Saturday, 31 May 2014

Caturday: trapped!

Are you getting in the mood for Christmas? No? I can change all that if you attend my Christmas in June workshop on June 28. But I do need you to register today as I have to place the order tomorrow. Places have nearly all gone so hurry! You can register by clicking here. At the class you’ll make eight cards to give you a head start on your Christmas projects – and you’ll have a fun afternoon with a friendly group of people. 

And now, of course, it’s Caturday and, after last week’s adorable kittens, we’re going to the other extreme I’m afraid. Avid Caturday readers may remember Tutheran, the stray black cat which hangs around our garden, terrorising our cats and squirting up our hedge. Most vet trips lately have been because of a wound or abscess caused by fights with Tutheran.

We’ve been trying to catch him for months in a trap we’d borrowed from the cat shelter. This took so long partly because we kept catching the wrong cat (everyone took their turn!) and partly because of timing. We had to be around to observe the trap (didn’t want to leave the poor creature in it unnecessarily) and to get to the vet in opening hours. 

Finally, the deed was done – but he certainly wasn’t happy about it. Ok, the flash went off and made his eyes look like headlamps and seem more demonic than he really is. He did settled down after a few minutes and resign himself to his imprisonment. But not until he’d screwed up the newspaper we’d laid down in the trap to cover the mechanism which he’d previously been stepping over. 

Off we dashed to the vets for a little procedure which should hopefully calm him down. After trying and failing to find a friendly farm to take him on as a farm cat, we released him back at home. We figured it wouldn’t be fair to put him in a shelter, when he’s used to roaming free. And hopefully the op will reduce his aggression. 

Since releasing him, however, I’ve had an offer from a nice lady who lives near Crich who has offered to find him a home on a farm in a few weeks … when he’s hopefully forgotten about the evil trap and wanders into it again. 

Friday, 30 May 2014

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye...

... and now you that THAT song in your head for the rest of the day. You're welcome. 

Onto the matter in hand. Every year, Stampin’ Up!® retires around a third of the catalogue to make way for exciting new products. While this can be a distressing time for some people (yes, seriously – some people get very upset about the loss of their favourite products!), the good news is that we are given fair warning and a chance to stock up on our favourite cardstock, ribbons etc. 

But I must warn you: once these items are gone, they are gone! So you really do need to act fast if you want to ensure you don’t miss out. 

So what's retiring?

For the impatient among you, here are the lists. Read on for more info about ordering and shopping tactics!

Things to note

ALL the Stampin’ Around wheels and accessories are retiring. If you’re a fan of wheels, make sure you have all the ones you love, and don’t forget to stock up on uninked cartridges if you want to 
add to your range of colours. The wheels are being replaced with border stamps in photopolymer, which are completely clear for ease of positioning. 

ALL of the alphabet stamp sets are retiring. These, too, are being replaced with new alphabets in photopolymer, so you can see exactly where you’re stamping. 

In Colors
The following In Colors are retiring: Midnight Muse, Gumball Green, Summer Starfruit, Raspberry Ripple, Primrose Petals. If you have the ink pads, it's an excellent idea to purchase an ink refill for each one. Better safe than sorry!

Every year I hear plaintive cries of “WHY are they retiring THAT?” when a favourite product ends up on the list. In most cases, the reason is pretty simple: if it doesn’t sell, it goes.

Tactical tips

Some of the items are reduced in price. This usually means that stock levels are high – but it also means they will sell out first, as everyone loves a bargain! As to what else will sell out fast, that’s anybody’s guess. But if you’re thinking  “WHY are they retiring THAT?” somebody else probably will be too, so it’s likely to go fast. 

Favourite stamp set gone already? If it contains mostly images with one or two sentiments, check if it’s available in French or German. If it’s reduced, this is a good way to get the images you need. 

How to order?

Online: You can order at any time and have it delivered anywhere in the UK by visiting my online store. Shipping is £4.95, regardless of order size, and you should receive your goodies within a week. 

Through me: You can also order at any time by emailing me or sending me an order form. Again, shipping is £4.95 regardless of order size. 

Want free shipping? I will be placing an order at 5pm on 1st June, so if you’d like to hop onto that order and claim free shipping (assuming you are able to collect from me), please ensure your order is with me by 3pm that day so I have time to check it and call you with any queries. I am happy to order at any other time, but there will be a shipping charge. 

Big order? Don’t forget, if you have an order of £150 or more, you’ll qualify for free hostess benefits. As a thank you, I will also throw in free shipping. To claim the free shipping, you will need to order through me, and not through the website, as there is no way of overriding the shipping charge at the online store. 

So what's retiring?

Again, here are the lists. These are due to be updated at the end of each business day with items which have sold out, so be sure to check back regularly!

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Epic Day This and That Book

What’s this? A This and That book? How long have I had it? Hmm... a year? When did I finally decorate it? Two days ago! No point in rushing into things...

I have been sitting stroking this beauty for months, wondering what to put in it. Truth be known, I didn’t really want to “spoil” it with my horrible handwriting. But I decided enough was enough and it has now become the idea book for our house extension, planning permission for which was finally granted yesterday. If the whole plan comes to pass (we are currently waiting for quotes), it will result in a beautiful new craft room... but that’s a LONG way off yet, so I’m trying (failing) not to get too excited.

Oops, forgot to add the stickers to my product table – no time to fix now, got to go to work! And, as you can see, I used random Washi Tape, because the original rolls have been used up!

Bit distracted at the moment because we demonstrators are gearing up for our pre-order period and our first proper look at the new catalogue. If you’d like to share this excitement, and start your own craft business, why not take up our fantastic bargain sign-up offer that is running now until the end of June?  You can sign up for just £50 and get a reduced Starter Kit. The usual £99 deal is running alongside this, so you have more choice than ever! Please email me for details.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Weekly Deals and Clearance Rack

It’s raining then... just a bit! A perfect day for battening down the hatches and doing some serious crafting... or going to work, depending on your schedule.  I’ll be doing the latter, and thanking my lucky stars that I’m not doing my daughter’s job, as she is spending the week dog walking at a local boarding kennels.

A more popular rainy day activity is a bit of internet shopping and what better time as today sees the release of the last Weekly Deals ... for now at least. (Seriously, I don’t have any inside info, just covering my back!)

Take a look at the deals, then check out the Clearance Rack. Some of the Clearance items have sold out already, which is disappointing as I was hoping to stock up for my Christmas in June workshop. I have five places left for this workshop so please book soon so that I can place the order for supplies on 1st June. Full details are HERE.  Don’t forget there’s a free Welcome Pack for every newbie, and a thank you gift for everyone who brings a newbie!

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Product review: photopolymer stamps

Time is running out to get your hands on the first photopolymer stamps from Stampin’ Up!® You have until the end of the month to get one of these sets free with a £60 order. Above is a set of three cards I made with one of the free sets, Show & Tell 1. 

If you can’t earn a free set this month, the good news is that photopolymer will be back (in different designs) in the forthcoming Annual Catalogue, which comes out in July. 

I’d never used photopolymer (or any clear stamps) before but I have now had the opportunity to try them and can report back with my findings:

Sticking to the block
You will not have any trouble with these babies falling off the block, even the very smallest stamps. 
They stick to the block like an octopus’ tentacle on the side of a fish tank. 

They are fully clear for ease of positioning. That said, I did struggle to create a perfect pattern of hexagons using the “hello” stamp, but I am sure I’d have managed it if I’d had more patience. 

Stamping three rows of arrows (the stamp creates one row; I stamped it three times) on the Thank U card was really easy. 

Same with stamping the arrows around the circle in this You’re Lovely card. They’re not perfect but I literally stamped them in seconds. 

Stamped image
I have to say I was really impressed with the stamped image. Most of the stamps I used were quite detailed (eg, the very fine dots on the flag stamps on the Hello card) and all came out perfectly. The scientists among you may wish to know that my Pool Party and Tangerine Tango ink pads are old-style, while my Baked Brown Sugar is the new firm foam. I got equally good results with both. 

While the current offering of free stamps come in cello bags, the new range will be packaged in our standard DVD cases, which is great as they’ll match your other sets. They all come on a clear backing sheet printed with the stamp designs, so you can store them in position and see what you have.

This could be an issue as they are properly clear and therefore not very visible on a messy crafting surface But they’re not going to fall off the block so, as long as you remember where you put them, you should be ok. One tip I picked up at Regional Training is to keep one of your larger clear blocks on your work area and pop the stamps onto this in between usage. Don’t peel them off the block and leave them lying around or they could go missing very easily. 

Overall I was very impressed. They’ll not replace rubber as they aren’t so hard-wearing or long-lasting but this is reflected in the price and, for borders and alphabets, they are an absolute boon. I can’t wait for the new catalogue!

Monday, 26 May 2014

My Digital Monday: my feet!

We haven’t had a My Digital Monday for a while. If I’m honest, I haven’t really done much digital scrapbooking for a while. Ok, if I’m being REALLY honest, I have only done one page this month.  But I am using My Digital Studio for lots of other things, so I am still keeping my hand in. 

Here’s the page I created a couple of weeks ago which I was reminded about at Stampin’ Up!® Regional Training recently, layout CASEd from somewhere but I’ve forgotten where. 

I had to chuckle to myself when Charlotte from the European head office was talking about Project Life and how you can document anything you like. She said she’d even seen a page somebody had created about their feet. I knew it wasn’t my page, as I hadn’t shared it with anyone, but it did at least make me feel that it wasn’t quite such a weird topic for a scrapbook page after all, even if Charlotte wouldn’t necessarily agree!

My feet are a cause for concern right now as in just a few weeks’ time, I am taking part in the Pink Ribbonwalk at Chatsworth with three members of my Stampin’ Up!® team. It’s a 10-mile walk, which normally would be a bit of a stretch for me but not beyond the realms of possibility. A week in the Lake District, however, has resulted in a painful foot (suspected plantar fasciitis if you need further facts). I’m having physio, doing my exercises and taking it steady, but I’m really concerned about giving it a 10-mile hammering. 

Wish me luck – and, if you’re so inclined, please sponsor me at We’re raising money for Breast Cancer Care, a worthy cause, I’m sure you’ll agree. 

Friday, 23 May 2014

Caturday: Kittens! (And Clearance Rack bargains, too!)

VERY exciting news – on the cat and cardmaking front...

First of all, for those who can't wait, there are more items on the Clearance Rack. Hurry, as there are some fabulous Christmassy things on there which are perfect for getting a head start on your preparations. Head here to purchase; it’s only £4.95 to have as much as you like delivered to your home (or address of your choice).

And now for the extremely exciting kitty news... there are brand new kittens at the cat shelter! Born in the early hours of yesterday morning to mum Bella, there are four little beauties; three tabby and one black. Daughter hopped on a bus to go and see them straight away, she was so excited!

And even more exciting news... we have been granted the honour of naming them. We drew up a shortlist immediately...

Tutorial: Flower Shop Smarties favour

I love finding fun ways to package little gifts and this is one I created for a party for my latest hostess in my Virtual Hostess Club. Everyone at the party made one of these and I thought it was such a fun project that I sent a kit out to all the members of the club, too. 

If you’d like to join the next round of my club, I’d love to welcome you on board! The only commitment is that you spend a minimum of £15 per month for 10 months. You will be the hostess for one of those months, earning yourself at least £25 of free products… which could be more if you decide to hold a party on top to boost the total. 

I have a pretty high level of returning members, but do have a few places going spare so please shout up if you’d like to join. There are other benefits, too, including free catalogues for the duration of the club, discounted admission to catalogue launch parties and, of course, a little gift like this each month to say thank you. Please send me an email if you’d like more information. 

And now, how to make this fun little project?

  • As I like to keep things simple, I started with a strip of cardstock cut from the width of A4, so it measures 21cm x 5cm. I scored at 9.5cm from each end and that gave me my basic structure.
  • As you can see, I decorated the top using the Scalloped Tag Topper Punch. I know I’m late to the party but I really cannot recommend this punch highly enough – it’s so versatile and is certainly useful for so much more than tags!
  • I stamped both front and back using the gorgeous Hardwood stamp. Scroll down for tips on using a large background stamp.
  • The inside holds a tiny box of Smarties (from Lidl), which I’ve wrapped in a piece of Fresh Prints DSP from the paper stack. Again, keeping measuring to a minimum, this is cut from the width of a piece, so measures 11.5cm x 5.5cm. Wrap it around the Smarties but don’t glue to the Smarties box – you want to be able to slide them out.
  • Now decorate the front as desired. I’ve used the Flower Shop bundle and the two samples here show flowers stamped in Real Red, and stamped in Black Stazon then coloured with ink pads and blender pen.
  • Stick the Smarties inside the stamped outer. Line it up with the base. When the gift is opened, you should be able to slide the Smarties out without destroying your handiwork.
  • Finally, tie it up with ribbon. You can do a simple knot, a bow or as I’ve done here, which is ruche the seam-binding. I did this by tying the knot first. Next I frayed the ends, then found a single strand in the centre (roughly!) and gently pushed the remaining ribbon towards the knot. Start by working nearest the knot and pushing the ribbon towards it. Then move along the ribbon and repeat until the whole strand is ruched. Finish by trimming in a V-shape; this seems best for preventing further fraying. 

Using background stamps
These babies are BIG and, unless you have long fingers or big hands, you’re going to struggle to pick  up a stamp and use it effectively. Here’s how I was shown (by my talented cousin Leslie)
  1. Lay the stamp on its back, rubber side up, on one side of a piece of scrap/grid paper
  2. Ink it all over by applying the ink pad to the stamp. (This is why our ink pads have those handy finger grips on the sides!)
  3. Lay the piece of card you wish to stamp onto the inked surface
  4. Lift up the empty half of scrap paper and lay it over the top of your cardstock on top of the stamp. Rub gently to ensure it’s all covered. OCD types may wish to use a brayer (I don’t). 
  5. Gently lift up your cardstock and you should have perfect coverage. 
TIP: If you wish to create a shabby chic effect, you can do the same but instead of rubbing evenly, just dab here and there, to create a deliberately uneven stamped image. Try it – it’s really effective.

TIP: If you prefer clear-mount stamps and don’t have the gigantic clear block, you can use a brand new (ie unused, not scratched or bent) Big Shot plate as your block instead. As you will be using the stamp on its back, it won’t matter that you can’t lift it with one hand. 

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Hello there!

Here’s another card using the oh-so-versatile Scalloped Tag Topper Punch. It’s a similar concept to this card but “faked” – in other words, the scalloped tag pieces are stuck on rather than forming part of the main card base. The Coastal Cabana tag is scored and adhered behind the Whisper White layer, while the Whisper White tag is simply popped up on Dimensionals. It would have looked nice scored and stuck behind the polka dot layer but you can’t turn back time, eh?

If you’d like a play with this versatile punch, why not book a party or come along to one of my events? It’s sure to be making an appearance at Christmas in June, booking for which is now open (and filling fast!). Please click here to register. 

In other news, today we have a new set of Weekly Deals for your delectation. Check out my online store to view them properly and place an order. 

And finally, I am currently taking names for my next Virtual Hostess Club. Again, places are filling fast, so don’t delay – drop me a line if you’d like more information or to claim your spot!

Monday, 19 May 2014

Coffee morning with Perfect Blend

Good morning – and what a glorious day it is here.  The weekend was fabulous, too, and although I spent the whole of Saturday indoors, it was worth it because I was at a Stampin’ Up!® training day. These events are always exciting because we get to meet up with demonstrators we’ve not seen for ages, we get to see sneak peeks and try out brand new products. We also learn some great tips for running our businesses. Oh, and there are prizes and presents, too!

In fact, the only part of the day I didn’t enjoy was when I was summoned to the stage for the announcement of the Cards for Keeps auction total. As you probably know, my card was chosen to be auctioned alongside those made by proper celebrities, to raise money for Coram, the UK’s oldest children’s charity. While this was a great honour – and I was delighted that my card raise £26 for this worthy cause – I could have done without the awkward minutes (which felt like hours!) standing on stage feeling like a lemon and looking like one, too. The whole auction raised over £8,000 which was amazing, and I was proud to be part of it. 

I always like to make a little something for my team when we go to these events, and this time I fancied something a little different. Inspired by UK demonstrator Val Moody, I bought these cute little coffee cups from eBay and filled them with little edible treats. Some had chocolate coffee beans, others had a little pack of biscuits with a sachet of coffee. They are wrapped in a 2" strip of cardstock cut from 12"x12", scored at 5" from each end. Very simple. 

Attached to the ribbon is a glass bead –team members receive a keyring on reaching their first promotion, and I give them a bead for every subsequent promotion and, appreciating that not everyone will (or wants to) rise through the ranks, another for every SU event they attend. 

The small print

This is my personal blog and my sole responsibility as an Independent Stampin' Up!® demonstrator. All images are © Stampin' Up!® All content including photographs, projects and text are © Helen Read, unless otherwise stated. Please feel free to copy my ideas for your personal use and inspiration - if you are a SU demonstrator you may use these ideas for your events but please give credit where it is due. Please do not use my ideas for monetary gain, competitions or publication. The images on this blog - including blog buttons - should not be copied and used elsewhere on the internet or on CDs.