Friday, August 31, 2012

Product Reviews: Traceable Templates Vs. Metal Dies

In today's post, I wanted to go old school and whip out my traceable templates.  I wanted to compare them to metal dies and see if the time spent manually tracing and cutting is worth it.

So I'll start with the finished product and then show you the differences I found between these two ways of making a classic pizza box shape.

So here are the two different methods I used to create two different pizza boxes: a traceable template from Oriental Trading Company for the first box and a metal die from Lifestyle Crafts for the second box.

Here are what the shapes looked like after I traced them and cut them out or ran them through a die cut machine.  The top picture is the traceable template and the bottom picture is the die cut shape.

Now here is where a major difference comes into play--the folding!  With the template I traced and cut, I had to use a folding tool to make the folds correct.  With the metal die, the fold lines are perforated, so the paper folds easily where it should.

Here's how the finished boxes look.  The traced template box is the smaller one on the left and the die cut box is the bigger one on the right.

Here's a comparison view of them when open.  The traced template box is the one in front.

So what are the conclusions?  Here are the pro's and con's summarized in addition to the differences you can see from looking at the pictures.

Pro's of Traceable Templates when Compared to Metal Dies
Price, price, price!!  I bought a 10-pack of plastic templates for under ten bucks.  That adds up to less than a dollar per template.  That is significantly cheaper than buying a metal die.  Metal dies can cost $39.99+  for one single shape.  And if you use a metal die, you need a die cut machine, and the machines often stretch into the triple digits.

Nice tight fit with clean folds.  As you can see from the pictures, the traced template pizza box seems to have cleaner lines and tighter folds.  Overall, the completed box felt sturdier and looked better in some ways.  While the dotted lines on the die cut shape allow for easy folding, some people do not love how they look on the finished product.  You don't have these perforated folds when you use the template.

Con's of Traceable Templates when Compared to Metal Dies
Durability.  I guess you get what you pay for.  While traceable templates are a major bargain, after enough time has passed, the plastic will get brittle.  Obviously they won't hold up as well as a metal die.

Time.  Tracing and cutting out a shape takes significantly longer than running the shape through a die cut machine.  In addition to just tracing and cutting the straight lines, you also have to cut the intricate shapes with scissors (like that crescent-shaped closure on the lid) and that's just plain tricky.  Also, it takes longer to fold because the lines aren't perforated (which aesthetically looks better in some people's opinions, but does require more effort on your part).

So there you have it: pro's and con's to both.  I tend to focus on shapes rather than methodology.  If I see a shape I like, I buy it whether it's a traceable template, a manual die, or an electronic die cut shape.  Go with what you're drawn to and if it doesn't fit in your budget, just know that there are always alternatives.  So don't rule out those traceable templates!  There are some cool traceable template boxes that I have yet to see in a metal die format.  I think it's great that the world of die cutting has become vast enough to give us similar products in varying price points. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

My Other Creations: Embellished Keys

Do you not just love an old key??  I had a few and wanted to spruce them up a bit.  Here is what resulted:

On this first key, I used a twig from a Christmas pick, made some wire swirls and tied them together with a scrap of fabric and embroidery floss.  I punched out a mini heart, attached it to the swirl of wire and adhered the whole thing to a button, which I then attached to the key.  I stuck half of a flower on the back and wah-la!  Done!

For the second key, I pulled some ripped fabric through the key's hole, attached a punched-out heart, strung some fuzzy yarn through a button, then attached it all to the key.   I wrapped some wire around the base to finish it off.

For key number three, I stuck another half-flower to the back of the key (I'm all about the half flowers), attached a button to the top, stuck a safety pin through a piece of fabric and attached it to the button.  The twine came with the key.

So where do you find awesome vintage keys for a nice price?  I got all of these from a fantastic website called Manto Fev.  It's like an online flea shop of cool vintage supplies and ephemera that's all reasonably priced. The products are great, but a bonus is that the store's owner, Sara, is hilarious, too.  Her sense of humor comes through her writing and you'll see it in her product descriptions, etc.  Even reading the disclaimer is pretty entertaining.  Great supplies being sold by a REAL person.  That's something you don't see every day, my friends.  So head on over to her site: and see what you can whip up with the clever supplies you find.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tutorials: Fabric-Covered Christmas Trees

I know, I know.  You are so tired of me reminding you about Christmas when it's only August!!  But come on!  Throw on some Josh Groban crooning noel-esque tunes and get to work on some Christmas cards!  You will be so glad you did when November rolls around!  And just to prove that I'm a doer and not just a sayer, here's a Technique Tuesday on how I made these cute Christmas trees over the weekend that look great on cards or tags.

1.  Using a sewing machine, stitch some triangles on green fabric.  I traced some chipboard triangles just for a general template even though I sewed my actual triangles much smaller than my outlines.

If you hate sewing, you can achieve a similar look by drawing triangle outlines onto your fabric with a thick black pen instead.

2.  Cut out your fabric triangle and ink the edges.  I used a bright green ink and a teal ink.

3.  Find some thin cardboard (I used a brownie mix box) or thick cardstock and trace around your fabric triangle.  Cut out the cardboard triangle, then glue the fabric triangle on top of the cardboard triangle.  I used a heavy duty industrial-strength glue stick, but you can use your adhesive of choice as long as it doesn't goop through the fabric.

4.  Obtain some fuzzy or bumpy yarn (anything with blobs or clumps looks good).  The kind I used is called "Fling" by Crystal Palace yarns.

5.  Wrap the yarn around your tree, which simulates the look of streamers and ornaments.  Adhere the yarn ends to the back of the tree with hot glue.

You could also use embroidery floss, thread, pipe cleaners, chain, etc.

6.  Cut a strip of brown paper for the trunk and adhere it to the base of the tree.  Pick a perfect tree topper and adhere it to the top of the tree.  I used these little sparkly pom-poms, but you could also use several other things like gems, brads, sequins, stickers or star shapes.

Done!  Wah-lah!  You can stick these trees onto any package, box, card or tag for a cute and classy look.  Here's how a tree looks on the lid of a gift card tin I'm working on:

There are several variations you could do with these trees.  You could add additional ornaments, cover them with hearts or birds, make them short and squatty, cut them with pinking shears for zig zag edges; the possibilities are endless!

 And don't kill the messenger, but I'm just sayin'....only 132 days until Christmas!