Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Ray of Sunshine: SU Flower Shop Strikes Again!

I made this layout recently at a scrapbook retreat and its one of my favorites. The background paper and quote strip were handed out as a page contest. I took those elements and combined them with some coordinating Stampin' Up! colors and an explosion of flowers I created with the flower shop stamp and punch set. I love how it turned out!

Black Ink Product Test & Comparison

Ink is the foundation of any project that involves stamping, from scrapbooks to cards to home d├ęcor. Ink quality can make or break a project, and using a poor quality ink is a waste of both time and money. That being said, it can be pretty hard to figure out which ink you should buy. Black ink is a staple of any craft room, and there is an incredible variety of brands and types to choose from. Unfortunately, I have made the mistake of buying poor quality ink many times.

So, to help other crafters, I present the Ink Wars: Black. I have dug out the various black inks I have purchased, and stamped them with the same image so we can compare them side to side. All of the images were stamped on the same sheet of Stampin’ Up! Whisper White paper.

Here is a photo of the sheet before I cut it into pieces for the side by side comparisons:


As you can see, there are some inks that definitely stand out from the others, giving a bold, crisp image. There are others that look faded, like I was going for a retro or shabby-chic craft look. That effect is not intended, sadly.

It’s hard to name a clear winner between a few of the brands, but it is easy to see the clear loser. I love Stampin’ Up! products, I really do, but their black ink is just plain subpar to every other ink I own. I hate to say it, but I put the Stampin’ Up! black on the “Don’t Buy” list. Even the cheapest, discount ink pads did better!

Here is a comparison of the SU Black verses the CTMH Black, the closest competitor to Stampin’ Up! in general. CTMH gave a clear, crisp image in a deep black. While it was not the best result over all, its leagues above the SU ink. The SU ink came off unevenly and it has a faded, worn out look to it.


Next, here is the SU ink next to Versafine Black. The Versafine Black produces a clear, crisp image. The black is not the deepest, but the clarity is excellent.


Here is the SU pad next to a used Memories pad that I bought from the Archiver’s tag sale. This ink pad has been used many times at the store, is who-knows-how-old, and isn’t even one of the pricier ink pads on the market. Yet, its still a night and day difference between it and the SU pad. It has a deep black hue, and while not as precise and fine as the versafine, it still produced a crisp, clean and even image.


Next up is the SU pad compared to the Memento Tuxedo Black pad. This one I was very curious about, because SU will be selling the Memento Tuxedo Black in the near future as a compliment to their new alcohol marker line. Sadly, they did not pick one of the strongest blacks to sell either. I will be putting up a separate post detailing how the Memento pad measures up to other pads in the near future. For now, you can see that it is a great improvement over the SU pad, but still lacks a deep, rich hue. It was also not as crisp and clear as other inks tested.

The next match up is Staz-On Jet Black vs the Stampin’ Up! black ink pad. Honestly, this match up felt like I was comparing apples to oranges. The Staz-On has a funky odor that drives me nuts, but the difference in quality is pretty steep. The Staz-On is not quite as crisp as the Versafine, but it is really one of the deepest blacks you can find. The Stampin’ Up! image looks nearly grey next to it.

Next up, we have an ink that produced an image almost as poor as the Stampin’ Up! black stamp pad did. This was VersaCraft Real Black. The thing to remember here is this stamp pad was designed for stamping on tougher surfaces, like wood, cloth, glass, etc. You sacrifice some clarity and richness for the ability to stamp on surfaces that other ink would not stick to. Unfortunately, it still produced a better image than the SU ink! While it didn’t stamp perfectly even, it was more even and a richer color than the SU ink.

The next ink tested was ColorBox Black. For some odd reason, I had it in my head this would be one of the poorest quality pads that I own. I Couldn’t be more wrong. This one came out being one of the best inks overall. It producdes a clear image, with an excellent rich color. Next to this ink, the Stampin’ Up! black looks like I stamped off on a different piece of paper before creating my image. This was a pleasant surprise, and I will definitely be using this ink pad more in the future.


The final ink I test was a cheapo Big N Juicy pad I got from Hobby Lobby for my daughter. I like the fancier inks better, so I don’t typically use this one myself. Surprizingly, it did very well against the competition. Again, it was miles ahead of Stampin’ Up! in terms of richness and clarity. It wasn’t as dark or crisp as some of the other inks, but for what it is I was very surprised.


The final ranking order of the stamps tested is
1.       Staz-On Jet Black
2.       ColorBox Black
3.       Memories Black
4.       Versafine Black
5.       Close To My Heart Black
6.       Big & Juicy Black
7.       Memento Tuxedo Black
8.       VersaCraft Real Black
9.       Stampin’ Up! Black

As you can see, the Stampin’ Up! ink came in dead last. I think it’s pretty safe to say this is quite possibly the worst product Stampin’ Up! sells. I love their paper, stamps, dies, punches, embellishments and pretty much everything else, but their black ink just plain sucks.

Knowing that they are encouraging demonstrators to sell this subpar product to customers has me rethinking my devotion to the brand. Sure, I love the other products, but I could not sell this ink pad to anyone without feeling guilty. If Stampin’ Up! knows there is a quality issue with this item, why is it still being sold? Why not just pull the ink until you can sell something that at least beats out the cheapest competitor? I know black ink is a staple product, but the fact that this ink is still being sold as “black” really has me second guessing the quality of their other items. It just feels dishonest to me, and I have a very hard time getting over that. They could at least change the description to “Antiqued Black” or “Retro Black” if they want to keep selling it. At least then it wouldn’t be a dirty little secret in the demo world that this product is inferior to the competition and the trust that is placed in the quality of their items would not be questions.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Cheap Supply Jackpot: Tuesday Morning

I love shopping and I love finding cheap supplies, and this combination makes Tuesday Morning one of my favorite places to shop at. While Marshall's, TJ Maxx and Ross all usually have some craft supply goodies, Tuesday Morning typically has the best selection with slightly higher prices on some items. The biggest price difference I have noticed on a regular basis is for Thickers. At Marshall's it's fairly common to find some Thicker packs for $1.25 while they are priced at 1.99 at Tuesday Morning. Compared to the normal retail price of Thickers, both stores offer a great deal, but if I can get something .75 cheaper, I'd like to get it for the cheaper price.

But, back to the main subject here: shopping at Tuesday Morning. I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Tuesday Morning is my secret supplier for Spellbinders. It's fairly common to find Spellbinders in stock at prices ranging from 3.99 to 8.99 for the larger sets. That's much cheaper than you can find them at Joann's, Michaels or Hobby Lobby. However, they are typically overstocks or last season's product at Tuesday Morning. Personally, this doesn't bother me. I try to buy dies that are "evergreen" and never go out of season or style. I've found many different basic shape Spellbinders  at Tuesday Morning that I use on many projects for framing and creating embellishments.

Some other great Tuesday Morning finds for me include:

-Tim Holtz Dies & Supplies
-7 Gypsys Supplies
-Cosmo Cricket Kits
-American Crafts Dear Lizzy bulk paper and paper pads
-Bulk high quality paper
-High quality scissors
-American Crafts Albums
-An amazing array of embellishments
-Sew Easy tread and ink heads
-Craft furniture and storage containers

And the list goes on and on... Long story short, I always find tons of goodies at Tuesday Morning. It easily beats out the other discounters for me, and believe it or not, I did not recieve any sort of kick back or bribe to write this post about them!

Here are a couple photos of the stock at the smaller store near my home this past weekend:

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Practically Perfect

Tonight's project was a full sized Mary Poppins themed scrapbook page. I recently picked up a display stand for 12x12 pages and its really inspired to scrap some of my favorite photos since I have an easy way to display them.

For this page, I wanted the phrase "Practically Perfect" to be the centerpiece of the layout. I used my cameo to cut the letters, and I am still amazed at home cleanly it cuts even small letters.

For the photos I did simple mats that brought out the red accents in Mary's costume. The other embellishments were flowers and flourishes, and although you cant see it in the photo, the flourishes are accented with gems.

I had some issues working with the white background, I just can never keep the whites clean! Overall, I love how it came out and its my new favorite page to display.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Organization Challenge Phase 2: Punches Everywhere

Even though I have a Big Shot and Cameo, I still love my paper punches. They are quick and easy, and I have a ton of them! Punch storage has plagued me for a long time, but as companies have switched from the whale tail style to the new lockable style, storage is getting better.

I have a ton of the new style Stampin' Up! punches, and I use my punches very often- pretty much everytime I sit down to craft, I use at least one punch. Because of this, I needed to find a storage solution that would keep the punches close to my work area and readily available.

I tried stacking them on a shelf, but the issue I ran into there was the amount of shelf space they took up. When I stacked them on top of each other, everytime I tried to pull out a punch lower in the stack, the entire stack would fall. After one too many punches fell on my toes, I knew this was not the way to store them. I also tried stacking them in a bin. This worked to a certain degree. The problem I ran into there was the bins are deeper than the punches are big, so I ended wasting alot of good cube space.

Learning from the bins, I figured a drawer would be the best type of storage for me. I saw a fairly sturdy plastic storage unit with pull out drawers fairly cheap at Target, and inspiration struck.

The whale-tails I still have take up a fair bit of space, but the new style punches stack perfectly in the bottom drawer. As long as I do not pull out all three drawers at the same time, the entire unit is extremely stable due to the distribution of weight in the other drawers.