My journey to die cut machine fanatic has been a long and winding one.
Thirteen years ago, when I started scrapbooking and I also worked in a scrapbook store, I had access to an Accucut die cut machine anytime that I wanted. But despite the general popularity of solid color die cutting in scrapbooking back then, it never really captured my imagination and I rarely used die cuts in my scrapbooks. I even purchased fancy laser die cuts on occasion but rarely actually used them.
For almost 10 years since then, I have scrapped without regular access to a local scrapbook store. I didn’t miss access to die cutting and so I didn’t feel compelled to invest in a machine of my own. That changed about 2-3 years ago, when I purchased a Cricut baby bug machine on a $69 Thanksgiving Day sale at Michael’s. After some initial experimenting however, that machine became neglected as well. The choices on the cartridges were overwhelming, and I found it impossible to find the image that I wanted or to remember what images I had. My ADHD brain grew impatient with fiddling with settings, and I didn’t like having to use large pieces of paper to get the cut that I wanted. The perfectionist in me did like the ability to cut a shape to exactly the right size for my project design, but most of the time I grew impatient with the hassle of getting that perfection.
Die cutting still hadn’t gotten its hooks into me.
Then, at CHA Winter 2010, Tim Holtz introduced his signature Alterations line of dies with Sizzix. And it’s not exactly a secret that I love everything Tim Holtz…could he convert me to die cutting as well?
I held out for almost 10 months, admiring the dies but not ready to commit to investing in a machine and dies. But a little over a year ago, I finally took the plunge and ordered myself a Sizzix Big Shot machine (now available from Amazon for $49.99)
and a few dies and embossing folders. I was surprised by the immediate obsession that would develop with my new machine after all the years of being “meh” about die cutting. Within 6 weeks I owned at least a dozen dies and had a wishlist of more a mile long.
When I moved to my new kitchen scrap space shortly after getting my machine, a home for my Big Shot was one of my top priorities, because I knew that I wanted it within easy reach. It now sits on top of the storage cubes to the left of the kitchen table spot that I work at.
I use my Big Shot constantly. My most often used die is probably my Sizzix Alterations Tag & Bookplates Die, that cuts a #8 sized tag. It is perfect for so many of my favorite projects. It first got a major workout during the 2010 Holiday Tag Feud between my husband and I. I’ve used it since then to create my monthly tag album. I love that I can make easily make my favorite size of tag out of any paper that I want using the die.
Other favorites include the Tattered Floral, File Tabs, Primitive Hearts, and Ticket Strip Sizzlit. I also absolutely adore the mini magnetic Mover & Shapers dies – a lot of those from the CHA Summer 2011 release are on my shopping list. I’m thrilled that many of the classic shapes that I admired as larger dies but knew were too big for my projects have now been released in the smaller size. I have many minis already, along with the tray for using them in, and use the Mini Labels, Mini Hearts, and Window Bracket quite a bit.
I’m very picky about the shapes that I like enough to cut. Like Melissa mentions in her blog hop post, I view my dies as investments and try to select shapes that are classics, workhorses that I know I will use over and over. This is one reason that I like my manual machine more than I ever loved the electronic machine. I was never in love with the library of images available for the Cricut machine, and it only takes cartridges designed by Cricut. That limited my design options. The manual machine, however, takes dies made by a multitude of companies with the right adaptors and platforms. I’ve used both Quickutz and Papertrey Ink dies in mine in addition to the Sizzix dies – and there are many, many other companies with dies available if I want to use them.
Part of what has changed my attitude towards die cutting is not the dies themselves, but a new way to use them. A decade ago, I was cutting solid cardstock. Now I cut almost exclusively with patterned paper, creating ultra-custom embellishments that insert detail into my layouts and coordinate perfectly with other design elements in the layout. Another appeal of the manual machine, over the electronic machine, that helped it catch and hold my attention is that it can cut a wider variety of materials. In addition to the lightweight paper that is really the limit of my Cricut machine, I’ve cut heavyweight watercolor paper, grunge paper, chipboard, and even corrugated cardboard with my Sizzix machine.
I also like that my manual machine does more than one thing. I’m a fan of Food Network’s Alton Brown, who declares that we should banish any unitaskers – gadgets that only do one thing – taking up space in your kitchen. An electronic machine does one thing – cut. My manual machine can cut, emboss and even do letterpress with the right accessories. That’s versatility!
Supplies | Cardstock: Bazzill (Kraft). Patterned Paper: Fancy Pants “Off to School” (Learning), October Afternoon “Sidewalks” (Jump Rope), October Afternoon “Sasparilla” (Rustler), Simple Stories “100 Days of Summer” (Simple Pleasures). Alphabets: Studio Calico (Anthology), Lily Bee (Picket Fence). Ink: Tim Holtz Distress Stain (Fired Brick), Tim Holtz Distress Ink (Old Paper, Antique Linen, Tea Dye). Twine: Martha Stewart Crafts. Embellishments: Prima (Printery Resist Canvas, Quirky Wood Buttons), Elle’s Studio “Handmade Layers” (Date & Place Strips, 3″ Circle Tags), BasicGrey “Out of Print” (Glazed Brads). Tag: Ranger Inkssentials (Size 8 Manila). Pen: Sharpie (Fine). Die: Sizzix Alterations by Tim Holtz (Tattered Floral).
The die cuts were inked before being attached with the brads:
These die cuts are a whole different effect than the plain cardstock ones that I used when I started scrapbooking 13 years ago! With some text paper, and some ink, and a coordinating brad, I created a beautiful custom embellishment that doesn’t look cheap or simple or fast – even though it’s actually all of those. The Tattered Floral die that I used, designed by Tim Holtz, was part of his original introduction of the Alterations line in January 2010, and is still on Scrapbook.com’s bestseller list – a massive success by any measure. It’s a versatile basic that I can use over and over. I’m thrilled that a mini version of some of those floral images is coming soon from the CHA Summer 2011 product line!
This is a great time of year if you are a die cutter! Watch for more die cutting coming up in my holiday cards and tags that you’ll be seeing soon here and on Scrapbook Update!
And don’t forget to visit the other posts in our Scrapbook Update staff blog hop about die cutting: