Jun 022018

It’s funny how a jar filled with sequins can evoke memories. When I completed several greeting card projects last year that included sequin-filled shaker windows, I was reminded of the time not long after we married, when my husband was stationed at Coronado’s naval base in southern California and I worked part-time at a local store called Cora Mart, located on Orange Avenue.

Cora Mart, which closed its doors in 1996 after more than 30 years of business, was an old-fashioned general store where you could find anything you needed except groceries. There were probably fewer than half a dozen aisles in the store, but their shelves and unpainted pegboards were well-stocked. Cora Mart was like a miniature department store without the frills. There were no display windows, no air conditioning, and no carpeted floors. The linoleum tile floors were cracked and faded, and the register counter at the front of the store was crowded with candy, gum and baseball cards. Needless to say, this was not the age of bar codes, so if a product wasn’t marked with a price, you’d ask a fellow clerk who might or might not know where to look it up—or you’d simply make up a reasonable price on the spot.

At the back of the store you’d find fertilizer, weed killer and garden tools, hardware, hammers and other implements. Another aisle sported storybooks, games, puzzles, toys, baby clothes and diapers. There was a household section stocked with towels and wash cloths, pots and pans, dishes, kitchen gadgets, stain removers and a smorgasbord of household cleaners. Another area was geared toward home dec—lamps, clocks, picture frames and doilies. And then there was the drugstore section with its first aid supplies, aspirin, wart remover and Pepto Bismol lookalikes. My favorite aisle, of course, included fabrics, buttons, rick rack and lace trims, sewing notions and craft supplies.

Among those craft supplies was the most beautiful collection of sequins I have ever seen. Sure, you’d find round or faceted sequins and star-shaped ones, but I recall shiny slivers of plastic shaped like tiny crescent moons, leaves, wreaths, pine trees, flowers, butterflies, birds and so much more. When I crafted my shaker card windows and filled them with sequins, I wished for more than circles or stars.

This afternoon I decided that it might be fun to make my own sequins. Equipped with a Die-namics Sequins die, some leftover Oil of Olay packaging in gold and silver plastic, as well as some Elizabeth Craft Designs Shimmer Sheets in such yummy shades as Australian Opal Gemstone, Pink Iris, Blue Iris and Imperial Garnet Gemstone, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.

My first roll of the die through my Big Shot crackled and crinkled like a champ, but the results were less than spectacular. I think more than half of the sequins cracked and flew off into multiple directions, but what was left could still be used for shaker windows or card embellishments, as long as you weren’t planning on sewing them into place. The die couldn’t seem to punch holes through the sequins, at least not consistently. I suppose I could have punched holes one sequin at a time with a paper piercer or sewing needle, but the word that comes to mind is labor-intensive.

Then I tried the Shimmer Sheets, and these were less of a failure, probably because they were thinner than the plastic packaging and were actually designed to be cut with craft dies. I’m not sure the sequin die I used was designed to cut Mylar, however. In fact, the die packaging reads, “Die-namics will cut through: card stock, thin chipboard, ¼” cork, felt, acetate, sticky-back canvas, fabric, denim, sandpaper, 2 mm craft foam, wood veneer paper, photo magnet sheets, and MORE.” Acetate seems like Mylar, but you’ll notice that Mylar was not on the list. Many of my sequins were missing center holes, and I struggled to remove the Mylar film from the die shapes. Hmmm, I thought, I think I know why people purchase sequins instead of making their own.

On the other hand, if you watch a video titled DIY Paper Sequins on thefrugalcrafter channel, you’ll see that Lindsay Weirich gets good results with a hole punch, paper piercer, wooden dowel and shiny card stock. Who knew?

My handmade sequin-making experiment, however, made me wonder how industrial sequins are made. Certainly, I can’t beat the speed at which the sequins are punched in the short video shown below:

According to Smithsonian’s A History of Sequins from King Tut to the King of Pop, written by Emily Spivack, the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 revealed gold discs sewn on his garments, suggesting wealth. The intent, presumably, was to prepare him for a financially-secure afterlife. These gold discs were likely an early version of sequins, a word whose origins go back to the Arabic word “sikka,” which means coin or minting die. Over the ages, writes Spivack, coins or precious metal discs continued to be sewn onto garments. Even Leonardo da Vinci was fascinated by them, and in his day, women wore dresses called gamurra that had metal discs sewn onto them. One of da Vinci’s many sketches was a diagram for a sequin-producing machine, although the machine itself was never built. In the 1400s, gold coins sewn onto garments in Venice were called “zecchino.”

Yesterday’s metal discs are today’s plastic sequins, spangles, paillettes or diamantes—each looking somewhat different. Sequins typically have a center hole, while spangles have a hole at the top. Paillettes are large and flat, and diamantes are artificial, glittery or ornamental gems. What they share in common is that they can be sewn onto garments, shoes, bags and other accessories.

A Brief History of Sequins points out that the coins originally sewn on garments were heavy and eventually migrated to shiny, lighter-weight gelatin discs in the 1930s that had a tendency to dissolve when exposed to heat. The gelatin itself came from animal carcasses, according to 5 Sparkling Facts About Sequins, and was rolled into sheets from which the sequin shapes were cut out. Sometimes the pattern of the dissolved sequins on the garments of a dancing couple told a story, which explains the then-popular phrase, “missing sequins could tell tales.” A Brief History of Sequins explains that the non-gelatin version of sequins came about, also in the 1930s, when Herbert Lieberman, in partnership with Eastman Kodak, created sequins from acetate stock. In the 1950s, when Dupont invented Mylar, the fragile acetate sequins were coated with Mylar, which made them more durable. Today sequins are usually made from plastic.

I began this post, reminiscing about the variety of sequins I was able to purchase in the late 70s and early 80s. Today you’ll usually find round, star or heart-shaped sequins at your local Joann’s, Michael’s, Hobby Lobby or Walmart stores. Looking for something outside the norm? You will probably need to shop online, although fortunately you don’t have to look overseas. The alphabetical list below is not an endorsement of any particular site; it simply represents a starting point for more unique sequins. When searching for such sequins, it’s helpful to look under “shapes.”

If there is a shop where you have discovered interesting sequins, please share your information in the comments below.

© 2018 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Apr 232015

There is more than one way to make your own envelope, as well as more than one tool that will get the job done. That’s why I hemmed and hawed about purchasing a We R Memory Keepers Envelope Punch Board, when I already owned a Martha Stewart Crafts® Scoring Board that enabled me to make perfectly serviceable envelopes. In the end, I caved in to curiosity, and discovered I had purchased much more than an envelope-making gadget. By combining it with other commonly-available tools (such as a paper trimmer and a hole punch), you can make envelope liners, index tabs, tab divider pages, tabbed folders, gift boxes, and more.

Before I compare both tools’ capacity to create the same envelope, let’s take a look at their physical features.

Just the Facts

The Martha Stewart Crafts® Scoring Board, which sells for $19.99, measures 13 inches wide by 14.25 inches tall, and includes vertical and horizontal edge rulers in eighth-inch increments, with corresponding scoring grooves. Both rulers accommodate up to 12.5 inches. A lidded compartment provides charts for standard card sizes, gatefold cards, boxes and lids. A triangle-shaped envelope guide slides beneath the board for storage, and includes a chart for making envelopes for dimensional cards. All measurements are in inches.

Martha Stewart Crafts Scoring Board

The We R Memory Keepers Envelope Punch Board, which retails for $19.99, measures 10.5 inches wide by 6.75 inches tall, and includes parallel inch and metric rulers at the top edge of the tool. The 5-inch ruler is divided into eighths of an inch, printed in white.  The 13-centimeter ruler below it has grooved millimeter markings. The board includes a dual-sided punch, with one side for envelopes, and the other side for rounding corners. Directions for use, along with a chart for making 66 different card sizes, are screen printed on the top surface of the tool. Metric measurements are printed on a separate sheet and accompany any purchase. The A2 measurement on my punch board is incorrect, indicating a card size of 4.5 by 5.5 inches instead of 4.25 by 5.5 inches. Although later versions of this board may have corrected this error, I want to point out that the Stampin’ Up Envelope Punch Board, identical to the We R Memory Keepers Envelope Punch Board because both were made by the same company, has the correct information. I watched a video on YouTube that provided these suggestions:

  • Card size measures 4.25 x 5.5 inches (when it’s folded).
  • Paper size for envelope measures 8 x 8 inches.
  • Score line is at 3.5 inches.

We R Memory Keepers Envelope Punch Board

If you bought one of the early versions of this tool (earlier than mine, which I bought in 2014), your Envelope Punch Board may have at least eight errors, which can be corrected by printing out this sheet and taping it to your board.Corrections to We R Memory Keepers Envelope Punch BoardBoth the Martha Stewart Crafts® Scoring Board and the We R Memory Keepers Envelope Punch Board come with a scoring tool that doubles as a bone folder. The Martha Stewart scoring tool is tucked inside the lidded compartment, while the We R Memory Keepers scoring tool tucks into a side slot on the punch board. I often substitute the Martha Stewart Crafts® Bone Folder or the Fiskars Dual-Tip Stylus Embossing Tool for the one included with the Martha Steward board because I think each of these fits better in the scoring grooves and thus scores more easily.

From top to bottom: Fiskars, Martha Stewart Bone Folder, Martha Stewart Crafts Scoring Board Bone Folder

From top to bottom: Fiskars Dual-Tip Stylus Embossing Tool, Martha Stewart Bone Folder, Martha Stewart Crafts Scoring Board Bone Folder

Alternate Uses

This post is not intended to be an encyclopedia article, citing all alternate uses for the Martha Stewart Crafts® Scoring Board and the We Re Memory Keepers Envelope Punch Board. However, it’s a fact that while both do envelopes easily and well, both can also be used for other projects. This post provides links to a good selection of them.

The Martha Stewart Crafts® Scoring Board’s advertised uses include invitations (or cards), envelopes, boxes and unspecified “other projects.” Links to tutorials for these and other projects that you might wish to explore can be found here:

The We R Memory Keepers Envelope Punch Board’s advertised uses include envelopes, fold tabs and rounded corners. Tutorials for these uses, as well as some other projects you can check out, are as follows:

Click on this image to watch a video about Crafty Owl's Box Buster app that allows you to create just about any size box you need with your Envelope Punch Board.

Click on this image to watch a video about Crafty Owl’s Box Buster app that allows you to create just about any size box you need with your Envelope Punch Board.

This is a screenshot of the Box Buster tool in action. You enter the desired box depth, height and width, and the app will tell you what size to cut your paper, and where the first and second punches should go. Easy-peasy!

This is a screenshot of the Box Buster tool in action. You enter the desired box depth, height and width, and the app will tell you what size to cut your paper, and where the first and second punches should go. Easy-peasy! Visit http://www.thecraftyowl.co.uk/boxbuster/, or click on this image.

Making a Non-Standard Sized Envelope

I offer my MisterPenQuin customers a free mini note card when they purchase an item from my shop. The card measures 2 by 2 inches, but I have never found envelopes to match them. Neither the Martha Stewart Crafts® Scoring Board nor the We R Memory Keepers Envelope Punch Board offers envelope dimensions for such a small card. Through trial-and-error, I discovered that I can make an envelope that works, but the folded tips look a little funky where they meet. I use a circle punch to modify it, and think that looks marginally better. My “recipe” for this mini envelope, using the Martha Stewart Crafts® Scoring Board, is as follows:

  • Cut the paper 4-5/8 x 4-5/8 inches.
  • Score and fold at 2 inches on all sides.
  • Use a circle punch to punch a half-circle as shown below.

Mini Envelope with Scoring Board

I was curious to know whether I could use the same instructions for the mini envelope with the We R Memory Keepers Envelope Punch Board, but as you can see when the shapes sit side by side, as well as when the envelope is finished, it is just a little bit too large. If I needed a mini envelope for a dimensional card, however, this might work just fine.

In both photos, the envelope on the left was made using the Martha Stewart Crafts Scoring Board. The envelope on the right was made using the We R Memory Keepers Envelope Punch Board.

In both photos, the envelope on the left was made using the Martha Stewart Crafts Scoring Board. The envelope on the right was made using the We R Memory Keepers Envelope Punch Board.

I discovered, by visiting the We R Memory Keepers Web site, that they recently developed an app called Envelope Generator for just about any size envelope you might need, so if the size you’re looking for isn’t printed on your punch board, you can come up with the paper size and scoring line this way. The app is designed for iOS and Android phones and tablets, but if you don’t have one of these, you can visit the Web site instead and use the online version of Envelope Generator. It’s quite easy to use. Just enter the dimensions of your card, and click on Generate. The app tells you what size paper you need to cut, in my case a square that measures 7-5/8 by 7-5/8 inches, as well as where to score. For my mini envelope, that’s the 2-inch mark.

Envelope Generator

Click on this image to visit Envelope Generator online.

The 1-2-3 Punch Board

You’ll notice that the Envelope Generator app refers to a “1-2-3 Punch Board,” which was introduced at CHA 2015 and will be coming out soon in your local craft stores and online. This punch board’s advertised uses are envelopes, boxes, and bows, but the idea booklet that accompanies the tool also provides instructions for envelope liners, tabbed file folders and coin envelopes. Tutorial links for those same items are in this post using the Envelope Punch Board, so don’t despair if you recently bought one and are just now hearing about the “new and improved” 1-2-3 Punch Board. The main difference is ease of use. In the spirit of fairness, however, take a look at the video below and decided for yourself if you really need to replace your Envelope Punch Board. At the time this post was written, you could get a special deal for the We R Memory Keepers Punch Board Party Collection on HSN that includes the 1-2-3 Punch Board, a Banner Punch, and some extra supplies for $59.95, plus shipping. Do I plan on replacing my Envelope Punch Board? Not at this time, especially since I own some of the other We R Memory Keepers punch boards and there is some duplication in function already. But I’m tempted!

If you don’t have a scoring board—the Martha Stewart one, Scor-Pal or any of a number of other types—that’s a good place to start for creating cards, envelopes, boxes, rosettes and many other projects. By combining a scoring board, paper trimmer, and the We R Memory Keepers Envelope Punch Board (or the soon-to-be-released 1-2-3 Punch Board), there’s probably no limit to what you can accomplish. What tools do you use to make some of the items described in this post?

© 2015 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Aug 312012

The first time I stepped into a scrapbooking store to buy a rubber stamp and a stamping ink, I almost turned around and exited. There were just too many choices! I almost felt as if I needed to take an art class before I could shop, which would’ve been the second art class I’d ever taken. I took Art Class Number One more than a decade ago, a basic drawing class for adults with six thumbs. I still have more thumbs than I need when it comes to drawing, but I’ve learned a few other things along the way.

Thankfully, it is is easy to learn about paper crafting inks and techniques. Scrapbooking stores everywhere provide project classes for their customers on a regular basis; paper crafting manufacturers and bloggers alike offer how-to hints on the Internet; YouTube has a wealth of tutorials, and every bookstore has paper crafting books and magazines. One of my favorite resources about inking techniques, in fact, is Jennifer McGuire’s Thinking Inking classes. Between all of these resources, I’ve gradually learned the differences between pigment and dye inks, and when to use chalk ink, archival ink, distressed ink, embossing ink, watermark ink and other inks. I’m sure there are a few I’ve missed!

I learned how to use different kinds of inks and inking techniques while making these cards at a local scrapbooking store.

Although there are categories of inks I have not covered, below is a description of the most commonly used paper crafting inks. You’ll notice that some inks fit in more than one category.

Archival ink is water-resistant, acid-free and great for archival purposes. It can be water, pigment, or solvent-based. Archival ink is also great for stamping outlines of objects that you want to color in with other inks, since it will not smear or dilute when other types of ink come in contact with it.

Examples:  Brilliance Archival Pigment Ink Pad by Tsukineko, Copic® Multi Liner Pen, Ranger Archival Ink

Dye inks are water-based and dry quickly on either matte or glossy paper. They are not appropriate for embossing because they dry too quickly. Because they have a transparent quality, you can create watercolor effects with them. If you are stamping on absorbent surfaces, the ink may bleed when you stamp with it; glossy paper yields crisper stamping results. Dye inks do have a tendency to fade over time, especially when exposed to light.

Examples: Adirondack® Dye Ink Pad by Ranger, Hero Hues™ Dye Ink, Impress Dye Ink by Tsukineko, Kaleidacolor Stamp Pads by Tsukineko, Memento by Tsukineko, Tim Holtz® Adirondack® Color Wash

Distress ink is a water-based, acid-free dye ink that is designed to spread to other areas when diluted with water. It is perfect for blending with other colors of distress ink. It comes in stamp pads, markers and bottles. For many of these inks, you can buy re-inkers to extend the life of your stamp pad. You can mix up your own spray bottle of distress ink by combining inkdrops with water.

Examples: Tim Holtz® Distress Ink by Ranger, Tim Holtz® Distress Marker by Ranger, Tim Holtz® Distress Stain™

Embossing ink is glycerin-based and dries very slowly. It is intended to be used with embossing powder. When you heat the powder, it melts and adheres to the ink, creating a raised surface that is permanent. Embossing ink is available in both opaque and clear forms. The main advantage to opaque embossing ink is that you can see clearly where you have stamped. If you use clear embossing ink, it can also be used as a resist; ink your surface first, then brayer over it with colored ink or paint.

Examples: EMBOSS Embossing Stamp Pad by Tsukineko, Inkssentials™ Emboss it by Ranger

Pigment inks are thick, opaque, slow-drying and fade-resistant inks that are designed to be used with embossing powders. You can use virtually any color of pigment ink with an embossing powder since it is covered by the powder when heat set; it is not necessary to match your pigment ink to the embossing powder. You can also blend several different colors of this ink for special effects. If you stamp pigment ink onto glossy paper, you will need to heat set it or emboss it to make it permanent. Some pigment inks are designed to be heat set, which makes the color permanent and the colors more vibrant. With heat-set pigment inks, you can stamp paper, fabric and slick surfaces.

Examples: Adirondack® Pigment Ink by Ranger, Copic® Multi Liner Pen, VersaColor™ Ultimate Pigment Ink by Tsukineko, VersaFine™ by Tsukineko, VersaMagic™ by Tsukineko, VersaMark® by Tsukineko

Chalk inks have a pigment base, and dry very quickly. When they are dry, they have a matte, powdery finish. They are not appropriate for embossing.

Examples: ColorBox® Chalk, Hero Hues™ Chalk Ink

Metallic and pearlescent inks are pigment inks that dry faster than most other pigment inks, but with a metallic or luminescent sheen. You’ll find them in stamp pads and spray bottles.

Examples: Brilliance and Encore Ultimate Metallics byTsukineko, ColorBox® Pigment Stamp Pad, ColorBox® Pigment Brush Pad, Perfect Pearls™ Mists by Ranger, Pssst! Sheer Shimmer Spritz by Tsukineko

Watermark inks are a type of pigment ink designed to create translucent designs or background designs. When you stamp them on colored paper, they darken the paper. Chalk can be applied to the ink, creating a shadow effect, or the ink can be used as a resist.

Example: VersaMark® Watermark Stamp Pad by Tsukineko

Solvent-based inks are designed for non-porous surfaces such as glass, metal or plastic–or glossy papers. You can find them in stamp pad form, paints and markers. They are permanent and waterproof when dry, and are considered archival.

Examples: Copic® Sketch Marker, Tim Holtz Adirondack® Alcohol Ink by Ranger, StāzOn® Opaque by Tsukineko, Piñata Alcohol Ink by Jacquard

If you are unsure about the properties of an ink you want to use, I recommend visiting the manufacturer’s Web site for details and product suggestions:

Let me know what inks you would add to this list of commonly-used paper crafting inks.


  • Andrus, Julia. Paper Transformed: A Handbook of Surface-Design Recipes and Creative Paper Projects. Quarry Books, 2007.
  • Curry, Nancy. Texture Effects for Rubber Stamping. North Light Books, 2004.
  • Holtz, Tim. A Compendium of Curiosities. Advantus Corporation, 2010.
  • Taormina, Grace. The Complete Guide to Rubber Stamping. Watson-Guptill Crafts, 1996.

© 2012 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.