Monday, January 31, 2011

Newbie Papercrafters, Shop Craigslist!

When you pick up a new crafty hobby, part of the fun is buying all the new and exciting supplies, right?  It would be great if supply money grew on trees! Then you could just go down to the nearest scrapbook store, throw down $1000 and buy everything your heart desires.

Unfortunately the real world doesn't work that way, or at least not here in my real world.  I keep my craft supply money strictly separate from my "day to day life" money, otherwise we'd be broke.  My tag and jewelry business keeps itself running and also funds my other crafty pursuits, so I keep a close eye on those finances.

And of course the startup costs to get into an entirely new hobby can be high - new tools, new consumable supplies, new storage and workspace, etc.  The list goes on.  So I try to save money where I can, especially on supplies.

One of my super-secret (ok, not really) resources for supplies is Craigslist.  Here in Seattle, it's a very active site, so you can find all sorts of deals.   For those who aren't familiar, it's a free local classified ads site, available in many parts of the world.   Transactions are carried out in person, and the site just hosts the ads - it's not responsible for any part of the transaction.  You contact the person via the email address in the listing and work out the details from there.  The site is more active in some locales than others, so check your own city to see what's going on.

Many crafters turn to Craigslist to get rid of old supplies, especially if they're moving on to a different craft, clearing out space for a new baby, or just one day realize they have way too many supplies.  (I can't imagine how that would happen!)

Scrapbooking seems to be a popular craft to downsize, so there's almost always paper and rubber stamping supplies to be found.  But you need to do a little legwork and research on your own to determine whether you're really getting a good deal.  Since you're just buying from another individual, there's no "money back guarantee" if you're not happy.

[caption id="attachment_61" align="aligncenter" width="524" caption="Photo by "]Letter stickers purchased from[/caption]

My tips for supply shopping on Craigslist (CL):


  • Look for photos.  CL has lots of listings without photos.  It's hard to know exactly what condition and type of supplies you're getting without them.  Listings with photos tend to have more responsive and honest sellers, in my experience.  It's worth sending a message to see if someone has photos of a listing you're interested in.

  • Know retail prices.   I occasionally see supply listings on Craigslist asking for full retail price or more (!).  If I'm going to pay that much, I'd rather buy my supplies at a shop with a return policy.   CL is for bargains and deep discounts.  For example, with scrapbook paper, I know the high end stuff typically retails for $0.75 to $1.00 per sheet.  I don't buy paper on CL unless it's 20 cents a sheet or less.  And I'd only pay 20 cents for the high end designer stuff.

  • Ask questions.  This is especially important for tools.  Ask if they're in good shape, still in working condition and whether they have replacement parts.  Do some online research to find out if the replacement parts are available - for example, if you buy a circle cutter, can you still find replacement blades?  Ask how old the tool is and why they're  selling it.

  • Be safe.  CL has gotten a lot of bad publicity lately, with people getting into bad situations after agreeing to meet.  Don't go to someone's house to pick up your items - meet in a public place in daylight hours.  This is probably less of an issue with someone getting rid of craft supplies, but you just never know.

  • Expect some disappointments.  Yes, sometimes you'll buy a "grab bag" of paper and embellishments and then find out that none of them are your style.  Maybe you can swap with a friend, donate them to a school, or resell them.  Minimize this by researching what you'll get before you spend the money.

  • Calculate the real cost.  Someone might be selling a whole boatload of awesome supplies for $5 but they live 50 miles and a ferry ride away.  If it's going to take me all day to get there and back, is it really worth it?  It's not just the price tag, but your time and effort as well. 

  • Bargain confidently.  In general, Americans are not comfortable with bargaining.  I know, because I'm one of them.  But with CL postings, I always ask if a specific lower price is possible - somehow over email it seems less intimidating and awkward.  For example, if they're offering a lot of paper for $25, I ask if they'll take $20 for it.  The worst they can do is say no.  And the secret truth is that I'd probably still buy it anyway.  But it's always nice to spend less money, if the person is willing to take it.  Settle on the price before you meet to pick up the item to avoid awkwardness.

  • Keep checking back.  In active locations like Seattle and the Bay Area, new listings are constantly posted.  Check often to get great deals and jump on them as soon as you can.

I've gotten some really great deals on Craigslist.  I especially like "grab bags" of supplies where I have a general idea of what I'm getting (paper, stickers, stamps) but don't know the specifics of everything that's included.  Part of the fun is getting everything home and then going through it!  I'll highlight a few of my really great finds in some upcoming blog posts.  Happy shopping!

Now, your turn!  Have you used Craigslist to buy supplies for your craft?  What were your big scores?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A new blog, again

In addition to my new personal blog (see last post), I have started a new papercrafting blog so that I can put my crafty posts there.  I hope you'll check it out!

the papercraft lab notebook

Craft Supply Sunday: moo Cards and Stickers

I have a deep love for papercrafting supplies.  In fact, when I first started making jewelry and needed to pick up a few things at the local craft store, I had to to walk past the papercrafting section and I coveted all the interesting things available to scrapbookers and card makers.

In the fine tradition of Twitter's Follow Friday, I'd like to start a little feature to highlight supplies and vendors I love, called "Craft Supply Sunday".  Lord knows I have enough supplies to never run out of post topics! 

So here's to the first installment, where I highlight some awesome business cards and stickers.  I love me some personalized paper products!

One of the things people suggested on the Etsy Forums was to get business cards to include in sold orders, or hand them out to people inquired about my jewelry.  One of the companies frequently mentioned on the Etsy forums was MOO, a small printing company based in the UK.

What caught my attention about these cards was the fact that they were double sided, and you could put a photo of your work on one side, and your standard business info on the other.  Pretty cool, right?  But even cooler than that was that *each* card in a pack of 100 could have a *different* photo.  THAT is amazing.    The other nifty thing is that they offer two sizes - standard business card size and a minicard which is half that size (long and skinny).  The minicards are unique and stand out nicely against a sea of boring business cards.

I've ordered both the minicards and the regular business cards, and the quality is outstanding.  The cardstock they use is amazing - a nice velvety, thick and heavy card.  It's like no other business card I've seen.  The finish is sort of in between glossy and matte - luminous but not outright shiny.  Both sides are in color, and you can even add a small photo or logo to the "business" side.   As you can tell, I'm totally sold on these little guys.

The other really neato product they offer is a stickerbook with 90 stickers made from your photos.  These are the ones I used on BabyT's first birthday invitation. The stickers are high quality, with an almost vinyl-like feeling. Just like the cards, you can get 90 different ones, or multiples, if you upload fewer than 90 photos. They'd be really great for scrapbook layouts or gift packaging. I also like to stick them on my laptops to add a little baby cuteness to my work day.

When I ordered my stickers, some of them came out very overexposed, even though the originals weren't that bright.  I sent a quick note to Moo customer service and they responded immediately AND reprinted my order.  They were perfect the second time.  I love this company! cards and stickers that I ordered

If you're not feeling inspired by your own photography, Moo's website offers lots of readymade designs by cool designers.  You can also get colorful cards with text or sayings on them instead of a photo, and you can choose the colors, background design and font. 

Tips for ordering your Moo cards or stickers:

  • Choose high-resolution bright photos.  If they're not high resolution, they'll look grainy when printed, and if they're even slightly dark, that will be magnified on the printed version.  I made that mistake with my first set.  It might even be worth saving a second copy of your photos with the brightness level increased a bit.

  • Plan to spend at least 30 minutes to an hour uploading and cropping photos, especially if your originals are large.  The upload process is slow, and depending on the products you order, you have to crop them to get the best fit.  Some photos will just not fit right on the thin minicards.  Stickers look best with closeup face shots, or zoomed in macro-details, since they're only about 3/4" square.

  • Order multiple sets if possible.  You'll want to keep some for yourself, and if you order enough, the price will go down slightly. 

  • Use this coupon code for 10% off  a pack of 200 business cards: TFENM9. 

  • Contact Moo right away if you're not happy with your order - they are very responsive and helpful!Business Cards, MiniCards, Postcards and more

Once I use up my current stash of non-Moo cards, I plan to reorder.  Once you go Moo, you can't be satisfied with regular cards.   And I'm also looking forward to getting more cute babyT stickers with recent photos.  She's starting to like stickers now, so I might share a few with her, just to watch her little face light up in recognition.

Have you ordered from Moo?  What did you think?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Experiment 1: Baby First Birthday Invitation Card

BabyT's first birthday was approaching, and this crafty mama wanted to *make* stuff.  The first project of course, was the invitations for her baby friends to come to our party.

Having never made a card before, I just figured I'd buy some supplies and sort it out.   After rejecting a dog pawprint theme because I just couldn't figure out how I wanted it to look, I settled on an outdoor scene for the card.  When I was a kid, my limited drawing abilities meant that I always drew pretty much the same thing, until I gave up drawing entirely:  a sun in the upper left corner, some clouds and a blue line representing the sky, and some green grass at the bottom of the page.   On that backdrop, I'd add a house or a tree, if I was feeling adventurous.

So my vision was to have a sun, cloud and green grass on a blue card.  I also had super-cute photo stickers of BabyT that I wanted to use.  More on those in a future post!  My brilliant husband came up with the idea of just having cupcakes hanging out in the grass.   Keep in mind that this was my first cardmaking experiment, so it bears a striking resemblance to an elementary school art project.

Handmade Baby First Birthday Party Invitation


  • Cards and envelopes - Seashore color scheme, Jo-Ann Fabric and Crafts

  • Glittery white cardstock

  • Shimmery brown cardstock

  • Corrugated navy blue cardstock

  • Yellow, bright green, pink, cream plain cardstock

  • Adhesive jewels - K & Co.

  • Photo stickers -

  • Epson High-Gloss Photo Paper, 4 x 6

  • Flower and polka dot cardstock stickers

  • You're Invited rub-on transfers - Martha Stewart Crafts

  • Acid free glue stick



  1. I rounded the corners of a blue card with the corner rounder.

  2. I cut out a strip of green cardstock as wide as the card for the grass, and then cut "fringe" into it with the scissors, and tried to make it look random, which was harder than it seems!  I also rounded the bottom right corner of these pieces to line up with the card edges.

  3. I punched a large circle and several tiny circles for the sun from yellow cardstock with the Jumbo circle punch and the small hole punch.

  4. I cut the cupcake "cups" from the navy corrugated cardstock.  This took a while because they had to be balanced trapezoids.  I used a ruler, and when I finally got a nice one, I used it as a template to trace the others. 

  5. I punched several large circles from the cream, brown and pink cardstock to make the cupcake tops.  I cut them in half with the decorative scissors to get an edge that looked like fancy frosting.  (use your imagination and squint a lot!)

  6. I used the jumbo flower punch on the white glitter cardstock to make the clouds, by lining up the card stock about 2/3 way down the punch to get the top part of the flower.  Pretty cool, huh? These clouds remind me of the ones you see in the old 8-bit Super Mario Brothers game.  Yeah, I'm that old.

  7. After fretting about the design some more, I got brave and decided to start gluing.  There was no turning back at that point.  First to be glued was the "grass".  I lined up the bottom and rounded right edge, then cut the overhang off where it met the card fold after gluing it on.  I then "ruffled" the grass to give it a bit of texture and make it seem more 3-D.  Because I'm awesome like that. 

  8. I glued the circle for the sun in the upper left corner of the card, and then cut the overhang to match the card corner.  I glued the tiny circles around the sun, which was a royal pain with a glue stick

  9. I used the glue stick to glue the cupcake cups in different spots on the grass, and then topped them with a cupcake top with some overlap.  This also gave it a 3-D look since the corrugated cardstock was so heavy.

  10. The fun part!  I added some adhesive jewels and stickers to the cupcakes, and put the baby photo sticker in the sun.  I also added the 'You're Invited' rub-on in the bottom right corner after cutting it out from the frou-frou border Martha had designed it with.

  11. I was shooting for 10 steps.  Oh well.  I printed the invitation info on glossy photo paper using my trusty (cheap) Epson inkjet printer.  I rounded the corners and used double-sided tape to attach it to the inside of the card.  And of course, another baby photo sticker.


This was a pretty simple project but since it was my first, it took a LONG time.  Here's what I would do differently if I had to do it again:

  • Use a different space from where I do my jewelry metalwork.  You can't do nice papercrafts on a dirty surface, and it's hard to find little cutouts if you have a lot of clutter.

  • Round the corners *after* gluing paper together - this way I wouldn't have to be so careful about lining up the edges.

  • Use more double-sided tape than glue stick, and a different type of glue for the tiny dots, to make it easier and cleaner.

  • Practice with the rub-on transfer before trying it on a card that's already been glued together.  I ended up with a couple of wonky ones but didn't want to remake the entire card.  Or maybe add the rub-on before gluing anything so it's not too late to fix it!

  • Be more judicious with the stickers and embellishments and err on the side of minimalism.  I don't feel like I used the baby photo stickers the best way possible - they look like an afterthought.

  • Set up an assembly line for cutting and gluing when making several similar cards at once.  I figured this out towards the end of the cutting, but not soon enough to save much time.

Now, let's open it up to the Peanut Gallery (that's you!).  What do you think?  How would you have designed it?  Any tips and tricks for this newbie?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Crafting without a sense of direction or space

So a lot has happened since I bought those first beads in Ashland.  I took a LOT of local jewelry-making classes.  I'm one of those people who learns best from a class.  I do ok with a book, but I am horrible when it comes to just jumping in and figuring things out on my own without any instructional materials.  I guess all that academic learning I did left a mark.

I specifically have a problem visualizing things in 3-D.  I'm that person who has to turn the map so that it's in the direction I'm traveling.   I have no in-built sense of direction - I typically end up memorizing where I need to go, rather than having some spidey-sense on which way I need to head.

I spent hours trying to figure out how to make neat little wire wrapped loops for beads just using a book and various online sites, and mine were still sort of lopsided and wonky.  After one in-person class, where I could watch the instructor do it, I was wrapping like a pro. 

This same 3-D visualization issue tripped me up when I took a sewing class as well.  I learned the trick to sewing things that look so neat and nice is that you assemble and sew them inside-out then flip it around when it's done.  Well, that just totally messed with my mind.  I just couldn't envision how to put things together that way.  I sewed more than one beginner project backwards!

So some aspects of papercrafting are going to be a challenge for me.  I love to look through idea books and magazines to get ideas on cards to make, especially since I'm so new to this and don't really know where to start.  Most of these books give you a high level list of the materials used and steps, but not specific details on what to do when.  It's definitely much more vague than my old chemistry lab manuals.

So I'll have to carefully deconstruct the steps and figure out where to cut first, the order in which to glue items, and that sort of thing.  But, that's why I'm writing it down, right? 

So a question for all of you - what's YOUR crafty challenge?  Is there some aspect of your personality that gets in the way of your crafty vision?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hello from a crafty ex-scientist!

The first post is always hard to write.  It seems so momentous, like it should be some grand introduction to this Huge Adventure Ahead.  But that's too hard, so I spend more time puttering around with the template, because it really is easier to change the link color than write that huge first post about what this blog is all about.

Ok, here we are.  You've figured out from the title that this is about papercrafting.  And that I'm probably some kind of science geek.  So now I can go back to fiddling around with the widgets in the footer, right?  No?  Ok, then, I guess I'll keep going.

If I were writing about myself in the third person like they do on book jackets, I can't claim that I've "always been an artist" or even that I did a lot of crafts growing up.  Sure, I took the required art class in elementary school, and made those plasticky woven keychains at summer camp. 

But mostly, I was a nerd.  I focused on academics.  I did science fair projects and plotted my acceptance into the engineering school of my dreams.  I pretty much accepted that I wasn't an artist, and that I didn't have any creative talent, because I figured a person could only really be good at one thing.  So I got my biology and chemistry degrees, became a software consultant, and eventually got my dream job at a large software company in the Seattle area.Rectangle Czech glass aqua beads

Something was missing, though.   My husband insisted that I needed a hobby other than work (and other than bugging him to go out and do stuff all the time, presumably).   I had no idea what that was supposed to be, other than spending even more time at work.  I got a motorcycle, rode for a couple of years, and sold it.  Nope, that wasn't it.

On a weekend trip to Ashland, OR I happened to wander into a bead shop.  And THAT was the beginning of my crafty life.

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