Feb 062016

What do you do with your holiday cards once the season has passed? I hate to throw mine away, so I often use the front side of the cards to embellish bags, especially store bags with logos on them that can then be used for gifts. You can see one of the bags I decorated below from a post I wrote five years ago, titled Five simple ways to wrap your holiday gifts. Mel Lockcuff, in How to Recycle Old Christmas Cards into Festive Placemats, creates collage-style placemats that are laminated with clear Con-Tact® Brand Clear Covering. Pinterest is stocked with ideas about how to recycle your old Christmas cards, such as crafting a 3-D Christmas tree, creating a paper poinsettia that you can use as a package bow, or even sewing together cards to make a Christmas card basket.

Solid Color Bag

I gathered up my cards from this last Christmas and considered what to do with them.

2016 Holiday Cards

Naturally, I save cards that include newsy notes, as well as holiday post cards with family members’ or friends’ photos. These cards will never be recycled or discarded.

Saved Holiday Post Cards

I decided to target the cards that included blue, gray or silver on the front side of the card so that I could make snowflake gift tags. Then I dug into my collection of wafer thin dies and paper punches to see what snowflake patterns I could generate. I did add scrap papers, as needed, in solid sky blue, royal blue and white, as well as some adhesive crystals, and embellished the tags with markers and Tim Holtz Distress Ink. The supplies and tags for the entire project are listed at the bottom of this post, and are identified with numbers so that you can duplicate these tags if you wish, or use my tags as inspiration for your own.

Gift Tag Group 1

From left to right: Tag A – 1, 2, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15. Tag B – 1, 2, 3, 6, 9, 13, 14, 15. Tag C – 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 15.

Gift Tag Group 2

From left to right: Tag D – 1, 2, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11a, 12. Tag E – 1, 2, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11a, 12, 13, 15. Tag F – 1, 2, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11a, 12.

From left to right: Tags G – 1, 8, 11, 12. Tag H – 7, 8, 9, 10, 11a, 12. Tag I –7, 8, 9, 10, 11a, 12. Tag J – 1, 8, 11, 12.

From left to right: Tag G – 1, 8, 11, 12. Tag H – 7, 8, 9, 10, 11a, 12. Tag I –7, 8, 9, 10, 11a, 12. Tag J – 1, 8, 11, 12.

Favorite Gift Tag

Snowflake Tag K above is my favorite one. Supplies include 1, 6, 9, 10, 11, and 12.

When I was finished with the snowflake tags, which involved six different holiday cards, I ended up with more than two dozen gift tags. Yes, it’s detailed work, but it’s relaxing in the same way that you might find coloring the images inside adult coloring books.

What do you do with your old holiday cards?


Please note that some of these items have been discontinued or are out of stock from the manufacturer. If you search for the exact term shown below, however, you may find other sources for the item. The links provided do not necessarily represent the lowest price, but simply availability at the time of this post.

1. Die – Spellbinders S4-114 Standard Circles
2. Die – Spellbinders S4-404 Create-a-Flake Five
3. Die – Spellbinders S5-065 Moroccan Motifs
3a. Die – Memory Box 98914 Bristol Snowflake
4. Punch – EK Success 1” Scallop Circle
5. Punch – EK Success 1-1/4” Circle
6. Punch – EK Success 2” Circle
7. Punch – EK Success 2” Scallop Circle
8. Punch – EK Success 2-1/2” Circle
9. Ranger Tim Holtz Distress Ink Pad, Faded Jeans
10. Making Memories Deluxe Paper Piercer
11. Marker – Sharpie Permanent Marker Silver Metallic
11a. Marker – Copic Sketch B97 Night Blue
12. Adhesive – Xyron Create-a-Sticker 150 and Xyron Create-a-Sticker 500
13. Adhesive – Judi Kins Diamond Glaze
14. Adhesive – Aleene’s Fast Grab Tacky Glue
15. Embellishment – Hero Arts Gemstones

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Jul 262015

Are inkjet-printed papers a good option for your paper-crafting projects? When I first began crafting handmade books, I used only commercial papers from scrapbooking stores because I assumed they are more colorfast and water-resistant. I have changed my mind, however, and am gradually printing more papers from digital designs, especially for custom orders that involve very specific color-and-design requests. I simply don’t have time to sift through hundreds of individual papers in my storage bins. Running all over town to find the perfect paper option is not a good use of time, and it can be a waste of car fuel, too.

I don’t want anyone to think that I am pushing inkjet-printed papers over commercial ones—talented graphic artists design both types—but when it comes to storage space, I can store thousands of digital papers on a flash drive no bigger than my thumb, as opposed to a stack of paper trays containing hundreds of papers that stand almost as tall as I am. It is also easier and faster to comb through a digital file system to locate specific papers than it is to find physical ones.

The cost of digitally-designed papers might be considered to be cheaper than the cost of commercially-printed papers. For example, a digital paper pack of 10 papers might cost you $3 to $5, while an individual sheet of designer paper typically runs a dollar. Some might argue that the cost of printer ink mitigates the advantage of using digital files that can be re-used to print hundreds of papers, but that’s not an issue I am addressing in this post.

The papers designs shown above were generated digitally and printed on an inkjet printer.

The papers designs shown above were generated digitally and printed on an inkjet printer.

So, how colorfast and water-resistant are papers that are printed on your home inkjet printer? The answer is that it depends on the type of ink your printer uses. Inkjet printers use either pigment ink or dye ink. According to InkGuides.com, pigment ink sits on top of the paper instead of being absorbed into it, and is water-fast in most instances. It dries fast, has a long life, and the colors tend not to fade. This is the type of ink usually found in the cartridges used by color inkjet printers. Dye ink, on the other hand, is used more often in monochrome printers. Colors are available in a wide range, and they are both brilliant and high-contrast.

The age of your inkjet printer can also be a factor that affects the quality of your inkjet-printed papers. A printer that is 10 years old, for example, prints at a lower resolution, may have less water-resistant ink, and may use ink cartridges whose ink fades more quickly. This is because inkjet technology has improved over the years.

“Intensive research and development is continuously done in printer inks,” says InkGuides.com in its article, Ink Types used in Inkjet Cartridges, “which mean that both dye and pigment inks are steadily becoming better in their weak areas.”

There are great inkjet printers that are commonly available from HP, Epson, Canon and other manufacturers in most electronics or office supply stores. My experience is mostly with HP printers, so that’s the ink I’m discussing in this post. HP’s Vivera Photo-versatile inks are designed to be used with HP Photosmart, select HP Deskjet printers and all-in-one products. According to HP, “When combined with HP photo papers, HP Vivera Photo-versatile inks deliver vibrant prints that resist fading for generations. In addition, most HP Vivera Photo-versatile inks are designed to deliver great everyday plain paper printing for documents, e-mail, web pages, and more.” The statistics about the durability of this ink—up to 108 years versus 17 to 40 years for lab-processed photos—make for interesting reading. Visit HP Vivera Inks: Brilliant, Enduring Color for more details.

Today's inkjet printers typically use four to twelve ink cartridges.

Today’s inkjet printers typically use four to twelve ink cartridges.

No printed papers, of course, will survive poor storage conditions: exposure to temperature extremes, sun, wind, water, and so on. For both commercially-printed papers and inkjet-printed papers, you have to employ common sense when you choose your paper storage system.

There is another factor that determines how durable ink is, and that is the type of paper you use. Both commercially printed paper and plain card stock are coated, which means that the ink you print on them will be more water-resistant and fade-resistant than if you printed, for example, on absorbent watercolor paper or paper towels. These latter types of paper products can produce interesting, beautiful results—but if you want the ink to last, you’ll probably have to coat your finished project with some kind of sealant. Some artists like to use spray sealants, but because of many sprays’ toxicity and odor, I prefer to use a micro glaze called Tim Holtz® Distress Micro Glaze™. Although it’s not absolutely necessary to use this type of product on commercially-printed or inkjet-printed papers, I do so because it adds an extra layer of water-resistance to my handmade book covers.

Tim Holtz Distress MIcro GlazeIn Bookbinding Tips: Protecting Covers, Jennifer of Sea Lemon on YouTube describes how she likes to use a clear spray varnish to protect her work. It’s really up to you. If you fast-forward to 1 minute and 50 seconds in her video, she discusses the difference between commercially-printed papers and inkjet-printed papers.

In the final analysis, if you’re low on paper storage space, or you need to keep a wide range of papers available on short notice for custom orders, you may wish to consider using digital papers that you can print yourself as you need them.

© 2015 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Jul 052015

I had the pleasure last week of filling a custom order for three books for a repeat buyer. Custom orders always provide me with an opportunity to play with new options—options I may consider adding to future listings in my MisterPenQuin shop on Etsy. This order involved two gratitude journals and one password book. These books were different from most of the other books I make because the recipients were men, not women—no paper-crafted flowers for these covers!

The middle book is for passwords, while the two on either end are gratitude journals.

The middle book is for passwords, while the two on either end are gratitude journals.

When I filled the order, I gave my buyer the option of four different cover layouts. The first option was a single design paper for the entire cover, which is what I normally do before adding embellishments. My buyer didn’t use this layout at all.

Layout Option #1

The second option involved matting a design paper against solid card stock, which is a “must” if you deal with glittery or flocked card stock. The paper has a tendency to crack if you fold it, so it’s best used in its flat form. My buyer chose this option for one of the gratitude journals, but gave me free rein when it came to adding embellishments. I adhered a metal word band from the Tim Holtz Idea-ology collection to the bottom of the front cover, and then added a dimensional clock above it. The clock was made from three different components. The face is a digital design from Optic Illusions, while the clock frame is simply a circle punched from another digital design by Digital Stories. The hands of the clock are actually game spinners from the Tim Holtz Idea-ology collection. I “painted” over the clockface with a Sakura Glaze pen to give the “glass” more of a vintage look and feel. I added white faux stitching to the solid navy card stock strip going across the width of the cover with a Uni-ball Signo broad-tipped pen.

Layout Option #2


The third option involved matting two different papers against solid card stock, as shown below. My buyer gave me complete freedom to do whatever I wanted with the password book. I chose Layout Option 3 for it, except that I didn’t divide the papers exactly as described below. I wanted the cover to look like wallpaper-and-wood paneling in a seaside coffee shop, so I covered the bottom half of the cover with woodgrain paper, and the upper half with ship helms—both of which were digital designs from Digital Stories. I used a black permanent marker to add “nails” to the paneling, and completed the look with a metal word band from the Tim Holtz Idea-ology line.

Layout Option #3


The fourth and final option allowed three different papers to be matted against solid card stock. My buyer choose this layout for the second gratitude journal. I turned the layout upside down because the papers seemed to look better that way. The papers come from the Genuine collection by Authentique. The clock was crafted the same way I described for the first gratitude journal, and once more I used a metal word band from the Tim Holtz Idea-ology collection. I painted the band gold with an Elmer’s Metallic Painters pen, but then deliberately distressed it to give it an aged look.

Layout Option #4


My buyer asked me to add “framed” dedication space to the first page in each book so that she could pen a handwritten message. All three of the books also included requested quotations on the inside front cover. The last book in the collection of photos below does not show this quotation because it had not yet been supplied at the time I took these photos, but space was provided for it to be added later.

Inside the Books

I must admit that because of the options I offered my buyer, it was necessary to send messages back and forth more frequently than usual before the order could be confirmed, but the extra communication was not a problem. Overall, this was a fun custom order to fill. In the future, I anticipate I will use the layout options again for custom orders. I may even add an option for a “dedication space” on the first page of all books for a nominal charge. And after completing this order, I am encouraged to add more “gender neutral” items to the Gifts for Guys section in my shop, using some of the ideas from this order.

Custom orders challenge your creativity, so I enjoy them!

© 2015 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.