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’:

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!



American adventure (in a craft store)!

Ok, so I may have got just a *little* carried away in the craft store (oh alright, stores) we went to in Florida. Here is what I brought back with me:


I purchased 3 new scrapbooks (one 12×12, and two 8x8s), a pad of 8×8 papers, some 12×12 patterned papers, some 12×12 plain cardstock, 20110604-163549.jpgsome random sized and patterned card, a couple of packs of notecards, a notepad, some stamps, paper flowers, adhesive gems and pearls (really looking forward to using those!), glitter glues ($1 each, I couldn’t resist!), flower buttons, star buttons, flower brads, sparkly letter stickers, a Martha Stewart punch-anywhere-on-the-page circle punch, and a huge pack of 36 gorgeous coloured permanent marker pens. Oh, and a few ribbons. 116 yards of it to be exact. I *may* have gone slightly overboard with the ribbon. But just look at them! They’re sooooo lovely!! Since I’ve got back I’ve joined another Swap-bot ribbon swap, so I’ve already cracked some of them open to send off to my swap partner.

20110604-163556.jpgOne of my favourite purchases is this —> which is a 12×12 lacy scrapbook paper. I had to put some white paper behind just half of it to give you the true of idea of how gorgeous it is. I’ve seen a beautiful layout using one of these in the past, and I’m really going to have to put some work into whatever I make with it to do it justice.

I’ve not had any time for crafting since I’ve got back, although I have loads of ideas running through my head. Hopefully over the next few days I can get some time in the craft room and get some stuff made. I have a few birthday cards I need to make, plus Father’s day is coming up rapidly, so I need to get going!

A – Z challenge: T is for…

T is for tools of the trade.

There are many items that people claim are ‘essentials’ when crafting. Realistically, when you’re starting out all you really need is some scissors, a glue stick and some coloured pens. But I thought I’d share with you my ‘essentials’ – the tools in my craft room that I couldn’t live without.

Firstly, tools. Here I have my paper cutter, very useful for accurately measured straight lines when matting and layering or trimming things to match sizes. My ruler, for measuring construction marks (for example a straight line to write journalling on). A couple of pairs of scissors for cutting out smaller or more awkward shapes. A craft knife for trimming things like button backs to create a smooth surface, or for cutting thick card. Finally, tweezers for picking up and placing peel-offs accurately.

Next, sticky stuff! Double-sided tape, sticky foam pads, a glue stick and wet PVA glue. The tape creates a good bond for paper, card or lightweight embellishments. I usually use the glue stick for similar work, mainly when I’m running low on (or can’t be bothered with) the tape. Foam pads (which I have in several different thicknesses) I use for Card Candy and for raising up aspects of a card to add depth and interest. The wet PVA glue I use infrequently as I am almost guaranteed to get it everywhere. It’s necessary for sticking heavier embellishments like buttons. If you are making a scrapbook which is going to be kept for a long time, it is important to use good quality adhesives. Some glues, and especially sticky tapes can contain acids which will disolour and spoil your work. When working on a major project, it is worth checking to ensure that your glues, tapes, and even papers are acid and lignin free to avoid this risk.


Next up, pens. I have many more different pens in my stash than the ones in this photos, but these are the ones I return to again and again. Permanent markers I use for colouring peel-offs and edging cards. The fineliners are great for journalling and doing borders. There’s a mechanical pencil, useful for drawing construction lines or for trialling journalling fonts. And finally, I love my white pen, which writes beautifully on even the darkest surface.


Finally, my scissor carousel! Eighteen different patterned scissors (patterns below). I do keep forgetting I have this (despite it being really obviously right in front of me while I work!) so I tend not to use it much. However, it’s lovely to be able to create such lovely patterns so easily, and you can even use some of the bumpy shaped scissors to create flowers by simply cutting in a circle.



So there you have it – my own personal craft essentials. I’m sure that everyone has their own view on what is ‘essential’ (my mother-in-law for example would be shocked that I have no stamps or ink pads in here!). What do you regard as your ‘essential crafting equipment’?

A – Z challenge: S is for…

S is for scrapbooking.

Scrapbooking is too big a topic to cover in one post, but I’d like to give you a little overview of it. I’ve mentioned it before in my ‘J is for journalling’ and ‘M is for memories’ posts, so do have a nosey at those if you haven’t already. I enjoy scrapbooking because it enables you to put your favourite photos into a nicer setting than a standard album. You can personalise, embellish and journal around the photos, adding to them and giving more detail to the event. In years to come, scrapbooked photos will be the ones that are looked back on more often than loose ones, as they can bring sharper focus to your memories of the event.

There are many types of scrapbook. Here are just a few.


The silver tin in the right of the picture is a mini-scrapbook-in-a-tin. It’s still a work in progress (as is so much of my stuff!) so I can’t show you the insides yet (but I will once it’s done, I promise!). The pinky one next to it is the Family History scrapbook I made for my parents. The pages are 8″x8″, a lovely size for scrapbooking a single good sized photo, or several small ones. The big blue one at the back is a standard 12″x12″ album. It’s a large canvas to work on, and can be daunting if, like me, you’re used to card-making on a much smaller scale. The benefits of 12×12 though are that you can easily fit more than one good sized photo on if you should wish, and there is so much scope for different layouts and embellishments. Scrapbooking paper is usually sold in the 12″x12″ size,too. A (very) small selection of mine is below (I couldn’t lift the rest!).


There are so many styles of scrapbooking paper available – you can get very decorative pieces like those above (with glitter on too – fab!), or much plainer ones. Try to choose something to match the tone of the photos you’re scrapbooking. Bright papers for kiddie pics are great, but not so suitable for scrapbooking your Gran’s 80th. Unless you have a very funky Gran of course!

Ferreting around in my scrapbook paper file, I discovered this. I forgot I had it, although I don’t know how, it’s so gorgeous! The problem with having such lovely papers is that it’s really difficult to start using them!


Once you ‘ve got the scrapbooking bug, you start looking at your photos in a different light, even while you’re taking them. My son was in the bath one night, pulling funny faces at me. I grabbed my phone and started taking pictures of him. I plan to make a ‘many faces of Isaac’ page. Here is where I’m at so far…


…which isn’t very far at all! I’m planning on matting the photos onto card (although I have yet to decide what colour card), then I can arrange a layout, some journalling, and I think I have a couple of bath themed embellishments knocking about which I can incororate. Once it’s done, I’ll put a picture up, and link back here, so you can see the ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots!

I’m quite sure I’ll be writing more about scrapbooking in the future, but if there’s anything in particular you’d like to see me cover, do let me know.

A – Z challenge: M is for…

M is for memories.

Scrapbooking is a wonderful way of preserving memories and creating something beautiful out of the odd photo and some pretty papers. I have enough photos of my son to sink a battleship, and I’m sure there are many other mums out there in the same situation. Do you have all your photos neatly labelled in albums, or are they, like mine, still in the photo shop paper wallets? It’s easy to lose track of a series of photos – when they were taken, at what event, and why. Scrapbooking is a wonderful way to re-create the event, to save and share the memories, and to create a wonderful heirloom for the future (and to hopefully embarrass your kids in their teens too).

I remember the days of having to put a physical film into your camera, and knowing that you only had 24 shots to take. Also the traumas of not being able to preview your photo meant I used to end up with more photos of my fingertips than of anything else. But now, with the advent of digital cameras it has become much easier to get really good photos easily. You can take lots and lots of shots without worrying about film, because you just delete the rubbish ones straight away. This means that you can achieve a series of photos that can tell a story, like below.


The photos above were taken at my son’s first birthday party. I was so pleased with them – a lovely series showing Isaac looking at his hedgehog birthday cake, and spying the Liquorice Allsort nose. Then reaching out for it, grabbing it, and stuffing it in his mouth in one go (and the subsequent hamster cheeked look too!). When I got the photos printed it was hard to choose which ones to use, and which to leave out. It is important not to cram too much on a page, else it will look cluttered.

Once I’d chosen, I then had to decide on colours. Picking colours out of the photos tends to work well and links the page together as a whole. I chose the light blue of Isaac’s T-shirt, and the red of the table. By matting and layering the photos onto appropriate coloured paper I was then ready to work out a layout. I had a dig around in my craft drawers for other items that matched the colour scheme to use as embellishments, and I came up with a couple of ready die-cut balloons, some blue raffia ribbon, some red brads, and some lovely round paper clips that I had recently purchased. The round tags were die-cut using my recently acquired Xyron machine (see my ‘D is for die-cutting’ blog post.

Once I had everything, I played around with it on the page, working out the best design. There are many scrapbookers out there who prefer to design their layout first, and then put things together for it, but I just can’t seem to plan that far ahead. Whenever I do try to plan something, I always change my mind halfway through, and it never ends up looking how it was planned. It does usually end up better though, which is why I now go with the flow and have a play around with it all until I’m happy with it. Then it’s just a case of sticking it all down.

I feel that the final layout perfectly captures the moment, and looks so much better than a few photos in a flippy photo album.

A – Z challenge: J is for…

J is for journalling.

Journalling is the art of writing on a scrapbooking page.

I recently made my parents a very special family history scrapbook. I used family photos going back 4 generations in some cases, and managed to find out lots of info about them from my dad, who has researched our family tree in great detail. The difficulty came in getting the information down on the page. Stamping each letter would be extremely time consuming and using sticky letters very expensive, so writing it by hand is the most sensible option. However, the final result of this depends enormously on how neat your handwriting is!

So, I used my journalling bible, The Scrapbookers Handwriting Workshop

which provides a variety of fonts that you can practice writing and use for journalling or headings on your work.

I have used this book over and over again, not just on scrapbooking pages, but also on cards and ATCs.

One of my favourite pages in the family history scrapbook is probably the simplest:


This is my Grandad, who when offered a beer, would always say ‘just a small one’. The font used here is called Easy Peasy and is very simple looking, perfect for a simple layout.


I used the French Manicure font to journal the heading of this page of my Grandad’s retirement (I’m in this photo somewhere, can you spot me?!). It’s a bit more substantial, which is good as it’s the main wording focus (the names around the edges are my own handwriting).


I used a more elaborate font, Strawberry Fields, combined with the very neat Society, on this page about my great-grandparents.

The very first thing I used my new journalling skills on was this made-from-scratch Birthday Book.



It takes a while to get the hang of writing on a different style, but the book shows clearly how to form each letter, and offers practice pages. This way you can write each letter repeatedly, and get used to the style of each font.

I have found this little book indispensable, and well worth the money. It is far and away the most used book in my crafting library.

A – Z challenge: I is for…

I is for imagination and inspiration.

Sometimes, no matter how many crafty goodies you own, your inspiration runs dry and you’re not happy with anything you produce. It’s for times like these that I have created my Inspiration Book.


It’s not particularly beautiful, but it contains loads of pictures of inspirational cards, scrapbooking layouts and tips cut out of the many magazines I have accumulated over the years. The book was originally created in order to get rid of all the magazines that were clogging up my craft room. I go through each, cutting out useful stuff, and binning the rest. The result is a little treasure trove of ideas that I can fall back on when I need to.

I do find though that a little imagination can create wonderful cards. Here’s a couple I made for my son when he was about 2.



I was tremendously pleased with the Noddy card – the Noddy figure (and Bumpy Dog) were cut from an Easter Egg box I think, or something similar. I made the card by examining one of my sons Noddy books in detail to get the shape of the car right. I am not an artist by any stretch of the imagination (by that I mean that I cannot draw in the slightest), but eventually I managed to sketch a car shape I was happy with. I transferred this onto folded yellow card, and cut out trims from grey and red card.
To be honest, I was far more excited by the finished article than my son was, but hey ho, he was 2, what did I expect?!
The bizarre orange creature, for those that don’t know, is Razzledazzle, a CBeebies character from a few years back. I have no idea if he’s still about, but my son *loved* him at the time. Again, I spent a long time sketching the shape of the character out to my satisfaction, then used the sketch as a template to cut out some orange Funky Foam, plus some black & white for the eyes. It was nice and tactile for my then 18 month old son, and he recognised Razzledazzle straight away (phew!).

As I have mentioned before, I do keep any handmade cards that come into our home. My sister-in-law has a very special talent, and I am very lucky to have someone so inspirational giving me cards so often! Here is an amazing card that she made for my son’s first birthday. Quite a simple concept, but one I have ‘borrowed’ occasionally to make cards for other ages.


You don’t have to be a craft genius to create lovely cards though- it’s amazing what a little thought can achieve. My husband, who claims to have no craft talent whatsoever, made this card for me, and I love it.


I will add that sensibly, he did ask permission to use my craft stash before starting work on it!