product review: Teresa Collins Stampmaker

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Custom stamps for my personal crafting needs have always been a wish list item for me, so I jumped at the chance to review the Teresa Collins Stampmaker. With the Stampmaker, you are able to make your own clear polymer stamps, stencils, and embossing templates using just about any image. It won First Runner-Up for the 2010 CHA Innovative Award!

The Stampmaker set sells for $169 and comes with the light unit, magnetic clamp, ten stamp pacs, two emboss and two stencil pacs, acrylic block for mounting your finished stamps and two sheets of Stampmaker Cling (for mounting stamp to acrylic block), wash brush, post exposure tray, CD with the imagepac artwork modifying program and many exclusive Teresa Collins designs, two sheets of negative film for inkjet printers, eight pre-printed samples of exclusive Teresa Collins designed artwork negatives, plus written and video instructions.

For my first session with the stampmaker, I created seven images to turn into stamps. Above is the set of negative images that I created in Photoshop. I love sending snail mail, so most of these first stamps are graphics that I can use over and over on my outgoing packages.

If you do not have Photoshop or a similar program, the Stampmaker comes with “Imagpac” imaging software for PC computers. Or, you can download free negative stamp images from the Teresa Collins blog

I work on a Mac and am comfortable with Photoshop, so making the negative images was a breeze. You can scan, type, or design just about any black and white graphic and then invert the colors. I printed all seven of my stamps negatives onto one sheet of transparency film (provided with the Stampmaker) using my HP deskjet printer. You can see the resulting transparency below.

You want to be sure to print on the correct side of the transparency film (it is slightly sticky when touched with a damp finger) and the images must be printed very opaque black. If you are running low on ink and your negative images are streaky, they will not produce nice stamps.

Before proceeding, I watched the video instructions for stampmaking twice and then referred to the written instructions while creating my actual stamps. The procedure is a bit complicated, but by following the directions step-by-step I managed to avoid any mistakes (full disclosure: I made polymer stamps using a similar process once before in a print making class, so I was already somewhat familiar with the Teresa Collins Stampmaker procedure).

To create a stamp, you press a negative image on top of one of the “stamp pacs” in between the provided magnetic clamp, and then place the clamp into the light unit for three minutes. The clear areas of the image allow light to hit and harden the liquid polymer in the pac, creating the raised areas of the stamp. The strong magnetic clamp ensures that the liquid polymer is flattened into a perfectly flat surface for your stamp.

Once the stamp has been exposed, you must wash off any remaining liquid polymer. You trim the edges from the stamp pac and then rinse your stamp under warm water. You can use mild dish soap and the provided cleaning brush to clean out all of the details of your stamp. Once your stamp is totally clean, you re-expose it in the light unit and water tray to harden it once more.

Cleaning the stamps is my least favorite part of the stampmaking process. The polymer is a slight skin irritant, it has a strong odor, and it is messy. You must work diligently to clean out all of the stamp crevices, but not scrub too hard and damage your delicate stamp.

The cleaning step is totally worth the final product, though! All of my stamps turned out beautifully and created crisp clear stamped images. You can use the enclosed “Stampmaker Cling” tape to adhere your stamp to the provided acrylic block and start stamping immediately after cleaning and drying your stamp!

The return address stamp that you see above was more finely detailed and a bit more difficult to clean. I suggest using clear, adequately spaced text for your stamps. You can see that the bolded words “packaged with care by:” on the top line in my stamp are slightly harder to read. I would make that text more clear in a second attempt. Also, I had a very thin dashed line above and below my return address stamp design, but it was accidentally brushed off during my rigorous cleaning of the stamp.

Very fine design elements are harder to produce in the stamps, but they ARE possible. There are troubleshooting steps included in the Stampmaker instructions.

I have dreamed of creating the mailing label stamp seen above for years. I basically used to hand draw that same design on most of my out-going packages, which took way too much time. The stamp is a super-simple design, but I know it is one I will use over and over! (I mounted it on my own acrylic block.)

I love that the Teresa Collins Stampmaker has already made it possible for me to create things I have been thinking about for ages – all without having to place any complicated custom orders or deal with the price and shipping delay that would come with ordering these stamps from an office supply company.

I had a lot of fun making all of my stamps and then using them to pre-stamp multiple mailing envelopes. The stamps worked great on bubble envelopes and will make my mailing and shipping life much easier! There are so many more stamps I plan to make! And even though I do not think I will use them quite as often, I am looking forward to creating stencils and embossing templates with the Stampmaker next.

My ultimate opinion of the Teresa Collins Stampmaker? I love it. The stamps it produces are clear and crisp, and if you have a design already in mind, creating a stamp that you can immediately start using takes less than thirty minutes. The price may be restrictive for many, as will the fact that you only get ten stamp pacs and must then purchase additional pacs. But for serious stampers who have lots of ideas that they want to turn into stamps, it will be a valuable tool.

Pros:

  • Everything is included in the Teresa Collins Stampmaker set to immediately start making stamps.
  • Clear video and written instructions.
  • There is no limit to what you can turn into a stamp!

Cons:

  • Price of $169 is an investment.
  • When washing out your stamps the liquid polymer is messy and has an odor.
  • The stampmaking procedure may seem complicated to beginners.

Have you tried the Teresa Collins Stampmaker kit? Have you always wanted to make your own stamps? Is this a product you would consider purchasing, why or why not?

Disclosure

secret project

Shhh… I’m working on reviewing this for Craft Critique this weekend. It is a fun project, but my guest blog posts/reporting always takes me longer than I expect.

I always work a little bit harder on my work for others than on the work I do for my own websites. Not that I ever want my work to be lower quality, but there is less stress involved when my writing and photography will only reflect on me and my enterprises — not on others. Maybe my priorities are backwards?

product review: Flip Pal Mobile Scanner

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Years ago, I worked for an art magazine, and scanning fine art images was a big part of my job. Since I had access to a professional grade scanner at work, I never got around to purchasing a scanner for home use. Since nearly all of my photography is digital, I mostly got by without one, but there were always instances when I wished I could scan an old photo or an illustration. It just never seemed worth it to go buy a huge, desktop scanner/printer combo for just a few projects or photos. It was a constant conundrum — I wanted to scan things, but I didn’t want to own a bulky scanner that would just take up room on my desk.

The Flip Pal Mobile Scanner solved my conundrum! The Flip Pal is a mini, battery-powered scanner that you can take anywhere. It is approximately 10 inches wide, 6.5 inches tall, and about an inch thick. It weighs about 1.5 pounds. It comes pre-loaded with batteries and a 2GB SD memory card. All you have to do to start scanning is take it out of its packaging. You don’t need to hook it up to a computer or plug it in; just switch it on, and press the scanning button! Magic!

The Flip Pal also comes with a simple instruction booklet and a handy thumb drive “SD to USB converter” that you can use with the SD card to load the scanned photos onto you computer. The thumb drive also contains special Flip Pal photo software that runs on Windows computers and can help you edit photos and stitch together large photos from multiple scans. However, I use Mac computers, so I was not able to access the software. Instead I used iPhoto and Photoshop to easily edit all my scans.

I got married long, long ago in the age of analog photography, and for years I have been meaning to scan some of my wedding photos. A perfect project to test out my new Flip Pal!

The scanning surface is 4 x 6 inches and can scan at a 300 dpi or 600 dpi resolution. Three hundred dpi is a standard print resolution, and scans made at that size can be printed at their original size. Scans made at 600 dpi resolution can be successfully printed up to twice their original size. Many professional scanners work at much higher scanning resolutions, but for nearly all hobby and craft purposes, 600 dpi is plenty large. Plus, each scan is very fast! I scanned over 80 wedding photos and didn’t even use up half of the battery power!

Each scan is displayed on the scanner’s small screen after it is completed. The digital display helps you make sure you positioned the scanned item correctly and allows you to review all of the scans you have made during a session.

Another great feature of the Flip Pal is that you can remove the cover and “contact scan” larger pieces or things that will not fit under the cover. Once the cover has been easily pulled off, you can flip the Flip Pal over and scan… well, really anything!

The clear back allows you to position the scanning surface correctly. I scanned a few of my large wedding photos and also a few older photos that are affixed to a scrapbook this way.

It was incredibly easy to import the scans onto my computer. You simply put the SD card into the USB converter and plug that into your computer. Then, you can import photos just as you normally would off of a digital camera. If you have an SD slot on your computer, you can use that instead of the USB converter. I imported my scans into iPhoto and did a little bit of cropping and editing. The whole scanning process was completely user friendly and easy.

I am thrilled that I finally got some of my old photos scanned, including the two above of my grandparents. I love my new Flip Pal!

Pros:

  • Small size makes it completely portable and easy to store.
  • User friendly and extremely easy to use.
  • No set up – simply open it up and start scanning!
  • Patented flip-and-scan technology – literally flip it over and scan anything!

Cons:

  • The included Flip Pal software only works on Windows computers.
  • The scanning surface is small – 4 x 6 inches.
  • Maximum scanning resolution is 600 dpi – some project may call for a higher res.

Disclosure

Martha Stewart Crafts Circle Cutter

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I often need to cut circles for use in my crafts. Previous to owning the Martha Stewart Crafts Circle Cutter, I used my two circle paper punches. For more specific sizes I resorted to tracing cups or other circular objects and then cutting the circles by hand. Needless to say, I was excited to try a more efficient method.

The Circle Cutter consists of a rotating measurement circle and a double-sided blade with a large, comfortable handle. I decided to test out my new tool by making cupcake toppers by layering various sizes and colors of paper circles. I gathered my materials (including my Martha Stewart Crafts Glue and Martha Stewart Crafts Cupcake Stickers) and got to work practicing my circle cutting.

The Circle Cutter comes with three blades, so that you can switch them out when they get dull. It is easy to insert the small blades into the handle using the wide plastic covers that are attached to each blade. The two-sided blades are extremely sharp, so you must be careful (obviously, this may not be the best tool for children to use).

You need a large cutting surface to work on. I used a large cutting board, but a craft mat (like this one) would probably work best. Do not cut directly on your kitchen table or desk. The blade easily cuts through even thicker paper and will scratch any surface it comes into contact with.

To begin cutting, place your paper on your work surface. I found it was easiest to cut from large pieces of paper, but if your paper is small, secure it with some tape or other adhesive. Then, place the measurement circle on top of the paper. You must hold down the outer ring of the measurement circle securely. Insert your blade into the hole that corresponds with the size of circle you would like to cut. You can cut circles from 1 inch to 5-1/2 inches, in 1/16 inch increments. I got the best results when the outer ring of the measurement circle was covering a good amount of the paper and also some of the cutting board. The trick is to hold the outer circle very securely, but to not press too hard with the blade. It takes a bit of practice to start cutting circles with perfect edges.

After some practice, I began to get some lovely circles. I just kept cutting lots and lots of circles of varying sizes so that I would have plenty to mix and match to create my cupcake toppers. Some of my first circles didn’t turn out so well and had to be trashed. Sometimes the paper shifted or the blade got caught up and I couldn’t budge it, but with practice it got easier and easier. I found that thicker paper was actually easier to cut because it didn’t get caught up in the rotation of the tool as easily as thinner papers did.

Overall, the Circle Cutter was not quite as easy to use as I was hoping, but it allows for increased versatility when compared to my previous circle cutting methods and it was quite fast once I got the hang of it. I was able to cut more than enough circles for a dozen large cupcake toppers in a short amount of time.

To finish the cupcake toppers, I glued layers of circles together in interesting color combos and then added a decorative element to the center of each. I cut a corresponding circle from patterned paper for the back of each topper, and glued them to the back of each while simultaneously gluing a toothpick in between the layers.

The end results are cute decorations for the mini cupcakes I purchased for my mom’s birthday. Fun! The Circle Cutter saved me a ton of time on this quick project and I know I will use it often in the future.

Pros:

  • Allows you to cut a wide variety of circle sizes — from 1 inch to 5-1/2 inches, in 1/16 inch increments.
  • Includes three double-sided blades.
  • Works on even very thick paper.

Cons:

  • Sharp blades may not be safe for young users.
  • Takes some practice to produce circles with perfect edges.
  • You need a large cutting surface to work on.

The Martha Stewart Crafts Circle Cutter is available online for $17.99 from the EK Success Brands website.

Have you used the Martha Stewart Crafts Circle Cutter? What did you think? Have you used other circle cutting methods or tools? What are your favorites?

Disclosure

more Maker Faire!

portrait at the Martha Stewart booth

At the Maker Faire on Saturday, the Martha Stewart Living booth had a full Halloween scene set up that you could pose in for photos. Travis was a sport and got in a photo with me. I was excited to find it yesterday on the MSLO Flickr stream!

My article about the World Maker Faire is up on Craft Critique today. Check it out and let me know what you think! You can also see all of the photos from our trip to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in my Flickr set. There are a LOT of photos of the Unisphere… we thought it was pretty cool.

Event Review: World Maker Faire 2010

This article was originally published on…

CraftCritique.com

What do you get when you combine a craft show, a technology expo, a science museum, crazy inventions, Martha Stewart, music, costumes, and delicious food? The World Maker Faire 2010 that took place last weekend in New York. I attended the Faire on Sunday and it was quite the scene!

The Maker Faire was held at the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens (the location of the 1939-40 and 1964-65 World Fairs). Exhibits were spread throughout the interior of the science museum (seen above) and also in the surrounding park area. There were craft areas, technology areas, building and construction areas, demonstration stages… too many different booths and exhibits to keep track of!

I made sure to visit the Craft Pavilion, which had a Craftzine.com booth (seen above), as well as a Lion Brand Yarn station where you could learn to knit or crochet, and a Xyron table where you could play with all of their different craft tools and pick up your own, free sticker maker! Score!

Martha Stewart Living was one of the main sponsors of the Maker Faire and the magazine had a huge booth where you could make butterfly wands and giant papier mache bones. They also had two spooky backdrops set up that you could pose in and get your photo taken by their professional photographer. I forced my husband to pose with me in the butterfly library (all of the resulting portraits can be viewed in the Martha Stewart Living Maker Faire Flickr group).

One of the things that I was most looking forward to at Maker Faire was the Bust Magazine Craftacular that was held in conjunction. I always love a good craft fair, and this one was billed to have over 100 vendors and appearances by some big name craft personalities.

Since I am not a vendor, I can’t be sure, but I would guess that the Craftacular was maybe not as successful as many would have hoped. It was spread out in the parking lot outside the Hall of Science and was a little lackluster. Because it cost $25 to get into the Maker Faire, some visitors may not have been in the mood to shop once they got inside. I didn’t see any purchases being made. However, some of the excitement may have been drained by the second day, when I visited. Plus, it was over-cast and a little rainy on Sunday, which didn’t help. All that being said, there were some awesome vendors to check out. Here are some of my favorites…

Sharp Shirter had really funny, manly t-shirts – their banner definitely caught my eye!

Perch Ceramics had absolutely beautiful bird houses and other delicate ceramic vessels. I loved these salt and pepper shakers.

Kate Durkin’s booth was beautifully presented and her hand-stitched animal pillows are adorable.

I just had to take a photo of this booth: Jersey Shore Baby. Very funny — and somewhat disturbing — baby clothes.

After pursuing the Craftacular, my husband and I ventured out to explore the more technological and mechanical offerings at the Maker Faire. We saw lots of crazy contraptions like the crazy lady “chariot” seen above. There was also a “jet-powered pony” ride (that was incredibly noisy), a life size mousetrap game, recycled “junk” art areas, the Maker Shed, kid-powered rides, a robot fabrication tent, and much more! It was a lot to take in and eventually we had to stop for a food break.

I got this delicious Cauliflower Salad from Scratch Bread and liked it so much that I had to spread the word. Yum!

Overall, the Maker Faire was a lot fun and a great one-day adventure. I am so glad I attended it because I had been hearing about the previous Maker Faires for years and had grown increasingly curious. The Faire was definitely a family-friendly event, with lots of activities geared directly toward kids, like the alien parade shown above, and the Young Makers Pavilion, not to mention the full interactive science museum with a 60,000 square foot outdoor Science Playground. We saw a lot of families and all of the kids seemed to be having a great time. If you have children, I would definitely recommend attending a Maker Faire!

Did you attend the World Maker Faire in New York? What did you think? Have you attended previous Maker Faires in other cities? How did they compare?

Three NYC Textile Craft Resources

This article was originally published on…

CraftCritique.com

There are so many neighborhoods, shopping districts, and stores in New York City that it is hard to know where to even start when looking for craft supplies. I felt overwhelmed and lost when I first arrived, but have slowly discovered some fantastic craft supply resources. Today I will share three off my favorite places to go for textile craft (like sewing, knitting, crocheting, etc.) supplies: Purl Soho, Mood Fabrics, and M & J Trimming.

Purl Soho

Purl is a beautiful, little store in Soho (obviously) that recently moved to a new location on Broome Street. The shop walls are lined with bins of gorgeous, natural fiber yarn and racks of cotton fabric. They also sell unique trims, thread, craft kits, needles, etc – just about everything you’d need to make unique and lovely craft projects. Last time I was there, I picked up delicate, Japanese pom pom fringe and a cute pack of Sukie stationery. The store is an absolute delight, and even though some of the prices seem high, I can always find a little something that I need to take home.

If you live in NY, you can take knitting, crocheting, and sewing classes at the store. Everyone else can shop Purl’s stylish selection of supplies online.

Mood Fabrics

If you are a serious seamstress, you must visit Mood Fabric in the garment district. It is a giant three-story warehouse space stuffed full of every type of fabric imaginable. It is a bit daunting to visit if you plan to simply browse, but if you are looking for something specific, they are sure to have it. They also have rows and racks of ribbon, thread, and trim, all of which is mainly intended for use in fashion and interior decor. Last time I was at Mood I was too overwhelmed to choose any fabric, but I did manage to purchase some pretty radical neon ribbon.

Mood has been featured on the tv show, Project Runway, which has increased its popularity (and perhaps its prices). There are many other fabric stores in the garment district, but I have not visited any with the amazing selection found at Mood. Visiting the store is definitely a fun experience, but you can also shop much of their selection on their website.

M $ J Trimming

M & J Trimming is a store I learned about years before moving to New York and longed to visit. As evident by the name, it is a store devoted entirely to trim – ribbon, fringe, sequins, tassels, cords, buttons, lace, etc. The store was opened in 1936 in the garment district and it has since grown to 5,000 square feet full of trimming. My favorite is the grosgrain ribbon!

I don’t do a lot of fashion sewing that requires fanciful trim, but I love using it within scrapbook pages and other paper crafts. I also like to use fabric ribbon when wrapping packages, so every time I am in the neighborhood, I pick up ribbon from M & J. Their selection is unrivaled (if you aren’t in the neighborhood, you can shop online).

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If you live in New York, or if you are visiting the city, I recommend putting these three textile craft stores on your crafty sight-seeing list. What other NY craft stores do you love and recommend?

Craft Apps for the iPhone

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I’ve been using an iPhone for several years, but never really got drawn in by the whole “App” culture. Previous to this review, I only had games and a handful of free social networking Apps on my phone, so I was excited to try out a few of the craft Apps that are available.
I tried out four Apps that are all related to scrapbooking or paper crafting in some way. The first two Apps are functional digital scrapbooking tools, and the second two are content-based Apps. Keep in mind while reading my reviews that there are inherent limitations to crafting and reading content on a small iPhone screen, which even the best Apps can’t surpass.

Coolibah screen shots


Cost: Free, but you can upgrade the app for $5.99 and buy additional kits for $.99 each
Coolibah is a digital scrapbooking App that allows you to create scrapbook pages right on your iPhone or iPad using your camera phone photos or other imported images. The free version of the App includes some free digital papers and design elements and is fun to play around with. The upgraded version has nearly limitless options when used with some of the premium kits. This is my favorite of the crafting Apps that I reviewed because of its versatility and the wide range of available design elements. (You can learn more about Coolibah on their website.)
A page I created using the Coolibah App

Pros:
  • Free version of the App is available so you can try it out before investing in the upgraded version.
  • They offer many free kits that include digital papers and embellishments, plus over 130 premium designer kits available for purchase.
  • You can save your pages and go back to work on them later.
  • With the upgraded App you can export high resolution pages to use on your computer or print.
Cons:
  • The App crashed on my phone a couple times – but my phone is old.
  • With the free version of the App all of the pages include the Coolibah watermark.

eScrap screen shots

Cost: $1.99
The eScrap App from 300dpi.com is another digital scrapbooking App similar to Coolibah. It allows you to create digital scrapbook pages directly on your iPhone using your photos and their selection of digital papers and embellishments.
A page I created using the eScrap App

Pros:
  • Offers cool filters (like black & white and sepia tone) that you can use to alter your photos.
  • Has “quick page” options that are pre-made pages that you can quickly add your photos to.
  • You can export your pages via email, or send them to Facebook or Twitter.
Cons:
  • You cannot save your pages to work on later. You must export them when you are done or you lose them.
  • Elements are difficult to resize and position.
  • The selection of design elements is limited to what comes with the original App. You can’t purchase additional design kits at this time.
  • The pages are not high resolution.

Screen shots from The Daily Digi App


Cost: Free
The Daily Digi iPhone App is an extension of the The Daily Digi website. It is basically an informational App that allows you to easily browse the website’s latest blog posts, tweets, and scrapbook page images on your iPhone. This App does not allow you to do any actual digital scrapbooking on your phone, but if you love the Daily Digi website or just want to browse crafty content on you phone it is an excellent resource! I definitely recommend it, especially since it is free!

Screen shots from the Clear & Simple Stamps App

Cost: $4.99
Clear & Simple Stamps is a website that sells variety of designer paper crafting stamps. Their corresponding iPhone App is extremely simple. It basically shows you a new stamped project each day for inspiration. The daily project also includes step-by-step project instructions and a list of the tools and stamps used. The App is nicely designed and easy to use, but you can only view one project each day and you cannot save them for later viewing. The only interactivity included in the App is the ability to buy any of the supplies used in the daily project directly from the phone. I am really unclear as to why this App costs $4.99 when there are tons of project images available for free on the Clear & Simple Stamps website and the only thing you can do with the App is buy their products. In my opinion, this App should be totally free and I would not recommend purchasing it – just visit the website instead.
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Overall, I had a lot of fun playing with these four craft Apps. They are a great way to pass some time while you are on the subway or waiting for an appointment. However, crafters who are used to doing digital scrapbooking on a large computer monitor may find the phone-sized crafting very frustrating. The Apps are definitely not a replacement for your computer-based digital scrapbooking, but they are a great on-the-go diversion.
Have you used any of these Apps? What did you think? What are you favorite craft-related mobile Apps?

The Ultimate Tool by Crafter’s Companion

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CraftCritique

When a product bills itself as “The Ultimate Tool,” it grabs my attention! I was very curious to try out the many different paper crafting functions of the Crafter’s Companion Ultimate Tool, including scoring, trimming, envelope making, card making, box making, and embossing. However, when I received the purple plastic “suitcase” that is the Ultimate Crafter’s Companion, I was overwhelmed by all of the grooves, compartments and tools. Thank goodness it came with a full-color instructional booklet and DVD!
In addition to the booklet and DVD, the Crafter’s Companion Ultimate Tool comes with the carrying case, which is also the card and envelope scoring surface, an inner plastic “page” used for box folding and embossing, an inner plastic “page” used for shape embossing, two scoring and folding styluses, a cutting blade, a paper trimming ruler and three plastic pins used for the bow making function. All of the accessories are made from the same thick, sturdy, purple plastic and can be stored within the carrying case.
The instructional booklet taught me how to quickly create folded cards and envelopes, but without it I am not sure if I would have been able to figure out all of the functions and folds. There is basically no measuring involved for creating bifold and trifold cards if you start with a standard size sheet of paper or card stock. You simply line your card stock up to the top edge of the Ultimate Tool and then choose a scoring line depending on what size card you intend to create. It is very easy once you have folded a few and figured out the different lines!
Creating envelopes is nearly as simple as folding cards. I made envelopes of all different sizes using the envelope scoring lines on the Ultimate Tool and the handy chart in the booklet, which tells you how large your starting paper sheet needs to be for each envelope size. All of the envelopes and liners seen in the photo above were created within a matter of minutes once I figured out the simple process (I especially like the smallest size envelope because it is the perfect size for an Artist Trading Card and I enjoy making and trading those). Even though I have store-bought and handcrafted envelope templates that I have used in the past to make my own envelopes, I much prefer using the Ultimate Tool. It is a much quicker process with almost no measuring or intricate cutting. I think that the envelope function alone is reason enough to love the Crafter’s Companion Ultimate Tool… but it does much more!
Before attempting one of the more complicated projects on the instructional DVD, I tried embossing a few raised patterns on a few envelopes and cards. You have to be careful not to press too hard and rip the paper and you may have to make quite a few passes, but other than that, embossing is incredibly simple and produces a very pretty and unique result.
I also tried out the bow making function. At first, I was a bit skeptical about the little pegs that you can use to make bows on the Ultimate Tool. I mean, how hard is it to tie a little bow, right? Well, I was really surprised by how easily you can make PERFECT bows using those pegs and the technique described in the booklet. I sound like I am over-hyping it, but really the bows are so simple it almost seems like magic… and I didn’t even think I needed a new bow-making technique!
After trying out all of the simple Crafter’s Companion functions, I decided to try out one of the more complex projects on the DVD. I chose the “Pop-Up Card with Box.” It is a house-shaped box with a card that springs out when opened. Following along with the tutorial on the DVD was fun and easy (although, I did watch the tutorial twice just to make sure I knew what to do). The host walked me through how to make the inner pop-up card, then the box base and box top.
Constructing the elements was the easiest part of the project — decorating the card and box took a bit longer!
The end result is a really fun and uncommon birthday card – and this was just my first try! I am eager to make more of these three-dimensional cards. I really like how the Ultimate Tool has different scoring lines for the box top and the box bottom. It ensures that the top will always slip easily on the box. I also really loved the simple “magic ruler” technique that is taught on the DVD. It allows you create perfectly sized boxes without measuring. It is a time-saver!
The Ultimate Tool DVD is very helpful. It not only has twelve very original and complex project tutorials, but it also has tutorials for all of the more simple functions (card and envelope folding, bow making, etc.), as well as a great “Top Ten Tips” section with helpful info. I definitely would not be able to get the full use out of the Ultimate Tool without the DVD. In fact, there are many more projects I want to try, including pop-up cards, accordion books and envelope boxes.
The Crafter’s Companion Ultimate Tool has so many uses, I feel that I have barely scratched the surface. I am really impressed that so many different functions could be incorporated into one tool — it is a feat of engineering! Plus, there are additional plastic “pages” that you can purchase to augment its selection of embossing shapes. You can learn more about the products at CraftersCompanion.com.
Pros:
  • Numerous and extremely versatile paper crafting functions: folding, scoring, cutting, embossing, etc.
  • Reduces the amount of measuring required to make cards, boxes, and envelopes.
  • The booklet and DVD teach ingenious techniques for making very quick envelopes, bows, and boxes.
  • Everything you need for paper crafting can be stored and transported in the sturdy Crafter’s Companion carrying case.
Cons:
  • Learning curve – it takes some time to get comfortable with all of the different functions.
  • I prefer to use my table top paper cutter over the trimming ruler and cutting blade included with the Crafter’s Companion.
  • You need a fairly large surface on which to use the Crafter’s Companion. It is nearly two feet wide when fully open!
Have you ever used an all-in-one tool like the Crafter’s Companion Ultimate tool before? Do you like the idea of having all of your paper crafting tools in one portable box?


Disclosure

Spring Handmade Cavalcade

This article first appeared on
CraftCritique

The Spring Handmade Cavalcade is a seasonal craft fair hosted by The {NewNew} Etsy Street Team (you may remember my reviews of the Fall and Winter Cavalcades from last year). On Saturday, April 24th, the Spring Cavalcade was held in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, at Berry Park, a biergarten/restaurant with a huge rooftop patio. The twenty-five vendor booths were spread out within the entire building and on the roof. It was a fun and casual setting that was very welcoming to the weekend foot traffic.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must tell you that my website, Swap-bot.com, was an official sponsor of the Spring Handmade Cavalcade. That means that we provided financial support for the event in exchange for advertising in the event materials and a booth at the event (that’s me manning our table above). Compared to the amazing artist booths, the Swap-bot booth was very amateurish — The {NewNew} crafters are pros! — but we had a great time meeting all the handmade shoppers and spreading the word about Swap-bot. Over 1,500 shoppers passed through the event and many picked up some of our free swag.

The Swap-bot table was located right across the aisle from the Communal Table food booth, which was selling all of the wonderful treats you see above. This was a very good thing, because I forgot to pack snacks! We bought banana bread, pumpkin whoopie pies, and chocolate chip cookies over the course of the day. All of which were awesomely delicious. Deena Lebow, owner of Communal Table, does some catering and fair sales (like Handmade Cavalcade), but her real mission is hosting group dinners that bring “art, ideas, activism and food right to the table.” They sound like amazing events.

There were so many exceptional artists selling their wares at the event. I snapped photos of a few of my favorite booths (after asking permission, of course!). This colorful table belongs to Jen Pepper of Peppersprouts. She is a graphic designer who makes brooches, necklaces, trivets and more featuring laser-cut silhouettes. Her instant-film brooch is ingenious!

Above is Nguyen Le of KnitKnit. I first met Nguyen at an Etsy Labs Craft Night that she hosted on needle felting. She is extremely sweet and talented. She knits and felts everything from handbags to earrings with an artistic edge. I especially love her needle felted cameo necklaces.

These lovely, screen printed dresses were all made by Karin Persan of Better Than Jam. Karin is a textile designer who graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2002, and she now has her own store, the Better Than Jam Handmade Co-op in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

These sweet illustrations are from Virginia Kraljevic. I just loved their whimsical feel and the turquoise and lime color combos!
Like I’ve already said, there were so many fabulous booths at the Spring Handmade Cavalcade, but perhaps my favorite was Miniature Rhino. Jessica Marquez, the artist behind Miniature Rhino, makes vintage-inspired embroidery, paper goods, and “curious objects,” but my favorite of her offerings is her letter-writing service. You can purchase the service from her Etsy store and she will type your message (on her typewriter), and then mail it in a custom glass bottle within a tiny box to your recipient. Such a sweet and unique idea!
The Spring Handmade Cavalcade was a well organized, but laid back Saturday of fun blessed with excellent, sunny weather. But if you missed it, don’t fret! The {NewNew} will be hosting their next event, Crafts in Chelsea, on Saturday, May 8th. Will I see you there?
Summer is definitely craft fair season! What other craft events will you be checking out in your area?