For years I admired the Cricut display in the craft store and wondered if it was really as cool as it seemed, but honestly, I had no idea what it really could do. I knew it was for scrapbooking, but beyond that, I was pretty clueless. But I knew I wanted it. Eventually, all my girlfriends got bit by the Cricut bug, and we all made a pact that as soon as one of us got our hands on one, we would host a Cricut party for us all to try it out and see if it was really worth all the hype.
As luck would have it, Santa came a few days early to Rave Central and with him was the Cricut Expression Machine and a few select Cricut cartridges to help me get started on my pact. Since I had never seen Provo Craft’s Cricut television spot before I got my Cricut Expression, even opening up the package brought huge surprises for me. One surprise is this machine is not a toy, it is a serious crafting tool that makes you feel like a serious artist when you are in its presence. Two, this machine is bigger than I had thought it would be; which makes sense because I had only ever seen the Cuttlebug by Cricut in person before, which is their smaller, less fancy cutter that doesn’t come with all the bells and whistles.
And how I love those bells and whistles!* I love that the Cricut is extremely versatile and can be used for far more than scrapbooking, and that the machine has many useful every day applications that make it fun to use and easy to create with your finished pieces. I love that it doesn’t require a computer and can be used on any stable flat surface, so I’m not stuck in the office while I’m crafting.
Being infinitely expandable is also a huge plus, so it’s easy to add more cartridges as you need them. And, you’re going to want more cartridges, as they are kind of addicting. Cricut makes some of the most adorable cartridges sets with some of the cutest cutting shapes and designs I have ever seen, so it’s nice to know that it’s easy to expand your system when you tire of your current sets. Even better is that the introduction of a new cartridge set breathes new life into your old designs and creations, because the Cricut system is perfect for mixing and matching to create exactly what you would like.
One huge plus of the Cricut system that I hadn’t even considered is that instead of buying die cut shapes individually, Cricut has put together dozens of Cricut cartridges that have tons of images, shapes and designs on each one. This means that even though there is a cost to purchase the expansion cartridge sets, there is a huge value in the amount of cutting capabilities you can get from each purchase. At first, I didn’t understand this and thought you only got the dozens of designs on the back of each cartridge, but was pleasantly surprised to find out that’s not even half of what you actually get when you add it to your machine.
The other huge benefit to the Cricut system is that you don’t have to store massive amounts of die cutters like other craft systems required in the past. Since die cutters used to be of a fixed size and shape, getting numerous images and designs was expensive and inefficient, especially when you needed to do multiple sizes of cuts. The Cricut, on the other hand, allows you to set the size with a simple dial, allowing countless options for creating the perfect size and layout in your work. The LCD screen allows you to see the image you have selected and get the correct orientation and size selected without having to use a computer. I was really surprised to find out that you can set the image to completely fill an entire 12x12 craft paper if you’d like, or even 12x24 paper which means you can create large and impressive pieces with barely any effort at all.
Speaking of large and impressive, one of the first things we did was run out and purchase an extra deep cutting tool for the Cricut so we could really take advantage of some of the diverse capabilities of the machine. Our goal is to create some really awesome multi medium projects that wouldn’t be possible with any other system, and it was going to require a bit more cutting depth to complete.
I have to admit that while I was buying the extra deep cutting blade, I did peruse the Cricut aisle a bit and I have already treated myself (sorry, ladies… ourselves) to two more after-Christmas sale cartridges that I had my eye on before I had ever even touched the Cricut Expression. While I did catch a pretty good sale, it still was a bit of a splurge, but I am completely in love with what I have been able to create that would have never been possible with scissors or even with traditional die cutters.
With the touch of a button you can fill a 12x12 scrapbook sized page with dozens of cutouts or shapes in no time at all. Even though some intricate shapes require a few seconds for the Cricut to complete, it really is fun to watch the Cricut cut your paper with your selected shapes. The movement of the Cricut blade and cutting apparatus is both fluid and highly intelligent, with each slice of the blade part of an elaborate dance of machine and paper. With the Cricut’s internal memory of where the blade has already cut, it allows you to maximize the surface area of the paper to fit the largest number of images and really make the best use of your papers.
While hubby certainly is not a scrapbooker, even he liked playing with the Cricut Expression Machine while us girls were creating. It is an electronic gadget, after all, which means that the act of cutting is guy-friendly, even if you will be gluing and creating by yourself after the Cricut cools down. I even had a very anti-scrapbooking sister try out the machine with me, and she created a pretty impressive roommate warning sign for her to hang on her door at her apartment, signaling her home or away status.
While I admittedly have still not finished very many Cricut designed scrapbooking pages in the past few weeks of playing and creating, I have finished some really awesome framable pieces of art that I am currently searching for frames to house. I am still very fixed on creating my multi medium project that I have been busy designing, which of course, I will update you on as soon as it begins to come together.
In the meantime, I am offering up some of the gems we have been creating with our Cricut these past few weeks (plus extras scrapbooking supplies!) to two lucky winners. These were all done with one Cricut cartridge set and only 10 colors of paper, if you can believe it. Hopefully it gives you some ideas of what you can do with a Cricut personal cutting machine and a glue stick in just an hour.
1) I like to really maximize the cuts I make on each 12x12 scrapbooking paper sheet, so I tend to load up my images all on one paper. To vary the look of my Cricut finished pieces so I don't end up with all the same color cutouts, I like to use double printed sheets so I can flip some of the cutouts to have a different print. White backed paper is also great for flipping and adds some variety to your work.
2) Sometimes the parts of the paper most would discard make great silhouettes by just trimming the edges with a pair of scissors. Notice I did a lot of that with this project?
3) The Cricut cutting mats seem to last a bit longer than Provo Craft recommends, especially if you take good care of them. Keep them covered with their plastic sheets and only use the depth of cut that is required for your paper and it will extend the life of your mat.
4) Don't be afraid to change where the blade starts on the paper manually to best fit your project. If you want extra room around a cut so you can use the discard piece, you can add a buffer zone by using the blade arrows and moving it around the page. We found we could fit a lot more images on the page by helping the Cricut puzzle piece the cutouts together.
5) Have fun! Sometimes the best projects are those that happen by accident to create unexpected results!
And now for the Giveaway...
Two Rave and Review readers will win a set of 9 handmade Cricut-created cards along with some really cool extra scrapbooking supplies to get you feeling crafty! There are two ways to enter:
1) If you are not a Cricut owner, visit Provo Craft's website and let me know something cool about the Cricut or the Provo Craft family of products
2) If you are already a Cricut owner, visit the Cricut cartridge page and let me know what cartridge set you would love to try out.
And, as always, there are extra entries available!
1) Subscribe to Rave and Review, top of right sidebar (2 extra entries, must be verified to count)
3) Blog about this Giveaway with links back to this post as well as the www.raveandreview.com homepage
4) Place my button or logo in your sidebar on your blog or website (must have an active link)
5) Comment love. Enter any of my other Giveaways or comment on any non-giveaway post!
6) Email love. Share this Giveaway with friends and family via email and cc Leanne (at)raveandreview (dot) com (I will never, ever contact your email recipients)
7) Vote for Rave and Review on Top Baby Blogs, logo in right sidebar (daily entry)
8) If you know what Cricut Cartridge I used to create these cards, email me the cartridge name at leanne(at) raveandreview(dot) com with the subject Cricut Cartridge for two extra entries!
On March 10th at 11:59pm PST a winner will be drawn, announced here and notified via email.
Winners, winners! This giveaway is closed. Thank you to all who entered and congratulations to KP and Mira who won these crafty sets!
*Neither bells, nor whistles are included with the Cricut purchase, although I’m sure there’s a cartridge that contains a very cute cut-out version of both that you could have the Cricut create for you. Thank you to Provo Craft for suggesting I get my craft on and making my home the crafter's paradise. No monetary compensation was received for this Rave Review.