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Getting Started with Make It Now on the Cricut Explore Air 2

Because it requires using software on a computer (or a phone app), a lot of people are intimidated initially by using the Cricut Explore family of machines. But Cricut Design Space has a built-in shortcut for learning how to do almost anything with the Cricut Explore Air 2 machine: the library of Make It Now projects!

Cricut Design Space

The Make It Now library of projects, which is what you are looking at when you open the main screen of Cricut Design Space, is like having training wheels for your Cricut Explore machine. Whether you are trying to use the machine itself, or trying a new material or accessory tool (like the stylus) for the first time, a Make It Now project will hold your hand while you do it. The Make It Now projects have been set up by the expert designers at Cricut to create an entire project flawlessly from start to finish. It takes the guesswork out of working with new tools or materials. There’s no guessing, so you can get perfect results the first time!

One very popular use for the Cricut family of machines is to cut iron-on material to create custom shirts, bags, and other items. Cricut sells an extensive palette of iron-on materials that the machine’s built-in settings are calibrated to cut. Working with iron-on, though, has a bit of a learning curve. Make It Now projects to the rescue!

Probably my all time favorite Make It Now project is the “C’est La Vie” t-shirt designed by my friend Anna Rose Johnson. This fun t-shirt features two layers of iron-on that together create the phrase and a glittered heart.

Cricut Make It Now t-shirt project

Remember, just because you are using a Make It Now project, doesn’t mean that you have to make it look exactly like the Cricut sample! Changing the color scheme is as simple as feeding different colors of material into the machine. Cricut Design Space does allow you to edit a Make It Now project – or any other one – to change the colors of elements. But on a simple two color project like this one, it’s not worth taking the time to make the change in the software. Just feed the colors you want into the machine when it’s time for each cut!

For making my t-shirt this time, I chose to make the design with white lite iron-on and pink glitter iron-on. My 13 year old daughter, who the shirt was for, is all about the pink glitter.

Cricut iron-on cutting

The Smart Set dial on the Cricut Explore Air 2 machine makes it easy to set the machine to cut Cricut Iron-On material. Just spin the dial to “Iron-on” to set it and you’re done!

Cricut Explore Air 2 Smart Set Dial

The other key to cutting iron-on material is that you have to cut your images in reverse. There is a handy checkbox alongside each layer of your design in the first cut window that you can check to have Design Space reverse the design for you. If you proceed to the final cut window with your machine set on “Iron-on”, but have forgotten to check the “mirror” box for your layers, the machine will yell at you with a bar that pops up to remind you!

Cricut Iron On WarningWhen your material comes out of the machine, and your design has been cut in reverse, it will look something like this. The plastic is underneath it on the mat, and then becomes the transfer tape to carry your design to the item you want to iron it on.

Cricut iron-on

The weeding tool makes it 100x easier to weed (remove the waste from) designs cut from iron-on material. Just use the hook part to stab a piece that you want to remove, and then pull to remove it.

Cricut iron-on weeding

To iron on your material and get good results, it’s important to pay close attention to the package instructions. Before your begin, make sure to pre-wash your item (and don’t use fabric softener) so that your iron-on will stick well.

Cricut iron-on t-shirt

It only took a few minutes to cut my Cricut Make It Now design and iron it on, but the results were gorgeous! My fashionista was very happy with the results and the new addition to her wardrobe!

Cricut iron-on t-shirt on model

Tips for Using Iron-On Material:

  • Iron-on material goes plastic side down on your cutting mat
  • Don’t forget to check the “mirror” boxes when cutting
  • Items being ironed on should be 100% cotton if possible and pre-washed with no fabric softener before ironing designs on
  • Make sure to turn the steam off on your iron
  • Use a nice firm ironing surface

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Cricut. The opinions and text are all mine.

Cricut Explore Air 2 Machine: First Look

As many of you may remember, I spent a lot of 2015 traveling around the country to various Scrapbook Expo shows to demonstrate the Cricut Explore machine for Cricut. I loved both the chance to interact with consumers around the country, and the machines themselves! So I was thrilled when Cricut offered me the chance to try out the new Cricut Explore Air 2 machine, see how it compared to my current Cricut Explore machine, and tell my readers about it!

What is the Cricut Explore Air 2 machine?

Cricut Explore Air 2If, like me, you are a user of a previous Explore model of machine, you’re probably wondering what is different about this new one from your current model. For users of the original green model of Explore machine like mine, or of the Explore One, you’ll find that the bluetooth is now built inside the machine instead of requiring a plug-in accessory dongle to work. If you currently have an Explore One, you’ll also find that the Explore Air 2 has two carriages – one for the blade and one for accessories, meaning less switching out while cutting.

One other minor change is mostly cosmetic – the setting at the dial on the top of the machine now read “bonded fabric” instead of just “fabric”. This isn’t a change in the machine’s capability but rather a better explanation of them. The previous label, based on postings in Facebook groups I belong to, seemed to confuse people into thinking the machine could cut fabric when in fact it can only cut fabric that has been bonded to an interface backing to stiffen it.

For users of all previous Explore machines, Cricut is advertising that the Explore Air 2 will cut up to 2x faster than the previous machines.

If you are a user of a cartridge based machine (the Expression series and earlier) models, the Cricut Explore Air 2 machine is a whole new eco-system, with the Cricut Design Space software and Cricut Access library subscriptions, and features like the ability to import and cut your own SVG and JPG files. But you might also be asking if a computer based machine is too complicated, or too much hassle. You might be surprised to find that the answer is no.

Cricut Explore Air 2 machine

Although I’m very experienced in setting up Cricut machines from demonstrating them, for this article I decided to try an experiment and see how long it would take me to set up the machine and make the introductory project that is included in the set-up process (pictured above). I used a clean machine that had never had Cricut Design Space installed on it, so I was starting from scratch the same as any other new user – albeit one with a bit more experience under my belt.

I started a timer from the moment that I started to take things out of the box.

Inside the box, I found the machine, power cord, USB cord, a pen, a green mat, paper for the introductory project, and a few instruction booklets.

Cricut Explore Air 2 contents

If you follow the instructions in the box, the next step is to open a special URL on the Cricut website that serves as a tutorial for setting up new machines.

Cricut Explore Air 2 set-up

Then the instructions call for plugging in the machine to the wall and connecting it via cable to the computer.

Cricut Explore Air 2 instructions

Once that is done, there are onscreen instructions in Cricut Design Space to follow to complete setting up your machine. They literally walk you through each step.

When you are done with the set up, the final step is to have some fun with your new machine for the first time! At the 14 minute mark of my set-up process (and that included time taken to take a few pictures for this article like the ones above), I loaded a mat with paper into my new machine for the first time!

Cricut Explore Air 2 with mat

By barely over the 20 minute mark, I had not only set up my new machine, but I had created (along with a few pictures for this article) a fun little card with it!

Tips for setting up a new Cricut Explore Air 2 Machine:

  • Choose Chrome: I’ve used Google Chrome for a long time with my Cricut Explore, and it is highly recommended as the most trouble-free way to work in Cricut Design Space with the Cricut Explore family of machines.
  • Forget Old Machines: For the smoothest install and bluetooth set-up, go into your computer or mobile device’s bluetooth settings and tell it to “forget” your old Cricut Explore machine. You can always re-pair them later to continue using it alongside the new machine.

And that is it…my new machine was up and running – and I’d made something – in less than 20 minutes!

Does the Cricut Explore Air 2 really cut faster?

I ran another test to see – and if so, by how much!

First, I selected a “make it now” Easter card project from the Cricut Access library and set it up to cut on my iPad Mini. This way, all of my cuts would be made from the same file on the same computer device.

Cricut Easter card

Then, I cut the green part of the card three times. The first time, it was on my new Cricut Explore Air 2 machine on the “fast” setting. That setting is available for use on vinyl, iron-on, and cardstock, and can be used just by clicking a box in the cut window. That cut took 1:58 from start to finish.

Then I tried it again on my Cricut Explore Air 2 machine, but this time I unclicked the “fast” box to cut “regular” speed. On this setting, the cut was clocked at 2:45.

Finally I tried the cut on my old green Cricut Explore machine, and it took 2:54.

This was a relatively small, but complicated design file. Other files will show varying differences in speed, of course. But even with this file I saved nearly a third of the cut time moving from my old Cricut Explore machine to the fast speed on the new Cricut Explore Air 2. Extend this time savings to large intricate backgrounds for 12×12 pages, or for large amounts of production cutting, and the time savings could add up, well, fast (pun intended). Especially or machine owners who are running a business with their Cricut, faster cutting means more time for themselves – or more time to make more profit!

Now that I can cut so much faster with my new Cricut Explore Air 2, I’m really excited to take on some larger cutting projects that I didn’t have the time or patience for before, like 12×12 decorative backgrounds for scrapbook layouts, or intricate iron-on shirt designs. Or maybe I’ll even take on some wall-sized vinyl projects…

What would you like to make faster with the new Cricut Explore Air 2?

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Cricut. The opinions and text are all mine.

 

CHA Mega Show 2015 | Electronic Diecutting News

The electronic diecutting segment of the scrapbooking industry has been growing rapidly in recent years. The CHA Mega Show 2015 was a chance to see the latest from many of the segment’s manufacturers.

Sizzix

A new version of the Sizzix Eclips 2 will hit stores this May, featuring Bluetooth technology. Electronic diecutting enthusiasts will be able to beam image files from tablets, smartphones, and other enabled devices right to the machine. The recently updated, cartridge-free Eclips 2 has an MSRP of $299, and the new Bluetooth version will retail for $349.

Eclips2 Continue Reading →

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CHA Summer 2012: Silhouette

Silhouette was in Chicago with a large booth footprint, promoting their Cameo machine and its many accessories such as materials for cutting and add-on tools like the sketch pens.

A new product introduction that will likely appeal to many Cameo users are the dust covers, available in three colors, with an MSRP of $6.99.

Silhouette Cameo Dust Covers

Here’s a look at some examples of what can be done to pretty them up if you put your cameo to work with some of the company’s iron-on materials: Continue Reading →

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Cricut Celebrates 5th Birthday At CHA Winter 2011

What’s a fun loving bug to do on his (or is it her?) 5th birthday? For Provo Craft’s Cricut bug, the obvious answer was to celebrate in a big way, naturally!  CHA Winter 2011 marked the 5th “birthday” for Provo Craft’s Cricut machine, and so the company decided it was time to celebrate!

To kick off, the company launched the celebration with a special “anniversary” edition of the popular Cricut Expression Machine. This limited edition release machine, known as the E2, will be making its appearance in stores sometime in April. On first look at the machine, the body seems a bit sleeker and it feels noticeably lighter in weight. The added feature of a lighted cutting area is intended to help users see exactly what and where the machine is cutting.

The E2 will also have a LED touch screen control. This new feature eliminates the need to use overlays on the keypad, and allows layers to display on the machine’s display. Cutting will also be able to be paused in the middle, a feature intended for use when paper starts to shift on the mat to allow corrections. Users will also have  a home and zoom feature and the ability to cut out Cricut Imagine shapes (but not the ability to print the Imagine images.)

Provo Craft also announced their upcoming “online design studio” computer software called the “Cricut Craft Room” in Los Angeles. From the test version, it appears to be a more user-friendly version of the company’s existing Cricut Design Studio software. Users will be able to weld words with the click of their mouse.  They will also be able to “link” cartridges to their Craft Room (similar to the Gypsy’s current operation) and then cut images by hooking a Cricut to their computer. The Cricut Craft Room will also be compatible with the new E2 machine via Wi-Fi.

The birthday celebration/promotion was definitely Cricut’s theme on the show floor. Attendees at the show were invited into Provo Craft’s booth to create a 5th birthday cupcake featuring Provo Craft’s Cricut Cake machine, and given a clip-on stuffed “Cricut”  bug. They were then asked to photograph Cricut in creative places throughout the rest of the show, and given a chance to make a “Where’s Cricut” decorated frame for their pictures. The best “Where’s Cricut” photos were featured during Provo Craft’s big daily giveaway, and prizes were given to the winning photographers.

Cricut also celebrated its 5th birthday in a big way at the exclusive Conga Room located at L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles. Attendees were met with food and drinks and shown a light-hearted video on how Cricut came to join the Provo Craft family and why they had to create the Cricut machine just for him (her?) Then, the crowd was surprised by an appearance by dancers from the popular Fox TV show “So You Think You Can Dance?”, who joined the party goers to celebrate Cricut’s birthday. (Author Betsy Burnett is pictured below with Twitch from So You Think You Can Dance?”) To end the evening, all attendees received a goodie bag with a large plush version of Cricut, a Cricut t-shirt, the Birthday Bash Cricut cartridge and the promise of receiving the new E2 machine when it was released.

The Cricut Expression 2, known as the E2, will be a limited-run machine, and will make it’s retail debut on HSN on April 26th, 2011. The MSRP for the machine is set at $399, which is the same as the previous Cricut Expression models. The Cricut Craft Room is expected to launch in April of  2011, and the Wi-Fi compatibility update is due to be released a couple of months later.

Pre-order Mark Montano’s latest book, The Big-Ass Book of Home Decor, available at Amazon.com April 10th:

Want to stay up-to-date on all the latest scrapbook news?

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