Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Making your first project from your new Cricut Explore…

Last month (yes it has been that long, sorry), I talked about taking the machine out of the box.  I have been delayed for a couple of reasons.  1) Life got a little crazy, and 2) I was learning the new machine, which is a little different than what I was used to.  Today, let’s make our first project.
One of the first things you may want to do, is to clear some space on your hard drive for some SVGs if you do not want to grab images from your cartridges all the time (if you are a previous cricut owner).  I will be speaking from the point of view of a person who has never owned a Cricut machine at all.
When you first log into Design Space, you will see this window:

 On the upper left hand corner, click on the green log-in button, and a pop-up screen like this will show up (I am assuming you have already signed up for an account before you get to this point.) If you have another Cricut machine, the information you gave when you first started using Cricut Classroom software (if you decided to hook your machine to the computer), has already transferred that information when you registered Cricut Explore.
Type in your user name and password and click the green button on the lower right-hand side of the screen.  You are now ready to start your first project, and the login screen will disappear and you will be back to the first screen.

Hit the blue square to make a project from a blank canvas, or make a project from the pictured windows below the blue square.
Let’s tackle a ready to make project first.
One thing to say about these projects is there are project for every aspect of your life:  cards, jewelry, flowers, home décor, and decorating your electronic equipment to name a few.  I am going to pick a card.  I am going to be working on an explosion card.



When you first get to the project sheet it will look like this:
Every project sheet will have the name of the project, how difficult it is, and how long it will take you to complete it from start to finish.
The description describes the project, which includes what size the project is supposed to be when you finish it.  Please note, these are all the suggested size, you are welcome to change the project.  More in detail later.
On the right hand side, you will find the materials or ingredients needed to make this project, as well as the instruction.  Oh, I almost forgot the important part of the project, the template, (or images).  It will be listed below the project and what image you will need to cut out.  What I like about this is also tells you how much it will cost to download the image.  In this case, it is free.  If you get the subscription, most of your images are free with your subscription (which is optional).  More on that later as well.   On the right lower part are three things, the price, customize, and Make It Now.  The customize button allows you to determine what size, shape or saying you want.  Make It Now means there are no changes, and you are ready for the cutting mat.   I am going to customize it…
So, at this point, it does not matter if you are going to customize it or now, because now you are on a screen which looks like a cutting mat.  It is your virtual mat, and if you have seen this on Cricut Classroom or on another die-cutting machine program such as a Silhouette, this is where you do all your work from start to finish cut, and it looks like this.  As you see here, the background is white, with tool bars on the top and to the left.   I will explain the screen in further detail in the next post, but for right now, I want to point you towards the editing portion of the screen.   You will also determine how big or small you want you project.  Canvas Properties shows you how big you project will be in width and length, what type of fold to expect, and the size of the card.  Layers shows you the different layers of the card, and what layer you want to cut, write, or score.  Also in the layers feature, you can group and ungroup a project, work on what needs changed, and then attach it to cut, write, and score all on one mat.  I am also going to into this in more detail when I get to make your own project.  I was just introducing you to the canvas.

Next time, I will show you the finer details of cutting out an already created project.  Oh, you will also find out what a powerful little green button can do to a machine, otherwise known as the little go button.  

Monday, March 24, 2014

How to unpack and get going with your new Cricut…

photo by Gizmag.com
I got a new toy.  Actually it is a helper toy, as that is how I want to look at my new Cricut Explore.   Over the past few weeks, I have explained how I got talked into (for those of you still banning ProvoCraft-snookered) buying this machine, on FlexPay through HSN (Home Shopping Network for those of you not in The States or Canada).  Next, I explained that my newest electronic baby was in the house.   Well now, it is out of the box (after a week of stalling), and I will explain to you how to prep your machine for use.
Yes, you heard me right, prep my machine.   According to ProvoCraft (PC going forward), you should be able to just plug in and go, right?  Not if you have a stubborn system like mine---computer system that is.   Let me explain a little bit about my computer system.
I purchased my computer system in an emergency in 2008.  The reason for the emergency, my last computer crashed without warning.  It was a Dell Dimension system.  Loved it to pieces.   I was not much for being a techie at that time    Anyway, I was working on something, and the computer would not act right, so I turned it off.  Turned it back on moments later, and I got a checkerboard pattern on my screen… not good.
I had something important, and I needed a computer fast.  There was no damage to the hard drive, so the tech was able to transfer everything to this current system.  So now, 7 years later, I need a new system, and so far, so good.
So, what does the computer has to do with the Cricut?  If you have been watching the development of the cricut machines over the years, all machines up to the new one has software that if you choose to, can allow your Cricut machine to cut with or without the computer.  They depend on the cartridges, which cost at least 4 credit card payments, unless you catch them on a sale.  After all, that is why most people who have the machines, love them.  With the new one, it is totally internet dependent.  You cannot work this machine without the use of the computer and internet.  Trust me, I have tried it already.  If you are scare of the computer, I suggest that you stick with the Expressions, Expressions 2, and Mini machine if you do not want to be totally computer dependent.
Well, if you bought into the HSN deal, and you have not registered your little baby, let me guide you the next step:
Once you thank the nice UPS person for bringing your box (yes, mine was nice…after all, this thing weights a ton), it is going to come in the ugly, box, that takes a blowtorch to get into it (do not try this, a nice box cutter or your craft knife will do).   Turn the box over and gently shake your machine out of the box.  Oh look…another box, and this one comes with a handle!!!!  Do not panic, the first box is for UPS (Fed-ex, or whoever does the shipping in your area) to ship your precious machine to your home.  Open the second box, which does not need a box cutter for it, and you will see your shipping label.   This is your return label, in case want to return the machine back to its home (or where the sun don’t shine…Etc…).  The machine is a keeper J
Next, you will find a plastic tray with a set of instructions that says, “Start Here.”  Next to it is a big 12 x 12 folder.   Start here contains the instructions for setting up your machine and the other contains your papers and a mat.  I will get to that in a moment.  Lift that tray out of the box and you will find the star of the show…your machine in a grey bag.  In case you want to show off your newest find, you have something to carry it in.  A first for PC.  Take it out and set it on a flat surface.  Under the machine, you will find a small box.  This contains the USB cable to connect your computer, an electrical cord to plug up your machine (white) and your pen.  Start by plugging your machine up and once you plug it in, turn it on.  I like to do that, in case something go damaged in the shipping.  If anything is wrong (like it won’t turn on), you can call PC, and pack that puppy up and they will ship you a new one. 
Plug in the USB plug.  Now this is tricky if you are not used to plugging up these things.  After all, most electronic devices do come with them.  There is a short stubby end.  Plug that end to the machine itself.  On the other end is a sort of fat, flat metal plug.  Plug that into the computer.  My computer has four USB ports in the front.  One is used my wireless mouse, one for network cable/WIFI, another for my Expressions 2 to connect to Cricut Classroom (more on that software later…), and the last one is for the Explore.
Once plugged, go to www.cricut.com/design to get the software.  One thing to note, this is not software that sits on your hard drive, so no space will be taken up, except to hold your SVG designs.   For that, I suggest you get a free cloud to hold it all.  I am not going to get techie on you, but a cloud software is the latest thing out there.  It is just a big hard drive and like any hard drive, you are given so many gigabytes to store any of your projects, documents, and such.   If you never had an account with PC before, you will be asked to create one.  I have one, so it was a matter of transferring a copy of my information to the new software.   Turn on your machine, and the software will detect it.   If you have taken HSN’s deal to use 2500 images for the next three months, free, it will detect that too.  After the setup, you are finished.   Time to enjoy your machine.

If this your first time in the world of Cricut, I have a review of one the other machines.  You can view it here.   You can also find all sorts of reviews by just search for Cricut.  The machines have been around since 2005 or so.  So I hope that has been educational as well as entertaining.  I thought I was banning it because of the Imagine boo-boo, but nothing can tear me away from this thing called The Cricut Explore Die Cutting Machine. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

“Graphic 45 Design Team 2014 Audition

Normally, when I submit a post to my blogs, I will type up my post in MS Word, proofread, then put in the finishing touches on Blogger (or WordPress), but for a post like this, I am typing as I go along.  Why?  Because I am applying for a position on the Graphic 45 Design Team.  It is a wonderful honor to participate, and I have always wanted to be part of a design team for a company.  I have made things (mostly cards) for a blog, but I had use my own supplies.  I have also designed for Archiver's, but I was also an employee, and the rules changed shortly thereafter.  Since I was not an instructor, I could no longer make the demo cards and layouts needed for the store.
Baby Antics
I love to create, and I look forward to what I can creates further, especially with the new machine I just got.   I also love to show people any ideas they need for a layout or card.

Baby Antics Layout.  I will admit that my camera did what most camera's do, create red eyes.  I played on that affect, and made it look like that my niece and older nephew was picking on the baby, then acting like they did not do a thing.   I used a decorative sheet of paper and letters from American Crafts Thickers collections.  The only other thing that I put on the layout is the journal block explaining what was going on in the layout.
Photo by P.Lynne Designs



Next on the list is a blank layout.  This is just simply Mickey, and I used a Minnie paper, and cut Mickey's head out with the Cricut machine.




Walk down the Middle of Main Street
U.S.A  Photo by  P.Lynne Designs

Another Disney layout, this time I centered a photo I took in 2004.  The way I positioned it was to have everything surrounding it was what you could do back in 2004.  I also showed that you do not have to use embellishments to  make a layout work.  I cut up brochures to make a point.  I also took a white pen and made stitching and wrote my journaling in white.




Cards....

I love making cards.  You can save tons of money by making cards.

Photo by P.Lynne Designs
 This is a real simple graduation card.  I folded a card and made a pocket on the inside.  I took a tag from Ranger and EK Success's Grad stickers and place them along the bottom.  I took a big "E" from my stash (which happens to stand for Excellent, The school the student graduated from and his last name) and put it in the middle of the card.  I stuck another EK Success Grad sticker on the top of the card.  I also decorated the card and the envelope the same way.


Photo by P.Lynne Designs
Even though I love Graphic 45 papers, to my regret this is the only card I have in my stash where I used the papers.  I cut the flower out from the Cricut Pagoda Cartridge, placed black ribbon and lace behind the flower.  This is a thank you card.  I did distress the lace up a bit with Tim Holtz's distress inks.

Photo by P.Lynne Designs
The last card I made was a set of papers from Close to my heart.  I wanted to help a friend out and get her business started as a Close to My Heart Rep, so I made these cards for her to place on her blog.  She sent me the packet, which was a Summer 2013 pack, and I these cards, as well as the holder for it.   The circles are popped up for interest.
Thank you Graphic 45 for allowing me to showcase my work.




Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Cricut Explore is in the House

Photo by ProvoCraft
This is a short post.   My Cricut Explore is here.  It arrived yesterday by UPS.  Just in time, because of the following reasons:
  • I was on a 4-day vacation from last Thursday until Monday.  If I was scheduled to come back home yesterday, No telling where my Explore would have gone.
  • I checked my funds Monday, and according to my bank, $59.99 was taken out of my account by HSN via Paypal.  Good thing I had cash with me.
  • I started watching YouTube videos non-stop since Saturday.

So there is no doubt that I will enjoy this new machine.  Now I have three again, and I am going to use them in different ways:
  1. For my Expression 2 machine, I am going to continue to design with Cricut Classroom, especially if the project I am making does not require me to alter much with the cartridges.
  2. With my Explore, I am going to use SVGs, the carts, anything that is allowed with the Cricut Design Space software.  The only thing I do not like about it so far is if my internet service goes down, so does the ability to design with the software.  Other than that, I am excited to try this software.
  3. Now for the elephant in the room, my Imagine.   I do have one thing to say about my Imagine, and Cricut lovers, do not take this the wrong way.  I love my Imagine, and I was very excited when I got the machine (used), I could not wait to use it.  I did not have any problems updating it the first time I got it.   In fact, I updated it two or three times before March 2012.  I have not been able to update since then, but that is OK, because I decided that instead of calling and screaming at ProvoCraft, I will be hooking up my Imagine to Cricut Classroom ever again.   I am OK with that decision.

The way I look at it is this:  Yes, so many people are disappointed with PC, but to me, PC does not hold my tomorrow.  I KNOW who holds my tomorrow, and it is not a man-made company.  This company can go bankrupt any moment now (despite the new machine coming online and hitting the stores for everyone else in April).  I can move on from this.  Yes, I am sad that the Imagine, Gypsy, Cricut Cake, and the baby Cricuts are no longer supported, but that is just the way business, ANY business works.  People change, companies change.  When the Explore was introduced last month, I watched like everyone else, and yes, I did consider the Silhouette Cameo, but I wanted to stick with the same company. 
I looked at pricing (which Cameo did come out ahead slightly than the Explore), subscription price (OK, I have to give a slight edge to ProvoCraft with their deal with HSN/Anna Griffith), and if it supports sending projects to the printer or not (available right now for Cameo, coming later for Explore).  The biggest edge was to have the ability to cut SVG files and to see how the new president of ProvoCraft was going to handle everything.  This is his first project, and I hope when I open the box, read instructions, put it through “Patricia” paces (my cute little saying for seeing how the machine works with me), the machine will live up to the name “Cricut”.  If it does not work out, it is going back on the first train smoking, and I will get a Cameo sooner than later.   

So, if I have the time tonight, I will open the box, but for now, it is protected.   I need to clear some space, and set it up.   I also need to register it (I already downloaded the connector software to Designer Space), and start playing.  I hope that this machine does not become another Imagine that does not have the support after it does not perform up to par with PC’s customers.  I need it to come out of the box and do its thing, just like the Expression 2 did when I first took it out of the box. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

An update to the last post and a cute little heart you will love to make…

Photo by Update-directory.net
OK, now that all the crafting negativity is out of my life, I can make a decision that I know that some people will not like, but I know deep down I made the right one for me and my readers.  I decided to go ahead and buy the Cricut Explore, but first I had to make sure this was the right decision.  I had finished watching most of the YouTube videos on the machine, and now it was the matter of money and timing.  I had not used my Cricut Expression 2 machine in 4 months, partly because I had lost my power chord when I remodeled, and I really was not in a crafting mood.  I made Christmas cards, but I made a very simple, non-die cut card, which was a departure for me.  True be told, everyone was starting to say that Christmastime was the one time of the year that a Cricut (either my Expression 1, baby bug, Expression 2, or Imagine) was always attached to my hip.  It had been 6 months since I used my Imagine. Then I prayed, because this is what I do when I come into a decision I needed to make, no matter how small it was.
So, midnight came, and like everyone else who made the decision to buy one, I watched the presentation.  You know what?  HSN (Home Shopping Network) always have the heavy hitters out for a premier event, because they want to make sure that they can tell you why you need it.  Well buddy boy, I had already made that decision BEFORE you ever started talking.  So, I am not that type of person.   Cricut was having a party, and the guest of honor, besides the machine itself was Designer Anna Griffith.  She had partnered with ProvoCraft on some design cuts exclusively for anyone who is going to buy the machine.   Now for the PSA:  host announces how many they have left in stock, and I have not looked on my computer yet, I was just watching the presentation.
Next, they threw in the hook (you know they always need a hook.).  A 3-month free subscription to their SVG files.  Even though you do not need it, because you can cut out any SVG files on the internet, they decided to throw it in anyway.  Now it is down to fewer than 1,000 machines, and I am still watching.   I finally ordered when they were down to 500 machines, and I saw a cute rosette on the wall.  Welcome, home décor, come to mama!!!  So click, click, click I went on the keyboard and mouse, making sure that I have my account pulled up, and that all of my info is correct from the last time I ordered something (E2).
Did you know you can link up your Paypal account to HSN now?  Great option for anyone with one, and take the flexpay option, which I did.  Now, all I have to do is wait on my paycheck to hit today, and I am set.   The machine arrives on March 18th.  I will have a review shortly after I get it.  In the meantime, enjoy
this cute little heart for Valentine’s Day.

Monday, January 27, 2014

In Preparation for a New Machine…

Explore vs. Cameo.  Photos from Google images
Hello, this is a quick little note as a follow-up to my last post.   I have decided that I have been in the dark too long, and since I had one little problem with my Cricut machines, I decided that I am going to get this new thing after I see it at launch on HSN.   I just love the idea of doing SVG files, which brings me to an explanation on why I did not choose the Cameo.  Hold on to your hats, folks, did I say that I was going to buy it on launch preview day?  You have to read between the lines, because I only have seen what everyone else has seen of this little demo on You Tube, and anything else that head honchos at ProvoCraft (PC) have allows them to show.  I still have to do a comparison between the two, a pros and cons analysis of the situation.  I cannot just go by my gut feeling.  Without knowing much about the Silhouette Cameo and too much about the ProvoCraft Cricut line (a pro and con within itself), I have to take me out of it for a minute.  Yes, it will be MY machine, and I have to be happy with what I buy, but on the other hand, I want it to be long lasting, get great support 2-3 years down the road, and I can use it for anything without limitations (other than copyright issues).  So the first thing I have to do in order to prepare for purchasing either machine (I am not rich enough to buy both, besides that, isn't that hoarding?), is to see what I have in inventory.  I enlisted the help of MS Excel and Access for that.  I listed all of my cartridges, what type they are, what current and future machines that can work them. (This is I have and planning to buy-not the whole fleet, which excludes baby, E1, Create, Cake, and Mini).  I also listed Cricut Classroom and Cricut Space, the new one.
You should do that for anything that you do in papercrafting.  You should see what you have in generic stuff.  You all have seen them, the video of a person’s craft room.  Looks beautiful, right?  Until you see that she has 20 rolls of Scor-tape, and all of them are ¼” rolls.  No variety at all.  What is she storing them for?  A nuclear blast?  Armageddon?  The closing of a scrapbook store?  A person should not have no more than two rolls at a time, and that is only if you are doing a big project, or you 20 rolls are of different widths, and you are about ready to run out with the current roll.  OK?       
(Ok, as usual, I got a little sidetracked.  I have been watching way too many YT scraproom makeovers lately).  Shall we move on…?
Anyway, if it wasn't for PC and their way of thinking about a potential new feature after the fact on their current machines, they could have been a great competitor for the Cameo.  Nope, they had to get lawsuits out of the way first.  That is called, “playing nice with the neighborhood children (Sure Cuts Alot and the make the Cut software). 
I am on a couple of Cricut Yahoogroups, and a couple of the ladies on one group thinks that PC is a little late in the game to have a machine that cuts SVGs.  I happen to agree, and I am also putting that as a con on PC’s side.  What I am also putting as a con is PC customer service and support for the last 4 years when it comes to Imagine.  You cannot make a person pay $599 at launch preview date, have all kinds of problems with the machine, give up, and cut people off at the knees when they need help.  The same goes for Gypsy (the little handheld that allows you to design a page, and hook it up to your cricut and then with a touch of a button, it tells the machine to cut.); and the Cricut Cake line (allows cake designers to make all sorts of fondant designs by cutting it with a FDA, food-safe Cricut Machine).  They have also let go of key people who customers have grown to love.
The Pros of getting an Explore is something new (the idea of cutting with cartridges AND SVG files appeals to me), and maybe the price (6 flex pays if I buy on HSN, and I have an account, and I get the machine right away).
The only 2 cons I see to the Cameo is it will be a learning curve for me, but I am a fast learner.  Giving up on being an all Cricut owner would be another, but I can adapt.    The Pro of owning a Cameo would be that it is a tried and true machine, and the owners have not had too many complaints that I have heard of. 
So I have less than a month to decide what to do.  I have finished my research, prep my inventory, and check the finances, and I am ready.

So that concludes this segment.  Be blessed my friend, and make something.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Technic Thursday: Cricut Explore

photo by Capadia Designs
It has been quite a while since I have done a review on the Cricut machines, and I realize that I am still getting hits on my article on Hubpages, and there has been lots of changes in the Cricut camp (namely ProvoCraft) since I published it.  For instance, Cricut Imagine has had its issues (such as long software updates), and PC has decided to no longer make it and support it.  This makes it the biggest and the heaviest paperweight I have ever owned.  No love for the Gypsy or Design Studio either.  PC has even replaced beloved key people (like Jinger Adams) with people who could care less if you are happy sending that third machine back to them or not.  People were mad, furious, and they started to gravitate towards the Silhouette Cameo, making it the star of the electronic die cutting world.
Who would blame them?  I, myself started thinking about doing the same thing.  In October 2013, I did a little updating to my condo, by adding new carpet and painti
ng the walls downstairs and my upstairs hallway.  I had to move everything out to do it.  In the process, I lost two major cords; the cord to my musical keyboard (it takes ‘D’ batteries) and the cord to my Cricut Expression 2.  I know, tragic.  It was either upgrade to the Cameo or replace the cord.  I replaced the cord, but I am still thinking about replacing the CI with the Cameo.  That is, until I heard about the new Cricut Explore this week.
I am partial to the Cricut line, so much until I gave a friend of mine the Cricut Expression 1, and I have not looked back.  She loves it.  So what makes this new machine so special that it would make a former Cricut user switch back? We will have to wait and see.  
Photo by Cricut.com
Cricut Explore is being claimed as the easiest design and cut system in the world, according to PC.  You can go from a design in progress to a complete design in just a few clicks (so yes, you will need a computer for it).  This new machine does it all:  It cuts, embosses, it allows you to design with brand new software called Space.  You can cut with the cartridge you already own and will get in the future, and it draws. (Unlike the Imagine which just prints and cuts.)  The main complaint that customer have had in the past with PC was not being able to use SVG file with the machine.  The good news is, with the new machine, you can without buying the special software that PC sued other companies about in the past.  You can even use it with your Ipad and other tablet computers.
Like a kid in a candy store, I cannot wait to try it.  It is supposed to debut on HSN (Home Shopping Network) in Mid-February, stores in March.  Like everyone else who have had problems with their current machines and with customer support on those machines, it is a wait and see for me. I need to see this thing in action.  So it is one thing to have this thing become Cameo’s main competitor, it is another to have this machine work for you on day one.   If I get it on launch day, it will be with HSN’s flexpay.

When I get my new machine, I will do a review on it for those of you on the fence by the time it launches on HSN.  In the meantime, I will once again play with my other two (I can get by without updating the Imagine if I need to cut and print).  And you stay safe and warm in this frigid weather.  Be blessed, my friend, and create something wonderful.