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.

May the Caffeine Be With You…

In The Studio

Go ahead and say it: And also with you.


(Even if I’m still more or less caffeine free, this card makes me happy.)


Imagine is teaming up with Flourishes LC, today, for a blog hop and I got to play with their My Cup Over Flows set to make this card tutorial for you!


So the main image of the coffee cut included words that tied into a bible verse. That’s all well and good, but it didn’t fit my vision for the card. The awesome thing about acrylic stamps, though, is that they are incredibly easy to manipulate. I **carefully** cut away the words from the coffee cup and then selected the rest of the stamps I wanted to use to build my scene.

I stamped them in Coffee Bean (appropriate, no?) Brilliance ink, embossed them with clear embossing powder, and colored them with my Spectrum Noir markers. Even though I had them, more or less, in the spots I wanted them, I decided to fussy cut the elements out and layer them on a stamped background instead.


To make that background, I used several of the images in a cluster and Versamark Dazzle ink in Champagne to make a tone-on-tone background on craft cardstock (by DCWV). Just stamp and turn and stamp and turn and fill the cardstock with the images.


I layered the stamped craft cardstock onto a white and then a yellow patterned cardstock (the latter from the Recollections Country Farm House paper stack) before using  Helmar Liquid Scrap Dots to position and pop-up my stamped and colored elements.


It still needed a little something, but I didn’t want to clutter up the main images, so I grabbed my awl and a ruler and punched holes on the top and middle layers every 5 mm, offsetting the outer layer punches to fall between in the inner ring.


Then I sewed a zig zag backstitch through the layers with yellow thread and a regular sewing needle. Could I have put it on my sewing machine? I suppose, but I don’t like to dull my sewing needles like that, and this way was much more precise. And the stitching, I think, is the perfect touch to finish the card. It took about as long as the coloring did, but it was worth it.

Even if my coffee got cold in the process… Oh, the irony.


Caffeine Blessings Card Recipe:

  • 4″x6″ Craft Cardstock (DCWV)
  • 4.5″x6.5″ White Cardstock
  • 5″x8″ Yellow Paterned Cardstock (Recollections)
  • 10″x8″ Cardstock Card Base
  • My Cup Over Flows Stamp Set
  • Coffee Bean Brilliance Ink
  • Clear Embossing Powder
  • Spectrum Nior Markers
  • Champagne VersaMark Dazzle ink
  • Helmar Liquid Scrap Dots
  • Darice Awl, Heating Tool
  • Needle and Thread

Flourishes LC was kind enough to send a few different stamps sets and I also made these cards, too:


Camellia Card Recipe

  • 5″x3″ White Cardstock
  • 5.5″x3.5″ Green Dot Patterned Paper (American Crafts)
  • 12″x4″ Cardstock Card Base
  • Camellia Love Stamp Set
  • Olive Memento Luxe ink
  • Prismacolor Colored Pencils
  • Sage Satin Ribbon
  • Craft Knife
  • Hermafix Tape Runner
  • Helmar Liquid Scrap Dots


Winter Cheer Bouquet Card Recipe:

  • 3.5″x5″ White Cardstock
  • 4″x6″ Green Plaid Patterned Paper (American Crafts)
  • 5″x7.125″ Craft Cardstock (DCWV)
  • 11″x8.5″ White Cardstock Card Base
  • Winter Bouquet Stamp Set
  • Tuxedo Black Memento Ink
  • Spectrum Nior Markers
  • Pink Plaid Washi Tape
  • Twine (American Crafts)
  • Enamel Dots (Franklin Covey + My Minds Eye)
  • Hermafix Tape Runner
  • Helmar Liquid Scrap Dots

And since this is a blog hop, it’s really worth checking out all the other cool projects made from this latest Flourishes LC and Imagine collaboration! Leave a comment on each blog in the hop for a chance to win prizes, too!

Imagine Blog -
Barbara Thompson -
Toni Storie -
Alison Heikkila -
Beverly Cole -
Kren Kurts -
Neva Cole -
Roni Johnson -
Linda Lucas -
Davi Long -
Jennifer Vanderbeek -  <<–You Are Here
Naomi Gong -
Vickie Yeakley -
Nadine Carlier -
Rebecca Ednie –
Gloria Hayoung Lee -
Mark Melnick -
Shirley Qu -
Martha Lucia Gomez -
Terre Fry -
Mary Prasad -
Trisha Traxler -
Monica Edwards -
Flourishes L.C -

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?