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-hoop swap – guest post from Carina

Huge thanks to Carina, one of the swappers in the current mini-hoop swap for writing this lovely guest post about the hoop she made for the first swap. I LOVE that Carina took the time to decorate the back of the hoop too – and her use of different craft skills is just fab. I think she also shows that’s there’s nothing to be scared of when you are having fun with these lovely mini-hoops.

The first swap I participated in that Ali organised was the 6th Artist Trading Card swap. So when Ali’s blog post notification came through that she was organising a mini hoop swap I couldn’t resist. The rules for the swap were set. As this secret swap was driven through Instagram, recipients could stalk their assigned partners for ideas, inspiration and likes. Although Ali requests mosaics to be posted on Instagram to provide some guidance, most participants generally are open and grant free creative licence.

One of my craft styles is to combine different media and techniques. So once I chose my yellow-green linen as the background, I then combed through my craft stash for whites. I ordered my hoop pack from the lovely Sonia.

Mini hoop swap rsources by Carina

I wanted to combine ribbon, beads, crochet and embroidery. I started with the ribbon as a starting point. I crocheted some flowers in both threads however the 4 ply was just too thick and bulky for this 5.5 cm/2 inch hoop. I made a couple more with the fine thread and sewed them in place. I sewed 2 rows of seed beads in place. Lastly I embellished with some French knots and daisy stitches.

Carinas mini hoop all completed crochet embroidery

After setting the linen in the hoop and gluing the back panel in place I just had to add a little something on the back. Using hand plier punches, I punched several shapes from Bazzill cardstock in complimentary greens. I glued them on the back to create a pattern and finished off by sealing them with Mod Podge. And shipped it off to sweet Paula.

Decorated back of mini hoop by Carina

I am currently participating in the 2nd round and can’t wait to see what these talented women create.
Oh and I just have to share the beautiful hoop I received from the gorgeous Betti.

Bettis felt and embroidery mini hoop

Thanks so much Carina!


The Very Berry Mini-Hoop Swap is sponsored by the wonderful Cloud Craft – where you can find these fabulous little hoops, and lots of other gorgeous hand-stitching goodies too!

Artist Trading Cards? It’s perfectly simple!

This week’s Artist Trading Card Swap guest blog post is by Debs (you might know her as @daisybuttockup on Instagram) – one of the few ATC swappers I have met in real life (and very nice she is too!), I love her thoughts on balancing out simplicity against perceived lack of effort. 

I love ATCs. Bite sized pieces of art with endless possibilities. Years ago I used to trade paper craft ATCs, but using fabric is so much more fun!

However, everytime I sign up I am faced with the same anxiety: as a lover of simplicity I like things clean, uncluttered and unfussy, so how do I balance this with making an ATC that my partner doesn’t think lacks thought or effort?

When I heard the theme for the current swap – “Say Something”, I knew immediately what I wanted to do and sketched it out:

Say Something ATC idea 1


I liked the idea of using the empty speech marks to enable people to say their own thing when they looked at it.

And then I looked at the design and the old worry kicked in – it’s going to look like I didn’t spend very much time on making it!

So, back to the drawing board to see what I could come up with:

Say Something ATC idea 2

Again, all fairly simple and quick to make, but I can’t bring myself to clutter things up with frills and furbelows!

What’s a girl to do? Ideas come to me quickly and I am quite a quick sewer/crafter, but that doesn’t mean I’m not putting in the effort – I just worry that it doesn’t look like I have! I expect all this is in my head, as no one has ever suggested that they’ve received an unsatisfactory ATC, and I certainly don’t assess how much effort I think a partner has spent when I receive an ATC. However, when I think about it, whatever design and technique I use, there is only a finite amount of time that can be spent embellishing a 2.5″ x 3.5″ space!

I haven’t decided which of the designs to run with yet, but if you’re my partner for this swap, please be assured I have thought about the design and crafted it to the best of my ability, however simple it may look!

Thanks Debs! I love all your ideas! Especially as I still have to think of one….