Author Archive | Jenny Barnett Rohrs

Vendor Spotlight & GIVEAWAY: Xyron Creatopia (article 3 of 6)

Reported by Jenny Barnett Rohrs

When I first heard about the Xyron Creatopia at CHA last year, I was really intrigued. A machine that could apply adhesive, die cut, and rotary cut? Wow. And then I was offered the chance to review the Creatopia and try it out for myself.

I’m going to preface the rest of my review by saying that I’m approaching my evaluation of the Xyron Creatopia as a quilter/fabric artist- there will be other reviewers who approach the machine as paper crafters.

So let me first tell you what it does really well. Xyron is known for it’s adhesive and lamination, and as far as the Creatopia is concerned, it continues to do that flawlessly. I tried the fabric adhesive on cottons, batiks, felts, and foams, and the machine applied a wonderful adhesive easily.
I applied the fabric adhesive to these batiks. The adhesive is REALLY sticky when you remove it from the backing paper, and it likes to stick to itself- so be careful! After die-cutting my shapes (more on that in a minute) I stuck them to a baby snapsuit and free-motion appliqued it. I was so impressed that my needle glided through the adhesive without gumming up my needle whatsoever!
I absolutely LOVE the fabric adhesive in the Xyron Creatopia, and it’s my go-to adhesive for my small fabric arts projects from now on!

After prepping additional fabrics, I thought I’d try swapping out the cartridge for the die-cut insert known as the Xyron “Shapez.” This ingenious little insert allows you to take out both the adhesive cartridge and the rollers, and drop in a manual die-cutting machine! The cuts has a span of 6 1/2 inches wide and will accept all dies- even Sizzex Bigz!

Now, I’m going to pause a moment and tell you that the first time I had to take out the rollers I did not have an easy time. The instructions are vague, and I struggled with the Positioning Arm trying to get it unlocked and moved into the right position. I kept worrying that I was going to break it. But then I found this handy-dandy video on YouTube, (Bless you, Xyron people!) and I felt more confident after watching it.

So once I got the Shapez installed, I really went to town trying out ALL of my dies! It cut like butter using the Cuttlebug dies, Sizzix dies, and Bigz dies.

There was a little snagging with my Nestabilities dies, but I solved that my adding a “shim” of the thinnest Foamies sheets.

I got so excited that I immediately had to make something with my fabric sticky-backed shapes– so I stuck them right on a stamped tag and made an art tag:

The fabric adhesive is sticky enough to attach well to the cardstock, too!

Now, again, I ran into one annoying part of the Creatopia- the crank handle, which flips up, occasionally did so while I was trying to die-cut. Usually this happened when I was having to man-handle the machine while running a big chunky die through the Xyron. Another thing to note is the sheer weight of the Shapez insert- it easily weighs 7-9 pounds- so if you have problems lifting, this may be a challenge for you. These factors aren’t enough to make me avoid using the Shapez insert, but it IS something to be aware of.

I had such a fun time with the fabric-backed die cut shapes that I had to sit down at my sewing machine immediately and applique the snapsuit I mentioned above, as well as this fabric postcard!
So now on the last component I was given to try- the Cutz.

Don’t hate me, but I’m going to be honest about this…I really didn’t like it at all.

The first reason I have for this conclusion was installing it. It was difficult to get installed into the Creatopia base, and geez-oh-petes it’s HEAVY. Like 10 pounds heavy. I could quit my gym and just lift this instead! And while I was impressed by the amazing array of cutting wheels (like rotary cutters in a plastic cartridge), getting them to snap onto the rails was also challenging. Even after watching the video, I still had problems getting the tab to “snap” and securely lock into the rails.

Finally, when I got it set up and cutting paper, I tried sliding though quilters’ cotton. No go. It cut only intermittently. Next I fused some freezer paper to the backside of some cotton and tried again:
See those ragged threads? Yeah, me too. It was at this point I decided that I’d just stick with my trusty rotary cutter for fabric projects.

Now, as a fabric artist, I often used Pellon or Peltex, as a stabilizer for fabric postcards, and it cut that very well:

I also tried the Cutz with paper with some mixed results- it worked great on cardstock (after fussing with the rollers), foamie sheets, cardboard, and cork. However, on thin papers, like sheet music, it didn’t work as well. But like I said at the beginning of this review, I’m really narrowing my focus to fabric items, and it’s not my favorite for that.

All in all, it’s a great tool for a fabric artist. The fabric adhesive is awesome, and the ability to swap out inserts and use it as a die cutter will tickle most quilters. It DOES have a huge footprint, so you need a bit of room. But if you’ve never had a Xyron before and want to take the plunge, this is the one to have.


  • Base unit is reasonable (about $150)
  • Ability to have 3 machines in one is fabulous for the cross-over multi-crafter.
  • YouTube videos really help the learning curve with installing the components.
  • Adhesives are wonderful.
  • Shapez big enough to accommodate all dies.


  • Large footprint (14″ x 22″)
  • Written directions aren’t great.
  • Shapes and Cutz components are heavy.
  • Everything is BIG- the cartridges, etc, and you need storage for it all.
  • Handle can flip up while cranking.

$149.99, adhesive and laminate refills $39.99, Cutz insert $44.99, Cutz cartridges $14.99

One of our lucky readers is going to win a Creatopia of their very own… tell us what whiz bang ideas you have for the Creatopia, and you’ll be entered to win! One comment per person, per Vendor Spotlight: Xyron Creatopia article (this is 3 of 6), please. Winner will be randomly chosen on Saturday, June 26th.


Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

X-Acto Swivel Designer Series Craft Blade

Reported by Jenny Barnett Rohrs

I have a love/hate relationship with craft blades. Every crafter needs one- or a few- but sometimes they are tricky to work with. Either they are uncomfortable to hold, or it’s difficult to change the blade without nicking yourself, or they are just unwieldy it’s hard to make delicate cuts. And I have to admit, the only swivel blade I’ve ever owned is languishing in the bottom of a drawer, unused and unloved.

So I needed to be really “sold” on the X-Acto Swivel Craft Knife (Designer Series). And I think I was!

First impressions out of the package is that the handle is really large- maybe overly so- but as I began to experiment with it, I found that the handle is very ergonomic and really an integral part of the tool. Because the blade swivels, you have to keep a really good grip on the handle, and the Designer Series version enables you to do this without excessive hand fatigue. So far, so good!

For my cutting tests, I decided to use a heart shape. This shape incorporates some interior points, some exterior points, and curves; good to really test drive the blade. I also used an old self-healing cutting mat underneath (that probably goes without saying, but just to be clear).

First up- old sheet music. It’s so old it’s a little brittle.

Result? Smooth as butter. No tearing at all in the inside or outside points. Nice.

Next up: Copy-weight paper.

Also worked well. Good maneuverability in the interior and exterior points. No tearing or drag.
So next I moved up to cardstock:

It was a little harder to control the blade on this one- I found I had to grip the handle more firmly and let the blade to the work, which it did. I had to fight the urge to twist the handle the way I do with a straight blade. Some drag in the points, but the cut is still clean.

The next example I just tried wavy lines on lightweight paper. Not surprisingly, large waves were the easiest, small waves more challenging…and zig-zags were tough. Not recommended for that!

So then I got the bright idea to try fabric. I prepped the fabric with some paper-backed iron-on webbing.
And then I cut a heart & a scalloped frame. The X-Acto Designer Series Swivel Blade actually did an amazing job. No loose threads, minimal drag, and I LOVE the idea of being able to cut free-shapes and make them into appliques without the use of scissors! This is the most impressive selling point for me!

So, because I’m a practical gal, I also tried out changing the blade (I’m a little dense here, because it took me 15 minutes just to figure out how!). You’ll need to grab the metal collar with your non-dominant hand, then twist the grey tip of the handle towards you. It will loosen the collar and pull out of the handle with the blade still in it.

Tip the collar over to empty out the blade.

Drop a new blade in the bottom of the collar, then insert the collar back into the handle and twist the grey part to tighten it all back up.

So, all in all, I really like this blade. It’s comfortable to hold, works will with different weights of paper and fabric, and gives you the flexibility of making your own shapes without a stencil or ruler. I certainly will be keeping this blade on TOP of my craft desk!

I used the negative and positive shapes in a collage.


  • Ergonomic handle
  • Easy to change blades
  • Works well on different weights of paper/fabric
  • OK price point (between $8-$12 USD)
  • Kinda cute!


  • Cap is not attached, prone to loss
  • Not great for tight turns with thicker cardstock
  • No holder/stand

The X-ACTO Designer Series Craft Swivel Knife is available at

Have you used the X-Acto Swivel knife? Have a comment? We’d love to hear from you!


Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Pearl Pens by Viva-Decor

Reported by Jenny Barnett Rohrs

One of the things I love about CHA is the chance to see new products rolled out before they hit the stores, and Viva-Decor didn’t disappoint last January. I came home with these cool “Pearl Pens” to try out.

These are similar to Tulip Dimensional Fashion paints which you may have seen in stores. These paper and fabric “puffy” paints dry and remain 3-dimensional, and are washable, too.

One of the bonuses of Viva-Decor’s brand is that they have just the right viscosity- thick enough to hold a nice, domed, 1/2 pearl shape, but not so thick that you get those annoying peaks and spikes.

The first thing I tried was making a series of graduated half-rounds:

See how they are perfectly domed? Really awesome. I’ve never gotten these kind of results using the other brand.

I also have to comment on the colors. What is not really that clear in the picture is that you have a nice selection of “plain” glossy finish (like the turquoise blue and red), “pearl” finish (like the yellow, dark green, and purple) and a “metallic” finish (copper, gold and bronze). The metallic and pearl finishes are nicely metallic and have a nice shimmery glow.

For my first project, I decided to try a card, using the dots as an embellishment:

I kind of got carried away! I started with just embellishing the tail….but then adding the little dots was so much fun, I did the whole bird.

It was at this point I noticed that my turquoise paint was a little runnier than the others, and that the color had separated a bit. I got some running when I put the dots too close together.
On the whole, the “plain” colors seemed a bit looser/runnier than the pearls and the metallics.

Check out the dimension in the side view:

The dots really pop nicely off of the surface. When I did get little peaks, I just tapped the table and they leveled right out.

Another bonus: in all 13 colors I tried, not ONE had a gummy nozzled or clogged ONCE during my whole playtime. This is also a big deal, as usually when I’m using a dimensional paint the nozzle gums up and you have to keep a straight pin on hand. No clogging tip = happier crafters!

Next I tried using the Pearl Pens on fabric:

I was really pleased with how they performed on this twill. I just made sure the tip of the nozzle was in contact with the twill before I started squeezing, and those perfect little pearls popped right into place.

The website says that if you let them dry for 24 hours, you can then launder them as along as the temp stays below 86 degrees (I guess that makes it a cold-water wash then!)

Here again is a side view so you can see just how dimensional those big red drops in the eyes are:

For a quick and simple way to add dimension, Pearl Pens are a new fave!


  • Good price point (around $5.95 each) especially when compared to pearl embellishments
  • Washable
  • Good for paper or fabric
  • Nice saturated colors
  • Easy to get good results
  • No noticeable clogging with the nozzle


  • Might be hard to find in a brick-and-morter store as of yet
  • Pricey compared to other dimensional paints
  • Will wrinkle your paper slightly

How do you like to use dimensional paints? We’d love to hear from you!


Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!