And so continues my journey down the rabbit hole of crafting with the purchase of a Cricut Maker (pronounced like the insect). Like all my explorations into new territory, I did a lot of research first. I finally decided on the Cricut product – mostly because it is capable of cutting a wide range of materials including fabric. The other contenders were the Silhouette Cameo and the Brother ScanNCut.
I ordered the Maker & a vinyl bundle from the Cricut.com US website and received it within 6 days including a weekend (incredible service eh?). In this post, I will go over my first impressions, first projects and what I learned so far. If you are considering a cut machine or have one already, I hope you will find it helpful.
What is a cut machine exactly?
I understood initially that a cut machine will cut out custom words or image outlines from vinyl to adhere to t-shirts and other items of clothing or even walls or mugs.
So basically, you buy vinyl in various coloured rolls called heat transfer vinyl (HTV). HTV is made up of two parts, the vinyl and the plastic backing. You cut it out the words or shapes with the machine, peel off the backing, position on your item, apply heat or pressure or both and voila, a personalized item!
The computer format for the graphics are called SVG or .svg cut files. The SVG files are with stylized words or shapes with cute or funny expressions. Most all brands of cut machines use these same type of files so you can design or modify them yourself or buy them.
But I have discovered it does so much more too!
Cricut has several cutting machines in their lineup. There is the tiny cricut joy for stickers and small items, there is the air explore which cuts larger items and the cricut maker which cuts larger items and a wider range of materials.
The cricut maker is a remarkably clean, elegant looking machine (I went with “champagne”). The desk space I used accommodates its narrow depth at about 6-7 inches but it does needs to be away from the wall a bit. The machine is about 21 inches wide and about 6 inches tall. I also ordered a basic bundle of vinyl so I would have a selection to practice with and added a roll of sublimation ink too for good measure. It came with some blades, mats and basic tools.
The Cricut Software
All Cricut machines use the software called Design Space. It downloads to your computer and connects to the internet to store your designs and files online. This may be an issue if you don’t have a reliable internet connection, because you can’t access your software to run the machine. When I signed up for an account, Design Space automatically detected my maker via Bluetooth and that was it. It is updates automatically too which is another plus.
Okay, it took a few tries to get the hang of Design Space (DS), but a few YouTube tutorials later, it was mostly intuitive for familiar graphic functions. Once your design is ready, you are prompted to load your vinyl into your machine, kinda like front loading paper into a printer. The difference though is you first have to place your vinyl onto a carrier mat which has a tacky surface to hold the vinyl in place while the cut is being made.
My first project out of the box, was to import a pattern shape into DS from a pdf pattern to cut fabric. I pressed the regular quilting cotton onto a mat, loaded the mat and pressed go. It worked beautifully. Next, I searched for an image of a dragon and cut out some white vinyl to apply to Hub’s water bottle. Looked okay, but not overly taxing. Big images, big letters.
Birth Stats Teddy Bear
I really wanted to do a birth stats stuffed animal for my grand daughter (OMG! so cool to be able to say that). I decided to work with Design Space directly to create the words and arrangement of letters to practice and get more familiar with it.
I was able to find a husky dog as a “blank” from RQCSupply in Windsor, Ontario. It seemed to have the requisite tummy area for the stats placement, is a North American animal and from supplier I’ve used in the past.
Okay, I severely underestimated the skill involved to weed out these tiny letters and then line up two different colours on the tummy. For two colours, you have to cut out all the letters of one colour, then separately print and cut out all the letters in the other colour then combine and press twice. The first time, I mangled it so badly I had to start over. I also kept losing bits (like the hyphens and that blasted dot over the i in inches!). It came out okay in the end though I think. What do you think?
When another baby was born in our circles, I decided to try my hand at making another (they are so cute really). This was a bit easier this time so I guess it is just a case of practice.
I played a little with the sublimation but just cannot weed it. It is like a rather stiff cardboard and quite hard to separate the smaller bits. I messed up most projects I tried. Will keep trying though.
Other projects with the Cricut
So, cutting vinyl as a hobby that can likely keep me going forever. I keep seeing fun and different ideas for ways to personalize clothing, bags, mugs, stuffies, hats, shoes, drawers, cupboards, outdoor signs, storage bins, binders, doors, walls, kitchen and laundry appliances. The list is endless.
However, there are even more ways to use the cricut. It can cut pieces that can be used to assemble 3D objects. It can cut templates which are then used to etch glass, paint signs, welcome mats, coasters, calendars and much more.
Also, there is this new product called sublimation ink which fuses directly into the surface of an item to create a more permanent and vibrant image.
I have so much more to experiment with.
What I learned with my Cricut so far…
- Ctrl-Z doesn’t work in Design Space. This is my go to and it is hard to stop it. Grrrrrr.
- The mirror thing is confusing, but the prompts are well placed as reminders.
- The mats are really sticky and very quickly become covered in dog fur. I seem to just use the green one.
- Still not quite getting the difference between weld and flatten and group. I just weld everything I want together.
- I have started to see every space in my house as a opportunity to cover with custom words or images.
- All the projects are lining up in my head. Need to write some of these down!