theresa homemade embellishments

Can we talk for a moment about how expensive scrapbooking can be as a hobby? Yikes. And also how easy it is to get sucked into the whirl of “BUY ALL THE THINGS”? Buy new paper. Buy new embellishments. Buy new inks. Buy new this and that and the entire damn collection.

My feminism is pretty anti-capitalist (well, as anti-capitalist as someone with a white collar job and two kids and who’s actually pretty comfortable working for The Man can be). But I hate how hobbies in general turn into a giant hole that I just throw money into.

Maybe you’re new to scrapbooking. Maybe you’ve been scrapbooking forever and have a room full of supplies you’d love to use. Or maybe you want to make a seasonal project like Ali Edwards’ AMAZING December Daily, but can’t figure out a great way to do it without buying hundreds of dollars of materials.

Girl, I get you, and I am here for you.

In this series, I’m gonna talk about:

  1. Tools that will save you money in the long term (Silhouette, you are my best crafting friend) and where to buy those tools on the cheap. I’ll also talk about alternatives you may already have laying around the house.
  2. How to make your own multi-layer holiday scrapbooking embellishments so you don’t have to buy them.
  3. An example of a how to use this month’s trend watch while making your own supplies

Tools I use to make my own embellishments

Let me be clear. I AM NOT telling you that you MUST buy anything below. I’ve tried to present alternatives to every supply I use.

Silhouette Cameo (or a Cricut)

What it is: The Silhouette Cameo is a cutting machine that you hook up to your computer to design shapes to cut out. You can buy shapes for $1-$4 pop, and there are also tons of free files online that you can use. If you can imagine it, you can cut it.

Why it saves money: I don’t have to buy die cuts, or metal dies.

Where to buy it: Stalk Amazon with CamelCamelCamel, keep an eye on Zulily, and finally, Silhouette America has BIG sales a couple of times a year before they role out new inventory. Mine is 5 years old and still cuts like a champ. I’m not upgrading any time soon, and if you’re only using yours for paper crafting, you won’t miss out buy not getting all of the newest bells and whistles.

Alternatives you may already have:

  • Big Shot (manual cutting machine)
  • Punches (especially bigger ones for frequently used shapes, like circles and snowflakes)
  • Scissors (yes, you can cut stuff out with your own hands)

Distress Inks

What they are: Distress Inks are specially formulated water reactive inks that are useful not only for stamping cards, but also making interesting and textured backgrounds. I also use them in place of water colors, and I use them to color the die cuts I cut out with my Silhouettte.

Why they save money: imagine never having to buy colored yardstick again! I primarily use Distress Inks to color die cuts so that I can make my own embellishments.

How to buy them: Buy the minis (1” x 1” ink pads) in sets until you have a firm idea of what you like. Caveat: I have been using them for years, and instead of the big pads, I just invested in some re-inkers for my minis. YMMV, but for regular scrapbooking and cardmaking, I’d prefer to have more colors than a few big ink pads. Buy the colors you like and think you’ll use.

Where to buy them: JoAnn Fabrics, 100% of the time. About once a quarter, inks and stamps go on sale 50% off. You can buy the minis in sets of four, and use 20% off your entire order coupon to get them for DIRT CHEAP. Yes, it means you have to pay attention to JoAnn’s sales, but I haven’t found a cheaper way to buy the inks. Alternative: Amazon for those of you who don’t have access to a JoAnn Fabric.

Alternatives you may already have

  • Just about any dye based ink. If you’ve already got a bunch of Stampin’ Up inks, for example, you can use them in similar ways.
  • Washable Crayolas are also great. They don’t blend as evenly, but they do react well with water! Use a sponge to apply the ink to paper.


What they are: rubber or acrylic stamps you ink up and stamp on to paper

Why they save you money: You don’t have to buy stickers (or Thickers) for your titles. You can use them to add short phrases to your own embellishments.

Where to buy them: I love Kristin’s big black number stamps. For Christmas projects, I have two sentiment stamps that you’ll see me using, but SRSLY, buy whatever stamps you want. I like to go in person to JoAnn’s and Michael’s with coupons. 50% off stamps + 20% off purchase.

Alternatives you may already have

Other supplies you’ll see me use in my videos

Tim Holtz Blenders – tools sold by the makers of Distress Inks to blend them more easily. If you don’t already have these, a sponge works just as well, You’ll need one for each color family.

Water spritzer – For big spray stuff (like an entire page), I use the same spray bottle I use to style my daughter’s hair. For smaller projects, I have a mini mister that I like. Alternative technique: dip your fingers in a cup of water, then splatter the water on the page.

Versafine Onyx Black Ink – For stamping sentiments. Honestly, this is probably the ONE supply that I would splurge on and get the original. I have not found another black ink pad that stamps as well.

White Cardstock – I like 90 lbs Neenah because it’s bright white, it blends well with distress inks, and doesn’t ripple when I lightly watercolor. I also use American Crafts textured cardstock. And sometimes, I raid my kids’ art box if I’m running low. USE WHAT YOU LIKE, don’t spend a fortune.

Buttons – I am obsessed with buttons. I love the texture and dimension that they add to pages. I buy mine for cheap from Oriental Trading and AliExpress.

What is your favorite way to make homemade embellishments? Let me know in the comments!

1 Comment
  1. Melissa LaFavers 6 months ago

    I love this series already! Can’t wait to read more.

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