebrations.

6 – Prep Your Life

Consider how you can make your busy period less busy.  Prepare and freeze meals away so you ensure you are eating properly during the rush.  Get in the healthy snacks (I have to say that, but hey, you can have chocolate if you want, I won’t judge).    Reorganise your workspace so everything is as efficient as possible.   Make sure your supplies are clearly labelled so you can grab what you need quickly.  Invest in any extra storage or tools now so you are raring to go.

7 – Hang on to Invoices

Get a box, wallet or similar to store the invoices from business purchases over the busy period.  Then you can deal with them after the rush without things getting lost in the meantime.

For example, pin a cardboard box up.  Whenever you post something, put the postal receipt into the box.  They are then all safe until you have a chance to add them to your accounts software, accounts book or however you handle accounts.

8 – Work out and Prepare your Marking Strategy

Create blog posts, social networking posts and other marketing materials now.  Use scheduling software and plugins so you can release the marketing automatically if you can.

9 – Make a Date

Make sure you know when the last posting dates are for the various places you ship to.  You could prepare a message now to send to anyone who orders after that date (saying it is after the post office’s recommend date so delivery for Christmas may not happen).  Prepare any other “cut and paste” messages you might need: for example asking for more information for personalized items, checking on details or warning of any expected delays due to weather etc.

10 – Schedule in some Me Time

A busy holiday season can be exhausting.  Stock up on relaxing bath soaks to unwind in, and music or audiobooks to listen to whilst creating.  Try to ensure you take breaks as often as necessary and get a good night’s sleep wherever possible.  You will be more efficient when rested and get more done in less time.  If you are overtired and stressed you are far more likely to make costly errors!

Have Fun!

I hope you have a fun and profitable holiday season!

Busy Days Creative Planner – Review and Comparisons

For the past fifteen years, I have used a daily planner or diary to organize my life and thoughts.  I have had a few different systems over the years and have been using an A4 Filofax for the past 3 years.  I decided to try something new – a Busy Days Planner from Box Clever Press.  I rather fancied combining planning with a bit of creativity, after admiring some of the amazing planners on blogs and Pinterest.

I purchased my planner from Amazon.  There was a choice of just the planner or with stickers and washi tape, or with a hole punch too.  I decided I only needed the basic planner.  I chose the above design from the 3 or 4 on offer. 

The planner has heavyweight (140gsm) pages – ideal if you want to use pens in your journal.  They are bound together with plastic rings and can be easily removed or replaced.  This system is compatible with the popular Happy Planners by My & My Big Ideas as well as other similar planners.   It is also the same size as other popular planners being a very chunky 7.75” x 9.75”. 

Each month features a sturdy divider with a colourful protruding tag.  There are pages for each month where you can note down your plans for the month, your goals and, at the end, what you achieved during the month.  I rather like this feature and hope it will help me stay on track with my projects.

At the back of the planner, there is a double-sided pocket for storing bits and pieces.  Inside this are two sheets of colourful stickers that you can use to decorate your planner.  These are very nice indeed.

The planner also includes pretty calendars for 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. 

The planner has 16 months worth of pages in it.  It starts with September 2017 (very convenient!) and runs through to the end of December 2018.  You can easily remove any months you don’t require.

There are both month-to-a-view and week-to-a-view spreads for each month.  The weekly spreads have each day divided into three horizontal boxes.  Ideal if you like to do morning, afternoon or evening, or want to split up work, home and school, for example.

I will be doing some posts on planner use, creating planner accessories and getting more from your planner in the future.

The following are links to the Busy Days Planner on Amazon.co.uk.  If you purchase from these links, I will get a small payment from Amazon for sending customers their way.

Link to Box Clever Busy Days Planner Website.

 

 

 

Sparkling Crochet by Mitsuki Hoshi – Craft Book Review

Title – Sparkling Crochet
Author – Mitsuki Hoshi
Publisher – Harper Designs
ISBN – 978-0-06-234859-3

I couldn’t resist this book when I saw it.  Such cute amigurumi!  It is about 9 inches tall and 7 inches wide and has 72 pages.

The book includes patterns for 16 cute little crocheted animals and 3 little accessories.

Beautiful Pictures

The first half of the book is full-page, colour photos of each of the animals.   The examples have been knitted with sparkly yarn, but of course, could be knitted with more usual yarns too. Specific yarn choices are not given.

Colour Instructions

There then follows a photo tutorial on how to make one of the animals, Earnest the Shiba Dog.  This shows you what you need and step by step photo instructions of how to crochet the dog.  The photos are close up and nice and clear.  The other animals are based on similar principles so this section serves as a good tutorial for all the other designs too.

Crochet Charts

Next are the crochet charts themselves.  There is not a written crochet pattern, instead, the book uses the Japanese style diagrams for each part.  Some crocheters may not be familiar with these, but with a little practice would hopefully find them easy to use.  Start with a small component to get the idea of how the charts work.

 

Crochet Chart Symbols

Finally, there is a short section that shows the symbol for each type of crochet stitch with a step-by-step series of diagrams to show how to make this stitch.  Whilst a total beginner may not find this enough to learn to crochet, it is a clear, helpful guide for those with a little experience already.

Summary

Whilst this is a small book, the patterns are very adorable and lend themselves to experimenting and creating your own additional variations.  The instructions are clear and would suit a new crocheter.  One could easily create the animals on different scales by using thicker/thinner yarn and different hooks – a bit of experimentation would, of course, be needed.

A cute and fun book with really attractive designs that are difficult to resist.

This link leads to the item on Amazon.co.uk. If you purchase it from this link then I would get a small commission from Amazon for sending customers their way.

Craft Llama – a New Crafting Community Website

Launching today (1st Septemeber 2017) is the new crafting community website, CraftLlama.com.

I was looking for a safe, friendly, fun crafting community to join and my son suggested: “why not make your own?”

Seven months, many sleepless nights and grey hairs later – I have!

Craft Llama is totally free for everyone. If you join before 1st November you will get Charter Member status with a special badge on your profile page.

Craft Llama is for everyone who likes to craft. All crafts, all ages, all nationalities, everyone!

 

 

Tim Holtz Stamping Platform by Tonic – Craft Product Review

 What is the Tim Holtz Stamping Platform

The platform is made of very sturdy plastic and metal.  The base is very flat with rulers along two sides – these are in both inches and centimetres. The other two sides are flat so you can easily put large pieces of paper inside. The lid has a grid on it – this is moulded on and will not be rubbed off.  It comes with two very strong flat magnets.  The overall feeling is that this is a very strong product that will last through many years of use.

  Using The Tim Holtz Stamping Platform

Using the platform is very easy.  You just remove the lid and turn it so that the right side is upright – one for clear stamps, one for rubber ones.  The options are very clearly marked and turning the lid around is quick and easy.  Magnetic hinges make sure it goes back in quickly and accurately.

You then place your paper or card on the base and lay your stamps on top, wherever you want them to be.  Close the lid and the stamps transfer to the lid.

Then ink up and close the lid again – simple as that.

And you have your stamped images.  If any didn’t stamp quite perfectly you can reink that area and close the lid again – very easy to get perfect stamped images every time.

Uses For the Tim Holtz Stamping Platform

The Tim Holtz stamping platform can help with multiple everyday stamping situations/issues.

1 – When stamping very large stamps it is easy to have part of the image not stamp properly.  Even with a clear stamp, it is very difficult to stamp over the top to correct the error.  The THSP allows you to restamp in exactly the same location, again and again, until the image is perfect.  You can also do this to get a darker impression.

2 – The THSP is ideal for use with the new layered stamps from companies such as Alte New.  These require each layer to be lined up neatly with the layer below – something that can be quite tricky when stamping with traditional acrylic blocks.  With the THSP you can line the layer stamp up precisely on the layer below ready to print.

3 – The THSP really comes into its own when stamping multiple projects.  If for example, you wanted to make a set of thank you cards, all the same, you can easily position each stamp and then stamp it on all the cards in succession, knowing they will all be in exactly the same location.  Very convenient.

4 – The very large surface of the THSP means you can lay out a large group of stamps and stamp them together.  This is handy for designing backgrounds and scenes as you can position the stamps and move them around without having to stamp anything first.

5 – If you shake or have poor hand control then the THSP makes it much easier to get the perfect stamp every time.  You can take your time positioning your stamps just where you want them then pick them up and stamp them without fear of misalignment or double-stamping.  This is also a handy feature for stamping onto acetate and other slippery surfaces.

6 – You can create corners and borders with the THSP.  Cut a square (or rectangle) of card and place it in the corner of the THSP.  Stamp and rotate the card to add all corners or border edges.  You could create all sorts of kaleidoscopic effects this way too.

7 – Many people are using the THSP as a general purpose work surface too.  The base is very flat and the included magnets are handy for holding work in place when colouring and doing other crafts.

Summary

I am very pleased I invested in this product.  I had seen a LOT of videos and reviews of the various stamping platforms currently available and felt that this particular one offered the best value for money.  Now I own it, I feel I was right.  It is very sturdy, easy to use and does its job very well.  It was also a very reasonable price compared to some of the other devices out there.

This is a link to the Stamping Platform on Amazon.co.uk.  If you purchase after clicking this link, I will receive a small payment from Amazon for sending a customer their way.

Create and Craft Membership – Halfprice (technically free) until 26th April 2017

CreateandCraftHalfPriceThe Create and Craft tv shopping channel are having their 14th birthday celebrations.

As well as free postage and packaging, they are offering the chance to join their popular craft club for just £10 – half the usual £20.  Technically this means it is free to join as you will be given £10 credit on your Create and Craft after joining – £10 to spend on any of their many products.

Membership also brings:

  • significant discounts on the usual prices
  • a regular, full colour, glossy magazine
  • the chance to buy special items at low members’ prices
  • free gifts (you just pay postage)
  • a VIP club badge
  • perks at the big shows they host, such as VIP guest lounges
  • downloadable monthly newsletter
  • exclusive competitions

Here is a link to their website and details of the offer:  Create and Craft Half-Price Membership

12″ Tonic Super Trimmer Review – Tonic Paper Cutter Board

For a while I have been wanting a decent paper trimmer for use in my craft room.  I have a portable one, but I wanted something more “solid”.  When my mum got a Tonic Super Trimmer last summer, I was rather envious of some of its features.  But I am envious no longer as mum bought me my very own one for my birthday! 8

The trimmer has a large base plate and is suitable for paper and card that has one dimension less than 12″.  It comes in a simple “blister pack” with instructions for how to replace the blades and how to use the trimmer.  There are two blades includes -a  cutting one and a scoring one.

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The paper or card is held beneath the clear, central ruler.  This has measurements in both cms and inches and the ends are “turned up” which makes it very easy to flip open and closed.

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The board is marked in both centimetres and inches throughout.  The rulers are repeated around the board to ensure it is always easy to be accurate.  This is one of the strongest features of this cutting board.   There are also lines marked out at 4 1/4″ and 5 1/2″.  These are the standard dimensions of greetings cards in America, though not in most other countries.  However, many non-USA crafters do use American products and standards, or you can just ignore the marks!  It is just as easy to use the board for International standards too (A5 and A6 sized cards).

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The rulers have extensions that swing out from behind the board and click into place to make the board effectively wider.  There are two of these swing arms, and this enables the board to be used either way up.

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A scoring bladed head is included.  The “blade” is smooth to the tough and ideal for creasing lines in projects.

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The included cutting blade is permanently mounted in a plastic holder.  This is very easy to slip into and out of the central ruler.  A great feature of the blade holder is the two little pointy “wings” that stick out of the sides.  These allow you to line up the blade with the ruler and cut very precise lines in the middle of your card – ie not cutting to the edge.  This makes cutting mounts and frames a doddle and is one of the things that really swung me to this particular model of paper trimmer.

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The paper trimmer is very well made.  It feels sturdy (though it is lightweight) and all the markings are deeply engraved so unlikely to wear off easily.  I have been using it a lot and am very impressed with how easy it is to get quick, very accurate cuts.  I have used it on paper from very thin copier tissue paper right up to 340gsm board.

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I am very happy with the Tonic Super Trimmer and would recommend it to anyone looking for a sturdy, easy to use paper and card trimmer.  I love the features that help ensure accuracy (even for someone who is like me!).  A very well thought out and well made piece of crafting equipment.

This link leads to the item on Amazon.co.uk. If you purchase something from this link then I would get a small commission from Amazon for sending custom their way.

Dozens of Fantastic Free Course Books From Open University now on Amazon

Just a quickie to tell you about the amazing totally free course books that the Open University have added to Amazon.

They are issued in conjunction with the free courses available on the OU’s website (or at Future Learn).

The books cover many different subjects and provide a short but detailed overview of the subject.  They vary in length from 20 or so pages up to about 128.

Of particular interest to craft sellers might be:

We Are Memory Keepers Mini Alphabet Punch Board Review

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I first saw the We Are Memory Makers Alphabet Punch Board on “Create and Craft” TV and was fascinated.  It seemed such a clever device – and although I didn’t really think I had a use for it, I wanted one, badly.

Fast forward to Christmas and my mother had been hinting (hard) that she had got me something that I “will really love”.  It was the mini version of the Alphabet board!  Whilst I had not really felt I had a use for the big one… the little one was perfect for my sorts of projects.  Well done, mum.

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The board is a very clever bit of kit.  It is small and compact and seems very sturdily made.  It has everything built in to punch, cut and trim a full alphabet of capital letters, plus numbers, in two (agreeably quite similar) styles.

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So how does it work?

First, you need a piece of card that is 2.5″ by 1.5″. (the larger version of the board uses 5″ x 3″ pieces for comparison).  Handily, the board can actually cut these pieces for you!  There are simple instructions in the included booklet and having done one you will be easily making as many as you need.  You could, of course, also cut your pieces with a paper trimmer.

The series of techniques needed to make each letter is very clearly given in the instruction book.  They are simple illustrations and after making a few letters the overall principles are learnt and it is easy to make new letters without needing the manual.ABC-Board-4  There is also a (free) Android and iPhone app that you can download with the instructions – handy if you lose the book.ABC-Board-3

I was cutting out letters within minutes of opening this Christmas present – and it is great fun.

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The back of the instruction book shows the alphabet with optional extra punches for decoration.
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Everything you need is built into the board for convenience.
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I soon had a pile of letters.
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The little knife is easy to use in the grooves for accurate cutting every time.
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The corner-rounder does its thing on the top of the letter R.
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Then the other side of the corner-rounder makes the little “indentation” in the front of the R.
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And here is the finished letter in all its glory – ready to use on a crafting project.

I have been using the letters for ATCs, card making (the numbers are especially handy for this), scrapbooking and similar projects.  I have also made a couple of little banners with them and they fit beautifully on the First Edition Bunting Dies (link below).

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The larger board is perfect for making bunting and We Are Memory Keepers have also bought out a punch that will make perfect little card links to join the letters together.

These links lead to the Mini Alphabet Board and the larger version on Amazon.co.uk. If you purchase something from this link then I would get a small commission from Amazon for sending custom their way.