Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Spellbinders Flower - Crafty Flower Four TUTORIAL

After sharing my recent paper flower tutorial using the Spellbinders Crafty Flower One die set , and mentioning I'd be doing more tuts from this range, I was recently contacted by blog follower Margaret to ask if I'd go straight into looking at the Number Four set.

I was going to do them in numerical order, but to be honest, it doesn't really matter what order they come in, and I'm more than happy to answer calls for help....and, as I had decided to make a flower using these dies for a small project anyway, I thought why not combine it with a tutorial right now.
As I explained in my first tutorial, these die sets, designed by 'Scrappy Cat' for Spellbinders, are fun to use and are more a fantasy design flower rather than trying to emulate any real flower varieties. They do not come with any specific instructions....just an example card on the front to help inspire you. I think the whole point is that they want YOU to look at the individual pieces and make up your own mind what flowers you can make with them....AND what's great about them is that if you have more than one set, you can mix and match the dies to create your own truly unique flowers...the varieties and designs are endless and only limited by your own imagination.
The front of the package showing card example......and also, example here on the Spellbinders website shows flowers made using elements from Crafty Flower sets THREE and FOUR - Romantic Blooms Wrist Corsage.

There's so much you can do with these dies...but I also appreciate with so many elements to hand, people can also feel a little overwhelmed and at a loss as to where to start. So my tutorial is just a basic example of what you can do...it's not the only way you can use them...it's just one of many ideas and a guide to inspire you...remember, there are no hard set rules regarding their use. To start off , all my tuts will cover creating each flower using dies from each specific set only...then at a later date I'll show ideas on combining the sets and mixing up the dies.

As for Crafty Flower Four set, What I do think probably throws some people is in regards to the smaller petal dies. They have slits in them, and due to lack of information on the packet, I guess it's a bit confusing what exactly these slits are for. So, I've looked at that first and given my own opinion on it (my own opinions and findings and may not technically be correct), and then I share with you my project and tutorial on how to put together and complete a flower.

In your set you'll have three parts that die cut four flower pieces - two petal pieces are joined together which I find a bit annoying as I like them to be all separate so I can cut as many as I want without waste...but that's just my own personal gripe. There is one large 5 petal flower and three individual petals and all components can be further embossed if desired (something I will look at in a later tutorial). Note - There are no leaf shapes with this set.
The large full flower die is pretty straightforward, can be used as a base, cut in multiples and layered or used on it's own with a central embellishment to create an instant flower.
The three smaller individual petals however have some rather intriguing slits in them....and I think from my own experimenting, they are there to help with shaping and forming to create dimensional flowers.
Firstly, lets look at the two petals that have a short slit at the base end.....here they are freshly die cut and flat.
But, if you take the two points at this end created by the slit....and cross them over each other...it slightly curves the petal up into a more dimensional piece. You can glue these ends in place to hold this shape...and even enhance it further by using a ball end embossing tool to deepen the curve.
This piece (pictured above, fresh die cut and flat) however has slits from both top and bottom, not quite meeting together near the centre. If you take the bottom slit and cross the ends over (as in the previous petals), not only does the petal curve, but the top split allows the shape to fan out into almost two petals...
The petal fans out into two, but is still attached by the uncut part in the middle. (note - take care and only shape this piece gently as it can tear and pull apart quite easily).

So why bother? Well, personally I think the bottom slits do help shape the petals more easily. I have often cut slits into other die cut petal shapes just like this as I feel it helps lessen the stress and tension of the paper fibres....especially when using thicker card or very thin papers where they are prone to crease and tear if you put too much pressure on them with a ball end embossing tool. The crossed over points also provide a nice base to which you can apply glue when layering up and the petals 'sit up' nicely.

As for the slit at the top? Well, you could say why bother, you could glue two separate petals together and get the same effect...but maybe Scrappy Cat and Spellbinders just wanted to make something a little different from the norm?...something that makes us get our creative thinking caps on? I have no issues with that at all and its nice to have dies a little different from the rest....but, I might actually try contacting them and asking, just to see. If I get an answer back I'll certainly update and put the info on here.

So, that's my take on how to use the petals...now onto my project.

Crafty Flower Four - TUTORIAL

The following paper craft flower was inspired by the example on the die package but is not an exact copy.

TOOLS REQUIRED - Spellbinders Crafty Flower Four die set (no. S2-171), Die Cutting Machine plus relevant cutting mats and shims, Thin card stock in your choice of colours and patterns - I opted for a burnt orange and dusky blue card with a slightly distressed effect, Inks of your choice for further distressing (optional) - I used Tim Holtz Distress Inks in Rusty Hinge and Faded Jeans. Scissors, tweezers, and various sized ball end embossing tools. Glues - I use Anitas Tacky glue, and Pinflair Glue Gel.
For my flower I used 2 x large 5petal flower, 8 x small individual petal, 5x heart shape petal in the burnt orange card, and 10 x largest individual petal in the dusky blue card.
I inked up the edges using distress inks just to add a bit more depth in colour.
And then curved and shaped the pieces using ball end embossing tools.....
I first shaped the petal top edge by flipping over the piece, working from the back and running the ball end tool across the edge. The card creased a little which was the distressed type look I was going for....
...then I flipped it back over, right side up, crossed over the split ends (as explained in the first part of the blog post), then gently pressed the embossing tool into the area above the split and working in a small circular movement, deepened the curve. The split end points were then secured with a tiny dab of glue.

Once all the petals were shaped, I then set about assembling the flower.
Small dabs of glue were applied to the centre of one of the full 5petal flower pieces and the second piece layered on top, slightly offset so all the petals are visible.
I then started layering and gluing in the heart shaped petal pieces (in the same colour), making sure they were overlapped but not too neatly....I am looking for a shabby feel to this flower.
Next I added layers of the blue petals - 6 for the first layer, 4 for the next. All that is left to do is add the centre pieces using the smallest petals....
 I took four of the smallest petals and curled them up and glued together....like the centre of a rose bud, and this was set aside to dry...

...the remaining four small petal pieces were layered and glued into the flower.
A blob of Pinflair Glue Gel was placed into the centre (using a cocktail stick) before sticking the curled centre piece in. Glue gel is good for this as it's thick and holds the piece in place better....but will take some time to set.
So, here it is...my completed flower. Please note there are no leaf shapes with this set. If you wish to incorporate leaves, you will need to use dies from another set. This particular flower that I made looks a bit rose like so if I wanted to add leaves, I'd probably go for a rose shaped one....but, to honest it's a fantasy flower...so anything goes!
and this is what I used it on -
I used the flower to embellish a little cushion shaped gift box. The card and colours used to make the flower was chosen on purpose to co-ordinate with the card I used to make the box....
The gift box was made using an X cut die.....
....and finished of with some black satin ribbon. Once I'd tied the bow I decided not to add any leaves or a tag as I felt it would have looked too fussy.
Hope you enjoyed this tutorial and found it interesting and useful!

Thursday, 11 June 2015


In my last post on my new die cutting machine Big Shot Plus I talked about the features of the machine and why I bought it, what you get, plus how to assemble for use (if you haven't seen it, here's the link - Big Shot Plus Part1 )

In this post I'm showing you my initial experiences with it and how it has compared to using my other two manual machines (Grand Calibur and Cuttlebug).

The biggest frustration I have had with my Grand Calibur (apart from being unable to use steel rule dies in it) has been it's 'dead spot' in the middle of the rollers...and area of less pressure and evenness which resulted in an inability to completely cut through some larger dies without having to rotate and move the dies and paper about numerous times....and in the case of large embossing folders a patch in the centre with no clear patterning. For a small number of my dies rotating them has not been possible because in order to place the dies (and embossing plates) in an area to reach the uncut/un-embossed sections, I would have to rotate a 'one quarter turn' (ie 90degrees), and the width of the opening of the machine just doesn't allow the die or folder to fit through. Even adding paper shims to the process didn't really help and I was too worried at adding too many, putting too much pressure on the machine and damaging the mechanism. These dies and folders became my 'nemesis' pieces...rendering me frustrated and giving up....rendering them pretty unusable. The following photos probably explain this a bit better.

Firstly I'd just like to make it clear that I am not running down Spellbinders (their dies are fabulous) or saying the Grand Calibur is rubbish...because it's not...it has served me reasonably well. After trying a couple of other GC machines I am led to believe that each machine has dead spots of varying degrees...it's seemingly common...and is found on most machines, NOT just with Spellbinders...even the new TODO machine has weak spots! The other Grand Caliburs I tried seemed pretty good and better than mine so I seem to have an unusually bad one. I'm told this is due to the machines being hand assembled and no rollers are placed the same, so there can be minor discrepancies in settings. There are also some pretty poor quality dies out there too so throw those into the mix and I was onto a loser from the word go. Anyway, there ARE some niggles with the original machine that Spellbinders did take into account and they have slightly tweaked and improved on the mechanisms and brought out an updated model....namely they have removed the white plastic tray in the opening which had 'wigs/lips' at each side that limited the width to 8 1/4 inches. The newer model has an opening of 8 1/2 inch...slightly better and many people love using their GCs...but sadly it still doesn't fulfil all my requirements.

So, on to the new Big Shot Plus machine. As I talked about in the previous post...it has a 9 inch wide opening. Ok, so not that much bigger than the upgraded Grand C...but enough to make a difference...and yes, still not wide enough to rotate some of my dies 90 degrees BUT the difference is in the powerful metal mechanism with much more even pressured rollers that meant I found I was rotating and moving the dies about less...and in some cases eliminating the process altogether. ALL my 'nemesis' dies are now once again useable.

Lets have a look at my 'nemesis' dies and how they faired with my Big Shot Plus -

In order to conduct a fair experiment I used the same type of paper with all the dies...and decided to give the machine a good testing by using my personally hated craft construction paper -
This paper is a low quality paper, with soft loose fibre construction, cheap and excellent for sketching on, using to cut and make proto type models etc but not quality enough to use on cards and is a nightmare to use with intricate patterned dies because it does not readily release and tears so easily.

Nemesis die number 1 - Tattered Lace 'Bella'
 I LOVE this die...such a pretty delicate design, yes small enough to rotate BUT it has never cut cleanly in my GC nor Cuttlebug! I've never managed to get a complete and successful cut without at least 4 rotations and runs through the machine and nerve wracking peeling out of the die and trying not to tear the thin intricate sections. I've also tried using wax release paper with limited success. I've never doubted the quality of the Tattered Lace dies...they are top notch, but have held off from buying many as I didn't think my GC coped with them well enough.
VERDICT - I was shocked to find I ran this die through my BSPlus and it came out fully cut FIRST PASS THROUGH...no rotating required what so ever! I couldn't believe it so tried again, placed the die dead centre in the rollers at what I thought would be the dead spot...and again it cut out first time...no problems what so ever. It was still a teeny bit difficult releasing some of the areas out of the die but I put that down to the poor quality paper used.

Nemesis die number 2 - Spellbinders Romantic Rose S5 230.
Another intricate patterned die that I could not get a clean cut around the edge in the middle bits.
VERDICT - This die also cut cleanly first run through and released form the die easily. YAY we were on a roll! (The eagle eyed amongst you might notice a bit missing from the left hand side halfway down.....this happened after cutting. I stacked the die cut pieces together and they got tangled up and a couple ripped as I tried to separate them for photographing...doh!)

Nemesis dies number 3...and 4 - Create & Craft Couture 'Summer Blossoms' and 'Holly Jolly' (largest template dies)
More large intricate dies that wouldn't cut cleanly. Small enough to rotate if you are completely cutting out the pieces for frames...but again needed at least 4 passes through the machine and also presented big problems if trying to cut negative/aperture style directly from the card stock base.
VERDICT - They all cut clean and easily with just two passes (with one rotation) through the Big Shot Plus...and came out even better when tried using a better quality paper.
Nemesis die number 5 - Create & Craft Couture Collection 'Deco Boutique' (largest template die)
I found this one a real nasty to cut with my machines, so much so I avoid using it...it's a fantastic design, beautiful patterning but I have only ONCE managed to get a full cut which required so many nervous rotations and passing back and forth through the machine with more pieces of tape holding the paper and die down than I care to talk about. Even after a successful cut I never quite managed to fully release it from the die without tearing a bit...the stems of the flowers are so thin even wax release paper didn't help. Being 7 inches at it's widest point I couldn't rotate it if used to create an aperture in a cardstock base
VERDICY - It cut cleanly with just two passes (and one rotation) BUT the poor quality construction paper was a nightmare to release from the die and tore to bits. So success in cutting, but the paper let me down. I cut again using a better quality paper (smooth printed 200gsm) and it ran through in two passes and one rotation AND released cleanly....
Whoop whoop! A great success and I can now use this wonderful die again!
Nemesis die number 6 - Xcut frame
Another die that suffered from dead spots and being over 8inch long it was a squeeze to rotate 90 degrees and run through the Grand Calibur. A total no go with the Cuttlebug because it too didn't cut clean and I was not able to rotate at all.
VERDICT - It cut clean and fully in ONE pass through the BSPlus machine...no rotations required! Success!
Nemesis die number 7 - Tonic Dies 'Keepsake Cracker'
This die does actually cut out....but the dead spots running down the centre meant the three score lines that enable you to fold and form the main body of the cracker, were not achieved. I've had to try to score by hand and this is time consuming to make sure you can get clean enough lines and sharp edges....careful measuring required...not as easy as you think when you got many to make at Xmas time! The die measures approx. 8 x 9 3/4 inches so you cannot run this through a Cuttlebug...and you cannot rotate it 90 degrees in the Grand Calibur to overcome the dead spots.
The Tonic Keepsake Cracker die...showing the three lines running horizontally through the mid section. These are not cut lines...but score lines and the dead spots on the rollers miss them out and you cannot rotate the die to try to rectify this.
This image shows the die all set up in the plates ready to cut...this is a full sheet of construction paper that is nearly 23 cm wide, larger than A4 size and I haven't had to cut the edges down to fit it through! My Grand Calibur only just manages to take the width of A4 paper, but only if you are precise and accurate and get the paper and plates dead square and lined up exactly or else the paper catches on the sides and wrinkles up. So, that's another 'plus' for the Plus!
VERDICT - With even pressure and power of the rollers this die went through the BSPlus fully cut and fully scored in ONE pass! Hurrah! No need to rotate...which is good as it would fit this machine either!
and even with the cheap quality paper, it cut and folded neatly and precisely to form a 'cracking' cracker!
and now on to my most hated die...
Nemesis die number 8 - Marianne Designs 'Anja's Squares'
I love Marianne Designs...especially the ones with the fretwork designs, have many of them and use them a lot and I'd never had any problems cutting MD dies...until I got this one. It's barely 10cm square in size so easily to rotate but boy it has NEVER cut cleanly and it has proved difficult to rotate and pass through the machine because it shifts and falls away from the die and double cuts. But it suffers dead spots badly. The outside edge is not a problem...it is the fretwork parts that won't cut properly. It is THE most difficult one to cut out of ALL my die collection (and I have many dies!)
Using construction paper was asking for trouble...and I had lots of masking tape at the ready too...I wasn't very hopeful...
VERDICT - Just TWO passes through with ONE rotation and this was the first time I'd managed success and to see the die cut in all its glory!
what was even more amazing was that the pressure of the BSPlus rollers actually embossed the paper while it cut it...I didn't have to re run the piece through with an embossing mat...something I've never managed to achieve with this die anyway.

and finally.....

Nemesis die number 9 - ALL Border design dies
Not just the Memory Box one pictured...but ALL the border dies in my collection that has one side or more that does not cut out. It was ok if I cut with them on the vertical, so they could be placed under the best parts of the roller avoiding the dead spots...but if I wanted to cut on the horizontal, then I couldn't get a clean cut through the centre and couldn't rotate the card 90 degrees if the card stock itself was too 'wide' to fit through the machine. This card below shows the border die cut on the horizontal. I had to borrow another friends machine to run it through and it still took two passes through their machine to get a clean cut.
The height of the card meant I couldn't rotate it to have the paper placed on it's side and thus die cut on the vertical, or even place the die at an angle which is an in trend thing to do on cards at the moment too. It limited what size and design cards I could make and use these dies on.
VERDICT - I happily found that all my border dies went through my BSPlus with one pass...two at the very most and fitted through comfortably both placed vertical and horizontally. This Memory Box die 'Kensington border' is pictured because it's the most intricate design of my collection of border dies...and it cut and released perfectly in one pass....even with the poor quality construction paper!
and finally.....onto embossing folders!
I don't own many A4 embossing folders because those I did have didn't run through my Grand Calibur cleanly and I was left with bare patches in the middle...so it put me off buying more. Even some of the smaller folders had dead spots and needed constant rotating and moving about. Those I tried to use I had had to cover up the bare un-embossed sections with mats and flowers and other embellishments...which meant I was limited with what I could design using them.
I'm happy to say ALL my folders emboss perfectly through the Big Shot Plus....all only requiring ONE pass through, not rotations required. The even pressure of the rollers provides a great deep clean embossed image...fantastic!
....so I guess that means I can go and buy some more A4 folders! ;)
So, that rounds up what I've managed with my 'problem' dies and folders...I'm a very happy gal now and LOVE LOVE LOVE my new Big Shot Plus. 
The grotty bits of masking tape are already accumulating on the machine...which means one thing...it's found it's home...it's here to stay!
Next post on my BigShotPlus will cover the various shims and plates required to cut different makes of dies and folders.