Monday, April 7, 2014

Cricut Cartridge -Create a Friend, and FCCB Challenge

This week's challenge on the Fantabulous Cricut Challenge Blog is called Spring Cleaning which asks you to create a project using a cut or a cartridge that you have never used before.  How fun is that?!

I have been infatuated with the relatively new Cricut cartridge "Create a Friend" (which is included with the $9.99 subscription to over 25,000+ Cricut Images) so I made this adorable little clown:

He consists of a lot of layers and colors - 9 if you cut via Cricut Design Space and 10 if you use the cartridge.

Just a side note...The gray shadow- see below (S+F+35) doesn't show up on the Design Space mat when you select the image via the subscription. I didn't even know it was an option until I started writing this post.  Because the balloons are not mounted onto the surface of my card (at the top), I wanted that extra support so when I assembled my little die cut, I welded the balloons and the black shadow (S+35) together to create a base of my own.

It is worth mentioning that I originally cut this clown at 3.5" but no matter what setting and material I tried (paper/ light cardstock/ cardstock), Cricut Explore was unable to cut the intricate details without tearing edges (I wasted a lot of paper on this one). The blade is near new, so dullness had nothing to do with it. When I bumped the size up to 4.0" however, my little clown cut fine.

Once I had my clown I had to figure out how to incorporate him into a card or layout.  After much deliberation, I decided to use him in a card I purchased from svg.cuts.

One of my favorite features on the Cricut Explore is that it allows you to cut svg files by uploading them into your Design Space image library.  I have purchased a number of's project collections which I will showcase in future posts. The card above came with a collection called The Carnival Collection.

To learn how to upload project files to Design Space and cut entire projects watch the video below.

Folding this card is a little tricky as it is not intuitive- it took me a good 20 minutes to figure it out the first time I folded it together.  I must have watched the folding portion on the assembly instructions a dozen times before I got it.

Ta-Dah! I adore the cute clown die cut from the Create a Friend Cricut cartridge and while it may be over-shadowed by the card design from svgcuts, the combination really came together well.  What will you do for your entry into the FCCB challenge?
This week's sponsor is Mark's Famous Paper and Stamps and the FCCB challenge winner will receive a Silly Shells Stamp Set. Give it a go - I hope you have as much fun as I did!!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Two Card Project Tutorials a Cricut Post Pledge

I was thinking that those of you who don't own a Cricut Explore are probably thinking "Enough with the Explore-centric posts already!"  So, while I am whack-a-doodle over my new machine, I think it is very important to keep with our regularly scheduled programming!  I am going to continue posting about the fun I am having with my new machine but, whenever possible, I am going to try to include how the same projects can be created using a Cricut Expression.  Some of the projects may not be possible because they are "Make It Now" projects in Design Space, but I'm sure a lot can be made in CCR, with your Gypsy and by using your machine keypad. Alas, today's and my next couple of entries will be covering a few "Make it Now" and svg projects that I recently made so please bare with me. I'm going to get there soon.

Now to take care of some unfinished business.  Last week, I posted a couple of projects that I promised to discuss in later posts.  Two of which were Cricut Design Space "Make it Now" projects.  The first was this Happy Birthday Explosion Card:
To make it, you need an Explore.  Just click on the link above and you will be taken to the project screen which looks like this:

From here you will need to grab a mat, a couple of sheets of contrasting cardstock and hit "Make it Now" on the lower right of the page.  Next you will see this screen:

From here you will click "go", load your first sheet of card stock and follow the prompts to cut.  After the interior front flap rectangle is cut, you will unload your mat and the following screen will automatically load:

Next to the "Mat 2" thumbnail, there are 3 circles with images of a scissors, pen and scoring tool inside of them.  These icons mean that Explore will be doing 3 tasks during this stage of the project: cutting, scoring and writing.  However, the order of the icons does NOT reflect the order that the tasks will be completed.  When you load your paper, you will see this screen:

At the very top in the blue bar you will be instructed to insert your midnight pen into the accessory clamp on your Explore.  I missed this when I first did this project so I had to make a mental note to always check the blue bar for instructions when working in Design Studio. HINT - whenever you load your pen, put a piece of scratch paper under the accessory clamp so you don't accidentally write on your paper if you apply too much pressure.

Once the writing is completed, you will see the blue bar instructions change to insert the scoring stylus:

Once the scoring is done, (personally, I would have liked a deeper score.  I will do some research to see if you can increase the score pressure and let you know) Explore will automatically start cutting without any additional instructions or pauses.

The instructions to assemble the card can be found on the original project page on the lower right, but here they are if you are doing the project now.
Making this card was really simple once I had the hang of the "Make it Now" process. I got rave reviews from the card recipient who even asked if she could buy a few!  They are so simple to make - I gave them to her.

The next project I did from the "Make it Now" gallery was the Anna Griffin Butterfly Card

This is not a free project like the Happy Birthday card above.  I have the 3-month free subscription to the 25,000+ images and 200+ fonts that was included with the HSN Explore bundle and this card was included.

Honestly, the hardest part of this project is picking out the papers you want to use.  It took me over an hour to select my palette. I finally decided on a paper from Basic Gray Phoebe for the primary print and then picked matching cardstock.  Remember this collection??

When you open the Butterfly Card project you will see this screen. 

It includes a list of supplies you will need to make the card, a photo and the instructions for assembling it.  I work on a laptop, so I don't know if this is true on all monitors, but this pop up of the project does not fit into my screen and I am not able to scroll down to see the rest of the instructions, so I had to "zoom out" using the zoom option under the "View" drop down menu on the web browser.  If this happens to you, you can also hit "Ctrl" and "-" (the minus symbol on your numeric keypad) to zoom out.

When you select "Make It Now" on the lower right side, you will see the project on the mat briefly, then Design Space will move on to this screen automatically:

You will hit "Go", then follow the prompts on your machine and unload when the cut is complete.  Then the following screen will automatically load:

Again you will hit "Go", load your next mat and follow the prompts.  After Explore finishes this cut, you will unload and the next screen will appear:

Here you can see that there is a tiny scissors in a circle and a score tool inside of a circle next to the cut thumbnail in the "Mat 3" row on the left of the screen.  This means that you need to insert your scoring tool so the machine can do both operations.  You will not need to look for instructions on when to do this as Cricut will move from cutting to scoring without a pause.  If you do not have a scoring tool, the machine will move on to cutting without issue. (The previous 2 mats have scissors only which means that these images will cut only.) 

Once all of the pieces are cut, you will be returned to the initial project screen where you can find the assembly instructions on the right.  I have posted them here also.
As you can see, they are somewhat vague but I used the photograph to supplement.  I altered the element placement, used a sentiment from my stash and inserted a folded ribbon rather then the bow.

I can't wait to show you my next few projects that I made from  I was delighted to learn that their projects work in Explore Design Space.  Check out this page to learn how to do this.  This video is also an excellent how-to!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

FCCB Bye Bye Birdie Challenge

This week's challenge on the Fantabulous Cricut Challenge Blog was Bye Bye Birdie - Make a Project with a Bird.  There are so many choices in the Cricut Image Library to work with.  I mean there is an entire cartridge - 3 Birds on Parade dedicated to bird images plus thousands of other feathered friends sprinkled among the other cartridges.  I did a search on Cricut Design Space "Insert Image" library with the keyword being BIRD and 1,218 images came up. 

Clearly, the most challenging part of this challenge is picking which adorable graphic to work with!

My project has a little Cinderella song in it with helpful little birds carrying a bunted banner that says "Sweet".  This is a Thank You card intended for my dear friend Laura.  She bought my daughter the most adorable dress so I wanted to say thank you in a personal way. The message, "you are so sweet" felt a little more appreciative than the standard thanks. 
I used the bunting images from Simply Charmed (there are a variety of flag options in the Font category after they finish with the alphabet) and the birds came from Everyday Pop Up Cards.  We would love to see what you can do with this fun challenge.  Post your entry on the Fantabulous Cricut Challenge Blog for a chance to win a surprise gift from our sponsor, The Robin's Nest

Pop on over to see her fabulous Products and amazing talent.  Her blog is wonderful!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

My New Boyfriend, Cricut Explore & Our First Date - Page Pals

 As you know, I am in love.  Head over Heels.  In love.

I will admit, it wasn't love at first sight, but unlike my previous Cricuts, there was such a short "courting period", that within days I was caught in Explore's net...hook, line and sinker.

The Cricut Explore is so much easier to operate because of the preset blade settings, and Design Studio - which, um, has sort of revolutionized Cricut cutting for me.  I never realized it before, but the sizing and "which color for which layer?" and the keeping-track-of-where-you-are-in-your cutting-process gave me a lot of anxiety.  I didn't want to waste paper nor time and the extra brain power I had to strum up to actually focus hurt just a little bit.

That nonsense is now a thing of the past and I am a crafting maniac!  Not only has it reinvigorated my Cricuting mojo, it has got my creativity working on hyper-drive.  Yesterday I pulled out a canvas and my acrylic paints and painted all afternoon.  How about them apples?

So let me tell you about my first date with my Cricut Explore...

In my previous post, I showed you a few projects I made including some of these adorable bookmarks.  They can be found in the "Insert Image" area of Design Studio under Page Pals.  They are a CCR Exclusive set that is included with a Design Studio subscription for $9.99 per month.  Otherwise you can pay $4.99 to own them (available as a digital set only) to use in Cricut Craft Room or Design Studio.

I selected multiple bookmark projects in the Insert Image menu (on right 1/4 way down the page) and when they appeared on my mat, they came stacked on top of one another. I didn't change the size the images came in when Design Studio placed them on my mat.  They worked just fine in a 3.65" width (before folding the side flaps), however, I would recommend making them a little larger so you can really show off their adorableness!  Maybe take them up to 4.25"?

The first thing I did was move them around so I could see each bookmark.  If you want to resize the image, you can do it at this time by selecting "edit" (on the upper right side of the screen) and then  change the dimensions by adjusting the width. The hight will adjust accordingly.  The image is "grouped" and the height and width are locked so you can also increase the size by dragging the corner of the image on the mat.  If you have multiple Page Pals on your mat and wanted to change them all, you can hit "Select All" (center/ top of the mat) and then adjust by dragging the corner. To learn more about resizing an image click HERE.

Since I was cutting 4 different bookmarks, when I hit "Sync" (upper/ right), Design Space told me I needed a lot of different colored papers to do the job.  To simplify, I consolidated colors by dragging a few similar shaded layers into the rectangle of another. You can learn more about this feature by clicking HERE.

Now came the fun part! I hit "Go" and Design Studio sent me to "Mat Preview" where you can see all of the cuts on each colored paper mat.  Next you hit "Go" (on the lower right) and the screen guides you through the couple of steps it takes to cut each design.
Some of my papers were thinner scrapbook paper, and some were cardstock so I had remember to change the materials setting a couple of times, but other than that, all I did was insert the next mat and push cut. I used three different mats so my papers were "preloaded" and I spatula'ed off the layers and reloaded while my Explore was cutting.

I ran all the bits and pieces through my Xyron and was able to assemble these adorable bookmarks in about 15 minutes.  I made three sets of each - one set for each of my kids and one set for the librarian at St. Timothy's.  She was tickled pink.  So was I, because it was so darn FUN!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Cricut Explore is Out of This World!

I am so in love with my new Explore that I have been crafting every day (instead of blogging - so sorry). But I have been taking pictures and keeping notes so I am going to start a Cricut Explore series to share all that I have been up to!  First a sneak peek at some of the fun things I have been working on:

Details, tutorials and more Cricut Explore information coming soon!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Cricut Imagine and FCCB challenge

This week's challenge on the Fantabulous Cricut Challenge Blog is to create a project based on the sketch below:

I decided to use my Cricut Imagine since it had been a while since I had played with my big boy.  Originally I had put together a really sweet card using Lori's Garden but wouldn't you know it, my ink was running out so the colors printed weird.  I put in a new ink cartridge and ran my project again but this time the print/ blade calibration was out of whack.  I tried everything short of kicking the machine, but I couldn't get it back on track so I changed my design to graphics that did not require precision alignment like the ornate images on Lori's Garden.  Instead, I used the Imagine Cartridge "Word of Mouth" to make this card:
While it did not turn out as kitchy as I had hoped I think the artwork for this cut is really cute.  I had to do a lot of "fudging" to cover up the exaggerated white edges and short margins that resulted from poor print/ blade alignment.  I used brown chalk ink to cover up the white edges.  In hind sight, I should have gone back and created a larger circle to compensate for the awkward negative space on the right but I was frustrated and kind of sad that my Imagine was declining.

I knew this day would come sooner or later, I just didn't think it would come so soon.  I am praying that the machine will regain its functionality if it stays off for a couple of days. Once I find a bit of time to research fixes online, I will say a little prayer and take another pass at getting the print/ cut alignment fixed. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Fantabulous Cricut Challenge Blog - Your favorite colors...

This week's challenge on the Fantabulous Cricut Challenge Blog is "All about me - do a project with your favorite colors."  I gotta tell you, I was a little blocked on this one.  My son has been home sick for almost a week and as usual, I've caught what he has.  I can't believe this sicky streak we have been on- it has really stymied my creativity. To combat my grey mood, I decided a strong wash of color was in order so my post for this week is this bold and beautiful flower cut from the Cricut cartridge Floral Embellishments.

I just don't use this cartridge enough.  It has a lot of fun images that will work with so many different looks! The big bloom around this flower totally reminds me of my big hair (when I take the time to get dolled up). I really like the bright colors and outstanding charm this image affords. Certainly you could tone it down with another color palette but since it is all about me, I went with lively tones. I love the enthusiasm and excitement of this burst of color; even if I am feeling blah and meh from being sick.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Easy Kid Penguin Costumes

A few days ago, Eva's entire 2nd grade class decided to dress like Penguins for Marine Life Spirit Week.  She and her BFF wanted to wear matching costumes so I hit the internet to find T-shirts with a cute penguin theme. There was not much to choose from and the prints were really uninteresting. I decided I would talk to some of the other parent's in car-line the following day about their plans.

Then, as I walked past my art room with a laundry basket in hand, I noticed some white felt, orange foam and red ribbon crowding my messy work table.  Within seconds, the costumes put themselves together; almost without any effort from me. Within 15 minutes and completely on a whim, these penguin tees were designed and assembled.

I cut the tummy and eyes from a large sheet of firm felt.

The beak was made from layered foam sheets and I put a piece of red ribbon in between for the tongue.

The eye lashes were cut from a black foam insulation noodle. I cut a chunk, then cut about 3/4 of the depth with shredding scissors to make lashes.  
When I curved the uncut base, the lashes fanned out so they were more defined (and girlie).  I used a punch to cut cardstock pupils.

All of these elements were glue-gunned onto black t-shirts that I picked up at Michael's for $2.50 each. The final touch was adding red wired ribbon on the lower left shoulder so everyone would know there were lady penguins in the house. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Exploring the World of the Cricut Explore

I am a devoted Imagine user as well as a E1, Design Studio, Gypsy and SCAL owner. I have tinkered with CCR a few times, but never actually hooked my machine to the software. I swore I would never convert to a computer driven product and was resentful of the Cricut Mini when it was first introduced as I was sure the Imagine was a casualty to this new platform. That said, I was smitten with the Explore, like a drunken sailor, within 15 minutes of the first presentation on HSN. There were several factors that won me over:
  • No Fuss Dial Settings - the pressure, speed and blade settings have always annoyed me. I've wasted a lot of time and lovely paper trying to get the combination right so I really like that the Explore makes it so simple.
  • Draw using Pen Carriage - I own all of the Cricut markers plus a full set of Cri-Kits gel pens but I just don't use them that often.  It is such a pain switching them out, remembering to place a piece of paper over your project so you don't write on it and I worry that when I replace my blade it is positioned correctly in the carriage so my depth of blade number is accurate. With the Cricut Explore, you have a dedicated carriage making the process super easy and convenient. 

  • Add a Stylus to Score - One of my pet-peeves when I assemble Cricut projects like cards and boxes is that Cricut cuts little dashes to show you where to fold.  Those dashes do not always insure an accurate fold, and one edge of the "dash" often doesn't fold over so you project doesn't look polished.  The Explore allows you to insert a stylus in the pen carriage so your fold lines are scored when you go to assemble.
  • 3 Month Access to Design Space - Having access to all those images and not having to buy them enticed me. Its odd because of my disdain towards CCR but they hooked me with their "Make it Now" feature.
  • "Make It Now" Projects on Design Space- If, in fact, creating these pre-made projects are as simple as Anna Griffin made it look, then !HEL-LO! - that rocks! I have a huge box of cuts that I have made over the years that were to big, too small, flipped the wrong direction or made from the wrong color paper. I would be thrilled to be able to cut those issues to a minimum.
  • Did You Say Leather? - I love that it can cut through so many materials. I know other Cricut machines have made this claim but owning a machine that is (supposed to be) designed specifically to cut materials other than paper is exciting.
  • Cut Your Own Designs - I love that!  I know this feature has been around for a while - it is just a matter of converting images into Vector files, but having it integrated into my Cricut system is one less "language" I have to learn...  It feels so daunting to have to think about scanning the image, opening it in Photoshop or into other software conversion programs to covert it to a vector file and then bring it up into the cutter software and do this and that to make sure it works,  I'd rather scan and then stay in one program for the rest of the process.
It almost seems to good to be true but I really do hope that it is everything Anna Griffin says it is. I will admit that her endorsement weighed in on my decision to buy. She is a very reputable and an extraordinarily detail oriented person, so I don't think she would put her name in front of a product without doing her due diligence. Just look at her designs to see her attention to detail and her HSN Holiday Card Kit is an excellent example of her commitment to quality products.
At the end of the day, I am a Cricut girl- head to toe, I can tell you that I am still using my Imagine regularly and love it just as I did the day I bought it! My Expression and Gypsy see the most action because of the design flexibility. I don't even house them in my art room.  Both devices stay on the floor of my bedroom because I am constantly whipping out a quick cut for one thing or another.

It makes me sad to hear that so many people have had so much trouble with their machines and with Provo Craft customer service. I would have lost my marbles if I had had to navigate the issues so many have written about. I really hope that all the problems will be a thing of the past and that the entire Cricut brand is being reborn moving forward.  I also hope that they do not discard their stand alone business and production of new cartridges. Such an amputation would be unforgivable, even to me, a soon to be computer-dependent-die-cut-machine owner. We will see soon enough.  You know I will be posting my thoughts and experiences as soon as my box arrives. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts and any insight you have about this new realm of the Cricut world...