Showing posts with label product review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label product review. Show all posts

Hello Stanwood Yarn Ball Winder, Goodbye Frankenskeins

My name is Ellen, and I am a yarn-a-holic. My problem isn't necessarily related to buying too much yarn. I am typically a project-based yarn shopper and my skeins do not remain in my stash unworked for very long.

The real issue is that when I finish a project, I simply can not throw away the leftover bits and pieces no matter how large or small they are. I mean, the color is so pretty and someday I might need it for something.

So, I roll the leftovers into a ball and drop them into a bin where they commingle with the other fiber castoffs, eventually morphing into a giant Frankenskein!

Even the cat avoids tangling with this monstrosity of stash yarn.

Hmm... I wonder why I never use my leftovers. Even the cat avoids tangling with this monstrosity.

Then one day in a casual conversation, my neighbor accused me of having every knit and crochet tool known to man. Like that's a bad thing! I immediately went on Amazon to prove my dear friend wrong. Hooks, needles, row counters, stitch markers... Yep, I pretty much have it all.

But wait! What magical fiber related tool do I not yet have? A yarn ball winder. A situation quickly remedied with my purchase of a Stanwood Needlecraft YBW-A.

As soon as it arrived I clamped that bad boy to the table and started deconstructing my giant Frankenskein. Within a couple hours I had a pile of colorful cakes piled across my table.


The winder pleasantly hummed as I wound it all. Cotton, wool, acrylic. I'm not a yarn snob after all.

And now that my yarn is neatly wound and organized by fiber type two questions remain? What stashbusting pattern is next to be designed and what knitting/crochet tool is still missing from my studio?


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Project Ideas: Disneyland Celebration Shirt

Disneyland birthday shirtMy daughter and I have a tradition that started when she was in the eighth grade. Every year we take a short trip to Disneyland, just the two of us. This year, our trip coincides with her birthday, so it's going to be even more fun.

If you know me or have been following my blog for long, you are likely aware that:

  1. I love both Disneyland and Walt Disney World! Maybe it's because we never went there when I was a kid. They are my happy places and I love to show my Disney side!!
  2. The perfect trip to a Disney park includes some sort of handmade shirt. We had an extended family trip to Walt Disney World a couple years ago and I was thrilled that everyone in our group of 8 agreed to wear my high visibility safety green "no disco dancing" shirts.
With that in mind, I decided that my child needs to be sporting an 18th birthday shirt on our pending trip to the park. I whipped up a basic design and grabbed my screen printing press.
I'm not going to share a complete tutorial for this project because screen printing is a little more complicated that I can explain in one or two posts, but I would like to tell you about a couple products I tried during the process.

The first is Speedball Diazo Photo Emulsion Kit. Since I was only making two screens, I liked that this came in a smaller size than other diazo emulsions. It's perfect for people like me who only screen print occasionally.

The directions were easy to follow  and my only surprise was how thin the emulsion coating was on the screens compared to other emulsions I have used. Had I been more careful, I probably could have coated 4-5 screens with one bottle.

It was easy to burn my images and the screens washed out nicely. Here are the screens I made. The front says "I'm celebrating my 18 birthday in Disneyland!"

The back has a complete checklist of all the Disneyland and California Adventure attractions so we can mark them off as we go.
The second product I tried was Tulip Fashion Glitter iron-on transfer sheets.

Sure, my shirt looked nice after printing, but it needed a little bling! These iron on transfers were perfect for my project.
I used scissors to cut out a pair of mouse ears for the 18 on the front of the shirt. The glitter sheet was easy to cut and easy to iron on.


For the back, I used a large paper punch to cut stars. Since the glitter paper is so thin, I actually placed a piece of printer paper under it so that the stars didn't get tangled up in the punch. (I may not have needed to do that if my punch was newer and sharper.)

Disney birthday shirt with attraction checklist

Now, my friends, we are ready for two and a half days of Disney magic! And yes, I will be making sure that our first stop is City Hall so we can get a birthday button to pin on the birthday shirt.

8(:-D


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Storenvy vs. Etsy

A comparison of the features of Storenvy and Etsy for selling your handmade items online.I opened my Etsy store almost three years ago and it took me five months to make my first sale. Since then, I have developed a love/hate relationship with Etsy.

I love it when I actually make a sale, and I have made 65 of them. I hate that I have relisted some of my items 8-10 times because each listing expires after three months. I hate that some of my items seem to “disappear” from Etsy search results if I don't relist them frequently. I hate that there's no way to customize my shop and define my own style.

My creative focus is primarily on my blog, not necessarily selling my handmade items, but I do need to generate a few sales to supplement my income. So after a lot of soul searching and research I decided to open a shop on Storenvy.

Let me share my experiences with and discoveries about Etsy and Storenvy.

Storenvy
Etsy
How much does it cost to open up a shop? Free Free
Is your shop customizable? Yes. When you list an item it becomes part of a standard, marketplace-type store. You can also set up a stand alone store that is 100% customizable, but you will need to have some html and css coding skills to make the most of the customizations. No. When you list an item it becomes part of a standard, marketplace-type store.
How much does it cost to list an item in your shop? Free 0.20 USD for a three month item listing
Is there a fee when I sell an item? No, there are no seller fees. However, there is talk that eventually there will be a charge for sales generated through your marketplace shop. 3.5% of the item price.
How can customers pay for my items? PayPal or Stripe (coming soon) PayPal or Etsy Direct Checkout
Is there a fee for processing payments? PayPal currently charges 2.9% of the price + 0.30 USD, Stripe has a similar fee structure. PayPal currently charges 2.9% of the price + 0.30 USD, Etsy Direct Checkout fees vary by country, in the US it’s 3% of the price + 0.25 USD
Can I use my own domain name? Yes, but it costs $5/month plus the cost of acquiring your domain. No
Can I use tags or keywords in my item listings? Yes, up to 55 characters Yes, up to 13 words
What types of coupon codes can I offer my customers? You can create %-off coupons for free. It’s $5/month to get upgraded discounts like by one get one, free shipping, and more You can create up %-off, free shipping and fixed discount coupons at no cost.
How can customers share items in my shop? In your marketplace shop, customers can Envy (or favorite) your items and use the built in Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Wanelo sharing buttons. You can add additional sharing buttons, like Google+, in your stand alone shop. Customers can favorite your items and add them to treasuries and use the built in Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest saring buttons.
Do my items automatically show up in Google Shopping searches? No. You will need to set up a Google Merchant and AdWords account for your items to show up in searches and upload a product feed. It is completely free, but will take some time to set-up and maintain. Yes.
Are there shop statistics available? Yes. You can access a basic 30 day overview for your shop and  more detailed stats are available through Google Analytics. Yes. You can access basic statistics for your shop for any specified date range.
Can I feature links to my social networking sites? Yes. In your marketplace store you can feature prominent links to your website, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest and Twitter accounts. Your stand alone shop can feature links to any social networking site you desire. You can even add links to your other on-line shops. Yes. You can feature a link to your Twitter account on your shop’s homepage as well as a Facebook Like button. However the Like button will not take customers directly to your Facebook page.

You can also include links to your shop blog, shop website. Facebook and Twitter on your about page, but it is very difficult for customers to find these links.

Storenvy and Etsy are only two of many available options for selling your work online. Also, it doesn't have to be an either/or choice. There’s no reason you can’t have shops on more than one platform, although it does take a little more effort to learn about the benefits of each venue and manage your inventory.

And some common sense advice... No matter where you sell your handcrafted designs, online or at craft fairs, it's not a get rich quick (or possibly ever) business. If you are reading this, chances are you already know that most artists sell their work because it gives them an opportunity to do what they love.

Do you sell on Etsy, Storenvy or another online venue? I'd love to hear what's working (and what's not) in your shop. Feel free to share your selling tips and even a link to your online shop in the comments.

Happy crafting, and selling :)

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Two Helpful Silhouette Cameo Tips

I bought my Silhouette Cameo Starter Bundle Kit almost three years ago and it is still one of my favorite tools in my studio. I have cut paper, cardstock, tag board, fabric, vinyl, and plastic in a variety of sizes and shapes.

I love that the Silhouette Cameo is able to cut any font that's on my computer. I love the trace feature that allows you to trace and cut any images from your computer. And, I love that I can purchase shapes inexpensively on-line and they can be downloaded and used immediately.

Yes, it takes a little bit of time to learn the ins and outs of the machine settings and the Silhouette Studio software, but overall, I have no buyer's remorse over this purchase. In fact, I have only had two problems with my Silhouette Cameo and both were very quick and easy to fix.

My first problem occurred when I saved files from my computer to my SD card and inserted the card into my Cameo. I became quite frustrated when I slid the card into my Cameo and on the screen were the words "SD Error."

How to fix an SD Error on a Silhouette Cameo cutting machine.

I checked to make sure I saved my files properly using the Silhouette Studio software, so why the heck am I getting an SD Error on my Silhouette Cameo?

I took the SD card out and pushed it in again and still would get the SD Error. Grrr...

I still don't know what causes the error, but the solution is simple. Take a deep breath. Whew! Turn off the Cameo. Remove the SD card. Unplug the Cameo. Wait at least 10 seconds. Plug in the Cameo. Insert the SD card and turn on the power. Problem solved. (This is much easier than angrily pushing the card in and out 100 times only to get an SD error each and every one!)

The second problem I had was also an easy fix. After a number of uses, the cutting blade was not lowering at the beginning of the cutting process. So, I would have a small section of my shape that was uncut.

All you need to fix this problem is some silicone spray or WD40.

Turn off your Cameo and open the lid.
Locate the cutting mechanism.
Remove the blade.
Press down the blade holder.
How to lubricate the Silhouette Cameo cutting mechanism so the blade lifts and lowers properly.
Spray a little silicone spray or WD40 into the top portion above the blade holder. Gently lift and lower the blade holder a few times to spread the lubricant around. (I also had to use a cotton swab to clean up a couple drips because I went a little crazy with the spray.)
Replace the blade, turn on the Cameo and you are ready to go.

If you are looking for more information about using a Silhouette Cameo or are interested in some of the projects I have made with my Cameo, check out my Silhouette Cameo posts.


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Product Review: Crayola Window Mega Markers

Product Review: decorating car windows with Crayola Mega Markers for graduationI couldn't let the last day of my daughter's senior year pass without doing a little something special. So, when I saw some Crayola Window Mega Markers on a recent trip to Jo-Ann I started scheming.

My plan - Go to her school on the last day of class and  decorate her car windows.

I was a little nervous about putting any marks on her windows because my daughter LOVES her car. She takes really good care of it, so I knew it would be critical to use a product that would wash off easily.

Crayola Washable Window Mega Markers Everything about the Crayola Washable Window Mega 4-Color Marker Set seemed perfect. The package included four "school colors" markers that were blue, red, black and white. They have broad tips for decorating large areas. Most importantly, they are washable.
So, on the last day of school, after a quick stop at the grocery store for a couple balloons,  I found her car in the lot and set to work.

I used the red, white and black markers (her school colors) for my handiwork.

Overall, I was pretty pleased with the result.
If I had it all to do over again, I would have brought a damp towel to wipe down the windows before applying the markers. We live in the desert, so there is always fine layer of dust on everything. The dust made it a little difficult to use the markers.

I also think these markers would have been easier to use if it hadn't been 100 degrees outside. Again, it's just one of the hazards of living in the desert.
My daughter was happily surprised when she got to her car that afternoon. She proudly drove it around with the decorations for a couple days. But as I expected, they were washed off by the end of the weekend.

Product Review: decorating car windows with Crayola Mega Markers for graduation

Happily, as I hoped, the markers easily washed off the car windows even after a couple days in the blazing sun.


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Product Review: Glu6 and Recycled School Glue

Product Review: Glu 6 and Recycled School Glue by Nine Lives ProductsIf you've been hanging around here for long, you already know that I enjoy upcycling projects. Turning something that could be considered trash into something useful or pretty is a fantastic achievement! That's why I was very curious when I received an e-mail from Nine Lives Products asking me if I would like to sample their product. It's glue made from styrofoam. I loved the idea, so I was excited to give the glue a try.

Glu6 is made from those big blocks of styrofoam, like the ones packed around TV's and small appliances. Then it's mixed with plant-based ingredients that dissolve and shrink the styrofoam. The result, a gooey glue that dries clear and it smells like citrus. Science is awesome!

I received three types of glue: craft paste, non-porous glue and recycled school glue and couldn't wait to start crafting.

Crafts I have made with Glu6 recycled styrofoam glue

First, I used the craft paste to create paper beads that turned out lovely. I was even able to give them a shiny finish by coating them with a layer of the non-porous glue.

I also used the craft paste to make Christmas card ornaments. Again, I was very pleased with how the paste worked on paper.

I used the non-porous glue to create bottle cap magnets. I previously used hot glue when making bottle cap magnets and always end up singeing my fingers. Ouch! Then, over time, the hot glue usually peels away from the bottle cap, adding insult to injury. My Glu6 magnets, however, have held up for months and not separated.

Another project I now use the non-porous glue for is fairy garden houses. In the past I used silicone glue to stick the little metal doors to the clay houses, which works fine, but smells terrible when you apply it. Instead, I tried the Glu6 when I made the prototype for a class I am teaching in a few weeks. It worked perfectly and my students won't get headaches from the silicone fumes when we make them.

Recently, I used the recycled school glue to make paper flowers and a paper flower ornament out of magazine pages. They are a lovely way to celebrate Earth Day later this month.

Overall, I was very happy with all three varieties of Glu6. All of them have held my projects together well. I also like that all three dry clear so you don't have to worry if you are a little sloppy. You should know that a little of this glue goes a long way. I'm also happy that the craft paste and non-porous glue are now available on Amazon as well as the Nine Lives Products site.


I would recommend using the craft paste for big paper projects and the recycled school glue for more delicate ones. The craft paste's wooden applicator made it easy to evenly cover a large surface with glue. Whereas the nozzle on the school glue made it easier to apply more precisely to small areas.

How to clean the nozzle of Glu6 non-porous glue

The one concern I had about the non-porous craft was that the tip clogged up. I'll admit, it could have been user error. I didn't close the tip after using the glue and everything got gunked up. Fortunately, I discovered that the clear outer lid actually pops off if you pull it a bit. Then you can just use a pin or toothpick to remove any dried glue from the inner portion of the tip.

Many thanks to the folks at Nine Lives Products for the samples and for creating an effective and useful product that reduces waste in the landfills!


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Filling a Wine Bottle Hummingbird Feeder

How to fill a wine bottle hummingbird feeder so it doesn't leak by The Chilly DogBefore I made my first wine bottle hummingbird feeder, I searched high and low for a cork and hummingbird feeder tube that would work for this kind of project. I must admit that it was a little frustrating, though. I couldn't find anything at our local pet stores or the store that specializes in wild birds and bird feeders.

So, as no surprise, I ended up on Amazon where I discovered some basic Hummingbird Feeder Tubes For Making Your Own Feeders (Pkg of 12). (Single feeder tubes are also available on Amazon, Songbird Essentials SE619 Stopper Hummingbird Feeder Tube, but since I was planning on using this as a class project, I bought the multi-pack.) They looked like they might be just what I needed for the project. Then I read the reviews... People either loved these feeder tubes or hated them. I just couldn't understand how the tubes could work so well for some people and leak so terribly for others. I decided that they would still be worth a try.

I'll admit right now that my first couple attempts at using the feeder tubes did not end well. The first time I filled my feeder it dripped all over the place. The second time I had the opposite problem and the nectar was pulled up the tube and into the bottle so the birds couldn't reach it at all. And once, I didn't push the cork in tight enough so it fell out, leaving a sticky puddle all over the ground. But, after a bit of experimentation I found that these feeder tubes actually work pretty well if you fill the bottle correctly and remember a few tips:

  • Fill your feeder when it's cool outside and the nectar, bottle and air temperature are all about the same.
  • Fill the bottle completely (all the way to the tippy top) and wait until there are NO AIR BUBBLES in the nectar before you insert the feeder tube.
  • Twist and push the feeder tube cork into the bottle to create a tight seal.
  • Hang your feeder in a shady spot.
  • Don't leave your feeder outside on super windy days.

You can watch my video tutorial for how to fill your wine bottle hummingbird feeder.



I'll walk you through the basic steps.

Set your hummingbird feeder on a flat surface. I like to fill mine near the sink so I can easily clean up any little spills.








Pour the nectar into your bottle so it is about halfway up the neck. Using a funnel makes the process easier, but it is not necessary.








You will notice that there are bubbles rising up through the nectar as well as on the surface of the nectar. Gently tap the bottle on the counter to force the air bubbles up.







Once there are no bubbles on the surface of the nectar and no more bubbles rising up, carefully fill the bottle all the way to the top.








Again, wait until there are no bubbles in the nectar.









Set the feeder tube into the neck of the bottle. To create a nice seal between the cork and the glass, twist the cork while you push it into the opening.







Notice that the nectar is being forced into the feeding tube.









Continue twisting and pushing the cork into the bottle until it is secure and a few drops of nectar have been forced out of the tip of the tube.

Take your feeder outside, turn the bottle upside down and hang your feeder for the hummingbirds to enjoy.




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PhotoScape Editing

Let me preface this post by saying (again) that I am not a photographer. Taking pictures does not come naturally to me and it is definitely not one of my passions. However, in an effort to improve my blog, Etsy shop, and pattern photos, I am continually trying to learn more about photography.

When I first opened my Etsy shop and started blogging I was aware of two things. Some of my pictures were too dark, too bright, or not as clear as I would like them to be. Second, If I am going to build a presence on the web, an identifying watermark would be helpful.

Unfortunately I wasn't quite sure what to do about these issues. I was not about to invest hundreds of dollars in a fancy camera or photo editing software for a business venture that may or may not be successful. Not to mention the time it would take to learn how to use either of those.

Then one day when I was reading a craft/photography blog called Joy's Jots, Shots and Whatnots, the topic was photo editing and Joy talked about a free editing software called PhotoScape. I decided to give it a try.

PhotoScape has features that are quite helpful to a photography novice, like myself. Within no time I was resizing, cropping, brightening, and adding text watermarks to my pictures. All pretty basic stuff, but it helped.

After taking the product photography class on Craftsy and learning more about taking pictures and editing I started experimenting more with the features on my camera as well as some of the features in PhotoScape like adjusting the color temperature, white balance, contrast and blurring sections of photos.

Here's an example of how I edited my crocheted pumpkin picture.

Crochet Pumpkin Pattern by The Chilly Dog

Here's a sneak peek at how I edited the photo for an upcoming project.

Wine Bottle Hummingbird Feeder by The Chilly Dog

I'll never be a professional photographer, but I think my pictures are improving. For now, I'll keep practicing and over time I hope my crafting tutorials, inspirations and pictures will keep my blog readers coming back for more!


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Feeling Kinda Craftsy!

A few weeks ago I discovered Craftsy when I was looking for additional venues to sell some of my knit and crochet patterns. It's like crafting heaven. There are patterns, projects, supplies and more. (How it has taken me this long to discover Craftsy is still a mystery to me.) I explored the site, became a member and ended up sharing some of my own patterns and projects.

After a few more visits, I decided that I would like to become an affiliate. (You can see exactly what that means by reading the Disclosure Statement at the bottom of my sidebar.) Basically, I need ways to generate revenue here at The Chilly Dog so I can keep sharing my passion for crafting. Since Craftsy is designed for passionate crafters, they seem like a logical advertiser for my blog.

After becoming a Craftsy affiliate, I was invited to try one of their many online classes for free and share my thoughts. Product photography is still a struggle for me so I was excited to find a class called Shoot It: Product Photography Class. The course looked like a great way for me to get some basic tips to improve my pictures.

The class was perfectly suited for my needs. It consisted of 10 video lessons that are available to watch online as many times as I would like, printable course materials and a forum to share projects or ask questions. The instructor explained the topics in ways that even a photography novice, like me, could understand.

The most valuable lesson for me was the explanation of camera settings. Once I understood what the different settings meant, I had enough courage to take the camera off  "auto" and experiment a bit. I decided to set up a small study scene and took pictures with every different setting on the camera so I could see exactly what each one did.

This is a series of pictures with different exposure settings:


Here's another series with different white balance settings:



Since I was also working on my Crocheted Pumpkin Pattern while I was taking the class, I decided to practice what I had learned. This was the picture I took of my pumpkin before Shoot It! It's kind of blah.


Here's the same pumpkin, but this time I incorporated some of what I learned in the class. I made a background that captures my brand image, used props to set up a scene and took the camera off "auto" and chose my own settings.



I'm never going to be a professional photographer, but the class was very beneficial and I am looking forward to using my new skills to improve my blog and Etsy photos.

Now that I have some ideas about how to make my pictures better my biggest problem is deciding which Craftsy class I am going to take next. Maybe I'll try one of the new classes that were released this week. I'm sure my family would appreciate it if I tried a cooking class :)

Happy Crafting!


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Customized Address Stamp

A few weeks ago I reviewed a sock monkey stamp that was sent to me by Stacey at Red Heel Review on Etsy. I loved the stamp and ended up making some sock monkey Christmas cards and tags for a friend of mine.

Stacey has a second Etsy shop called Asspocket Productions where she offers a variety of other, non sock monkey stamps, including custom return address stamps.

I have been thinking about getting a return address stamp with my logo since I first opened my Etsy shop a couple years ago. I figured it would either be too expensive or that no one would be able to use my simple logo. (I designed it myself with a very simplistic art program on my computer aka Paint.)

I decided to see if Stacey could make an affordable custom stamp for me. The answer was "YES!" I sent her my art and told her what font I wanted, Kristen ITC. It's the font I use in my blog and Etsy banners. In just a few days she sent me a proof to see if I liked the design and I was quite pleased. A couple more days and I was stamping my logo on packages.

For less than $25, including shipping, I have my very own, personalized return address stamp featuring my lovely Chilly Dog. Beautiful work, Stacey!



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Product Review - Acrylic Sock Monkey Stamp

Lately, I have had a little sock monkey mania as I create a knit Christmas tree skirt for my friend Jacquelyn's Epic Sock Monkey Christmas.

My new found appreciation of all things sock monkey is one of the reasons I jumped at the opportunity to review this adorable acrylic stamp from Stacey at Red Heel Revue on Etsy. Her shop has stamps of everything from a sock monkey bride and groom to sock monkey ballerinas and magicians. Who knew that sock monkeys were such busy little critters?

Also, don't miss Stacey's other Etsy shop Asspocket Productions. It's filled with great non-sock monkey stamps and you can even have many of them customized! Asspocket Productions is on Facebook, too.


I was so excited when my stamp from Stacey arrived. Within minutes I had peeled the plastic backing from the stamp, affixed the stamp on one of my acrylic blocks, and gave it a whirl with some black ink.

This little guy is adorable!

I was impressed by the fine, crisp details on the stamp, from the ornaments on the tree to the texture on the monkey's body.




My first project idea was gift tags. I used my Silhouette Cameo to cut some basic tags out of white cardstock. Then I stamped my little buddy onto the tags and lightly colored him in with colored pencils.

 Too cute!







Then I made some fancier folded tags. Again, I used my Cameo to cut the tags from cardstock. However, instead of stamping with ink, I decided to try embossing.










I simply stamped the image with embossing ink, sprinkled on some black and gold embossing powder then used a heat tool to melt the powder.

The slightly raised image was absolutely lovely.









After using different stamping techniques on cardstock, the next logical step for me was to try the stamp on different types of paper.

I stamped nine little monkeys on 2 1/2 inch vellum squares with bamboo colored ink.








These are going to be a perfect accent for some Christmas cards.












Then I stamped nine little monkeys on 2 1/2 inch gloss paper squares with gray ink.












I thought the image was sharp on plain paper. It was even nicer on the gloss paper.

Again, I think I'll be using these for some Christmas cards.










Pros

  • cute sock monkey design
  • fine details
  • worked well with different types of inks and papers
  • unmounted so it can be used with the acrylic blocks I already have
 

Cons

  • once you start stamping with this cute little guy, you may not be able to stop yourself

Many thanks to Stacey at Red Heel Revue and Asspocket Productions for providing the stamp. I absolutely loved it!


Stay tuned... I'll be sharing a tutorial for the Christmas cards I created with the vellum and glossy squares I stamped.



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