Sunday, November 16, 2014

Learning How To Play Cricut

A few years ago, I found out about the device called Cricut and I've been wetting my pants with excitement to get one ever since.  It's a die cutting machine that lets you make so many things, it would impossible for me to even touch the tip of the Cricut iceberg in just one post.  Google if it you don't know what it is.

The biggest drawback has always been the price.  It's sooooooo not cheap.  And the first models required that you buy cartridges of images that you would plug into the cricut, kind of like the original Nintendo.  You couldn't play without the cartridges.  But the cartridges cost as much as a small island.  Another deterrent.

Fast forward to 2014 and today's model has no need for cartridges thanks to the internet and the cloud.  But it has a slot to put cartridges in case you've upgraded.

And apparently with these newfangled times in which we live, there is no need to include instruction manuals.  There are a few quick tip guides and then you're pretty much on your own.

The price hasn't gone down because the machine has gotten fancier, but now the possibilities are so limitless, your head would spin right off if you started thinking  Paper, leather, plastic, vinyl, fabric- just about anything you can slide into the machine can be cut!

I got the Cricut Explore for school, through a fabulous website called so I didn't acutally have to cough up the million dollars it would otherwise have cost.  I have grand plans for using this in my classroom.

Rather than fight with it at school until I know how it works, I brought it home to try to figure out all of the ins and outs so that when I bring it back to school to use, it will work like a dream.  Plus, when the gremlins my students are hounding me to hurry and print something, it can be kind of nervewracking.

The first thing I discovered is that it really requires a lot of space.

It connects to any computer, but since I have a laptop which should make things easier, that means two things that have to sit on this small, round table.  Add the papers and materials to my already overcrowded kitchen and it was a little wild at one point.

Like so many techy things these days, no CDs are necessary, so I had to go to the website and download the software.

I guess a software update was created in the 3.5 minutes it took to download the first set because I was immediately told to update.

So I did.  But it didn't like what I did.  There was a lot of waiting.  And a lot of these faces.  And more downloading until it was eventually satisfied enough.

I'd been putting off actually opening the box and getting started because I imagined it would take a lot of time to get going with it and I don't have a space where it can sit out all the time right now.

Just as I suspected the first evening was rough.

Eventually, I got into the software and started playing with things.  And then I realized, I had so many things I wanted to do, I didn't even know where to begin.

They give this packet of introductory materials to cut, but they don't give any suggestions about what to do.

This was good and bad because it let me make decisions and be creative, but it also left me wondering what the heck to do!

I somehow decided making snowflakes was a good first project.  Snowflakes have nothing to do with my classroom, but nothing French was coming to mind in those first hours.

I was really impressed at the quality of the cuts.  I quickly discovered that my card stock isn't really heavy duty, so when I started transforming these into gift tags, they curled and weren't as awesome as I wanted.

They are fine but not as firm as I'd like.  The package came with a silver marker and after googling and watching a video about what to do with it, I finally figured out how to make it write, as you can see with the black one.

Oh good, now I can go buy markers to do even more things.  I'm a tad overwhelmed with all of the possibilities...

I'm not sure why, but this package came with A LOT of vinyl.

It didn't come with the handy tools like the super slim spatula that would help get the cut material off the sticky mat, but I have vinyl up the wazoo.

How surprised was I when I went through the effort of cutting some vinyl snowflakes and discovered this isn't window cling vinyl, it's sticky vinyl to make stickers.

So, these snowflakes are now stuck to the slider and might need to be scraped off at a later date.  I had grand plans of them just peeling off to use again next year.  They make window cling vinyl which I actually think will stick to my walls at school and I would be able to reuse it, so that's next on the investigation list.

I also quickly learned that the material you are cutting really needs to start in the upper left corner at all times.

Otherwise, it just cuts into the mat and your item isn't complete on the material.

This is one of the things I'm shocked about.  There was no kind of guide that said "don't do this, don't EVER do this, it won't do this if you do this..." etc.  I've literally just winged the entire thing.   Being a child of the technology generation, this hasn't been too difficult but trying to imagine someone over the age of 40 just  winging it and making it work is really surprising to me.

That goes for the images too.  There's a lot you can do with making backgrounds disappear and deciding what to include in the cutting, but I only figured it out because my hours spent playing with the Microsoft office suite and knowing how to manipulate things in word, powerpoint and publisher.

I always go back to trying to imagine my grandmother trying to understand a contraption like this.  My family is rolling on the floor gasping as they imagine that because she never could understand the VCR, let alone a Cricut that's actually attached to the computer.   A computer!  It is easy to use but not as innate as some pieces of technology are in this century.

One thing I didn't quite figure out last night is the new thing you can do with your own images.  You can upload something of your own, manipulate it just as you want and then teach it how to cut out right around your image.  My issue was my image, not the machine.

But, the calibration process is pretty cool.  It prints this to your regular printer.

Then you put it on the sticky mat and put it in the Cricut and it starts cutting on lines and you tell the computer which lines it cut well on so it knows how to cut future images that you put in.

Forget my grandmother, I'm not sure I can comprehend the scope of what this can do!

I picked a less than awesome picture of the Eiffel Tower and by the time I was done editing, it didn't look good at all, so I didn't save it and will work on it another day.

K-ster is pretty fascinated with the idea of the Cricut but he wasn't home when I started playing.  He's only seen the aftermath of my first attempts.  I know if he sits down, he will be equally hooked and we'll have piles and piles of strange things that we've cut and glued.

My initial plan was to make stencils so I could paint the names of French speaking countries on the mats that we use in every class.

Then I thought I'd customize some great materials that would be ideal for my specific classroom.

Then I thought when we have our silent auction fundraiser, I could make some cool cards and things to auction off for our PTO.

Then I thought I might just plaster my entire classroom with amazing vinyl stickers.

Pandora's box is wide open so watch out!

One thing I love is how neatly it packs away in its own bag.

*all comments and opinions about the Cricut are my own and I am not affiliated in anyway with the Provo craft company or any of its subsidiaries.  I am madly in love with the Cricut and would be happy to demo anything that Provo would like to send my way.*

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1 comment:

  1. I have the old fashion one with cartridges. Love using it. Can Get overwhelmed with so many choices. Great for cutting craft felt(must use interfacing). Enjoy. Gail


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