Imagine That: Simple Shapes Christmas Cards

In The Studio

Fact: There’s only so much room in the craft storage area of your choice–be it a shelf, a closet, or a dedicated room–for supplies. And way too many awesome, cute supplies on the market for one crafter to hoard, right?

Today’s project for the Imagine blog is an answer to that, of sorts: a way to utilize the more all-purpose items in your craft stash to create holiday cards without spending anything extra on special supplies.

The only holiday-specific items were the sentiment stamps, (which I already had from previous years’ projects). So take a look through your pattern stamps, pull out the basic dies or punches, and put them together in some new ways.

Incidentally, this is also a great way to involved kids in holiday crafting as the techniques used here are very simple and straight-forward. They might need a hand with the heat part of the embossing, but otherwise the little ones can have a field day creating the patterned cardstock and decorating the completed cards.

Make sure to hop on over to the Imagine blog to see how each of the three cards came together!

Christmas [Cards] in July!

In The Studio

We all have that friend, you know the one, who starts posting __ weeks ’til Christmas posts on their Facebook wall starting in, oh, February? Or maybe you are that friend? Either way, for those of us not preternaturally tuned to the Christmas countdown, such posts strike a frisson of fear down deep in our bones.

Or maybe just me.

But this year, I’m ready. I’m ready because last year I ordered both the regular Simon Says Stamp monthly card kit AND the additional, deluxe, Simon Says Stamp kit.

And did absolutely nothing with them.

Okay, that’s not 100% true, I opened them up and oohed and aahed over the cute stamps and the pretty papers. That counts, right?

But I didn’t make the cards.

And not only did I not make the cards, I ended up going to the store at the last minute and purchasing assorted pre-printed cards to send out to our nearest and dearest.

Crafter fail.

This year, though, I get to redeem myself because, hey, there will always be another Christmas, and so now those kits have been dragged out and put to good use.

With the addition of some card bases (purchased in a multi-pack from Tuesday Morning), a few spools and/or bottles of adhesive, and a couple additional ink pads, the cards came together over a couple of weekends.

To see how the different cards came together (there are only a handful of the 33! that are actual duplicates), watch the video of me putting them together:

It’s at ludicrous speed, but still helpful. (I had to do something to squeeze 6 hours of footage–and that didn’t include all the coloring–into a theatrical release!)

My Must-Have Die

In The Studio

Over the summer I saw a particular die that I had a visceral reaction to. I had no set plan in mind, I just knew I had to have it.

dv-tall-victorian-houseIt’s not an exact match for the Gingerbread Dollhouse, but it’s pretty darn close!

And I finally got a chance to use it on a project for the Imagine blog, though I doubt it’ll be the last time I find a project for it.


Go check it out and see how to create a couple of versions of faux snow for holiday cards and layouts.

Card Week Continues!

In The Studio

It’s an unofficial designation, sure, but it seems to be where we’re heading, because I’ve been on a roll, lately, and have another card to share.


This card started out a bit differently, as one of my Imagine-intended projects, but then I ended up using no inks or media other than paper or washi. So it turned into a bonus card, just for me. I guess there’s nothing wrong with that, right?


  • 5″x7″ white card base
  • White glitter washi tape (Scotch brand, from Target)
  • Striped and solid printed paper (American Crafts, from the dollar spot at Target)
  • Spellbinders Moroccan Motifs die set
  • Hermafix adhesive
  • Helmar Liquid Scrap Dots

I used 5 of the 6 dies in the Spellbinders set, cutting them out of the two solid burgundy (with white back) papers at the same time. Some of the larger pieces were snipped to make individual “petals” and one of each was flipped upside down so the white showed. Offsetting the burgundy and white matching pieces, I put them together with a thin layer of Liquid Scrap Dots between each, curling the points up a bit where appropriate. A little more of the Liquid Scrap Dots is propping up the largest motif to give it a little sturdier structure.

The downside to the 6″ paper pads is that it can limit the size of the card you can make. Unless, of course, you think outside the pack a bit, like I did by creating a frame of washi tape to serve as a matte underneath the striped paper. I considered that a slight stroke of genius on my part, and it worked out far better than piecing together two smaller pieces for the backing.

A card like this would require a padded mailer, to be sure, if you wanted to send it through the mail, but it was such a quick card, ultimately, that I think it’s worth the extra postage.

It’s November 4th, Do You Know Where Your Christmas Cards Are?

In The Studio

What does November 4th have to do with it? Nothing specifically, just that–as various Facebook friends and email lists like to remind me–we’re 7 1/2 weeks or 51 sleeps away from Christmas. I’m already seeing gift guides in my inbox and on some blogs. I shudder to think how early the Black Friday sales are going to start (and I don’t mean on Thanksgiving, I mean I’ve already received one email with that subject line this week).

Makes you want to head for the eggnog, doesn’t it?

While you can shop up until the last few moments of December 24th, if you wait until then to send out your Christmas or Hannukah greetings, you might as well call them New Year’s cards because that’s about when they’ll arrive. The time, my friends, to make plans and take actions for timely holiday happy mail is now.

So what are your options? In relative order of acquisition ease…

  • Pre-Made boxed card sets;
  • Photo cards on a prefab background;
  • Custom-designed cards; and
  • Handmade cards

First of all, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with boxed cards you buy by the dozen: sign, stamp, done. If you want to you can even dress them up a little with some well-chosen embellishments. One of my most popular articles from my eHow days was How to Embellish Store-Bought Cards (I haven’t the foggiest why it’s on that blog and not eHow; I’m guessing Demand Media sold it, as was their right, since I was on a work-for-hire contract back then.)  The only real issue I have with boxed cards are my tendency to buy them and never send them out. Kinda defeats the purpose, right?

Photo cards are also a good way to go if you have a great family picture from earlier in the year or can organize one pretty soon. I don’t recommend waiting until Thanksgiving for this one, since that’ll be cutting it close by the time prints come back or you’ll be forced to pay exorbitant shipping prices to get them in time to send before the holidays. We did one the year we got married (thanks to a speedy turn-around of our November wedding pictures). I did the layout and design and ordered them as postcards from Overnight Prints (whom I prefer over the more common VistaPrint option, though there’s nothing wrong with VP, I use them for other things without any complaints).

"Wishing you the happiest of holidays and toasting to good fortune in the coming year!"

The picture came from our wine-blending unity ceremony and I thought it was pretty perfect for a holiday “toast.”

Todd and I aren’t generally mug for the camera types, though, so photo cards require planning. Instead, I’m much more likely to put my illustration skills to use and design a custom card for us.

One year I designed and screen-printed (on my Print Gocco) this funky monkey Christmas Card (printed in white on a navy linen background)


See, instead of Ho Ho Ho, Santa Monkey says Oh Oh Oh!

And then, the year we ended up moving the week before Christmas (fun times!), we sent out combo At Home/Christmas Cards:

front and inside copy, address omitted

front and inside copy, address omitted (even though we’re not there anymore)

But I don’t just use my artistic talents for myself, I’m available for hire, too! (Just email me!) Last year I was commissioned to create a card with a dragon in a Santa hat, reading a book in front of a fire…

Please note the book title: Fiery Tales

Please note the book title: Fire Side Tails

And earlier this year I was commissioned to create a blog header of caricatures of the author and her family members. While not a Christmas card, I’m sure you can see the possibilities. Plus you could have a large print made up and framed for your gallery wall.


This flying high family caricature could be used on a number of printed items, on a Facebook header, and is 100% unique to them.

A few things to keep in mind if you decide to order a custom illustration for your holiday cards (or any other time):

  1. Budget. Truly custom illustrations are going to run you about the same price as a mid-range photo session (at least in my area). I know that there are folks on Etsy offering family “portrait” illustrations for  $50 or less and I honestly don’t know how they can do it for that and pay themselves a living wage. My prices start at $75 for a single subject (aka 1 person or figure) and go up depending on how many people, animals, etc. you want included. A good illustrator will work with you to find a way to work within your budget by giving you options, but don’t expect them to work for free. After all, you’re not just paying them for the time they spend putting together your custom illustration, you’re paying for their unique skill and style, honed over years of practice.
  2. Timeline. The earlier the better is always a good rule of thumb. Depending on the number of “moving parts” to a commission and the number of revision rounds you go through, you want to allow a couple of weeks for a custom illustration. So, for Christmas cards, now is the time to find your illustrator and ask if they have any openings.
  3. Communication. Unlike ordering a card design through a print on demand service, custom illustrations require back and forth communication. The way I work, we start with a consultation where you tell me what you want, show me some samples of things you like from around the web, and I ask a few questions to get a better feel for the project. After that I prepare a round of sketches or mock-ups (usually 3 options, unless we’re dealing with a very specific request) and I ask you to pick the one you like best and for any changes you’d like made. I come back with the revision, you sign off on it, then I create the final art. If you’re going to be out of town or in an Internet dead zone for a few days during the process, send up a flare so I’m not wondering if you’ve changed your mind all of a sudden.
  4. Contracts. You might think a simple thing like a card illustration wouldn’t need anything more than an email agreement, but I urge you to reconsider. A good contract answers the important questions: who, what, where, how much, and–most importantly–by when. It protects both you and I, and I don’t even start sketching on your job until the contract is signed and a deposit is paid. I’d be wary of anyone who starts work without a written agreement in place as you have no recourse should the unthinkable occur and they disappear on you.

Finally, handmade cards are a way to get the custom treatment without any art or computer skills required. I put it last on the list only because it takes more of a time investment on your part compared to the other options, but can be the most rewarding knowing that you made them with your own two hands! But time investment is relative–there are lots of ways to make handmade cards that can be done in just a few hours. I’m a fan of the assembly line method for making holiday cards: do all the cutting at once, do all the stamping or stenciling in one go, put everything together, then add final embellishments. But just because you’re approaching them like an assembly line, doesn’t mean you have to make them all the same, either.

Winter Whimsy Cards

Winter Whimsy Cards (we also have a set that’s red & green, our Classic Christmas option)

Above are just four examples of the twenty cards you can make with one of my CPR Holiday Creative Mischief Kits from The Crafty Branch. (CPR stands for Cards Prepared and Ready, by the way.) For $40 you get everything you need to make 20 cards, that’s only $2 per card, including cutting diagrams and card “recipes” to get you started putting everything together. It’s up to you how you use the included stencil to embellish the cards (dry embossing, stamping, or texture paste supplies are included). Plus you’ll have paper left over to make gift tags, scrapbook layouts, or even more cards. Order your kit here and it’ll be on its way to you the next day.

So again I ask… it’s November 4th, do you know where your Christmas cards are?