Archive for October, 2010

The Future of Spark a Smile


As we wrap up our month-long look at our first year of Spark a Smile, let’s consider what we hope the future holds for Spark a Smile.
- Continued monthly parties and donations to local charities

- On-The-Road Spark a Smile parties. Our first one will be November 12th at Cartridge World, from 5-8 PM. Would you like to host one? We’ll help you with the logistics!

- Regular blog posts with techniques, information, and most of all – Spark a Smile stories.

- More Spark a Smile community partners. Do you know any local charities doing good things in the community? Do you know of any local businesses who would like to host Spark a Smile parties to boost employee morale (it worked for our office!)?  Wherever there is a need for more bright, sparkling smiles, we’d like to create and donate cards.

- Above all, we want to inspire more good stuff in Casa Grande – starting with a simple smile.

 Thanks for joining us!!

The Spark a Smile Circle


Our donation location representatives are always grateful for our stacks of happy greeting cards to distribute to their patients and clients, but, to be honest, we haven’t yet had any responses from the final recipients of our random Spark a Smile cards.

However, after my dad died and my husband was injured in February (read more about it here), Spark a Smile came full circle… back to me. When I started this fun project last year, I had no idea and absolutely no expectation that I would be directly affected by its final product! Sure, I was always directly affected by the creation of handmade cards – enjoying the time spent with acquaintances who became friends, sharing creative ideas and stories – but I’d never had necessity to receive a Get Well or Thinking of You card. I was speechless, and in tears, when that sweet little girl delivered the card she’d made herself for our family, and it made me smile for days.

Dollar Bin Finds


This month, we’ve mentioned a few times how new papercrafters shouldn’t let the cost of creating cute cards deter them from getting started. Today, let’s take a look at some sweet deals you can find if you keep your eyes peeled!

I try to avoid generic brands because they tend to look gaudy, so I was happy that Michael’s had these name brand Prima flowers for just $1! When choosing embellishments, I try to choose packages that contain as many items as possible, so my crafting dollar goes farther (i.e. buy in bulk!). 

I found all of these sticker sheets for $1 each! They are all name brand manufacturers, except the wedding stickers (second from the left), but the wedding stickers have glitter and they don’t look chintzy. I also prefer to buy items that have special features or textures so they stand well on their own – with glitter, rubber texture, or thick chipboard. I also prefer self-adhesive items so I don’t have to worry about how to stick them on! 

These green K&Company stickers are “flocked”, meaning they have furry texture. I found them at Michael’s for 99 cents several years ago, but I saw them there last week and they are $2.99! So beware… if it’s a good deal, grab it!

This two-sided glitter sticker sheet by Making Memories was a great deal at Michael’s as well. I’ve never seen these type of stickers for less than $4!

These are Michael’s house brand stickers, but I liked the images and they all have good-quality glitter. I think I’ve seen these type of stickers retail for $3.99, but I got lucky!

 I felt like I won the lottery when I went to JoAnn and found the next three cute sheets, along with a bunch of other KI Memories items. These chipboard stickers (you get two sheets in one package) are on *clearance* right now at for usually $3.49! I’ll take the $1 deal, please!

I love these Softies by KI Memories. They’re made out of a rubbery silicone. I would tend to use these for more permanent personal scrapbooking projects instead of cards, because they’re just so adorable and there are only 16 in a package, but I thought I’d share. Normal retail is $3.95. 

Finally, these glitter rub-ons (there are 44 of them) make really awesome accents. Again, normal retail price is about $4. I tend to use only one or two of these type of embellishments per card, so I can really make my supplies (and $) stretch!

So, just by keeping my eyes peeled, I purchased approximately $25 worth of scrapbooking embellishments for $7. With my simple style of showcasing these fancy additions, I estimate that I could probably embellish 200 cards!
Another helpful tip when searching for frugal embellishments? Wait until craft stores are introducing new lines of supplies – when the dollar bins go to clearance, you can find rhinestones and other fun things for only 33 cents. Of course, the colors might be purple and orange for Halloween clearance, but think of how you could use that orange with greens/yellows for Spring cards, or pair the purple with pink and make some Valentine’s cards! Just be patient :)  

MySpace: On The Road


So when I’m off to relatives’ houses over the weekend, I pack all my stuff up into a neat box. It took me a while to find a box that fit my junk drawer organizer!



Here’s a tour of my creative space at home. We rarely eat meals at the dinner table, so I can leave my stuff out indefinitely! But, I’ve made everything really portable so I can go on the road easily – I’ll share that tomorrow!
Here’s the overview:

It took me a long time to find an organizational solution that fit my needs. I wanted something that would easily sit on the desktop, have compartments to hold all the little bits and pieces, be easy to store, not take up too much space, but still maximize the space it did occupy. I was also unwilling to pay more than $10! Target to the rescue, with a “junk drawer organizer”, which has two layers of storage space. I LOVE IT!

If you’re new to papercrafting, please don’t let my tools overwhelm you or make you feel as if you need to run out and buy Michael’s entire store. I’ve carefully collected over the past ten years, using 40% off coupons or waiting until 50% off sales, and some of my tools were pilfered from my mom’s crafting collection!

These are the two rubber stamps I use the most, along with my entire collection of acrylic stamps. Yes, they all fit into recycled CD cases, and then into a small tupperware container. With the exception of one set I splurged on for my sister-in-law’s baby shower, I found all my stamp sets for $1 at either Michael’s, JoAnn, or even Big Lots.

I store card blanks, cards-in-progress, and finished cards in my mom’s old recipe box. 

Hope you’ve enjoyed the short tour of my personal space!

Rubber Stamps Vs. Acrylic Stamps


Rubber is the original style of stamp. Rubber stamps are usually constructed of a wood block, as shown here, with an image on the front, and a raised rubber pattern on the back.

Acrylic stamps aren’t mounted on anything, but instead “cling” (interchangable) to blocks of acrylic.

There are a few differences between rubber and acrylic.
Print Quality: Rubber tends to leave a more crisp impression than acrylic, but acrylic stamp technology is improving!

Obviously, size: Mounted rubber stamps are about half an inch thick. Acrylic stamps are usually a few millimeters thick.

Cost: I always shop for deals, so I’m not too familiar with average retail price of stamps, but you can find both rubber and acrylic stamps in the $1 bins. Usually you will get one rubber stamp for $1 vs. 3 or 4 smaller acrylic stamps in one package for $1. One rubber stamp (large) can start at $10 and increase in price, while sheets of acrylic stamps (10 or more stamps per package) can also start at $10.

Stamps aren’t always a regular feature at Spark a Smile, but if you’re interested in trying them out and comparing the two types, we can bring them. Please let us know!

Cuttlebug Cutting


Yesterday we introduced the Cuttlebug machine, the most high-tech crafting tool that we use at Spark a Smile. There are more complex machines out there for cutting shapes out of paper, but the Cuttlebug is our favorite because it doesn’t need electricity, the cutting implements aren’t very costly compared to other die-cutting systems, and the machine is super-portable, great for card get-togethers. If you are interested in more advanced die-cutters, simply search google and you will find many comparisons.

OK, here we go with cutting! As we demonstrated yesterday, here is the Cuttlebug platform.

Cuttlebug “cutters” are usually made out of metal. They almost always come in sets of four, and start at $15 retail, but as always, you can keep an eye out for deals (I’ve found one set of four at Hobby Lobby for only $5!) or use a 40% off coupon. 
Choose your paper. Sometimes I choose a larger piece of paper than what I need, so I can use the “negative” image on another card.

Place the styrofoam cutting side against the paper, then sandwich the two between the two “B” plates.
Tip: The cutter will cut into the plastic “B” plates, so place the same side against the cutter every time to keep your plates looking newer longer.

As with embossing, stack the “B” plate/cutter/paper sandwich on top of the white thingy and place it all on the platform, then crank the sandwich through the rollers.

Out pops your crisp die-cut, ready to adhere to your project!

If you have any questions, please post them in the comments, or ask at our next Spark a Smile party – Wednesday, November 10th, from 5-7 PM!

Cuttlebug Embossing


Today we’re featuring Miss Marlene’s favorite crafting tool, the Cuttlebug machine! It’s cute, it’s green, it’s simple to use, and we always have one ready for you to try at Spark a Smile. Let’s take a look the Cuttlebug’s embossing capabilities. Embossing creates a raised pattern on plain paper, adding great texture and depth to your cards. 

The machine folds up nicely, making it very portable.

To use, unfold the platform.

These are the Cuttlebug accessories: A big white platform, and “plates”.

These are the embossing folders. Usual retail price varies between $5-20 depending on what set and size you buy, but keep an eye out for deals! Some of our favorite folders cost about $2.50 after a 40% off coupon, and these can be reused. We haven’t had any break yet.

 Simply place the paper inside the embossing folder.

Sandwich the embossing folder between two “B” plates, then stack that pile on top of the white spacing thingy, then up onto the Cuttlebug platform.

Push the plates toward the slot to engage them in the rollers, then crank the handle as if you were flattening pasta in a pasta machine.

Out pops a perfectly embossed pattern!

Check back tomorrow for an introduction to the Cuttlebug’s cutting capabilities!

Cut: Guillotine


The other type of paper trimmer that we keep at Spark a Smile is a Guillotine trimmer. This tool is great for cutting pieces in bulk, or thicker types of paper.

The downside is that it takes up much more table space, and isn’t as portable.

Raise the blade, and remove the children from the premises.

Place your paper. It helps to push the paper up against the backstop to cut a straight line.

Then, simply lower the blade to slice the paper (as a guillotine might slice off a body part, I guess?).  
Please watch your fingers! Spark a Smile has a 365-day safety record and we’d like to keep that going!

Cut: Basics


Paper usually comes in sizes too large to use on a card, so you’ll have to have a tool to shrink the paper down to card size! You could use a pair of scissors, a portable paper trimmer, or even an Exacto knife, a ruler, and a self-healing trimming mat. Today we’ll take a look at the portable paper trimmer. They’re a Spark a Smile favorite because they take up less table space and are simple to use.

The ruler at the top extends out when you need to measure longer pieces of paper, and folds away when you’re done for the day.

Lift up the clear paper holder and insert your paper.

Flip the clear paper holder down, then push firmly on the yellow blade carriage to cut your paper. It takes a bit of practice to know how much pressure to use, but as always, there are always helpful crafters at Spark a Smile to show you tips and tricks!

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