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Company Feature and Giveaway: Spellbinders

Disclosure

Founded in 2003 by Stacey and Jeff Caron, Spellbinders is a leading innovator in manual die cutting tools.

An avid crafter, Stacey noticed the lack of detail in the dies available for paper crafting.  She decided to change her longtime passion for paper crafting and her vision of exquisitely detailed and sophisticated dies into a business.  In 2003, Stacey and her husband, Jeff,  invested everything, including their life savings, into the business.  Together, they decided to create a universal die-cut system with die templates that are the most detailed on the market.

The first 2,500 Wizard™ die cutting and embossing machines and 10,000 dies were hand made.  They were known as Geometrics and are the inspiration of the famously popular line of Spellbinders™ Nestabilities®.  From the start, Stacey committed to bring the best possible dies to market, offering good value at a fair price.   There are no other dies on the market that offer the intricate, sophisticated details that Spellbinders offers.

Spellbinders’ mission is to develop and provide exquisitely detailed, quality craft products that offer value and versatility.  The goal is to design crafting products that cut, emboss and stencil to inspire the creation of beautiful, professional projects.  Equally important are Stacey’s core values of providing opportunity and fostering innovation through partnerships and working together in harmony.

Spellbinders has partnered with companies and licensed designers that are endorsed and approved to develop products that coordinate with Spellbinders’ patented die templates.  Stacey has partnered with and mentored a number of small and start-up companies, providing business guidance and sharing her vision.  Through these partnerships Spellbinders continues to strengthen the crafts community.  The synergy between the companies allows customers to understand the unlimited creativity together they can provide for inspirational crafting.

What makes Spellbinders unique is unlike any other company in the crafts industry, Stacey sponsors her design team, bringing them to Phoenix, and educating them in the company culture and the Spellbinders brand. This process has empowered the design team, which is key in today’s social media network, to become knowledgeable Spellbinders ambassadors for creative and inspirational use of all Spellbinders’ products.

Those interested in becoming a Spellbinders Design Team Member must submit projects and write an essay on why they want to be a Spellbinders Design Team member.  There a two rounds of project submissions. Call for Design Team members is announced the beginning January every year.  New Design Team members for the year join the team in April.

Among the most popular products Spellbinders carries are their Spellbinders™ Nestabilities®.  These delicate dies cut and emboss and are sold in nested sets of multiple sizes.  Visit the Spellbinders website to see the full collection of dies.

Most intriguing from Spellbinders are the new Edgeability Dies.  These new dies create delicate edges for your projects as well as intricate designs. Each set comes with an edge and two designs that can be mixed and matched to create different looks.


You can purchase Spellbinders products from their Website, or your local craft store.

Follow Spellbinders on Twitter.

Like Spellbinders on Facebook.

Be inspired by Spellbinders on their blog.

View a collection of “How-To” videos for Spellbinders Products.

Read reviews of Spellbinders products on Craft Critique.

One of our lucky readers will win a set of Edgeability dies.  Just leave a comment and let us know if you have used Spellbinders dies yet, and which designs are inspiring to you!

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CHA Summer 2011 | Silhouette America

With the long list of electronic die cutting machines on the market, it takes something truly amazing to grab people’s attention these days. Well, Silhouette America may have done just that. Like the Silhouette SD, their new Silhouette Cameo offers the ability to cut a wide variety of media from cardstock to fabric, create and cut your own designs, and use all your existing fonts. Oh and did I mention it is 12″ wide!?! This new machine will not be available until October and will be $299.99 MSRP.

Their new Fabric inks kits come with everything you need to get started inking up fabrics and clothes. The inks are also sold separately and come in ten colors. They can be mixed to create different shades and colors as well.

They’ve also added some colors to their existing palette of colors available in their premium and adhesive vinyls.

And their Heat Transfer kit makes transferring your images to clothing so simple. They have flocked as well as smooth materials sold separately. There’s even a printable heat transfer material!
We can’t wait to put this new machine to the Craft Critique test. What are your first impressions? Might this replace your current machine? Do you use their other materials like vinyl or heat transfer?
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CHA Summer 2011 | Sizzix Quilts

People are starting to catch on to the technique of using die cutting with fabric to make quilts. At CHA, we saw these marvelous examples of die cut quilts at the Sizzix booth.

Die cutting fabrics is an amazing innovation for quilting.
Sewing quilt blocks is really easy when all the cuts are accurate. Nothing cuts more accurately than a die cutting machine!
We were really excited to hear that Sizzix plans to expand their collection of Bigz Dies designed especially for quilting.

With more dies, the Big Shot will be an indispensable quilting tool, just like the rotary cutter!
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CHA Summer 2011 | ProvoCraft Cricut Mini and More

The newest member of the Cricut family is the Cricut Mini. Provocraft’s Cricut Mini is a small, lightweight, ultra-portable way to make almost anything you want – out of many different types of materials, including thick and thin paper, fabric, vinyl, magnetic material, craft foil, and lots more. With Cricut Mini, it’s easier than ever to make projects and be more creative!

This small, portable, and lightweight machine is a great space saver. It works with any computer PC or Mac with a standard wireless or wired Internet connection. Simply plug it in, turn it on, connect to Cricut Craft Room – the online design tool where you can see and design with every Cricut cartridge – and start making projects. It cuts up to 8.5” x 12” paper and other materials. Cut small shapes and fonts from ¼” to larger cuts up to 11½”.
Here’s a little video walk through of this hot new little machine…

Also in the Provocraft booth at the show was Jinger leading attendees through Cricut classes right on the showroom floor.

There are also plenty of new cartridges for your Cricut machines, like these boxes. Extremely cute!

Plus, there are cupcake inserts. Anything that is cupcake compatible is good in my book.

Plus cool new flower cartridges.

And a really cute new cartridge for the Cricut Imagine that will please your little pirates:

And if you are a fan of space (and who isn’t?!), you’re in luck with robots, space ships, and planets in this new cartridge.

And a gorgeous frame cartridge that is sophisticated and delicate.

So, what do you think of what ProvoCraft has in store for you? What do you think of the new Cricut Mini? What cartridges do you hope they come out with next?

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Vendor Spotlight & Giveaway!: Sizzix eClips

I am a total die cut junkie – my introduction to papercrafting came by way of an electronic die-cutting machine given to me as a gift nearly 5 years ago. Needless to say it has taken hold and not let go. When I had the opportunity to test out the Sizzix eClips machine recently, I was thrilled. I had not seen any others in action besides the one I owned and I was curious.

As you can see the box comes with everything you need to get going right away – the machine, full instructions both in a manual and on DVD, your cords and a cartridge. The eClips is a cartridge based machine which means you can only cut out images from a Sizzix cartridge. Additional cartridges of images can be purchased separately. The directions are easy to understand and I had the machine set up and ready to cut in less than 15 minutes.
The machine is controlled by a handheld part that connects with a cord. I found this to be slightly intimidating but once I began using it I found it to be fairly simple to understand though I DID have to refer to the directions to do it. I am not sure why the handheld portion is separate and everything is not just on the machine, but I did find it comfortable to use.

The handheld controls everything – you put your cartridge in and then pick your images on the handheld like you see above. In addition, you can set the paper size AND pick the type of material you will be cutting. This feature is actually pretty amazing. No guesswork when cutting a wide range of materials as it is all pre-set for you. The list includes:

  • cardstock – light
  • cardstock – medium
  • cardstock – heavy
  • construction paper
  • vellum
  • adhesive sheets
  • vinyl
  • light chipboard
  • foam
  • shrink plastic
  • can also be set manually

The paper sizes are also pre-set to some of the most common sizes like 12″ x 12″, 8.5″ x 11″, 8″x8″, 6″ x 6″, 12″ x 24″, A4 as well as having the option to pick your own size OR have the machine determine the size with the laser – very handy when using up scraps but you want the machine to know when it is at the edge of the paper and needs to start a new line of cuts.

Shapes are chosen from the handheld device right on screen from the cartridge that is inserted. Each image can be sized independently which is a big advantage. Scrolling through images and choosing features is quick and easy.
Here you can see the Shadow feature is highlighted and on screen you see the image is now the shadow one.

You can also move the blade around to begin your cut anywhere on the paper with buttons on the handheld. I had a few different items to cut so I put squares of all of the colors on the 12″ x 12″ mat at the same time.
This way I can maneuver to each color, cut what I need and then move on to the next color without having to unload and re-load my mat.

Here is a layered flower I cut from cardstock – the cardstock medium setting worked perfectly for both Stampin’ Up! and Papertrey Ink cardstocks. Layering is incredibly easy with the eClips. Simply choose the layer feature and you can choose which layers to cut or you can cut them all. This is nice when you want to do layer pieces in several different colors.

I tried several other materials in the eClips. The red portion of the rose is Spellbinders Craft Foil; the stem/base layer is cut from a cereal box. Both of these materials cut like a dream.

I also tried the clear plastic packaging from Sizzix embossing folders and it cut cleanly and completely through.
I inked the edges of my cardstock layers for definition before layering. I also gave the green center a coating of Distress Stickles.

I played around with several more cuts from the an additional cartridge – Flowers & Phrases to make a get well gift bag:
One of my favorite things to do with layers of die cuts is to cover them in glitter – here I used Glossy Accents and then covered the flower centers and wording with Martha Stewart Glitter.

As I mentioned, I also cut out a sun from the plastic packaging of an embossing folder and then I covered the layers with alcohol inks:
I added some great texture to the sun’s center with a Sizzix Embossing folder.

I used the Craft Foil & chipboard rose for a simple little tag:


The eClips also includes features on the handheld that enable you to fill a page with an image, cut a mirror image, fit to page and cut one shape inside of another one. You can also load/unload the paper, search the shapes on a cartridge, and load the cutting blade to the last point you cut.

Pros:

  • Incredibly easy to set up and use
  • Cuts cleanly through many different materials with pre-set depth and speed functions.
  • The handheld interface makes choosing, manipulating and cutting your images fast and easy
  • Cartridges are less expensive than some.

Cons:

  • This is a strictly cartridge based system – this is a con for some and not for others.
  • The cartridge selection is fairly limited compared to some and each cartridge has a limited number of shapes.
  • I was unable to find cartridges or other related items in my local craft stores

GIVEAWAY!

It’s Sizzix Week at Craft Critique! Our friends at Sizzix have graciously provided some of their products for us to giveaway to our very lucky readers. We have a Big Shot and an eClips to give away, both of which you’ve read about this week. Just answer the following question to be entered in the giveaway:

Have you used an electronic die cutting machine? Which one(s)? What about the eClips by Sizzix appeals to you?

One comment, per person, per Sizzix article, please. Winners will be selected on Saturday, July 16, 2011.
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Vendor Spotlight & GIVEAWAY!: Sizzix eClips Electronic Shape Cutting Machine

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Ever since this winter’s CHA, the scrapbooking world has been buzzing about the debut of the Sizzix eClips Electronic Shape Cutting Machine.  I can tell you:  I was waiting for it to be released, too.  Even though I am anything BUT a scrapbooker.

Then why would I want it?

Well, the eClips cuts fabric and materials other than your standard scrapbooking fare.  Craft foils (different thicknesses even) and chipboard?  Yep.  Vinyl?  Yep!

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The starter kit comes with one machine, 2 blades, the handheld unit, cradle for the handheld unit, starter cartridge with booklet, software update, 12×12 cutting mat and user manual.  Note the small purple cable – it’s a mini-USB cable that you’ll need to do the software update; it’s not included.

The eClips boasts 700 grams of pressure and adjustable blade speeds/pressures so you can power through most anything.  I was able to stump it, but I had to really try!  🙂  In fact, the only things I could not get it to cut are craft foam (though it scored it nicely!), thick felt, and corrugated cardboard.

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One of the best features of the eClips is the Handheld Remote Control.  It slides open to reveal a full keyboard, adding to the ability to completely customize your designs.  The display is large and easy  to read.  There is a very slight delay once you select a design, but it is minimal and you get used to it quickly.  You also input into the unit what kind of material you are cutting and it sets everything automatically for you.  All you have to do is adjust the blade thickness right on the blade cartridge.  Easy peasy!

It really is to use.  Right out of the box.  To show how really easy it is to use:  here is a video I’ve put together while drinking my morning coffee showing how to use the eClips from start to finish (and let me just say that crafts before coffee is usually not a good idea around here!)

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First I cut a little sign from vinyl for my front door sidelights.  Admittedly, I hate how this came out.  The font is just too silly for something so serious.  A more neutral font would have been great to include in the “Starter” cartridge versus the Rockin’ Janey font.  It’s just hard to read when cut this small.

Here is a screenshot of the designs on the “Starter” cartridge included with the eClips.  Cute, right? 6a00e54ef8884488340120a7ffb1bf970b-800wi

Next, I put the eClips to my “REAL” test.  Fabric is always on my mind, so naturally this was the MAIN reason why I wanted to use this machine.  It works!  I suggest slowing the machine down one more notch than the “preset” to prevent any tearing at sharp inside corners.

To cut fabric, press it really well with the addition of spray starch, and apply your favorite fusible web.  I tried a few different brands, all with the same level of success.  The key is to starch it, and slow it down a bit more.

Here I cut out a Birthday Cupcake and a pair of ties.  Note that I cut the cupcake pieces from different scrap fabrics.  It was really easy to do, so don’t worry!  The ties are actually an “embellishment” for the sweet teddy bear, but since you can cut anything within the design card at any size, it doesn’t matter!
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My daughter decided I had made a “Flying Cupcake” no matter what I told her!

I fused the shapes onto cheap $1Store cotton tshirts, zigzagged around the edges and my kids had cute customized shirts within about 30 minutes total.  From initial eClips cutting to snipping the threads.  That’s awesome, right?!
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That same afternoon, I whipped out a receiving blanket and coordinating burpcloths for an unexpected early arrival.  Of course, I was in such a rush to deliver them that I didn’t get a picture of them!
IMG_0609Lastly, a birthday surprise for my darling husband!  I don’t normally decorate for birthdays around here – but I just knew once I found that the eClips did so well with fabric that I had to make a bunting of some kind.  The Mister had been having lots of late night meetings the week of his birthday, so while he was out one night, I whipped this CELEBRATE bunting up with scraps and it took about 2 hours total.  He really loved it and said it made his day!

Pros:

  • IT WORKS!
  • Handheld remote design center
  • Cuts a wide variety of materials
  • Laser Cut Preview
  • Speed control, pressure control, depth control – all to ensure you can cut just about anything!
  • It will also draw with a pen (holder required) and score certain designs.

Cons:

  • Cost of cartridges ($39 – $89 each)
  • No option to connect eClips to the computer so you can design/cut from there if desired (there are rumors something is coming soon, but nothing concrete as of today)
    • I’d like the computer connection so I could download only the designs I need immediately and to be able to use my fonts.
  • Some of the designs have details that are cut before outlines are cut.  If the extra details are not desired and are cut afterward, you can cancel the cut at the desired place and be done.

GIVEAWAY!

It’s Sizzix Week at Craft Critique! Our friends at Sizzix have graciously provided some of their products for us to giveaway to our very lucky readers. We have a Big Shot and an eClips to give away, both of which you’ve read about this week. Just answer the following question to be entered in the giveaway:
Have you had a chance to see an eClips in action before?  What feature do you think you would like the most or would be most useful?
 
One comment, per person, per Sizzix article, please. Winners will be selected on Saturday, July 16, 2011.
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Vendor Spotlight & GIVEAWAY!: Sizzix Big Shot

I was pleased to have the chance to test out the traditional die cutter, Big Shot by Sizzix and some of the Westminster Fabric dies which are specially designed for fabric and quilting. There is nothing that compares to a die cutter when one needs to dependably cut a large amount of shapes that are exactly sized and shaped.

I received the Big Shot Machine, which will cut with dies up to 6 inches wide. The package includes two clear Standard Cutting Pads, and the Multipurpose Platform which is used to accommodate various specialty dies like Sizzix Texturz, Embosslits, Clearlits, and Textured Impressions, or any product offered by Sizzix. The Big Shot is sturdy and with the crank on the side (instead of a lever that swings across the top) the Big Shot stores easily. The handle makes it convenient to move around to various workstations.


I also received three Westminster Fibers Dies: 2 1/2 Inch Hexagons, Plain Leaves, and 5 Inch Half-Square Triangles. Dies are most useful for fabric when they are simple shapes with gentle angles and curves. Anyone who is going to be sewing with their die cut shapes will need to quickly make a large pile of cutouts. The best tool for this job is a die cutting machine.

The 2 1/2 Inch Hexagons die cuts four hexagons at a time. The first thing I thought to try with this die was English Paper Piecing which is a hand sewing technique that stabilizes fabric around a paper template. Generally, one has to purchase the paper templates from quilt shops or other sources. With my own die, I can cut piles and piles of them and maybe even achieve my very own handsewn Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt.

Holy Moley! I can’t wait! Okay, before I get ahead of myself, I’ll just try making one flower. I die cut a pile of 2 1/2 inch hexagons, and in the Big Shot, I was able to cut several layers of paper at a time. Next I used scissors to cut fabric pieces about 1/4 inch larger than the paper template and pinned the paper to the center of the fabric piece:

Now I baste the fabric around the paper. You really only need a few stitches to hold it together. I’ll need seven basted hexagons to achieve one flower. When they are all basted, I whip stitch the hexagons right sides together:

I forgot how much I love handstitching! In just a short time, I stitched a whole flower and a border around it. This is the underside before I finished the whole block. When a hexagon is totally surrounded, you can remove the basting and use the paper for another fabric hexagon. I started die cutting any scrap paper that entered my house, especially my daughter’s finished and graded school papers.

I’m telling you, I really got addicted to this and I started making calculations for a whole queen-sized bed quilt. My friends in my craft club recommended I try die cutting freezer paper hexagons and skip the basting altogether. Freezer paper worked great! I made about 45 hexagon flowers before I realized I was going to have to set this aside and try out the other Westminster Fiber dies. I know I never would have tried out this traditional technique if I didn’t have this terrific die from Sizzix.

Sizzix sells Bigz Hexagon dies in 4 different sizes, so if these are too large for you, there are several other options.

I got so excited about those hexagons, I forgot to show you how to actually use the Big Shot with Bigz dies. Bigz dies are 6 inches wide. You can use any other Sizzix product in the Big Shot, as long as it is not wider than 6 inches. When die cutting with the Big Shot and a Bigz die, sandwich the die and your fabric, paper, felt, or other material, face up between the two sheets of plexiglass.

I’m using 2 layers of felt here and the Plain Leaves die which cuts 8 simple leaves of various sizes. The largest leaf is about 3.5 inches long and 1.5 inches wide. The smallest is the same proportion at just 1.5 inches long. With the Big Shot, you can cut several layers of material at a time. If you pack in too much, you will not be able to pass it through the Big Shot.With a die cutting machine you can get large piles of perfect shapes in a flash. I cut a nice selection of felt leaves. There is very little waste of my precious wool blend felt using this die.

Felt is awesome and the Big Shot cuts it just like butter. For my project, I’m going to also cut some leaves from fabric and iron-on fusible webbing. Lickety-split, I have a pretty pile of fabric leaves exactly the same size as the felt I just cut.

I ironed fusible web backed fabric leaves to felt with floral wire between to make this leafy fabric sprig. I can make a lot of these and make them into a wreath, or this would make a nice bow for a special wrapped package

Bigz dies can also cut aluminum cans!

I backed my tin with sticky foam to soften the edges and make it easier to craft with.


My daughter loves her new hairclip made with a plain leaf and some circles from another Sizzix Originals die I already own. Don’t fret! My Sizzix dies still work like a charm on felt and fabric even after cutting paper or aluminum.

People who already own a Big Shot and are ready to try quilting will want to try out the 5 Inch Half Square Triangle die. The 5 inch measurement is unfinished. Your sewn square will measure 4 1/8 inches in a finished quilt block, depending on the size of your seam allowance and how aggressively you iron your block open.

I cut strips of fabric about 6 inches wide. I’m going to stick with reds and whites in this project, so each time I made a cut, I layered a red strip right sides together with a white strip so the units would all be matched up and ready for the sewing machine.

I was able to cut about 6 to 8 layers of fabric at a time, but if I loaded too much, bits of fabric and fuzz stuck in the corners of the die. Occasionally, there were threads along the outside that didn’t cut, but this was not a problem as I was able to cut them quickly with my seam ripper.

I settled into a rhythm of 4 layers at a time. With the long strips of fabric, I could conserve by making my cut, then sliding the die to the next area and cutting again. I had very little waste.

So many triangles! My grandma would be pleased to see me using the fabric she bequeathed me from her sizable stash. Be careful handling these triangles because the diagonal edge is the stretchy bias and you don’t want to end up sewing a bunch of wonky squares. The other method of cutting half square triangles would be with a rotary cutter, mat, and ruler. I am not sure if this method is faster, but it certainly is more precise.

Crafters with a Big Shot who want to dabble in quilting can make a whole quilt with just this die and no investment in a rotary cutter, mat, and ruler. You don’t even need a good pair of fabric scissors if you use these quilting dies.

Just stitch up the diagonal of each set keeping an accurate 1/4 inch seam.

There are so many pleasing possibilities with Half Square Triangle units!

I settled on this setting which measures about 33 inches square and uses 64 Half Square Triangle units. You may keep a slightly different 1/4 inch seam allowance than I do so your finished top may have a slightly different measurement.

Pros:
  • Portable, durable, dependable, affordable.
  • Doesn’t require electricity, sticky mats that lose their stickiness, or computer programming.
  • Cuts a wide variety of materials interchangeably. Obviously, use discretion when choosing what to cut and don’t overload the dies. If a material doesn’t cut with scissors, it isn’t likely to cut with the Big Shot.
  • Useful selection of dies available for quilt making, felt craft, and fabric.
  • Westminster Fiber dies are well designed to make effective use of a fabric supply with little wasted fabric.
  • Nothing compares to a traditional die cutter like this when a large supply of shaped cutouts is desired.
  • New quilters can design a whole quilt using just one of the Westminster Fiber Bigz dies with no investment in many of the traditionally necessary tools for quilt making.
Cons:
  • Shapes are not customizable
  • Bigz dies are thick, so a collection of them will take up space in the craft closet.
  • Dies are labeled on the side. It would be helpful if they also had an image of the shape on the top of the die.
  • It is not necessarily quicker to cut all the pieces of a quilt with the Big Shot, but the accuracy and precision cannot be beat.

 

GIVEAWAY!
It’s Sizzix Week at Craft Critique! Our friends at Sizzix have graciously provided some of their products for us to giveaway to our very lucky readers. We have a Big Shot and an eClips to give away, both of which you can read about in upcoming reviews. Just answer the following question to be entered in the giveaway:Do you own a die cutting machine? Which one(s)? What crafts would you use the Big Shot for?

One comment, per person, per Sizzix article, please. Winners will be selected on Saturday, July 16, 2011.

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