Friday, October 25, 2013

I've moved!



I've moved! I have returned to a self-hosted Wordpress blog at craftyinalabama.com. Please join me there, and be sure to update your subscriptions!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Hope Spoken Link-Up


Today I'm participating in the Hope Spoken Link-Up, a conference I'll be attending in March. Visit hopespoken.org to learn more!


A selfie I just took and an introduction: Hi, Hope Spoken ladies! I am so excited to be linking up with all of you, and even more excited to meet you face-to-face in March. My name is Shannon Miller and I live in Huntsville, Alabama. I'm 28 years old, married to my sweet, tall, Southern gentleman husband, Nathan, for 6 years, and we have two adorably wild babies: Georgia, who is 2-1/2, and Ryland, who is almost 1-1/2. Yes, you're reading that right that my children are 14 months apart - to the day. Yes, they were planned and no, I have no idea what we were thinking. But they are amazing and hilarious and bring so, so much joy to our lives.

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I work in crafts publishing as an editor/art director. Previously, I was the founding editor of Stitch Craft Create magazine (which is actually how I became friends with Danielle Burkleo, a Hope Spoken cohost, who contributed to every issue of SCC), and currently, I serve a dual support role for Sew Beautiful magazine. Right now, I'm also writing my first book! It's a papercrafts book, and is coming out next fall from North Light.

Something I'm nervous about: I am literally frightened that my faith won't match up with so many other women that will be at this conference. I'm used to attending craft industry conferences for work, or corporate events - events that are about representing a brand, not events that are all about representing your innermost self! My relationship with God is relatively new, fragile and full of doubt. I barely go to church. Sometimes I wonder if I should even come to Hope Spoken because of that - it seems like a big commitment to make for something I'm so unsure about - but part of my also feels like that is all the more reason to come. I'm hopeful that I'm making the right decision and eager to see what comes of it.

Something I hope to take away from Hope Spoken: I think I'm most excited for a chance to connect with other women one-on-one in the small group sessions, and I hope that I form some new friendships that can continue to grow! I have very little faith-based connections to other women my age locally, so I am excited to see what I'm missing out on.

Something fun/random about me: I drink way too much coffee and Diet Coke, I cannot stick to a diet to save my life and I wear jeans every single day. I am not a huge fan of chocolate and I love to laugh. I have dreams about being a ballerina, even though I probably couldn't touch my toes if I tried. I was a gymnast when I was young, though, and I always said that if I ever met a boy with the last name "Miller," that I would marry him so that I could be "Shannon Miller," just like my favorite gymnast. So later, at 19, I met my husband on a blind date and decided to tell him that story when we met. Like a crazy person who is trying to scare a man away. But -- I guess that worked out in my favor in the end, because we've been together nearly 10 years since that day. ;)

I guess I've covered all of it - I'm excited to meet all of you in March! :)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Halloween Mantel Metallic Pumpkin Makeover


I got a little crafty this week and did a mini-makeover on my old plastic pumpkins. It's officially Halloween at our house now - my dear sweet husband pulled down my bins of decorations a few weeks ago, but I didn't make my lazy self put any of it up until this weekend. One of the big delays was that I've been intending to throw some fresh paint on my old pumpkins. I have these faux Mercury glass bottles that I snagged at TJMaxx last year, and I kept thinking that metallics would be a nice look. Well, fast forward an entire year, and I finally made it happen.


Previously, I'd painted black designs on white plastic pumpkins from Michaels. They were fun, very punchy and cute especially with orange berry picks behind them. Here is our Halloween mantel from 2009:

halloween mantle decorations

crow and spiders

Anyway, after six years of display and storage, the white has started yellowing, and the black paint is looking scratched and faded. I took them out in the front yard and spray painted them mostly silver, plus a few gold.



After they dried, I drew on some simple designs with white glue and sprinkled on silver and gold glitter. It was super messy and pretty fantastic. (I like to use old, unwanted giftwrap as a protective surface on the living room floor to do things like this. When I'm done, I just wad up the whole thing.)



When that was done, I overcrowded them on my mantel, and interspersed some of my other favorite Halloween decorations (the giant black metal spiders that I got on clearance from Pottery Barn several years back). I love it.


I'm guessing these repainted pumpkins will last maybe a couple years before they, too, start to look scratched and yucky; and at that point, I'll probably just scrape off the glue and glitter and layer something else on top. Considering that I got them all half price at the craft store for much cheaper than they cost these days, I'd say I'm getting my money's worth out of 'em.

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Favorite Tools Series: Paper Cutting and Punching



Today's post is the second installment in my new "Favorite Tools Series," in which I'll be sharing some of my most-used cutting and punching tools that I use in papercrafting. Enjoy!


First up: scissors! Shocker, I know. Okay, so I have tried to divide some of my favorite scissors up into different categories. Truth be told, this is just a portion of my huge scissors collection, but these are the ones I find myself using the most (for paper - fabric is a different story, because you know you're not supposed to mix fabric and paper scissors, right? Okay, well if not, you do now.)

Above are a few general purpose shears, which are, of course, a must-have for any crafter. I have found that I like using a few different shears for different purposes. The top pair with the mint green handles are a pair of Martha Stewart scissors that I bought a couple years ago. They have lovely sharp blades and move super smoothly; I use them for a little bit of everything, but mostly for lighter-weight papers and when I need a bit more precision than more clunky shears can offer.

In the middle with the black handles are a pair of extremely cheap kitchen scissors. They cut like crap, but they're great for when you need to cut something with glue/tape, chunky layers or even wired tinsel trim without threatening to goop or tear up your nicer shears. Everybody needs a pair of reject scissors.

On the bottom with the orange handles is a decent pair of Fiskars shears. These are good all-purpose paper scissors like the Martha Stewart ones, but I use them on thicker card stock and for other general crafting as well.



Above we have a couple pairs of precision-tip scissors. My absolute favorite pair of scissors I own are on the right with the yellow and black handles - they are Cutter Bee scissors. On the left is a pair of Martha Stewart spring-loaded scissors that have a non-stick coating on the tip. When you need to cut in tight or intricate spaces, either of these are fantastic options. I tend to use the spring-loaded snips for precision cutting on thicker cardstock and such - the spring joint gives them some extra toughness. The Cutter Bees are my go-to for details and fussy cutting on regular or mid-weight paper. (They're also great for cutting ribbons, trims and fabric embellishments. Cuts like buttah.)



This is a pair of Fiskars Amplify shears. (I actually think this kind with the orange handles is intended for fabric, but they do make some specifically for mixed media and these work just fine.) They cut through really thick materials like nobody's business - bookboard, chipboard, cardboard, cork...my hand doesn't cramp and I feel like a superhero.



And of course, decorative-edge scissors. Above are a pair of Fiskars scallop-edge scissors, and a pair of Martha Stewart fringing scissors. (Okay, I seriously didn't realize how many Martha Stewart products I owned. The scallop scissors are great, but a little difficult to use - it takes some finagling to get the blades to line up just right (punches are easier) but they're very inexpensive and they get the job done. And as you probably know, you can get all kinds of decorative-cut scissors. Just don't go too cheap - you get what you pay for with these guys.


The fringing scissors are so stinking cool. they cut approximately 1/8-inch strips and work on plain paper or cardstock - just don't try anything too thin (like tissue) or thick (like cardboard) because it will jam up the blades. Have I mentioned that I love these things? I love them. Using them saves tons of time making things like fringed strips that will roll up into cute spiky flowers. I only wish they worked on fabric, but I haven't had any luck there yet.




Moving on from scissors, let's talk craft knives, AKA the X-acto knife. (FYI, minor pet peeve - they are not all "X-acto's." It's like how we call all boxes of tissue "Kleenex," but they're not all the actual Kleenex brand.) I have probably 5 regular craft knives hiding on my desk at any given time. X-acto brand, Excel brand, off-brand, Fiskars brand...I think I even have a Martha Stewart one hiding somewhere (of course), and I'd throw box cutter razors and larger utility knives in this category, as well. My favorite is the regular old, standard silver metal handle kind with #11 blades. I've tried different kinds of handles - they make ergonomic ones, fingertip ones (like the short orange Fiskars kind above), swivel ones...but I always seem to go back to my old standby silver handles. Honestly, the fingertip Fiskars blade above? I've used it, like, twice. I just can't get the hang of it - but try out different kinds and see what works best for you, because I know some people swear by it.

The most important thing you can do to get the most out of your craft knives is to regularly change the blades. The very end of the tip can break off easily, and then the blade will continue to dull until you're getting rough-cut edges and incomplete cuts. I love using the little black box you can get from X-acto (pictured above) that comes with a bunch of blades in it, plus a hole on the end where you can safely slide used blades so you don't have to dump them in the trash.

One other thing I really like to use craft knives for is scoring, by flipping the knife over and scoring with the wrong side of the blade. It's so much more precise than a dull bone folder. Just try to make sure you're scoring on the WRONG side of the paper, because it will actually scratch the paper's surface, and you don't want to have that ugliness right side up (a beautiful crisp fold in red paper with an ugly white scratch showing through? no thanks.)



Metal rulers are also a must-have for cutting papers with a craft knife. (You never want to use plastic rulers - the knifes will slice right into the plastic.) I have a pretty large selection of metal rulers - super long ones, super short ones and even a triangular one. Cork-backed straight edges are fantastic for decreasing slippage, too. If you're just starting out, a regular 12-inch metal ruler is great. But as you start to expand your repertoire, you'll notice that you could really use more options, and you can add as you go. I just got my little 6-inch ruler above (the one on top), and it's great for working on small-scale projects like cards - especially when you have a cramped working space like I do.



Hole punching! Who knew there were so many options? (I hear the Crop-A-Dile is amazing for punching holes, and I even bought myself one a few months back, but a ghost stole it from my craft room and I absolutely cannot find it, so I'll have to report back on that one.) Did you know you can even get hole punches with standard handles that punch shapes, like stars, hearts or ribbon slots? Good lord, I love the craft store. Anyway, for regular, everyday duty, I stick to a standard hole punch that I am fairly certain I stole from my parents' office drawer about 20 years ago. The cap that keeps the punched dots inside is long gone, but hey - it does the trick. I have also found myself using this purple-handled Fiskars hole punch that makes a 1/16-inch hole. Check out the difference below:


The 1/16-inch punch is great for projects where I need to string something through my paper pieces, such as threading twine onto pieces of a paper garland.

I also often use an awl for punching small holes. I recently lost my favorite one, but my current awl is pictured above on the right - the pointed needle-like tool with the blue handle. If you can't find an awl in the papercrafts department at the craft store, look in either the clay/pottery section, or in the leather crafts section.


I would highly recommend working over a punching mat when you use an awl - otherwise, you'll make yucky indentations in your cutting mat. Plus, having a surface that the awl can sink into ensures a nice punched hole through all your layers - if you just hit a hard cutting mat underneath, you may not actually punch a hole, because the awl has nowhere to go. I have a tiny punching mat that I got in a 3-piece cutting/punching/measuring set from Stampin' Up a few years back, but you can also just work over a piece of corrugated cardboard or thick foam. Actually, because my little stamping mat is starting to get nasty, I recently bought this piece of foam from the kids craft section of play foam at Michaels:


It's about 1/4 inch thick and is exactly like the "special" mat I bought from Stampin' Up...but way cheaper.




Punches! I love my punches. You can get them in all shapes and sizes - tiny to huge, lever, handled, edge cutters or all-over-the-page... The only issue with paper punches is that you really get what you pay for, so don't expect a whole lot of versatility or shelf-life out of cheap ones. The more you shell out, the more likely you are to be able to punch through thicker cardstock without jamming it up, and without cramping your hand. The best advice I have is to get them when the craft store is running a 40-50% off sale, or use your handy smartphone coupons. (Also, please never check out at the craft store without checking your app for coupons. I know Michaels and Hobby Lobby frequently have good ones.)



In the same family as punches are die cutters. I have a Sizzix Big Shot die cutting machine, and for real, if you don't have one, find one on sale and get one. I love the Big Shot because it comes with an adapter plate that allows you to use many other brands of dies by adjusting the height at which the cutting plates roll through the machine. My favorite dies are Bigz dies, because in addition to paper, they will cut through chipboard, fabric and even multiple layers of felt at one time. I have one die in particular that I love using because it has about ten 1-inch circles on it. Multiply 10 by 2 or 3 layers and you can cut out dozens of circles at one time. It's a huge time-saver.



  • Paper slicers and rotary trimmers: I don't use these as much as my trusty ruler and craft knife, but they are still great to have on hand for quick trimming. These are another tool in the "get what you pay for" category - less expensive trimmers are just not as precise as pricier models. For instance, I have an inexpensive, craft-quality, 12-inch Fiskars trimmer at home, and then at the office, we have a bigger foldout, LED-lit, precision Fiskars trimmer. Guess which one gives me grief and which one is pure bliss? (The Fiskars trimmer we have at work is really cool too because it has interchangeable rotary blades that can cut perforated lines, deckle edges, wavy edges, etcetera.)
  • T-square rulers: For cutting larger pieces of paper to perfect right angles, a t-square is super useful. I also like using my t-square for when I need to use a larger razer or box cutter to cut through thicker materials like chipboard or corrugated cardboard. The metal ruler part is thicker and sturdier than my regular handheld metal rulers, and the "t" part can be held securely against the table or cutting mat edge so that it's not in danger of shifting.
  • Compasses and stencils: From my college days, I have a really nice drafting compass that I like using for drawing larger circles, and a ton of plastic drafting stencils with smaller circles, squares, ovals and more. I used them much more when I did more 2D graphic design, but I still find them useful for crafting - especially the multi-sized circle templates.
  • Eyelet setters: I suppose this should go with my post on paper punches because technically, it punches. The Crop-A-Dile comes highly recommended, but as I mentioned above, I have one that is in its original packaging but has gone missing. In the meantime, I also have a set of spring-loaded Fiskars eyelet setters that work just fine for the little 1/8-inch scrapbooking type of eyelets.

What kind of paper cutters or punches do you love for paper crafting? Feel free to leave any questions below!

Disclaimer: This post contains my personal opinions based on my personal experiences. These products were not given to me by for review; I purchased them of my own accord, with the exception of the LED Fiskars Trimmer that was purchased by my employer, which I used for work purposes.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Friday Link Love

Awhile back (like, several years ago) I used to do a Friday post a collection of some of my favorite things I'd found on the web. I have been seeing a lot of loveliness lately, and I'd love to get back to sharing some of these finds on a regular basis. I hope you enjoy these treasures as much as I did!


^^^ DIY Marquee Light at We Lived Happily Ever After - How stinking cute is this? Georgia would flip to see her name in lights. I may have to try it for her - she has so many empty walls in her room.

My Art was Stolen for Profit (and How You Can Help) at Lisa Congdon - Many of you have probably already seen this, but if not, this is a must-read. (Plus: West Elm's response and an article from Fast Company)

Printable Labels for Your Foodie Fall Gifts at Lia Griffith - Beautifully designed, chalkboard-style, free printable food labels.

Watch A Student Totally Nail Something About Women That I've Been Trying To Articulate For 37 Years at Upworthy - "...setting examples for our daughters really does matter."

"Cups" Tap Dance - Another video. Okay, so I'm getting sick of the Cups song too, but this is just good fun..and the lead dude is a total cutie.

NaNoWriMo: Kickass Tools for Success at Medium Roast - One of these years I am actually going to be able to tackle NaNoWriMo. In the meantime, here are some good tips for those of you who are doing it now.

Mommy Shorts "The Show" - Just discovered this blog and, in turn, her new show. Mom humor ensues.

The best tweets from #AddaWordRuinaChristianBook trend at RNS - I think my favorite is "Blue Like Jazz Hands," though "Paps Mere Christianity" is pretty amazing as well.

Monsters Coloring Page at Dabbles & Babbles - I copied off several sheets of this to enjoy with Georgia tomorrow morning. She loves coloring in pages with lots of little things on them!

Happy Friday!
Shannon

Friday, October 11, 2013

New work! Layered Flower Clip in SCC Gifts


I've been holding off on sharing this until I knew copies were for sale in most locations - a new special edition of SCC, Stitch Craft Create Gifts, that I am proud to have edited!


Oh hey! There's my face. (Still weird to see myself in print. Georgia thinks it's hilarious - "I see Mommy's pitcher!") This is a really fun multicrafts pub that rounds out at 144 pages. It's got a little bit of everything - sewing, jewelry, papercrafts, knit & crochet, etcetera.  


Oh hi again, there's my little flower clip project on the table of contents! I just love this felt & fabric clip turned out. The layers of fabric are made stiff with a fusible interfacing, and each layer has a different embroidered or buttoned embellishment that combine in what is really substantial handmade accessory. It's super easy to make, and though it's included in the magazine's DIY giftwrap section, it comes with an alligator clip so that you can snap it onto a bag, a blouse or a headband. 


The rest of the issue is really phenomenal, if I do say so myself. Our designer Courtney does nothing but top-notch work, and the whole edition is pure eye candy. And truthfully, everything is so DOABLE. There is no lack for functional projects that you would not only actually have a reason and desire to make, but be able to pull off in a short amount of time and with what you have on hand.


I think my absolute favorite project is Angela Bowman's Watercolor Patchwork Hoops. This technique is just so cool - and surprisingly easy. I can't wait to try it. She also has some other versions she's made on her blog, like this gorgeous zipper pouch and this beautiful green and white hoop.


I also love Alma de la Melena Cox's fused fabric artwork, using her Telamadera Fusion technique. I learned about Alma's work after my mom told me about an interview she did on The Quilt Show. I went to look her up, and fell in love. Bonus? She is incredibly kind and generous. There are so many more projects in here from other amazing women I've met through my work on SCC - Danielle, Kristi, Jen, Heidi, Lindsay...so please, run out and check out SCC Gifts. It's a keeper!


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Favorite Tools Series: Glues for Papercraft


Happy Saturday! As most of you know, I am in the throes of writing my first craft book. It's a papercraft book with lots (lots) of projects, so I'm constantly switching between all different kinds of tools and supplies. My desk is always cluttered with stacks of goodies - it looks like a craft store! Piles of cutting tools, measuring tools, clamping tools....I've just got to have all my favorite things at arm's reach for when I need one. Thus, I decided to kick off a little "Favorite Tools Series" here on my blog, where I can share all the materials I like working with in categories. Who knows what we'll cover - seems like a good guest post spot, no?


Today's post is all about my (current) favorite glues for papercraft. I honestly believe that some people are intimidated by glue, and there's no shame in that. I mean, with as much good rapport as I have with glue today, when I hear the term, my mind still automatically thinks "grade school glue that wrinkles, making a huge mess = craft fail." Surely I'm not alone there! But I'm here to tell you - there is life beyond that runny white white stuff. Here are some of my favorites that I've been working with lately. I'd love to hear your input and favorites in the comments!


First up is Fabri-Tac, which is manufactured by Beacon Adhesives. I know, it sounds like a fabric glue, but this stuff? It is amazing for just about anything. In the past, I have called it "hot glue in a bottle" because for many of the same applications in which you might want to use hot glue, Fabri-Tac will probably do the trick (and you won't burn yourself). It's a clear, goopy, gel-like glue that grabs and dries quickly. I find that it works best for when I'm working with fibrous or porous materials, so in papercrafting, I use it when working with handmade or heavily textured papers, as well as when attaching ribbons and trims, or when gluing down things with body, like paper accordion rosettes.

Two big tips for Fabri-Tac from yours truly: It WILL dry out to an unusable, rubbery state, so BE SURE you put your cap back on. It's tiny, but it's red, so just place it somewhere nearby when you're working so that you don't lose it. If you do lose it, at the very least, cover the tip with some paper tape or something to prevent air from getting in. Secondly, be careful when trimming away the tip to open it -- if you trim it too much, it will literally pour out onto your work and make a huge, gloppy mess. Then again, too little, and it will be struggle to get it out. If you're in the market for some Fabri-Tac, I recommend buying two small bottles instead of one big one - then, trim one tip just slightly for more precise applications, and one farther down the nozzle for when you really do just need a nice, big glob of awesome.


Ah, Elmer's! Now, when I was beating up on runny white craft glue above, I didn't mean this stuff. Craft Bond is the go-to glue for when you just need a good, strong hold, but not necessarily immediate dry time. It WILL wrinkle if you use lots over a large area, but if you use smaller dots and a thin application, it won't - especially on thicker papers. I use Craft Bond for adding extra stability to things like paper flowers after they've already been created, by flipping them over and dousing the backside. It can sit overnight, and then it will dry to a nice, firm finish that you couldn't blow up if you tried. I also like to use Craft Bond if I'm attaching paper bits to things like wire or toothpicks for something like a cupcake topper; as long as it can sit for awhile to dry, it's super stable when you're done.

That doesn't mean Craft Bond can't be used for more delicate crafting, though. It's the perfect adhesive for strong holds on paper quilling. When I'm quilling, I either squirt out a little puddle of Craft Bond onto scrap paper and use a straight pin or a needle to apply it; or, I use one of these handy glue pens that has a smaller tip, which are the greatest invention since sliced bread.

Not pictured, but I also use Craft Bond glue sticks..they're my favorite glue sticks. One thing I love them for is to pre-adhere papers together before I sew them on my sewing machine. They're also excellent for gluing thinner papers together over large areas. Craft Bond also has a spray adhesive that I love.


Tombow Mono Liquid Glues! These things are great. I love their applicator tips - precision tip on one end, broad tip on the other with a wide area that makes it easy to spread. The Aqua glue is clear and dries pretty fast. The Multi is white, but dries clear and is super strong. You can also let it dry before applying for a repositionable surface, which I don't really use but does make for a super sticky residue if you get the glue on your hands, so be prepared for that! Tombow Liquid is excellent for cardstock and paper, plus embellishments; and Tombow Multi is also good for that stuff, but works great especially for gluing things like chipboard/bookboard. 


Let's talk decoupage. I am a huge fan of gel medium, which is an acrylic painting medium you can use to add texture to your paintings, and to extend your paint without watering it down. But my favorite use is for collage! Because it's a gel, it's thicker than other more liquid-y decoupage mediums, and the hold is phenomenal. It comes in gloss or matte, and I just use old paintbrushes to apply it - first underneath, then again over the top of whatever paper I'm decoupaging. I'll be honest, I also use my fingers a LOT in decoupage. People say to use a brayer to get air bubbles out...meh. I just push them out and smooth them down with my index and middle fingers. I just like the control and I like getting messy. It's good times.


Last but certainly not least, the glue I've been draining from bottles at a time: Zip Dry. This stuff is phenomenal. It's quick-drying and non-wrinkling, and is perfect for gluing paper to paper. Actually, I use it a lot for gluing card fronts to a folded card base; for awhile I was using double stick tape rollers to do this, but it was frustrating to try to get everything perfectly aligned before sticking them together. Now, I use thin lines of Zip Dry, and I have a few seconds I can shift around the card front to get it perfectly aligned on the card base before it dries.

Three tips for Zip Dry: It dries clear, but very shiny - so be careful of it seeping out beyond the edges of your glued pieces, in case you plan on coating it later with a glossy gel medium or something like that. Secondly, be careful snipping the tip off to open it up. More than once, I've snipped off too much and the glue pours out too quickly. This is easily fixed by replacing the top with a little precision tip applicator that you can purchase separately (I got this bag of bottles at the craft store and just use the nozzle tips). Third, because this stuff dries so quickly and I use it with a precision tip, the tip end will dry over really fast! Just use your fingers or a straight pin to pull off the film that's blocking airflow; and be sure to replace your cap when you're done.



Some other must-mentions that are also great for papercrafts:
  • Aleene's Tacky Glue (I enjoy the Fast Grab type best)
  • Mod Podge (they just have so many different formulas that are lots of fun)
  • Hot glue (does this really need explanation?)
  • PVA (this is basically any white glue like Elmer's, but it's great for bookmaking and chipboard as well as any quilling or general paper crafting)

What kind of glues do you love for papercrafts? Share below in the comments!

Disclaimer: This post contains my personal opinions based on my personal experiences. These products were not given to me by for review; I purchased them of my own accord.
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