Reflecting on the Just A Card campaign, the importance of greetings cards in my life, and how I created one of my favourite card designs.

My daughter is a prolific card-maker. She makes them for everyone and every occasion – for each of her classmates at the end of each school year to thank them for being her friend and highlight the best points of their personalities, to say thank you to the family who recently donated their old trampoline to us, to wish friends and relatives a happy birthday. She even designs her own birthday party invitations. She just loves to create, and to express her feelings with a card.

My daughter's handmade end of term cards for each of her school friends

My daughter’s handmade end of term cards for each of her school friends

I think she’s developing a bit of a stationery obsession. I don’t know where she gets it from… I’ve had a stock of beautiful cards for years, kept in bag in a drawer. Purchased from uni book shops, in museum shops, in tiny little stationers in small towns, from high street chains offering fantastic designs, from friends running small businesses. Some of these cards were bought with the intention of never actually using them, but still… I know I’m not alone on that one!

With the ever-expanding use of social media, along with sending texts and e-cards plus our increased awareness of the need to protect the environment, cards are becoming a bit of a thing of the past. But there’s nothing like receiving a card through the post. Hearing the thud on the door mat and spotting something personal in the pile of bills and envelopes, peering at the date stamp to figure out where it was posted from and who may have sent it, sliding your finger under the envelope flap to release the card, and opening up the card to read the personal, heartfelt message. I don’t know about you, but the whole experience of receiving a card in the post gives me the warm and fuzzies.

When my partner and I got together, we were living 250 miles apart. I often sent him cards, and he kept every one in a special box. I even have the Valentine’s card he sent me when we first dated as young teens. When my mum was dying of terminal cancer, she wrote me and my sisters our own personal cards, with individual messages and advice for our lives ahead. Again, something I’ll keep forever. When I recently suffered a miscarriage, we received some beautiful cards from loving friends, including the beautiful card pictured bottom left from Jo at Bespoke Verse. Again, these will be placed in a memory box, to be treasured always.

Selection of special cards_HolmesMadePapercuts

A selection of special cards we’ve held on to over the years. Baby loss card (bottom left) by the brilliant Bespoke Verse.

You see, cards may just be pieces of paper, but they can mean so much.

For some gallery and stationery shop owners, cards can mean the difference between staying in business and closing the shop doors permanently, as the founder of the Just A Card campaign discovered. As one gallery owner who was forced to close their shop noted “If everyone who’d complimented our beautiful gallery had bought just a card, we’d still be open”.

And so the Just A Card campaign was born.

Just A Card

As a small business owner selling mostly online, I welcome every order and every sale I receive, no matter how small. If a customer comes to one of my fairs and puts their hand in their pocket for a 50p postcard, it is appreciated. If someone visits my Etsy store in their search for an anniversary card and chooses one of my typewriter cards to be personalised and posted to their loved one, I’m thrilled. Those small purchases mean everything to me. Every sale counts; helping feed and clothe my beautiful family, and giving me the confidence to carry on with what I do.

You don’t need me to tell you about the importance of supporting small independent businesses like mine, so I thought I’d use this post on Just A Card Day to tell you about the production of one of my favourite cards. As a papercutting artist, I don’t offer a huge range of cards – the process of papercutting is super time-consuming and takes many woman hours, so I don’t often make designs with the sole purpose of turning them into cards. That’s not the case with my love letter cards though.

Vintage Typewriter Drawing_HolmesMade

My vintage typewriter drawing, all ready for cutting

Before I started cutting holes in paper (it’s a real job you know!), I was a journalist and magazine editor. I’ve always been obsessed with words, and have a list of ‘future cuts’ themed around reading and the joy of words which I’ll get round to cutting some day. But one idea I just had to design and turn into a card was a vintage typewriter papercut with a quote that popped into my head one day: “A true love story never ends”. I thought it would work perfectly for a sentimental, romantic card. So I got to work.

As with all of my papercuts, the initial piece began life as a drawing. This one was based on a vintage typewriter I’d seen at Allan Bank, the fabulous National Trust property, which I’d photographed a few years ago with the intention of using as future inspiration. Once the drawing was complete, I got to work on cutting out the piece by hand from grey paper using just my scalpel. After completion, I scanned the finished A3 papercut using my flatbed scanner, before transferring it to PhotoShop (the extent of my computer design abilities!) and adding my wording and space for personalisation.

Typewriter in progress_HolmesMadePapercuts

The finished papercut, ready to be scanned and turned into a card design.

The majority of my cards are professionally printed elsewhere, but because this was a personalised design, I needed to be able to print it on my own printer using my own recycled card stock. That’s partly why the design is so simple – I wanted a simple aesthetic, but I also needed to make sure I created something my own printer could handle. After printing a few cards off with different names for samples, it was time for some photography and description writing, after which the finished product was uploaded to my Etsy shop. I’ve had a few orders for the love letter card since I first listed it, and every order counts – I just adore the thought of a loved-up couple enjoying a card personalised with their names for their wedding or anniversary, or sent as a little love note through the post!


Personalised love letter card

So that’s my story of Just A Card – from what cards mean to me, to how I make them myself. What’s your story?


Words and images © Melissa Holmes :: HolmesMadePapercuts



Splashing in the paddling pool, dangling off the climbing frame, creating masterpieces in poster paint and camping in the garden… Those are some of my childhood memories of summer. Six long weeks of full-time fun; I’m sure it wasn’t entirely rose-tinted, but I’m pretty sure I had a great time a lot of the time.

And now I’m all grown up (boo) with a daughter of my own (yeay!). I have the luxury of working from home and getting to spend the duration of the summer holidays with my girl, C. It’s hard work, don’t get me wrong – juggling a home-based job with an active three-year-old and no childcare is certainly a challenge (as I’m sure many of you will understand), but I know I’m privileged to get to spend the time with little C. She’ll start big school in a year, and it’s weighing heavy on my mind that the lazy, hazy days of the summer hols will soon be the longest amount of time we get to spend together all year, so I need to make the most of them.

Here’s how…


Exploring the woods  © Holmesmadepapercuts

Exploring the woods
© Holmesmadepapercuts

Holidays can be an expensive time, whether it’s forking out for days out, coughing up for the increased costs of a holiday away or paying for those little treats when you pop to the shops.

No matter where you live, there are endless amounts of free stuff you can get out and do. From creating science experiments using ingredients in your kitchen cupboards to enjoying a teddy bears’ picnic in your local park or spending a day at a free museum, there’s probably more available than you expect, right on your doorstep. Check out your local library, Children’s Centre (if you’ve still got one!) or contact your local council or leisure centre to find out if there’s anything going on near you for free. We recently discovered that a local council offers free swimming sessions every week under the Leeds Let’s Get Active programme, so we’re going to as many of those as we can for a splash about – why not see if something similar is happening where you are?


C and I can have hours of fun with some glue and torn-up magazines (only if I can drop my impatient perfectionist streak!), and there are so many options for creative fun that don’t need to cost a lot. Making cloud dough, mixing up sidewalk chalk paint, creating a holiday diary, building an epic marble run using the contents of your plastic recycling box, whipping up some funky fairy cakes or even a fruity smoothie (which you can then freeze in lolly moulds), building a puppet show stage out of a giant cardboard box…

A simple biscuit recipe, homemade and ready to be jazzed up with icing and sprinkles. Hours of fun. And mess!

A simple biscuit recipe, homemade and ready to be jazzed up with icing and sprinkles. Hours of fun. And mess! © Holmesmadepapercuts

Not only will you have a good time together, your little ones will also learn at the same time! And there are plenty of activities that smalls of any size can enjoy independently while you get on with stuff that needs doing. Hit Pinterest to see what you can find, and go and have some fun!


Summer is the time to get outdoors – bug hunts, crabbing, nature walks… But the weather isn’t always kind, and sometimes you just want to have a day at home anyway. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with sitting your kids in front of the telly for a few DVDs (especially if it means you can tackle the laundry pile or online shop in peace!) but it’s even more fun if you make it an event – popcorn, closed curtains and even homemade tickets and money (there are loads of printables online) all add to the enjoyment. There are so many screen-free options too – making dens with sheets and blankets, enjoying story time, threading your hall and staircase with coloured wool for a spot of spy training (possibly the best fun ever!), doing some baking, letting your hair down with a living room disco, or simply playing hide and seek. Don’t let the weather stop you!

Let  your small folk play secret agent with string taped throughout the house!! Image from http://diyfamilyti.me

Let your small folk play secret agents with string taped throughout the house!! Image from http://diyfamilyti.me


As lovely as it’d be to have all the time in the world to think up and create a huge range of stimulating and worthwhile activities for our offspring, we are only human and there are only 24 hours in each day. Last summer I made a colourful list of anti-boredom activities C and I could enjoy over the hols. I ended up leaving the list on display in the kitchen, so I could keep referring to it for ideas over the course of the year, and because barely anything got ticked off – we got busy immersing ourselves in such a wide range of stuff, plus I was still fitting in a few hours of work every day. Those summer hols do have a tendency to fly by!

Our boredom-busting list © Holmes-made

Our boredom-busting list © Holmes-made

Investing a bit of cash in things you know will suit your child’s skill level and interests (as well as keep them occupied) is a great way to take the pressure off. A small spend on a new puzzle, some new action figures or a new activity book or crafty kit will reap rewards by keeping your kids busy.

Alphadoodle pad by Becka Griffin Illustration, image used with permission. https://www.etsy.com/listing/195138158/alphadoodle-the-alphabet-game-for?ref=shop_home_active_2

Alphadoodle pad by Becka Griffin Illustration, image used with permission.

I love the Alphadoodle pads by Becka Griffin Illustration. I’ll be adapting the rules of Becka’s game slightly with C to help her literacy this summer, as she loves drawing and sounding out letters. And, since she adores girlie stuff and jewellery, I’ve bagged a button bracelet kit from Make It Friday (who make the loveliest no-sew and simple craft kits) to help with colour matching and fine motor skills. See? I’m all about the learning…

Button Bracelet Kit from Make It Friday. Image used with permission.  http://www.makeitfriday.co.uk/collections/featured/products/button-bracelet-kit-1

Button Bracelet Kit from Make It Friday. Image used with permission.


Running my own business means I’m one of those annoying people whose tech is such a part of me that all my jeans and shorts have an iPhone outline worn into the pockets.

Phone addict??

The mark of a phone addict??

I really find it hard to switch off, and I’m not alone – so many of us power down our laptops at night, only to get end up on our phones in bed checking emails and Instagram and seeing what’s trending on Twitter… You get my drift. This summer I’m making a point of switching off, of having one on one time with C (as opposed to me, her and my mobile) and of not checking my Facebook business page or work email so frequently. I’m very aware that being constantly switched on does nothing for my stress levels, and I know that to be a patient, present mum – and therefore make great memories with my girl – I need to power down and refocus.


Relax. Think about what made summer fun when you were little – I’m pretty sure it was most likely spending quality time enjoying simple pleasures with your loved ones. I know that I didn’t need the latest toy, or constant stimulation, or my entire day planned out for me to have a good time. And I’m pretty sure it’s the same for C. And perhaps it’s the same for your kids too. Take time to chill, to sit under a tree and share a story, to have some silly time, or to recount the day’s events at bedtime. Those are the memories great summers are made of.

Melissa x


Holmes-made papercuts © Melissa Holmes


What are your kids’ favourite things to do in summer? What are your happiest memories of those long days from your childhood? Share your ideas, suggestions and thoughts in the comments!!