A fountain for the birds!

With the heat we are having this summer, I have noticed lots of birds (and I don’t blame them) searching out water to bathe in or just cool off!

We don’t have a fountain as classic or splendiferous as the one on the card on the left, but they have been sploshing about in our far less elegant birdbath and flying around the shallow part of the stream that runs through our garden.

The fountain card is deceptively simple, as it’s just a folded little card placed horizontally and then the oval shape is attached to stick over the top – no clever folds or tricky bits. The corner die cuts look beautiful and take only moments to cut out – they are Signature Dies – Art Nouveau Mirrored Pair SD615. The Classic Fountain die is SD618.

The second card is again a quick and easy, “Oh My Goodness!” card. I always have a variety of these designs in my head for the times when I forget a card or when I need a card instantly. The background is created from the Signature Dies – Hydrangea Frame SD606 and then you just pop an oval and a couple of tails over the top – and hey presto!

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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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Ways to use corner dies

Corner dies can seem rather small, insignificant little dies to add to your collection – but never underestimate the jobs they can do.

The first is a bit of a no-brainer, obviously, they can decorate a corner for you – either in a single corner of your card or several corners.

Secondly, of course, you can decorate all four corners on a suitably sized card so the points of each corner meet and voila! you have a pretty frame.

Use number three – see the card with the oval centre – they can just be really handy squiggles (technical term there!) that add a great embellishment.

Number four – line the diecuts up nose to tail so to speak and you can make a gorgeous border to go across or down your card.

Number five is illustrated in the card above left – mix some corner dies up together and create a frame for your topper.

I’m sure there’s a number six, seven and eight – but they escape me just for today – but have a look at the corners you have or treat yourself to one of the new corners we launched not long ago and see just how versatile they can be.

Here’s a link to the section of Signature Dies on our website where you’ll find all the corners.

 

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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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