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January 27th, 2012

I have just finished writing a negative Yelp review about the Michaels Arts and Crafts Store in North Vancouver. Here is the link to my review: Yelp Review of Michaels North Vancouver, Canada

This is my complaint.  Two or three months ago, I purchased a bottle of Zip Dry Adhesive from Michaels. When I went to use the glue, I discovered it was dried up sold and unusable. I had not saved the sales receipt, so I did not ask for a refund.

I went back to the store to purchase more Zip Dry Adhesive, which I use frequently in my various projects. I discovered that every bottle was dried up and could not be used. At that time, there were perhaps three bottles of this glue on the shelf. I commenced notifying Michaels staff of this problem. but nothing happened.  Over time, two bottles disappeared. I assume someone may have purchased them.

On one occasion, a male employee removed the remaining unusable bottle at my urging.  I believed the problem was solved, but the next time I went to the store, the dried up glue had been returned to the shelf.

Since I began bringing this unusable adhesive to the attention of the store personnel, I have reported it a total of SIX times.

Initially I believed that the glue was an innocent mistake. However, after six reports and one incident of the product being removed and then returned to the shelf, I can no longer believe this is accidental. I can only conclude that it is a deliberate decision to continue trying to sell this useless product.

 Why I Love Zip Dry Adhesive

Zip Dry Adhesive is more costly than most scrapbook and paper craft adhesives on the market and it will dry up with age.  However, despite these two negatives, it is hands down the best adhesive I have ever encountered.

This glue will attach anything to anything. It’s amazingly strong and durable.  What’s more, once the glue has dried, your product will not fall to pieces. I have used glues, especially glue sticks, that work well at first but within a few months, the glued surfaces separate and your project comes to pieces.

I also like Zip Dry because it is repositional when wet, and because if you accidentally get a glob of glue where it is not wanted, you can let it dry a little and scrape if off with your finger. Usually no sign remains that glue was ever spilled in the first place.

 

 

 

March 13th, 2011

scrapbook paper Woodland Fantasy
Yesterday I was browsing around Scrap Arts, our local crafting and scrapbook store here in North Vancouver. They are having one of their frequent sales.

I hadn’t planned to buy scrapbook paper, but when I saw this new collection from Graphic 45,  I couldn’t resist. This is a picture of my favorite, the Woodland Fantasy from the Once Upon a Springtime Collection.  There are several beautiful papers in that particular collection and I have a project in mind.

If you don’t live near Scrap Arts, then Amazon carries most of this collection. You can see the full range of papers here:

Once Upon A Springtime 12X12 Once Upon A Springtime Collection Paper (Graphic 45)

I’ve been planning on making some calendars, using a set of monthly stamps for the date part and some sort of stamped image or other embellishment for the picture.  These fairies struck my fancy and they’ll be showing up on the twelve pages.

I’ll be binding the calendars with a wire binding, thanks to my ZUTTER BIND IT ALL SCRAPBOOK & PAPER CRAFT TOOL.

I’m planning on making several calendars and giving them as birthday gifts or perhaps Christmas gifts next winter.

I will probably make a video and display it here once I have a calendar or two under my belt.

March 12th, 2011

Yesterday I made a video demonstrating the use of the Microwave Flower Press, also known as the Microfleur. The manufacturer’s web site is Microfleur.com

The Microwave Flower Press operates, as the name suggests, by drying your flowers, leaves or other botanical items in the microwave. A process that takes several weeks the old fashioned way is now accomplished in a minute or less.

The press I use is the smaller version. It is five inches square. A larger version is available for those wanting to dry more items at one time.

There is one word of warning about the Microfleur. You must experiment with times and power levels. Expect to ruin a few batches from time to time if you guess incorrectly. If a tray of flowers and leaves is dried for too long, they will disintegrate and be unusable. If it is not sufficiently dried, the plant ill be damp and will rot. The best approach is to process the flowers for a short time — 15 seconds, perhaps, check for “doneness” and return to the oven if needed.

Here is the video demo:

I purchased my Microfleur several years ago at Be Creative in Pitt Meadows, British Columbia. You may find them at a local craft store, or you can buy them at Amazon. Failing that, the manufacturer’s web site may provide information as to where you can purchase this device in your particular location.

You may also be able to purchase them online. On the day I wrote this post, eBay had several:
Microwave Flower Press

Pressed flowers, properly laminated, are wonderful embellishments for cards, scrapbook layouts or other paper crafts.

November 18th, 2009
popup photo cube made with Bigz 3D ball die
popup ball holiday ornament made with Bigz 3D ball die

I made these pop-up photo cubes and the holiday ornament ball using the Sizzix BIGZ Dies 3D Ball PopUp.

Its cut on the Sizzix 655268 Big Shot Cutting-and-Embossing Roller-Style Machine, and you need a Sizzix extended cutting pad to handle the Bigz die.

If you haven’t used the Big Shot, I have to tell you it has quickly become my favorite crafting tool, right after my Fiskars Paper Trimmer. There is a video demo of the Big Shot at this link.

These photo cubes will be Christmas gifts for two little boys, and the blue ball makes a neat Holiday ornament. Although the shape lends itself well to Christmas and the holidays, these balls would work well at any time of the year.  Using black and white images makes a truly elegant photo cube, based on some pictures I have seen.

I like these little pop-up balls quite a bit. You can flatten them in an envelope or between folded card stock and mail them. When the envelope is opened, the balls pop up. The high tech items that make them work are good old-fashioned elastic bands.

The balls are easy to make, once you know how. I am not particularly skilled at figuring things out, so I confess that I struggled with the instructions for quite some time.

I have made video demonstrating how to make these 3D pop-up balls.

As for the photo cube, I have to say that sizing the digital photographs and printing them out to the right size and shape was a time consuming project, at least the first time I did it. It was much easier the second time around when I made the second photo cube.

Don’t know how to resize or shape your digital images to use them in this photo cube? I have a post describing how to resize and shape your images using Photoshop CS or Photoshop Elements.

In the meantime, how about these other great Bigz Dies at eBay? I need to win the lottery.

March 9th, 2009

sizzix big shot universal die cutting and embossing machineA week or so ago, I did a post in which I compared the Provo Craft Cuttlebug and the Sizzix Big Shot.  I was struggling to decide which tool to purchase.

It wasn’t an easy choice, because both machines are apparently very good. In the end, I went with the Sizzix Big Shot Universal Die Cutting and Embossing Machine.

Three  factors influenced my decision.

First, the Big Shot will handle the Bigz Dies from Sizzix but the Cuttlebug, I am told, will  handle some, but not all. These dies are awesome and I know I will want to purchase some sooner or later.

Second,  my local craft store, Scrap Arts in North Vancouver, was selling the Big Shot at a better price than you usually find. You had to order it in, but it arrived within a few business days so this was not a big problem.

And a question about the warranty was the last  factor that influenced my decision. I am told that the Cuttlebug’s warranty is void if you use any die or folder other than Cuttlebug’s. Although the machine works with most other dies, or so I am told, the company won’t replace it if there is any damage and you have been using a non-Cuttlebug product.  I left a message with Provo Craft customer service asking if they would verify this.  There was no response. I tend to shy away from businesses who do not respond to customer questions.

So, the Big Shot won out.

So far, I love this machine. It required almost no assembly, other than attaching the handle. It works like a charm on the folders and dies that I have tried.

So far, I have used it successfully with the Cuttlebug embossing folders, a Cuttlebug die, a QuicKutz die and a brass embossing template.  All worked well.  For the brass embossing templates, I had to purchase a package of Spellbinders 5 Inch by 7 Inch Wizard Enlarged Embossing Pads.

The brass templates I am using do leave a border around the embossed design, which is unfortunate. Apparently there is no way to avoid this, at least not with the templates that I have.

I have a video demonstration of the Big Shot using the Cuttlebug, the QuicKutz and the brass templates.

I want to correct one mistake I made when explaining the use of Tab 1 or Tab 2, or no tab. I said you choose your tabs based on the width of the project.  I should have said the thickness, not the width.

Here is the video tutorial:

Note: Since first publishing this post and the video, some kind visitors have left comments or emails telling me how to use the brass templates or stencils without getting the border. You cut the foam mat to be just smaller than the brass stencil. I haven’t tried this yet but it certainly makes sense and sounds as if it should work.

February 13th, 2009

Should I get the Provo Craft  Cuttlebug or should I get the Sizzix Big Shot/Big Kick? I asked that question to the email list, Canadian Stamp Talk (CST).

My question was motivated by the highly important (to me) fact that Michaels Arts and Craft store has the Provo Craft Cuttlebug and accessories on sale for 50% off this week — or at least it’s in sale in Vancouver, where I live.

Both machines do die cutting and embossing — and apparently both do it well.

I received some excellent information from fans of both the Cuttlebug and the Big Shot. Seemingly the Sizzix machine is called the Big Kick  when sold at A.C. Moore, Jo-Ann Stores and Michaels. It’s called the Big Shot when sold in elsewhere, including the smaller craft shops.  I don’t think there is any difference between the Big Shot and the Big Kick.  If there is, someone please correct me.

Comparing the Big Shot and the Cuttlebug

Size

The Provo Craft Cuttlebug Machine is smaller than the Sizzix 655268 Big Shot Cutting-and-Embossing Roller-Style Machine.   The Big Shot’s measurements are 14-1/4 by 8-1/2 by 6-1/2 inches and it weighs 11.5 pounds.  The Cuttlebug measures 12 by 7-4/5 by 9-1/2  and the mouth is six inches wide. It  weighs seven pounds.

The Cuttlebug takes up less space, is lighter and is therefore easier to tote around if you go to crops. I don’t go to crops, but storage space is a consideration.

Price

The Cuttlebug is usually cheaper. In my area, it sells for anywhere between $70 and $110. Wal-mart has the lowest price, at $70. Interestingly, at $110, Michaels is by far the most expensive, exceeding even the small mom-and-pop craft stores that fall in between the Wal-mart and Michaels price.   However,  the sale at  Michaels  should bring that down to $60.  The Big Shot sells locally from $90 to $100 and there’s no sign of a sale.

Function and Warranty

Both machines are said to be universal — meaning they will use dies from other manufacturers. Both machines will cut on a variety of materials. The Cuttlebug recommends cutting material that is 1/8 or an inch or less in thickness.  Thicker materials may not cut properly and may damage the machine. The warranty covers manufacturer’s defects only, so this type of damage would not be covered by the Provo Craft warranty, nor would it cover damage caused by using dies from other manufacturers.

One woman who responded to my question said that the Sizzix warranty is NOT void if you use dies from another manufacturer. However, the Sizzix  web site offers no information  about the Big Shot’s warranty, or about anything else that would be helpful for comparison purposes. I find the Sizzix web site disappointing, frankly, compared to the wealth of information on Provo Craft’s site.

Also, with the Cuttlebug, apparently you  cannot  use some of the larger dies like the wonderful Bigz Dies from Sizzix.  I have the Cricut, which is lovely for die cutting, but the Cricut does not work on thicker materials such as chipboard.

Some respondents thought that the Sizzix machine would work on thicker material than the Cuttlebug — but given the shortage of information on the Big Shot web page, I cannot confirm that.  It would be nice to be able to cut chipboard shapes.

Some people who responded to my question said that Cuttlebug is easier to use and to work with. Some others said that the Big Shot is easier to use and work with. One commented that with the Big Shot there is no shimming to make the folders emboss as there is with the Cuttlebug.

Customer Satisfaction at Amazon

At Amazon, customer satisfaction is about equal. Two people gave the Big Shot a five star rating.  The Cuttlebug earned a 4.5 star rating from a total of seven people. The half star was lost because apparently the Cuttlebug’s suction plates are not as good as they could be and the machine tends to move around on the table when you use it.

Dies

Dies for both machines are readily available at local craft stores,  chain stores and online, so availability is not an issue.

What’s your choice? Cuttlebug or Big Shot?  Or some other machine altogether?

February 12th, 2009

card made with copic markers I know I’m late to the table with this, but I have just now tried COPIC Markers for the first time. It was at a make and take at Precious Memories in Burnaby.

We made the small card to the left. We stamped the flowers with acrylic stamps, then colored them with the markers.  Last step involved blocking the white on red card stock and then adding the ribbon.

Copic markers are alcohol inks, meaning you can use them on almost any surface. You can also blend them without tearing the paper, which doesn’t happen too readily with other types of markers. At the make and take, we used a special blending tool which worked extremely well.  For all intents and purposes, these markers  are acid free, and they are environmentally friendly. You refill them rather than throwing them out, and they have a shelf life of three years.

This little card is quite attractive in real life. The colors are bright and clear.  This, apparently, is merely the beginning of what you can do with copic markers.  There are various techniques you can use to create special effects — including air brushing if you buy the air brushing tool.  The markers work best with Memento die ink or Brilliance ink, and you need special paper. Thepaper is quite affordable — only thirty cents a sheet at Making Memories.

Copic markers, I am told, were created for design artists and have just recently made their way into the crafting arena.  They do seem to be the Cadillac of markers, that is for sure.

However, I’m sitting here thinking of the fortune I spent on Twinkling H2O’s a while back, and before that, another fortune Glaze pens, and before that, on Prismacolor pencils, and before that, another fortune onBrush Art Markers, and before that, decorator chalks….. well, you get the picture. When does it end?

Here is the link to the Copic Marker web site.

I suppose it it only a matter of time until I bite the bullet and buy these things.  They are sooooo easy to use. I like the look of Twinkling H2Os, but they are inconvenient to work with.

What’s your favorite coloring tool?

January 23rd, 2009

dry embossed thank you card This dry embossed thank you card was a make and take from Making Memories Scrapbook Store in Burnaby.

The 3-window card project demonstrated Provo Craft Cuttlebug’s new embossing BORDERS folders.

The Cuttlebug is a handy tool, no doubt about it. It both cuts and embosses, and since it is a universal die cutting machine, it will use many of the dies you may have from other manufacturers.

In the card above, the darker rose color plus the yellow flowers are actually inside the card and you are looking at them through the cut windows on the outside.

The dry embossed border is done with one of the Border’s embossing dies. It worked like a charm and took only an instant to accomplish.

Despite being impressed with the Cuttlebug and what it can do, I doubt if I’ll be buying it any time soon.

I really think one has to draw the line somewhere. The craft industry turns out an endless array of tools and supplies. They are all nice to have, but cost and storage space can become a problem. With the Cuttlebug, as with any other die cutting system, you first purchase the machine itself, then buy the dies separately. I can only imagine how quickly that would add up.

There is one more aspect that I don’t like. I think using so many of these tools takes away from our own ability to be creative.  If we start making everything with tools like these, where is the originality or the skill?

You can make similar embossed borders using tools like the The Empressor by Chatterbox which is highly affordable and works well. You use it with economically priced brass templates that can also be used with embossing paste for remarkably lovely effects.

The Cuttlebug is a fun toy, though. If I had tons of cash and tons of storage space I would have it.


December 31st, 2008

Since I started making videos showing projects made with the Zutter Bind-it-All, people have been asking me to do a video showing it in operation.

Your wish is my command. Here’s the Zutter Bind-it-All Video  Demo. I want to point out that I have using Version One. Version Two is exactly the same except that it will punch  more pages at once and it is easier to do a long line of binding. Version One punches six holes and sets  six coils without you stopping to measure and realign. As I understand it, Version Two does more than six. Oh, and one last thing, Version Two is PINK!

Here it is at Amazon: ZUTTER BIND IT ALL PINK VER 2 SCRAPBOOK & PAPER CRAFT TOOL

Zutter makes various accessories for the Bind-it-All, none of which I own.  The only one I’m planning on buying is a Spacer that allows you to put a row of wire binding on tiny mini-albums.  Without it, the punched holes are placed too far inside the album.

You can also get a carrying case, wire cutters, the Round-It-All for making rounded corners, a special cutting tool that cuts several pages at once. Additionally, the company sells precut pages and special acrylic pages.

November 18th, 2008

snowflake made from kit If you’re looking for an easy Christmas craft, these hanging snowflakes from K and Company might fill the bill. They’re made from the “Swell Noel” Snowflakes Paper Crafting kit.

The kit includes Includes six glittered pages; 54 adhesive gems, 50 Mylar snowflakes, and 40 brads.

You simply punch out the snowflake shapes then assemble them as required. I made two big ones, but you can also make smaller ones if you prefer. These two shown are about six or seven inches in diameter. They are quite lovely if hung from high up with a ribbon or string.

Typically I am not very interested in kits because I find it more rewarding to create from scratch. However, Christmas is a busy time of year for most of us.

If anyone wants some lovely hand made decorations that don’t take all day to make, this would be a good choice. You could also sell them individually at a craft fair. I plan to try that.

Two Peas in a Bucket carries these “Swell Noel” Snowflake Paper Crafting Kits.

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