Back to Basics

The basic tool kit

It really doesn't take a shopping trip to begin your foray into card making, almost all of the tools you need will be right there at home someplace! Have a rifle through the kids school bags & I bet you will find almost everything you need there - obviously ASK PERMISSION FIRST - don't want another war on our hands now do we!


I have tried out loads of different rulers in my time as a crafter & have now settled on one that, in my opinion, is ideal. The working ruler needs to be made from sturdy plastic, if it is too flexible it will snap. I find a 30 cm (12") preferable to a smaller one as well as more useful. Buy one with imperial & metric measurements on & then you are covered for all eventualities. The one I use is white, rather than clear as I find if I want repeated measurements I simply use my pencil to mark those points on the ruler, & then when I am done they simply wipe away at a stroke from my finger.

Once you gain confidence & want to progress to using a craft knife - this took me about three years, so there is no right or wrong time to practice - you will need a metal ruler to use on a self healing or glass cutting mat. Again, look for a 30cm one & if it has cork on the back all the better as this helps prevent it slipping. As these are generally a bit more expensive than your plastic one try looking in hardware/DIY stores as you will pick one up cheaper there than in the craft shop.


Hunt through the kids pencil case - or his tool box & try to find one with 2H written on the side - this simply indicates how hard the 'lead' is. The more B's the softer the 'lead', the more H's the harder it is. I prefer 2H because if you keep it sharp when you draw your line it is so thin that when you cut through it with the scissors it disappears - unlike a regular HB.

The added advantage being that as the 'lead' is so hard you rarely have to sharpen the pencil - so you won't need go looking for a new one for a very long time - unless you lose it of course!


There is nothing at all wrong with the regular eraser you will find in any stationary department, but I prefer those 'pencil end' ones. They are widely available in supermarkets & pound type shops. Buy yourself a pack of those & push one on to the end of your 2H pencil. Firstly you won't ever have to rummage around in your tool kit for the eraser again & secondly the pack lasts forever - unless you have 'borrowers' in your house that is?

Glue Stick:

These are just fine to begin your new hobby with, they are versitile & you will always have need for one in your crafting work, but before you know it you will find yourself using all kinds of adhesive to do specific jobs, but for now a glue stick is just fine!

Though using them does have a downside - due to the high moisture content in them, your work will 'warp' as it dries - so you will need to put in beneath a heavy book to flatten it out again.


I only ever use the packs of two or three from the Pound Shops. Firstly it is useful to have more than one size - little ones for intricate cutting & larger ones for straight lines & circles. In many of the three packs I have seen the largest are too large for crafting with, so use those ones in the kitchen for opening packs etc. You really don't need to spend money on good scissors as paper & card just blunts them anyhow! Though I do keep one set of sharp ones in my kit for cutting ribbon etc.

While you are in that shop, look out for decorative edged scissors too - there is a huge variety to be found. Buy any that you like, they won't last forever, but you will be bored with them long before they break.


Seriously, in my humble opinion, an essential tool. I couldn't manage without my tweezers when I craft - I use them for everything! But don't go out & buy them unless you see the multi packs which are also widely available in the Pound shops etc. Or you could use the old one's that went rusty in the bathroom - cleaned with baby oil first of course - or the ones that scratch you when you try to do your eyebrows with them. I have several pair that I always keep in my tool kit.

  Emery board:

I always have a couple pushed into my tool pot in the craft cupboard. Not only are they very useful if you snag a nail while crafting, but they are invaluable for creating a 'distress' look to your work. (More on 'distressing' later).

What size card?

Okay, I know this site is being viewed across the world & that I am an ignorant English woman but I only think in metric when it comes to paper craft. Everything else is pounds & ounces, miles, pints etc etc. but for craft it has to be metric. I just can't be doing with the 'five and nine sixteenths of an inch' bit - life is just too short!

So now we got past that one I also know our paper sizes are different to yours, here we work in A4 (29.7 x 21 cm), A5 (21 x 14.8 cm) etc. The theory works that each time you cut the paper in half, you add one - so half of A5 would be A6 etc. etc. Stupid system I know but I didn't develop it - I'd have done a straight 20 x 30 cm & made everyones lives easier! I won't get into the envelope sizes here as even I get confused by those!

Needless to say, my computer works on any measurements I set, so I will stick with our stupid one, as at least I am familiar with it! So all of the download files are saved in A4 & PDF format. If anyone figures out how to convert these to 'letter' size when downloading them - please let me know how so I can tell the rest of the world.

Guide to adhesives:

There are so many adhesives on the market now, that for crafters on a budget it is a nightmare trying to figure out which ones you need for the job you want to do. Here I will give you my opinion of which adhesives are best suited to which purpose, & then you can make a more informed decision on which one's you need to keep in your craft stash.

  Tacky Glue:  Comes in various sizes, but even the smallest at around £1, is going to last you an awfully long time. This is a PVA based glue but it is concentrated, so has less moisture content so a little goes a long way. It comes with a tiny nozzle, so ideal for applying small gems etc. to your work. It dries fast, so no need to peg the corners of boxes etc. until they dry. The only thing I have found is that it doesn't work well on foiled card. I think this is due to the fact that the glue itself is absorbed by the fibres of the paper or card & if it has a gloss sheen, it can't be absorbed, thus won't stay fixed. I also find it ideal for attaching larger pieces of backing paper to the card as it gives you time to slide it around before it bonds. It doesn't warp your card or paper either, due to the low moisture contant. It is ideal for sticking hand made papers, as removing the backing from double sided tape often removes the tape itself as well as half of the paper!

Available in all craft stores & websites.

Double Sided Adhesive Tape: (DST). Comes in a variety of widths - usually 3, 6 & 12mm, though I have see really wide stuff that is intended for DIY use. I use it mainly to layer up card pieces, but I have also used it with smaller pieces of backing paper where you have more control than you would a larger piece. It is great for adding lines of flocking or glitter to your work too. Simply position the tape, remove the backing paper & rub in the glitter or flocking etc. before removing the excess.

Available in craft stores & stationers & saw some in the post office today too!

Glue Sticks: These are a great buy when you first start out, as they give you time to adjust the position of pieces before they bond firmly. They are also useful for dabbing onto sticky pads & double sided tape, to give more time to position the piece. I use them with my residential care groups as they are easy for them to manage. But using them to attach your backing paper will warp the project, due to their high moisture content. But simply put your project beneath a heavy book until it straightens out again!

I have to be honest & say, I rarely use glue sticks at all in my craft work at home. The only difference I found between the supermarket brand & the craft brand is that the expesive one goes on 'gloopy' so you use the tube up very quickly, whereas the cheaper one's are dryer & much more suited to the job. So save yourself some dosh & add them to your shopping trolly from the supermarket.

Available in supermarkets, pound stores & craft shops.

Double sided adhesive pads (3D pads): These pads come in a variety of sizes & thicknesses & are available in black, though white are the most widely available. They are a layer of foam that has been coated on both sides with adhesive. Their main purpose is to raise elements on your projects to create a three dimensional effect. I get through shed loads of these, but generally only buy the ones from the pound shop - 320 medium sized pads for £1. You can buy teeny tiny ones too, but I rarely use those one's as I find it easier to cut up the others if I need a smaller piece. These one's are also VERY sticky - especially in a warm room or on a warm day, so you may want to use the glue stick trick on these to give you more control as once they have stuck, they are very difficult to remove without damaging your work. 

The downside of the cheaper ones is they don't hold their shape, they squash down a bit! The more expensive one's don't! But with the price of postage, I will stick with the one's that squash!

Widely available in craft shops, stationers & pound shops.

3D/Shaker Tape: As above but rather than individual pads, this comes by the roll. It earned the name of shaker tape as it is ideal for making shaker cards, but I find it invaluable for penny slider cards too! It has one obvious advantage over the individual pads, the backing paper come off in one strip!

Available in craft outlets.

Glue gel, silicone glue: Used mainly to add dimension to your work. There are a variety of makes on the market, but they all do the same job. The down side is the odour! There is one available that is silicone free, but I have not tried it so can't comment. This is the ideal adhesive for sticking dimensional elements to your work, such as buttons, ribbons coins & shells etc. I use a cocktail stick to squeeze a little bit out of the tube & then apply it to the embellishment I want to place. I find this slightly less messy than using it direct from the tube. I have tried filling a syringe & using it that way, but if I want dimension on my cards, I want DIMENSION so the syringe empties way too quickly for my liking!

TIP! Always test the glue to make sure it doesn't 'bleed' through.

Widely available in craft outlets.

Photo Glue: This is a clear gel in a tube. Used for all matting & layering as well as attaching light weight embellishments. Oddly my friend & I both bought the same brand & mine had that 'silicone aroma' & hers didn't?

Widely available.

Sticky dots: Miniature dots of adhesive on a roll. Useful for stuff like attaching ribbon & lace. It is a dry adhesive so no hanging around waiting for it to set. Personally I just couldn't get on with this, much prefer my tacky glue or double sided tape.

Available in some craft outlets.

Glue dots: Unlike above, these are individual dots of glue on a carrier paper. They come in a cardboard dispenser, on a roll or on sheets. Great for fixing dimensional stuff to your project such as paper or silk flowers, buttons & charms etc.

Widely available in stationers, craft outlets & a variety of other places too!

Glue pen: These come with either a felt tip nib or a biro style. Great for fixing little things like gems etc. Magic to use with ultra fine glitters too!

Available in craft outlets.

Glue runners: Double sided tape from a dispenser. You will see these used widely by demonstrators, they are a handy little gadget, but way more expensive than the tape on the roll - they never seem to last long either! Don't be tempted to use these to attach card to card - as they were never intended for that job & will come adrift as soon as the card is stood on a window sill. They are okay with paper to card, they are just not as durable as the tape on the roll.

Available in craft outlets.

Adhesive sprays: Glue in an aerosol! Never really been tempted by these, my craft cupboard is way too small to be spraying anything in there, so can't comment.

Available in some craft outlets.

Low tack tape: This comes in a variety of forms, in a roll, on a dispenser etc. Never really saw the need for this until I began using Spellbinders, now I couldn't live without it! I tried the usual masking tape from the decorating stores & did the 'stick it to your clothing a couple of times to make it less tacky so it wouldn't rip the card' etc. but it always did! Invest in some if you use dies! You can use the same piece several times, so a roll lasts a long, long time. A really good investment!

Available in craft & model shop outlets.

Some of the alternatives to adhesives

Sewing machine:

I bought a miniature one at one of those pound stretcher stores for about £15. It only does straight stitch, but it is small enough to store on a shelf in my craft cupboard! This saves me the trouble of dragging the regular one from the bottom of the wardrobe & carrying it to a suitable surface with a socket nearby, loading it with thread & bringing my design from the craft cupboard - only to have to put it all away again after a very quick minute of sewing! If you have a craft room where you can leave your regular sewing machine set up - great! But make sure you have a good supply of machine needles as paper & card blunts them!


You can get lots of lovely coloured staples now & even large designer one's - though these need a specialist stapler - needless to say both of which a lot more expensive than the basic or coloured versions.


You may remember these from your school days - but then if you are older or younger than me, they maybe didn't have them then? Anyhow, the basic one's - that you can find in any stationers - are similar to those decorative nails that they used to use on old fashioned chairs to keep the fabric on the seat pad in place - but on the back are two little legs. The idea is to make a little hole through the card & backing paper then poke the little legs through, then open them up inside of your card to secure them. Again, there are a zillion decorative ones out there now, in the shape of anything from a pair of scissors to teddy bears, & in virtually any colour you can think of!


Like the ones you find in trainers where you thread through the laces. You will need some sort of 'setting' tool to use these. But there are a variety on the market, from a little hammer & hand held tools to a great big enormous thing that I can't even fit into my hand, never mind actually work! Prices vary, but the hand held set with hammer can be picked up for a few pounds, whereas the bigger 'gadget' will cost you about the same as a weekly food budget for one person! The eyelets themselves are in a variety of colours & finishes, though I have only ever seen them in two sizes. There isn't a lot of designs on the market, apart from the basic round one's - not that I have come across anyhow?

Hand sewing:

It really is much easier to use a little adhesive to keep your work in position if you are going to sew by hand onto your cards. It makes it even easier if you use some kind of pointed tool to make the holes first too. I know this sounds like a lot of work, but it looks amazing when it is finished - & you only need to do small areas. There are some tools out there you could use to pierce the holes for you, they come with a roller type handle & the various heads just pop in - but I only saw them briefly so not sure of the make, & haven't tried them yet. I will let you know if & when I do.

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Great Tip!

Embossing vellum through an embossing folder.

It is really easy to emboss vellum through your embossing folders, simply fold a piece of regular copier paper in half & slip your vellum inside, place inside your embossing folder & run through the machine as usual.


This prevents the vellum from cracking & you get a fabulous impression not only on the vellum, but on the paper too!


For larger embossing folders just use full sheets of coper paper to 'sandwich' the vellum.