Friday, February 27, 2015

Cricut Explore Review 2

Hi all!

I am back with more thoughts on the Cricut Explore.  I learned a fantastic little tidbit after I cut my first layout.  Here is layout #2:

Funny thing about this layout - it is about the Cricut Cake machine hahhaha!

With my previous machine and Make the Cut I had to work on the cuts or images getting them layered and sized just right.  Then I had to go through and move all the pieces into color groups on my virtual mat and group them so they would cut close together and not waste paper and so all of each color group would cut at the same time.  This meant that if I resized anything I had to make sure I got ALL of the pieces for that particular cut and re-size them all at once.  In Design Space (keep in mind other cutters may be this way that I don't own) I just keep the pieces all layered together so I can see what they look like and resize all at once as needed and then just leave them layered and cut them all out!  Brilliant!  Let me show you:

These are my 3 die cut elements for my layout.  They are SVGs, mostly from Treasure Box Designs but the little cluster with the apron is mostly from Miss Kate Cuttables.  So all of the layers are on top of each other as they will appear when I am finished and I can just select the whole group and resize them all at once so nothing is out of proportion.  And from here I just hit the green C go button and I get all of my mats separated out by color all at once!  no more moving colored items together and then closing the little EYE icon to hide all but the ones I want to cut and going through that for each color.  Cricut Explore does that for me.  (Again this may be similar to other machine software that I haven't used but is not how my old one worked.)

 But now it even goes one step further - once in this cut mode I can go through each colored mat by clicking on it in the menu at the left and I can grab individual cuts and move them around to suit my paper - so for this color green I had a small piece only about 7" across.  So I rearranged them to the way you see below.

Perfect!  Even better, once done I hit the Go button at the bottom and then it just goes right through each color.  I had 3 mats going so I just loaded up the mats ahead of time and slid them right in when prompted for the next one!  LOVE it!  The whole thing cut out in a matter of minutes!  It was divine!

Time for some inking - I just love my Tsukineko Dew Drops!  I had to try out several greens on a scrap to pick which one was best.  Here sre some close ups of the finished cuts:

Again, hardly intricate but I am starting slow and frankly this is what I will be doing 90% of the time.

This did not come with a shadow - I made that in MTC which is something Design Space lacks.  Hopefully that will change soon.  (Dontcha love the 3 pink glittery skittles?  Still one of my MOST used embellies...)

I ran into a couple issues I wanted to touch on.  I was working on this layout putting the layers together in Design Space one evening and I went to bed without saving.  when I got up the next morning it wouldn't let me save or cut.  When saving I got an http error and when cutting I got an error saying the pieces weren't available for purchase.  Right away I suspected I had been signed out because I was away from the computer all night but I checked and it said my name in the upper left corner.  So I posted on FB and one of the always helpful girls there told me to just open a new tab, sign in, then go back to the original tab and try to save - worked like a charm!  Then today I went to cut everything and suddenly there were 2 of every piece. Whaaaa...??? Posted on Facebook and no one had ever seen that happen.  So I signed out, closed my browser, opened it back up went and signed in and it was normal again - who knows!

Next I am going to try putting the whole layout in to design from so I can size everything right on it and then cut it all out.  This is not new for most people but will be new for me!  Since I never had a Gypsy or used the other software much I am starting from scratch.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Cool Cat - Cricut Explore

Hi all!

While I have BIG plans for this new machine of mine I am trying to take it in small bits and learn.  Like today's project.

Another layout for today - a super quick one!  I had this on my desk, mostly complete and thought I would use the next card sketch from SCS for one of the main elements where I did not have a picture to put in the spot.  The card sketch posted for today worked perfectly!  I have full FREE access to every design on Cricut has for 2 weeks so I thought I might want to start taking advantage of that and went searching for cat images since my layout is of one of my silliest cats, Bubba, when he was small.  Ironically a number of the pictures are of Bubba playing with one of my other Cricuts - he loves them.

I used this wonderful sketch by my SCS scrapping friend, Cheryl, from Ever More Scrapping.  We both host scrapping challenges on SCS.  It is a sketch from back in 2012 that I came across on Pinterest!

The element I made using the card sketch took the place of one of the 4 x 6 photos.

When I came across this image and wording I thought it would be perfect.  This was my first Cricut image to cut with my Explore.  I found it to be a bit different than cutting the SVGs.

I CAN say it cut the teeny whiskers and toes of this small cat incredibly well!

 I did not spend too much time on this cut but I noticed when I hit the Go button and came to the screen with the mats I could not rearrange the individual pieces like I could with my previous ones.  This is disappointing but it may just be I haven't figured it out.

What have you been working on?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Cricut Explore Review 1

Hi all!

Pezza is in school today!  ALL DAY LONG!  Man the weather has been awful!  I am feeling very ready for Spring I gotta tell ya!

In this post 3 WEEKS ago I told y'all my Explore was here and gave a list of reasons why I had decided to go ahead and take the plunge and get one.  And then it arrived and I froze - I was scared and intimidated!  Hahahhaha!!!  Which is so crazy to me since I have been such a massive Cricut junkie for SO very long.  I have jumped right in to every machine made since Cricut always sent me one to test out/promote as soon as they were ready.  When I mentioned this on Facebook a fellow long time Cricut-er, Shirley (Okieladybug) laughed AT me.  Before now I was always at the Cricut Launch parties and getting first hand training on the new machines and software directly from the folks at Cricut.  This time I was totally on my own so there it sat, in it's box, on the family room floor, MOCKING ME and laughing at my fear.....I had already downloaded and played around with Design Space, the software used with the Explore.  Well, FINALLY, I couldn't stand it anymore and I put aside all of my "excuses" and jumped in!


I haven't done everything under the sun there is that can be done with the machine - let's face it that would be one seriously long post!  Instead I thought I would just share my observations as I go along.  Let's begin with the setup.  You can go online and find the Explore manual and it takes you through each step very easily and quickly.  And when I say quick and easy I mean quick and easy!  The manual is available as a PDF for those like me who prefer to read or you can click on youtube videos if you like that method better.  I have only ever owned one other machine besides Cricuts - I used it to cut SVGs along with Make The Cut software so SOME of what I say here may or may not compare adequately to other machines.  My non-Cricut machine was fairly difficult to get up and running - there was a lot more fiddling and fooyaying to get it to work - in fact the initial set up took several days and hours of frustration.  This took less than 30 minutes.  There was one point when I was downloading the plug-in I think it was, my computer kind of stalled out so I closed my tab (page) in my browser and opened it again and re-tried and it went just fine.

I already had an SVG file set up and ready to cut in Make the Cut which I had done for my other cutter before it quit working right.  So I went right to it and before I knew it I had all my pieces I needed!

And here is the sketch I made for this one - if you use my sketch do come back and leave me the link!

Now to be fair this is hardly the kind of thing that is going to put the machine through it's paces!  But I highly recommend starting simple no matter what it is you are doing that's new.  This also gives me a chance to talk about the basics of what I really really love about this machine!

I fiddled ZERO with getting the blade depth, pressure, speed, etc right - I set it on Cardstock and it cut perfectly.

**Let me pause here as I have just decided I need to completely rearrange my craft tables RIGHT NOW in order to take a picture of final set up for you.  Which means I now need to go get my vacuum cleaner to vacuum the area now exposed that I usually can't get too.  And I wonder why I never get anything done.....**

Hmmmmm I don't know if I like it....oh well onwards!

Now where were we....I whipped right through this set of cuts because I had already set them up in Make the Cut, a program which I am pretty familiar and comfortable with.  Because I let the machine sit and mock me for so long I did not set it up until after the upgrades on the Design Space software so I only know the new version.  When I imported this SVG set it remained the same size as I had made it in MTC so it was super easy.

A couple last notes for you and then I will sign off for today and continue my review on another post (hopefully not 3 weeks later!)

  • I do have an advantage in that I am familiar with SVG files and the Make the Cut software so I do my adjustments in MTC rather than Design Space for now.  I know that Design Space cannot make a shadow layer so that alone makes me want to continue to use MTC.  This is a $57.99 piece of software that will be out of reach to many people.  
  • I began using the software for simple things like changing the colors of items and that was quite easy.
  • The cutter itself cut amazingly smoothly and quickly using cardstock and the cardstock setting.
  • The new Cricut Explore Air - many folks might be wondering about the new machine versus the original - it launched on 2/18.  The big difference between the two machines is the Air is wireless - that means you do not need a USB cord to connect the Explore to your computer.  I honestly do not see the usefulness of this.  Because I need to do things on my computer and the machine at the same time to cut it's not like I can be sitting on my computer far away from my machine like when I am printing to my wireless printer.  This is why I rearranged my workspace:

  • I had no need to contact customer service so far but I hear Ashish Aurora and his team are incredibly diligent and he appears frequently in the various Facebook groups dedicated to the Explore.
  • Cartridges - I have a bunch of cartridges which I have never linked to anything.  I have not begun the process of linking them because A. I already have several SVG projects ready to go and B. I have 2 weeks of reign to use any image I want so I am going to try and use as many as I can that I don't own!!!!
Now to work on my next set of cuts!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Pezza Way

Hi all!

I know I know - I announce I got a new Cricut Explore and then drop RIGHT off the face of the earth and leave you all hanging!  I will be getting to that and some other new things too but right now I am in the middle of snow day hell!  We have had some brutally cold weather and some snow in our area (DC Metro) and it doesn't take much of that to shut the whole place down!  Pez went to school for ONE partial day in the last week so that makes for precious little mommy time.  Especially being special needs and extremely high maintenance!  Having raised the boys in MO I get a little frustrated with the seemingly needless closing of school when we were all perfectly able to go to school in the midwest and even got BLASTED on Facebook (on my own wall for God sakes - IS NOTHING SACRED?) for thinking kids should go to school when they can - apparently that makes me a bad mother but whatever.  It appears there are alot of parents in my area who simply cannot be bothered to take their walkers to school when the weather is bad - perhaps they shouldn't have had kids?  I guess it is part and parcel with the heavy sense of entitlement unique to this area.  I haven't seen it much in the other places I have lived and I have lived alot of places!  Anyway, I don't know why this one person got so angry with me, it really doesn't matter how any of us feel about snow days - we gotta do what we are told and no matter whether they cancel or don't a good half of the parents will get angry.  Luckily I don't let people get to me too much these days.  Perhaps they just needed a whipping post - meh.  I know my life is good and I am a good parent!

SO on the subject of snow days - I ave been doing all sorts of stuff to keep Pezza occupied and I even got her into the studio for awhile a couple days ago.  She is still a Tim Holtz girl at heart though she has grown alot since he put THIS VIDEO of her on his blog (she was 3 at the time).  Here is her latest page:

She began by layering on some Distress Inks - she has her own of the little cubes now but only a few colors so far.  She really wants me to get her a whole set of all of them so she doesn't have to use mommy's.  Next she wanted some shimmer mist in pink so I mixed some up using water, Gum Arabic and Pink Azalea ColourArte Primary Elements.

Next she smeared on some modeling paste through a stencil - this diamond stencil is one of the first ones I ever got from The Crafter's Workshop and it's still both our favorite!  While the paste was still wet she sprinkled on some red Distress Glitter and Pink Gala Glitz.

The two multi-heart shapes are a die she got at a show last year - the open heart one is paper with Distress Ink, the more solid one is red crafting foil and she wanted to leave all the small heart cut outs in so it was more of an embossed look.  The bottom 2 hearts are ones she made after reading the July 12 tags post on Tim's blog.  She did complete another project to enter for the July Tag HERE.  Sure wish I had the money to invest in all the Tim Holtz products like I used to!

She is entering her project in the Mixed Media Monthly Challenge - Think Pink.

Next up she is hoping to do Tim's current 12 tag challenge for Feb.

I am sneaking in wee bits of time in the studio here and there and hope to have some good stuff to post about this week including a DT announcement, a mixed media video (trying to get back to doing videos as my YouTube page still seems to be quite traveled....) and Cricut Explore info/updates.  I have several neighbors interested in scrapbooking together and we will be getting together for the first time tomorrow so I will get some things done then for sure!

Stay warm!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Cricut Explore is here!

Hi all!

My Explore is here!!!!!!!!!  It came late yesterday and I have had NO time to even open the box!  And I don't know if I can get to it today either!!!!  GAH!  I am a little afraid of it to honestly.  This is the first machine that has arrived without me having spent extensive time with the Provocraft crew learning all about it so I am on my own!

Today when I get back from taking care of the cats at the Petsmart adoption center I have a technician coming from Comcast to see WHY my download speed is so very extensively sucky here.  We spent most of the day troubleshooting Tuesday.  First I was on the phone with a technician who spent half the time picking up on me which was super creepy.  Then I wanted to upgrade to the faster speed service and had to call a different department and spoke to a woman who I am not sure had ever actually heard of the internet before.  She quoted me 3 different prices for the faster service NONE of which it turned out were correct, had no idea what a modem was when I kept asking her if there was an upgraded modem I could switch to.  So I finally gave up on that part.  Then when I said I wasn't sure I wanted to upgrade because I wasn't sure of the cost she told me she had already upgraded me without me agreeing to it.  WTF?!?!?  So I called back and requested a technician and he is NOT leaving this house until I have decent speeds!  Let's hope it's NOT the same technician who was picking up on me on the phone (though I am pretty sure the call was taken in India...)

Anywho - some scrappin' happened here yesterday:

Here is my latest layout - foster kittens!  We have had some 3 dozen foster kittens through here but some stay longer than others and this group was with us quite awhile!  They came to me with alot of health problems and we nursed them back to normal.

I have SUCH a hard time narrowing down my photos - I always want to use ALL of them and with a digital camera I take so many that it's just ridiculous!  I really liked this layout sketch from basic grey because it had alot of photos.  I did cut some of the photo spots in half to fit even more!

I used a cute little Cricut die cut for the blank spot on the right hand page - it is from Kate's ABCs - one of my FAVORITE cartridges - SO SO many cute images!

Ok off to do some chores!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

To Cricut or not to Cricut...why I chose the Explore

Hi all!

Stick with me - I do have a layout at the end!!!!

Anyone who has read this blog from the beginning knows I began as a Cricut girl, not just a mildly Cricut girl, I am talking hardcore.  I got a baby bug 8 years ago when it was the only thing out and there were just a handful of cartridges, found the Cricut message board and it was ON!  From there I began attending CHA (the craft & hobby trade show) and went to the Cricut launch parties - which in their hey day were mind boggling awesome!  I have every machine they launched and was an AVID supporter.  Then the Imagine hit the skids, software was tough to use and I began to focus on other things.  I still LOVE my Expression 2 and used it all the time the old fashioned way - straight from the cartridge.  I have also fallen in love with SVGs which could not be used with Cricut machines and so I had the Black Cat cutter.

Hubby knows I have been really keeping my eye on the latest and greatest from Cricut recently - the Cricut Explore.  There is a new guy at the helm and lots of turnover.  The Explore can cut SVGs (like EVERY other cutter on the market.)  After watching me fight with the Black Cat for 3 days he told me to go for it and he got me an Explore for our anniversary!  I had already gone to wanting one but with the Black Cat I had a hard time justifying the cost.  So I did and it is set to arrive in a week!  I am over the moon excited!  WHY?  I thought I would post about my reasons here and add to the fray over the Explore.  Cricut brings out STRONG feelings on both sides - stronger than most for some reason.  We were a close knit community too - which I loved and many of us originals still chat together in our own group on Facebook.  So I read both sides and decided to go for it.  Here are some of my own thoughts:

  • It's Cricut - that means I can cut all of my cartridges AND SVGs on one machine.  I like the thought of having one machine - my craft room is so overcrowded!
  • It can do Print & Cut - I never did get around to figuring this out on my Black Cat.  I wasn't really sure I would need it - it would essentially be making a sticker was my thought.  However, I found out the Explore will allow me to FINALLY use all of my Imagine carts again - the Imagine carts have some of my all time favorite artwork and can be broken inot printed layers so there is still some dimension - SOLD.
  • A friend (old Cricut board member) Okieladybug did a review on the Explore's cutting ability - I was impressed with how much better the Expression 2 cut even intricate things, well the Explore appears to cut even better - small, intricate and precise.  Just like my Black Cat.
  • I can cut alot more different materials just like my Black Cat - I can cut chipboard/cereal boxes for my mixed media pieces - OMG SOLD!  Do you know how much money I will save - I currently have a bunch of chipboard packs in my cart at A Cherry On Top - average about $6/pack for 2-5 pieces.  No need now!  I am excited to put it to the test for cereal boxes, wood veneer and even cardboard.  I will keep you posted.
  • Software - this has been a sticking point for alot of folks.  The Explore can only cut using their exclusive software and only while connected to the internet.  The software is also not very robust and has some bugs.  While I understand why some people don;t like this, I decided for me personally, it wouldn't matter.  Again this is a personal thing.  I have never done a whole lot of designing of new files. I pretty much use what they are.  now I have hopes of designing and maybe I will but I have been using Make The Cut software for my Black Cat since it came out and feel quite comfortable with it.  I can use that for designing and then import it into Cricut Design Space to cut.  Of course this means I can't do any designing with Cricut Images and for now that's ok with me.  We'll see if future updates fix that but again FOR ME that is not a deal breaker.  Frankly I can't even think of ways I would change up the designs anyway so....I would like to see it have the shadow feature as that is my biggest complaint for alot of the images.
  • Internet connection - I don't foresee this as a problem either - my internet is fairly dependable and if it is down it isn't for long.  I WILL keep my Expression 2 as a back up.  I don't ever take it to crops, etc. so that's not a problem.
When I ordered the machine I also got the deep cut housing and blade, extra mats and the new better German Carbide blade so I feel pretty set to go.  I hope to have lots more detailed info starting next week!

Meanwhile, I got another layout done!  I am on a roll for the start of February!  Hollyn had a surprise playdate Sunday afternoon and since I had done quite a bit of housework and Kevin was holed up in the garage I figured I would sneak up to my studio.

Here is the sketch I used - again I did not keep track of where I got it - I need to get better with that step of my organization process.

I HAVE to mat all of my pictures - have to.  So when using a sketch I print my pictures 1/4" smaller than the sketch so the mats are the size shown in the sketch.   I really struggled with this one initially.  Boys are harder to do layouts (and cards) than girls, especially once they are this old!  Papercrafting really is geared toward girly-ness.  I have 37 miles of paper and couldn't find anything I felt would be right.  Embellishments were also tough but I finally came up with something I liked and once I set to work it was a breeze.

The diploma and cap are from the Everyday Paper Dolls cart - notice no shadow UGH!  I also had to hand cut the green ribbon layer - I just cut the diploma again out of green and then carefully cut out the ribbon part so there would be at least a little dimension.

I didn't feel like there was much need for alot journaling so I kept it to just the deets!

Monday, February 2, 2015

The dying die cutter :(

Hi all!

Well after much frustration and many setbacks I finished a 2 page layout.  As you know I am getting back to scrapping after a bit of a break.  I am trying to be more active on Splitcoast Stampers as a way to keep motivated.  One of the challenges in the scrapbooking area is a monthly goals challenge.  Now I am no crazy scrapper - I figure I have maybe 65 pages to do to be caught up plus whatever pages happen to come along the way throughout the year,  This puts me at an easy goal of 6-7 pages per month.  I was on a roll I tell ya.  I organized my books, finished going through my photo files and knew what I needed to start with and had a game plan.  I have already come up with a good way to organize and scrap to get caught up which you can read about in this post:

Getting Organized to Catch Up

I was on a ROLL people!  I had another 2 pager all finished except for the die cuts - hunted down an SVG set that would be perfect, spent an evening getting it all sized for cutting, got another layout sketch done and THOSE SVGs also sized for cutting, put that page together too - 3 pages ready to go.  Hooked up to my Black Cat and suddenly, it won't cut right!!!!!  EGADS!  I LOVE that thing, I use it constantly, I NEED it!  I think, maybe I just need a new blade, I order more but to no avail.  Hubby watched me spend 3 days trying everything under the sun, emailing back and forth trying to get it to work.  Nothing.  I must have gone through a dozen sheets of cardstock.  Finally, in the interest of getting AT LEAST another 2 pager done for the month I had to forge ahead and get another layout done so I moved onto these Christmas pictures from 2009:

I like that I was able to fit so many pictures in and they are nice sized too.  It is pretty simple and uncomplicated.  I used this sketch but can't for the life of me remember where I got it form - most likely Page Maps since that's where I get most of them but I have also been trolling Pinterest for sketches too - it's so easy!

I thought the title area would be perfect for a stamped image.  This image is from a very old Inkadinkado set and is colored with colored pencils.

I gave the snowy part a good coating of Stickles.  So what do y'all think!  Tomorrow I will post my LAST layout for 2009 and tell you what I have decided to do about my SVG problem - you may want to stay tuned!  It's exciting!  Now I need to go through 2010 and see which layouts I have done and which I have left to do!