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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.

 

First Look: B Journal by Teresa Collins

One of the hardest things to learn in design is to know when to stop. Whether in fashion, decor, or crafts, the temptation to the designer is always there to overdo things, to leave their mark. This impulse to overdo is so universal that there’s even a commonly taught fashion rule about it: To avoid being over-accessorized, take off one thing before you walk out the door.

[Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Teresa Collins Studio, but opinions are solely those of the author.]

One of the reasons that I’ve long respected designer Teresa Collins is her mastery of this challenging concept. Her signature style is clean, and never overdone. And yet, despite its minimalism, it’s always immediately identifiable as the Teresa Collins brand.

Enter “B Journal”, which is the latest line from Teresa Collins. In this line, Teresa translates her spare style to a line of journaling books and accessories. The result is a stylish and elegant collection that looks as at home in a corporate office as on your kitchen table, and that works for everything from planning to recording memories.

B Journal by Teresa Collins

The core piece of the B Journal collection is its 7.5″ x 9.5″ journal. The journal comes in a variety of four designs, but the one that I have is softcover and designed in ultra-trendy marble and gold. Its simplicity of design hides an attention to detail that has long been Teresa’s signature.

B Journal inside

Inside, the journal’s pages are dot gridded – the preferred page type of most bullet journal fanatics – and the grids are at a scale of 5 per inch, which matches most other popular brands, making it easy to duplicate journal page ideas shared online. I cannot wait to use this journal as the central planning station for a new project I’m working on! And with the journal’s pages being pre-numbered, I can dive right in without first having to do a tedious chore that must be performed with most other brands of journal!

Mini B Journals

In addition, the B Journal collection also includes Mini Journals. Sold in packages of 3 assorted designs, these 5″ x 7″ softcover journals are a great size for smaller projects or as a more portable journal. From the designs in the 3 pack that have you can see several of the distinctive design elements of the collection: marble, several metallic foil tones, and the handwritten text. Then, of course, there’s Teresa’s signature black and white stripe!

Mini Journal Inside

Inside the Mini Journals, the pages are each a different design: dot grid, graph, and lined, So no matter what the project, the Mini Journal pack has a journal with the correct page type for it!

B Journal embellished

The B Journals are just blank slates, and there’s so much that you can do with them: memory journaling, planning, bullet journaling, . The B Journal collection has loads of accessories for the B Journals to inspire and assist you in making the journals your perfect (and gorgeous) productivity tool.

B Journal ruler

One of my absolute favorite things about this collection is a simple one, but one that also shows Teresa’s incredible eye for detail. A good ruler is critical to most bullet journalers. This one is an impossible to find length – 8″ – which is perfect. It’s long enough to do most of the lines in a bullet journal, but not so long that it is difficult to tote with me. Its companion stencil ruler, containing the most frequently used symbols in most journals, is also a much more convenient shape and size than most similar available stencils. It seems like a small thing, but I was absolutely ecstatic when I saw this ruler set in the collection!

B Journal stamps

Another way to get beautiful symbols is to stamp them. B Journal has a stamp set that contains all of the important journaling and calendar basics like date numbers, days of the week, and to do list productivity symbols.

B journal zip pouch

For journaling on the go, the B Journal zip pouch will contain the stamp set and the rulers, and a few other items. Or you can do what I’m going to do and throw it in your purse or bag as a collector for receipts and memorabilia that you want to make sure are kept!

B journal washi tape

If you love washi tape (and seriously, who doesn’t?), there’s lots to love about B Journal. There’s big wide tapes in trendy metallics, along with several assortments of narrow tapes in productivity themed designs like days of the week, checklist boxes, and to do list headings. This is such a great way to pretty up your journal’s pages – quickly!

B Journal journal cards

For those looking for a new Teresa Collins scrapbooking collection, you’ll will be happy to see the journal card collection that is part of B Journal. A large portion of the 36 cards have foiled metallic elements on them. Looking for a way to store them? Grab one of the coordinating B Journal binder clips – they are the perfect size for the 18 card stacks!

Here’s a peek at a few of the other accessories that make up the B Journal collection:

B Journal memo pads

B Journal tags

I’m totally stashing those tag holders with the mini envelopes as a great way of giving gift cards as gifts! And those to do list sticky notes are so beautiful it would just seem wrong to write something on them and not complete it!

The overriding theme in the B Journal collection is of simple, elegant sophistication. This is productivity and journaling for mature grown-ups! Being practical about productivity shouldn’t mean having to sacrifice having pretty tools to work with. I am so excited to have B Journal now as an option to do my bullet journaling and other productivity tasks. Teresa has proven that feminine, yet practical – a typically elusive combination on store shelves – is in fact possible!

B Journal by Teresa Collins launches in Joann Fabric & Crafts stores this week. Look for it in a store near you, or keep an eye on Teresa’s blog for more details!

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Sponsor | “Play!” with Big Picture Classes

Today we are welcoming Big Picture Classes’ “Play” event as a Scrapbook Update sponsor!

“Play!” takes place in Anaheim, California from January 14th-16th. The event will feature a host of popular Big Picture instructors, including Stacy Julian, Ali Edwards, Tracey Clark, Heidi Swapp, Elise Blaha Cripe and Tammy Tutterow. Fans of our former Contributing Editor May Flaum will also get to see her in action at “Play!” as well!

playbanner2The event starts in the evening of the 14th, with a 3.5 hour “Product Playground” session hosted by Wendy Smedley and Angie Lucas that will give attendees the opportunity to experience products from 14 sponsors and work on mini projects while taking advantage of an all-you-can-eat cereal bar. Continue Reading →

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