How I Became A Die Cutting Addict

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!

The result of my new die cutting devotion are layouts like this one, from the school album I’m working on for my daughter:

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’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:

17 Responses to How I Became A Die Cutting Addict

  1. Allie.Duckienz November 8, 2011 at 8:14 pm #

    Awesome Nancy,
    I m glad to see a LO. I really wanted evidence that you do actually scrapbook. I hear you talk of all the products you buy but I have only seen two paper LOs on your blog this year. I thought maybe you were more of a collector than a scrapbooker LOL. Also, are you a member of paperclipping? I would love to see your takes on some of Noell’s design tips.

    Sending big loves to you and Bridget! I am sure that her arthritis is hard to deal with. xxx

    • Nancy November 8, 2011 at 8:39 pm #

      LOL yes, if you saw my kitchen table right now you’d have no question that I really do scrapbook! I don’t publish everything that I do because of protecting privacy, and I also don’t have time to do as much as I’d like. I’m a slow scrapbooker – that layout in this article took me most of the weekend to do, so even when I do scrapbook a lot time-wise it doesn’t produce albums full of stuff. I’ve been doing a lot of cards and tags lately too. I’ve also been working lately on things like Project Life and Ali’s One Little Word that are in progress and partially finished. I have a lot of papercrafting irons in the fire. I’m never happier than when I’m up to my elbows in ink or playing with pretty colors of paper. 🙂

      I actually am a Paperclipping member and love Noell’s work but rarely have time to complete something that isn’t related to a specific class or project, or to an editorial need for my work, so just riffing off of inspiration isn’t something I get to play with often. 🙁

      Thanks for the good thoughts about Bridget. It’s challenging but it’s so rewarding seeing her do so much better now that she’s on medication for her problem! She’s such a happier child!

      • Allie.Duckienz November 9, 2011 at 7:30 am #

        You’ve inspired me to keep plugging away on my crafty projects ala ‘clean slate’. I made my partner read it and today we worked on PL for 3 or so hours. Now we’re up to March LOL

        I totally just scraplift now. I find that way I can get several LOs done in the time that it would have taken me before. Only do this with LOs you love though otherwise it takes 3x longer than normal 😉 Although I have taken on WAY too many projects this year. I am simply overwhelmed 🙁

    • donna clark November 9, 2011 at 12:12 pm #

      Nancy forgot to mention she is also the co-host of The Paperclipping Roundtable!! If you love scrapbooking, go subscribe to the podcast in iTunes! You will love it! I’ve been a “follower” since day one and also a Paperclipping member!

  2. Jennifer Rogers November 9, 2011 at 1:04 am #

    Hello, Nancy (or is that, fellow Die-Cut addict style, supposed to be “Hi, Nancy…”?) we had one of the Top gurus from Sizzix here in Joburg, S.A. for a class in September. She told us Tim’s tattered floral die is the best-selling Sizzix Die EVER. See ya at the ‘table…

    • Nancy November 9, 2011 at 3:09 pm #

      I suspected that might be the case about that die. I’m certainly not shocked to hear it!

      See ya at the Table! 🙂

  3. Karen November 9, 2011 at 9:19 am #

    I have over 15 towers of sizzix and 15 trays of sizzlits it is amazing how you can get sucked into die cutting. It is an addiction. Glad you shared your layout with us. I love scrapbooking.

    • Nancy November 9, 2011 at 3:13 pm #

      Wow, I don’t know what I would do with that many dies!

  4. Candy November 9, 2011 at 10:27 am #

    I love the 3D effect from die cuts and the ability to dry emboss everything I cut. I think we have WAY too much fun and the rest of the world has no idea.

    • Nancy November 9, 2011 at 3:14 pm #

      I want to experiment on some holiday projects with embossed die cuts!

  5. Debbie P November 9, 2011 at 11:01 am #

    Nancy, great post. What a beautiful layout! I hear you on paperclipping rountable all the time, but have never seen your work. I love your style. I have an old Sizzix that I don’t use to often. The granddaughters mostly use it to make paper dolls. I love the new Tim Holtz items, so I may have to invest in one of the Big Shots. Thanks for the tips!

  6. donna clark November 9, 2011 at 12:14 pm #

    Great article as usual Nancy! Love cutie pie Bridget’s photo and your layout. Bless her heart and you and Mike’s for dealing with her challenges. Tell her she has lots of fans in the scrapbook world!

  7. scrappin2boys November 9, 2011 at 12:24 pm #

    Hi Nancy:

    I agree with you about Tim Holtz. I love everything he does. sometimes I am intimidated by his products, I just need to play with them. About the Cricut. I have one and I love it. It doesn’t just cut light cardstock, it cuts felt, grungeboard, chipboard, vinyl and more. I do think there is a big learning curve. There are a couple of videos out and I purchased one, and man did my world open up! I bought the original Cricut and I too, didn’t use it much, but now I have the Expression, and I couldn’t scrap without it! It cust many more sizes than the original Cricut. I do like that I can take my manual die cutting machine anywhere and not have to plug it in, but I still take my Cricut. There are pros and cons to both machines

  8. kellystar November 9, 2011 at 12:27 pm #

    I hear you…my Big Shot is my love too. I wish I had more font options, but I can live with it. This way, I only buy the dies of things I love…I don’t end up with a cartridge of stuff I’ll never use.

  9. jersey girl Anne November 9, 2011 at 8:05 pm #

    I was so glad to actually see a LO that you made . So sorry that your daughter has so many health issues?Was she in pain for along time and just couldn’t express herself? I have an adult son who deals with health issues and it was so hard when he was young and could not explain how he felt! So I kinda know what you are going through! Keep up the great work. I love everything that you are involved in!

    • Nancy November 9, 2011 at 8:47 pm #

      Thanks for the compliment on my work and the good wishes for my daughter. She is 8 and was just recently diagnosed with juvenile arthritis but we believe in hindsight that she has had symptoms since she was very young. Because she is also autistic and has had very limited communication skills (barely speaks in sentences, doesnt’ communicate anything about feelings) she was not able to tell us anything was wrong. So we didn’t know she was having problems until her symptoms became very visible – difficulty walking and things like that. She’s doing much better since she started treatment about a month ago. She’s even talking more now that she isn’t in so much pain! She’s really a whole different child!

  10. Gab November 11, 2011 at 5:49 am #

    Love that LO Nancy. I’m embarrassed to admit that I have that die and haven’t used it yet ……

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