Sunday, 10 May 2015

Getting started in card making - 1. Basic equipment and materials

Since I started this blog, lots of my non-crafting friends have asked me for some tips and advice on how to get started on making cards of their own. Especially my comper friends – somehow comping and crafting seem to go hand in hand. I think it’s from the days when every cereal packet and cat food box was cut up to make postcards!

So, I’ve decided to do a series of occasional posts for absolute beginners. Experienced crafters, scroll on by now! And novice crafters, if you have any questions you would like to see answered in future posts, please add them as a comment here, or email me (link on the right of the page) or ask me on Facebook. If you do comment with a question, pop back to this post in a day or two because if it’s one that needs a short or simple answer I may have replied to you here instead of putting it into a future post!

When you first decide to try it and go into a store like Hobbycraft or The Range, or look on one of the many lovely websites selling craft supplies, it can seem overwhelming – and you may want EVERYTHING. But my advice is to start small and not buy too much until you are absolutely certain that you are going to enjoy it. And by then you’ll start to have some idea what kind of things you like doing. You might like working with patterned papers, or prefer all plain ones. You may want to start stamping, or die cutting, or embossing, or you may prefer decoupage or working with pre-prepared materials. There’s a world of choice out there, so don’t rush out and spend hundreds of pounds on everything all at once!

I made a lot of mistakes when I first started craft shopping, so I’ll include some tips on what to avoid!

So, the very first thing you will need is some blank cards. Don’t try to save money by cutting and folding your own at this stage – until you have the right tools to cut, score and fold accurately you will waste so much card you’ll regret trying! Buy the plainest cards you can get – smooth white single-fold ones with no texture, pattern, fancy shapes or interesting edges. You’ll soon know how to add all that yourself if you want it for individual cards! One of my own first blank card purchases looked like a bargain – but the cards were lots of different colours, with some aperture cards, some with embossed borders, some gatefold cards and some patterned ones, and 25 years on half of them are still sitting waiting to be used, and looking rather dog-eared from hanging around so long.

Next, you will need something to put on your cards. I’m going to write a separate post about stamping, so I’ll ignore stamped images for a while. Craft stores are packed with printed papers, toppers and embellishments which are great for beginners – but don’t go crazy and buy them all! Try buying one pack of papers, one of topper and one of embellishments, such as pearls, gems or flowers all from the same range so that you know they will go together. Sometimes you will find pre-packed sets to help you to match everything up. Craft magazines often have cover mounted gifts of papers or toppers, and Making Cards has a whole collection of papers and toppers in each issue. Magazines are great because they include ideas and instructions for how to use the gifts. This is where I really must sing the praises of Foil Play – they sell some fantastic bargain Lucky Dip packs of toppers and die cuts  , ready to just pop out and stick on your cards. These give you a good idea of the types and themes that you are going to enjoy using, and you don’t need to lay out much cash to get a good variety of materials.

Then, you need things to cut and stick with. I’ve just had a look at my supplies and I have 16 types of adhesive on my craft table with at least half a dozen less-frequently used ones in a drawer to the side of me. And I use all of them regularly, and for different purposes. But to start with, I suggest you get a roll of double sided tape for sticking things down flat and some foam pads for giving things a bit more depth. For starting out, you can get these from the pound or bargain shops that appear on every high street. The quality of the cheap ones isn’t great (especially the backing paper, which never seems to come off in one piece) but they’re a great way to get started.

Scissors come in all shapes and sizes, and eventually you will want several pairs for different jobs, but to start with just one pair, medium sized (about 7”/18cm long) will do most jobs (but don’t use your dressmaking scissors – cutting paper and card will make them too blunt for fabric). For cutting long, straight edges accurately, for instance when you are cutting layers for a card, it’s better to use either a paper trimmer or a craft knife and metal-edged ruler. Some people prefer one, some prefer the other, and you’ll probably eventually want both. If you have a crafting friend, ask if you can try theirs to see which you feel more comfortable with, or see if there are any taster events at local craft stores.

Armed with just the above, you’re ready to get going! But as you start to want to do more, these are my suggestions for your next purchases. 

  • self healing cutting mat – mine’s an A3 sized one which fits every project I might want to use it for 
  • pack of plain white smooth card at least 250gsm 
  • cream, black, gold and kraft card – add other colours as you need them 
  • “pokey tool” – long thin pointed bradawly thingy (oh look at the photo, it’s easier than describing it!) which will help you to remove the back from foam pads and sticky tape, make holes for brads to go through, take peel-offs from the backing sheets, untie tightly knotted ribbon and a million more fiddly jobs! 
  • scoring board (my favourite is the Hougie) and tool 
  • angle ended tweezers for picking up and positioning tiny embellishments 
  • bone folder for making sharp creases – until you get one, you can use the rounded handle of your scissors 
  • more adhesives, such as tape pens, PVA adhesive, glue dots…. there’s something for every job! 
  • peel-off stickers of straight and “wiggly” borders, a few simple words and possibly some corners. Don’t bother with all the pretty picture-style ones you will see on the displays – either you won’t have any ideas for using them or you will love them so much you don’t want to part with them. Gold and silver are the most popular but I find black ones the most useful.
  • embellishments – a sheet of clear crystal gems and one of pearls are great for starters 
  • ribbon, lace and/or twine 
  • stamping stuff – I’ll cover this in another post, including things like inks you may want even if you aren’t planning to stamp anything! 
  • and finally the BIGGIE – a die cutting and embossing machine. Once you have one of these you’ll be hooked for life, but they don’t come cheap, especially as once you have one you’ll want lots of dies and embossing folders. So start saving, or ask for one for a Christmas or birthday present.

I'm linking this post to Tuesday Tutorials at ET Speaks From Home  where you can find tutorials for all kinds of craft and cookery projects
ET Speaks From Home


Foil Play said...

Excellent article, Jane - very informative :)

shiela s said...

Dummys Guide to Cardmaking - just what I need

Darnell said...

Thank you for doing such an informative article for beginners, Jane! I often think about doing something like this, but time is my enemy. Now I have someplace to refer my readers who are just starting out! Bless you! Enjoy your day!! Hugs, Darnell

Claire Toplis said...

Thank you for such a great guide , this is sure to get me going again on card making.