I just bought a Cricut Maker! Now what?!

athena-with-ipad-3-01 My husband loves stickers! When my purchases are packed with stickers, they go right in the garbage with the rest of the packing materials… Unless my husband sees them. Even if he doesn’t like the brand or care about whatever message is being touted, he saves all the stickers. He has them on his snowboards and on his electronics. He hoards them because he never knows when he might need a sticker. He used to work in a shop that made vinyl stickers, and so for years, I’ve had “vinyl cutter & plotter” on my running list of gift ideas for him. A vinyl cutter & plotter is basically an electronic cutting machine and is what a lot of professional shops use to make stickers. We have a relatively small home, so it never seemed like a good time to buy a big stand-version of a plotter for my husband. When I would search for what vinyl cutter to buy, Cricut and Silhouette machines often showed up. I was always a little interested, but my card making and scrap booking supplies have been packed away in a closet for 10 years now. In 2017, I heard about the Cricut Maker, and I instantly wanted one. I’m not sure why the hype finally got to me, but I watched videos of random internet people unboxing their machines and envied them so much. I needed one! So my husband’s birthday rolls around in 2018, and I have nothing good on my list of things to buy him, except this vinyl cutter & plotter. I floated the idea by him– what if we went in halvsies on the Cricut Maker for each other’s birthdays (only 2 months apart!) and both got something we could enjoy? The Cricut Maker could make all the stickers he could ever want, and I could use it for all the sewing and crafty things I want to do. We went to JoAnn Fabric and we came home with $600 in purchases, including our beloved Cricut Maker. We were back at JoAnn within hours of getting the Cricut Maker home, and we both had Amazon carts full of purchases for things we couldn’t find at JoAnn Fabric. It was awesome! It was also expensive– in that first month, we probably spend about $2,000 including the Cricut Maker and all the supplies we bought for it. We watched so many YouTube videos of different things that could be done and different ways to achieve what we wanted to do. We bought some vinyl and transfer tape, but the transfer tape stuck to the vinyl more than the vinyl would stick to anything else. The vinyl didn’t weed very well, and it was hard to see the lines where the vinyl was cut. A quick Google search revealed that these were common issues with the brands we purchased. We bought Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV), but it melted in spots under my iron and tore in others as I attempted to remove the cover sheet. Neither of us had any idea how to use the Cricut Design Space, so our first projects were fun, but not very polished. We wondered, “Do we need Photoshop?” We found a free program called Inkscape, and after spending hours on YouTube, we learned just enough to know that it was more complex than what we wanted. We wanted to make things– not spend days designing things on a computer that might not even work out once we got them on the cutting mat. We bought a full year of Cricut Design Space Access just to realize that for a lot of the things we wanted, we still had to shell out $3-$15 per project. We are the people that never buy apps or make in-app purchases, so it’s hard to get used to the idea of shelling out a few bucks every time we use the Cricut Maker. If you’re just starting out with your Cricut or haven’t done all the projects you wish you had, try some of the easier projects available on Design Space. I learned so much just by doing a few pre-made projects and then searching for how to put my own special spin on them. We’ve had our Cricut Maker for a few weeks now, and we’ve really got our stock up to par now. On this blog, I’ll share what we’ve learned and what we wish we knew when we bought our Machine!  
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Which Cricut machine should I get?

athena-with-ipad-3-01

You know you want to get a craft cutter, but which one should you get?

What not to get

First, let’s talk about the machines you shouldn’t get– even if they’re free. Do not, under any circumstance, get the Cricut Personal, Create, Expression, Expression 2, Mini, Cake, Cake Mini, or Imagine. Cricut no longer supports these machines, and the internet is full of people who got scammed for $100 for purchasing these machines which will probably never work again.

Other brands than Cricut

There are a number of electronic die cutters out there– made by not only Cricut, but also Brother, Silhouette, Gemini, and others.┬áIf you like to hand draw your designs, the Brother ScanNCut might be the product for you. As the name indicates, it has a scanner built right in. The Silhouette Cameo has some nice features (such as loading images from a USB drive), but it doesn’t do deep cuts, so you really are limited to just paper and vinyl. I think the biggest draw for the Silhouette machines is that their software doesn’t require internet and the Cricut Design Space does, so if you don’t have good internet, the Silhouette might be your best bet. Be warned though– their software is super advanced and can be exhausting for newbies to learn.

Cricut brand

The Cricut brand has several current machines– the Maker and the Explore series. The Explore series starts with the Explore One at about $150 and gets more advanced in the Explore Air ($180) and then the Explore Air 2 ($250) before jumping to the Maker ($400). Only the Cricut Maker has the knife blade for cutting wood and the rotary blade for cutting fabrics, but a lot of people report success (with a lot of trial and error) in using the Explore Air 2 to cut leather and fabric. I’m not totally sure that the Maker is worth the $150 extra over the Cricut Explore Air 2, and I think most people would be completely happy with the Explore Air 2. However, this was a shared birthday purchase, so the Cricut Maker was in our price range.

If you’re the sort of person who is happy to drive a 10-year old car because it’s paid off, I’d say go with the Cricut Explore Air 2. It’s reliable, supported, and will still do most of the things that the Cricut Maker will do. If you’re the sort of person who really wants a shiny new car with all the gadgets, even if you’ll never use half of them, go with the Cricut Maker. Even if you never use the knife blade, you’ll have the option and you know you like that.

Glitter Bows
Made with mermaid faux leather and glitter canvas. Buttons from JoAnn Fabric!

Bundles

Bundles. When we were trying to pick out which Cricut Maker to buy, the bundles were nearly the end of me. There’s the Essentials bundle, the Everything bundle, the Cricut Anniversary bundle, and it seemed like every seller had different items in each bundle.

My advice is to stick to just the machine unless you know that you’d buy the exact items in the bundle and the bundled items are cheaper than buying individually. I was very tempted by the Everything bundle. It comes with all kinds of materials, which I did end up spending a lot of money on. The reason I chose not to get the Everything bundle is that a lot of reviews said the Cricut brand supplies were hard to work with and over priced.

Honestly, I agree. I really do prefer the Oracal brand vinyl and the Siser brand Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV). I have some rolls in the Cricut brand and the Silhouette brand that I felt I had to buy because it was the only brand with the color I wanted, and every time I get frustrated with my vinyl, it with one of those rolls. The Silhouette brand vinyl was so bad that I just threw away the black roll because my husband bought a 10 foot roll of the Oracal vinyl in black.

Accessories and materials

We spent three times more on accessories and materials in our first week of owning the Cricut Maker than we actually spent on the Cricut Maker, many of which were unnecessary or just wasted money because we overpaid.

My favorite purchases were actually a couple of Cricut branded sample packs– the foil poster board, shimmer paper, and kraftboard samplers to be specific. These three materials were so smooth and perfect for my Cricut Maker. The shimmer paper is thick like card stock, but it doesn’t leave any glitter on the blade, mat, or on fingers. The foil board just looks so fancy– like something a specialty shop would have. The kraftboard is like cereal box material, but it cuts like butter. I’ve had plenty of materials rip and tear, but the kraftboard hasn’t torn once, even when I did super intricate cuts. Also I bought some cheap contact paper that I used as transfer tape. It worked a million times better than the Cricut brand transfer tape.

The purchases that I regret are the Cricut and Silhouette brand vinyls, the Cricut brand weeding tools, and some Park Lane light card stock that keeps ripping during cuts. The Cricut brand weeding tools were just available locally, so that’s why I bought them. I wish I had gotten some cheaper ones off Amazon. There’s nothing wrong with the Cricut branded ones– they were just way over-priced. The Park Lane card stock is also tearing a lot for my mother-in-law so it makes me think the card stock isn’t great for the projects we are doing.

A list of items to get in your first week (or to give as a gift for a new Cricut owner)

  1. The machine– either a Maker or an Explore Air 2
  2. Extra mats (3 pack of light grip mats on Amazon for $20)
  3. Cricut Scoring Stylus (works in both the Explore Air 2 and the Maker)
  4. Various card stocks (Bazzill is my favorite brand)
  5. Sample pack of Oracal 651 (permanent) and/or 631 (removable) vinyl
  6. Sample pack of Sister Easyweed HTV
  7. Any weeding tool (even tweezers work)
  8. Any brand bone folder
  9. Organizer for all your materials
  10. Cheap, clear contact paper
  11. A 12″ paper trimmer (any brand)
  12. Glue dots, glue sticks, liquid glue, hot glue, and painters tape
  13. Heat Press (Optional, some people use irons with success)

A list of items to get in your second week

  1. Light box (for weeding intricate designs)
  2. Black and White rolls of vinyl at least 3 feet long
  3. New and replacement blades and housings
  4. Glitter canvas
  5. Faux vinyl
  6. Extra mats (different strengths and long mats)
  7. Quilling tool for making paper flowers
  8. Large scraper to help get projects off the mat (any brand)
  9. Sample pack of Cricut Kraftboard
  10. Sample pack of Cricut Shimmer Paper
  11. Sample pack of Cricut Foil Poster Board

A list of items to consider getting over the next few weeks

  1. Rolls of vinyl in various colors at least 3 feet long
  2. Cricut 30-pack of fine point pens in various colors (I haven’t found a good use for any of the thicker pens yet)
  3. Plan to go through two or three light grip mats every 6 weeks or so
  4. Embellishments such as themed buttons, faux pearl stickers, and rhinestones
  5. Vinyl blanks (my favorite brand is 3rddegreelaser) and epoxy to seal
  6. Tumblers, glitter, and epoxy to make glitter tumblers
  7. Shadow boxes
  8. Stretched Canvases or Canvas boards
  9. Various paints, fabric and acrylic with brushes
  10. Glass blanks with etching cream
  11. Additional organizers as needed
  12. Glitter vinyl
  13. Hats and shirts to customize

adventure awaits
free image from google with custom text, glitter vinyl on trucker hat