Monday 21 June 2010

...background stamping, a little help...

So, I know tons of you have the plaid-maker stamps, I know this because I ship them out LOL! The plaid maker stamps are fabulous for making all sorts of plaid and stripey backgrounds just like the one you see in today's card. I love making plaid. I love everything about it, choosing the colours, the therapy of some nice repetitive stamping, the unique finished pattern and the look of it on a card or project.

Just this last week I had a few enquiries about how to get the plaid so perfectly straight and a few questions about backgrounds in general, so today I'm going to start a wee series of blog posts on how to get the best from your background stamps, starting with plaid. There will be a series of these posts over the next few weeks, they'll be interrupted by out next release which is so close I can smell it! LOL! (July 1st).

It's so close in fact that I could not resist another little peep at one of the stamp sets due for release, it's the sentiment stamp on today's card, I love it but I'm saying no more about it...

I used the narrower plaid-maker stamp from Pic-nic patterns and the sawtooth border from Vintage Labels no3

Getting a good impression

apologies for the poor photography, I am light box shopping as we speak...

So let's start at the start and make sure that everyone is getting a proper impression. Large stamps of any kind can be prone to less than perfect impressions. The first time I stamped with a border stamp I got a big 'hole' in the centre. I remember thinking that maybe the clear block I was using was perhaps bowed, so I stuck the stamp to the other side and tried again, same problem, maybe it was the table, I tried stamping on another surface but the result was not what I thought it should be.

I went out and bought new blocks and tried many other surfaces and then I found a piece of advice somewhere, I don't remember where, but it was so simple and an instant cure. Use foam. Lightbulb moment.

A thin piece of foam, fun foam, upturned mouse mat, something with a little give in it. Pop it under the card/paper you are stamping on and, hey presto, the problem disappears.

Below, this is how a border stamp might stamp on card which is laid onto a table surface, you can see bits have not stamped evenly, gaps are a disaster in a stamp such as this.

Below, a piece of fun foam set under the cardstock, the stamp is stamped again with an even pressure all over and the impression is perfect. These days I stamp nothing without the foam, not even a teeny tiny sentiment, it seems to improve the quality of every impression from every type of stamp I have, wood mounted red rubber, clear stamps, everything. Try it, you'll like it.

A simple plaid

Now, onto the backgrounds, I will start with a very simple plaid. I have to admit I usually eyeball it and live with slight irregularities but If I'm making something special I might mark a few guides. I have a quilting ruler which I find invaluable, but any old ruler will do.

I'm using the narrower of the two plaid maker stamps from pic-nic patterns for this example, it is just under 3/4 inch wide.

I just set the ruler down on the cardstock, trying to keep it roughly aligned with the edge of the card, but not being too fussy. Because my ruler is so broad I can just make little marks down the edge of the ruler on both sides, I make my marks exactly an inch apart. my stamp is just under 3/4 inches wide and i want a little space between impressions to help the pattern work.

If I take the ruler away you can see that there are two parallel rows of marks. It is very important that the rows are parallel so if you are not using a quilting ruler such as mine, you might need to take a bit of care to make sure your two rows of marks are parallel.

I begin stamping my plaid, for this example i use two colours of ink, a paler and a darker colour, but imagine the possibilities of 3 colours or more!

Using the paler ink, I stamp my fist impression just under the first two pencil marks. I leave a space under the second two pencil marks and stamp again under the third two pencil marks. Leave another space under the 4th and stamp again under the 5th pair of pencil marks.

Now, I take the page and turn it round slightly so that my stamped images are running up and down instead of side to side. I mark another set of pencil marks along the stamped images.

I stamp another impression, just like I did before, just under the new pencil marks again I leave spaces under the second and 4th sets of pencil marks.

You can really see the plaid coming together now and it's easy to just fill in the blanks, the pencil marks are still there to guide you if you don't like to eyeball it.

It's time to use the darker ink now and stamp an impression in between the first two paler impressions.

Stamp another two dark impressions under the 4th and 6th pencil marks and turn the page around again, you plaid should look something like this:

Stamp another dark ink impression under the 2nd set of marks and you can clearly see now the pattern of the plaid, it really is so simple and once you have done this once or twice it will be so much easier to plan you pattern that you may not need pencil marks at all.

With all of the spaces filled in, your plaid will resemble this one.

For my card above, I cut a square out of the plaid to the size required and sponged the edges with the paler shade of ink.

There are a stack of variations of plaid possible with these stamps and I hope to show you more in these posts, as well as a few other types of background stamps, I do hope folks find these useful!

hope it tickles!


  1. Claire, thank you soo much for this tutorial! I a;ways use the pencil marks, just in case, but I had an 'a-ha!' moment with the quilting ruler. No need to move the skinny ruler as this is wide enough to use both sides at the same time. Thanks for the tip! Hope all is well family-wise.

  2. Oh yay! Thanks so much for your photo tutorial and tips, sooo helpful!

  3. Your wonderful card is positively 'glowing', Claire ... really lovely. Thanks so much for the the plaid tutorial ... you make it look easy, which I'm sure it isn't at all!
    Thinking of you.

  4. Your tutorial is wonderful i try it and... it works! the result is excellent! Thank you so much for the prize also. (i am Loryquilt)Ciao Lory

  5. Thank you so much for the tutorial Claire. You're the best!

  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for this tutorial! It helps me tremendously to "see" how this is done. I'm a very visual learner and now I don't feel so intimidated by this technique.

  7. Thanks for these helpful instructions Claire!

  8. What a terrific tutorial, Claire! I will have to do this asap! XOXO

  9. Brilliant! And love the foam tip too - will try that next time the stamps are out.

  10. Fabulous tutorial, Claire!! Thank you so much!! And I LOVE the little sneak peek, too. Oh my - just love it!!!

  11. This is wonderful! You know how addicted I am to plaid-making, and they continue to increase in intricacy!! In fact I am going to cut the two stripes apart in my Off Beat Backgrounds as I am using them separately as often as together and it's a disaster when I accidentally touch ink to the other stripe! But I'll wait until I see the rest of the plaid tips!

    I always eyeball but my vision is sometimes skewed, so the tip about using the quilting ruler is GREAT!

    LOVE LOVE LOVE these stamps!

  12. Thanks so much for doing this tutorial Claire, I have this set but haven't inked up the plaid maker stamps yet because I haven't been quite sure how to use them. This visual has given me the confidence to give a go :)

  13. sweet, thanks for the tutorial! Also, I have a wee blog candy if you stop by my blog!

  14. Claire, can you read my mind? You see, I didn't realize until this week that I was supposed to make plaid with the Pic Nic Patterns stamps! Doh! So then I thought, "Oh I hope someone does a tutorial on how I'm supposed to do that." And voile, today you have done just that! Thank you! :-)

    Prayers for you & your family. (Hug)

  15. Thank you Claire for some helpful hints. I think I'll be buying a quilting ruler very soon - we've a good local shop that is bound to stock them - hooray!

  16. What a great tutorial Claire - love the tip about the foam - new to me and now I can use it!

  17. Hi claire, my stamps arrived today and I was straight on your site for help with this set and here was this tut, fab!!! I am a bit fussy and even a bit wonky the pattern looks real, love this set, the tut is fab. I found a gridded score mat works as well as the quilting ruler, I used my scor pal mat, can't wait to see more tutorials, love your stamps so far but now I need them all!!!! Lol



  18. Great tutorial - thank you Claire. I'm off to check out this set - looks fantastic.

  19. Hi Claire. Brill tutorial, need to source a quilting ruler - will make life a lot simpler, albeit I know I will need practice. Your samples are always so inspirational, thanks so much. My thoughts are with you and yours. Petal


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