Tuesday, March 23, 2010

How 14 people can make 500 cards in 5 hours

The title of this blog post might seem either misleading or impossible, but it was indeed accomplished recently! The even-more-amazing part was the quality of the cards that were created; this group was going for quality over quantity, and ended up achieving both!

On March 13, 2010, crafters from all over Washington gathered on post at Fort Lewis at 1pm. The hostess, the wonderful Rebecca W—who happens to be married to the hero who made this fantastic MRE card—had secured the location for the party on base, and oh what a beautiful place! Big sturdy tables, lots of chairs, a counter full of munchies. It was even a sunny day, so the bright sunshine streamed in the windows and cheered everyone on. Add a lot of people with crafty skills and passion for our heroes, and it was a recipe destined for success!

The gentleman in attendance (who was teased about being in charge of this rowdy bunch of ladies!) is the husband of one of the crafters, and he spent the entire time stamping the backs of cards that had been sent to the local shipper without being stamped with "Operation Write Home" on them. (These were saved just for him, since he loves that job!) Bob singlehandedly stamped the backs of over 500 cards, and he performs "the tuck" par excellence!

The rest of the group spent the 5 hours gluing, tying, and punching, as well as chatting, laughing, and sharing stories. There were all sorts of styles of cards—from colored images, to patterned paper with stickers, solid stamped images, layers of nestabilities, popdots, and ribbon galore. A cuttlebug fever broke out (did anyone notice an uptick in Provocraft stock value after the party??) and a short lesson in embossing and diecutting with nestabilities ensued. Each of the cards made that day came out so very pretty‚ and everyone left the party feeling incredibly accomplished.

The outcome: 527 amazing cards!
What was their secret? Preparation.

Each person had been asked to bring a card kit with them, enough to make 20 or so of their design. These kits are where the time and energy was invested, all prior to the party. The cards were designed, stamped, trimmed as needed, and embellishments prepped—all before ever heading to base! That meant the only stamping to be done was sometimes a sentiment (and some brought sentiments already stamped too). No coloring was needed. No cutting of papers or embossing.  This took some commitment by the crafters, but proved to be well worth it on the day of the event!

The party was a fun assembly of these beautiful cards, and allowed the crafters to relax and follow simple instruction sheets, rather than having to come up with new designs for each card. Talk about relief for many of the crafters—creating new designs can be stressful when trying to get a lot produced! Some of the attendees didn't bring kits, and that was fine as well — others brought a lot of extra kits, so it all worked out just perfectly in the end. The cards ranged from very simple to complex with layers, brads, and dimension, and all were prepared with a lot of TLC. Here's the team of mighty crafters at the end of the day:

Here are a few tips if you'd like to try a party like this one!

  1. Prepare kits. Ask your crafters to make their kits ahead. We asked for about 20 of each design, but you can adjust that based on the number of attendees; we hoped for 20 people, so aimed around that. Kits should have almost all stamping done ahead—that leaves inky messes at home. Papers should be cut to size, ribbon can be on rolls or cut to length. Any tools needed for that card should be provided by the cardmaker — scissors, adhesive, holepunches, etc. Suggest the entire kit be brought in a shoebox, to keep it all together, and tools should be marked with the cardmaker's name. Instruction sheets are also helpful, and a sample card is needed too.
  2. Go for quality. Setting a high goal sometimes can make people try to think of the easiest design they can—but that's putting quantity first. Our heroes deserve beautiful cards, so encourage your attendees to get their mojo on! Cards with pattterned papers and layers can be assembled quickly, even by newbies; they just need to be prepped ahead of time.
  3. Go for variety. You can suggest a theme or holiday, but the best packages our shippers get have a little of everything in them. Any style is okay — and a variety of styles allows everyone to see how others put their cards together.
  4. Invite their stash. Ask your attendees to clear out that box in their house that is filled with all those cards from swaps, etc. (You know we all have one of those!)
  5. Invite their supplies. Ask your attendees to bring their own 'basics' like their favorite scissors, or 'must-have' adhesive; some people are just not at home making cards without their ATG, and they should be encouraged to bring what makes them happy inside. :)
  6. Hostess: have extra supplies on hand. Someone will invitably need something extra — a paper cutter or Cuttlebug, pair of scissors, a pink marker, a pack of brads. Rather than having everyone bring their entire roller cart of stuff, have one person designated to bring The Stuff.
  7. Provide snacks. Either the hostess or the cardmakers, or a combo. Greaseless foods recommended, and bottled water to keep from spilling!
  8. Set up the room. Have tables prepared before everyone arrives, with a sheet of scratch paper or cardboard at each place. Have trashbags or boxes at each table (bag or box in the center, or paper bags taped to the sides of the tables.) As each person arrives, have them set up their card in front of one of the spots—supplies, sample card, tools, instructions. Each cardmaker should be encouraged to try making one of each card provided, by moving around the room to each place. (Some parties prefer to pass the shoebox down the table, but with some cards taking longer than others, that often gets bottlenecked.) Moving around the room also means people sit next to different people all the time, and everyone gets to know each other!
  9. Make it fun! Brainstorm some ideas to add a little fun—this party included donated door prizes:  everyone put their name on a piece of paper and Bob drew winners' names—it could be for something as simple as a 50cent spool of ribbon! This crowd each received a little gift bag with a few crafty goodies, and a nametag printed with their name ahead of time. (That's especially helpful if you have new folks coming; it's hard to fit into an established group of friends, and nametags at least assure new folks they can call someone by name!)
  10. Take photos! Submit them to OWH along with your own article about your event and tips about cardmaking parties, and we can to post them here or on Facebook to encourage other cardmaking groups.
  11. Bring an OWH stamp. Set up a place to collect the finished cards, and make sure your OWH stamp handy to mark the backs before placed in the box. It's helpful to have the cards sorted so all of one design is together when shipped to OWH. Have someone count all your cards before your event is over, and celebrate your total together! (This group celebrated with dinner out after the party!)
  12. Optional: include a design-your-own card! It might be fun to have one of the card kits allow for design creativity. 
    1. We suggest only one or two of your designs be of this type; these are much slower to produce! 
    2. Try a themed kit: ours was love. Provided were 3" x 5-1/2" strips of pink and red patterned papers that match, packs of stickers in coordinating colors, coordinating ribbons, and a border punch.  This guaranteed the cards should at least go together fairly easily; if you set out a box of unmatched items, it's much harder to come up with a design idea while trying to sort for random pieces that match each other as well.
    3. Avoid "sticker sneeze"* by having a sample design or two done (pictured above); if you're providing stickers, showing them how your stickers are intended to be used with your provided papers is helpful in guiding them.
      *sticker sneeze: random stickers placed on cardstock...achoo!  

And remember throughout your event and it's preparation: this is supposed to be fun. Don't let a quantity goal get in the way of enjoying yourselves! Relax and enjoy each others' company. Rest assured you're making a huge difference for our heroes and their families!


Wendy said...

Looks like so much fun was had! Great tips, too!

Niki Ray's Book Blog said...

Great jobb everyone..Holy Smolly thats alot of cards...I will be sending another batch as well :) XoXo Niki_Ray

Dixie Cochran said...

This is a terrific "tutorial" with lots of good information! Thanks, Sandy! I'm thinking I may want to organize something similar.

Rhonda Miller said...

Wow, it looks like they had a lot of fun. Great cards. TFS.

jamfiescreations1 said...

What a wonderful idea. I already donate some of my cards to Cards for Heroes when I can. I think I will try having a card making night at my home, not to make 500 cards, but a nice bunch of them.
Thanks for sharing.

Rufus said...

Good heavens I was sure that I'd read that wrong! That many people couldn't possibly make that many cards and if they did they'd have to look like, well, shall we say not good? Boy was I WRONG! This was an incredible effort and what's even nicer it looks like everyone had a good time doing it! You gals ROCK!

Aimeslee Winans said...

I get your posts emailed to me and I really really enjoyed this one. Special kudos to that arrangement. I know this is a tradition, but this looks especially awesome. Kudos to all of you 14 card partyers - what an amazing accomplishment! xoxo

PCM said...

What a great job everyone did. I like all the pictures and especially the one with the pieces to make the 'butterfly' card - will have to do something like this and prepare kits that I can take, on the go. TFS