If you haven't yet made the acquaintance of the Cricut machine, allow me to introduce you. Readers, meet one of my most favorite craft tools, the amazing Cricut machine. It can slice, cut, perforate, deboss, engrave, draw, and so much more. The only thing that would make it perfect would be if it folded laundry. Alas, it cannot yet do that, but I digress.
I bought my Cricut Maker machine because I really wanted to get back into making things and being creative. As a kid I used to make stuff all the time out of whatever I could find around the house (think random boxes, scraps of cardboard, construction paper, glue, markers, pipe cleaners, etc.). The crafting world has changed completely since I was young and there are so many options out there to make just about anything!
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It's a funny name, Cricut (rhymes with cricket, but doesn't chirp like one). Simply put, a Cricut machine is an automated device that cuts out and/or draws designs or patterns that you create on the Cricut Design Space app (which is very similar to Adobe Illustrator). You can use all sorts of materials – from paper to leather to wood to material to many others – to make whatever you can dream up. There are multiple Cricut cutting machine models available:
This is the workhorse of cutting machines. It can do just about anything you want to do. You can use any type of blade with the Maker – fine blade, knife blade, deboss, engrave, perforate, wavy blade – to cut, engrave, shape, or slice just about any type of crafting material. This machine can do everything the other machines do plus so much more. You can upload your own designs and fonts to Design Space® for free and cut them by connecting to your machine through Bluetooth technology.
The Cricut Explore Air 2™ is a speedy little thing! It cuts and writes up to 2X as fast as the previous Explore Air™ model. The Explore Air 2™ can cut 100 different types of materials including cardstock, vinyl, and iron-on materials. It has two tool holders so you can have both cutting and writing tools ready to go. With Bluetooth capability, you can access the machine from Design Space® from any Bluetooth-enabled device. You can also upload your own designs and fonts for free!
This is the entry level Cricut cutting machine and the best for beginners who are just getting started and may not want to invest in a Maker® yet. This machine cuts, scores, and writes on 100 different types of materials. As with other Cricut machines, you use Cricut Design Space to create and cut your designs. You can also upload your own designs and fonts for free. You get a lot for your money with this beginner machine!
My initial reaction to the Cricut machine was, why do I need this? I can use scissors for this can't I? What benefit will another appliance do for me? After seeing the Cricut machine in action a few times, I am a believer. This thing can make such detailed cuts that you will be amazed at the end result. The cuts are clean no matter how intricate the design is.
When I first got my machine, I made the “test project” that was included in the box. The test project gets you familiar with the machine and what it can do. The project is a simple greeting card that used three materials and a black pen (all included with the Cricut Maker®). It was a simple project but really gave me an idea of what this thing can do. I am a sucker for a beautiful greeting card and this test project was just an easy introduction. It did get me thinking about all the cards I could make for every holiday and season of the year! Here is the test project end result:
Another reason scissors aren't always the answer is because when you're working with materials such as vinyl with adhesive, you don't want to stretch it at all when you're cutting. Scissors aren't as nimble as the blade on the Cricut machine which allows for quick cuts while the material is held down by a Cricut Mat (more on that in a minute). The tools used with the Cricut are all well thought out and hold everything in place where it needs to be while the delicate cutting is being done.
I recently did a rather intricate cut in my Customized Containers: Two Ingredient Dough post. It involved cutting out cursive letters and then sticking them to a container. Had I tried this with scissors it would have turned out a complete disaster. Using the Cricut cutting machine, along with transfer tape, I was able to cut the letters and transfer them directly to the container easily – no muss, no fuss. This machine allows you to focus on the design side of your project and not have to worry about “how am I going to cut this thing”? In fact, the cutting step is the easiest part!
Cricut has its own proprietary design software called Cricut Design Space™. You can use the software on your home computer (both Windows and Mac are supported) or your smart phone (both Apple iOS and Android are supported). You can also use other design software such as Adobe Illustrator and upload your files to Cricut Design Space for cutting. If you've used any type of design software, Cricut Design Space should be easy for you. If not, there is a learning curve to Design Space and using it requires some time and trial and error. There are many good online courses and training materials available to get the basics. Cricut has an excellent knowledge base where you can find the answers to many of your questions. You can find that info at Cricut Help.
Before I bought my Cricut, I read up on what exactly I would need in addition to the machine. The machine itself was going to be an investment and I wanted to make sure I understood exactly what I would need to work this machine. I didn't want to get into something that would require me to continuously buy add-ons. In doing my research I found there were several things that were needed (and some that were more just “nice-to-haves”.
Tools You Need:
- Cricut Basic Tool Set – This set has all the essentials – a weeder, tweezers, and a scraper being the top three most important things (in my opinion).
- XL Scraper – The Basic Tool Set has a mini scraper which is fine for smaller projects, but I find the XL scraper comes in handy when trying to remove materials from the mats
- Machine Mat Variety Pack – This three pack of mats provides all the various levels of grip you will need to hold your materials when cutting. The mats are sticky in that they “grip” the material to the mat. They grip the material while the Cricut machine is cutting or drawing your design. Your Cricut machine will come with at least one mat (depending on which machine you get) so you will have one to start out with. I find it helps to have multiple mats when you're cutting projects with multiple colors or types of materials.
- Cricut EasyPress – If you want to create projects using iron-on material or infusible ink, the Cricut EasyPress is a nice tool to have. It allows you to adjust the temperature for the specific type of project/material and set the timer for exact transferring times. While you can do that with an iron, an iron doesn't provide you with as much variability for temperatures and timing. This is a “nice-to-have” because you can use other tools for the purpose for which this is used.
- Cricut EasyPress Mats – This is a “nice-to-have” because they are cut to fit the various sizes of EasyPress available. The mats do provide coverage for your surfaces when you are doing heat transfer material projects. They also provide a smooth, even surface for your projects. They limit any creases or lines that might arise out of using something like a towel or other such surface.
- Cricut Pens – The Cricut machines not only cut but they also draw and write for you as well. You can use it to create fancy envelopes or monogrammed invitations. You can create the design using your desired fonts and let the Cricut machine do the drawing or writing for you. I put this as a “nice-to-have” because while they do fit nicely into the Cricut machine holders. They also come in many different colors and types of ink. You also don't necessarily have to use the Cricut brand pens for drawing and/or writing.
Nice-To-Have Blades and Tips:
- Deep Knife Blade (for Cricut Maker® only) – While this is a “nice-to-have” it may become a “need” for you based on what you want to cut. If you want to cut thicker materials like wood or chipboard, you will need the Deep Knife Blade. Starting out and while getting to know your Maker machine, you may not need this blade right out of the gate.
- Debossing Tip (for Cricut Maker® only) – This is one of four blades introduced by Cricut in July 2019. This blade allows you to deboss your projects any way you please. Debossing is essentially “denting” the paper or other material but not cutting it clean through. You can deboss things like monograms or leather with patterns to make them more multi-dimensional. This takes your designs to the next level but creating a much more detailed design.
- Wavy Blade (for Cricut Maker® only) – Another one of the four blades introduced by Cricut in July 2019, the Wavy Blade allows you to cut a wavy edge to your designs. This is great for cards, birthday decorations, or other fun projects!
- Engraving Tip (for Cricut Maker® only) – Another one of the four blades introduced by Cricut in July 2019, the Engraving Tip allows you to engrave on materials like leather, metals, or acrylic! The Engraving Tool allows for more intricate and permanent designs on a variety of materials. You can make your own monogrammed jewelry or name tags for your pets.
- Basic Perforation Blade (for Cricut Maker® only) – Another one of the four blades introduced by Cricut in July 2019, the Perforation Blade allows you to create perforations in your material. This Blade is great for projects that allow you to tear or peel away part of the paper. A sample project would be a surprise card that allows the recipient to peel away the paper to see their surprise below!
- Scoring Wheel (for Cricut Maker® only) – The Scoring Wheel is an alternative to the Scoring Stylus on the Maker machine. This wheel can score the material to allow for an easier fold if you're making something like a card or a gift box. It scores the material enough to show you where to fold without cutting the whole way through the material.
- Double Scoring Wheel Tip (for Cricut Maker® only) – The Double Scoring Wheel Tip allows you to create extra-deep, double score lines on thicker materials to provide a crisp fold in your projects.
When it comes to the materials you can use in your Cricut machine, the list of options is long (even longer if you have a Cricut Maker). The “essential” materials you can use are:
- Cardstock – This is the most easily used material in a Cricut machine. You can use any size or shape (within reason of course) and any weight of cardstock. Cricut has a wide selection of cardstock but you can find cardstock at your local craft store. If you're looking for a specific weight or size, there are a number of great options online such as: The Paper Mill Store, LCI Paper, Scrapbook.com, and Paper and More
- Vinyl – Vinyl is fun to work with because you can use it on many different surfaces. I have made customized water bottles, mugs, signs, decorations, notebooks, journals, the list goes on and on. There are many different types, colors, and textures of vinyl from which to choose.
- Transfer Tape – If you like to create projects using vinyl, then transfer tape is your next best friend as it makes transferring the vinyl from it's backing to the end product surface so much easier! Simply apply the clear transfer tape across your weeded design or lettering while it's on the mat. Once the tape is applied ,smooth it down and gently lift up to remove the vinyl from the backing. Next, press the tape onto the end surface, smoothing it down firmly. Gently remove the tape while making sure the vinyl adheres to the end surface. I absolutely love transfer tape and use it often. You can see an example where I used it on intricate lettering in my post Customized Containers: Two Ingredient Dough
- Iron-On Vinyl – If you like making customized tee shirts or other gear such as tote bags, then you will love Cricut Iron-On Vinyl options. There are a variety of different types of iron-on materials to choose from: Everyday, Mesh, Mosaic, Foil, Holographic, Glitter, Patterned, and SportFlex. The type you use depends on what you are trying to make. Explore them all and find what works best for you!
- Infusible Ink – The newest addition to the Cricut material lineup is Infusible Ink. This takes making tee shirts or bags or coasters or other projects to the next level. You can infuse your designs directly into the material. While Iron-On lies on top of the surface of material, Infusible Ink becomes part of the fibers of the material. This is a great addition to the Cricut material lineup!
Other Fun Materials:
- Chipboard – Chipboard is a great material for things like signs or DIY notebooks as it gives your project the support and strength it needs. You can easily cut this using the Knife Blade on the Cricut Maker. While Cricut says to use their specific chipboard, I found another Chipboard on Amazon that worked just as well (and was less expensive).
- Thin Woods like Balsa – Thin woods are great to use for 3-dimensional decor or toys like balsa airplanes. The Knife Blade gives you so much flexibility to make whatever you can design or dream up in Design Space®!
- Leather – Make leather notebook or journal covers using your Cricut Maker. You can emboss designs into the leather to customize your unique projects. Make monogrammed keychains for gifts or for the new (or current) drivers in your life. The options are endless!
- Acrylic – If you like to do projects using stencils, the Cricut Maker can easily make the stencils for you. You can cut your own letters for spray paint projects, or design templates to make your own customized signs.
This is by no means a finite list of all the materials you can use with your Cricut machine, it is more of a sampling to get you started.
The Cricut family of products are game changers in the world of crafts. If you like to make things and create new and exciting projects, then I encourage you to check out Cricut. It has lit a huge fire under my desire to make new and more intricate crafts. While it is an investment, it is one worth making if you want an outlet for your creative side.