Monday 28 November 2011

Simple but classic

Sometimes less is more - I really like these simple cards, which use square cream card blanks - I think cream looks nicer than white, and I prefer square to rectangular cards, but both the colour and the shape can be hard to find. These use simple stickers and greetings and didn't take very long, but I think they look nice.

Sunday 27 November 2011

Icing failures

I've always had problems with icing- generally it is too runny, even if I follow the quantities in a recipe. I have improved since then - these pictures are all from last year - but sometimes it still doesn't go to plan. I'd be interested to know if anyone has any tips for foolproof icing they can share!
These cakes, below, taste gorgeous - they are marshmallow cupcakes from the Hummingbird Bakery cookery book. The icing has mini marshmallows and edible glitter sprinkled on top, but as you can see the icing turned out quite soft and was impossible to pipe in a nice pattern:
I didn't mind too much though as they tasted great! The same can be said of these cakes below - they are a nutella cupcake, I forget where from but the recipe involved scooping out a small amount of the cake when it was baked, and adding a spoonful of nutella. So when you bite into the cake, you get a gorgeous gooey filling!
The icing also contained nutella and each cupcake has a small hazelnut on top; unfortunately the icing was totally runny so again impossible to pipe in a pretty pattern. What am I doing wrong?!
The icing on the bottom row of cakes looks rather better... but that's because I cheated! I went on holiday to America in September 2010 and while I was there, popped into a Wal-Mart. I headed straight for the baking aisle, and my American friend was amazed at my reaction. I'd never seen so many types of icing and cake decorations in one place!
At the time, Betty Crocker's ready made icing had just launched in supermarkets in the UK, and was - and I think still is - only available in vanilla and chocolate flavours. Wal-mart had it in all kinds of colours and flavours, plus countless other types of ready made icings and cake mixes, such as whipped cream cheese frosting. While it is undoubtedly nicer to make your own, sometimes you haven't got the time or ingredients and just want something that will work - and am I the only one who loves to dig straight into a tub of Betty Crocker chocolate fudge frosting with a spoon?!
Guilty pleasures aside, I couldn't resist buying a can of spray icing! It's similar to the one shown in the picture here:
The can came with a choice of nozzles and basically worked like squirty cream, it was cool! It made decorating the cakes below very easy, even though I did feel like I was cheating. I also added a Dr Oetker wafer flower onto each one:
Finally these cakes below are the most amazing Oreo cupcake recipe that I got from my friend BakingAddict's blog:
The icing contains cream cheese and crushed oreos, but I didn't crush the oreos small enough, so when I used a piping bag the pieces got stuck in the nozzle! I ended up just having to spread the icing on with a knife:

So there you go: a selection of my icing failures. As I said, I have got better, but it still seems to be my Achilles heel!

Friday 25 November 2011

More 30th birthday albums

As soon as I gave Alice her birthday album, all my friends started clamouring for one. One asked me outright if I would do one for her birthday too, and I had to admit that I had already started working on it!

I really enjoyed making them - choosing the photographs and picking out embellishments, and remembering all the good times we had had. Each album did take several hours and probably cost a fair bit, given how many stickers, embellishments and other bits and pieces I bought for each one, but it was well worth it.

As you can see with these, I made the covers look similar, but used different colour schemes. I also tied a piece of ribbon through the spiral binding.

With the page below, a picture of me with one of my friends at another friend's wedding, I wanted the picture to be the main focus. We are wearing green dresses so I went for a pale green background, with some outline stickers in the corner (for a more classic rather than colourful modern effect) and a transparent sticker with the words "lifelong friends" across the top. I'm on the right in the photo by the way, I can't believe how young I look - but it was about 8 years ago!

This picture was taken while we enjoyed a jacuzzi in a hotel swimming pool. I remember the photo was taken by the waiter who brought us our drinks - we weren't supposed to have drinks near the pool, I wonder how we managed to persuade him?!

I used some leftover lettering stickers from a recent birthday card (see the previous "Cards for men" post) to spell out "water babies" and added a couple of sticky metallic blue flowers. The page also has a blue background, in keeping with the water theme - all of it was thought through!

Can you recognise me in the photo? He he....

This picture was from my friend's wedding. I used some dome stickers with love and wedding wording and a foam heart, along with what I considered a romantic colourscheme for the background. Sorry the photo is sideways!

Incidentally every album had a lot more photos than this - I think there were about 20 pages - but I am only including a few of them here. See the previous post for more information on how and why they were made.

In the example below, I used two photos from a party where my friend was doing some very impressive karaoke. I went for a jazzy-colured background, a 3D "star" sticker and some musical notes.

This page was to remind my friends of a really fun girls' holiday we had in Croatia. The background paper is the colour of sunset (roughly when this photo was taken, as we were going out for the evening) and as well as the sun sticker, I stuck on a little cocktail umbrella, the kind you get in drinks. Of which I think we had plenty!

This is from the same holiday and as the pages were adjacent in the scrapbook, I used the same background paper. The two main embellishments are really cool - they are sticky, but designed to look like bottle tops, and were actually made of metal. They were printed with different holiday messages or pictures and I think came in a pack of six.

This picture is from one of the girl's hen nights, where some people had a surfing lesson. I bought a packet of Jolie's stickers on a surfing theme and, unsurprisingly, used a blue background with a swirly pattern (which you can't quite make out in this photo) to represent waves and the sea.

And here is the lovely hen getting married! I kept this page quite simple, and used a purple background to reflect the colours of some of the guests' dresses. I added a big "love" 3d sticker and a "friends forever" sticky ribbon across the button.

I am on the left in this photo, laughing because the heel of my shoe got stuck in the grass!

30th birthday scrapbooks

For my best friends'30th birthdays I wanted to give them something special. After getting into card making and buying Creativity magazine, I realised that scrapbooking could be a fun extension of my hobby and a good way to create a more personal present. I decided to put together a little album of photos and memories from the almost two decades we had known each other. My friends have kindly given me permission to put these photos on my blog.

I bought a blank cardboard ringbound album from Ebay, which I think was 10x8 inches - plenty big enough for a photo plus some embellishments per page. I really liked the front cover, below. I covered the cardboard cover with purple paper, used cardboard letters to spell out my friend's name and added two types of butterfly embellishments- die-cuts and rather fancier 3D ones. I also put two pieces of sticky ribbon along the bottom.

Inside the album I included a selection of photos going right back to our school days. I'm not going to put them all up here, but here are a few examples. In this one below, I used a selection of girl friend-related transfer words but allowed the photo to be the focus of the page.

Not every page contained a photo. Here I made a pocket by cutting a piece of card diagonally so it would take up half the scrapbook page and stuck it along the bottom two edges to make a pocket. I covered both the page underneath and the pocket with the same patterned paper. I edged the pocket with sticky ribbon and made a gift tag to slip inside. It says "I like bees" as my friend had just taken up bee-keeping and at the time, her entire "about me" section on Facebook said "I like bees"!

I was very excited to be able to include a picture of my friend's baby in the album. For this page I chose a pink patterned background, stuck on a selection of buttons that I bought on Ebay, and used my X-Cut die-cutting machine (which was quite expensive - about £40 - but came with a bunch of stencils including alphabet letters, which I have used quite a lot) to make the words "cute as a button". She really is!

This is the back cover of the album, covered in the same paper as the front with lots of die-cut butterflies in different pastel shades. I also have several sheets of "handmade by Caroline" stickers that I ordered via Ebay. I think my friend was really pleased with her gift!

Friday 18 November 2011

Cards for men

I always find it difficult to make cards for men. All too often, ideas in craft magazines or card making books, and the selection of stickers and embellishments you can buy that are aimed at men usually feature sports (mainly football and golf) or cars. My dad isn't interested in sports and while he is a Top Gear fan, I don't want to make him a car-themed card every year!

I am guilty of favouring blue when it comes to cards for men, but I think it's a nice colour anyway and is quite easy to mix and match shades.

My starting point here was to cover the bottom half of a blue card blank with blue patterned paper and I placed a piece of sticky ribbon about a third of the way up from the bottom. The lettering comes from a pack that included two sheets of letters -you got about six of each letter altogether, though it's always annoying when you run out of vowels and are left with a whole bunch of letters you can't make any more words from!

The dog and small flower and bee stickers come from the "Dandelion and Daisy" range - I think this was a free packet of stickers that came with Creativity magazine. I think my Dad really liked this card!

Easter cards

I don't usually bother sending Easter cards but in 2009 decided I would make a few, as I'd got a free sheet of Easter stickers with a card making magazine called Creativity.

The first card below uses a square of patterned yellow paper on a yellow card blank, with a border round the edge. The Easter egg and word 'Easter' are both done with rubber stamps and partly coloured in. I'm not a huge fan of rubber stamping - though it works out cheaper ultimately than using stickers, as the stamps can be used again and again, they tend to be more expensive to start with (£3-£7 for a stamp) and it's actually quite hard to use them without smudging the ink a little. Despite that, I thought this card turned out well.

The second and third cards were quite quick to make - I covered a plain yellow card in patterned Easter paper and just added a couple of the free stickers that came with the magazine. The last card was made in a similar way but using two different pieces of printed paper, one to cover the whole card and the other for a square in the middle.

Saturday 12 November 2011

30th birthday cards

My school friends and I turned 30 in 2009 and I wanted to make an extra effort with their birthday cards. I also turned my hand to a new branch of papercraft for the first time - scrapbooking - to make each of them a special gift, which you will read about soon.

In the meantime here are a couple of the birthday cards I made. The first one was on a 'spa' theme. I started with a larger-than-usual A5 card and a printed piece of paper (downloaded from a card making website then printed on my computer) that had '30' all over it. As the background was pink, I then took a piece of pink paper and edged it with a gold outline border. The spa stickers were all from the same pack by Jolie (a popular brand - a bit more expensive but the stickers are either good quality card with extra embellishments like little gems, or sometimes felt). I also used a gold outline sticker saying 'happy birthday' and put that on the same pink paper with gold edging.

This card was for another friend's 30th. She and her husband had recently bought a campervan so when I came across a camper van rubber stamp I decided to make that my theme. To begin, I divided the card in half and stuck pink paper on the bottom half, and covered the join with a piece of sticky ribbon. I used the rubber stamp and pink ink to stamp the camper van across the bottom, and I also downloaded and printed a picture of a pink camper van, which I matted onto another piece of pink paper to stand out.
The '30' embellisments are from a packet of table confetti; it seemed a good way of getting lots of shiny pink '30's but it turned out that they were very hard to stick! Also in the confetti pack were several pieces saying 'flirty thirty' but these weren't much easier to stick on!
As I final touch I added some small bee stickers as my friend had recently taken up bee keeping - cool hobby!

Symmetry and borders

I think cards that display symmetry can look very professional and effective (which I guess is what I'm striving for). I bought a packet of stickers from Accessorize that contained probably about 60 small cupcake stickers. I placed a small square of coloured paper onto each card, edged it using a border outline sticker (cut to size) and placed the cupcake stickers in rows. Quite a simple design, but I really like it.

The above card also shows how effective a border can be. Here in the card below, the border is almost the main focus of the card. Again I started by placing a rectangle of coloured paper onto a coloured card (in a contrasting colour) and the stickers are from one sticker pack of party-themed stickers. They are placed almost haphazardly though I tried to only use a few on each card to not overcrowd the space. As above, I used an outline border sticker but this time in gold instead of silver, and the border is more decorative. The greetings below are also gold outline stickers (which generally cost 79p-99p for a whole sheet with about twenty greetings).

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Three of a kind

When I make cards I often make three or four on a similar theme. I find that once I've got the kit out, and chosen a colour scheme or some embellishments I like, I don't want to stop at just one card! Here is an example of three slightly different cards I made in the same colourscheme on the same theme. They use silver outline stickers of a Chinese-style dress; I coloured in some of the sections with purple pen and the middle card features purple brads (which might be more familiar to people as split pins like we had at school - they come in a variety of colours and even patterns).

Cutting your own shapes

It is often tempting to use pre-cut shapes for card making, even if they are simple cardboard die-cuts. They are neater and it's quicker to use something ready made, though I do sometimes feel like I'm cheating and it would be more personal if I cut the shapes myself.
Here are a couple of examples when I have taken the time to cut out some shapes myself. This first card was for my dad. I started by sticking a piece of cream coloured card onto a white card blank, and matting a slightly smaller piece of blue card onto that. I used coloured dome stickers in the corners and a 'Dad' sticker as the greeting. I then cut out shapes of tools, making the metal part from silver card and the handles from a dark coloured card. I also cut a small piece of white paper and marked it to look like a tape measure. Simple but, I think, quite effective.

This card was for my godmother's 60th birthday. I wanted to include the number in quite a prominent way, and had the idea of making a champagne bottle looking like it was spraying bubbles. I started by making a purple background for the card and cutting out the number 60, then I cut out the shape of a bottle from silver card. To make it look as if the botle was spraying, I cut a piece of tracing paper which, with some of the glue showing underneath, I think does look a little like spray. I did cheat slightly in the end though, as the two wine glasses are ready made die-cuts!

Sunday 6 November 2011

Christmas cards

These were the first Christmas cards I made a couple of years ago. I bought a pack of card blanks that contained red and green cards and envelopes. I also bought a pack of die-cut reindeer heads and other shapes including Christmas trees, which I used to make these fairly simple cards: These used similar die cut shapes, mounted onto a piece of paper in contrasting colour to the card itself. The card in the top right corner below used a foam Christmas tree shape and a silver metallic snowflake.

The two cards on the left used foam shapes, which I bought as part of a cheap sticker pack; the ones on the right use pictures I cut out from old Christmas cards, along with outline stickers saying "Happy Christmas" and silver snowflakes. I don't think they look as good as the die-cuts but when you have to make about 50 cards it's hard to spend as much time on each one!

More cards from a couple of years back

Some more cards from a few years back.. this first one uses some simple coloured stickers but I mounted them onto white cardboard and attached them to the card with a small foam pad to make them stand out.

This one used a selection of embellishments from the same pack - some small shells which had a flat back (otherwise they would have been quite hard to stick on) and sequins. I used a blue card and decided to mount the embellishments onto a piece of blue paper which I backed onto another darker piece of blue paper.

These 'men's shirts' cards were from an idea in a magaine. I covered the plain card with some stripey blue paper that I thought most resembled a man's shirt, then cut a slit in the top of the card and folded each side down to make it look like a collar. The pocket was the same stripey paper stuck onto a small square piece of card, that was mounted on the card with a sticky foam pad to make it stand out. I thought these were quite good cards for male relatives.

This Mother's Day card features butterly outline stickers - in other words, delicate silver stickers that consist of lines with spaces in between, so when you stick them onto something the background colour shows through. I wanted them to stand out a little more so I stuck them onto thick purple paper and then stuck that onto the card, which I had covered with thin purple paper. I cut a diagonal line across the front of the card and stuck small die-cut butterflies across the border.

This card was for a young boy and a way for me to use up some foam fish and whale stickers. I got the idea from a card making magazine and printed out words I had typed on the computer saying "It's your birthday - have a whale of a time".

This one was for my Grandad, who was a keen lottery player. You can often find websites where you can download and print out your own patterned backing paper - though of course it uses up a lot of ink so isn't as cheap as it may sound! I printed off a lottery ticket backing paper and printed some words on the computer which I mounted on green foam so they would stand out. I think I also gave my Grandad a lucky dip lottery ticket inside the card, though I don't think he won anything!

Some very simple cupcakes

This was my idea of cake decorating a couple of years ago - I can do a lot better than this now!