Category: Craft Product Review

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.

 

 

 

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 gridon it – this is molded 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 then 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 other crafting.

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.

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.

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 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 are 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 loose 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.

Boldmere Art Markers from “The Works” – a Review

I spotted these smart looking alcohol markers in “The Works” and decided to try them out.  They cost just £4 for each pack of 6 markers (about 66p per pen).

There were two sets in the store: I don’t know if there are any more available but only the same two packs are on their website.  The numbering on the pens seems to imply they are part of a much larger range – plus usually alcohol makers come in multiple intensities/hues to allow shaded colouring.

Boldmere-Art-Markers

One pack is called “Brights” and contains the following colours:

Y37 Pastel Yellow
P82 Light Violet
R14 Vermilion (actually bright orange)
R10 Deep Red
G46 Vivid Green
B86 Baby Blue

The other pack is called “Vintage pastels” and contains:

BR95 Burnt Sienna
YR26 Pastel Peach
BG5 Blue Grey (the cap looks like a soft blue but it is actually a dark grey colour)
RP17 Pastel Pink
Y42 Bronze Green
WG5 Warm Grey

After a bit of detective work and I discovered that the numbers exactly match those of the Shin-Han Touch Twin markers.  I do not have any Touch Twins to compare them with though.Boldmere-Art-Markers-Colour

The pens initially look quite similar to Spectrum Noir pens with square, black barrels.  Unlike the Speccys (and other brands) there is no clear way to tell which end is which with the caps on.  You have to look at the barrel to read and I suspect this will wear off quickly.  I will mark mine with little strips of washi tape as this gets annoying very fast!

They have thick square colour indicators on the ends.  They are a little bit longer than a Spectrum Noir marker (and therefore quite a bit longer than Copics, Promarkers and most other brands).  The barrels do fit in my Art Bin Marker box, but they are a bit too tall for the lid to close properly on them.  It would be fine with just a few in the box, among other brands.

ArtMarkersizes

One end has a bullet type nib.  This is similar to that found on the Spectrum Noirs and Promarkers – it is not a brush type like the Copics have.  This nib felt nice and soft on many of the pens but was hard and scratchy on a couple of them.

ArtMarkerBullets

The other end has a wedge shaped nib, similar to other brands.  This nib felt the same as the other brands, firm but pliable.

ArtMarkerBroadTips

The overall build of the pens does feel rather cheap.  There was no mention of their being refillable, but as most cheap markers aren’t, this is not surprising.

As I only have these 12 colours it would be very hard to colour a detailed, shaded image without using other pens too.  The Warm Grey included could be used for some shading though.

To test the pens I coloured stamped images of adorable Japanese dolls from Hero Arts.  I stamped the dolls using Memento Tuxedo Black ink onto Neenah Solar White card.

ColouredJapaneseDolls

Overall the pens sadly did feel cheap.  I used the Pastel Peach for their skin and it was a very hard, scratchy pen.  The end result was streaky (as well as rather orangey).  Usually I would use multiple skin tones to get shading, so this colour may work better with others than alone.

The other pens felt softer, the Deep Red was lovely to use (the dress of the doll on the left) and I know I will use this again as I have a bit of a thing for red pens.

The middle doll’s top is coloured with the Blue Grey pen.  I expected this to match the top of the pen and be far more blue than it is.  The right hand doll’s top looks pinky red in this scan but is actually quite orange in real life – for some reason oranges and pink alcohol markers never scan quite properly.

Please note that the coloured dolls look much better in real life than they do here.  The pen strokes tend to show up far more in scans.

These would be a great buy if you want alcohol markers for colouring pearls and buttons.  If there really is only 12 colours available then they are very limited for colouring purposes – it would be cheaper to buy water based markers if you are not going to shade.

They blend perfectly with other brands of alcohol markers, as is standard.  Therefore they do make a very cheap addition to an existing collection of pens.  There are a couple of very nice colours included.  They are not Copics, or even Spectrum Noirs, but they are alcohol markers, they do blend (if you have additional colours) and they are VERY cheap.

To read more about my Art Bin marker box and how I store my pens – click here

These links lead items 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.

Boldmere Art Markes A Review

Tiger Twin Alcohol Markers – a review and comparison

My mother bought some marker pens from her local Tiger store and was so impressed with them that she bought me some too!

Because these pens were VERY cheap, I didn’t really expect them to be great.. but I got quite a shock.

Here is a review of these new alcohol markers, and comparisons to other popular markers.

The pens come in a pack of 3, all within a colour family.  There are currently just 18 different colours available (I have 12 of them so far).  Obviously this is a lot less than other brands, so perhaps they will widen it later on.

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There is very little information on the packaging, it does not even say they are actually alcohol markers.  Mind you, once you remove the cap you would be in no doubt as they are really quite strong smelling, more than the Copics (I can’t smell the Spectrum Noirs and Promarkers at all).   It is not obnoxious, just a bit stronger than I am used to.

The barrels are square (so they don’t roll off the table) and quite large, a little larger in diameter than original Spectrum Noirs, for example.  They fit in to my Art Bin marker storage case.

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Whilst they do look a bit chunky, they are actually fine to hold, and I do not have big hands.   On each end of the pen there is a plastic “button” in the colour of the ink, with the pen number on it.  The “buttons” are not always a very good match to the actual pen colour though.  The lightest of the two pinks is number 34 and is a an amazing electric pink when used.  This unicorn (stamp from the Lawn Fawn Ever After set) was coloured in with this pink.  Far brighter than the plastic cap suggests but a really cool colour though, and I don’t have anything like it in my other marker brands.

 

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One end has a large chisel nib.  It is a wee bit wider than my other marker chisel nibs. Here is a picture to compare this nib to those of some other leading marker brands.

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The other end has a bullet tip. There is a thin grey line around the barrel to help you identify this end.  This tip is quite soft, so whilst it is not as flexible as a Copic marker’s brush tip, it is softer than a Spectrum Noir or Promarker bullet tip.  It is quite pointed so is good for small areas.  Here are comparison pictures of all four brands.

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The pens blend beautifully, both with the rest of the range and with other brands of alcohol markers.  Obviously the limited range of colours means that if one only owned these markers then one would be limited as to what subjects could be coloured.  There are, for example, no “flesh tones”.

The colours are vibrant and smooth.  They are not refillable and there does not appear to be any option for replaceable nibs.

The Tiger Twin Tip markers cost £2 for 3 pens, here in the UK.  This makes them cheaper than any other brand I have seen for sale here.

Each packet contains pens that end in number 1, 4 and 7.  So the blues are 41, 44 and 47 and the reds are 21,24 and 27.  The available packs are red/pink, blues, greens, yellow/orange, purples and grey/black.

TTTWinMarkersRed

For someone who has been considering trying alcohol markers but is perhaps daunted by the price, these would be an ideal introduction.  For a £4 investment one could get the green pack and the reds (or yellows or purples) and be able to colour beautiful flowers, for example.  Get the greys and orange/yellows and you can colour many animal stamps in.  The full set would still be only £12.   And of course you can continue to use these pens with other brands you buy in the future.

As I have a lot of other markers, I am going to pop my Tigers into my crafting travel bag to take with me to my craft club.  I will not fret about them getting lost like I might more expensive markers (or stolen!).  Having said this, I have found myself wanting to use them wherever possible simply because they really are very nice to use.  I do love that soft bullet tip, and the lovely colours.

TTTwinMarkers

In summary, whilst these are not professional quality markers like Copics or Promarkers, and they do have a very limited colour range, they are pleasant to use, beautiful colours and definitely a useful addition to a marker collection.  Especially recommended for colorists who are on a tight budget.

If you would like to see some great colouring tutorials by the experts with alcohol markers, check out my post 5 Amazing Copic Colouring Video Tutorials – full of useful hints and tips for use with all brands of alcohol markers.

Alcohol Marker Pen Storage Solution – Art Bin Super Satchel

I have had my alcohol markers for over a year now, but was struggling to find a way to store them effectively.

Alcohol markers are not cheap pens, so storing them safely is essential.

I have too many to keep in a pencil case.  It is important to be able to see them easily to choose colours for colouring.  And the more markers I got.. the worse the problem became.

My requirements are:

  • could hold all my current pens with room for more in the future
  • sturdy and reliable – to protect the pens long term, to last a long time and to look good
  • ideally transportable as I would prefer to store and use the pens in my craft room, but take them into the living room for colouring
  • able to hold pens so that I could group colour families together, and they would stay together whilst in use
  • able to store the pens horizontally – I mainly have Spectrum Noirs, and apparently that is how they are best stored
  • economical – let’s be honest, as cheap as possible!

The bad solution…

So to start with I tried storing my pens in an old grocery box (see picture below).

I cut strips of cardboard which laid between the rows of pens so that I could pull one out without them all falling down into the gap.  This meant I could keep the colour families together, which was important.  Well that was the theory, anyway.

This system worked ok for a while, but was very, very flawed.  Obviously it was super economical, however I regularly knocked it and all the pens fell out (which is VERY annoying once you get more than 30 pens or so!).  I could carry it about easily, but it was scruffy looking and I would have been ashamed for anyone else to see it!

Eventually, after picking up all the pens and resorting them for the umpteenth time.. I had had enough!TTSpectrumNoirStorageFail

The hunt is on…

I spent a lot of time looking online for storage solutions, and found some amazing ones!  Many resourceful people have made great marker pen storage units from foam board, MDF and even old pipes.  There was some ideas I really liked, but I really did want a portable solution, and rather did not want to have to build something too sophisticated myself.

Crafters Companion, who make Spectrum Noir pens, do their own unit Crafters Companion Spectrum Noir Universal Black Pen Trays – 6 Trays, designed to hold the pens in individual slots.  These shelves can hold different brands of pens too.  Whilst these trays would be great for use in my craft room, they would not be transportable which was something I really wanted.  Were I going to leave my pens in one place all the time, I would have gone for this option.

For a while I was tempted by the enormous Copic Carrying Case.  This was only £25 on Amazon, which seemed very reasonable when it holds up to 380 pens!  It is portable, and very smart.  However it stores the pens upright, which might have caused issues for my Speccy Noirs, and the reviews for the product indicated that unless you fill the storage bags pretty full, they just tip over all the time.  And I don’t have 380 pens.  I have 120 Spectrum Noirs and 37 Letraset Promarkers.  My storage baskets would not be very full.

The Artbin Super Satchel solution!

Eventually I decided to go with the ArtBin Super Satchel hard case, with their Marker Pen dividers inside to keep the pens separate.

I have now got this, my pens are all safely inside, and I have been using it for two weeks.  So here is a what I think of it…

The main box is the Artbin 6990Ab Super Satchel Double Deep Box with Removable Dividers.  It is a large, sturdy, clear plastic box with two catches to close it and a matching handle.  The box comes with an assortment of internal dividers to allow you to section the interior up how you wish.

The box seems very strong, like all Artbin products.  The catches clip properly and it all feels very sturdy and reliable.  The plastic is transparent so you can see the contents clearly with the lid closed.

I also bought four of the Artbin 6939AB Marker Storage Tray, White. These easily clip inside the Satchel to hold the pens in individual compartments.  Each tray says it holds “up to 64 markers”. In each tray four of the marker holes are seriously reduced in size because of the clips to hold the tray into the Satchel.  This means that these four holes can not be used for the Spectum Noirs or Promarkers, Copic Sketches and other standard sized markers, however the Copic Ciaos and Multiliners do fit in the small holes (see photo at bottom of page).  I can not deny that this is annoying and does break up the rows of pens.  You can see the four compromised holders in this image.

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Whilst this size of Satchel holds four trays in total, it is not necessary to use all four.  One could have just a couple of trays and then use the dividers in the remaining areas for storage.  The trays are purchased individually so you could buy them as required.  There is also a smaller sized Art Bin Satchel which takes two trays.

The other very annoying problem is that the base of the Satchel has raised groves on it, where the optional dividers would slot.  These grooves cause some rows of the marker pens to poke up a bit above the others.  This is very noticeable with the Spectrum Noirs and means that the lid doesn’t quite close flush all around.  It does close, safely, but there is a wee bit of bowing visible.  The Promarkers are shorter than the Speccys and whilst they are still uneven over the grooves, it is not as noticeable and does not affect the lid.  You can see how the Dark Red pens are noticeably higher than the rest in this photo.TTArtBinProblem2

I think I may add a bit of clear tape over the top of the tray clips to ensure they stay in place.  A couple of times I have grabbed at a pen and it has pulled the tray up with it.  Because the trays are very loosely fitted they move easily.  This is a minor annoyance, really, and once you have had it happen once or twice you know about it and just take more care pulling out pens.

I like that I can sort my pens out as I wish, and their individual holders means they stay put.  It is now much easier to find the colours I want when working.

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I store my Artbin in a vertical position, so the pens are horizontal.  It can also be used in a vertical position if you stand it on the handle side, so the lid can open upwards.  It will stay open as it falls back a little.  I mostly colour when sitting on the sofa.  Then it is great to just lay the open Artbin on the sofa next to me, perfect.

Another advantage is that, when not in use, it can tuck out of the way.  An open shelf system would need to be out on my desk all the time.  The Artbin only needs to be out when required, and as it is sturdy and has a lid, can go elsewhere when I don’t need it.  As someone who has a very tiny studio/craft room, this is a big plus!

The handle seems very strong and I would be confident taking my pens to crafting classes or groups in this sturdy case.

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Problem Solved!

All in all I am pleased with my final decision to go with the Artbin Satchel.  The unusable gaps between the trays etc do annoy me a little, but I did know about them in advance from reading reviews.  They do not stop this from being a sturdy and attractive storage solution that ticked all my requirements.

I paid £16.50 for the Satchel and £20 for the four trays.  So the total cost was £36.50.

There is still quite a bit of room in the Satchel for more pens.  I don’t have the full Spectrum Noir range yet, and would definitely like some more Promarkers.  I would also like to eventually get some Copics to try (they are pretty hard to find in the UK, and even more expensive than in the USA).  At the moment I use the spare bit of space to store some stamped images I am working on.

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Update

Since purchasing this storage satchel I have added some more brands of markers to my collection, including Copic Sketch and Ciaos.

So the list of marker pens that I can confirm fit in this Art Bin Satchel is:

  • Copic Sketch
  • Copic Ciao (they also fit in the smaller spaces)
  • Spectrum Noir
  • Letraset Promarkers
  • Stampin Up Blendabilities (now discontinued)
  • Tiger Markers
  • Tonic Nuvo
  • Boldmere Art Markers  but they are a bit too tall to store many

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I will continue to update this article as and when I get other brands of alcohol markers in the future.  If you know of other brands that fit, please let me know and I will add them to the list.

Clean and Simple Card Making 4 – Learning a lot!

I signed up for the Clean & Simple Card Making 4 class from www.OnlineCardClasses.com.

Clean & Simple Card Making 4 officially started on Monday 26th January 2014, and runs until the end of the week.  However one can take the class after this as all the videos etc will be available at once then.  The only difference is taking it now means one can participate in the forums and galleries.  Anyone doing the course after the closing date can see the galleries and forum, but not post to them.  Other than that the contents will be the same.

Each day there are videos and a PDF detailing how to make some cards, showcasing new techniques and ideas.CS4_participant

I am really enjoying this class.  The videos are very professional and from some of my favourite YouTube crafters.

Lots to learn for all levels of crafters

When doing a course it is always a worry that there will be little new to learn – I am not being arrogant, but after years of crafting it is inevitable that one will have picked up quite a lot of techniques already.  However so far I have learnt lots of great new techniques and been really inspired to make cleaner, simpler cards than I have been doing.  I tend to not know when to stop and end up with fussy, messy looking cards.  Hopefully these new ideas will stop that and lead to “my style” being far more attractive.

Participants are encouraged to try out the new techniques using their own crafting supplies and to post the results online, for inclusion in the daily galleries.

Putting it in to practice

Here is a card I have made using one of the techniques in Day 2 – Clean and Simple Die-Cutting

I am not going to go in to details of how I made this card, as obviously that is what the course is for!

I used Centura Pearl 300 gsm card for the base and high density 60gsm card for the topper.  The inks are Ranger Distress Inks in 4 shades of blue.  The dies used were both from Tattered Lace.

I highly recommend this course to anyone wanting to learn new techniques for card making and other paper crafts.  I will be trying more courses in the future!

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Loom Twister with 25,000 loom bands- a review

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A couple of weeks ago I went to The Range and couldn’t resist buying their biggest box of loom bands – yes, 25,000 little rubber bands!  Plus accessories.  The loom is called “Loom Twister” by HGL.

Here is a little review of what was in that large, exciting box, and how it compares to other similar products I have used.

Big Box

The box is very big, nearly 3ft long!  Whilst, like all modern product boxes, it is bigger than it really needs to be, it does give a good indication that this really is a bumper box of bands.

Inside there are 30 little sections, each containing a plastic bag full of loom bands.  There are also two plastic looms, six plastic hooks, a bag full of S-clips and an instruction leaflet.

I paid £25 for this product in August 2014.

TT LoomTwister Box

The Loom Bands

The bTT Loom Bandsox says “It’s All About The Bands” – and indeed  it is.  I bought this for the ridiculously high band count.  And 25,000 bands is a LOT of bands!  I am almost tempted to tip them all on the floor in a big pile just to see how exciting that looks.  But the thought of having to sort them again after squashes that one!

Most of the bags contain a single colour of bands, covering the usual range of bright, cheerful colours.  There are also some bags that contain mixtures of 2 or 3 colours.  Bags of jelly bands, shiny bands and two-toned bands are also included.  The picture on the right is my actual box.  Further down the page is a picture of the back of the box which shows another sample of the contents.  I assume the exact bands included vary from box to box.

The bands seem to be a very good quality.  I have been doing a lot of creating with them, and so far only 2 have snapped.  This compares very favourably indeed with loom bands from other sources.  They are regular and do not have any odd bits sticking out, like some bands have.  The colours are bright and attractive.

 

The Looms

The looms have the pegs fixed permanently in the off-set position.  You can not remove the rows of pegs like some looms.  Obviously this means you can not make any of the projects that require a loom to be in the square position.  On the plus side though, the fixed bases make these looms very sturdy and there is no risk of them springing apart as has happened on other looms when there is a lot of cross tension from the rubber bands.

The looms have a little groove around each peg and to me this has been made on the wrong side of the peg. One usually hooks from the open side, so that is where the groove would make the most sense.  Where it is I can not see why one needs is.  And sometimes, if there are a lot of bands on the peg,  it is hard to get one’s hook under the bands when hooking because there is not a groove on the open side.

I have been using the looms and despite the odd groove design they seem very sturdy and lightweight.   Having two means it is much easier to make longer bracelets – ones that actually go right around the arm.  One loom is purple and the other is blue.

TT Loom and Hooks

The Hooks

Hmm, these are decidedly poor quality.  I broke one within minutes of using it.  The hooks bend easily and can not hook more than 3 or so bands at once without struggling.  They are fine for very simple designs but unlikely to last long if you like making charms or complex bracelets that use multiple bands.  I am using mine to store components on whilst making characters and animals.  Four of them were yellow and two were blue.  I say were because two have broken.  I am using my trusty metal tipped Rainbow Loom hook instead.

The Rest

There is not much one can say about S clips, is there?  The included ones are sturdy and quite tightly “looped”, meaning that it is a bit more fiddly to get one’s bands into them, but once done they are far less likely to come undone again than a looser style of clip.  There are 500 included.

The instruction leaflet is rather unusual.  Half is composed of photos showing how to make the most basic looped style of bracelet – something which the cheapest loom packages include too. The other half of the leaflet shows various combinations of bands and how to lay them out.  This may be of use to the more experienced crafter, who is looking to develop their own designs.  A couple more actual project would probably have been of more use to the majority of purchasers, in my opinion.

TT Loom Twister Box

Summary

I am very happy with my purchase.  25,000 bands for £25 is obviously the equivalent of 1000 bands for £1.  Around here bags of 600 go for £1 and upwards.  So even ignoring the hooks (which are best ignored, to be honest), and the looms (which are very usable) I feel I got a bargain.  Plus I got the convenience of a large number of bands in one easy purchase.

The Range have other sizes of these packs.  I saw a 20,000 band one, a 10,000 band one and a 4,800 band one.  They also have many bags of different colours and speciality bands, as well as a wide range of reasonably priced storage boxes and other accessories.

I have no affiliation with The Range, or the makers of this loom set.  I am just a regular customer who is happy with their purchase 🙂

Craft product review – Recycled paper bead winder

Paper beads are so easy, cheap and fun to make.  And this brilliant device makes it even better.

This is the Great Gizmos Green Creativity Recycled Paper Beads kit.  It costs around £10 and is available from Amazon (link at bottom) and many craft stores.

The bead maker is a sturdy plastic device and can be used in two ways.  You can screw in the lightweight handle to hold the turner, or screw the top onto an empty plastic bottle.   I am using an individual size Coke bottle, the family size 2 litre version also fits, so I assume most standard fizzy drink bottles would.  The bottle makes  it much easier to hold the winder comfortably.  I tend to hold mine between my thighs which frees my hands for the winding bit.

Handy hint!  If you are using a small size bottle, drop a few coins into the bottom of the bottle before you start creating.  Otherwise the turner and bottle combo is quite top heavy and easy to fall over if you stand it up between bead making sessions… and picking loads of little beads up off the floor can get boring very fast.  Adding the coins makes it far more stable.  The bigger sizes of bottle are far less likely to fall over.TTBeadWinderonBottle

Easy to useTTBeadWinderCloseUp

Using the bead maker is very simple.  You just slip the end of a thin strip of paper into the metal grip, then turn the handle to wind the bead.  There is a spring-loaded “foot” which gently presses on the bead to keep everything smooth and tidy.  Just add a spot of glue at the end and pull the bead off the grip.  If you have the bead maker on top of a bottle you can then drop the finished bead through a hole in the base and into the bottle for storage – very convenient indeed!

As well as the bead maker and its optional handle, also included in the box are an assortment of small papers, pre-printed and ready for you to quickly cut into strips.  There is also a small sachet of glue and a handy little foam-topped dabber for applying it.  A very clear and concise instruction leaflet is also included.

Super cheap crafting!TTBeadWinderTurner

You can make beads from all sorts of paper.  Pretty scrapbook and crafting papers can look stunning, but equally beautiful results can be had from using colourful junk mail, magazines, old maps and more.  A fun way to recycle stuff you would otherwise throw away.

The resultant beads are lightweight and ideal for making necklaces, earrings and other jewelry.. or using in mixed media and other crafting projects.  I give mine a quick coat of glaze for protection and extra gloss.  You can also coat the beads in a thin layer of PVA glue for protection.  You can paint the beads or add glitter and other coatings too.

Summary

Whilst it is perfectly possible to make paper beads using a knitting needle, or a simple pronged stick, this sturdy bead maker does make the process easier and faster

I also find turning the handle is TTBeadWinderCollectionmuch easier on my wrists than twiddling a stick to wind the beads. I don’t have any children around to test, but I suspect it is a lot easier for youngsters to turn a bead on this winder than with a small stick.  I definitely end up with less glue on me using this device than when I used a small pronged stick type turner.

The option of adding a bottle for a built in storage device is very clever and convenient.

The handle is sturdy and I am sure will last many years.  I love making paper beads and as I make quite a lot of them the investment of buying this bead winder has already saved me a lot of time and wrist ache.

This link – Great Gizmos Green Creativity Recycled Paper Beads– 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 custom their way.