Why Templates Are a Girl’s Best Friend

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

I’m a scrapbooker from way back, but I haven’t been keeping up like I used to or taking many photos that don’t correspond to a blog post. To commemorate this last year before the wedding (and remind me to take pictures of the fun stuff), I’ve been putting together a layout per week for our Wedding Year scrapbook. Now, working full time, planning a wedding, and blogging about it are enough to keep me plenty busy–adding in scrapbooking might seem like adding more work rather than some much-needed relaxation.

For me, it all comes down to 3 things:

  • Digital scrapbooking
  • Project Life
  • Templates

The Digital Approach

While I do absolutely love paper and creating with it, physical scrapbooking was becoming less and less convenient with all of my photos being digital for the last several years. That love of paper that had me scoffing at digital scrapbooking 1o years ago has since enthusiastically embraced the digital approach for both the ease of integrating my digital images but also the fact that once a digital paper or embellishment is purchased, it doesn’t get “used up.” As someone who has more than once hoarded those last few sheets of a favorite paper, this is quite freeing.

And you can always print your pages out yourself or upload them to a photobook site and end up with very professional looking albums.

Just about any photo software that will handle layers can be used for digital scrapbooking and there are some programs out there specifically for it. I learned on Photoshop Elements (PSE) 3, “back in the day” with tutorials from ScrapGirls. While I’ve upgraded to full-on Photoshop for other projects, I still use PSE (version 9, now) for scrapping for the simpler interface.

Project Life

Project Life is a system devised by Becky Higgins that is meant to make saving photos and memories easy, streamlined, and low-pressure (though it’s but one of many pocket-style scrapbooking systems out there). By using divided pocket pages–like baseball card pages but more varied–and 2 sizes of inserts (4×6 and 3×4) all you have to do is slip in your photos and write on the journaling cards and you’ve got a scrapbook in no time flat.

I’d heard about it a couple years ago (and mentally kicked myself for not trying out a similar idea many years prior) but didn’t want to go back to paper scrapping. Behold, the official Project Life digital kits are available at ACDigitals.com (though I bought my kit and template when they were still partnered with Jessica Sprague). What’s even better is that with the popularity of Project Life on the rise, several sites have similar products available. ScrapGirls has their Pocket Life line, and several designers over on The DigiChick (my 2 favorite shops) have Project 52 offerings that are compatible.

Of course, with digital scrapbooking, anything can be used with the Project Life base system, especially if you use the templates.


Just like writers who stare at a blank page/screen, feel anxious and can’t start writing, scrappers sometimes have a similar block. Recently I’ve become a total template convert as all I have to do is pick my photos, papers, and maybe a few embellishments and start clipping them to the template layers and, boom, there’s my page! Of course, when you scrap digitally you can turn and flip the templates to get a bit more variety (there are only 7 basic page layouts with Project Life, but you can certainly branch out to other templates, too).

But the Project Life-style templates, based on 4×6 and 3×4 spaces, are perfectly suited to both digital camera images as well as those cell phone shots we’ve all been taking. And if you take a lot of photos, then the simple grids are going to be your best friends.

To show you just how easy it is, I took screenshots while I put together this layout, week 9 of our wedding year album:

Week 9, Dec 29, 2012 to Jan 4, 2013

Week 9, Dec 29, 2012 to Jan 4, 2013 (all photos personal)

Step 1: choose your photos

First I pick out my photos to see what I’m working with. Lots of photos mean a template with more spots, fewer photos mean bigger spots to take up more space.

Step 2: Pick your templates

Then I look through my templates to see which ones I want to use. In the back in a Project Life template and in front is a template from eNKay Design’s Project 365 line. Then I decided which would be the left side of the layout and which one the right.

Step 3: Start placing your photos

I rotated the 365 layout to get the photo spots in the orientation I wanted them, then added my first photo to fill the large, vertical block on the page, sizing it up to fill the space or maybe a little bigger. Make sure the photo is above the layer you want the photo to fill and clip it (Ctrl+G on a PC, Mac is Cmd+G, I believe) to that layer. This makes the photo (or whatever) show only where the template shape is “active” so it trims it to shape without actually cutting the image, and you can nudge it around to get the best view.

Step 4: Finish putting your photos in place

Place your photos wherever they best fit so you can see how much space you still have to work with.
You can combine different layer elements by merging them, like I did with the 4 3×4 slots in the upper right, then clipping the image to the merged set. It’s a nice little trick when you want to use larger pictures in smaller slots for effect. And it’s so much easier than cutting and corner-rounding 1 picture into 4, right?

Step 5: Save your work!

Right about now is a good time to do a “Save As” and name your file something other than the template name (you don’t want to overwrite your original template files with the changes you make, since you might want to use them in their original form sometime later).

Step 6: Pick out some papers and embellishments

Then I pick out some papers and embellishments to clip to the background and blank template spots

Step 7: Add your papers and embellishments to the pages

Now the fun part! Clip the papers to the template areas and start to place your embellishments on top of them. For efficiency’s sake I like to merge layers and them clip the paper file once, unless I need some of the elements overlapping others. The more layers, the bigger the file size, you know? But embellishments just need to be positioned above the layer you want them to rest on, they usually don’t get clipped (again, this is a bonus of digital–not everything had to fit exactly in the “pockets”).

Step 8: Add journaling spaces

I like using a mix of patterns, but patterns aren’t always great for journaling on, so I use the shape tool to make “clear” areas filled with a lighter version of one of the colors already in the layout (and then added a texture fill to it because I have issues with flat colors). Remove any layers you don’t want in your final layout (like journaling place-holders and title bits).

Step 9: Add the wordy bits and additional embellishments

Use your words! Add journaling to the open areas, titles, and then any additional embellishments to finish out the layout. That’s it!

And that’s just how simple it is.

Whether you’re saving the wedding planning memories, putting together a photo-book of your engagement photos, or even scrapbooking your honeymoon pictures, templates can make the process much smoother. Templates (Project Life or otherwise) are also great for learning composition skills and branching out of your usual style.

So, have I swayed you over to the digital template side of scrapbooks?

Just in Time for Christmas

Everyday Adventures

So, back in September I’d posted a picture of a sweet little wrapping job I’d done on a small gift box. Remember?

A request was placed that I show you how it was done and it’s been on my to-do list ever since. I apologize for the delay, but I hope you’ll agree that this is just the perfect time of year for this sort of thing, what with all the gift giving going on.

(Direct link for the feed readers: Rose-Wrap Tissue-Wrapped Gift Wrapping Tutorial)

Now there is a little bit of math involved, but that’s only so you know how wide your tissue paper needs to be in order to have the petal-ish bits be not too short or not too long (though you can always fix the long with a few snips).

I promise it’s simple:

[Width of the box (along the top) + Height of the box (along the side)] x 3 = Width of your tissue paper

See, simple! Theoretically you could wrap any box like this as long as you could get tissue paper wide enough. (As far as length’s concerned, you just want it to be fairly long–enough to go around the entire package 3-4 times.)

So, for the video my gift box was about 3 1/2 inches wide and 1 inch tall (3.5+1=4.5) and so 3 times that was 13 1/2 inches (4.5 x 3=13.5). I rounded up to be on the safe side and trimmed my tissue paper to 14 inches (and since the paper was folded in half, you see me measuring only 7 inches in the video).

I promise, that’s all of the technical know-how, the rest is squishing and scrunching and playing with paper!

This “rose” came out looking less rose-ish than my first one, but it still gets the point across, so don’t worry about getting a perfect flower look, just do your best and I’m sure the giftee will love it!

How She Did It: Window to the World 4×6 Art Card


So, a while back I shared about a 4×6 art card swap I’d participated in that used several different techniques: collage, embossing, watercolor pencils, and word art.

Rose Colored Glasses 4x6 Swap piece

Well, after that post the Blond Duck herself (of A Duck in her Pond and Words & Whimsy) asked for a tutorial and while it took me a little longer to get to this than I’d planned, I’m happy to say I finally bit the bullet this weekend and created a similar card and filmed the entire process.

I still have a bit to learn when it comes to making these sorts of process videos, but I hope this helps disspell some of the “mystery” of heat embossing, watercolor resist and collage for those who haven’t given it a try yet.

(Direct link for the feed-readers: Window to the World: 4×6 Process Video w/Embossing Demo)

There you have it. Any questions?

The entire process, start-to-finish, took about half an hour. Some parts took longer than usual because I was explaining for the benefit of the camera, but then I also don’t show the time spent flipping through the magazine looking for words and images to use. So 30 minutes is about right. A 4×6 art card is one of those great instant-gratification projects and I hope you’ll give it a go and, even more, hope that you’ll share what you’ve been up to.

Now that I’ve finally gone and done this first video, I’m kind of excited to do more and will try to plan ahead enough on future posts where it might be appropriate. That said, I’m also open to requests, so just let me know if there’s something you’d like to see explained a bit more, demonstrated, or just a bird’s eye view of and I’ll do my best!

Oh, and in the spirit of true confessions, I committed one of my crafter’s pet peeves and I can’t believe I did it. During the course of the 30 minute video I must have said Mod Podge a few dozen times (some during those sped-up portions where you are spared my blathering) and, upon play-back, I heard myself (just once–but it was enough) call it “Modge” Podge. I thought about going back and dubbing the right word in, but I figured I might as well leave it and fess up rather than spend ages trying to get a seemless fix in place.

Keepin’ it real!


Pretty Earrings Can Make Even Bad News Sound Good

64 Arts

Continuing our exploration of the Jewelry Arts, it’s time to actually make something pretty to wear or to give as a gift.


Green Goddess Earrings

Green Goddess Earrings


What’s better than a new pair of pretties to wear? The knowledge that you made them yourself!

This past weekend I got a chance to sit down at my work bench and make a couple of pairs of earrings using the mother of pearl disc beads I’d picked up in preparation for this art.

While everything else came from my own, well-stocked craft shelves, to make these projects you’ll need only a few bits and pieces from your local craft store of choice. (If you’re new to buying jewelry supplies, you may find my eHow article, How to Choose Beads, helpful.)

ProTip: a piece of felt or fleece on your work surface keeps the beads from rolling all over the place. Granted, it does nothing when you open the box of beads upside down, no where near the felted surface–but you probably already knew that.

For the Green Goddess Earrings:

  • Green Goddess Earring SuppliesHoop Earring findings, pre-drilled with 5 holes each
  • Sterling Silver wire, 24 gauge
  • 2 Mother of Pearl discs
  • 4 Green glass beads
  • 4 Silver bell beads
  • 8 Silver-tone 10/o or seed beads
  • Tools (Needle-nose pliers, Round-nose pliers, Wire cutters)

These earrings use some basic wire skills, namely wrapped loops. If you’re not ready to tackle wire-work, the second earring project, below, just uses needle and thread.

Securing the base of the beads Begin by making a small loop with the needle-nose pliers on one end of the silver wire and bend the wire at a 90-degree angle at the end of the loop, creating a stop for the beads. This is a quick way to work around not needing headpins around for every project.

Slide on your first bead (or bead group) and trim the wire off with a 1 inch tail measuring from the top of the bead (or bead group).

Beads ready for attaching Repeat with the rest of the beads. For each earring you will have:

  • 1 mother of pearl bead on wire
  • 2 each of the green glass beads topped with 2 silver-toned 10/o or seed beads*

For the little silver bells (of which you need 2 per earring), use a wrapped loop through the loop on the bell and leave a 1 inch tail of wire above.

Adding the bead drops to the earring finding. Begin the wrapped loops above each bead (group), making a 90-degree angle with the needle-nose pliers, then making a loop around the very tip of the round-nose pliers.

Thread them onto the earring finding to test your arrangement. Now is the time to make any changes before completing the wrapped loops.

Completed earring. Complete the wrapped loops for each of the 5 dangles and then repeat on the matching earring.

You might wonder what’s the point of doing 5 drops when 2 of them will be hidden by the large mother of pearl disc? First of all, some people might see them from the side, and those empty holes just look accidental. Secondly, doing it this way keeps the earring balanced–to skip it would risk the earring hanging funny when worn.

Pearl Drizzle Earrings

Pearl Drizzle Earrings

*After putting together the prototype first earring, I noticed the green glass beads were obscured by the silver bells. Adding the silver-toned seed beads lowered the green glass beads enough to looked balanced. It’s always a good idea to do a dry run.

For the Pearl Drizzle Earrings, the supply needs are even simpler:

  • Sterling Silver French Hook earring findings, 1 pair
  • 2 Mother of Pearl discs
  • 20 Silver-filled bugle beads
  • 18 Silver-tone 10/o or seed beads
  • 2 crystal 6/0 or e-beads
  • White beading thread
  • Beading needle

If you can thread a needle and tie a knot, you can make these earrings, that’s how simple these are but you’d never know it to look at them! Perfect for the upcoming beach-wear season, think how great these would look with a flowing sundress!

Laying out the earring map. Since I tend to be a visual crafter, I always layout my project before I sew or attach anything. It’s not a foolproof method by any means, but it works.

The order the parts go is

  • bugle bead->mother of pearl disc-> e-bead,
  • then splits off into 3 tails that are alternating bugle and seed beads, ending with a seed bead

Thread about 2 feet of beading thread onto the needle but do not knot it.

Starting the beading. Beginning with the last bugle bead on one tail, thread the needle through the bugle and the seed bead and then back through the bugle, leaving about 2 inches of the tail not pulled through.

Tie 2 double knots just above the bugle bead to secure the thread, do not trim it yet. Thread the next seed and bugle bead set, working your way up the tail, onto the thread and tuck the loose tail into those beads. Trim the thread tail as close to the top of the second bugle bead as possible.

Attaching the first full strand. Thread through the remaining seed and bugle bead for the first tail, through the central section (e-bead, disc and bugle) and loop through the earring finding.

Go back through the central section and, this time, thread through the entire center tail. Skipping the last seed bead, thread all the way up to the finding loop and back through the central section.

Repeat for the third tail, stopping above the e-bead on the way back up. Tie 2 or 3 knots above the e-bead and then go through the disc before trimming the tail between the disc and the top bugle bead.

Repeat for the other earring.

It sounds like a lot of back and forth, but once you get the hang of it, this sort of earring takes minutes to make and can be a very versatile pattern with just a change of focal bead and accents.


We’ll have more tutorials to come, this month! Want to know how to do something in particular? Leave a request in the comments!

Hand-Knit Cowl

Today’s Cowl

64 Arts

If you read a lot of historical novels and the like, you probably think of hooded monks when you hear the word cowl. Why would anyone want to wear one these days when hoodies (which, by the way, I cannot comfortably wear to save my life) are so easy to find?

That’s not what I’m talking about, here.

Today, a cowl can just as easily refer to a knitted tube, worn around the neck like some cross between a fluffy necklace and a scarf  but without the tails. Some cowls–often called clouds and knitted in wonderfully fuzzy mohair for a nebulous effect–are long enough to pull over the head like a hood and keep the ears warm and toasty.

My version was a product of a single skein of camel-colored wool found at Tuesday Morning while shopping for new bath mats and some time on my hands post-move. I’d been itching for a simple knitting project to keep my hands busy and, after flipping through my copy of One-Skein Wonders I settled on the Sofia Cowl. It was a simple lace pattern that kept my hands busy a few nights and gave that awesome sense of instant gratification that good, quick knitting projects always do.

How to Wear a Scarf with no Tails

Pretty much any way you want to.

Wait, not exactly what you were expecting? Okay, I can do a little better than that.

Sofia Cowl Worn 3 Ways

Sofia Cowl, 3 ways

After playing around with my newest accessory, I came up with several variations: these were my top 3:

  1. Fold the back of the cowl down, doubling the warming layers around the nape of your neck, and pouf out the front to fullness. This looks great peeking out of a coat or v-neck sweater–a great way to transition from Fall to Winter and Winter to Spring when you may not need full-on bundling but a little extra warmth wouldn’t hurt.
  2. A fun, slouchy, casual look can be achieved by twisting the tube inside itself a few good turns to create a continuous spiral effect. Try it against a contrasting turtleneck or just on it’s own as a statement accessory.
  3. My favorite look is to arrange it high in the back and fold the edges over at the neck, securing with a pin or clip (like the large French twist clip in the photo–think outside the brooch!). This looks so nice and tailored that it can work as a wardrobe element, not just a cold-weather protector.

If You Love Something, Set it Free!

Hand-Knit Cowl

Enter to Win!

I wanted to knit something and I did. Problem is, I live in Florida where it doesn’t really stay that cold. For pity’s sake, we were the only state in the Union without snow on the ground this past week–this is not an item that’s going to get a lot of use in my neck (hah!) of the woods.

So…. Hows about I offer up to one lucky reader?

If you’d like a chance to win this hand-knit accessory, there’s one simple rule:

Leave a comment on this post.

See? I told you it was simple!

Now, if you’d like an additional chance to win, you can follow the blog via RSS or e-mail. There are links for both options at the top of the far-right side-bar. After you subscribe using the method of your choice (or if you already do!) leave a separate comment on this post for 1 additional entry.

That’s all there is to it.

Cowl Details:

  • Dimensions: Approximately 27″ around, 13.5″ wide (when flat), and 7″ high with quite a bit of stretch.
  • Knit out of “Deluxe Worsted” 100% Wool, Made in Turkey, Imported by Universal Yarn Inc (Concord, NC)
  • Suggested Care: Hand wash in 85 degree F (30 degree C) water

Comment-entries will be accepted until 5pm EST, Wednesday, January 26, 2011, and the winner will be announced the following day.


Don’t forget to leave those comments! This post takes care of our Art of Dressing discussion. Our next art on the horizon? Jewelry!