Craft fair at Birmingham NEC

Shopping time!

For the last few years I have looked forward to November with both excitement and trepidation. Excitement because it is Crafts for Christmas and the Hobbycraft fair at Birmingham NEC, and trepidation as I know that I will inevitably spend too much money. Again.

I first went to the fair in November 2005. My son was barely 4 months old and I was pretty much a crafting novice. Although it was a real experience taking a baby to a very busy show, in the end I was very grateful I had him with me because his buggy became a very handy shopping cart to carry all my purchases!

If you have never had the joy of a Hobbycraft show, let me explain. The November event comprises 3 shows – Crafts for Christmas, Hobbycraft, and Art Materials – Live. It seems to be held over approximately 84 football pitches worth of ground, and attracts about 6 million visitors. Ok, that’s an exaggeration, but that’s what it seems when you walk in!

The gist of it is – if you can craft with it, you’ll find it there. In abundance. The real trick is knowing when to stop buying stuff (usually at the point just before you collapse in an exhausted heap on the floor). For the last few years I have been lucky enough to be treated to the ticket and the travel down there by my mother-in-law. Only fair really, as she was the one to get me into crafting in the first place 😉

This year 5 of us went together. A rather eclectic bunch – myself and my sister-in-law, my mother-in-law and her friend, and my 8 year old neice. We took lunches and and one of those wheeled shopping bags to store our goodies in at half time (a wise move, especially if you’re buying card blanks for example – they get very heavy very quickly).

My usual ploy is to try and decide two things before I go – what I want to buy, and how much I am planning on spending. Taking cash and leaving credit / debit cards at home is a good plan as it ensures you stick to your budget (if you do this though, make sure you pay for the car park at the start of the day so you don’t forget!).

This year, I really had no idea what I wanted. I certainly don’t *need* anything else – I can barely fit what I already own into my broom-cupboard of a craft room. So I went with only the plan of sniffing out a bargain. It has been discovered in previous years that I am very good at that. Last year I spent half what the others in my party spent, but ended up with 3 or 4 times the number of bags! (ok, I know it should be quality, not quantity, but never mind).

This year turned out to be no different. I spent in total just under £40, and £10 of that was on one item. Here’s a photo of the ‘haul’:

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I’m not sure I’m ever going to use all this stuff up! In summary, this is what you may expect to see on any card you receive from me in the next 3 years…

3 packs of paper flowers

4 packets of buttons

8 packets of brads (2 epoxy, 1 fabric, squares, stars, hearts, and two normal circles)

1 pack of multicoloured Card Candi (I have discovered it is Card Candi *not* Card Candy as I had previously thought)

6 rolls of double sided tape (2 different widths)

3 packets of sticky foams pads

5 gorgeous 12×12 scrapbooking papers, which at 30p each were a steal

1 (only 1!) pot of glitter glue

1 stamp pad

2 packets of stamps (24 stamps in total)

1 pack of 12 patterned card blanks

1 pack of baby boy card toppers

2 sheets of decoupage

An A5 sketch book (this was free for signing up for a competition!)

A craft magazine, with a free quilling kit on the front

And the big spend was on a fabulous paper punch and embosser which makes utterly gorgeous shaped and embossed paper flowers (like I need more paper flowers!). I have hardly stopped playing with it since I got it.

I made a card using the punch and embosser. I was just playing with it and punching flowers out of a craft catalogue I’d got with one of my purchases. I realised that actually, the flowers were really pretty, and I soon got carried away and had made loads (my son helped with this bit too!). I put a dot of my new glitter glue in the centre of each flower, and then went to town sticking them on a card blank. I’m really pleased with the result, and I think I will be using that punch and embosser a lot!

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Isaac’s birthday

Ok, so I’m a bit late posting this. Isaac’s birthday was 2 1/2 weeks ago!

Isaac’s birthday card

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I made this the night before his birthday. Originally it was going to be a very quick and straightforward card, but as is so often the case it morphed itself into something more complicated. I knew I wanted to use my Scoooby-Doo 3-D decoupage, but wasn’t too sure what else to do. Once I’d cut out and constructed the decoupage I spent ages working out how to mount it onto the card. In the end, I used my new Martha Stewart Punch All Over the Page punch to cut out a couple of circles in the card front so I could mount the Scooby Doo backing paper behind. Then I cut out a number 6 (from the punched part of the circle, so I knew it would fit), and attached it to the back of the card with a concertina of paper, so it springs out. I then used decorative scissors to trim the other punched circle, wrote ‘Isaac’ on it, and did the same.

Isaac’s reaction to the card was great, and made all the work on it worthwhile – thankfully! I would have been gutted had he just glanced at it and moved on to the next one!

A – Z challenge: K is for…

K is for kids & crafting.

I confess I do get a bit control freaky when my 5 year old son wants to help me do my craft. He loves making things and decorating them. His latest craze is ‘junk modelling’, AKA ‘sticky taping recycling together, and calling it a rocket’. He also likes to make cards and has in the past helped himself to sheets of my scrapbooking paper (50p a sheet!!) to make me a card. Talk about mixed feelings – he’d not long been writing, so the fact that he’d written in it was lovely. However, the more I looked at it the more the realisation dawned that he’d nicked the paper straight out of my craft room! After a few hugs, thank yous, and stern words about asking first, we have both managed to move on from the event, and thankfully it has not been repeated!

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There are lots of options for crafting with little ones, depending on the level of mess you are willing to get involved with. Rubber stamping is excellent, as you can stamp over and over again, and unlike stickers for example, you’ll never run out. However, it is frankly impossible for a small child to rubber stamp with an ink pad and not cover themselves, their clothes, and most of the furniture with ink. This is why we stick mainly to, ahem, stickers, and particularly free ones off the front of a crafting or kiddies magazine. If they’re free I know that I can let him loose with them without constantly thinking ‘that’s 75p of stickers he’s used already!’ He has made some lovely cards with stickers in the past, but the last card he made was a bit more advanced.

You may have noticed in my ‘Happy Birthday’ post that I have some Scooby Doo 3D-decoupage sheets, just waiting to be cut out and built up. I thought he’d enjoy making a Scooby Doo card, so I chose a design that had some nice straightforward shapes to cut, explained what he had to do, and let him get on with it. There was a little incident when he cut off something that should have stayed attached, but we fixed it with a bit of sticky tape on the back, so it was all good, and the tears were over with quickly. He did get a bit carried away with the sticky foam pads, but I managed to ration them in time. He even chose the backing papers to use, and how he wanted the bits laid out on the card. This is the finished product:

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I was very proud. I’d been making a card too, and although we’d been sat crafting together, we were both doing our own thing. That meant that Isaac felt he had a lot of control over what he was doing. I was still able to watch him and make sure he wasn’t going crazy with the scissors, but could also metaphorically step back and let him utilise his own creativity. Obviously children will need supervising when doing any sort of craft, even if it’s just to ensure that stickers are stuck to the paper and not the wall, chair or face of a younger sibling. But it’s also important to remember that they are individuals, with their own ideas, and it’s good to be able to lose the mothering instinct for just a little while and allow them to discover themselves. So maybe the card will have stickers all up one side and nothing on the other (or in Isaac’s case, when he was small he always insisted on leaving the outside of a card blank and covering the inside with as much stuff as he could cram on), but it’ll be their own work, and you’ll treasure it far more in the future than you would if you’d butted in and told them where to put stuff.

I guess the moral is to have things put aside that they can go crazy with (and you won’t be stressing if it’s all used up inside 10 minutes), and to take a deep breath and let them discover the joys of creating something by themselves.

A – Z challenge: H is for…

H is for Happy Birthday!

Apart from Christmas, birthdays are my biggest events in card making. I make loads throughout the year in an effort to have some in stock when a birthday creeps up on me unnoticed. Cards for men are always the most difficult. I have found 3D decoupage useful in this respect. 3D decoupage is the art of building up a three dimensional picture by layering aspects of the same picture:

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You can find a decoupage sheet of an appropriate interest (or alternatively make your own by printing multiple copies of the same picture) to tailor the card perfectly to your recipient.

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Kids birthdays are the best fun, here’s a couple I made yesterday.

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I love to personalise kids cards with their name. It makes it that bit more special (I do the same with baby cards too). The second of the above cards is for my nephew, who be 6 (obviously) at the end of the month. I’m particularly pleased with this one as the Beano backing paper is actually just gift wrap. It was received last year by my son on his birthday (“take the paper off carefully, Isaac, CAREFULLY!”) and I have been waiting for a good opportunity to use it. The number 6 I drew free-hand onto paper, cut it out to check sizes and proportions, and then used it as a template to create the gold card version. I then highlighted the edges of the card and the 6 in brown marker pen, attached the number with sticky foam pads to raise it up a little, and finished it off with some sticky peel-off letters.
It was an easy card to make, and so much nicer (and cheaper!) than a store bought equivalent.