GeekMom: Making All Things New With Cricut Maker
My trusty old Cricut has been well loved. It has made party decorations, lettering for Scouting events, it has scrapbooked hundreds of pictures of at least one of my children. We have made robots and dinosaurs, we have made Batman and Elmo. Cricut has come a long way in the last ten years, and so has my family. This year we started Middle School, this year we will start Kindergarten, this year we got a new Cricut.
The Cricut Maker is the Cadillac of machines. It can cut sewing patterns and balsa wood. You can transfer foil embellishments, create your own scoring and perforations. You can use it to write fancy return addresses on your holiday cards. I can’t wait to make my own “crafted by” wooden and leather labels using the embossing tool.
Straight out of the box it comes with 50 ready-to-make projects that demonstrate what the Cricut Maker can do. The Maker comes with a Quick Start Guide and the material for a test cut. It might go without saying but the blades are sharp, super sharp. So if you are using this as a family it’s a great opportunity to teach safety with tools. A fine point blade and blade housing is pre-installed in the B clamp, next to the accessory adapter which is pre-installed in the A clamp. The machine comes with a standard USB cord, so if you have a newer Mac you will need a USB-C to USB-B cable, or some sort of USB hub for your device.
The Cricut Maker is what it is because of the software. Cricut Design Space is shockingly small and efficient. You do have to download it ahead of time, but unless you still have dial up you’ll be fine, it’s that quick. Design Space uses an SVG file instead of your standard JPEG or PNG, but you can import pretty much anything into the program. One image is not necessarily as good as the next however, and you will quickly get used to judging the base image, and the workings of the machine to get exactly what you want.
Physically more imposing than the newer Joy or my old machine, the Cricut Maker is set up for efficiency of space. With two built-in storage areas, it seeks to minimize the impact that its large footprint can have on a small crafting space. There is no way around the fact that it is an intrusive machine, but they’ve done their best to help you out with your crafting space. The first storage area is visible without opening the machine, basically a pencil holder for your tall tools, with a separate shorter holder next to it for scrapers and such. Once you open the machine, you can open the bottom leaf further to a shallow storage area, in which you can hide away your blades. As a family with multiple craft totes, I appreciate anything that comes with it’s own storage for the accoutrements of a project.
We ran the test cut with regular cardstock and, hilariously, it sounded exactly like my ten year old machine, which is kind of nice. It feels like a member of the family already. But this goes to show you how durable these machines are. My old machine runs almost as well today as it did ten years ago, so I have high hopes for the durability of the Cricut Maker. The test cut ran just like I would expect, same familiar sound, same movement, same technology. However, advancements made mean that even on the most basic settings, with the basic cutting blade, the cut is finer and smoother, and therefore able to be more detailed. What would cut a smooth line on my older machine, is now an image that will cut the hairs on the back of an animal. What would previously have been tricky for me to peel off at the detailed parts, with new tools and updated cutting mats, comes away easily, with no worry of tearing. Instantly satisfied with our first cut, we had only begun to scratch (or cut!) the surface of what the Cricut Maker could do.
Starting simple, we explored the software, finding and cutting a variety of images. A lot of the images my family wants to find are for home use only, as we are ever mindful of licensing restrictions. Of course we started with some cartoon characters my kids wanted, but then I could look up things for which I can find very little paraphernalia. I am always in search of Marx Brothers goodies for my dad, and now with a quick image search and a bit of tinkering I can make them. My beloved Moomins can be cut and incorporated into my home decor. The first Moomin I cut out blew my mind, as ideas and opportunities started to fire inside my brain.
The point of the Cricut Maker however, is not just to be another cutting machine. Yes, you can use it like you would an older Cricut, and it is straight out of the box easy to use for that. But this is a machine with bells and whistles, and I was ready to clang that trolley. In order to go further you really need to get some advice. At this point the internet is bursting with ideas and walkthroughs, on top of the catalog of instructional videos produced by Cricut. There is no shortage of tutorials and FAQs for whatever project you want to do, whether for your family or your business. But much like the images you upload, not all are created equal. There is a lot of fluff out there that won’t help much, more like glorified infomercials. I would recommend starting with the official Cricut how-tos, they have been invaluable with my first projects. But then it can be easier to see what is going on when you can watch a regular crafter doing it, and some of the problems I encountered were solved by combining the knowledge from the Cricut instructional videos with the trial by fire videos of regular crafters.
After a few simple cardboard cut outs, I decided to try my first simple vinyl cut from one of their stock images. It took me a few badly done cuts, and one conveniently timed instructional video, to get used to Vinyl, but once it was done, everyone was pleased with the result. Up to this point I have been a mostly cardstock only Cricut cutter. I have made a few statements in vinyl to put on the wall, but I have been fairly skittish of everything else. The Maker takes away all my fears, and makes a daunting task simpler than I ever dreamed it could be I want to put this little toast guy on everything now.
An aficionado of clothing with funny expressions for myself and my kids, I knew what I wanted my next steps project(s) to be. After looking over a few more videos on cutting regular fabric vs using Cricut sheets, heat transfers, and transferal of images, I honed in on something very simple, a Cricut brand shirt, with a simple image (not shown due to copyright restrictions) and a quote from one of our favorite episodes of Bob’s Burgers.
Don’t look in the basement. There’s no man down there.
The Cricut Maker is a game changer for my crafting life. No more will I be dependent on fringe websites for funny T-shirts, now I can do whatever I want. A thousand projects linger on the edges of my mind. Twenty Four hours and three t-shirts later, I was already planning family Thanksgiving shirts, family lake trip shirts, girls night out shirts.
I couldn’t resist for long, and in preparing for a Saturday afternoon with my best friends, I pulled off a night-before project. Designing, cutting, and ironing on, I made three T-shirts for our festivities, and learned a lot of lessons along the way.
I’m a big fan of making things as simple as possible, so I separated the letters of my text in order to rotate each slightly. This allows for one solid piece instead of many letters to transfer. I found nice simple images that represented all the things we like to do on our kid-free days. It took some time to get images that were free, that wouldn’t demand multiple colors of vinyl. I ran a test cut on some old paper to make sure I got all the weeding right, and that the sizing was good.
Weeding is the act of removing the excess material from a cut. The weeding of Vinyl is exceptionally satisfying. It peels off and clings to itself in a way that appeals to my senses. But as you can see, with such a detailed layout as this, it can be hard to remember what you need to weed and what not to.
All three shirts came out just a little different, and so we are like a living “Spot the Difference” game. I also found some problems with my images that I did not foresee when selecting them. But I assume I will get better at image selection over time. At some point I expect I will even get comfortable with multiple color cuts, shock! I wanted the crochet hook to be solid, but it cut the image so that the hook was hollow. I left it in tact, but you can still see the cut line on the Vinyl. I pre-measured the vinyl to reduce waste, but even after a test cut, I lined it up incorrectly on all three attempts, thereby cutting off the bottom of the martini glass.
Next it’s time to move on from Vinyl. But what next? With the Maker I can cut and etch glass, wood, fabric, leather, my options are virtually limitless. One of the things keeping me from quilting has always been my sloppy cutting work with previous sewing projects. It seems that this particular crafting dream might finally be within my reach.
There are a wide variety of die cut machines out there, all with the same essential function but all with different bells, different whistles, some with horns even. For our family Cricut is a brand we are familiar with, and we were pleased to find that the new Cricut Maker checks all of our boxes. Check back in this summer as I continue to explore strange new things to cut and etch with the Cricut Maker.
Still not sure if the Maker is for you? GeekMom Dakster took a look at some of the other current machines. One size does not fit all, but there’s something for everyone.
Disclaimer: GeekMom was sent review samples of some of the items in this post.