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Another duo – an SVG and a printable

I re-read my post from yesterday and realize that when I began it I considered adding the other Polaroid SVGs as a download, but by the end of it I had change my mind and felt they weren’t good enough to share.  Sorry I was misleading.  I’ve not abandoned them, just still looking for the “right” fonts. When I’m happy with them I will share, promise.

But I am happy with the big number ones so am going to share them!  If you recall I was unhappy with the closeness of the U and S in the smaller size, within the numbers, so I adjusted that slightly.

2numercut

My intention was to cut them in a different colour so I could make some samples.  Stupidly, I adjusted them, then somehow cut the original rather than the adjusted one! DOH! This is a screen grab of the .SVG and that is available for download on DropBox.

n

But I went ahead and used them to show you some of the options I thought of for using the cards as well a the numbers alone.

samplescut

Working clockwise from the top left:

  •  Cut twice, in two colours then mount the card on patterned paper and fill the letter-holes with the other colour letters.  The card is actually a sort of peachy colour, filled with brown.
  • Use the stand-alone number, mounted on patterned paper, letters filled with the other colour letters.
  • Same as the first one, just different colours
  • Rather than adding the fiddly little letter cut outs, simply mount a strip of another colour behind the open letters – in this case there is black behind the number, then the large number fills the hole in the card, with a third colour (the red background) showing thru.
  • Just the words filled with the other colour, the background showing to fill the large number.
  • Easiest option, just backing the cut-card with a solid colour

So you see there are LOTS of options.  I think you could, with just the right photo, even add one of the big numbers to the top, allowing the photo to show thru and fill the letters.

Now, the other thing that delayed me was that I decided to make a printable version as well. They look like this, slightly different to the cutting version:

numbertoPRINT

 

Then I thought I might as well expand it and offer alternative colours, as well as black & white for one, and ended up finally with this!

 

n2

 

You can download the 2-page PDF here.  I dithered about the usefulness of the three numbers with the same phrase on them, but think they can be used by the same person with ease – Two, Three or Four could be in any sort of combo of people – two friends as well as a couple. Heck, it could be two dogs or a cat and a dog, for example.  Ditto with three or four – friends, cousins, whatever.

Happy NSD tomorrow – I’m off to a crop, how about you?

and to add:  Oh dear.  I never stay logged in to places like Facebook and Google+ but I think I just realized that when I DO eventually sign in to Google+ I seem to have it set up to share my blog posts.  Thing is, I assumed it would just share the most recent one, but in fact t rather looks like it shares EVERY POST since the last time I logged in!  DOH! Will have to think on that and if I should change the setting, but am hoping it doesn’t really matter cause I don’t think I have any “circles” set up.  I think I need to look more closely at how the whole Google+ think works….

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Using Cricut Craft Room to design stencils

After I did the fairly extensive set of reviews of the Cricut Mini and Craft Room, I was told I could keep the machine.  That was a bit of a surprise, as I had already disconnected it and gone back to using my ancient original Cricut.  It’s pretty much stayed in the box till now.  But I wanted a stencil of a particular shape and I thought I remembered there was something suitable amongst the images so I dragged it out again and plugged it in.

I’m not going to lie – the process is a little fiddly, but as a few visitors commented they quite liked the resulting stencil I though I would take a moment to explain how I made it, what image I used (and what cart contains it) and maybe give others the idea of how they can create their own unique tools.

This is called DOILY 12 from the Cricut Alphabet cart – here you see it in its original form:

doily12

 

I know that text is small but at the bottom you can see the cart from the list and the image (circled in blue) and I’ll explain the red items as I go.

First, open your new file and add the original image – the big blue scalloped circle.

Click the double circles in the red box top left.  This is what locks the aspect ratio of the image so it doesn’t go oval as you try to scale it up or down.  That looks like this close up:

lock

 

Increase the size to as big as you want. Click on the box that says HIDE CONTOUR (in the red circle)

hidecontour

 

That shows you the outline of the image.  Anything you click on will be hidden and will NOT cut. In this case I simply hid the scalloped circle . It grey’s out so you know it’s hidden.

hidden

 

The darker lines are the cut lines and the greyed out lines will disappear when you Exit.

duplicate

 

One complaint I have about Craft Room is the couple of useful commands that don’t appear.  Maybe it’s there and I just don’t have it triggered in some TOOL menu or another, but it would be REALLY helpful to have a SCALE option, so you can scale things by a percent.  Instead I copy the cut-selection and duplicate it then scale it so the circles nest, by eye by dragging in the corner.  The + in the red circle denotes the exact centre of the image.  This is critical to line things up absolutely and keep your circle from looking wonky – although that might be the look you want and if so, just line it up off center how you want. This is where I would LOVE to have an ALIGN option to centre each circle at the absolute middle with a click.  Since I can’t do that, I instead make use of the grid of the mat.  I simply line up that + at a grid-intersection.  If you have it lined up exactly, the + will totally disappear, as the lines are thinner that the bold grid lines.  Can you get that from this shot?

align

 

If you cut if from fairly heavy cardstock, as I did, you should be able to easily use it as a stencil, either for spray inks or modelling paste.  As it isn’t washable, with paste I just scrape it really well – so long a there is not clots of paste that harden on it, you should be able to use it again and again.  And if it does get ruined, just make sure you save the project in Craft Room and you can quickly cut another at a later date.

2woyww250

 

3woyww250

 

Obviously you could easily group your selection and scale it back then scatter smaller circles across the entire sheet:

many

 

And if you group the series of circles then SKEW the shape, using the corner than does that (top right maybe?) you can get a more oval shape, like so:

skew

And again, easy to repeat that and scatter the ovals across the page. The point is you can easily design unique-to-you tools for use in your mixed media projects.  It’s just a matter of looking at the images you have available to you and considering how you can adjust them to suit your purposes.  There are SO MANY images available via Craft Room and the ways you can alter them are endless.

I’m ALL about getting the most from stuff you already own AND about making things for MY work that is unique to me.  I do get that not everybody is willing to take the time to do this, but if it interests you, give it a go.  A side benefit might be that if the stencils you cut have a limited life you won’t be lazy (like me sometimes) or fall into a rut of using the SAME “favourite” images over and over again.  When one of my hand-cut stencils falls apart, there is at least the CHANCE I’ll create a totally new one rather than just cut the same one again LOL! Keeping it fresh…

 


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Cricut Mini and Craft Room design tool – a re-cap

If you read only one of my week’s worth of posts on the Cricut Mini and the Craft Room design tool, read this one.

Would I buy a Cricut Mini?

No. Not until the price comes more in line with the price I see on the US sites of £50 (ish) with free shipping.  £120+ is just out of line for my pocketbook.

Setting aside price, What functionality is missing from the Mini that informs this decision?

The Cricut Mini can only be used with Craft Room.  I can see no way to plug-in a cart and make it cut.  There is no keypad for selecting the design. So if you buy a Mini you have no CHOICE but to use Craft Room.

Would I be happy to use Craft Room on the Mini or any other Cricut machine?

No.

Using Craft Room has some built-in issues, I have to assume by design, that limit your use of carts you buy.

  • to get the most out of it you need to register your ownership of the cart in Craft Room.  That offers huge benefits – you can use it without plugging in the cart, you can cut a design you created using elements across many carts, and your carts are always available to you, even at a crop, provided you bring a laptop or have an internet connection to use the online-only version of Craft Room. (not tested.) Plus there are the freebies Cricut provides each week.

and to update slightly, I’m told via a UKS comment that you can’t CUT with the online version of Craft Room, only design!

  • registering your cart in all probability kills the resale value of that cart.  Once YOU’VE registered it, can a buyer then register it?  Based on what I have read about a similar situation with the Gypsy, no. So only the original buyer can register the cart in Craft Room.
  • you cannot import a design from any other source (including your font library) and trace>cut nor can you export a design in anything other than the proprietary Cricut .ccr format.

I should mention that the Cricut End User Agreement for cartridges would SEEM to state that you are not allowed to sell a cart on (or share it with a friend, or cut a design for someone else, if my reading of the legal-ese is accurate):

2.6 Transfer of Cartridge and Content. You and Your users will not sell, rent, lease, or transfer, or attempt to sell, rent, lease, or transfer, the Cartridge or Content or any portion thereof (including operating a software‐as‐service, application service provider, service bureau or equivalent service using the Cartridge or Content to any other person, without the prior express written permission of Provo Craft) in any manner whatsoever.

I’m not going to comment on that other than to say I am not aware this has actually been tested in court.  But be aware of it.

Using Craft Room with an old Cricut that runs the original firmware (1.1 for sure and maybe 1.2) that lets you use SCAL (Sure Cuts A Lot – purchased before the legal prohibition on its sale) MAY force your Cricut to update the firmware, making SCAL unusable.  Once you update your firmware I am unaware of any way to revert to the older version. I have a call out for confirmation from anyone this has happened to to get in touch so I can state this is the case unequivocably, rather than state it MAY happen.

NOTE:  I can update this slightly!  a comment on the UKS thread says:

I’ve tried using Craft Room with a Cricut Create that has firmware v1.54 on it. Craft Room will detect that there is a newer version (1.65 for the Create), and gives the option to either upgrade or skip the upgrade. I skipped the upgrade, and was able to cut to the Create without any problems.

Still no confirmation from the original source to say whether the original firmware that works with SCAL ALSO offers you the option to skip the upgrade or not, although the original comment I was seemed to say with that version it upgraded automatically.

Final thoughts:

Have I enjoyed playing with the machine?  Absolutely.  Have I enjoyed playing with Craft Room.  Absolutely. Am I impressed with the ability to create my own unique stencils and stamps in addition to the usual paper cutting? Absolutely.  Why then would I not buy a Mini and buy into Craft Room??

Putting aside everything else, both the machine and the Craft Room Tool are fine, good even.  Problem is I CAN’T put everything else aside.  And the devil is in the details, as they say.

The bottom line is that the reason I have had such a good experience with the Mini and Craft Room  is because I was lent the machine  (at no cost) and more importantly access to virtually every single image on every single Cricut Cart (at no cost.)  I had the entire (impressive) library of images to play with.  Had I had to BUY every cart I used in my play it would have cost me £100s.  My pockets are simply not that deep. Had I been limited to the carts I do own (four, old ones) would I have enjoyed it anywhere near as much? Probably not.   Is Craft Room good enough to give up the increased functionality I enjoy from SCAL? Nope.

Who MIGHT want to buy the Mini and buy in to Craft Room?

  • People who already own a lot of Carts may love Craft Room as it’s the only real way to “design” with carts. Craft Room supports many versions of the Cricut. Craft Room is a decent design tool.  Sometimes it’s slow to enact commands, but what you can DO with it is pretty impressive.
  • People who are happy with the limited use of carts and the price structure, and never plan on selling their carts on
  • People who want to design ONLY with Cricut cart images, and don’t have any other design tool  or machine
  • People who need to replace their old Cricut machine with a new version – the Expression is £350ish. The Mini is clearly a cheaper option at £120ish.  The Mini cuts fine.  It’s not hugely loud, the cuts are clean and accurate, from my experience, and the size of the machine is perfect for my room.  It works with a Mac – that is huge for me.

If you have read all this and nothing that I see as an issue is an issue for you,  you will probably love both the Mini and the Craft Room design tool.  Go for it and enjoy it.  I hope all my comments have at least made you think about the machine and the design tool rather than jumping to a quick decision. If I’ve done my job, at least you will be making an informed decision!


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Designing with Craft Room (and cutting with the Cricut)

I thought I would talk a bit about  designing with Craft Room.  I have commented before that sometimes it is quite slow, but I have to say that although these are pretty image-intensive designs, I didn’t have near the issues with s l o w  going I did when using the medallion or the PL cards designs  I mentioned a couple of days ago.  I do know the comments on the UKS thread have mentioned the slowness of Craft Room.  I noticed it most in:

  • designs across multiple carts
  • super detailed designs, like medallions IF YOU DUPLICATE THEM. Stand-alone, they are OK
  • multiple images welded

The letter stencil I did? Dozens of individual letters?  Not slow at ALL, but then they were all from one cart and not welded.  They did need a fair bit of processing, first loading up the letters

hidden

hiding the outer box

hiding

then laying them all out as a full sheet, but it was still quick enough for me

lettersheet

 

The problem is I have no idea what else impacts using Craft Room – is it the speed of my computer? the version of the OS I am running? Is it to do with my internet connection?  As ever, with technology YMMV.

Remember this design from yesterday?

woyww224a

It was really easy to create.  Since I made this a few days ago, I didn’t have it on my screen so I had to go back and find the image to say which cart it was from. I hunted and hunted for this shape in the library of images, even doing a search for FRAME (which brought up a gajillion images to look through, NONE of which were from the When I was a Kid cartridge , where this can be found  – more on how I eventually found it in a bit.

Anyway..can you see that stencil design came from this?

simpleshape

All I did was hide a few lines, duplicated the bits I wanted, did some GROUPing and FLIPing and scaling …

createdesign

and there you go.  I just think it would be entirely too tedious to grab the process screen by screen but I hope you can see how I got to the above design once you see the simple shape it grew from.

Now, how I eventually found that image.  Craft Room allows you to SAVE a project.  Thank goodness I opted to save this one!  To save one of your designs, click MY  PROJECTS at the top and follow the steps

saving

And you can then see any saved projects there, and reload them

saveproject

I cut that bit off but there is an EXPORT button that will save your project to your home machine as a proprietary .ccr file, which will only open for the Cricut (so don’t think you can design something then send it to a friend who has a Cameo so they can cut it!) I am assuming the only way to cut a saved file is thru Craft Room.

Worth noting that if you are working with images, and you have one on your mat but have moved on to a different cart, you can easily find out where the image came from by RIGHT-Clicking on it.

cart

 

Interesting to note that I had to click on the outer image.  The info on the cart does NOT come up if I click on the rotated image.  Maybe because the one I clicked was a piece of the original image and all the rest were duplicated and scaled or rotated? That would be my guess.

OK, this is important.  I think it is important that you hear from someone who is perhaps a more typical Cricut user.  I am most def. NOT that.  A commenter on UKS, who loves her Mini and loves Craft Room, said:

I was given a Mini for Christmas last year & I love it! However, I’m not the sort of person that creates my own designs so was not interested in being able to use SCAL. For my use I find the basic cartridges which are supplied are almost enough – I have supplemented with a few additional ones which I bought digitally – I don’t have any real cartridges. 

She also points out an additional benefit of Craft Room that I don’t see with the test log in – or maybe I DO see it, but buried in the mass of images just didn’t recognize it – of FREEBIE images provided to Craft Room Users, apparently for a limited time.

I do check the website each week to see what the freebies are (although these do appear in your list of cartridges anyway) and try to make use of them when they are free.

The fact there is this extra little sweetener for Craft Room users might tip the scale in its favour for YOU.

Tomorrow I will do a recap of all my thoughts on both the Mini and Craft Room. But do keep in mind they will be only MY opinions based on MY requirements.  You will need to read them with YOUR requirement in mind.


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Hide Contours in Craft Room and cutting stencils

One more trick for you.  Perhaps the niftiest trick in Craft Room is the ability to turn off (not cut) areas of a design.  This is, I found, VERY useful when cutting a stencil from report cover plastic.  The first ones I cut were very floppy, due to the thin frame that gets cut as part of the design.  Turning that off leaves a larger area around the stencil design and makes the whole thing much more stable!

noedge3

 

Not all designs work flawlessly – for some the lines you might want to delete are part of a line you want to keep.  You’ll probably have to play around with it.

For this one, the outside border was easy enough to turn off

noedge2

 

revealing the cutting lines

noedge

 

and the final stencil!

noedgecut

 

This one was also a good one:

noedgecut2

 

and then I had a bash at designing one – this is two of the Ornamental Iron windows, one flipped, with a different one in the middle, stretched.  Then the frame that makes it a “window” was removed to produce this stencil

noedgecutgate

 

Kinda nifty, hummm?  Many of the Edge to Edge designs and the Paper Lace designs will work beautifully for stencils and the Craft Room Hide Contours function makes it possible.  I call that a BIG WIN, although I have to say that it was painfully slow to work with the design incorporating the three elements.  Lots of the spinning beachball of death, if you are a Mac user LOL! Does that tip the scales in favour of Craft Room?  It certainly increases the usefulness of the images a lot and makes designing with the images way more flexible, but you will have to consider that yourself and weigh up the pros and cons, depending on what is most important to you!

 


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Cricut Mini stamps – and warning for SCAL users

Let me give the warning first.  It has been mentioned to me that some people who have old Cricuts, running the oldest firmware (the version that is required to be able to use SCAL, if you bought it, like I did, before they were legally prohibited from selling a version that worked for the Cricut) may not want to use Craft Room.  I have heard as yet unconfirmed reports that running Craft Room with your old machine plugged in, may update your firmware without asking you if you want to do that, thereby making SCAL unusable.  I’ve asked the person who mentioned this to put me in touch with someone who had this happen to them, so I can verify the info and perhaps ask a few more questions about it.  Please do let me know via a comment (or email if you prefer, in the About Me section at the top)if it has happened to YOU.

Now, the stamp cutting. It is actually way easier than I thought.  The trick is don’t use sticky backed fun foam (ok, well maybe you can but I have to find some first to try it) and before you stick it to the mat to cut it, compress the foam by running it thru your die cutting machine, between two plates.

compress

Can you see how much thinner the light pink foam is??

Now I would not suggest trying to cut a hugely intricate shape, but I didn’t want to do just a triangle, so I did one of the American Sign Language hands.  It’s a bit complex but not super detailed.

When it is on the mat, you can look at the image and decide if you want to cut the whole thing.  That HIDE CONTOUR button will allow yo to edit the image – thanks to a comment and a blog link I now understand how it works!

stamp

When you click it you will see the image like so:

stamp3

If you click on the lines you want to delete, then will not cut!

stamp2

I used max setting for everything, and cut 4 times. See how the palm crease is missing from the cutting file?

cutsettings

Yes, the rollers will crease the foam, but just like the compressed foam springs back, the roller indents will spring back too.

howitcuts

Now, it is not cut 100% thru but it is very close.  See when I flex it?

howitcuts2

All it needs is a light tracing with a knife to complete the cut.  Easier for simple shapes, but even this took me only maybe 2 minutes. See the roller indent?

howitcutshelp

Just make sure the side of the foam that has the blade cut is the stamping side, and you stick the stamp to your “mount” on the rougher side.  That side is a bit raggedy.

howitcutsback

The foam does stretch, with these thin lines, but I just formed it around the cut out bit when I stuck it down.

howitcutsshape

I think they stamp just fine – I would say limit the rigorous washing (just blot with a baby wipe) and don’t let paint dry on them if you plan to use them for Gelli play or paint stamping.

stamped

I have some more tips on mask cutting coming up….

Oh, and et me also mention one other odd thing that happened.  I am using a Cricut machine and log in to Craft Room that was sent to me. Because the first one didn’t appear to work, I was sent a second log in.  The first one then did work, and I used it for all of my play.  Testing out something,  I had to close Craft Room then open it again and when I did, I used the second log in by mistake.  I got a strange message that said something like “You already have 2 machines registered with this account.  You may not link anther machine until ??? 2015” (not the exact wording, I closed it down and went back to the other log in before I thought to capture it, but that is pretty close to what it said.) I am guessing because that is a review/testers account maybe a few people have been given it, which is why it came up for me.  I suppose it might be strange if someone had 3 different machines but it is worth noting that there is a limit on the number of machines that can be tied to a Craft Room account.


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Cutting Masks with the Cricut mini

Carrying on.  Being able to see all the images on all the carts in a fast and easy way, and the SEARCH function in The Craft Room was very helpful when I was looking for things not for a specific PROJECT but for future use as masks and stencils.  There are so many things in the Library, if you look at them with a different end goal in mind, all of a sudden you can see the possibilities.

I wasn’t at all surprised that the Cricut Mini cut the report cover plastic quite easily.  First, there is a setting for vinyl, for cutting wall or car decals, so the ability is built-in.  I also already know my old Cricut cuts it fine so I expected to have no more than the usual problems (i.e sometimes the vinyl peels up and cuts itself) and that was the case. That might have been due to the heavy use the mat I got with the machine for review. It has been used A LOT so it is nowhere as sticky as it was when I got it.

Check out some of the masks and stencils I cut:

borderstencils

That is from the Ribbons and Borders cart.  I think if I cut the outline (right) one so all the borders have at least one EDGE then I can use them with the Gelli plate.  As is, it would be easy to use them with mists. Like I said, it’s a matter of looking at the images critically and thinking outside the box.

And I am so loving HANDS of all kinds.  These will be fun to use – they are from the American Sign Language cart (except the fist – that is from Indie art):

masksfromcricut

Bear in mind the report cover plastic is super floppy,  Sometimes with the Gelli plate it can be hard to place – and if it flops down on the paint filled surface then you will get a mark on the print.  Far easier to use them on paper or card.  Outline ones will work great with mists, not so much with inks, if you try to sponge them on. They simply are not sturdy enough, like commercial stencils are.

There are also some carts with images that make fab overall stencils.

fullsheetstencils

The one on the left is one I designed, just sizing and welding simple images.  The one on the right is a Paper Lace image that I just stretched to fill the page.

This is what they look like with the Gelli Plate:

fullsheetstencils2

Cool, humm?

And a couple more:

morepulls2

The interesting thing is the surround can be effectively used to create an edge mask.  I think I will use that a lot – I’m imagining using Distress ink on the edges of a pull, a bit like the border punch idea.  And cutting a mask that is exactly sized for ATCs would be nifty too!

usingborder

morepulls

That last (pink) one? The finger is actually a fun foam STAMP that I cut with the Mini – more about that tomorrow! I worked out a method that very nearly cuts a stamp, with a little X-acto knife help at the end.

One  benefit is that you can cut in a variety of sizes.  Look back – the fist is HUGE in the bottom pull, but there is a smaller version in the shot of just the masks.  One fits the 8×10 plate, the other is sized more for the 6×6 plate. And following on from the comment the other day about commercial stencil that EVERYONE is using makes your work less unique, comes in to play here too!  I designed the circles stencil so unless someone else likes it and does the same, I am the only one who will have that stencil on my work.

circles

Now, a couple of further points on the Mini and the Craft Room software.

A comment from Bev tells me that the virtual carts are, in fact, cheaper than the real ones.  Perhaps not quite as MUCH cheaper as I expected.

I’ve just checked and you have to buy the whole cartridge, but it is cheaper than the physical cartridge. (The one I checked was $39.99 for a physical cartridge, and $29.99 for a digital download)

and that answers the question of whether you can buy a single image or not too. That’s equal to  £18.89 in UK £s.  The physical cartridges range in price, but in the UK they seem to be around the £30 mark.  No pricing as of yet for the virtual carts bought from the UK.  BUT there was a comment on a thread on UKS to say that:

And if Cricut ever get their act together and sort out being able to take UK credit cards then there’s a wealth of digital images I can buy too.

So if Cricut can’t take UK credit Cards,  UK customers can’t buy virtual carts but have to buy the REAL carts. That puts using the Craft Room into the not so great category from a price perspective. Bearing in mind that I can’t test this theory/comment without trying to use my UK credit card to buy a virtual cart (although since I am, in fact, American, and have a US credit card I could certainly use THAT to buy) I don’t know if it is still the case or not!

As I said yesterday, deciding to use The Craft Room without the real monetary and time benefit (i.e. being able to buy a cheaper virtual cart and access it instantly) but instead having to insert the cart or register it in Craft Room before you can cut (potentially killing any resale value if you register your carts then sell your machine in the future and no longer need said carts) should be a considered decision.  Once they sort out taking UK cards that will change.  That doesn’t affect the OTHER benefits (like instant access to all your cart images if you register them or insert them) and the virtual (layered) mat, and there is still the benefit of seeing ALL the carts even ones you don’t own.

But I also note that the physical carts are on sale in a big way. I mean dirt cheap by comparison.  A recent email from Cartridges & More has them discounted up to 50%.  What does THAT mean for UK customers? Not being able to buy virtual carts as a way for the manufacturer to shift what must be a stockpile of physical carts with retailers in a certain market? Gotta wonder…

It is wildly complex really.  IF you are happy to own only the use of the images (and thru Craft Room only) with a virtual cart, with zero resale value, the price difference and instant access might appeal.  IF you don’t care about not being able to take your machine to a crop without also dragging along a laptop, to access all the carts, virtual and physical, you own, fine.  IF you aren’t in the habit of sharing carts with a crop group or scrapping friends, then virtual might be great.  But I think there are many issues to consider before buying in to the Craft Room concept. I hope I’ve highlighted some of them.

Lastly, yesterday I mentioned issues with the speed (or NOT) of the Craft Room design tool.  The lacy medallion mask here is the item I was designing (if you can call duplicating, flipping and welding a single image designing!)

masks2

That took FOREVER to accomplish.  I said it took 5 seconds to shift the flipped image over one right-click.  Simple single images happen FAST. Complex, multi-images, especially if welded, are very very  slow to process. And the cutting?  OMG.  Seriously almost 15 minutes, and if you look carefully you can see some of the areas (look at the inner-by-one ring of swirls and you will see three missing) where the blade peeled up some of the design and cut back on itself.  It’s not a deal-breaker but something to be aware of.

Tomorrow I’ll show you my trick for fun foam cutting.  It might surprise you. It’s not perfect, but it does expand the capabilities of the machine and doesn’t require the deep-set blade housing.


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Cricut Mini and Craft Room – playtime and review

I got an email a week or so ago, asking if I would be interested in a loan of a Cricut Mini and access to The Craft Room, to do a review.  At first I said No thanks, because I never bought into the Cricut due to how limited it is, being tied to only their carts,  but then I thought Why Not? It might be interesting to have a look at the machine and particularly the online Craft Room, to put it through its paces. After some assurances that I could be completely honest in my review and was not expected to spin it, I said OK.

It arrived yesterday.  I’ll probably do a few posts on this, as there is A LOT I want to try, but let’s begin with the ease of set up and a few simple test cuts.

Out of the box:

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It was, in fact, an absolute breeze to set up and get cutting.  As a Mac user I’m used to some degree of jumping thru hoops with things that are not native to the Mac, but this was quick.  The fact that I already had my old Cricut installed meant that all I had to do was unplug it, plug in the power and download the installation software. Note the time.

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The software walks you thru the steps – well, it should do anyway.   I got to a point where it wanted me to load the cutting mat but even when I did it refused to accept that fact and the only way I could move forward was to quit and begin again.  I think THAT might have resulted in me being unable to load the Craft Room app into my Applications folder and then drag the icon to my dock for easy access. I can make it run from the download but it isn’t as seamless as it could be.  I suspect if I take the time to uninstall it and re-install it I might be able to sort it, but I can live with it the way it is, as it’s a short-term loan, not something I get to keep.

Anyway, there is a little video to watch (and others available via The Craft Room online), and that was interesting, until it crashed at 3:41.  As I am familiar with cutters in general there wasn’t anything that I felt I was missing by not seeing all of the video.  Again, the video issues could be down to me, the Mac, the old OS, my browser…. I just carried on.

I should note that unlike the other Cricut products, there is no keypad, no overlay, no way to trigger a cut that I can see OUTSIDE of the Craft Room app.  There is a place to plug in the cart, so you can register it in Craft Room.  Because I am not interested in plugging in one of MY carts and registering it, I can’t tell you if you DO whether you can then cut any image from your registered carts without actually having the cart plugged in at the time.  It seems to be that way but I can’t find it stated that clearly in the FAQ.

What the FAQ DOES say is that you can do the design and if you don’t want to register the cart in Craft Room you can still insert the cart to cut the design. I can see issues with that, depending on how it works – if I wanted to cut a complex design that used images from 3 carts, would I be inserting the cart then removing it to insert another cart, cutting that bit, then needing to insert ANOTHER cart to finish off?

Will there be something that makes you insert the actual cart in the future to ensure you still own it and haven’t registered the cart then sold it on?  I seem to recall this being an issue with the Gypsy – people have linked carts then sold them on, not always telling buyers they would be unable to then link that cart to their own Gypsy.  So if you have bought a second-hand cart that the previous owner linked to the Gypsy or indeed to the Craft Room, is that cart then “dead” to you in anything other than a stand-alone Cricut machine? Certainly worth knowing, but also worth considering if you have a lot of second-hand carts! Do you really want to have to buy them all over again just to use the Mini and Craft Room?

On the plus side, so long as you have an internet connection and have registered your carts in Craft Room, it seems you have access to all the images – you can design and cut on the fly via Craft Room anywhere.

The Mini comes with a few little cards with step-by-step instructions for cutting a sample project.  Easy as pie.

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I used the cutting setting they specified and while the final piece was good, I didn’t feel the tiny letters it cut out were all that well cut.

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Maybe it was the textured cardstock.  After cutting the sample project, I decided to have a go at welding (grouping) letters/words to create a custom title.  Easy as dragging the letters so they touched and making sure WELD was ticked.

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and note the time. That was all it took, including downloading the installation software, creating an account on The Craft Room, watching the video, reading the cards, everything.  Not too bad.

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I decided to try something that is probably the greatest selling point of The Craft Room – the ability to use the images from different carts on a single project.  There is a search function, so you can search across the carts.  That is genius.  I spent, I kid you not, HOURS, just browsing through all the images in all the carts.  There is a TON of stuff.  1000s of images.  To be fair most of them aren’t to MY taste – I am unlikely to ever want to cut little duckies or fairy princess stuff – but there are still a ton of lovely images that I WOULD use.  But to browse to find a plain old rectangle, when you simply are not familiar with the carts and their contents at all?  I would go mad.  Instead I just typed rectangle into the search bar and then had a screen of things to choose from.

I have to admit that a HUGE part of how overwhelming the image library was and why I liked this so much was my temporary access to the entire library of images for the purposes of doing a review.  Had I only been able to use the three or four carts I actually OWN, or been forced to BUY virtual carts (more on that later) if I wanted to use an image I didn’t already own, I think I would have been a lot less enthusiastic.

One of my monitors is rotated, so I have a nice long area so I can see all I need to without scrolling:

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I simply loaded up the rectangle, and the Boys will be Boys cart, then welded the basic version of the title blocks within the frame.  Sizing them to 3 x 4 (for, yes, you guessed it, Project Life sleeves)  then using the arrows to stretch the title so the letters made contact with the frame, then welding them into a single unit took seconds.  Truly.  It cut fast and I love how they turned out.

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That was just the beginning.  There is so much more I want to try. I have this for a couple of weeks so I will be throughly thrashing it, testing out every little thing I can think of, and will report back anything interesting, distressing or startling.

But even with just a half day of play I already know there are some things that I like, some I don’t, some that irritate me.

What I love:

  • It’s small.
  • It works with my Mac pretty much out of the box – but then I’m not running 10.8.  If I was I would have to override the security settings in order to use Craft Room, according to the FAQ
  • The library of images is HUGE.  The fact you can now just buy access to a cart via Craft Room means you get instant access to what you need. That has its own issues, See below.
  • You have access to all the carts, even the out of print ones.  What I am struggling to find is if you can buy just a single image from a cart or if you have to buy the entire cart. The BUY option is grayed out when I am in Craft Room as it’s a demo login, so I can’t tell if I could buy just one image.
  • the virtual mat, so you can place cardstock exactly and cut a three layer image in a single pass, using scraps of card.
  • You can save, and export your projects for other users to download OR download projects created by other users.  BUT you will still need to buy the carts in order to be able to cut them.
  • The multi-layer option. You can group images on layers, and while I have not played enough with that YET, I know it is going to be useful.

What irritates me:

  • Little things.  Like 98% of the time I would probably want to rotate something 90 degrees.  I wish that was the default, so all I had to do was click ROTATE and only change it if I wanted something OTHER than 90 degrees.  But that’s probably just me…
  • I cannot seem to quite work out the WELD properties.  Sometimes welding something works, but occasionally something will weld so it removes part of the image.  I’m not aware of having done anything different to make that happen, so I can’t say if it’s a glitch or something I did.
  • with BIG images, it takes forever for something to happen.  I was building a large (filling the page) lace image from multiple pieces and it took (I kid you not) 5 seconds to scoot one element over one click of the right arrow.  Yes, I timed it. But was that my machine or Craft Room?  No way to know. It can also be very slow when you are working with a single image with a large number of cutting lines. And a mat full of elements, even single ones.

What I hate:

  • that I can’t break apart the images into their core elements.  You can only use the images grouped.  So if you like part of a design you can’t use just that part.
  • that I can’t import my own images and trace them to create a cut file
  • that I am not able to cut 99% of the 5000+ fonts have on my computer – and for me that is HUGE. I want to cut words more than any other single thing.  And I want to use any font I have, not just few that are available on Cricut carts

OK so here is the bottom line: If you have ALREADY bought into the Cricut way of doing things, that you can only cut their images, from their carts, can’t export the files in anything other than their proprietary software, then I believe you will like the Cricut Mini and the Craft Room software.  It’s easy to use, pretty intuitive in that what you THINK you need to do to get something to happen is usually what you DO have to do.  If you had SCAL, Craft Room looks a lot like that.  There are a TON of images.  Seriously.  After maybe 3 hours of browsing I feel like I only scratched the surface, but you still need to buy every one you want to cut. They make a it a “feature” that you can design with any element in the library but I see that only as a frustration, a tease –  Oh look, lovely images, design away – now put your hand in your pocket and BUY them.  That makes perfect sense from a business POV but I would tick MY CARTS only so all I could see is what I can use.

If you are happy to buy virtual carts, that you don’t actually OWN (you have access to them via Craft Room, but it’s not like you can sell them if you sell your machine) then you may see the appeal of instant access, of not having to wait for them to be back in stock at your local shop.  It’ll be interesting to see if the price of a virtual cart  is the same in the US and the UK – we are so used to things being so much more expensive because to the shipping etc.  but with a purely digital version that shouldn’t be the case, right? Right?? Who knows?  The email I got says the Cricut Mini is available for £129.  Would it shock you to see it available from Amazon.com in the USA for  $80.95  (that’s £50.98 according to my currency converter) and at Amazon UK for £120 and available via Amazon Prime with free shipping?

But if you want to be able to cut files you download from the internet, or buy from some other source, to trace a .jpg and turn it into a cutting file or want to be able to cut any font you have on your computer, or design freely, incorporating images from different sources then no (current) Cricut machine is the way to go.  But I think you knew that already…… {wink}

Have a Mini? Use Craft Room already?  Feel free to add your thoughts as a comment.

Next up, using the Craft Room and the mini to cut stencils and masks.