Babies Come with Hats: 12x12 Scrapbook Layout in Pink

I have a habit of starting crafty projects in a flurry of excitement and not finishing them. In fact, when I had to pack up my craft room for the big remodel, I had an ENTIRE 66-GALLON BIN of unfinished projects, not to mention both girls' baby books in a half-completed state.  I can forgive myself for BabyM's book since she's 18 months and still technically a baby, but I have no excuse for 4.5 yo T.

I started a new 12x12 scrapbook page last month for the monochromatic challenge on my friend A's family blog.  Then I got really busy with my two businesses - two scrapbooks to complete for The Papercraft Lab clients, as well as a couple of big rush orders in my metal shop.

I chose pink for the color, since I'm not usually a fan of THAT MUCH pink and it would be a good challenge for me.  It also goes well with the two photos of T I had chosen.  (It's pretty much impossible to avoid pink if you have a baby girl.)

I had the basic layout already settled when I stopped working on this last month.  Fortunately I had also taken a photo with my phone, to remember where I wanted each piece. Yesterday I ended up adding some additional layers to mat photos and add dimension, thanks to my devoted viewings of The Adventures of Glitter Girl on YouTube.  I love the layered look and mixing patterns, and I certainly have enough paper to last a lifetime.

The background sheet with the hearts is one I'd been hoarding for a special project.  It's from  Crate Paper/Maggie Holmes, and I actually paid full price for this sheet, which is rare. And then my friend J gave me one as well because she got it in a kit and it was not her style. So I still have one to hoard.  

The glittery paper is the American Crafts POW! paper which I'm not sure they still make.  I am hoarding lots of it, and am forcing myself to use it.  I love it because it's a different texture from glittered cardstock and it doesn't shed glitter.  It also cuts like buttah with punches or in the Silhouette Cameo.

The quote card is from a We R Memory Keepers 4x6 deck, and the string is from the outside wrapping of a Citrus Twist monthly kit.  (I love the way she packages her kit!).  The tiny glitter stars and the sequin bow are from the Freckled Fawn kit club.  Some labels from October Afternoon and My Minds Eye, old Basic Grey and Doodlebug paper and a sheet of paper I got from my friend J's reject pile round out the rest of the supplies.  I love being able to use the "old stuff" from my collection.  It lets me justify keeping it around for so long!

I usually HATE journaling directly on the layout, but watching so much Glitter Girl gave me courage.  I didn't even mess up!  I had to staple on some of the Heidi Swapp letters as the adhesive wasn't so good.  This was disappointing, but I actually like the way it looks.  

I really like straight, aligned layouts.  I don't do so well with "messy" or crooked things.  I should probably work on getting comfortable with that so my pages don't all start looking the same.

The lovely weather we've been having in Seattle allowed me to work on this while my girls played outside, in full view of my new craft room. This was the first time I let them go out to the yard alone, and it worked really well.  So hopefully there will be more crafty sessions like this in the future, and it won't take me a month to finish a layout!

A Kid and Her Planes: 6 x 12 Scrapbook Layout

My sweet four year old daughter is pretty sensitive when it comes to movies. We had to walk out of Toy Story 3 and Cars 2 when they got too loud and scary.  The first full-length movie she saw in the theater was Pixar's Planes last summer. And she LOVED it. We were prepared to leave if necessary, but she sat through AND enjoyed the entire movie. Twice - she went again with her grandmother a few weeks later.

Right before our huge home remodel, I decided to make a layout with our ticket stubs and some photos of the Planes toys she got for her birthday last year. I put my regular scrapbook layouts into our Project Life album, so I decided to add some interest by using a 6x12" page protector instead of the usual 12x12. It was a size I hadn't used before, so that was an additional challenge for me.

I quickly realized during the construction that it was difficult to get creative without a dedicated space to lay things out and ponder them, so I didn't finish this until yesterday. My new friend Allison sent me a link to her family's brand new blog - her mom and sister also scrapbook and they've decided to work on monthly challenges together.  What a great idea!

I definitely need a bit of a push to sit down and create a page just for myself, rather than working on client projects or sorting our thousands of family photos. So I decided to make this layout as part of their first challenge, "Two by Two".  The idea was to make a 2x2 grid of elements on the page. I used my photos and two of the ticket stubs and this actually helped the page come together much faster (oh the indecision of a blank page with no direction!).

The background grid paper was from a 2013 Studio Calico Kit.  I was surprised by how lovely it looked with the Crate Paper Maggie Holmes aqua vellum over it. That was a sheet I'd been hoarding for months, and this page about things in the sky, was perfect for it.

I don't usually do "theme-y", but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to use the adorable Studio Calico airplane-shaped wood veneers.  I colored them with gold ink, then spread some fantastic Martha Stewart glitter glue in bright gold over them.  That stuff is fantastic - easy to use and much better than Stickles! Dries fast, too.

I had a heck of a time figuring out what element to use for journaling, since I dislike writing directly on layouts. I had a lot to write and had to edit considerably due to the lack of space. The 6x12 size is hard.  There isn't enough whitespace on this layout to make me truly happy - I couldn't pare down any of the main elements, as I wanted to use those specific Thickers letter stickers, the three photos, two tickets and that journaling block.  So the layout is a little more "busy" than I'd like. 

I realized I hadn't incorporated the bright yellow sun I had cut on my Silhouette Cameo (love, love, LOVE this tool!).  I found the perfect place for it - behind the vellum, just over the title. I love how it's barely noticeable. Little elements and details like that are what I'd like to perfect on my layouts. I love "surprises" you don't notice on first glance, little secrets revealed as you keep looking at a seemingly simple page.

On a side note, my daughter is wearing an airplane shirt from the most excellent company Girls Will Be, which makes "girls clothes without the girly". I'd like to give them a huge shout-out for their excellent designs.

Constructive feedback welcomed - I'd love to know what you'd do differently on this layout. I may not agree, but I am listening :)

Project Life 2013 Catch-Up: Birthday Parties All Around!

Ahh, now that our home remodel project is finally over and I have a brand-new craft studio, I got back to finishing up my 2013 Project Life album, and have started thinking about what to do for 2014.

The last spread I completed was back in October, so I was a bit out of practice. Since I have been working on client projects here at The Papercraft Lab and slowly working through my own photo backlog, I'm still in the groove with respect to sorting and editing photos in Adobe Lightroom so that part was a breeze.  Since it was the second half of September, it included several birthday celebrations for my older daughter and the joint party for both of our girls, so I had plenty of photos from which to choose.

But when it came to printing them out, I was fumbling around trying to get it right. I forgot that I usually choose the page protector style first so I know how many photos I need and what orientation. Then I couldn't find the previous page I had completed, to use the back of that page as the first half of my layout. After a bit of confusion, I finally sat down in my new craft space and printed out my photos. 

I printed a few too many, and realized I had already included one in the previous layout. I'm a long-winded journaler, so I ended up taking out one of the "just cute" photos of BabyM in favor of a card documenting the highlights of September. 

After all that, I just wanted to get this spread finished, so I didn't spend a ton of time on pulling the perfect items from my whole crafty stash.  I stuck with a couple of Pebbles journaling card pads (so last year, I know, but then again, so is this layout!), some adorable 3D crystal hearts, and a few die-cuts from the bowl that lives on my desk.  I was also excited to use one of the clear Project Life 4x6 photo overlays I ordered from HSN (left side, bottom right photo).

I've also found it helpful to collect bits and pieces to include in Project Life in a file folder so when I sit down to work, the ticket stubs, little pieces of art from my 4yo, and other miscellany are handy. I try to date everything when I put it in, but if I don't, it's not a big deal. I don't think the Scrapbook Police are going to arrest me for including a picture T drew in October in my September layout!

I find myself lamenting that I'm "so far behind" but I know I'm going to finish, I'm excited to do it, and I want to enjoy the process.  So here I am, slowly posting the results! I'm planning to alternate 2014 layouts with 2013 ones, just like I did in 2012 when I got really far behind after we spent a month in Ireland. I got "caught up" then, and I'll do it again.

Here are all of my Project Life 2013 pages:

I'd love to know any tips or tricks you could share on "catching up" with your photos and albums!

Family Scrapbook Layout: Hello Lovely - Grandfather and New Baby

One of my New Year's resolutions was to slowly chip away at my photo backlog - editing and reviewing the pictures I've taken and doing *something* with them - be it Project Life, a photobook, or a scrapbook page.

In October 2013, we started a 4 month long home remodel/addition project, and had to put most of our stuff in storage - we had a few rooms to live in and my parents' condo to escape to, but I didn't have a comfortable place to craft. I realized how much I missed papercrafting!

Before the remodel, I had completed a 12x12 scrapbook layout for one of the assignments in the Stashbusters online class I took over at Big Picture Classes. I had even photographed it, but only came across the photos today when I was finishing my review of September 2013's photos. (Yes, I'm that far behind.)

Since I'm long overdue for a blog post, I'm sharing this layout with you now. It's a photo from October 2012, when my father met my younger daughter for the first time.  She was about 3 weeks old. I'm so happy I remembered to grab my "big camera" aka the DSLR, which always sits on our kitchen counter, waiting for moments just like this. We have posed photos from that day with my parents and my girls, but this candid one captured my heart as soon as I saw it.

I used a bunch of embellishments from the September 2013 Freckled Fawn OhDeerMe kit. The big metal flower is something I didn't think was my style, but I love the texture and dimension it adds to the mostly flat page. There are a lot of words and phrases on the page, but it made sense to me to combine all of those "hello" items for this memory.  The cute "Hello and Welcome" piece is actually recycled from my Erin Condren planner packaging.

I used a Pebbles library pocket for the journaling, but realized I needed to adhere the card in a way that someone could read the journaling without having to touch it.  I'm not a fan of people opening up the page protector to TOUCH the page once it's done, plus it's easier to flip through and quickly read the journaling if you want.

This was an exercise in layering for me - I'm still working on how to effectively combine different elements that overlap, especially on a canvas as large as 12x12. I started with a sketch we got in class, which helped me narrow down what I wanted to use out of my "random stuff" bowl, which contains lots of little fun crafty bits - leftover stickers, gems, die-cuts, etc.

I've put this layout in my 2012 Project Life album since it was a Significant Event for us. I love the look of combining the divided pages with "big layouts" like this one.  I've got a few more challenges left from that class, and I look forward to sharing them here.  Hopefully more often than once a month!

A Lucky Dog Park Photo Shoot

A few weeks ago, we took a family trip to the dog park. We don't go often since our dogs are old and get really tired even after a short visit. When the dogs were young and they were our only "babies", we went to this park 3-4 times a week and I'd often take my point and shoot camera. I have some great photos of Peanut and Spike fully reveling in the wonders of this amazing place.

This was also the first visit since our baby learned to walk, so we didn't have to lug the giant stroller!

I grabbed my DSLR "big camera" on our way out. It was overcast but bright so I figured I could get some good shots of all 6 of us enjoying the park.

And I am so glad I did. It was our beagle Spike's last visit.  His kidneys were failing and we knew he didn't have long, but I didn't know that it would be less than a week.  

My heart still hurts, but I am comforted by these photos of him at a place we all loved to go together.

My advice to you:

Don't put off that impromptu photo shoot. You definitely won't regret it and it may end up being a gift to you and your family.

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Mirrors

Mirrors, a photo by Anandi Raman Creath

Photo tip:  Mirrors provide interesting photo possibilities!

You're Not Behind Since It's Not a Race

This is the time of year people start thinking about resolutions for the New Year. One of my perpetual resolutions is to get "caught up" on processing and sorting our family photos.

You read that correctly. Even though I sort and organize photos for other people and make scrapbooks and photobooks for them, my own photos are not all perfectly organized and edited (yet).

I got my first digital camera in 2002, and back in those days I didn't do much with the photos other than dump them onto the computer periodically to make space on my memory card. I've got years of old photos that I need to cull and edit to make them shine. 

In fact, 2012 is the first year I started working on photos soon after I took them and got on a regular schedule of downloading and sorting them.  I retroactively tackled 2009 - 2011, but for every other year I have work to do.

I'm not worried or stressed about this. There's no "Photo Police" waiting to arrest me because my Germany trip photos from 2003 were never printed or put in an album. There's no Scrapbook Jail cell waiting for me because I haven't made a wedding album.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

One of my 2014 resolutions is to have "Photo Organization Fridays" where I take an hour (or two, if I'm lucky) to go through old photos. Just a little bit at a time, and I'll make progress. After that I'll make scrapbooks for some events as well as photo yearbooks. I think this is a more realistic way to make progress than stressing myself out constantly about "being behind".  

I think of it this way: every trip, birthday, or month of kid photos I organize is like a gift to us - a surprise from the past.  And who doesn't love fun surprises?

Do you have any family-photo-related resolutions? If you'd like an easy way to finally get that baby album or wedding album finished, get started now!

Thinking Like a Photographer

I've said many times that I don't have a lot of interest in the nitty gritty details of photography. I just want cool shots of my life. 

As I watched my girls play together yesterday, a thought popped into my head. That would make a great black and white photo. 

BabyM was sitting next to Big Sister T and both were looking out a low window. T was hugging her baby sister so gently, my heart sang with joy. This is what I imagined when I found out last year we were having another girl. Sisters. 

Sisters, November 2013

Sisters, November 2013

I often wondered how our excellent family photographer Kristi knew which shots to convert to black and white. I thought it was some magic photographer secret that I would never understand. I still don't, but apparently, sometimes you just know.

Project Life 2013: First Week of School

Our house has been under construction for a few weeks now so we've been scrambling to get everything moved out of the construction zone. I've been keeping up with taking pictures and making notes for Project Life, but I'm a few layouts behind on actually editing photos and constructing the pages.

I did this one 2 weeks ago and finally got the photos off my camera today. It covers the first half of September, which includes T's first week of school, a few last summer activities, and M at 11 months. 

I used cards and stickers from the last few Kelley Purkey Project Kits. I love her clean designs and color choices, though I'm not a huge fan of the glossy cardstock the cards are printed on. But yay for square corners!  

I also used some items from the Freckled Fawn OhDeerMe embellishment kits. I've gotten two so far, and LOVE the variety. I was saving (hoarding) the 2x2 wood photo frames and realized they'd be perfect to highlight one photo in the collages of each of my girls at the top left. 

I had an "extra" empty 4x6 space this week so I decided to fill it up with some journaling about our sleep situation over the past year - we've coslept with each girl at some point, weathered the newborn-waking-every-3-hours bit, and now, every 2 weeks or so if we're lucky, we get one night where NO ONE wakes us up in the middle of the night. That is heavenly. 

You can see all of my previous Project Life 2013 pages here: 

Project Life @ The Mom Creative

The 1-Hour Halloween Banner Project

We're in the middle of a huge remodel, out of which I'll get a 13x17 foot craft space, so I'm simultaneously excited and freaked out by the idea of a giant hole in the side of our house, and having to find space for everything in 3 bedrooms and our front coat closet. 

That being said, I did have time a few weeks ago to make a Halloween banner for our fireplace mantel. I LOVE making banners. I had the idea last Thanksgiving to make a banner each month. I didn't quite make it, but I'm proud of the results nonetheless.

I love hanging my handmade banners in such a prominent space in our house - it means a lot to me to see my work out on display on a daily basis, and it makes me happy to see what I *do* with all those supplies I love buying. Not to mention both girls notice and seem to like them. 

This was a joint project with my preschooler. I tried to come up with cute sayings for the banner- no boring "Happy Halloween" for me, and anyway, our mantel isn't long enough. She suggested "boo, pumpkin!" which I thought was both incomprehensible and adorable at the same time. So there it is. 

I used my trusty Silhouette Cameo electronic die cutting machine, which makes quick work of cutting out paper banner shapes. I found a pumpkin shape in their online store and tweaked it.  I removed the jack-o-lantern face and added each letter as a cutout instead.  I used a gorgeous "creamy" orange cardstock from a DCWV stack - it has a smooth coating with a matte finish, and looks and feels wonderful.

I wanted the pumpkins to look like they were lit up inside, so I used a bright yellow paper from Echo Park to back the cut out letters. I also needed a bit of sparkle (always!) and found some heavy green glitter cardstock from last year's Studio Calico December Daily kit. The Cameo did a better job than I expected with that heavy paper, though I had to clean out the glitter from the blade housing after I was finished.  I used a high blade setting, slowed the speed way down and did a double cut. 

The ghost shape is also from the Silhouette Online Store, and I used one of my fancy free fonts for the lettering. (Unfortunately I can't remember which one!).   I backed the ghost eyes with a scrap of black paper and the 'boo' in the same yellow I used for the pumpkins' letters.

I punched holes in either side of the pumpkins and the ghost and strung the whole banner on some plain bakers' twine in off-white.  We used the nails already in our mantel to hang the banner.

Once I figured out what I wanted to look like, it was less than an hour to cut the shapes and glue and string everything together.   I love when projects like this come together so quickly!  We'll definitely be saving this banner for next Halloween as well!

In Tags

Project Life 2013: Golf 'n' Stuff

I finally dove into the pile of digital photos piling up on my various devices and sorted and organized them this weekend. This made me realize why it's so much better to stay on top of it and try to download them at least twice a month. 

Starting this business put me a little behind on my own Project Life scrapbook, so this spread is for the second half of August. It actually covers 19 days, because it made more sense to me to finish up August and summer, and start a new spread in September.   (Click for larger photos.)

I chose the color scheme first this time - an old sheet of Crate Paper stickers in brown/yellow/aqua and some matching Heidi Grace metal dots (love love love those things!). But I love to mix in brand-new supplies, so I used my delightful October Freckled Fawn OhDeerMe embellishment kit, and a few Elle's Studio die-cut labels, selected for the color scheme I chose.

That WRMK 9 4x4 slot page protector is one of my favorite configurations since most of the photos I take on my phone are square so I can share them on Instagram.   I had so many photos this time that I decided to fill all the slots except one with them.  The middle slot was used for a "legend" to give me some space to write about the pictures.

My favorite part of making this layout was using my new Lawn Fawn Milo's ABCs letter stamps. I'm usually not a fan of letter stamps because they are a pain - it's time-consuming to arrange all those tiny letters on a stamping block.  But this font is just so fantastic, especially for stamping on the small die-cuts I used. I love the on-trend skinny handwritten all-caps look. 

This layout covers the last bit of summer we had in Seattle.  We had a family outing to visit the Fremont Troll and the Waiting for the Interurban statues (aka 'people waiting for a bus'), on our summer list thanks to T's book Larry Gets Lost in Seattle.

My aunt from India visited and got to meet the girls, and T went to a friend's birthday party where she got to try (and loved) mini-golf for the first time. BabyM pulled herself to standing. T's friend B was visiting for the summer, and went back to the Caribbean, so the girls had a couple of final fun playdates.

What I love about doing Project Life

  • It gives a "home" to all those one-off photos that might not merit their own scrapbook layout or mini album
  • I print my favorite photos and display them in an easy to browse format - the album sits in our living room
  • It pushes me to record the little things that happen day to day - I'm much better at documenting our lives now.
  • It gives me a regular interval to be crafty, with some "rules" which make it easier for me to get started AND finished. 

You can see all my Project Life layouts here: 

This got me excited to work on September's layouts, so I'm actually glad I'm "behind" because it means more crafty fun for me in the near future. Thanks for reading this far!

Project Life @ The Mom Creative

Photo Lab Friday: Just a Little Better

As you recall, I started this Friday feature last week to show a favorite photo and how I tweaked it to make it a "keeper". This week's photo isn't a dramatic improvement, but I wanted to show how you can turn a "meh" photo into "pretty good" because every shot isn't going to be THE BEST SHOT EVER.  

At the end of August, we explored our own city of Seattle with a visit to the Fremont Troll.  It was a bright sunny day around 4pm so there were lots of shadows. I took my "big camera" - my Canon T3i DSLR.

I nearly always use my 50mm f1.8 lens, and keep the camera in Av mode (aperture priority) which lets me adjust the depth of field (aka blurriness of the background).  I got this shot of my three loves, which is fine, but nothing to write home about. 

Typical outdoor family snapshot

The non-dramatic "after" image. But I do like it better.

I liked the repeating element of the bridge behind them, but the rest of the photo had a lot of bright washed-out areas.   I took 4 similar shots because babies and little girls are unpredictable, and this was the best one.

I use Adobe Lightroom 4 to import my photos from my camera and phone, and to keep them organized.  We have nearly 17,000 photos so I wanted a program that would easily be able to handle this volume. I also use it for most of my edits since l don't do complex editing.

The first thing I always do with my photos is crop them if necessary. Since this was a portrait orientation shot from a distance, I thought it would benefit from just a little bit of cropping to highlight the people, who are the most important part of my photo.   As much as I liked the bridge in the background, a lot of it had to go.

The next thing was to tackle the washed-out aspect of the photo. I'm not scientific about this - remember, I'm not a photographer. Lightroom has very cool "sliders" that you can play around with, and reset if you screw up. In this case, I turned down the Highlights, Shadows and Whites quite a bit to show more detail in the street, on my daughter's T-shirt, and on her face, which are all in the sun and pretty washed out in the original. There's also an Auto button which is a nice starting point, and you can always Undo that if you don't like the results.

My next favorite sliders, that I use for nearly every photo, are in the "Presence" section just below the Exposure/Brightness stuff. I bumped up the Clarity slider to +29 add more contrast, and the Vibrance slider to +24 to make the colors pop more. 

Each photo is going to be different, so you can't just take the same numbers and use them all the time, but you quickly get a good idea of what a photo "needs" after doing this several times.

I've also learned that not every single one can be edited into a "WOW" photo - most of my "WOW"s start out that way from the camera. I could have messed around with this one some more, using a brush to lighten specific areas on the baby's face, etc. But I knew I'd get frustrated and likely would make the photo worse rather than better. Part of what I've learned from lots of editing is knowing when to quit, and call a photo "good enough".

This photo isn't awesome enough for framing, but I'll definitely use it in our family Project Life scrapbook. 

So tell me, does this post help? I know it's not about the nitty gritty details of editing, but just wanted to highlight the idea of "good enough", and trusting what you see.

How to Make a Toddler/Preschooler Felt Board - No Sewing!

This post is adapted from one I wrote at House of Peanut last year. 

I first discovered felt boards at the Seattle Aquarium. They had a HUGE one with lots of fish and aquatic plant shapes. We had to drag T away from it to go see the rest of the exhibits. They're also found in a lot of preschools - a cloth-covered board full of shapes that can be moved around to make pictures and stories.  The awesome thing is that you don't need magnets or velcro - the felt just sticks to itself!

After seeing a DIY one at a friend's house, I was inspired to make my own. I spent about $30 and many hours making it, but someone more handy with a staple gun would take less time.  I guess technically it's a flannel board, since the board itself is covered in flannel.  

I did several online searches to find a decent tutorial that explained what kind of felt to use.  I came up empty. The tutorials I did find went mostly like this:

1.  Stick (or staple) felt to board.

2.  Cut out shapes.

I don't do a lot of fabric crafting, so I needed more details. What kind of felt? Are the shapes made out of the same stuff as the board? 

So I turned to my trusty (and crafty!) Facebook friends, and asked them. K told me to use flannel for the board itself and craft felt for the pieces.  She used a thrift store frame for the board, which is what Martha Stewart recommends. 

Supplies

E's feltboard was a piece of artists stretched canvas so that's what I bought, because I liked the look without a frame edge. 18 x 18 inches was a good size for T's little table.

I am fabric-challenged and can't sew, so venturing into the fabric section at Jo-Ann's was an adventure.  I finally found the "soft flannels", which were even on sale, and chose a pretty sky blue.  I liked the glitter flannel but it wasn't as fuzzy as the plain stuff, and I think the key to good stickiness is the fuzz.

A 24" long piece was more than enough.  I also found a pack of felt flower "buttons" in the trim section, which I figured would save me a ton of time cutting out flowers individually.

For the shapes, I bought a multi-pack of colored craft felt.  This is the same stuff they sell in 9x12 inch sheets, but the pack was a lot cheaper per piece.  It's soft fuzzy felt, not self-adhesive, and not the stiff kind.  If you want bigger pieces, Jo-Ann had bolts of it in the home fabric section.

Tools

Online tutorials suggested either hot glue or a staple gun to attach the felt to the board.  I chose the staple gun since it looked like fun and I've never used one before and I have an irrational fear of hot glue.

I needed sharp scissors to cut the shapes out of felt, and I used my American Crafts Galaxy White Marker to trace/draw the shapes.  Many people use a Sharpie but I'm picky and didn't want dark lines on everything.

I used some cups and bowls to trace circles, and a ruler for straight lines.  Everything else was drawn (poorly) freehand.

Procedure

1.  Cut flannel to just larger than the canvas.  About 3 inches extra on each side worked well.  The edges don't have to be particularly straight since you're going to fold them in.

2.  Iron the flannel.  Mine had huge ugly creases in it and no amount of stretching was going to get rid of those.  Note to self: Don't iron on the dining table, even with a towel underneath.  I ruined the surface of the table when I used the steam setting.  Sad.

3.  Place canvas upside down on top of the flannel, centered.  Before you do this, make sure the surface is clean and dry!

4.  Fold the ends in so the frayed edges aren't exposed then pull the flannel tight and staple it to the wood part of the canvas.  I put the staples in about 2 inches apart. Do one side at a time and make sure you don't have any wrinkles or "bubbles" on the front. 

feltboard1-M.jpg

4a.  Pull the corners in tight, rolling frayed edges in.  I did this a little like wrapping a present, where I folded the corner over like a triangle (when I could- some sides just wouldn't cooperate!). You can use binder clips to hold the edges straight before stapling. 

feltboard2-M.jpg

5.  Repeat steps 4 and 4a for each side and corner.  Make sure you're always pulling the fabric tight. Here's what it looked like when I finished all four sides.

feltboard3-M.jpg

Woot!  Now the board is done. Step back and admire your handiwork!  If you have pre-cut felt shapes you can test it out now:

5.  Draw and cut shapes out of the soft craft felt.  The sky is the limit!  I made different sized and colored shapes, stems and leaves for the precut flowers, clouds, moon, a sun, stars, fish and trees.  I used the white marker to trace or draw the shapes and then cut them out.  Sharp, small scissors are helpful for detailed designs.

Because I was having so much fun being crafty, I found a cute box to hold all the felt pieces and added some letter stickers spelling "FELT" to the top.

feltpieces.JPG

Tips and Thoughts

  • I'm not sure if the flannel used for the board will pill over time and wear.  But it was easy enough to make the board that if it gets that much use, I can always make another.
  • You can make *anything* stick to the flannel if you put a small velcro dot on the back.  So I may experiment with cardstock or shapes and letters cut with my paper die cutting machine.
  • I didn't treat any of the felt pieces with Fray-Check because it seemed too time-consuming, and a crafty friend assures me that craft felt doesn't fray, so yay!
  • When using the staple gun, make sure you hold it close to the front, and press down when stapling, so the staple ends up going in flat, without a gap.  A flat head screwdriver is handy to remove misplaced staples.

If I had to make another one, it would be a lot quicker.  The most time consuming part was cutting all the little shapes out of felt.  I probably cut more than T really needs - there certainly are more than she can place on the board at once!

T was pretty excited when she saw it and spent a good 20 minutes playing with it, even after a busy day at preschool when her focus had run out. We've gotten over a year's use out of it, and Baby M will also get to enjoy it once she stops putting everything in her mouth.  Our only issue is how to keep the dog hair from sticking to the board and pieces, but that's an issue for our house in general.

 

Have you made one of these?  Any tips? 

In Tags

Five Super Easy Tips for Taking Better Photos

Like I said before, I'm not interested in the technical details of photography. I just want cute photos of my kids and pets.  Here are some simple tricks I learned to get better photos with minimal effort. You don't need a fancy DSLR camera - all of these tips will work for a simple point and shoot or phone camera. It might help to look at your camera's manual or help file to figure out how to turn off/on some features.

All of the photos below were taken with my Canon S90 point and shoot, and they're some of my favorites.

1. Turn off the flash.

The flash on your camera is no good. The light is harsh and has a very short range. It washes people out and makes the colors all wonky. Figure out how to turn it off and use the surrounding light instead. There's usually a simple setting to permanently turn it off, or a special mode that's "no flash".  

Things you can do instead - turn on overhead lights, open a door or window blinds to let more light in, have your subject facing an open window, move the restaurant table candle closer to your subject. Be creative but don't use that flash. Unless you're a professional, in which case you can disregard everything here because you know more than me. 

2. Get up close and personal. 

Unless you're trying to get a big-picture view of a scene, or capture something like an overhead sign, your subject will look better if you fill most of the picture with him/her/it. You might need to walk closer or move around a bit. Some of my favorite shots are closeups of my kids or pets' faces.

3. Look for dust bunnies.

Not just dust bunnies, but anything else in the frame that's distracting or ugly. I have tons of shots of my kids with a giant toy explosion on the floor near them. The cacophony of colored plastic gets in the way of what might have been great shots. Look for dirt, laundry, and oddly placed poles or signs behind your subjects. It's pretty hard to digitally remove things like that later, so try to get a better shot in the first place. 

4. Go outside. 

Even on a cloudy day, outside light is GREAT for photos. It's so much easier to get good shots if you move everyone outside. And actually, a cloudy day is better than bright sun, because you don't have all those distracting shadows. 

5. Get on the grid. 

Nearly all cameras have a grid overlay on the screen that allows you to follow the "rule of thirds" - you may have to dig around in your manual to see how to turn it on. It looks like a tic-tac-toe board. Many photographers have discussed the rule of thirds better than I ever could, but just know that interesting photos often come from lining up key subjects on the intersections of the lines in the grid, rather than putting them in the center of the frame. 

I hope that helps! I think with a little effort and lots of practice, you can become a proficient photographer of your own life. Simply taking more pictures and noting what I liked was HUGE in advancing my skills.

Have fun! 

 

Family Scrapbook Layout and Using not Hoarding

I often talk about my scrapbook supply collection - I love shopping for and organizing all those pretty little things and gorgeous paper. But really, it's meant to be used.  

I am really glad that I don't have "supply use anxiety" where things are "too special" to be used on a project. On the contrary, I'm thrilled when I find something in my stash that's just right, and every time I see the project I am happy to see my favorite supplies on display. 

That was the case for these cute hot pink eyeglass embellishments I found at Freckled Fawn a few months ago. I felt like they were MADE for me, because my daughter T's first pair of glasses was hot pink. Of course I had to buy them. 

And then I wasn't sure how to use them. Her current glasses are red, and the wooden embellishments were a little larger than what I normally use in our Project Life scrapbook.  So they sat in my bowl of pretties, waiting for the right layout.

In the Stashbusters online class I took at BPC this summer, one of the challenges was to use up ribbon. The sketch was just my style - clean and simple, one photo with a bunch of strips of ribbon in parallel stripes below it.

I don't actually have a LOT of ribbon, so I substituted different kinds of embellishments in rows. I love how it turned out, and love that I got to use a lot of shiny things from my stash - those cute pink glasses, October Afternoon brads, Stampin' Up brads that were a screamin' deal on clearance, Freckled Fawn fluorescent enamel dots, lots of washi tape, and some ancient Martha Stewart Crafts adhesive ribbon I bought before I started papercrafting. I have no idea why I bought it, except for that it was pretty and probably on sale.

The photo is one of my all-time favorites. First because it's so rare to get a shot of all four of us, since I'm usually the photographer. Second because we're all sort of coordinating, even though it was a candid shot. And third because it's from the first wedding my girls went to, for our friends Michelle and Trayci.

Sometimes when I've completed a page, I get a nagging feeling that it's not done yet, and have to really analyze it to see what's missing or should be changed. Often a night's sleep will help me see it with fresh eyes in the morning and I can find a solution.

Once it looks "right" to me, I feel a sense of peace and happiness when I look at it.  Luckily this was one of the layouts I got right the first time. I just knew I was done.

What about you, artsy and crafty friends?  Do you know when your project looks "finished"?  

Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt

Starting a business, even a tiny one like mine that doesn't require a huge financial outlay, is scary. I'm putting myself "out there". It's like revisiting all those "what if nobody likes me?" fears I had as a kid - what if nobody comes to my party? What if nobody sits next to me at lunch? What if they all laugh at my book report presentation?

I've had the idea to help people organize and sort their photos for ages, since I discovered my passion for documenting our life better once T was born. And after I completed a year of my family's Project Life scrapbook, I thought I could do this for others who had no inclination or time to be crafty.

But that little naysaying voice in my head convinced me that no one would pay for that sort of thing. (Even though I know tons of friends who are drowning in unsorted, unprocessed digital photo files, and have 18-year-olds whose baby books are unfinished or not yet started.) 

I finally got the push I needed when my friend Laura mentioned for maybe the third time in her blog comments that I should just start that scrapbooking business already. The Universe works in mysterious ways, and finally it just yells at you when you're not getting the message.  

At first, it was easy. I'm a project manager by trade and by personality. I knew all the logical steps I need to take to set up a business, and since I already have a successful handcrafted metal ID tag and keepsake shop online, it was easy to run through those things. I purchased domain names, set up a new website, took photos of my work, wrote a business plan and floated it around with some trusted friends.

And then the project stalled, while I twiddled knobs on the website and filled out tedious forms about business licensing. 

The next obvious step was the hardest one - put up listings and actually *allow* people to engage me to make a custom album for them.  People can't buy if you don't have anything for them to purchase, right? That is Essential Business Rule #1, and even 5 year olds with a lemonade stand know that they need to have cold lemonade ready if they want customers to come.

So last night I did it. I "turned on" the shop I had been fiddling with for weeks.  This is my "soft launch", for a few weeks while I iron out some remaining details on the website and add more projects to my portfolio.  And instead of sitting quietly hoping someone will come to my party, I'll be out there telling everyone I know what an awesome party it's going to be!

Swing by and take a look! 

Project Life 2013: Summertime Fun

I'm a bit behind posting my Project Life (PL) layouts, and since this is my new blog dedicated to all things crafty, I'm moving the party over here.

This layout covers the end of July and the first half of August. Lots of summer fun in this spread - our impromptu "deck picnic", my big girl's first concert (Indigo Girls at the Zoo), Spanish Story Time at various libraries and meeting my friend A's new baby.

I mostly used Citrus Twist's August PL Kit for this spread - I love the color scheme from Basic Grey's Carte Postale line, and the little wood veneer hearts.  The tiny little epoxy birds stickers for my weekly summary are from Heidi Grace, an impulse purchase at Jo-Ann Fabric & Crafts.  That line has some really unique and adorable embellishments!  

Using a coordinated kit to do my PL pages makes it so much easier to just get started, and once I'm working if I need a specific embellishment, then I can just grab that instead of having decision paralysis being faced with my entire stash of pretty things. 

Next time, I'd like to do more stamping. I forget that I have some great stamps in my collection, even though they're front and center on my desk. I need to get in the habit of using them more. 

Here are all of my Project Life pages from 2013 in a nifty slideshow. I can't believe it's already nearly October!

Project Life @ The Mom Creative

Photo Lab Friday - Baby in a Zero

I thought it might be fun to take one of my favorite photos for the week and talk a little about the process I used to get to the final image. I'm not a Photoshop wizard and don't do complex things with my pictures, so I'm hoping to show that with minimal effort and tools, you can get a decent image. 

Baby in a Zero, final image

Today's example was taken with my cell phone camera. My phone is an Android - the Google-branded Galaxy Nexus, the "it" phone from late 2011.   I took an online "Phone Photography" class this summer at Big Picture Classes (love that site!) and it changed my whole photo philosophy. My phone is no longer the "backup" choice - I now realize I can get some pretty awesome photos with a little work.  Many of my favorites this summer are from my phone camera, since that's the camera I know I'll have with me nearly all the time.

We went out to a local pizza place that has a bright red numeral sculpture in front. The zero at the bottom makes a nice spot for little kids to sit and I love the bright color against our usually grey Seattle sky.

Another pro tip - be on the lookout for cool photo "props" when you're just out walking around - you'd be surprised at what you can find. Shopping areas and malls are great to find neat little backdrops.

Original image from Galaxy Nexus phone using ProCapture app

Here's my original image of BabyM. Not bad, but I wanted a square photo to share on Instagram.  

I use the third-party ProCapture camera app instead of the native Camera app on my phone - I find the controls more intuitive and it seems faster than the native app when I'm trying to get quick shots of moving kids.

ProCapture automatically saves the photo to the Camera roll in my Gallery, so after I get the shots I want, I switch to my editing program. I learned about Pixlr Express this summer during that class and I fell in love.  It's powerful, free and fun to use, with both serious editing features as well as fun effects, text and "sticker" overlays.

Pixlr Express lets you work on one photo at a time, so I choose the photo I want from the gallery, and use the Adjust -> Crop feature to select a 1:1 (square) ratio, making the photo perfect for Instagrams.

ProCapture will allow me to take a square photo, but it slows down the photo saving/shutter ready speed *dramatically*, so I went back to the "regular" rectangle image so I could take multiple shots faster. I've gotten used to taking photos far enough away to allow for this cropping afterwards.

After cropping, I used the Adjust -> Vibrance feature to "pump up" the colors just a bit. With this camera, outdoor shots come out really well, with minimal need for editing.

I have a deep, embarrassing love for those cheesy photo effects you see all over Instagram, so I hopped over to the Overlay tab and selected Bokeh.  My all-time favorite is the tiny hearts called Loove (misspelled on purpose to highlight its cheesiness). This one makes nearly all people photos look horrible, like they have some sort of splotchy skin disease, so I rarely use it.  In this case, since BabyM is such a small part of the photo, I thought it might work. 

And I was right, though I had to "turn down" the effect using the Fade slider, to 50 instead of 100. This makes the heart "bokeh" less prominent on BabyM and the lighter areas, but you can still see it well on the red zero sculpture.  

I thought that was enough tinkering for the photo, so I saved it to my Gallery (to get the higher resolution copy) then shared it to Instagram direct from Pixlr Express, which posts and saves a smaller version.  

This simple workflow - phone cam using ProCapture app to Pixlr Express to social media sites - has become my regular process for phone photos, so when I "dump" my phone onto my laptop to get pics for my Project Life album, they're already "done" - no further editing required.

I hope this was helpful. If you use an Android phone to take photos, I'd love to hear about your favorite camera and editing apps!

Baby Scrapbook Layout & Wasting Space

Even though I loved the idea of documenting our lives through words and pictures, I held off on making "traditional" scrapbook layout pages for a long time. First I used my personal blog for documentation, then I got into Project Life, which uses divided pages to capture regular snippets of everyday life. 

But regular one-page layouts of any size seemed too "scary" for me - all that blank space to fill up. Given my love for paper crafting supplies, and a supportive group of scrapbooking friends both online and in person, I finally took the plunge. And I love it.  

One of the things I had to get over was the idea of "wasting space". What pleases my eye is a lot of white space on a layout. (Not necessarily white, per se, but empty space.) I love simple, graphic designs that let the photo and words shine.

That simplicity comes from not cramming too much "stuff" on the page - going light on the papers, products and photos. I couldn't wrap my head around the idea of only putting *one* photo on a page, especially when I had a few good ones of the same thing. It felt like I was wasting all this available space and not showing all the photos I had of that event.

Also, if I scrap one photo at a time, and it takes me a few days to make one layout (I'm an incredibly slow, perfectionist scrapper) , I wouldn't have enough crafty time in my lifetime to "do" all my photos.

And then I realized that I don't *have* to scrapbook every photo I take. Some will go into my Project Life album. All go on our family photo sharing website. Many make it into our yearly photo books and calendars. And just a special few will get that "full, artistic" treatment of making it to a scrapbook page.

In fact, I've focused the first few layouts I've been making on my *favorite* photos. None of this chronological stuff and getting "caught up" or "feeling behind". Thanks to professional scrapbook authors Stacy Julian and Cathy Zielske, I've never gotten into the guilt aspect of the hobby. I make pages when I have time and when I feel like it, of photos that move me.

I did this layout for an online class I took this summer called Stashbusters taught by Aly Dosdall, over at Big Picture Classes. It was awesome because the weekly challenges "forced" me to sit down and make something.  (Click each photo for a larger version.)

Everything I used was from a late 2012 (November, maybe?) Studio Calico kit. Oh, how I love their kits - everything is coordinated without being matchy-matchy, and it's nearly always colors and patterns I love.  

When I first saw that lace eyelet trim, I thought it wasn't "me" and figured it would go in my pile of giveaways. But I realized it was a nice border for this page, a little feminine but not too fussy. 

As always, I love sequins and my roller date stamp. I always mark the date of the photo somewhere visible on the layout, and on the back I write my name and the date I created the layout. I harbor no illusions that these will outlive me, but just in case someone wants to know, or I need to remind myself when I'm old, the info is right there! 

I'll share more of my layouts here, so if you like what you see, please consider subscribing to this blog using the links at the upper right! 

How to Have a Successful Family Photo Shoot

As a continuation of yesterday's post on finding a photographer, today I'm going to talk about what to do once you've secured that awesome photographer to do your family photo shoot or wedding photos.

What Are Your Must-Haves?

Yep, you still have some work to do. You definitely don't want to micromanage the photographer, as (s)he is a professional, but you also have to communicate enough to let them know what you'd like to see.  They can't read your mind enough to know you want a shot of you and your college buddies singing your favorite drinking song, or that you want photos of you and your hubby alone during a family shoot.  It's up to you to TELL THEM.

I picked up a tip from one of those ubiquitous wedding-planning magazines:  make a list of the shots that you want, both candid and posed.   If you want a shot of you in your wedding dress holding your beagle, you need to let the photographer know.  On the big day, you might not remember the list so WRITE IT DOWN, and send it to the photographer ahead of time.

For our family photos, I emailed a short list to Kristi, and asked for her feedback because I wanted to be clear that I wasn't trying to tell her how to do her job.  I made the list fairly vague and just discussed the subjects, not the style:

  • All five of us (people and dogs)
  • Baby and each dog interacting or at least looking at each other :)
  • One good chubby baby arms and legs and bare feet shot
  • Baby and mama, and baby and daddy
  • My husband and Peanut (they are Soul Mates)

What to Wear and Bring

It's also helpful to ask the photographer what you all should wear (unless it's for your wedding, duh!).  Solid colors are good because they're not distracting, and Kristi recommended that we wear shirts in the same color family so they don't clash.  For some of our shoots, we used the girls' matching Halloween costumes, or a cute coordinating outfit.

We also asked her if she needed any 'props' and she suggested a neat idea where we'd all be wearing white in our bed with a white comforter and sheets, snuggling with the baby.  That worked out well, even though we didn't change T back into her white onesie:

 For another session, we brought along a giant felt heart and a HUGE yellow balloon.

Location, Location, Location

For family shoots, ask your photographer for location suggestions if you don't have your heart set on one.  Some people like nature, and others like an urban backdrop. We love our house and wanted to capture that as part of the photos, so we chose to do our family shoot at home.  It's definitely easier with babies to stay closer to home for outfit changes and feedings. 

We did my pregnancy shoot at a local park with our dogs, because the lighting was better outside that day (though it was 98 degrees, but that's another story!).

If you're getting pictures done at home, make sure the areas you're using are clean. You don't want piles of dirty laundry or dog hair-covered blankets in the background of your shots.  Photoshop can only do so much :)

The Big Day

For our family shoot, Kristi advised me to choose a time when the baby was fed and well-rested.  (One out of two wasn't bad!)  This sounds obvious, but really think about it. If your baby is asleep when the photographer shows up, do you really want to wake her?  

Have all the outfits and props, plus any additional payments ready to go.  Once the photo shoot is underway, you don't want to disrupt the "flow" by trying to deal with business details.  Of course, if a baby's diaper needs to be changed, or the dog needs to go out, you'll deal with it, but it's best to get everything else ready ahead of time. 

And then just do your thing.  Try to ignore the fact that there's a photographer there and go about your business.  Eventually you'll stop noticing him/her, and that's when the magic happens!