The magic of butterflies…

The Peacock’s spectacular pattern of eyespots evolved to startle or confuse predators, make it one of our most easily recognised and best-known species.

As a child, the very name ‘butterfly’ sounded magical, while the beautiful insects themselves seemed too bright and too delicate to be real. I can remember standing in our garden and being mesmerised by their fluttery flight and marvelling at how many there were flitting around on a big purple bush, the colours all so vivid. With hindsight, I think I was probably looking at a buddleia, which, as we all know, is a real magnet for butterflies.

I can remember looking for Red Admirals, Peacocks and Painted Ladies, these were the three types that loomed large in my childhood repertoire… those plus the dreaded Cabbage White that my Mother was not at all keen to see near her vegetables! This year, I haven’t seen many butterflies around and I assume it’s due to the late wet Spring followed by this amazingly hot Summer. Sadly, like bees, butterflies are struggling.

Butterflies are the equivalent of the ‘canary in a coal mine’, an indicator of the health

The Painted Lady – a long-distance migrant, which causes the most spectacular butterfly migrations observed in Britain and Ireland.

of our environment. The most familiar British butterflies such as the Small Tortoiseshell are becoming increasingly uncommon. Sadly, this is as a result of habitat loss and many other species are declining at an alarming rate as well. None of this bodes well for other wildlife as butterflies are part of a complex food chain upon which we humans ultimately rely for our own survival.

But all is not lost and there’s plenty we can do to help butterflies and there are some excellent informative websites giving advice on how to garden for butterflies. The Butterfly Conservation website is particularly good. Butterflies will visit any garden, however small if they can feed on suitable nectar plants and a well thought out garden can attract many species of butterfly. Nectar provides butterflies and moths with energy to fly and find a mate. In spring, it helps butterflies refuel after winter hibernation or a gruelling journey to Britain from southern Europe or Africa. In autumn nectar helps them to build up their energy reserves so they have the best chance of surviving hibernation or the journey back to warmer climes. Another way to help butterflies is to allow them to breed in your garden – only with the right food plants can they lay the eggs of the next generation.

Tips on how to attract butterflies:

Swallowtail butterfly – today, it flies only in the major river valleys of the Norfolk Broads, where it breeds on milk parsley, a scarce wetland plant.

  • Butterflies like warmth so choose sunny, sheltered spots when planting nectar plants.
  • Choose different plants to attract a wider variety of species. Place the same types of plant together in blocks.
  • Try to provide flowers right through the butterfly season.
  • Prolong flowering by deadheading flowers and mulching with organic compost
  • Don’t use insecticides and pesticides – they kill butterflies and many pollinating insects as well as ladybirds, ground beetles and spiders.

I wrote a blog a couple of months ago extolling the virtues of butterflies in crafting – so useful for covering up any little slips – and stunning in their own right taking centre stage on a card, especially when used in 3D. Just type ‘butterfly’ into the search box on my craft website and you’ll see lots and lots of gorgeous butterfly dies and papers to inspire you!

Butterfly facts:

  • The pretty frilly edged Comma is the ‘come back kid’ of butterflies. In severe decline in the twentieth century, it is now widespread in southern Britain and its range is expanding northwards.

    Where does the name ‘butterfly come from? The Oxford English Dictionary says it is from Old English butorflēoge, butter-fly. Another possible source of the name is the bright yellow male of the Brimstone, another is that butterflies were on the wing in meadows during the spring and summer butter season while the grass was growing. I think I like the last one best!

  • Butterfly or moth? Nearly all butterflies fly during the daytime, have relatively bright colours, and hold their wings vertically above their bodies when at rest. The majority of moths fly by night, are often well camouflaged and either hold their wings flat or fold them closely over their bodies.
  • You will find butterflies right across the world – except Antarctica – and there are some 18,500 species.
  • Many butterflies migrate for long distances. It has recently been shown that the British Painted Lady undertakes a 9,000-mile round trip in a series of steps by up to six successive generations, from tropical Africa to the Arctic Circle.
  • Butterflies navigate using a time-compensated sun compass. They can see polarized light and can navigate even in cloudy conditions.
  • Butterflies in their adult stage can live from a week to nearly a year depending on the species.
  • Adult butterflies consume only liquids, ingested through the proboscis. They sip water from damp patches for hydration and feed on nectar from flowers, from which they obtain sugars for energy, and sodium and other minerals vital for reproduction. Several species of butterflies need more sodium than that provided by nectar and are attracted by sodium in salt and that’s why they sometimes land on people, attracted by the salt in human sweat.

Top image: Adonis Blue – this beautiful species of butterfly is found on southern chalk downland.

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Art Nouveau or Art Deco?

Art Nouveau continues to be one of the most popular themes for card making designs. I can understand why, it’s very attractive and there are so many beautiful designs you can create with this era of images.

I do love feminine cards and I find a lot of Art Nouveau designs create lovely toppers and contents for ladies’ cards – but if you need to make a man’s birthday card, maybe he’d be very happy with a trio of dancing girls, but maybe not! However, the more traditional Art Deco themes, like the card on the right, could easily work for a man.

Neither of these cards is too complicated and with the use of your trusty die cutting machine, you can be up and sticking in minutes.

The card on the left also uses one our super handy corner dies Art Nouveau SD614 together with the Dancing Lady SD610. The card on the right mixes in the Art Deco Border SD616 with the Art Deco Background SD417.

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Thomas Kinkade in pastel shades

I am loving our new Thomas Kinkade pads – the images are extremely well chosen (pat on the back for me!) as all his images are great, but some are even greater than others! I enjoy the new format with backing papers being included in the pad as it makes my life so easy when I am planning a card.

The card on the right is embellished with our recently launched Versailles corner die. Many of the corners we design are brilliant for – yes just corners – but you can also line them up and make stunning borders or other shapes that make those dies so much more flexible than ‘just’ corners.

Both cards are suitable for either sex – that’s one of the bonuses about the Thomas Kinkade pads – they are suitable for many occasions and both sexes. But it has to be said I did think “Oh left hand one for a female and right hand one for a male!” – but hey nowadays men are quite entitled to like pink, pretty cards!

Sentiments are another item included on the sheets – just so handy as although I can create sentiments on Microsoft Word, or whatever, and of course, have dies and peel offs galore, these just make life even easier. It’s wonderful to just snip round a completely matching little rectangle and if I want to layer it up I do and ta-da … perfect embellishment!

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A very special anniversary – or wedding!

There are some special occasions we celebrate that are perhaps just a little more special than an annual event like a birthday – and this card for a silver wedding celebration is simply out of this world! It’s OK I’m not patting myself on the back – this was made for us by Suzanne Saltwell.

Basically, there is the main card front – and just that as a card would be wonderful and special, whether for a wedding day or 25 years later. Then inside there’s a printed message saying the gift is two theatre tickets (fantastic idea – yes please!) and on the other side a more general message and a verse.

The detail on these inside pieces and the front is all gorgeous. Before you think “Nah too fiddly for me,” it’s not as hard as it looks, thanks to great dies and lovely papers.

The backing paper (isn’t it fantastic?) is from our latest Volume 5 backing papers. This gives the most wonderful dreamy look to the project for starters and then the clever combination of colours in the bouquets completes the feel of the card. The die used is our recently released Signature die ‘Vase of Flowers’.

If you are looking at the pictures thinking, “I wish I had more help!” – then help is at hand! If you send me your email address then I will ask Suzanne to chat with you and explain the details. Email me at joanna@joannasheen.com

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We love Thomas Kinkade!

Every time we release a new set of pads with Thomas Kinkade images I remember how much I love working with his art. I have just been to Las Vegas (poor me!) for a meeting with the company, which was fun as always. His family must be so proud of the legacy of images he has left – such a talented man.

This release, like the last, has not only images in the pad but also backing papers. It seems everyone is loving the changes and I for one am very happy to be able to combine papers so easily. The other thing that stands out on these cards is the use of our new Signature die decorative corners – the card on the left uses the new ‘Marseille’ die and the card to the right uses ‘Bordeaux’. Enjoy!

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