May 042012

Although it’s not a new product line in my Mister PenQuin shop on Etsy, I took some time this week to make some Post-it® Note Mini Clipboards to add to the shop.You wouldn’t know it by looking at them, but there are a lot of tools and steps involved in making mini clipboards.

The materials

I start off by gathering the raw materials: chipboard, card stock, binder clips, heavyweight stabilizer scraps left over from sewing projects, buttons, thread, adhesives, and distress ink. Most of the mini clipboards I make are cut from old three-ring binders that have seen better days. The chipboard behind the vinyl covers is much thicker than any chipboard I can find locally, and the price is certainly right. As for the card stock, I use designer scrapbook paper left over from other projects. I store my scraps by color group inside sheet protectors in a three-ring binder. How do you store your paper scraps?

The tools

Next, I gather my tools: Zutter™ Kutter to cut the unusually thick chipboard, Round-it-All to round the chipboard corners, paper cutter to cut the card stock and Crop-A-Dile Corner Chomper to round the corners, sanding block, foam brushes to apply adhesive and distress ink, cutting dies and Sizzix® Big Shot to cut flower layers from card stock, and a petal roller to curve flower petals. Adhesive is applied to the chipboard with a foam brush before I glue the card stock to the chipboard squares. I use a pot scraper to smooth the adhesive evenly; if you have an old plastic credit card or gift card lying around, that works well, too.

As I complete the paper gluing step, I stack chipboard squares beneath a heavy stack of magazines to give the paper time to dry and the chipboard-and-paper combination a chance to form a strong bond. I separate the layers with ordinary kitchen cellophane wrap so there is no chance for one chipboard square to accidentally stick to another one. (Sadly, this is based on experience.) After a couple of hours (or the next day, depending on how much time I have), I use scissors to trim the excess paper from the chipboard squares. I sand the edges smooth with a sanding block, then ink the edges with distress ink, mainly because I like how the walnut-colored ink looks, compared to the naked card stock.

When the chipboard squares are completely finished, I dig into my card stock scraps once more, seeking the best colors and prints that will coordinate with the decorated chipboard squares. Some of that card stock is used to cover a binder clip, while the rest of it is used to make layered flowers. I use cutting dies from different companies to cut the petals, curve them with a petal roller, stack them and sew them together with a button on the center front, and a circle of heavyweight stabilizer on the back. The flower is fastened to the binder clip with the help of a little adhesive to make it more secure.

The results

When the mini clipboards are finished, a process that takes two to three evenings to complete, it’s fun to lay them out and compare them. No two clipboards are ever exactly alike. It feels good to be able to use materials that many people would discard. What are some items that you make using recycled materials?

© 2012 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Apr 292012

This month, Margaret of Splendid Little Stars challenged fellow Blogging Business Artisans members to “create a project that calls to mind how one or all the senses respond to this new beginning time of year.” What calls to both my visual and olfactory senses is flowers, but unfortunately I can’t grow them for dust! The next best thing, at least for me, is any flower that doesn’t require water to survive—in other words, a handmade representation. If you visit my JN Originals and Mister PenQuin shops on Etsy, you’ll notice that many of my products include floral embellishments. This is no accident. I am on a one-woman mission to replace all of the poor blossoms I have forgotten to water over a lifetime.

That’s enough about my botanical failings, however. The way I decided to meet Margaret’s April challenge was to create floral embellishments I can adhere to the covers of mini books I make.  In a previous post, The tutorial that wasn’t, you may recall that my first attempt to meet this challenge didn’t go so well, since I broke my Big Shot® die cutting machine in the process. The fault was entirely my own, of course, since I didn’t follow the manufacturer’s recommended instructions. I ended up, in fact, ordering a replacement Big Shot®. It was an expensive lesson.

The flower I was attempting to emulate (before I broke my die cutting machine) was supposed to look somewhat like the one in the Mini Gratitude Journal shown below. This particular floral embellishment is made by Basic Grey and is called “Bloomers.” (You can click on the any of the photos, by the way, to see the same item in my shop.)

After my Big Shot® die cutting machine replacement arrived, I pulled out my cutting dies once more, this time following the manufacturer’s instructions. I cut out floral shapes from both paper and Creatology™ Foam Sheets that you can buy at Michaels. I layered them, and inserted a Making Memories pebble brad.

I wasn’t finished with my floral experiment, though. What I really wanted to make was a 3-D flower about the same size as Prima Flowers. If you have never seen one of these sparkly little blooms, take a look at this Mini Gratitude Journal that includes one on its cover.

With the help of a video tutorial called Flower Tutorial using distress ink by Creations with Christina, along with a little experimentation and no distress ink at all, I created my own glittery layered flower. Christina’s instructions call for you to cut out two large, two medium and one small floral shape using the Tim Holtz Alterations Tattered Florals cutting die. On a larger project, this would probably work well, but I was aiming for a Prisma Flower-sized embellishment. Instead, I cut four medium flowers and one small flower.

I misted the flowers with water until they were quite wet, then crumpled then into tiny balls. Carefully, I opened up each flower, and dried each one with a heat gun. I added a pearl to the center of the small flower first, cupping the petals around the pearl. Next, I layered the remaining flowers, curving them upward a little as I adhered each one. When I was finished, I spray misted the entire flower with Tattered Angels Glimmer Mist in Pearl to give it a sparkly effect, then dotted it with Inkssentials™ Glossy Accents dimensional medium before pouring glitter over the entire flower. I tapped off the excess glitter, re-heated the flower with the heat gun to dry it, and affixed it to the Mini Blank Book shown below. What do you think?

I really liked the first flower, but wondered what it might look like in black. It took very little time to create another flower.

Creating these tiny little flowers is quick, easy, and fun. I can see myself customizing each mini book with a different one. The added bonus is that these flowers cost a fraction of the packaged, purchased floral embellishments. What’s your favorite way to make paper flowers?

© 2012 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.


Feb 282012

Each month members of the Blogging Business Artisans team on Etsy are challenged to stretch their creativity. This month’s challenge was conceived by Edi of Memories for Life Scrapbooks:

In February we celebrate Valentine’s Day.  My challenge to you: Create a love-themed item.  You can write a creative love letter, make a valentine, make a love-themed home decor item, etc.  Be Creative and Have Fun!

The way in which I chose to implement this challenge was to craft my first-ever hardcover book, a photo journal whose pages consist of modified envelopes, covered with designer card stock cut and folded to form pockets. The theme for this journal, which is a gift for a family member, is “Cherish,” which suggests the relationship between a couple. My German-born mother (now deceased) used to tell us as we were growing up, “People are for cherishing, not for teasing,” so I’m reminded of her with this single word on the cover of the journal.

I learned the techniques for making a hardcover book, creating pocket pages and binding them by watching several YouTube videos, among them the Envelope Mini Album Series (click on the link for the first video) by Kathy Orta of Paper Phenomenon, Stack the Deck Mini Albums by Laura of The Paper Trail, and Robyn’s Scrapbook Mini Album Binding Technique  by Robyn of Injoy Stampin’. I blended these techniques, made some mistakes along the way, and adjusted.

The most fun part of the project was making the photo-matted cards. I adhered various patterned paper shapes, collage-style, onto textured card stock, forming a patchwork of colors and patterns. Each photo-matted card was unique, as well as a surprise, since I simply moved the pieces around until they pleased me.

Another part of the photo journal project that I thoroughly enjoyed was designing journaling tags with different topics, such as Favorite eats & treats, How we met, Words we live by, Our house rules, Our recipe for love, Our favorite vacation and We’ll never do that again!  Once upon a time I ran a home-based desktop publishing business, developing all of the forms, brochures, newsletters and other designs using Corel® WordPerfect® software. I used the same software to design the journaling tags. You could use Microsoft® Office Word software just as easily; I simply prefer the former program. There were 24 journaling tags by the time I was done, not all of which will fit in the journal. However, I figure that if some of the topics don’t strike a chord with the recipient, others will do the trick . . . or they can simply be used in another journal.

I inserted some of the journaling tags in the book itself, and put the remainder in a gift box I made from patterned card stock. For each half of the box, I decided how big I wanted the box to be and added 2 inches to that, cut a rectangle with those dimensions, and scored each side of the shape at the one-inch mark. I folded along the score lines and cut corner flaps, and glued into place. If you don’t have a scoreboard, you can accomplish the same very easily by following this tutorial by Nancy Fallon of The Life and Times of One Loopy Knitter in How to Make a Card Stock Gift Box.

The book was supposed to have six envelopes for its foundation pages, but I made the mistake of not leaving enough space between the last page and the back cover, and it tore off. The lesson I learned was to create a wider spine. Also, the video tutorial called for library-style pockets on both sides of one page. I really think this makes the page too heavy, and would not do this in the next book. This extra weight probably contributed to the last page tearing off. I salvaged the pockets and adhered them to the front and back inside cover. You can see one of these pockets on the left side in the next photo.

You’ll notice, in the above photo, that the far right pocket (actually, a double pocket) is kind of bulky. The video tutorial suggested you use a smaller envelope to form this pocket. On another page, I decided to use card stock instead. Take a look at the difference below.

You can see the “salvaged” library-style pocket on the back inside cover. In my next book, particularly because there are so many tags, I will add a few more pages, keeping in mind that the spine needs to be wider. I would be interested to see if this book would be less bulky using card stock instead of envelopes, too.

I learned a great deal from this challenge, and look forward to making my next hardcover book.

© 2012 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.