When I started scrapbooking, it was nearly impossible to find ten things to buy. Now you have your choice of thousands of products. I had trouble deciding with a limited choice so I know I would be totally overwhelmed if I started scrapping today. After a few email discussions with beginners wondering how best to spread their budget for basic supplies to get started, I’ve made a master list. These are the ten things I personally don’t want to live without when it comes to crafting.
Scissors: I never change my mind when it comes to scissors. I purchased my first pair of Fiskars Soft-Grip Microtip Scissors over ten years ago and at the time, it was pretty much all the play money I could muster, since those were days when I spent most of my time studying in a library rather than generating any sort of income. I’ve had three pairs of these over the years, but none of them were purchased because the first pair had worn out—they were purchased because I went somewhere, realised I had left my scissors at home and promptly decided it was worth a trip to the store to have scissors that I could use easily. The design has changed slightly over the years (and I actually preferred the original design but it’s a tiny change and I got over it) and one of the most important thing to know about Fiskars is in the fine print: their tools have a lifetime guarantee. So if something starts to go awry, email customer service and they will help remedy whatever the problem may be. Definitely cool. Anyway, these scissors are small and super easy to maneuver. I can’t use a craft knife to save my life, but I can cut out tiny details with these. And the open handle design means my hands don’t cramp, so I can sit and cut stuff out for hours if I fancy. I’ve tried several other brands here and there, but I’ve never liked anything else. These win!
Trimmer: I actually didn’t purchase a paper trimmer until I had been scrapbooking for almost two years. Those were the days of the many-layered photo mat, so we did a lot of straight cutting, but I always cut with scissors and just hoped I could get the line pretty straight. It was only when I went to a crop and saw how quickly others could mat their photos that I decided I might want a paper trimmer after all. I started with the Fiskars 12in Portable Trimmer, which has changed in design over the years but I now have the current model and it happily goes wherever I scrap. It’s small, lightweight and has the magic ruler that flips out from the side so you know exactly what you’re cutting, if you like to measure.
I also have a heavier-duty trimmer that stays at home on my desk. It’s similar to this Fiskars 12in Desktop Trimmer, although mine is a boring black and grey office model rather than the funky colours of the scrapbooking model. (They also do this trimmer in pink with a built-in MP3 player, if you want to go crazy with a cutter.) I use this big trimmer every day because it sits on my desk, but honestly I made that purchase so I could be accurate and economically when doing lots of cutting, like preparing for classes. The blades last much longer, so the cuts stay cleaner longer than the portable model. I’ve only had this trimmer for about a year, if that gives you an idea of how much it was a need/want situation. You can definitely get along just fine with the portable trimmer.
It’s also worth noting that there are guillotine style trimmers available for the scrapbooking market. Frankly, guillotines scare me (probably something to do with the ancient one I used in my high school library) so it’s just never something I’ve considered. I’m quite happy about that as I have managed to keep all my fingers attached over the years. You could say I am not the most graceful or careful scrapbooker in the world. So safe = good in my world. Both of these trimmers meet that requirement.
Adhesive: Glue is the core item I have changed the most over the years. I started out with glue sticks and glue pens. I upgraded to something that was on a roller but left me with a gazillion little tabs that ended up sticking to everything in my entire house. And from there I went to Hermafix—which is on a roller with no little paper tabs. At one point I think I was using about five different adhesives on pretty much every page, and although I understand the need for the best tool for the job, five kinds of glue is just too much for me to mess with on the average 12×12 space. Now I use one single adhesive more than 90% of the time: Kokuyo Permanent Dot & Roller Adhesive. Unfortunately it isn’t easy to find in Europe—I actually found it in Japan while we were on holiday and now order my refills from America. In Japan they also have a miniature size, which I think is the Best Thing Ever for adhering ribbon and tiny things which are likely to get globbed up with glue. (For the record, I think ‘globbed up’ can be a technical term.) I talked to the rep from the American distributor and he said they have no intention to release the mini outside of Japan. Devastated! Especially as I didn’t buy any extra refills while I was there. Anyway, I now love this adhesive because it has a great bond but is lightweight and no-mess. So far I’ve had no trouble with the applicator wearing out either, which makes me happy.
If you can’t find the Kokuyo, you may be able to find
Hermafix Permanent Dots, which is what I swore by for years and I do still use if I don’t have my Dot & Roller to hand. This product can be easier to find and the bond holds very well. The drawbacks are that it can be messy and the applicator is infamous for getting globbed up, meaning you have to get a new applicator between every five and ten refills, or so I’ve found. It’s made in Germany, which meant for many years it was pretty much the only scrapbooking product that was more affordable in the UK than in the US, in case you ever feel like knowing that for a game of scrapbooking trivia.
If you like dimension, you’ll also want something to add that in your adhesive arsenal. Zots 3D pop dots work easily, as do foam tape and foam square/dots. If you keep your albums very full or lying flat, don’t skimp on these when you want elements to be raised from the page. If you only put one pop dot in the centre of a 3 inch flower, the rest will eventually get crushed back to the level of the page, and you really don’t want to experience sad moments like that when you don’t have to.
Pen: I believe in writing all my journaling by hand, even though I went through a long phase when everything was typed or at the very least pencilled in stilted print before I went over it in ink. Now I believe life is too short for all that. One big thing for me was finding the pen that made me happy, and that pen is the American Crafts Precision Pen for me. I do believe everyone’s handwriting has a pen that makes it look its best, so try every pen you stumble upon. I love this pen so much that one day I will sit down and tell you my entire love affair with the Precision Pen in its very own blog post. Suffice to say, this pen is permanent, will write easily on paper and photos and the ink is reliable. If you also want to write on transparencies or acrylic pages, pick up an American Crafts Slick Writer too. The tip is a bit thicker but it’s handy to have the option to write on other surfaces without needing a pen that’s filled with fumes.
Cardstock: All of my pages are built on cardstock, and it makes a big difference in the stability of my pages. I pretty much only use cardstock from Bazzill Basics. When I placed my first order from Bazzill, they had 65 colours in their full range. They have at least ten times that now, plus lots of other things to make cardstock exciting, like embossed patterns and die-cut edges. With so many colours now I don’t try to keep up with the full range, but I do buy huge quantities of my favourite colours and finishes because cardstock is something I know I will always use.
A little extra bit of info—if you submit your work to magazines and your page is chosen, you’ll need to pack it all up and post it in for photography, right? If your page is not on sturdy cardstock, attach it to sturdy cardstock before you send it in. Once a page on lightweight paper is removed from your album, it’s less stable and things are more likely to move between your house and the photography studio. A cardstock backing (and not-shy adhesive) helps tremendously. Just so you know!
Patterned paper: Patterned papers are what make scrapbooking fun to me. It’s one of the least expensive purchases you can make in this hobby, which means you can get quite a few patterns in your spending budget, and there are so many companies and artists creating papers that you can find something you like no matter what your style may be. If you start looking at patterned papers online and wonder why they differ in price, despite most being the same 12×12” size, there are a few things to keep in mind:
...Not all patterned paper is the same weight or thickness. Cardstock weight is more expensive.
...Some papers are single sided; others are double sided. Double-sided is often more expensive.
...Some papers have a special finish, like an embossed surface, stitches, glitter, flock or something else other than just a printed design. All those things add to the price.
...A few papers on the market are printed by hand rather than by machine.
...Some papers feature licensed designs from giant corporations (like papers to scrapbook a trip to DisneyWorld, for example) and often you pay a little more for those famous characters.
...Not all paper companies are based in the same place. Depending on where you live, various companies may have different costs to import to your market. (This one is pretty rare if you’re scrapping in the USA, but can be a big factor here in the UK.)
There are so many designs out there that there will be something that is just perfect for you, no matter what you want to scrapbook or what kind of design aesthetic you may have. If you can’t go shop in person and are still unsure of what the real thing will look like if you order online, start by finding five or ten patterns you think you will like, across a range of companies. Order those online and you’ll get to see what the quality of each company’s paper is like when you start to scrap with it. After one or two of those orders, you’ll know what you like, what you dislike and then you can try a few new sheets every time you order without worrying that you’re going to buy hundreds of sheets and dislike it all.
Random fact: if you set me loose in a scrapbooking store and told me I could spend as much as I wanted but I could only buy one type of product, I would buy patterned paper way before I would buy the super expensive gadget. Patterned paper makes me happy. It’s also healthier than chocolate.
Stamps & Blocks: When I first came to England, I noticed straight away that there were far more places to buy rubber stamps than to buy scrapbooking supplies. But I was a scrapbooker, not a stamper. No matter how many stamps I saw, I saved my pennies and proclaimed I would never get into stamping.
Now I use stamps on at least fifty percent of my pages. My favourites are background stamps to add texture and letter stamps for writing. It’s definitely worth viewing stamps as a tool—they are more expensive but they can be used over and over again, so you might pay £2 for a sheet of letter stickers and use them for three layouts or pay £12 for a set of letter stamps and use them for twenty-five layouts. Provided you don’t buy so many letter stamps that you can’t see straight, it does make stamps a good investment. I think the trick is to be careful to buy what you will actually use often. With consumables like paper and stickers, I will buy something just because I like the style because I only need to use it once or twice. With a stamp, I want to be able to use it more than ten times, so it better be something I can reinvent rather than it just looking the same all the time. OR if you’re working on a theme album and want to create dozens of pages that coordinate without buying sixteen sets of the same stickers, a stamp can be the perfect answer. And of course stamps work perfectly for cards, which is why they were so much easier for me to find all those years ago. We do love a handmade card here in the UK!
Stamps do come in various formats—red rubber comes mounted on wood blocks or unmounted in plain sheets. The mounted stamps are quick, easy and stamp well but they take up more room. That makes them great for stamps you want to use for years and years. Unmounted stamps are less expensive in both purchase price and postage, but you’ll need to attach them to something in order to stamp them. You can use various systems that essentially attach a repositionable adhesive to the back of the rubber so you can store them flat and just have one or two blocks to attach them to when you want. Then there is the most affordable and scrapper-friendly option—the clear acrylic stamp and the clear acrylic block. These stamps are light-weight and take up little room, they attach to the block without any adhesive, can be cleaned with just a baby-wipe, and the clear-clear combination means you can see exactly what you’re stamping where. Which is very, very cool. It also means you have a better chance of fixing an image if you mess up. Which probably doesn’t affect you because you would never make the huge gargantuan mistakes I make when I put ink in my hands. I make a lot of mistakes, but I promise they are all fixable: stamping is not nearly as frightening as it looks from afar.
Anyway, I now love stamps and I am quite biased toward these, funnily enough. But you can find ten gazillion designs here to give you a sampling of what is available on the market. (And that last link currently takes you to sale prices, which are always cool.)
Ink: Perhaps this is just obvious, but without some sort of ink, those stamps are just going to be looking cool in your supply box rather than on your pages. So you’ll want to start with a few basics. I need dye-based inks in black and brown—these dry fast and are the no-frills inks of the stamping world. I also like to have pigment inks in my favourite colours ) and Staz-On in at least black and white for obnoxious surfaces that don’t agree with those other inks. Pigment inks are more like paint—they have more play, stay wet longer and they can be embellished with embossing powders and a heat gun, or you can just leave them alone and they still look great. Pigment inks are great for shadowing—use them with felt or a sponge and swirl them on the edges of something for a faded effect that gives a nice finish. And Staz-On is a super-permanent ink that will stay on paper, wood, metal, plastic, glass and most whatever you throw at it. (Ironically, don’t assume it will stay on fabric. I once spent all day stamping an entire passage of text onto a pair of jeans, only to find that all of this awesomeness disappeared in the wash. Live and learn—there is a special ink for stamping on fabric!) There are so many different ink pads available, you might need a spare house to collect them all. Start with the very basics—about five ink pads in total will do you well for a very long time—and then pick up one now and then to try something new.
Stickers: These last two are completely personal preference: I love stickers as a scrapbooking supply. Partially because they are a grown-up version of the Lisa Frank designs I used to exchange with pen pals and use to decorate my junior high locker, and partially because they are so darned fast to use. Totally straight-forward and easy. Peel, stick, done! Or you can jazz them up with layers, glitter, gems, sanding, inking, pop-dots, cutting them into pieces…whatever you fancy. The variety available is massive. I buy and use a great deal of stickers, but my mainstays are letters, labels and words. Can’t get enough.
Ribbon: A totally frivolous choice to finish my top ten. You could happily scrap for years and years without an inch of ribbon if it wasn’t your style, but it is my style and I love ribbon beyond belief. I buy it both from scrapbooking companies and just plain ribbon companies. Sometimes I glue it down and sometimes I sew it down. I like that it can add texture and a richness in a small amount, and it’s handy that I can buy special ribbons in small quantities and my favourite ribbons in big reels so I can use them again and again. Ribbon is fabulous as an addition to pretty much all paper crafts, as it provides that link to the fabrics of more long-term decor. We used a lot of ribbon for our wedding. How much, I cannot say exactly, as I stopped counting when we reached 600 yards. So maybe I like ribbon. Your tenth thing may be something else entirely!
So the ultra-short shopping list I would suggest for a serious starting scrapbooking purchase:
a pair of good scissors
a 12” portable paper trimmer
a black Precision Pen
an adhesive you like
10 sheets of cardstock in colours you love
10 patterned papers that make you happy
a set of letter stamps (and an acrylic block if needed)
a black dye ink pad
a sheet of label stickers
one other embellishment of your choice (mine would be a spool of ribbon)
All that will get you through ten layouts happily and then you’ll have a better idea of what you want to buy next.
I would love to make this a better resource for beginners by including the experience of other scrapbookers! Do you have a purchase you would definitely recommend? Or something you would tell beginners to avoid so they get the most for their money? Please take a few minutes to share your advice for beginners in the comments today. Would your shopping list be similar to mine or do you have something completely different in mind? Thanks so much for sharing your insight!
xlovesx10 April 2009