Altenew: AECP Level 2 Final Challenge

Hawaii is not a state of mind, but a state of grace – Paul Theroux

Tropical Pallet

Welcome to this blog post in celebration of my AECP Level 2 Final Challenge. I’m so excited to share my projects with you and look forward to your feedback. The final challenge gives AECP Participants the wings to explore and showcase their personal design style as well as use the techniques and tips absorbed during the 20 class curriculum required to reach this level. I was asked to distill all this course work into 4 Men’s cards, an Altered Item/Upcycled Project and, finally, a step-by-step photo tutorial of one of the projects.

Tropical Themed Projects

I decided to use a tropical theme to organize my color pallet and designs. Here’s a quick tour of my projects – Row 1: Tropical Leaves A, Retirement Travel Poster, Tropical Leaves B; Row 2: Hawaiian Shirt Aloha, DIY Micro Traveler’s Notebook; Row 3: Beach Towel Thanks. Get ready to travel ‘cuz Hawaii – or maybe Tahiti – here we come!

Advice on men’s cards usually cautions to keep the design simple, use a “not so vivid” color pallet, and most certainly steer clear of florals. However, my tropical theme gave me license to break a few of these guidelines and still create cards that I think most men would be pleased to receive. We’ll look at these vivid color choices as we go along as well as discuss “why flowers.” Now let’s take a look at each project individually.

Tropical Leaves Duo

I’ll start with the Tropical Leaves Duo – this is a set of two cards from basically one effort and uses Altenew’s Striped Leaf Cover die. First the die is cut from white card stock retaining the interiors of the leaves using Glad’s Press and Seal then a repeat cut of the die using a panel that was ink blended and again the leaf interiors were captured. The ink blending was in rainbow order: Ruby Red, Chamomile, Teal Cave, and Olive – bold tropical-feel colors that go well together. As these colors are very intense a gentle gradient of was used where the colors overlap to allow for an easy transition from one color to the next. A bonus is that the overlap fills in the missing rainbow colors. See detailed snaps of the gentle blend below.

To build the cards, a layer of tape runner is applied to cover the card base entirely and the die cut cover is added on top creating one with white panel, one with rainbow panel. This was followed by an inlay process to add the leave interiors to the opposite color-way resulting in two variations: white card with rainbow inserts and rainbow card with white inserts.  I decided to make 1 card in portrait mode and the other landscape but both cards used the same stacked layer of Altenew’s Thinking of You sentiment backed with a hand cut vellum shadow piece.  To slightly soften the contrast on these cards the sentiment was die cut from dark gray card stock rather than black. I also added a ‘sending prayers’ sentiment to the landscape version making it an explicit  sympathy card leaving the other to be more of an encouragement style card.

Retirement Travel Poster

So many of us spend our working lives waiting for the day when we retire and can travel at our leisure. For this card I had in mind that gentleman who was off to see the post-retirement world as envisioned by his prize travel poster. This card beckons with an enchanting evening sky created using Altenew’s Gradient Sunset. The colors are the same as the previous card but with an explicit orange tone included to enhance the sunset feel. Palm trees were stamped to frame the sky and cue us in on the tropical locale. The whole image was then cut from an oval die and foam mounted to a 5 x 7 card base that had been given a faux embossed look by adding tone-on-tone die cut palm branches from Altenew’s Hibiscus 3D to each corner.

Now here’s the, maybe, controversial part of this card for a man: flowers! If you think back on tropical travel posters, flowers often play a key visual role and no exception here. On this card the flowers help to create added depth and dimension for the sunset while focusing attention on the sentiment banner. Also, the flowers are not the centerpiece of the card but needed supporting actors adding texture and interest – even the colors are just softened versions of the sunset so they don’t distract, only complement. And a final defense, these flowers are not frilly but tough, clean, and simple orchids. Have I made my case that they belong? I hope you agree!


Beach Towel Thanks

This card, Beach Towel Thanks, most closely follows the conventional rules for men’s cards: simple geometric elements, a ‘spot’ of shine,  simple color pallet, and not a lot of fuss just style. These tropical colors might be brighter than the usual rule of thumb but combined with Altenew’s Beach Towel stencil and you have the perfect pattered paper. To create the paper I used my ‘standard’ project color pallet adding in Altenew’s Pure Graphite ink for some calmness. Each area of the stencil was masked off using Post-It Label Tape (695) and color added using a blending brush. To prevent color transfer/blending the stencil was cleaned off with each color change and re-masked before moving on to the next color. The panel was then trimmed down and framed top and bottom with thin strips of gold metallic card stock. Before adding this decorative panel using fun foam, the card base was stamped in Altenew’s Morning Mist ink using Altenew’s Trigonometry stamp set creating a subtle textured background. The final touch is a stacked layer of Altenew’s Script Words 2 (Thanks) with the top layer cut from a dull black sparkle card stock which added a contrasting texture.

This last card is an homage to a friend’s husband, Brian. He spent many years in Hawaii as a youth and to this day his idea of casual dress includes an Hawaiian shirt and they always have a floral element … so if it’s good enough for Brian it’s good enough for me! In Hawaii a shirt with the color pallet and intensity I used on the previous projects would be right at home but here in California a more subtle look is preferred – so I skipped the Ruby Red and Olive and changed to a range of warm grays for the flowers and softened the yellow and teal tones – colors still in line with my tropical color theme but more mellow.

Hawaiian Shirt Aloha

This is 4 x 9 card came together fairly quickly. To begin, the base layer of the two flower variations from Altenew’s Playful Plumeria we’re stamped randomly around a card panel as well as over the edge in places and then the remaining layers were added to create the full dimensional flowers. In order, the Altenew inks for the flower layers were: Morning Mist, Evening Gray, Moon Rock, and Pure Graphite. I created multiple masks for the Plumerias using full sticky Post-It Notes and masked the flowers before randomly stamping bamboo in Vanilla Cream from Altenew’s Never Give Up to fill in the open spaces. I then used ink in two colors, Vanilla Cream and Teal Cave, with blending brushes to randomly cover the background and create a soft fabric-like effect.

With the panel complete, I used Altenew’s Caps Bold Alpha to die cut the world ALOHA from the center of the panel. After mounting that panel to the card base I stacked the ALOHA letters 4 deep on dark gray card stock and reinserted them into the mounted panel gaps. ALOHA letters were coated with a Nuvo glitter pen and then covered with Diamond Glaze – slight sparkle + shine!  A slim happy birthday sentiment strip was foam mounted to complete this card.

I now present my Altered Item/Upcycled Project – a DIY Micro Traveler’s Notebook (MTN for short.)  For those not familiar with Traveler’s Notebooks, these are smaller versions of the the ever so popular full size planners. While simpler in nature, the sky’s the limit with so many options and, best of all, these MNTs are designed to be slipped into a purse and used ’on the go.’ Generally, DIY Traveler’s Notebooks use purchased designer paper often from coordinating paper packs but I decided to created my own designer paper allowing me to customize the color pallet and control the design elements. I used this Video Tutorial by Crafting with Nadine as my basic guide but with a few refinements.

Here’s a quick summary of the overall process. Note: I used a limited jungle-like color pallet of Distress Oxides in Twisted Citron, Mermaid Lagoon, and Blueprint Sketch for all design elements. The cover was stenciled front and back, a decorative tab for the front edge was added. The panel was laminated/trimmed, scored, and, finally, holes punched to accommodate the elastic cord. The core of this size MTN are 3 mini Composition Notebooks (3.25” x 4.5”) that have been covered with decorative papers made using the same color pallet as the cover and various Altenew stamps and stencils. After adding the decorative paper to notebooks they were treated with Distress Glaze to seal ink from smudging. Each of the 3 notebooks have been labeled to capture TO DO, SHOPPING (aka BUY)  and MISCELLANEOUS (aka HAPPY) notes. I also created a laminated mini folder to collect and hold loose items such as receipts and business cards. Other decorative elements included mini tags on the front inside cover and bookmark inserts for each of the notebooks.

For brevity’s sake I’ll limit my step-by-step to creating the cover but please know there are many tutorials on YouTube that can assist in creating the inserts I did as well as other options for customizing. For the step-by-step I’ll also use a different color-way from the AECP submission to offer a look into the Fall season – this is the one I’ll be carrying with me when it’s done! The inks used are Distress Oxides in Fossilized Amber, Spiced Marmalade, and Vintage Photo. Oxide inks are rich, opaque, and blend easily – all useful properties for the layered stencils used in this project.

1. Cut panel of Neenah Crest Solar White (80 lb.) 4.75” x 10.5”. Using 3/8” corner rounder trim of set of corners along one of the short edges. The rounded edge will become the front panel that lies under the flap.

2. Placement 1st Layer A

2. Using Altenew’s Layered Dahlia A stencil placed on the front panel so that it creates a pleasing image for the front as well a pretty mirrored image for the back panel. I used Nuvo Pixie Spray to ensure good contact between stencil and paper. I also use Post-It Label Tape (695) along the edge to protect the rest one the card panel

3. In Process Layer A

3. Ink up stencil with random areas of the Fossilized Amber and Spiced Marmalade. As these colors are close in tone overlapping blends should be easy. I found that keeping to a single color rather than a blend worked best on the edge I was going to mirror so that I could keep the color similar between the two halves in that area.

4. Remove and clean stencil being sure to dry thoroughly before repositioning. This time the stencil will be inked from the reverse side and aligned to create a mirror image to the first stenciled image. Take care to very slightly overlap the first stenciling to prevent a gap and also remember to mask the already inked edge. Continue to ink as in step 3.

5. Repeat process of stencil placement and masking but this time with Altenew’s Layered Dahlia B making sure to align with previously stenciled image. Ink with Vintage Photo. Remove, clean, mirror, and mask stencil; ink again to complete image.

6. Stencil inside cover using Altenew’s Color Block Hearts stencil. As this  stencil creates a directional image be sure the orientation is correct before beginning. Mask the stencil edge and cover partial images on leading edge so you can get complete images with the next move. Ink in blobs with Fossilized Amber and Spiced Marmalade blending overlap for smooth transition. No need to clean stencil this time, just move stencil and overlap previously stenciled image to get correct pattern and spacing. Repeat Inking and move stencil and ink again if needed. Clean stencil and reverse pattern and, per stencil instructions, align images to form heart shape. Mask as needed to protect panel and then ink with Vintage Photo.  Repeat positioning, masking, and inking to complete the panel. Let panel dry thoroughly before proceeding.

7. Apply Gold Foil

7. Apply gold foil embellishment to the cover exterior by gently scuffing a glue stick randomly across the panel and then tapping gold foil transfer sheet against the glued area. I originally tried to apply glue through the stencil but decided I liked a more random look. Also note that the foiled area can be use to cover up any less than perfect stenciling – LOL!

8. With cover front side up, long side at the top, and rounded corners to the right, score at: 3 1/2, 3 7/8, 4 1/4, 4 5/8, 8 1/8, 8 1/2, 8 7/8, and 9 1/4.

9. Create decorative tab for what will define the right-hand opening of MNT that is non-rounded corner edge. Die cut the largest of Altenew’s Nested Labels from coordinating card stock and cut in half lengthwise. Align the curved edges of the die cuts and trim or use decorative edger to cut before second curve. Add decorative tab to front cover and match the second tab edge on the inside sandwiching the cover piece between the decorative tabs. Note: overall length of the cover piece with the decorative tab should not exceed 11” so that it fits in the laminator pockets sized for the US market.

10. Laminate and Trim

10. Place cover piece in laminator pocket with tab end towards sealed edge but leaving at least 1/8” gap. Before proceeding be sure to let laminator get to temperature required for pocket thickness plus an extra 20 minutes or so to ensure good adhesion. When processed. Run through laminator and let cool. Trim leaving 1/16” to 1/8” edge; a paper trimmer works for  straight edges, scissors are needed for the tab edge. Round corners to match cover panel. I like to run the project through the laminator a second time to make sure the now trimmed edges are well sealed. Reinforce the score lines from step 8. Gently fold score lines towards inside to create curved spines for MNT

11. Punch Holes

11. To add the elastic cord punch 1/8” holes in the center of each small scored rectangles closest to rounded corners. Holes should be at both top and bottom and approximately 1/4” from the paper edge, not the laminated edge. These are for the bands that hold the mini composition books and folders in place. Punch 2 additional holes 1” apart and centered vertically on the middle small rectangle. These last holes are for the closing elastic cord. Please refer to the video referenced above for the process of adding the elastic; pictures are the best way to understand this weaving process. One helpful hint: use Scotch tape on end of elastic letting it extended beyond edge; trim extension diagonally to create a faux needle end thus making it easier to insert through holes in cover.

12. Optional Velcro Closure

12. An optional last step for the cover is to add paired Velcro dots to hold the cover firmly in place when closed. Using elastic only provides a gentle decorative closing but the Velcro provides the ultimate security.


Fall Micro Traveler’s Notebook

Hawaiian Shirt Aloha:

Stamps: Altenew: Playful Plumeria, Never Give Up, Beautiful Lady
Dies: Altenew: Caps Bold Alpha; My Favorite Things: Skinny Strips
Paper: Neenah Crest: Solar White 80lb.; Neenah Crest: Black; Unknown: Dark Gray
Ink: Altenew: Flowers: Morning Frost, Evening Gray, Moon Rock, Pure Graphite; Bamboo: Vanilla Cream; Background: Vanilla Cream, Teal Cave
Other: Nuvo Glitter Pen – Clear; Judikins: Diamond Glaze; White Embossing Powder; Post-it Notes: Full Sticky; Picket Fence Studios: Life Changing Blending Brushes

Retirement Travel Poster:

Stamps: Altenew: Gradient Sunset
Dies: Altenew: Hibiscus 3D; Sizzix (661188) Stitched Ovals; Hello Bluebird: Tropical Leaves; Concord and 9th: Ribbon Banner
Paper: Neenah Crest: Solar White 80lb.; Neenah Crest: Black
Ink: Altenew: Sunset: Midnight Violet, Ruby Red, Snapdragon, Chamomile, Teal Cave, Olive; Leaves: Parrot, Olive, Moss, Espresso; Flower Centers: Olive; Tsukineko: Versafine Onyx Black
Artist Markers: Yellow Flowers: Buttercream (C001), Paper Bag (Y823), Caramel Toffee (Y612): Pink Flowers: Frosty Pink (R302), Coral Berry (R304), Ruby Red (R318); White Flower Center: Grapevine (R335)

Beach Towel Thanks:

Stamps: Altenew: Trigonometry
Dies: Altenew: Script Words 2
Paper: Neenah Crest: Solar White 80lb;   Neenah Crest : Black; Holtz Kraft Metallic: Gold; Unknown Black Sparkle
Ink: Altenew: Ruby Red, Pure Graphite, Olive, Chamomile, Teal Cave, Morning Frost
Other: Altenew Stencil: Beach Towel Stripes; Nuvo Pixie Spray; Picket Fence Studios: Life Changing Blending Brushes

Tropical  Leaves Duo:

Stamps: Altenew: Dotted Blooms
Dies: Altenew: Striped Leaves Cover; Thinking of You
Paper:  Neenah Crest: Solar White 80lb.; Unknown: Dark Gray, Vellum – 40 lb.
Ink: Ruby Red, Chamomile, Teal Cave, Olive; Tsukineko: Versafine Onyx Black
Other: Clear Embossing Powder

DIY Micro Traveler’s Notebook:

Stamps: Altenew: Handmade Tags, Dainty Swiss Dots, Bamboo Rose, Dainty Sprig, Hannah Elements, Botanical Garden, Beautiful Day
Dies: Altenew: Nested Labels, Handmade Tags, Inline Alpha, Halftone Happy, Calligraphy Alpha, Layered Floral Elements; Waffle Flower: Dotted Tags; Poppy Stamps: Tailored Stitches, Tucked Corner Tags
Paper:Neenah Crest: Solar White 80lb.; Neenah Crest Black, Unknown Gold Glitter
Ink: Altenew: Cookies: Bamboo, Parrot,  Buttercream, Permanent Black; Distress Oxides: Twisted Citron, Mermaid Lagoon, Blueprint Sketch
Stencils: Altenew: Layered Dahlia A and B, Color Block Hearts, Sketched Lines, Beach Towel Stripes
Artist Markers: Sea Glass (B201), Dusk (B313),  Desert Night (B227), Sapphire (R926), Bamboo (G804), Parrot (G915), Warm Sunshine (Y205), Morning Frost (WG01), Evening Gray (WG03)
Other: Mini Composition Notebooks, Gold Elastic Cord, Distress Glaze, Laminating Pouches 3mm, Laminating Machine, Post-It Label (695), Blending Sponges, Glue Stick, Gold Foil, Velcro Closure, Scoreboard, Pixie Spray, we Are Memory Keeper: Corner Chomper 3/8” (yellow handle), Big Bite 1/8” hole

  1. Virginia Lu

    Deborahhhhhhhh…. I am so blown away by your Level 2 submissions to the Final challenge. Each project is so well thought-out and designed. What a FEAST to our eyes! Your depth of knowledge (how you understand the masculine card principles), executions of techniques (inlaid die-cutting, foiling, creative use of dies…) and craftsmanship (from stamps to beautiful results) truly are amazing! Your traveling journal is so beautifully crafted. I’d agree that men in Hawaiian shirts always make me smile! 🙂 What a way to go with the Hawaiian theme. Your use of stamps and dies truly shows off in that sophisticated ALOHA card! LOVE it! The stencil work are awesome!!! I can go on and on, can’t I? 🙂
    I am so pleased that you embraced the challenged and ACED it all. Thank you for going above and beyond! Thanks so much for entering your beautiful work in Altenew AECP assignment Gallery. I love your detailed write-up and wonderful descriptions! Please keep up with your excellent work!

    • Deb Hurtig

      OMG – your praise makes me blush! I was concerned that these cards might not quite what was in mind for the challenge ? so relieved they passed the VIRGINIA test. Thank you!

  2. Erum Tasneem

    OH MY GOODNESSSSS!!! DEBORAH!!! What a terrific job Deb!! I am BLOWN AWAYYYY!!! All the gorgeous card and that incredible incredible project is just brilliant!!!
    First, you know I always say this that I love reading your posts. I loved it even more today. Loved how you explained the colour palette to the design and the layouts for all your cards! Every project is so fantastic, I cant begin to comment on them individually as it will take a whole lot of space. Just know that you ACED the final challenge Deb! You knocked it out of the park! Bravo!!
    Thank you for blessing our eyes and entering your amazing work to the AECP assignment gallery. Top job!!

    • Deb Hurtig

      As my British friends would say “I’m chuffed” and ever so pleased you liked my submissions. Took a bit of risk with this theme and design choices – wonderful to feel the validation … thank you!


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