Saturday, March 31, 2012

More Artistic Outpost cards - pip, pip!

Don't worry, folks, I'm not transitioning to four blog posts every week (and at this rate, there may not be a post next week!), but the challenge that Artistic Outpost is closing today, and I felt inspired to keep going with my London stamps and my supplies on my desk.

I started stamping with these stamps on a strip of paper - I wanted to test if my idea worked.  It did, so I set this strip aside until today.

I added some green in here this time - I can only do monochromatic for so long.  The central panel has a collage of images - I just love that quote.  The harlequin background is done with picket fence stain, and a crafter's workshop mini-template.  So fun!

Here, I went a little cleaner, with just a focal image, and a little ribbon at the bottom - the ribbon is velvet which makes it very posh.

I had fun collaging these images. The lady was stamped first, and then I covered her with a piece of paper. When stamping big ben, I made sure to choose a lighter colored ink, so it would appear to be more in the background.  The greeting was stamped and embossed last.  Since embossing powder is opaque, it will be in the foreground.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Springpunk challenge - Mind the gap, pip, pip!

Since I'm married to a brit, I am absolutely loving all of the british stamps and papers coming out this year.

I fell in love with a new series of London stamps by Artistic Outpost, and couldn't resist entering the "springpunk" challenge - instead of "steampunk".

It was definitely a challenge to use these urban stamps in a bright and cheery way - but it does help that they included "cheerio!" as a greeting.  I found this monochromatic Bazzill paper that was singing "use me!" tonight, and decided to create a pink and magenta background with masked images from the sets I have.

I used a square punch (turned at an angle) to clip off the ends of the paper strips to make a banner that would stand out on the background.

I'm thinking these stamps will see a lot of use this summer! I've used the Loverly London and London Underground sets here, but I'm thinking that London Elements might need to find a space in my home, too.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Quick look: a box of greeting cards

This project is from Club Scrap's Share the Love event. The stamps and project are still available.

The project made two boxes filled with greeting cards in a lovely neutral color palette.  Cards make great gifts - everyone can always use a special card, and who doesn't love saving a trip to the store for a last minute card?

One of the things I love about Club Scrap project is starting with the directions, and then letting my own creativity take over. Sometimes, everyone just needs a little push to get started. I made a few cards like the directions, and then started mixing in other stamps and rearranging the pieces.

The tops of the boxes were decorated with distress inks and stamps.  On the right, I did lots of water spritzing, and mixing of colors. The harlequin pattern on top gave just the right amount of brown for me to mute the colors just a bit.

If you haven't checked out Club Scrap yet, what are you waiting for? As an added incentive, when they get to 2,000 likes on facebook, they will give all of their friends a free project instruction sheet - well worth the like!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Digital Supply Organization - Step 3 - Use Evernote

This is the last (for now!) in a series of blog posts describing how I'm going green and using digital tools to organize my crafting supplies.  Although I'm a paper crafter, this technique could really be applied to any craft or beyond.  If you're late coming to this series check out the other posts:
So, at this point, you have a lot of digital images of your supplies, and you have an idea of how you would like to categorize them.  In this post, I will talk about why and how I use Evernote to store these electronic materials. It's a long one, so feel free to jump to the section you need:
  • Why Evernote?
  • Organizing in Evernote
  • Entering notes - drag and drop
  • Entering notes - automatically
  • Entering notes - from the web
  • Finding notes
  • Go premium

Why Evernote?

I like Evernote because:
  • It's (mostly) free. Everyone can get a free account to try it out, and for many people that will be sufficient. A premium subscription costs $45/year or $5/month, which I'll discuss more later.
  • It's portable.  You can install it on a Mac or PC, access it anywhere from a web page, or install an app for your mobile device (iOS, Android, Blackberry, etc.)
  • It syncs everywhere.  If you log into a web browser at work and add a note, the changes will appear on all of the other devices you access your Evernote account.  It will, of course, need to sync from the server to download the new notes.
  • It can save anything - not just images.  So, I can include catalogs in PDF format, web pages, images, etc. I find that handy since so many companies have PDF catalogs.
  • Everything is searchable - including text in images.  This makes it super easy to find a stamp with the word "birthday" in it when I'm making a birthday card.
  • You can get your data out of Evernote. While I don't plan on doing this, it's nice to know that my data is stored on my computer, and I can export it as an XML or html file anytime I like.  XML files are standard file types, so given the popularity of Evernote to date, I'm confident that another program could import these notes if I wanted to leave Evernote.  But, why would I?
Here's an overview of Evernote for PC users:

And for Mac users:

Organizing in Evernote

Every item you bring into Evernote is a note.  You can organize your notes into notebooks.  Each note can have the following information associated with it:
  • Title
  • Notebook
  • Tags
  • Date created/added (can be edited, which is useful if you're backloading older supplies)
  • URL (this is added automatically if you are using the web clipper to make a note)
  • Your notes - you can type anything you wish, and format using tools just a like a word processor
I'm showing a screen shot below of my Evernote program on my Mac - it is almost identical for the PC (which I use at work).  In it, you can see three columns.  The left most column has your notebooks (boxed and labelled 1), and your tags (2).  The center column has a preview of all of the notes in the notebook or tag selected.  I have the "Crafting Supplies" notebook selected right now, so you can see it's highlighted in (1).

The right hand area (3) shows the note. In the note, you can see all of the information for the note I've selected in the center column:
  • Title: 2012 03 Tahiti CSJr
  • Notebook: Crafting Supplies
  • Tags:  All Occasion, CS Stamps, UM
  • Created: Mar 15, 2012
  • Updated: Mar 15, 2012
  • There is no URL for this note, but if there was one, it would show up to the right of the updated date.
On my computer, I most often use Evernote with the application, rather than the web page. My screen shots will show me using a Mac, but refer to the Windows version when something is different.

Entering notes - drag and drop

Drag an image onto a notebook or a tag, and a green "+" sign will appear. The plus sign didn't grab in the screen capture, but you can see the notebook is highlighted below, and the ghost of the file I'm dragging:

A note will now appear, and you can edit any fields. The notebook "Crafting Supplies" has been automatically selected, but I can change it if I made a mistake:

  • On a mac?
    • Dragging multiple files at once will create multiple notes.
    • The default name of the note is the filename without the extension (.pdf, for example, is missing from the above example)
  • On a PC?
    • Dragging multiple files at once will create one note with multiple files attached to it.
    • The default name of the notes is the filename with the extension (includes .pdf, for example)

Entering notes - automatically

On a Mac

You'll need to use a script to automate the process. Luckily, the Thought Asylum has a nice write up for theirs.  You can edit the script to watch a folder, which is what I did.

On a PC

Create a folder that you'd like watched, and use the "Auto Import" tool to automatically create a note anytime you add a new file.  If you use this function on a folder that has files you've already imported, it will re-import them all, so be careful!

Entering notes - from the web

On your browser

Evernote has created "web clippers" for all of the major web browsers. I have on occasion, found these to be flaky.  It's mostly because web browsers change their technology all the time, and Evernote needs to reprogram when they do.  Search the add-ons area of your browser for web clippers, or visit from your desired web browser and click on the green box "Get Evernote - it's free".

On your mac

On the mac, a little elephant appears in your menu bar to let you clip from the OS or web browser without installing a clipper for your browser.

On your iPad/iOS device

  • Use the blog reader app Feedler RSS Reader Pro - Evernote clipping is built in. This is great if you use Google Reader to read a lot of blogs. When the app can't clip the content because of the way the feed works, it will still grab the URL. The Pro version is necessary to get Evernote clipping. It's a $4.99 universal app, so it will work on your iPhone and iPad.
  • Follow these instructions to create a bookmark that will act as a web clipper in your browser. 

Via e-mail

Evernote will create a unique e-mail address for your account.  Simply e-mail anything to that address, and it will be added to your Evernote account.

Finding notes


Because I like to browse, and I've got all of my supplies in one notebook, I can browse through the whole notebook, or select a tag (like UM for my unmounted stamps).

An iPad note: TIFF files, and larger PDFs don't always preview nicely on an iPad.  I save these files as JPGs so I can preview on my iPad in browsing mode.


Evernote supports full searching, although I'll admit it's not quite as good as Google. I did, however, find some great tips on the Evernote support page.  My quick tips illustrate how to find an unmounted stamp with "Happy birthday" in it:
  • Select the notebook or tag first - my stamps are all tagged with "UM", so I'll select that tag first
  • The default search is "or" based, meaning that it will find any post with any word that you have entered.  So, if you type "happy birthday" (without the quotes), it will find any notes with the word "happy" OR "birthday"
  • Change the search to "AND" by using the +" key:
    happy +birthday: will find posts with both words in it
  • Use quotation marks to find a phrase:
    "happy birthday" will find posts with happy next to birthday
  • Use a minus sign "-" to get rid of search terms:
    "happy birthday" -old: will find posts with happy next to birthday that don't include the word old

Go Premium

The basic account on Evernote is free, but does have limitations. If you go with a premium account, you will get:
  • An increased monthly upload allowance (60MB is free, 1GB for premium).
  • Faster customer support (within 24 hours on weekdays - they take weekends off - how civilized!)
  • Priority processing of text recognition (your documents get recognized first)
  • Off line notebooks - view notebooks on your mobile device even if you don't have an internet connection (this is huge for me, because I only have a WIFI iPad)
  • A warm fuzzy feeling because you have supported a company and product you believe in and enjoy
If you're just starting out, I would recommend buying a one-month premium account for $5 as soon as you have a load of files ready to import. After that, monitor your usage. If you don't regularly need more than 60MB per month of uploads, then maybe you just need to get a premium account some months. Web images are very small in size, so you can clip a lot of those.  Scans or PDF files can be larger, though.

For me, the offline access alone is a feature I need, so I'm happy to pay the premium price - there is a discount if you buy a year subscription.

Do you have any questions or a different solution you've found useful?  Let us all know in the comments!  I'd love to learn from you or help you out.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Digital Supply Organization - Step 2 - Categorize your files

This is part of a series on digital organization of scrapbooking supplies.  To begin, I talked about why I'm "Going Green," and then I talked about some different ways to get digital images of your supplies in Step 1.  This week, I'm going to talk about how to build a system to categorize your supplies.

Know your software

How you categorize your supplies will depend a little bit on what software you use, but there are some general similarities. I'm going to use Evernote, which I'll talk more about next week.  In Evernote, everything can have these features:

  • Notes - these are your individual items
  • Notebooks - a collection of notes
  • Each note can also have the following attributes:
    • Title
    • Description
    • Tags
    • Date added/edited
A different system might use a different setup.  For example, in iPhoto, the following are available items to categorize photos (and similar in all other photo filing software like Lightroom):
  • Picture - these are your individual items
  • Photo albums - a collection of pictures
  • Events - these are also collections of pictures
  • Each picture can have the following attributes that would help me sort/search for them:
    • Date
    • Faces
    • Places
    • Ratings (1-5 stars)
    • Keywords (similar to tags in Evernote)
    • Description
If you have no software, or don't know what to use yet, you could think about creating folders on your hard-drive. On the Mac, I can assign colored labels to each file, which could correspond to tags.  It's not as elegant as using Evernote or iPhoto (what does red mean?  how will you remember?), but it's an easy way to get started. On both the Mac and Windows platform, the view of a folder can be changed to show larger icons of each item ("filmstrip") so you can flip through your supplies.

Know yourself

I like to browse through things. I like piles that have similar stuff in them. I like to keep it simple. If I have too many categories, I will drive myself nuts trying to categorize everything. To satisfy how I craft, I'm going to do the following:
  • Create one notebook for all of my supplies so I can browse through them easily
  • Give each item a title that allows me to search for the things I think are important
    • Kit name
    • Kit date
    • Manufacturer
  • Tag stamps with three tags
    • UM (unmounted) or WM (woodmounted) - narrows down where to find it
    • Category - mine are very broad and match the binders I use for my UM stamps
      • All Occasion (doesn't fit into a category - graphic images, sentiments)
      • Borders and Backgrounds
      • Card Verses (ex: mostly text, or for a specific event like graduation or Father's Day)
      • Christmas and Winter
      • Great Outdoors (ex: trees, scenic stamps, skiing, sports)
      • Hobbies (ex: theater, crafting)
      • Nature (ex: flowers, birds, butterflies)
      • Nostalgic (ex: steam punk, vintage sewing)
    • Company name - if I don't have many by a company, I'll use "other." 
  • Tag other stuff as needed. I'm just starting to get into "other stuff," so this is pretty fluid at this point.  What I have so far:
    • Catalog - I love my Stampin' Up! catalogs, and now I can take them all with me (and find them!)
    • Embellishments - for those little bits
    • Paper - for packs that I pick up, particularly from Stampin' Up!
  • Add anything else to the description
    • For my sheets of stamps, for example, I'm trying to type the sentiments into the description. Evernote will do text recognition on images and PDFs, but sometimes stamped sentiments are in a script font, or other strange things happen.
    • For paper from Stampin' Up!, I'm going to try keeping track of the coordinating colors

Learn from others

If you're a digital scrapper, what I'm describing above should come as no surprise to you - most digi scrappers have been adding notes and tags ("metadata") to their photos for a long time.

If you're looking for a different scrapping perspective on organizing digital supplies, the Paperclipping group and The Digi Show (produced by the Daily Digi) have had some great discussions on this topic.

What's next

Next week, I'll focus entirely on Evernote, and why I think it's a great piece of software for your crafty organization. I'll show you some things I've learned along the way on the different platforms I use and share my tips and tricks.

How do you organize your supplies? What works best to inspire your creativity?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sketchy Cards (SFYTT)

In between organizing my supplies, I've snuck in a little time for crafting. Today, I wanted to make some cards, but was a bit stuck, so I turned to the "Sketch for you to Try" challenge.  I flipped the card horizontal, and came up with this:

About a week ago, I was playing with picket fence distress stain, so I used that on the text background, and then used paint and a Club Scrap stencil to make the background. I'm so glad to be taking May Flaum's class - it's been a great inspiration and a push to stretch myself.

Once I started crafting, the sketch inspired me to make a second card. I felt like brighter colors and a bit more sparkle this time.

I'm going to be in the local ice show this weekend for the first time.  I'm looking forward to the memories, and to making some great scrapbook pages.  Hope you all have a great weekend.

Most of the stamps and paper in this post are from Stampin' Up! or Club Scrap.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Digital Supply Organization - Step 1 - Get digital images

In part 1 of this series, I'll share how I got digital images for my organizational system.  Last week, I shared how I'm organizing my stamps with a paper system, and why I'm going digital.

Method 1: Scan it

If you have a paper image sheet of the stamps or supplies you want to categorize, use a scanner to scan the images. If you don't have a scanner, or are unfamiliar with its settings, this is the time to learn!  Here are a few scanning tips:
  • PNG images are generally smaller in file size, and better for web applications
  • JPG are also small in size, but PNGs are preferred for image quality these days.  Every time you save a JPG, some image loss occurs, so minimize re-saving these images.
  • TIFF images are the highest quality, but also take up the most space.
  • To get high quality images, set the scanner resolution to 300dpi.  You can print these images later if you need.
  • If you're concerned about file size, 200dpi will get you very nice quality images while reducing the file size.
My Club Scrap index sheets back to 2004 were on paper, so scanning them was really the only option. A sheet feeder on my scanner (and a patient husband!) helped this process go more smoothly.

Method 2: Save it

Most craft manufacturers have great web pages these days. Navigate to their web page, and find the supply you're interested in cataloging. 

Web page image

If the photo is on a web page, "right click" on it and select "Save Image As...".  Give the file a name, and pick a location. I show below how I'm saving an image from my blog.  The screen shot is from Safari, but this option is available in any browser - the menu might look different for every browser.

PDF Catalog

Many manufacturers have great PDF catalog with wonderful images, and samples of how to use their supplies.  If you also want to capture some of that information, find the PDF catalog.

On a Mac?

  1. Open the catalog in Preview (included on every Mac) to the page you want to capture
  2. Select File...Save As...
  3. On the pop-up menu, select the format you would like for your image (I'm choosing JPG)

Finally, select the resolution, file name, and file location.

On a PC?

  • If you own Adobe Acrobat (the full version, not the free one) you can also "Save As..." a JPG (in version X) or "Export" to an image (in version 9)
  • Adobe Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, and many other graphics programs can open PDF files. You can then edit your images as desired.
  • If you aren't concerned about image quality, you can take a screenshot of the page and save it in Paint.

Method #3: Take a picture

If all else fails, or you want to catalog three-dimenstional objects that won't scan well (like beads), use your digital camera to take a picture of the item.

After you have the images

Rename the images.

The scanner gave all of the files digital names.  These aren't very searchable.  I wanted to be able to search by company, date (for Club Scrap kits), or name.  On my mac, I renamed each file to contain:
  • Company name (CS = Club Scrap, HA = Hero Arts, SU! = Stampin' Up etc.)
  • Kit or stamp name
  • Date for kits
  • Type of stamp (Club Scrap has Borders and Backgrounds, Font Art, JR images, etc. in each month).  The screenshot below shows some of my Club Scrap image sheets.

Back them up.

After you've done all this work, you don't want to worry about losing them. For a project like this, I like to use Dropbox (join through this link and we'll both get extra storage space - free!).  With Dropbox, my files are:
  • Backed up - stop worrying about losing them!
  • Accessible anywhere - look at your images on a computer, iPad, or other device with Dropbox installed
As a caveat, the copyright policies of some PDF files may prevent you from exporting images in the ways I've described.  Additionally, some companies might argue that their copyright policies do not allow you to copy any images. In my reading of copyright law, I believe that the personal reproduction of these images for your own personal use is fair use, and perfectly acceptable.  Do not, however, try to sell any of these images or use them in ways that aren't generally considered fair use.

Next week, I'll share some ideas about categorizing my images now that I have them.  A little thought here will really help as you move toward a tool that allows you to search and store your images.

Do you have any tips to share or questions?  Let me know by leaving a comment!  If you liked this post, share it with your friends, too.  I think we could all be a little more organized.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Digital supply organization - Go green, go digital!

Do you find yourself not being able to find your supplies?  Do you forget what you own and then buy it a second time?  Don't worry - you're not alone, as I'm guilty of saying "yes" to both of those questions!

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to share some ideas I have for digital organization of your crafting supplies.  This could apply to nearly any craft, and can work whether you own a Mac, PC, or iPad - I'll give you tips for each platform, as I work on all three.

Before we get starting on going digital, I thought I would share what I'm doing now, and why I'm making the switch to digital organization.

Current stamp organization

My stamps are organized in binders, with an index sheet on the front, and a laminated index sheet behind it.  I scan, stamp, or download an image of the stamps to create the index sheets using photo editing software as needed.  Several images sheets can generally fit on one page, making stamp storage take up a little less space.
Binder with stamps (8.5 x 11); stamps can be pulled out of the page protector for easy use.
Each index sheet is then printed as a half-sheet of letter paper, and put into a three ring binder.
Smaller binder with index sheets for all of my stamps (5.5 x 8.5)

I started this organization process after I had been stamping a while, and I generated a list of some categories that work for my crafting. The binders are separated by these categories, either as a whole binder (for the stamps) or an index divider (for the index sheets)
  • All Occasion (doesn't fit into a category - graphic images, sentiments)
  • Borders & Backgrounds
  • Card Verses (ex: mostly text, or for a specific event like graduation or Father's Day)
  • Christmas & Winter
  • Great Outdoors (ex: trees, scenic stamps, skiing, sports)
  • Hobbies (ex: theater, crafting)
  • Nature (ex: flowers, birds, butterflies)
  • Nostalgic (ex: steam punk, vintage sewing)
To find a stamp, I flip through my index sheet binder (it's smaller and lighter than the stamp binders!), select a stamp, and then grab it from the binder.  I still have plenty of woodmounted stamps, too, so those are also in the index binder.  They are cross-referenced to their location so I can find those, too.

Why go digital?

Here are some compelling reasons I'm going digital:
  • The binder is getting big - and full.  I'd like to be able to "store" my images in a smaller footprint, and not use up more space to store sample images.
  • I can't find what I own.  My husband might tell me to sell some supplies, but we all know how realistic that is!  If I go digital, I can plan on searching with a digital database.
  • Club Scrap has gone digital.  Each month, I get a new Club Scrap kit. Each kit comes with great ideas for layouts, stamps, and more. They used to send out paper versions of all of these items (that fit in cute little binders), but are now sending me PDFs. I don't want to print out PDFs if I can avoid it, so this is a good time to switch.
  • Only my stamps are organized. How many times have you gone to a Stampin' Up! party or scrapbook store to wonder if you owned something that you were considering purchasing?  With a digital system, I could organize more than just stamps more easily.
  • It's greener. This isn't the most important reason for me, but it is another factor. Of course, as an engineer, I then start to wonder how much electricity I'm using with my digital system....

What's next?

So, in the next few weeks, I'll share with you:
  • How to get digital images of paper supplies (it's easier than you think!)
  • How to decide on a categorizing system
  • How to use digital tools (most of which are free!) to store and access your materials
Is there anything you'd like to see or have me add to the series?  Let me know!  I'm still writing, so there is plenty of time to shape the discussion and have your questions answered.


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