Veni, Vidi, Ventus --
The randomly chaotic and crafty scribblings of a deranged, wannabe artist allowed too many colours in her Crayon box.

Surgeon General's Warning: Some content of "From Pooka's Crayon" may not be suitable for: work, blue-haired little old ladies, the politically-correct, rabid moonbats, uptight mothers, priests, chronic idiots, insurance claims agents, Democrats, children, small furry quadropeds from Alpha Centauri, or your sanity.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Clever, Crafty, and Frugal Cards

Ah, the clearance aisles and bins. I love em. Love love love them. My kids jokingly (I HOPE they're joking!) call me the Clearance Queen. I can spend hours digging through them for something useful, and while I may not use them at the time, they always get used eventually.

We make cards because we love to. We know that they'll mean more to the person receiving them, and there's something gratifying about doing it yourself and making it personal, rather than just grabbing something off a rack.

Card making and scrapping can get expensive, what with all the neat and nifty tools, special papers and embellishments, and all the other goodies. But they don't HAVE to be expensive. Here's some tips and tricks for not only shopping those clearance sections, but how to use the treasures found. This also applies to garage sales, estate sales, online auctions, and anywhere else you can find a really good bargain.

-- Never forget the precious finds at dollar stores. They always have wrapping paper, ribbon, cards, and gift bags that you can cut up and alter, and for a buck each, you can't beat that. (It's also a GREAT place to look for fancy tissue paper.)

-- Look for pads of writing paper with nifty designs. You get multiple pages of coordinated designs that can be cut out and applied elsewhere.

-- Look for cheap stationary. Even if it's just paper and envelopes that you find on sale, they coordinate and make a good base for embellishing to make them your own.

-- Basic notecard sets don't have to stay that way. When you can get 4-8 for a buck or so, you're already ahead, and then you don't have to worry about finding the right size envelope once you're done altering the card, and you don't even have to fold the cardstock!

-- Shop outside your crafting comfort zone. You may just make cards and not scrapbook, but that doesn't mean that clearance price scrapbook kits aren't perfect to alter into cards. You may not make jewelry, but check their clearance for charms and beads and fibers you can add to your projects.

-- Seasonal craft items can be grabbed after holidays for next to nothing, and they don't take up much space if you shop carefully. Just make a box for each season, and tuck them away till you're ready to work.

-- Lace, buttons, and ribbons are always on clearance somewhere. Check remnant bins as well. These are also easy to find at estate sales, and you could just wind up with some fabulous vintage pieces and antiques out of the deal.

-- Dig, dig, dig. Clearance sections are rarely neat, and if you just skim, you're going to miss things. Take time -- it's like digging for buried treasure.

-- Then go back later. Often, clearance items that haven't cleared out are marked down even further. Patience is your friend.

-- If you MUST have something not on clearance or sale, look around before buying. There are always coupons, and many places will accept competitor coupons, and not every store sells at list price. Some mark up, and others mark down.

-- When using the internet to shop, always shop around. Comparing prices is just the start. Shipping is where you can get taken to the cleaners if you aren't careful. Always check shipping prices and add this to your purchases, then do the same at other places, and go with the cheapest. It may take time, but your wallet will thank you. In addition, many places offer free shipping over a certain price, so if you don't need something immediately, wait until you can spend the money to pick up other items you want all at once.

-- Be wary of "too good to be true" online auction prices. The price of the actual item may make you reach for your wallet, but check shipping carefully. You may end up paying three times the actual list price once shipping is added in.

-- Get on mailing lists. For Joann's, you not only get paper coupons in the mail, but they send coupons via email for not only the store, but the website. Michaels will only take paper coupons, not printed ones, from other stores, so use ones you print at the store that issued them, and save the mailed paper for other places. Hobby Lobby doesn't mail coupons, you have to check their site weekly, and print them out. They're always different, and not always general, but they're worth looking at.

-- Consider style as well as price. A particular item might be more expensive than you want to pay, but if it's unique, or rare, and can't generally be found anywhere but from the creator, it might just be worth it to have something that will make the recipient boggle over how neat it is. "Wow, I've never seen that before!!" is a great response.

-- Walk outside the box, and look around. Anything, and I mean anything, can be used for neat and clever crafting. Dove Promises wrappers are perfect for cards -- just smooth out the foil, and there's a neat shiny saying inside. Candy wrappers are a great start, with nicely coloured and printed foils. Hershey, with their speciality Kisses, has some fabulous foils (look for the Cherry Cordial Creams -- the foil is red and black tiger stripe!!!). Security envelope liners can be fascinating papers -- save them!

Now that you have all these items, what do you do with them?

-- For a neat card set, look at those stationary pads. Many of them have multiple images per page, all in easy to cut shapes. You can die-cut or use punches, or edging scissors to give them a more interesting look. And don't forget that the paper itself coordinates, so cut it up too, and find a way to use it.

With very little time and money spent, you can get an entire set of matching notecards to either use, or package up with a pen and envelopes and give as a gift.

-- Don't like boring gift bags? No problem. Buy cheap plain bags (or origami fold your own bags out of 12x12 or wrapping paper, just make sure the paper is square), then embellish as you like with your goodies. If you've made your own card, embellish the bag to match! You'd spend ridiculous amounts to get a nice card and bag that matches in a store, especially for embellished sets.

-- If you have the space, save cardboard boxes, like cereal or other small containers (not shipping boxes, though those are wonderfully reusable as well). Then, when you're getting a gift set of stationary together, find a box that's just the right size. Decorate it to match as well, and your gift just got even better.

-- Start your seasonal cards early. Make cards whenever you have the time, and save them for when you need them. It never hurts to have a ready stock of generic cards that you can add the appropriate text to as needed. Same for birthday cards: just design some generic birthday, male, female, and kid cards, and you're never at a loss when a birthday takes you by surprise. The plastic boxes designed for CDs (which you can often find on sale) are perfect for storing standard size cards. Just make appropriate dividers for each type, and finding them is easy when you need them.

You don't have to spend a fortune to create quality, personal cards and gifts. It's the effort and love you put into making them that counts, not what you spent on your supplies.

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