All posts by SerendipityFinch

Easy Die Cutting Techniques

It’s been a while, but I’ve finally finished another Altenew Academy class ‘Easy Die Cutting Techniques’ by Yana Smakula. This class covers everything from the basic use of dies with stamps to some more advanced techniques.

The best card I created for this class was one that involved die-cutting vellum. First I used the Baroque Motifs stamp on the vellum using Versamark, then added Wow Opaque Bright White embossing powder and heated it. This is a really good stamp to heat emboss, as all the details stand out. Even if you miss bits, the shabby chic style of it means it does not affect the look of it too much.

Turning the vellum over, I ink blended on the back of it to give a subtle hint of colour. Only after doing this did I die cut the images out. Vellum is easier to die cut than you would first think.

I decided to use a kraft card background to give a more neutral look to the card. Then added a simple heat embossed sentiment in silver. Finally, after gluing the vellum pieces on the card, I added sequins and Nuvo crystal drops.


  • Altenew Baroque Motifs Stamp and Die Set
  • Altenew Half Tone Circles Stamp
  • Altenew Sweet Leaf Ink Pad
  • Altenew Carribean Sky Ink Pad
  • Wow Opaque Bright White Embossing Powder
  • Stampendous Detail Silver Opaque Embossing Powder
  • Versamark
  • Nuvo Silver Tinsel Sequins
  • Nuvo Crystal Drops – Olive Branch and Blue Babe

Things I learned from this class:

  • vellum is easy to die cut
  • sequins are a good embellishment, and it is ok to add a lot of them sometimes
  • negative die-cutting
  • inlaid die-cutting

Here are some of the other cards I created during this class.

One Dragon, 3 ways

I am pleased to say that I’m now part of the Get Creative Challenges Blog Design Team. It is an interesting blog, all about promoting the use of digital stamps. There is even a monthly challenge that anybody can join in, no matter what their skill level is.

My first digital stamp to play with was the Winter Frost Dragon by Colour of Love. I was so happy to get this design, as I love fantasy and am quite fond of dragons. The first thing I did was print off the dragon in different sizes to inspire me.

I had recently bought a Mica Magic set, after watching a demonstration by John Lockwood at Inspirations. I thought that the shimmer of the mica would look magical with the dragon.

I then decided to experiment with my Chameleon Fine Liner pens to colour in a smaller dragon. I used lines to colour it in, that gives it a slightly modern look.

Finally, I wanted to make the image look like it had come from an ancient book. So I carefully tore around the image and ink blended over it with some Distress inks. I then sprayed it with water to give a more aged look.

I decided to create cards with all 3 images, as they all had a distinct look. First off, the large dragon. I die cut a square and added a layer using Hunkdory Moonstone dies. I thought the background needed a bit of texture, so I used a Do Crafts embossing folder. I then used a combination of Mica Magic and ink blending to make the embossed design stand out.

The next card was using the Chameleon Fine Liner coloured image. This had a more Christmassy feel, so I decided to turn it into a Christmas card. I first die cut the image and a dark blue layer using Arch Sizzix dies.

I chose 2 different shades of blue card and embossed them with a Do Crafts embossing folder. Due to the folder only being a small one I had to repeat emboss with it to create the background. I then ink blended over it to give a touch of green. Finally, I stamped a sentiment and layered it with the lighter colour of the embossed card.

The next card I really wanted to achieve a certain look with strong colours that had a medieval/fantasy feel. I found some leather effect card in my stash that I ink blended with some Distress Inks to highlight the leather effect. I embossed some grey card with a Do Crafts embossing folder. I then used the same inks to ink blend the pattern. Finally, I sprayed it with Altenew Antique Silver ink spray.

Next was the sentiment, I wanted to create it the same way as the main dragon image. After one failure where I stamped before ink blending with Distress Inks. (The sentiment ink ran really badly.) I ink blended and sprayed water before stamping the sentiment. The sentiment was from Rare Earth and I thought it went really well with the fantasy image.

It just goes to show that digital stamps can be very versatile and that you can get completely different looks from the same image. It does help when the image is as beautiful as the ‘Winter Frost Dragon’.

Seasonal Scene Building

‘Seasonal Scene Building’ is an interesting mix of a class from Altenew. The tutor Nichol Magourik, brings a different way to use techniques that you may already be familiar with. I found myself thinking a lot during the class, that I had never thought of doing that before.

This class was all about building a scene within your cards. The best card I created was a flower themed ‘Live in the moment’ one. To begin with, I stamped out the flower from Altenew’s ‘Sewn with Love’ stamp set. An interesting stamp, that is not as tricky to use as you would think.

I decided that it needed a frame, so I die cut one out. It was white card and ink blended with Altenew Paper Bag ink to get the right colour.

For the background, I first ink blended Turquoise and Teal Cave ink pads. This gave a nice blue colour with some variations in tones. I did not ink blend all the background as I knew I would just end up covering it up. I then used Versamark with the Altenew ‘Pattern Power’ stamp set. Heat embossing this with a clear embossing powder gives a very nice effect.

Finally, I used a sentiment from Altenew ‘Simple Flowers’ stamp set with Versamark ink on vellum. Adding the silver embossing powder to the vellum made the sentiment stand out.

I really like how the finished product looks like it is an embroidered picture hanging on the wall.


  • Altenew Sewn with Love Stamp Set
  • Altenew Pattern Power Stamp Set
  • Altenew Simple Flowers Stamp Set
  • Altenew Turquoise ink pad
  • Altenew Teal Cave ink pad
  • Altenew Dew Drop ink pad
  • Altenew Rose Quartz ink pad
  • Altenew Coral Berry ink pad
  • Altenew Ruby Red ink pad
  • Altenew Mountain Mist ink pad
  • Altenew Frayed Leaf ink pad
  • Altenew Volcano Lake ink pad
  • Altenew Paper Bag ink pad
  • Versamark ink pad
  • Card
  • Vellum
  • Wow clear embossing powder
  • Stampendous embossing powder: detail silver opaque
  • Double Sided Tape
  • Glue dots
  • Heat Gun
  • Stamping platform

Things I learnt from this class:

  • The snapshot idea of having your card look like a close-up shot of something.
  • Frames are a really good idea to bring attention to the focal design.
  • Not to be afraid to layer stamped images.
  • Used Promarkers for the first time for colouring in the stamped images.
  • How to die cut an aperture in a card.
  • Some interesting new layouts.

Some of my favourite pieces from this class.

Netting and Peyote Stitch

My books finally arrived so that I could start learning seed beading properly. I am very much a book learner, with videos coming a close second.

The first book that arrived was ‘Getting started with Seed Beads’ by Dustin Wedekind. I chose it because of the title. The early projects in the book involved sewing and gluing, things that I wasn’t interested in learning. Then there was a section on netting. Netting as a technique is quite straight forward once you get your head around it. The best thing about netting is that the seed beads you use do not have to be the regular size ones, so this technique is a cheap first step to build confidence.

I created a variation of the ‘Curved Chevron Choker’, using the beads that I had. I am quite pleased with the necklace and wear it a lot. I tried a few more netting projects, and I have become confident that I can tackle more involved netting projects in the future.

The next technique to learn was ‘peyote stitch’. The thing with peyote stitch is that all the beads have to be exactly the same size, unlike netting. Oh, did I have trouble at first with this one! Starting off Peyote stitch is really tricky, getting the beads to sit on top of each takes a lot of patience. They just do not like doing it and seem to jump out of place. I even had to watch a video on it, though that took a long time to find one that showed exactly how to start ‘flat peyote’.

I used a project from another book ‘Beginners Guide to Beadwork’ by Madeleine Rollason. This book has photographs rather than charts to explain what you do. I used size 15 seed beads to create this ring.

I also learned how to add threads and secure threads in this project. Interestingly, when I did this I made the ring wavy. I suspect that this has something to do with the tension of the original weave. I do like the look it gave this ring though, like a herringbone shape.

I was so confident that I decided to have another go at flat peyote. This time a bracelet project called ‘Snappy Bands’ from the Dustin Wedekind book. It was still a pain to start off the peyote, I hope it will become easier with practice. The thing with flat peyote stitch is that once it is started it is very straight forward.

I hadn’t realised how big a project I was giving myself. The bracelet in total took 9 hours to create. I still have the problem of making the bracelet slightly wavy when finishing it but I tell myself that it is a design choice.

The one plus I did learn during this project was how to thread my needle easier, though I suspect that has just been practice. I still need to find an easier way to undo the knots and tangles though. I think next I will learn about the different types of peyote stitch. Who knows maybe I will get the hang of starting off Peyote stitch?

Robots and Flower Cards

I have decided that I should be making cards too, as well as concentrating on seed beading. I normally do my Altenew course but thought I would play with some of my other stamps. (I’m currently sorting out my stamps into a folder and have discovered a lot of lovely ones that I had forgotten about.)

The first card is using a Hunkydory stamp set, I think it’s quite an old one. I used my stamping press by We R Memory Keepers to keep the little robots aligned. Then I coloured the middle row one in with Chameleon Pens.

The second card I made was sort of an experiment. I used a stamp set by Stamps by Me. I just love the sentiment of ‘Happy Hugs’. Then I tried to colour it in using the Chameleon Fine Liners, using lines gave an interesting effect. I love the fine liners but I suspect I need to practise colouring in with them more.

Beads Up North, September 2019

One of the things that my friends recommended to me when I told them I was starting seed beading was ‘Beads Up North’. It’s basically like the Creative Craft Shows, but all about beading, with some jewellery making.

I arranged to meet one of my friends there and made my way to Haydock Park Racecourse. When I arrived it was easy to find, I just followed a group of people to the entrance. I paid my £3.50 (if you are a member of the Beadworkers Guild or The Bead Society, it’s only £3). Then there was an option to enter a prize draw for lots of beading goodies by putting in your detail on a computer screen.

When I walked into the main room I was immediately welcomed by Kathy from Halfepenny’s Beads, who had remembered me. I had a quick look round all the stalls. I will be honest, I had a distinct feeling of where do I start, the amount of seed bead choice was overwhelming at first.

There was an exhibition of work created by those who went to the Halfpenney’s Beads groups, on an Autumn theme. The pieces were very beautiful and inspiring. I suspect it will be a long time before I get to that level.

So I decided to start from the list I had made from books that had arrived. First off, Hex, Triangle and Cube seed beads. Only one stall had the Hex beads, found the Triangle beads easily, but no one had the Cube seed beads.

At this point, I decided to stop at one of the ‘Ave a Go’ points. The idea of these is that you get shown a beading pattern and can have a little go at it. This one was run by ‘Jancel Beads‘, and I was shown how to do the ‘Hugs and Kisses’ bracelet design. (I did take photos but they turned out blurred).

The interesting thing I learnt at Beads Up North, is that there is a very big difference in the price of beads depending on the colour and finish. The same amount of beads could be between £2.50 and £6.90 depending on the look of them. While learning, I just want the basic colours, so went for the cheapest.

I bought mainly from ‘Bead by Bead’, which is run by Patty McCourt. She was very helpful and was able to answer my questions about the beads. I was very good and didn’t buy any soutache from her.

By this point my friend had arrived, so we grabbed a brew and sat down to have a good old chat. After we put the world to rights, we wandered around the stalls. My friend also had a list of things that she wanted. This is something I really recommend to do before attending one of these bead fairs, it stops you majorly overspending. She also showed me which stalls she liked the best. We both fell in love with the gemstone stall, it had very unusual and beautiful stones. I was surprisingly strong-willed for me, and refrained from buying any.

After helping my friend find the items on her list, I decided to do the main workshop. I really wanted to make the acorn that Halfpenney’s Beads had created. I was the last one to create it and managed it in 30 minutes with only one major mistake. (I hadn’t kept the tension of the main bead so the cap was not snug.) I was pleased with it, as I had never done peyote before. Apparently most people, even experienced beaders took 30 minutes to complete it. You can get the pattern here.

I did love the colour of the seed beads, they reminded me of Picasso Jasper. Surprisingly, the colour is called Picasso.

My haul from the day.

Overall, I had a good time at Beads Up North. My feeling of being overwhelmed didn’t last long, especially once I got chatting to the stallholders. I got nearly everything on my list and that should keep me going for a while. I found new suppliers, even though I didn’t buy from them there, I’ve now bookmarked them for future use. I definitely recommend it and will be going next time.

Kits and my first weave

After the success of the first kit I did, I decided to have a go at another kit in my stash. The Penelope Necklace and Bracelet kit by Pat at Spellbound Bead Co. This seemed to be a very straight forward kit. I loved the idea of threading beads through a chain, and this technique could be used with bigger beads to great effect.

My problems began with the finishing of the bracelet. The kit directs you to download a finishing explanation sheet. Surprisingly, it is not in the instructions of the kit. Now the explanation of the finishing seems to apply to more bead heavy weaves. This bracelet is just 3 beads at a time, so I got confused. I did email Spellbound Beads Co., and they were very helpful. I eventually worked out how to finish the bracelet without all the beads falling off.

I did really like the finished bracelet, as it’s so delicate and pretty. I decided to carry on and attempt the necklace. This is the first time I have ever used a metal sieve as a base for beads. It is a useful tool. I think I was cursed with this kit, however, as when I was finishing off the pendant I accidentally cut a critical strand of thread and it started falling apart. I did manage to save it by redoing some of the beads, and cheating by using an adhesive felt back that kept some of the loose threads in place.

Next was a kit recommended by Halfpenney’s Beads, the Spiral Cube Key Ring Kit (Fire option). This was really straight forward and I enjoyed making it. I will admit that I used my big hole needle instead of the one provided. I still have problems threading normal beading needles. I managed to create the keyring in 40 minutes, so was quite pleased with myself.

I did like the Spiral Staircase weave and decided to have a go with some beads from my stash. I managed it without hardly looking at the instructions. The only problem is I think the blue Delica type seed beads were cheap versions, and they cut the thread on me. I’m still pleased with it, but I know I need to invest in better beads.

So one weave down, and many others to learn.

Beginning Seed Beading

First off, seed beading is something that has never really appealed to me before. It always looked so fiddly and time-consuming. Yes, I know that’s odd, what with me being a wireworker which could be described in the same way. It seemed to me to be a lot of work for not much result.

Recently I have seen some beautiful seed bead pieces, and it made me think that perhaps this is something I should investigate. So I’ve decided to learn seed beading.

Question is, where do you start? I asked in FB groups for help, and lots suggested Youtube videos. Usually, I start with a book though, but there doesn’t seem to be many around for absolute beginners. I’ve found a couple online that may be ok, and I am waiting for them to arrive.

My next job was to see what I had in my stash, I have seed beads because of my love of kumihimo and macrame. However, a lot of them are not uniform in size. This is apparently important with seed beading. I also found 3 kits that I must have bought as part of a job lot at one point.

So the first one I attempted was ‘Deluxe Seed Bead Lace Bracelet’ by Carolyn Schulz.

The best thing about this kit is that it had a big eye needle, so no faffing about trying to thread it. I will admit it took me a while to get the hang of the initial instructions, due to me having no familiarity with what it was asking me to do. (As you can see from the photo.) It was relatively straight forward to create and that surprised me. It took me 3 hours to complete the bracelet.

I had been worried about the finishing, but there were crimp beads and I know where I am with them. So not bad for a first go, though I really need to stop sticking myself with the needle.

I also asked my jewellery making friends for help. They pointed me to Halfpenney Beads, that is only a short drive from my house. This shop is super friendly and helpful. I totally recommend it for other newbies to seed beading who are apprehensive about taking the jump into this new hobby.

Marbling with polymer clay

I decided to continue learning new techniques with polymer clay. Marbling looks confusing but is actually quite straight forward. I thought I would use my scrap clay to practise with, hence the unusual colour choices. My go-to clay is Sculpey Premo, but I suspect this technique will work with any polymer clay.

First, you need to make lots of little snakes of your clay. Then make a big snake with them all and twist it. Cut it nearly in half and flatten it out.

Then put it through the clay roller a few times to create a flat piece of clay. Note that the way you twisted the clay affects how the pattern comes out at this point. There are various ways to twist the clay, and its worth experimenting to find different designs.

Then use a wide pokey type tool, maybe a knitting needle or a crochet hook. I have a specific polymer clay one. Draw lines down the clay with this tool. Then put it through the clay roller again, but reduce the thickness of the clay. This way the lines that you have just made will disappear.

Then you can cut out whatever shapes you want for whatever project you would like to create. I decided to create 2 bookmarks.

Bake in the oven, making sure to follow the instructions on the packet of clay. Sculpey Premo states to cook under 130 C.

I still had scrap clay left from this project, so decided to make more bookmarks. But I made a huge mistake. I did not bake this lot of bookmarks for long enough. After they had cooled down, they were so brittle. I mean, like the slightest pressure would cause them to snap. Shame really as I liked the blend of colours. However, lesson learnt, always pay attention when setting cooking times for polymer clay.

Celebration: Stencil Techniques

Celebration: Stencil Techniques’ class is part of the Altenew Educator Programme. This class is taught by the talented Laurel Beard. This class concentrates on using just one stamp set, and how many different looks can be achieved combining it with different stencil techniques.

The best card from this class is the flower congratulations card, using the Altenew Celebrations stamp set. This is from the first lesson where I learnt how to use die cuts to create stencils.

First I die cut Layered Medallions cover die B using my Fabmatic Die Cutting machine.

Then I used purple tape to keep the paper in place. I decided on a yellow/orange gradation look to the background. To achieve this I ink blended: Warm Sunshine, Buttercream, Caramel Toffee and Paper Bag. I really enjoy the process of ink blending, and seeing how the colours merge into each other.

I always love the reveal when taking away the stencil. You are never quite sure what you are going to get.

I then stamped the bouquet using my ‘We R Memory Keepers stamping platform’. I decided to use a stamping platform with the image just being a line image, and if I missed bits it could be difficult to line up again. To colour in the stamped image I used a variety of Chameleon Alcohol Pens. I liked the way the background shows through the lighter colours of the flowers.

Finally, I stamped the congratulations sentiment and added a green border. I chose green to highlight the colour of the leaves in the bouquet. Then I mounted that on a 7x 5 inch white card.


So what did I learn from this class?

  • How to use die cuts as stencils
  • How to ink blend over stencils
  • That’s it is ok to use alcohol markers over ink blending.
  • Different techniques for stencils
  • How to use texture paste. (I don’t have any at the moment, so will revisit the class when I do)

Overall this was a really fun and informative class. I learnt a lot about how to use stencils in different ways.

Below are my favourite cards from this class.