July 21, 2010

Aisle 3 Makeover Series - Cricut Critique

What:  Cricut Expressions Machine

Prior Experience: None.  

Confession~I sorta didn't know what Cricut was for before I agreed to give it a try. I thought it was for cutting out paper shapes for scrapbooking. Which it is, I guess. But when my friend Amie kept telling me that I could use it to cut peel-and-stick fabric letters.  Umm, yes please! 

Goal: I wanted some sort of Aisle 3 display banner made with fabric letters that I didn't have to manually cut out and adhere with anything gluey

Start Time: 2:30

End Time: 5:00ish

Before we got started, my friend {hi Amie!} gave me a mini overview of the thous-a-million options that Cricut offers.  After my head stopped spinning I was able to tell her what I was hoping to accomplish, then headed over towards the computer to start designing my letters.

{That was my first mistake}

Amie explained that the Cricut has it's own brain.  It doesn't need a computer or monitor to know what I want.  Wha...?  How am I supposed to know what I want if I can't see it, move it, or change it on a screen? 

I gained my composure as I noticed she was not getting freaked out about this concept {and pretended that I wasn't frantically trying to design my letters in my head really quickly before we had to start pushing buttons}.  She handed me a booklet, explained that it was the companion to a Cricut cartridge, and suggested I flip through it to see if there's something I'd like to use in my project. 

{My eyes glazed over}

This book had page after page of images and fonts to choose from.  None that particularly went together though, which was confusing.  Like one page for instance, had the letter T and a picture of an Owl.  As a mom of a two year old bookworm, this just wasn't making any logical sense to me. 

As I was scanning the pages for some sort of keywords to explain this conundrum, I heard Amie say the magic words, "and, if you can't find anything you like in the book, I have an aftermarket program on my computer that gives you some free form design options".  Ding! Ding! Ding! 

{I was back in the game!}

She booted up the program and had me designing in no time!  The aftermarket program was pretty basic, and only offered a few choices (fonts, sizes, and shadow or no shadow).  Perhaps there were more choices, but we didn't spend too much time on it. 

Even though the program was relatively easy, I still didn't have a clear idea of why I was doing what I was doing.  So I kept it simple and quickly selected a font, marked the dimensions of my project, and decided to use a shadow. 

The shadow option is really cool.  It makes a larger cut-out of your letter to use as the first layer, which gives it a shadow effect.  Luckily I brought over a variety of different fabrics so I was able to take advantage of that option!

Once I had Aisle 3 completely designed and sized, it was time to prep the fabric.  Since I wanted the letters to be sticky on the back, I ironed the fabric onto a sheet of adhesive-back paper, cut to size. 

I pressed the prepped fabric onto the Cricut registration board (has a sticky layer to it so it doesn't slide while cutting...cool!). 

After a brief overview of how the machine turns on and off, what all the buttons mean, and how to insert the prepped fabric, we were ready to slide the paper in and press the button to start cutting!

{I was so excited!}

For lack of anywhere else to put it, the machine was on the floor {hey, you gotta make it work somehow!} so I was crawling all over that floor to get a good view of that little cutter.  It was awesome!  Really fast, super quiet, and really precise!  I could barely tell that the blade had even made a cut.

There's not much more to it than that. When the machine was finished cutting it spit the fabric out, I peeled the letters off, and started on the next set (we had enough fabric, supplies, and time to make two!). 

{I was a pro at the machine part!}

I finished the rest of it at home:  Ironed the letters onto my background fabrics, and used a sharpie to make stitch marks.  Maybe someday I'll sew around them with my machine {you couldn't pay me to hand stich them}, but the letters seem pretty secure as they are for now!

(Next time I'll select a different foreground fabric that stands out better)

Overall Experience?: I left feeling intrigued by the Cricut, so that's good!  Still confused a little, but much better oriented than when I started out.  I would have had a much better experience had I researched it a little beforehand so I knew more of what it has to offer.

What would I do different?  I would like to take a better look at the book to see how Cricut works without a computer. I think I just had such a different idea in my head about how it worked, that I truly didn't allow myself a good lesson.

I would also have done the foreground letters in a different color had I known that the adhesive-back paper would make the fabric I chose slightly translucent.  It's okay the way it is, but it would have been more eye-catching in a different color. 

Pro:  I didn't have to manually cut out letters!!!

Con:  I could have just as easily cut these letters out manually. 

Will I use it again?  Yes!  I'd like to try layered images instead of letters.

Did I obtain my desired results? Mostly.  Like I said before, I would probably have armed myself with more knowlege, and used different fabric choices.  But I ended up with what I asked for!