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All my designs are original, so copyrighted to me. If I have been inspired by someone elses work, I have named them in the post, and where able, I have provided a link.

Please feel free to use my designs for inspiration, I just ask you to credit me, and provide a link back to my blog.

Thanks, Shaz XX

Techniques & Tools

        A Big Shot Pro review, and recipes for the sandwiches

            How to alter an embossing folder to use in different orientations

        Using Oil Pastels to make backgrounds

        Making your own braided cords and tassels 

        How-to for Easel cards 

06 April 2013
                                  Big Shot Pro


I have had my machine for about a year now, at the time of writing this (2013), and I have to say it was one of the best investments I have made, in crafting tools.
So, a short review of it.
First, and very important to take note of, this machine is HUGE! & very heavy. So, you will want a place to set it up that it can stay permanently.
 It weighs 44 pounds, and has an equally impressive footprint. 24½" in length, and side to side, including the handle, it is 22½" in total.
I'm fortunate to have my own room for crafting, so the size isn't a problem- in fact for me it was one of the biggest selling points. Because of it's footprint, it is 100% stable. It has 8 little rubber feet,and combined with it's weight, no matter what you are doing, it will not move around. Ever. The second advantage I saw was that as the opening is a smidge over 12" wide, there was never going to be anything, die/folder, bigger than that that I would want to use. So no more machine becoming redundant as stuff gets bigger. This point was really the clincher in deciding which machine to upgrade to. I'm particularly glad now- I'm editing this in 2018, as 9"& 12" square and A4 Embossing Folders are now quite common.

One thing to note, you can buy the Big Shot Pro, or you can get the Big Shot Pro Starter Kit.
The Pro alone, comes with:
Sliding Metal Tray,
1 x Adapter Pad
1 x Clear Cutting Pad
1 x Rubber Crease Rule ( the black rubber Mat)
2 x mylar shims-( the same sort of thing as the Splodge away sheets)

 The BSP Starter Kit includes these items, as well as:
 an extra 2 Clear cutting pads ( giving you 3 in total)
 1 x Solo Platform
 1 x Wafer Thin Die Adapter
 1x  Solo Shim

If you want to cut/emboss anything thinner than a Bigz die, you will need the extra plates, so I advise shopping around for the kit- you can find some very good deals on them, which work out cheaper than buying them separately.
The Sizzix UK site has a full listing of accessories.

 There are a few other bits & pieces- I also got an extended spacer plate and a pair of cutting pads,and a Texturez  Impressions plate. The spacer plate is intended to make using strip dies easier, and the Texturez plate for using Brass stencils.
On the Sizzix website, it gives all the machine specs. One thing it says is the 'full 13" opening. Now while technically the opening IS 13"- you actually have 12 1/2" of usable opening- which is fine, as 12x12 card/paper still go through with ease, I just don't get why they say that. All the plates drop into the Sliding Base Tray, so it comes out at 12 1/2" usable surface area.
A small niggle, I know. 

 All the pads & sheets have information on them for 'Sandwich' recipes using various dies & folders. I have seen occasionally comments that the machine won't take this, or that die- I can only assume that people have seen the pads and assume that is all they will cut/emboss. Obviously, dies & embossing tools are constantly evolving, and these plates will only list what was available (and of course, Sizzix Brand) when they were made. They aren't going to advertise anyone else's kit after all.
 What I can say, is that as yet, I haven't found anything that won't work in mine. There are some things I don't have of course, but these all work in my machine:

 Bigz Dies
 Tim Holtz Strip Dies
 Movers & Shapers
 Cuttlebug/Quickutz /Darice/ Alterations
Generic Embossing Folders*
'M'Bossabilities folders*
Cheery Lyn Dies
 Generic dies similar to Cheery Lyn
Red, Yellow & Green older Sizzix dies
 Quickutz 'Squeeze' Tool dies
Memory Box dies
 Fiskars Texture Plates
 Brass Stencils
* Some generic folders are thicker than the majority of folders, and will need a different sandwich than most. Likewise with 'M'Bossabilities- they are very thick, being double sided. You will need to adjust for these also.

 The cool thing is that you are not limited to embossing one folder, or cutting one die at a time. As long as they are all the same type; ie, all Cuttlebug folders, or all Tim Holtz Strip dies, then you can cut/ emboss as many as you can fit on. In these two cases, that's four folders/dies.

For Non-Sizzix stuff, you need to play around a little to find the right sandwich formula. You-Tube does have a few videos, and occasionally you will find a recipe around the net somewhere. Two things I will recommend here:
 get yourself a little notepad, and keep it in the storage well of the machine. Whenever you find a sandwich that works, write it down in your book. It saves a lot of wasted time trying to figure it out again next time. The recipes are not as plentiful on the 'net for the BSP, so it all helps.
Second, and the most important
Remember that, just like the Cuttlebugs, every machine is a little different in what it will accept. If you are trying to build a sandwich you have never used before ALWAYS start off with a sandwich that rolls through the machine easily- probably even without making any cut/embossing. Then gradually start adding various shims or plates till you get it right. Whether you are building a sandwich yourself, or using someone else recipe- err on the side of caution.
 If its a recipe you have found on a blog/forum/ the net, take one element out before you try it- then shim till it works. It takes a bit longer, but time & scrap paper is cheaper than a new machine!

Remember too, that your cardstock/paper will have a bearing on the whole recipe- thicker cardstock may mean you will need to remove one of the elements and substitute a thinner one, or a thinner plate & shims.

 If any visitors have recipes that work for them, if you'd like to e-mail me with them, I will happily add them to the list, and link to your blog.
Meanwhile, here is a list of the Recipes I've started writing down that work for mine. Please DO NOT take this recipe list as absolute! Sorry to keep repeating this, but I don't want anyone to break their machine by using my lists.
 Like I said above, take one element out before you try it in yours.

All these are listed from the bottom up, onto the Sliding base tray.

Cuttlebug Folders:
Sol Platform
Adapter Pad
Clear  Plate
Folder & Card/paper
Clear Plate
Sometimes a thin card shim or Mylar shim is needed- it depends on your cardstock/paper in the folder.

'M'Bossabilities Folder
Adapter Pad
Solo Platform
Solo Shim
Thin Die Adapter
'M'Bossabilities folder with Cardstock/paper
Clear Plate

Tim Strip Die
 Adapter Pad
Solo Platform
Solo Shim
Clear Plate
Clear Plate.
 I've also found, that depending on the thickness of cardstock/paper, you can cut three or four layers at a time- again, try this carefully, adding just one sheet at a time.

Movers & Shapers
Adapter Pad
2x Claer Plates
Solo Shim
2x Mylar Shims
 Crease Rule( the rubber mat)
Sometimes I've needed to add a thin cardstock shim to this mix. I have also been able to cut 3 layers of paper at the same time.

Wafer Thin Dies
( Like the Quickutz Squeeze tool dies)
Adapter Pad
solo Platform
Solo Shim
Thin Die Adapter
Clear plate
 Die & Cardstock/paper
Clear plate.
 Again, sometimes I've had to add a mylar shim

Bigz Dies
Adapter Pad
Clear Plate
Crease Rule mat or
Clear plate

I will add some more recipes soon, as I now have a tray for the movers & shapers, so it will probably be different to the one I was using without them.



           Altering an Embossing Folder

I love my Cuttlebug, but there are times when I wish the folders were a little more versatile. Sometimes  I would like to emboss straight onto the card front rather than on a separate piece of card that I have to layer.So I went searching to see if the 'Bug would take the extra layer of card (the back would have to be behind the folder). I couldn't find a 'sandwich' recipe anywhere for this, so I had a go at making one that worked for me.

Important note:  From reading on forums, it is clear that Cuttlebugs vary a great deal-recipes need tweaking to suit your individual one. NEVER  try and force a sandwich through your bug. If you have been using it for a while you will know what feels ok, and what feels too thick. If you are trying a sandwich for the first time, err on the side of caution and go thinner. It is easy to add a card shim, or more to get the right embossing- not so easy to replace a broken 'Bug or plates! This recipe works for mine, you may need more, or less shims. Also remember that different cardstock will alter the thickness of the sandwich- the thicker the cardstock the less shims you will need, and vice versa.

My sandwich was:
A plate
Folder with card front inserted, and card back folded behind it
C plate,
3 thin cardstock shims.

 The normal recipe for an embossing folder would be:
A plate,
B plate,
Folder with card,
B plate.
When I went to try this at first, it was obviously not going to go through, so I discarded the B plates, and put my folder straight onto the A plate. Next I  just put the C plate on top. This went through easily- no embossing though! So I added two thin card shims. This also went through, and this time it did emboss, but not as crisply as I wanted, so I added a third shim, put it through again and this worked perfectly.

Front embossed, back plain
                               Making a Folder a little more Versatile....

My next problem was that the folder I wanted to use on my card front is in portrait format, whilst I wanted my card to be landscape. the folder I was going to use is this one from Do-Crafts.The 'E' & 'D' just tell me which side is up whether I want to Emboss or Deboss, which is a great way of getting extra mileage from your folders, and works with any folder that doesn't have words on it.

                So, being brave, I took my scalpel to the folder, and sliced through the top seam.

Now I was able to add hinges with low-tack tape either on the sides, the top or the bottom depending on which would put my image where I  wanted it.

I wanted my image to be on the left side of the card front, and embossed, so I put the hinges on the right hand side of the folder.

I also used the same sandwich as I detailed above, and again I have a nicely embossed image straight onto the front of my card.

This card is made using a sheet of A4  card scored & folded, so you have to place the folder on the A plate sideways, in order to feed the card through,like so.


And yes, that is a cluttered desk!

The beauty of this is the freedom to place an image on your card front without being restricted to where the folder will reach. It also means that with borders, or phrases, you don't have to have them straight across your card anymore.


   Backgrounds using Oil Pastels

Artists oil pastels are very easily available, and very cheap- I have bought them from my local poundstore, and The Works. The colour range is vast, as you can see, and they are also what is used to add colour to images on Pergamano work.I found it best to remove the wrapper, and in some cases break the sticks in half, as this gave me more control over where the colour went. You need smooth, but not glossy, card for this to work. Textured card will not give you smooth blends, although it could produce interesting effects too.If you use glossy, like photopaper, the oil pastel will wipe straight off and you won't be able to blend it..You need a reasonably heavyweight card, as you will be pushing the colour quite hard with your fingers, and I cut mine into A5 size, as I found this was a good size to work with (about 7x5in).

Begin by putting swipes of colour on your card- this was where I found
working with the side of the crayon best- it gives you patches of colour,
rather than thin lines.
Just drag them on roughly, you can add thinner lines by using the end of the crayon. I'm using a couple of shades each of blue,pink & purple.
Now start smudging the colours together using your thumb/fingers.This works best if you go in the direction you swiped the oil pastel in, and from the middle of the card towards the edge, rather than from the edge in.You can sweep in straight lines, or move slightly diagonal to blend even further.
Blending with your thumb

At any point you can add more colour, or colours and blend again. Here I've added some black to make the top area darker- go lightly with the darker colours, its easier to add than try to take off. I have found rubbing with a cotton wool ball helps to remove some of the colour if you do get it too dark.

Finished piece, all blended.


You can use as many colours as you like, just remember,too many will turn muddy.Its best to use maybe three colours, but you can use two or three shades of each without problems.Here I am going to blend greens on the lower half, and blues/ pinks on the top half.

                         These are some backgrounds I have made in the past.The blue one has vertical smudging on the top two thirds, and horizontal on the bottom third.
vertical & horizontal smudging


This card was made using this method: I streaked the sky area vertically with darker blues & a little black,then  the middle of the card with browns where the mountains would go and the paler blues/purples for the water were blended horizontally


This was created using pale blues/purples & pinks- made me think of an evening sky.

 A stamp positioner is very, very useful in this technique, as it allows you to place your image to maximum effect.

The same stamp, just using a darker background.

You will need to stamp with Staz-on, I have tried Versafine, it will work, but you need to seal it with a sealer(cheap hairspray works) or the ink will wipe off. The oil pastel doesn't need sealing, unlike chalk pastels. You can also scan your background into your pc, then print it out, which would give you more versatility with what ink you stamp with. It also means if you create one you really, really love, you can print out more, because you will never create two sheets
  exactly the same.

               Making Braided Cords

 Very often I have wanted some braided cord for a card, and what I had, or could find, was either the wrong colours, or far too heavyweight, or both.So after a little research, the method I found works best is this. You will need a small hand-drill, the sort everyone used before electric drills, lol. You may find you have one lying disused around the house, but if you need to purchase one, it will only cost you a couple of pounds.The second thing you will need is a brass cup hook.

You will see from the picture that the cuphook has been inserted into the part of the drill, the chuck. that would normally hold a drillbit. To do this, loosen the chuck by holding the handle still, and twisting the chuck anti-clockwise. Push the thread of the hook into the chuck, and retighten.                                                    

You will also need something to hold your loop of thread- here I have a wooden bowmaker clamped to my desk.
You can use a door or window handle-as long as you can slide the thread off it when you have wound it- don't use a round door knob! Yes I did realise how silly this was the hard way.
 Next choose your thread for your cords. I tend to use embroidery thread (floss), as it is lightweight, so you don't end up with too much of a bulky cord, and the range of colours available is enormous. You will need two colours.
You need to unravel your skein of thread, and tie the two ends together to make a huge loop. Do this with both colours. Try to make sure they are approximately the same length.
Also have ready a few pieces of low-tack tape, or masking tape.


 Hook your loop of thread around the cup hook and the bowmaker peg/handle and pull taught.
Now you begin to wind the handle of the drill to wind the first of the threads. It doesn't matter whether you wind forwards or back, but whichever way you do turn, you MUST twist both of the cords the same way. You also need to count HOW MANY TIMES you turn the handle-its best to do this by counting each time the handle is facing the front of the drill, for instance. There is no hard & fast rule for how many turns- it will depend on the length of the thread, how much stretch it has, how tight or loose you want the wind- if you think its too taught, just unwind a little, if too loose, wind a few more turns. 
When you are happy with it, slip the loop off the cup hook- HOLDING IT TIGHTLY- and use a bit of tape to secure it to your desk/worktop. Leave the other end looped over the peg, and now put the second cord onto the same peg.Put the other end of the loop over the cup hook, and wind this the same way you did with the first.

 The reason you need to know how many times you have turned the handle is because you need to repeat this winding with the second cord, and you need to wind it the same number of times, so the tension of the cords is the same. When you have this second cord wound to match he first, do not remove it from tbe cup hook. Take the loop you taped to your desk, and put this over the cup hook.You should now have two wound cords, attached to your peg and cup hook.

 Now we are going to twist these two cords together.To do this, you have to wind the drill the OPPOSITE way to how you wound the cords the first time, so if you wound your drill FORWARDS to twist the individual cords, you now have to wind BACKWARDS, and vice versa.Wind the handle, twisting the cords together, until you are happy with how it looks. It may kink up a little, don't worry as it will straighten out when released, its how tightly you want it wound that is important at the moment.
When you have it looking as you want, slip the cords off the cuphook and tie then together in a knot. Do the same for the other end, and let the cord dangle to straighten out.

 When you want to cut a length from your cord, wrap a piece of tape around it, and cut through the tape. This will prevent it from unravelling.

Or, you can wrap it around the spine of your card, tie a knot in each end a couple of inches above where you want the cord to hang to, then trim off the excess cord. Now use a toothbrush to brush out the ends, to make a 'tassel'.
  The possibilities with this are endless-the thickness of your cord is determined by the thread you use. If you use a skein of thread as it is, you will get a cord of reasonable weight & thickness, but still suitable for a card. If you were to take two or three individual threads from a skein, you would get a light, delicate cord.You could also use wool, narrow ribbon, string- whatever you like. I think that three individual cords would be the maximum you could do this with in this way and get an evenly wound cord - it would be difficult to control the wind with any more.

            Making your Own Tassels
The problem with tassels is very often trying to match the colour to your card/bookmark, etc. Often you can get close, but you don't always have the right colour. This is how you can make your own, using embroidery thread(floss), or any similar choice- silk thread, string, cotton, even very narrow ribbon.

There are a number of bowmakers available, and these are ideal for tassel making. However, if you don't have one, and I didn't at the time, here is a really simple little gadget I made to do them with.

                                Making a tassel maker from card

You will need some strong card, a ruler and a craft knife or scalpel.

I find that it's easier to work with if your piece of card is at least 5 cm wide, by however long you want your finished tassel to be. The width really doesn't matter, it's just easier not to have a fiddly bit of card in your hand. So if we wanted our tassel to be 4cm long, then draw a 5cm x 4cm rectangle on the card and cut out. Next we have to decide how deep the top of the tassel will be, and this needs to be in proportion to the length so it looks right. For a 4cm long tassel this would be between ½ & 1cm, so draw a line this distance down from the top of the card going about half way across the card from the right hand edge. Now draw another line about 1cm below this, again going halfway across. Now join these two lines together. Cut this area out, so you are left with a 'C' shaped piece of card as your tassel maker.

This is what you should end up with.

You can make loads of these in different lengths to suit your projects.

Take your embroidery thread and unravel it a little, then, leaving about 10cm of thread trailing at the top begin to wind the rest of the thread around the card. How many times you wind will depend on how full or how delicate you want your tassel to be. Don't pull too tightly, just a gentle wind is all you want. If you want more than one colour in your tassel, maybe to match a cord you have made, then wind both threads at the same time, but you will obviously need fewer winds.

When you think you have enough for your tassel, if you have used two , or more, colours, cut off the excess thread, at what will be the bottom of the tassel.You will use the excess you left at the top to secure your tassel. If you have only used one colour, take the last wind up to the top, and cut off level with the first trailing end, to give you two threads to tie off.

Take both ends of the longer trailing thread and pass them through the gap on either side of the wound cord then wrap them tightly around the tassel in opposite directions, as close to the top as you can get it, and tie them together with a knot - this creates the shorter top end of the tassel.

Slip the whole tassel off the card, and separate the two trailing ends to opposite sides of the tassel.


Thread the left hand thread onto a darning needle and pass the thread through the head of the tassel to come out on the right hand side. Repeat with the right hand thread, to come out on the left hand side. Now take both threads up to the top of the tassel and tie in a knot.  

Next, snip through the loops at the bottom of the tassel and trim any long ends level. Then use a small stiff brush (I use a toothbrush) and brush your tassel to separate the strands of thread.

Note: If you use some types of metallic thread in your tassel, they will not separate when you brush the ends as they are more of a knitted thread. It is possible to buy gold/silver embroidery threads though, and these will brush out. If in doubt, test an end before you use it.

       And thats all there is to it.       Simple, cheap and very useful.

Easel Cards

Easel cards look very impressive, but are really very, very easy to make.

Begin with the sheet of card, or card blank, that you are going to use. Typically, I work with an A4 sheet scored down the centre and folded, giving me a card blank that measures 20 1/2 cm x 15cm approximately.

Note: card does vary slightly in its dimensions, and A4 folded like this will produce a card that is slightly too big for a standard envelope to fit this size, so trim a little off each side, and compare it to an envelope, allowing for ease of inserting & removing, before committing yourself to working on the card! As you can guess, I found that out the hard way, :).

I already had the image I want to use on my easel card matted & layered, so now I need to cut my base card down to the same width. Here you can see my two favourite 'must-have' tools: scalpel & clear ruler with grid-lines & metal edge.
Base cut to size
The off-cut is useful for making the stopper panel further on, and is also what is known as a 'MOO' card base, around 2 3/4" wide.

Marking the mid-point
Open out your card, and measure the width of the front of the card. Mark this, either with a light pencil mark, or the tip of an embossing stylus.Now you need to score this line, to create a second fold.

                                    As you can see, I use a scoreboard & an embossing stylus.

Your card will now look like this- the normal centre fold, plus a new fold halfway across the front. Crease this new fold, to make a 'mountain' fold.

Creased & Folded.

Your card now has three portions- a large flat base, the front which will have your image attached to it, and the back which is the support for the easel.

Next, you need to cover the base of your easel. Here I have chosen a dark green paper, to tone with the greens in my image. Attach this to cover the base with DST.
Covered card base.

Now we need to create the 'stopper'- this is what stops your card falling flat when stood up. I have taken the strip of card I cut off at the start, and trimmed this down to about 5" x 2". Next I took a piece of vellum and ran it through the Cuttlebug in the D'vine swirls folder. I cut this down to about 6" x  3 1/2", then punched around it with a border punch.Vellum can be embossed in a Folder,and it works easiest with a thick vellum, but if your vellum is quite thin, put two or even three sheets in the folder together- this stops it tearing because vellum will not stretch in the same way card or paper will.

Note:  What you trim this to will depend entirely on the punch you intend to use. The border punch I used does not take much off the width, so these dimensions worked. If your punch goes quite deeply into the paper, as in the Purple easel card, where I used a corner punch with the guides removed, you will need a wider piece.I found it best to punch the first edge, then measure how much had been taken off in the punching,by laying the removed part next to the punching, and measuring to the edge of the design, then cutting the strip wide enough to allow for this when I punched the opposite side. Its also best to trial & error this on a scrap piece of paper first, to get the dimensions right, and to make a note of  dimensions needed for each punch in a notebook to save you having to keep working it out.

 The vellum is now attached to the strip of card.  Initially I used a Zig glue pen, but the vellum did not attach very strongly, so I used a thin strip of DST, just in the middle where I could hide it beneath the sentiment.

 The sentiment, stamped & heat embossed onto a scrap of the red card used for matting the main image, then onto a scrap of the green paper used for the base.
                                    A silver Heart brad was added at each end of the sentiment.

Foam pads are now added to the back of the lacy panel, to raise it off the base.

 The panel, mounted onto the base, and the sentiment added with silicone glue, so that I could angle it upwards slightly.

Now for the main image panel. I made a faint mark where the top of the easel would be, and placed a strip of DST just below this, then one along the bottom edge.

The image panel attached to the easel.

The finished card. The final touch was the addition of a butterfly made from Fusible Fibres, using the Butterfly Screen stamp I used in the Oriental Butterfly cards.

Small anthers were added by coiling some wire and sticking in place by inserting into the silicone glue used to mount the butterfly.

Any size of card can be used to make an easel card- you simply score the middle of the front of the card, and fold. Your image needs to be no bigger than the total size of the card front, so that when it is folded flat,the front, or top, is not bigger than the base.


Shaz in Oz.CalligraphyCards said...

Wow thank you so much Shaz for these detailed instructions really appreciate it and have copied it into a Word document if that is okay... then when I need it I will be able to find it as have a card making file in My Documents where I put all my ideas I want to use...otherwise I will never remember where I read it, I put your site on the file so then it is all together..... thanks so very much for taking the time to do this.
love Shaz in oz.x

ShazInOzCardsCalligraphy said...

Boy Shaz! am glad I read this again now I better go and find that word doc as want to make one... knew had seen it on your blog!!
love Shaz in Oz.xx this time I bookmarked the page as well!

Shabby Pati said...

What a great tutorial. I made one easel card but this will make the next one much easier.

Thanks for posting it.

An End of an era

An end of an era

I write this with a broken heart, that only time can heal My beautiful, wonderful wifelet Shaz (Silverwolf) passed away peacefully in the ea...