Artist Trading Card Top Tips!

Hi there! My name is Bekki, and Ali has been really kind and let me take over her blog today so that I can tell you a bit about my design process. I’m going to share my three top tips on designing an ATC.

I’m always blown away by the awesome ATC’s Ali’s swappers share on Flickr. I love to see how people interpret a theme in such different ways. But coming up with an idea or design that you’re happy with can be quite a daunting task when you sign up for a swap like this. Wondering ‘will my ATC look the way I see it in my head?’, or ‘will my swap partner like it?’ can bring the self-doubt gremlins in with their anxiety glue that sticks the creative muscles so they can’t move. I hope it’s not just me that feels that way. Anyway, I watched the ATC swaps from the side-lines for a long time before I plucked up the courage to join in because of those pesky gremlins.

Being prepared and having a design you love will fill you with confidence and send those gremlins away. So, here are my top tips:

Tip 1


If you’re anything like me, the first thing you do upon learning the theme for the swap is to look up from your computer and … stare into space for a while. I found the best cure for this is to brainstorm ideas very quickly so you can see where your creativity is leading. There are lots of methods of doing this, but the one that works best for me is to take a piece of A4 paper and draw lots of 2.5” x 3.5” rectangles in both portrait and landscape orientations. This gives you ATC sized thumbnails to sketch out your ideas as they come to you. These don’t need to be perfect drawings, just a rough sketch of the things that come into your mind when you think of the theme.

In the photo you can see my sketches for the ‘say something’ ATC swap.  My mind went in all kinds of directions with that theme so I was glad to get my ideas down on paper where I could see them all. Just very quick and simple line drawings are enough to convey your idea. No masterpieces here.

Using this method means you can see how the scale of the design will work and how it will fit into an ATC. You’ll find that your eyes and thoughts keep going back to the same one or two designs so finding your favourite is easy.

This method can be really helpful if you are a visual thinker.

Tip 2


My next tip can be a scary prospect for some, but it really works so bear with me.

Drawing or painting your design in a small sketchbook can help you to simplify any complicated shapes in your design so it’s easier to make your ATC later.

Here’s an example

For the ‘winter comfort’ ATC, I wanted to express the idea of being with friends and family. I decided that birds huddled together in the snow would be a fun way to do that, but when I searched for images for inspiration I soon learnt that when birds huddle they really squeeze tightly together and tuck their heads in to keep warm. It’s very cute to see but it’s also really hard to tell one bird from another. I didn’t want to embroider a mash of birds so I used my sketchbook to figure out how I could draw a group of birds together without losing the definition of the individuals. I then simplified it for the ATC.

This doesn’t have to be a masterpiece either, just a way of drawing simple shapes and imagining how to reproduce it in a tiny ATC. Remember, sketchbooks needn’t be intimidating. Nobody else needs to see inside yours, so don’t worry about perfection, it’s just a sketch.

Tip 3


My third and final tip is to cut out an ATC-sized window in a piece of card or paper that you can use to visualise how the ATC will look when it’s cut down to size. Holding it over your work will frame it, helping you to make sure you stay on track. It will also help you to decide on the placement of your design elements, so they all stay within the piece and don’t have to be trimmed out later.

So there you have my three top design tips. I hope they help. Do you have any tips for designing an ATC? Maybe you have a design method you go back to time and again. Please share it in the comments!

Thank you Ali for letting me be a guest writer on your blog today. Thank you too for organising these ATC swaps for us. They are a lot of fun!

Mini-tutorial: Labelling an Artist Trading Card

I love making Artist Trading Cards for our Very Berry swaps, but I HATE labelling the back. I find it SUCH a chore and hardly conducive to creativity (well, not for me…). Recently I bought some Lesley Riley’s TAP – Transfer Artist Paper for a project that I have in mind, and whilst I was playing around transferring photos onto fabric, I had a sudden thought about a really fun and quick way to label up an ATC, so I thought I would share the process for ATC swappers who are similarly challenged.

Using Lesley Riley's TAP Transfer Artist Paper The TAP paper is brilliant stuff – it is a polymer coated paper which will allow you to transfer images printed, stamped or drawn onto it, onto lots of different surfaces, just using an iron. When ironed onto fabric, the image is very crisp and colourfast, and doesn’t crinkle or crack. The surface of the fabric takes on a slightly waxy appearance and feel, but it is still very easy to sew through, and you can write on it too.

Here’s what I did….

First I created a blank image in my image processing software (I use Paint.NET – excellent free software) – the image is 300 dpi and measures 2.9 inches by 2.2 inches, so I know it will fit on the back of the card, and allow for a bit of edging, with no problems.

Making Labels using TAP Artist Transfer Paper


I saved this image and then opened it in my favourite online image prettyfy-ing website PicMonkey – because I love their fonts. I could have just used the fonts in Paint.NET of course, but I love the PicMonkey options. I used the font Special Elite, size 46.

Making Labels using TAP Artist Transfer Paper


The next job is to flip the text around, because the transfer will be a mirror image. And I put a little black edge round it too, using the frame tool.

Making Labels using TAP Artist Transfer Paper


Finally I put multiple copies into a Word document:

Making Labels using TAP Artist Transfer Paper

And printed them onto the TAP paper. The papers come with full instructions, and are very easy to use – I just popped mine into my printer, and it printed with no problem. You just need to remember to print on the slightly shiny very white side.

I then cut out and carefully trimmed one of the labels very accurately round the black line, and ironed it on to the back of my finished card. And then all that remained was to write on my details (I used a Micron Pigma pen, but I also tested a Sharpie and a Biro, and they worked fine too).  It is much easier to write on the transfer paper than just writing on the fabric itself.

ATC card with transfer paper TAP label

And here’s the front…  I’m all ready to post!

Say Something Artist Trading Card by Very Berry Handmade






Sewing tools of note 3: Sewline glue pens

Part of a series on my favourite sewing tools.

I love these glue pens. Other brands (which may be cheaper, but I’ve never looked so I don’t know!) are available, but I am loyal to Sewline for a few reasons.

Sewing tools of note Sewline glue pen

First of all it’s really easy to get hold of refills, second, the glue is blue-ish (but dries clear) so is easy to see when it’s on the fabric, and thirdly, it has a narrow tip, so is easy to apply to fiddly bits of fabric.

The key to this glue is that you can use it to temporarily hold bits of fabric, to other bits of fabric, or to paper, in places where it is difficult (or just cumbersome) to use pins. And it is unnoticeable or just washes away when you are done.

I use these glue pens to hold zips in place when I’m making zippy pouches, and when I’m making pockets in tote bags, and when I’m stitching zips into cushions. I use it when I’m doing foundation piecing – it’s a great way to hold the first piece of fabric in place on the paper or foundation fabric. I also use it when I’m doing raw edge appliqué (to hold motifs in place) and needle turn appliqué (again to hold motifs, but also to temporarily hold the turned edge in place whilst I stitch).

You can also use a glue pen for basting fabric to paper pieces when you are English paper piecing – Sue Daley is the queen of this technique, and you can see her video on how to do it just here.

Textile Artist Trading Card with using selvages or selvedges

Here’s my glue pen in use on one of my current projects – my ‘Say Something’ Artist Trading Card. I am using bits of selvedge/selvage with fun, positive words and building them up on a base fabric. Later on I am going to add some hand and machine stitching, but in the meantime, the glue pen is doing all the hard work of holding these bits of fabric until I apply the needlework. Brilliant stuff, you’ll wonder how you lived without it.

Support the work of very berry

Dragonfly Fabrics - Designer Dressmaking Fabrics

I love the new range of Schnittchen sewing patterns at Dragonfly – there are some fab looking projects for all range of skill levels. I particularly like this Katha tunic pattern – which I think would be fab with this brilliant cotton lawn with a sweet parakeet print:

Parakeet lawn fabric and Schnittchen tunic pattern at Dragonfly

Dragonfly are also hosting another shop open day on July 8th (save the date).You’ll be able to browse fabrics, get advice from the team and meet other dressmakers while enjoying free tea, coffee and cake. Look through their fabric ranges at your leisure and choose your sewing patterns with their expert help – there will also be exclusive offers. All of that plus the lovely East Sussex countryside and the pretty village of Mayfield to explore – sounds like a great day out.


Black Sheep Wools

Meanwhile, Black Sheep Wools have a great yarn bargain for you, with 15% off all cotton yarns – you just need to use the code COTT15, which is also valid for cottons in the Clearance section too. Bargains upon bargains! If I wasn’t already in a terrible guilt about unfinished knitting projects, I would be much tempted by this glorious shawl pattern (not in the sale) and some lovely Noema yarn (cocktail coloured, but there are other lovely shades available if you aren’t a bright colour fiend like me!) from Louisa Harding.

Neoma yarn and shawl pattery by Louisa Harding from Black Sheep Wools

And finally, and very deservedly, Black Sheep Wools have been nominated for FIVE different awards in the 2016 British Knitting Awards. Congratulations to them, and please do go along and support them with your vote, if you are a Black Sheep Wools customer.