I dropped some pretty unsubtle hints to Mr C for what I wanted for Christmas last year. Ever since I went to the Handmade Fair back in September I’ve been longing to get my hands on a Cricut Explore. I saw Jen from Mum in The Mad House demonstrating one on the Cricut stand and I was completely blown away by what it was possible to do with it.
Luckily for me, Mr C responds rather well to unsubtle hints (even if I did go as far as emailing him a link to one on the Hobbycraft website and an email containing a discount code too!) and come Christmas morning there was one very large box wrapped up under the tree with a Cricut Explore waiting in it for me.
As is always the way at Christmas if you have small children, it was a good few days before I had chance to actually unbox the Explore and get it set up. The Explore comes nicely packaged and is physically very easy to get out and set up, but I found myself feeling somewhat overwhelmed by all the possible things I could do with it and wasn’t therefore sure exactly where to start.
The key things about the Cricut Explore are that it is capable of cutting a huge number of different materials and is incredibly easy to use via the Cricut Design Space software. Everything is run through through your web browser so you don’t actually have to install any software on your computer, but you do need to have an internet connection to use your machine.
Users can either download projects or pictures to cut direct from the design space, or they can also upload their own pictures. There are some free pictures and projects in the design space, but many do come with a charge attached. It is possible to buy an annual Cricut subscription here in the UK which gives you access to most of these for free, but the monthly subscription that US users enjoy isn’t yet available over here which is disappointing. A whole year’s worth is a lot of shell out for in one go straight after Christmas. When you connect your machine up for the first time you do get a two week subscription for free, but when you’re just getting to grips with a new machine that doesn’t seem like very long to me.
I decided to make a start with one of the free projects in the Design Space to make a simple Thank You card. This project requires two different materials – card for the main body of the project, and also some coloured paper that goes inside the card. It also demonstrated one of the other things that the Cricut can do – drawing and writing with a pen. The Design Space software takes you step by step through what you need to do and it’s so simple that I put together this video showing how you can complete the project.
It really is that simple.
With that first project under my belt I’ve then been trying to decide what to make next. I took advantage of my free subscription period to cut out a few other shapes which I then just played about with and made some simple, but cute little cards.
One thing that I’ve struggled with a bit with my Explore is the cutting mat. This is sticky so that the materials you are cutting stick to it and don’t move around during the cutting process, but I’ve discovered that this stickiness can mean that if you’re using certain materials (like cheap paper for instance – as I’ve sadly discovered through experience) it can be almost impossible to get them off the mat and I’ve ended up with fibres stuck all over it. There seem to be plenty of blog posts and YouTube videos out there about cleaning your Cricut mat and making it sticky again and I guess that’s something I’m going to be trying out for myself fairly soon!
The other thing that I’ve started playing about with is uploading my own pictures and creating a project using them. I’ll write a whole separate blog post about how to do this, but after a lot of trying to get my head around how it all worked, I’m rather pleased with these Mister Maker Shapes that I managed to make from a picture I found on Google Images. My two year old son seems to love them too!
I feel like I’ve got lots to understand and learn with my Cricut before I can call myself any sort of a proficient user, let alone an expert. I’ve only tried cutting paper and cardstock with it so far, and I’m not sure I yet understand how to use some vinyl that I won from Cricut just before Christmas. I’m discovering lots of useful blog posts and also pulling together useful YouTube videos that I’m finding into one big playlist. A search on Facebook has also revealed a couple of friendly groups for UK Cricut owners and I’m busy reading up on threads in there to try to work out what I should be trying my hand at next.
It’s certainly exciting finally being a Cricut owner, but I’m still feeling a bit nervous too right now!