Saturday, July 17, 2010

Alllll about lumpy cards

Recently we posted a comment that has caused some confusion, and hopefully this post will help clear that up for everyone.

One of the joys of OWH is being able to make some of those cards that are a bit lumpy - the ones that would cost us an extra 20cents to mail. Our heroes don't pay postage on lettermail, so they also don't pay that surcharge! However, we'd like to put a little bit of boundaries around "lumpy" to help everyone out - cardmakers, heroes, and shippers alike!

First, what we're NOT talking about
Before you get worried: Dimensional adhesives, layers, ribbon, bows, etc are fine to use on your cards to give them some dimension - we're not cutting out one of your favorite things, don't worry! We don't want to remove the beautiful handmade elements in our cards. But...some folks have been receiving mail from our heroes - but it's just an empty envelope. No card inside! If some of our shippers and cardmakers are receiving these, we're sure families are likely dealing with the same.  So we've been asked to address what might be causing that; according to our postal sources, it's certain kinds of lumpy that would get chewed up in one of their machines, so we're hoping to eliminate some of that on our cards. (The PO has to tell us that every lump may cause damage, but this post is based on some off-the-record interviewing of postal staff who love OWH!)

The issues
We know that a lot of you need the "why" to understand what we're asking, so here are three main reasons for this post about lumps:

Postal issues.  Though the extra postage isn't a problem, the machines at the post office don't know that. They might still mash up superthick cards. If you don't mind a delicate embellishment getting flattened, that's one thing. However, if the envelope containing your card arrives empty because the embellishment was so thick the machine ate it....well that doesn't do our heroes much good in writing their loved ones, and would even cause some real disappointment at receiving an empty envelope like this one! Mail that is somewhat "evenly" thick (ie layers across an entire card rather than just one spot) makes it through the P.O. easier than a thin card with just one huge button; an envelope with more evenly thick content is more likely to get set aside for hand cancellation than one with a single giant lump.

Packing issues for OWH. Our OWH boxes can contain anywhere from 300-350 cards in each one. When we get a ton of half-inch thick cards, we get a lot less in the box itself, which means less mail going home. Also know that we don't surround thick delicate cards with lots of gentle space around them; if your fluffly flowers were fluffy in your box, they may get compressed in the boxes as they travel to Afghanistan and Iraq. This example is made with flowers cut from a stem of silk ones. The plastic hard centers were left in them, and that might mean it's a pretty bouquet standing up dimensionally on the card  - but would never survive the crush of other cards packed in with it, nor postal machines on the way home. As an AnyHero card, though, this is perfectly fine - those are on top of the boxes, and don't have to go through mail in an envelope!

Sticky issues for OWH. The trouble some of the lumpy embellishments cause to our shippers can be a sticky one. Adhesive. Either there's not enough to hold the embellishment on (causing it to visit the hospital), or the adhesive sticks out past the embellishment or comes unstuck and snags the card next to it. We've seen a number of cards destroyed by adhesive that's not completely covered. So shippers sometimes will set aside cards like these for the hospital, replacing thick embellishments with a thinner one, or trying to protect other cards from adhesive that sticks out. Not always, but if it's something we can do pretty easily, we may replace a big fat button with a thinner one of the same size.

Some do's and don'ts
Here's the fun part—and hopefully there's an answer here for your favorite kind of embellishing!

Even it out. If you want to use a fancy embellishment, use it in a way that evens out the thickness of your card. Meaning, if you have layers on your card, add the embellishment to the thinnest portion of the card, not onto the thickest, and/or add a little more to the rest of the card to make it more even. In the example at left (click to enlarge), the first one shows huge buttons, and they're attached with the thick glue dots. These will cause trouble for sure! The 2nd one uses smaller buttons and thinner dots —better. Both of these are a little saggy under the weight of their buttons though. So better still, the 3rd example adds other embellishments and uses heavier cardstock to even out the overall thickness of the card. That way the envelope and card shouldn't get chewed up in the mail.

Give it heft. If you really want to embellish, give your eye candy something to hold onto! Use a little heavier cardstock—if your card won't stand up on its own, or sags under the weight of what you've attached, it might be telling you it's time to invest in some heavier cardstock...or....*gasp* cut back on some of the embellishing.  (And yes, this is Sandy, the "queen of overembellishing," saying this. My own overdone cards get turned into AnyHero cards if they don't pass muster!)

Use appropriate adhesive. Choose the right size adhesive—if it's a thin ribbon, use a thinner strip of adhesive; if it's a button, the dot should be smaller than the button itself. Flowers should use adhesive that doesn't stick out between the petals. Remember that the thick gluedots might adhere firmly, but they not only add extra dimension to your card - they also create gaps under which other cards become stuck. So choose the thinnest gluedots you can. In the sample flower cards here, the ribbon is at issue—gluedots came detached (often, fabric doesn't stay stuck to gluedots like paper does), so the adhesive peeked out past the ribbon....trouble! The 2nd card uses a line of tape runner adhesive, which works great, and the 3rd example is better still: it's held in place by the liner inside, and the thickness of the bow is balanced by layers under the flower image.

Shop judiciously. When shopping, look for those thinner embellishments, and make sure you stock up on thin gluedots of various dimensions so you have some choices. Pick ribbons that are wider than your favorite adhesive, and consider tape runners instead of glue dots - if the ribbon comes off a line of tape, it's less destructive to the next card in the box than a glue dot is. If you can't resist buying that 8-layer-sticker-sentiment, see if it's got wording that you can use on an AnyHero card!

Consider your options.
Marvy Uchida has come out with a really cool punch that can satisfy your desire for a button, without adding huge thickness. (Read more on Dixie's blog post) There are also cute button stamps that you can ink up in whatever color you want, and cut them out to add where a button would go. There are lots of great products out there now that create great effects with paper, and that works better with cards going through postal machines than hard, plastic, or sharp embellishments.

And now, for your superthick embellishments.
You CAN use any crazy embellishing on your AnyHero cards! If the thing you want to add to the card is that one thick button—go for it on these! Got a thick shaker card? Write a note in it! Want to make a crazy popup-turn-it-round-tricked-out card? Make it a thank-you theme for a deployed hero! Found a beautiful flower that could crush when mailed? Jot some encouragement to a hero inside the card! AnyHero cards sit on the top of the box and don't have to go through the mail anyway, so you can go wild on cards made for your notes to our heroes....and you can picture them as treasures hanging up on their walls!

Hopefully this clears up the confusion we've caused in the past - and gives you some great ideas for embellishing your cards!  If you've been someone sending in these single-lump cards, please don't feel badly — lots of us have done the same! We just want to learn from what our friends at the PO are sharing. Thanks for all you do in making these beautiful cards for our heroes!!!

If you have ideas for ways to get dimensional effects that don't cause huge lumps, share them as a comment below - we'd love to pass them on, maybe as tutorials on our S&S blog too!

(FYI  The cards pictured here that are too lumpy for our heroes to send home will have hero notes written in them instead. I love making lumpy cards just like everyone does....AnyHero cards are a great outlet for that!!)


Cathy said...

You can find dies that make buttons. Sizzix has a set of Sizzlets dies that have different shapes - round, rounded edge squares, flowers and oblongs that are as flat as the paper you use. Also, if there's exposed adhesive on your card, either use an adhesive eraser or a little corn starch (I use a Stampin' Buddy that helps remove static for embossing)to make it non-tacky.

Paula S. said...

This is a really terrific post Sandy. I can tell it took you a lot of time to put it all together but It really does help to see the different examples. I think we'd all agree it would be heartbreaking to have our card(s) not make it to their final destinations when following some simple and basic guidelines could prevent it. Thanks!

Jean B in PA said...

Thanks so much. This is a big help.

CJ said...

This is a great post and it really clears up many questions/concerns I had. From now on I will keep is simple and as flat as possible for our troops. Thanks for all you do for our troops.


Becky Jo said...

Some digital programs allow you to add shadows to card embellishments that make them look dimensional even though they are flat. So real in fact that you have to touch to make sure! Hope this helps. And, some of the new punches emboss as they punch which makes semi-flat items that look great! Loved the post, Sandy! Hugs!!

Karen McAlpine said...

Thanks for this post Sandy. I think I may have been making my cards too bumpy. I am the queen of ribbon. In future I will try to control myself. Have a great day!

Velda said...

Thank you for this great article. This really explains the problems, with solutions. I especially like the part on balancing the levels. Very helpful. Thank you for putting this together for us dummies. LOL