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Vendor Spotlight & Giveaway: Sizzix Vagabond By Tim Holtz



Reported by Taylor Usry

I am still counting my lucky stars to have been given the chance to review the amazing Tim Holtz Vagabond die-cutting machine by Sizzix.  I’ve been swooning over this beauty since it hit the market!



The folks at Sizzix were kind enough to include several other goodies with my Vagabond. I received a butterfly die, a set of Sizzlets, and a Little Sizzles mat board pack.  I was all set to get crafty!

Inside the Vagabond package is:

  • the machine itself
  • a set of stickers to decorate it with
  • a pair of standard cutting pads
  • one solo platform
  • one solo shim
I let my daughter help me decorate the Vagabond, which might have been the most exciting thing we’ve ever done.  What a fun little extra to include; it’s a great way to personalize the machine and make it your own.  The actual box that the machine comes in is quite sturdy and looks like a well-traveled suitcase (as the Vagabond is designed to).  The bonus to that?  My daughter now thinks it is her very own authentic explorer’s suitcase.  I’m good with that!

The Solo Shim is a thin piece of plastic that fits securely on top of the Solo Platform.  They both measure about 6 1/4″ x 13″ and are to be used when cutting a Sizzlet, embossing with a Texture Folder, or using other-brand dies (i.e. Spellbinders Nestabilities).  One thing that I immediately loved about the shim and platform was that it clearly stated right on it when you should use the Solo Shim (with thin materials), and when you should use the platform alone (when cutting folded card stock or materials thicker than card stock such as chipboard, Grungeboard, etc).  There was no fumbling around for the instruction booklet or racking my brain to remember what I should or shouldn’t do!

The Solo Shim attaches to the Solo Platform in two spots on either end with metal clips.  The plastic tabs on the Solo Shim slide right in and out very easily.

On either side of the handle at the top are burnished brass buttons.  One side’s buttons are just for decoration, the other side has a motor button and a forward/reverse switch.  Now, this won’t work unless you get out the power cord and plug it in.  Where is the power cord?  Tucked into a nifty side compartment for storage!  That is one of my pet peeves about some other electronic machines I have – there is no cord storage.  The Vagabond corrected that oversight and included a compartment with a slide-down switch that will house the power cord when not in use.

The machine opens with the slide of a button as well (it is located in the center of the top of the machine, just under the handle).  The “flaps” easily lower themselves with just the push of this button.  The rollers located inside the machine are serious business – check them out!

The very first thing I tested was some foam. I sandwiched, from the bottom up, one cutting pad, the big die (foam side up), my foam, and another cutting pad.  I made sure the forward/reverse switch was set to the proper direction and pushed my sandwich into the roller opening as far as it would go.  Following the instructions, I gently pressed the guide flaps (the brown sides that stick up) inward until they made contact with the sandwich.  I pushed and held down on the motor switch until the sandwich came out on the other side.

I was instantly floored by how easily the sandwich went through the machine.  And my husband commented that the motor made a “cool” sound – so it appeals to the guys, too!

The Vagabond cut through foam like, well, butter.  Seriously.  No fraying, no nothing!



It made a beautiful butterfly for my daughter, who is hounding me for more.

Next up I cut some vellum, using the Sizzlets.  I put all four Sizzlets through at once (my sandwich looked like this, from the bottom up: Solo Platform, Solo Shim, one cutting pad, Sizzlets foam side up, vellum, other cutting pad) and repeated the same alignment process I used with the big die.  There is a note on the Solo Shim that more than six Sizzlets should not be put through at a time, or damage to the machine could occur.  The vellum cut fairly well; you can see above that some of the edges were a bit frayed.  I’m fairly sure I was using vellum from Stampin’ Up (which seems to me to have a medium thickness).  Overall, the larger, less detailed pieces came out better than the more intricate pieces.

The word Tweet looked like it cut through just fine, however, when I started trying to remove the word from the paper, I realized it did not cut all the way through.  The wrinkles evident on the vellum is proof of how much pressure those rollers put on the sandwich, though.

I know this isn’t the greatest picture, but it is another illustration of how much pressure the rollers place on the dies and materials being cut.  After one pass through, the Sizzlets left these impressions on a cutting pad – and the sentiment didn’t even cut all the way through the vellum!

I tried a Tim Holtz Texture Fade folder next, with another piece of vellum.  Just look at that deep impression!  It was so deep that in places the paper actually had some holes in it.

I also tried a piece of folded card stock (taking care to remove the Solo Platform, as advised) and it turned out well, too.  The card stock that was in the embossing folder actually came out of the machine with a slight curve to it, and was noticeably flimsier than the backside of the card, which had not gone through inside the folder.

While I was working on embossing, I also tried out a transparency sheet (the kind you’d use on an overhead projector – remember those?) and an embossing folder from Cuttlebug.  Worked like a charm!

Next I wanted to test out acetate, but my stash was mysteriously missing.  Not one to be deterred, I cut up the packaging from the Texture Fade folders and used that!  Paired with a big die, the acetate cut beautifully – crisp edges, clean cuts.  Makes a beautiful butterfly, doesn’t it? (I won’t mention how much glitter ended up on the floor from doing the edges like that – I’m still cleaning it up!)

I saved the thing I was most excited about for last….testing out my collection of Spellbinders Nestabilities in the Vagabond.  Sizzix manufactures a Wafer-thin Die Adapter made specifically for using competitor’s dies with this machine.  Unfortunately, it didn’t come in my package, so I decided to see what I could do to get it to work.  I did a bit of online research, and tried a sandwich of (from the bottom up): Solo Platform and Shim, two cardboard mat pads (I used thinner cardboard, cut from the back of a legal pad), one cutting pad, the die (face up), card stock, and the other clear pad.  I crossed my fingers, held my breath, and sent the sandwich through the machine.  It worked!!  I ran the whole sandwich back through with the tan mat I always use to emboss my Nestabilities in my Cuttlebug, and it left a stunning embossed edge on my card stock.  I won’t share the video of me doing the happy dance, but I did.  It is such a bonus to be able to use this machine and not waste the money I’ve invested in other dies and embossing folders! 
While I had the Nestabilities out, I tried using them to cut some photographs.  Once again, the Vagabond did not disappoint.  Perfect, clean edges, no fraying. Yay!
I also dug out an old original Sizzix die that made oval tags, and ran that through the machine with some Grungeboard.  After I cut them out (which worked great) I ran them through again inside a texture Fade folder. I added a Grungeboard die-cut butterfly, and made a little gift tag. 
Lastly, I thought I’d run a few of those 4″x4″ chipboard coasters through.  I might never deplete my stash of those things.  These are pretty thick little coasters, so I wasn’t sure how well it would do. The Vagabond did not disappoint! I was actually able to roll the whole coaster into a tube after it came out of the machine – it was that flexible.  I used the coasters I ran through the machine and have started a “Little Love Book” for my husband for Father’s Day. 
Overall, I am absolutely in love with the Vagabond.  IN LOVE.  Everything I tried in it either cut or embossed wonderfully.  I didn’t experience a single hiccup or problem with it other than the vellum sentiment not cutting all the way through.  I think everyone should own a Vagabond!
The Vagabond retails for about $250 and is available online.  It is completely compatible with Sizzix products, and has a wide range of accessories to make it compatible with competitor’s products. 
Pros:
  • easy to follow instructions
  • great design
  • cuts through and embosses all types of materials
Cons:
  • hefty price tag
  • very heavy machine
  • I wish the adapter for competitor’s products came with the machine (although I understand why it doesn’t)

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 have a Vagabond?  If so, tell us how you feel about it!  If you don’t, which features make you want to buy it?

One comment, per person, per Sizzix article, please. Winners will be selected on Saturday, July 16, 2011.
Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Vendor Spotlight: Martha Stewart Stamp and Punch Sets (2 of 2)

Reported by Taylor Usry

Have you heard about the Martha Stewart Stamps and Punch sets? I literally squealed out loud when I was offered the chance to review this super fun new product from Martha Stewart Crafts! The Stamp and Punch sets are an all-in-one crafty must-have; they are designed to stamp an image and save some time by not having to fussy-cut it out. The punch will take care of that for you! I know, I know … right about now you are saying the same thing I was, “Hello, genius, where have you been all my life?!” Those folks over at Martha Stewart Crafts are always coming up with the best ideas to make my crafty life better!

The Stamp and Punch sets are very similar in size to a regular punch from Martha Stewart Crafts. You can see above that the main difference is the raised circular area on the top of the punch; the stamps are stored in there.

In profile you can further see the similarities in size between the two types of punch. The handles on the stamp and punch set are slightly more contoured than on a regular punch.



Looking at the punch from the top, you will see the raised area which is actually the stamp block. Note the flat sides, which are the finger grooves to make the round shape easier to hold. They also serve as a guide for replacing the piece after using it – you have to line them up to get the block back on the punch.

Looking directly at the front of the punch, you’ll see a small groove. This will to help line up the stamp housing, and is an indicator of the direction and placement of the stamp (more on this in a bit).

When the cap is removed, you’ll see several acrylic stamps (slightly larger around than a quarter) nestled down in the punch. Each of the four different sets I received contained three stamps, making this a very versatile product. You get up to three layerable images and a punch shape. Not bad!

Placement of the stamp on the block itself is important. Before using the stamps for the first time, you’ll have to remove the thick plastic piece separating them (put a little elbow grease in it – they won’t tear!). Simply press the flat (smooth) side of the acrylic stamp onto the block, taking care to put the semi-circular tab where the opening is for it. In the picture above, you can see the tab at the bottom of the stamp.

This is the butterfly set. It contains three different butterfly images.

I inked up my first butterfly, and stamped it on the edge of my paper, as recommended in the instructions. I paid absolutely no attention to that little groove I mentioned earlier (see it at the bottom of the block?).
 

That lead to my very first mistake with this butterfly! I stamped a beautiful image, but it was upside down (although I stamped it in what seemed to be the right-side up manner). As you can see in the picture above, when stamped this way you can’t line up the punch, because it’s upside down. Had I heeded the groove, I would have realized that the butterfly needed to be in the other direction in order to punch properly. The little grooves that are on the block are also on the punch base itself (scroll back up to that first picture, and you’ll see it). They always need to go in the same direction – so you have to stamp the butterflies upside down. What a “Eureka!” moment!

Once I got that all figured out, I stamped another butterfly and lined up my punch properly. It easily punched through a thick weight white card stock and left me with a super cute butterfly.

The cupcake set I received included a full cupcake image, a bottom/liner image, and a top/frosting image. You could layer, use separately, or stamp one solid image.

The flower set had two flowers of different sizes and a flower center.

The leaf set had a gorgeous leaf, the veins for it (which I think would be great serving double duty as brown branches), and a cute little ladybug. 



Above you can see some of the things I stamped and then punched out. Beware: it’s pretty addictive. It is so darn fabby that the whole stamp/cut/use image process has been shortened so much! No more sharp scissors, no more fussy cutting, no more guesswork.

I made myself a bookmark, because they seem to always be disappearing around my house. See that woodgrain paper? It’s my newest obsession, from Martha Stewart’s In Nature collection. And the yellow background paper is from the Tonals paper pad.

Further illustrating how quickly this whole process comes together, I decided to time a Clean and Simple birthday card, using the cupcake set and more Tonals paper. I also used an edge punch along the bottom border. Total time? Eleven minutes, and some of that was waiting for the ink to dry. Not bad, huh?

Overall I really love these Stamp and Punch sets. I’m not the savviest with properly lining up images to layer them, so I had to switch to a clear block a couple of time (for example, the veins that should accompany the leaves – I just could not master lining them up with the solid block).

These punches sell for about $12.99 and are available online and in retail stores. 

Pros:

  • Easy to store – the whole unit is self contained
  • Cuts down on total project time!
  • Images are all complimentary to one another, or can be used alone.
  • Punched images work well as stand alone accents/embellishments (so, you don’t have to use the stamps to still be getting good use from the product)
  • Excellent deal for the price – it’s three stamps AND a punch!

Cons:

  •  Solid block makes it difficult to line up images
  • Instructions weren’t clear about proper stamp positioning, making for a fun bloopers segment during the testing process!
  • I’d like to see larger shapes, or maybe some labels with borders.

Have you tried the Martha Stewart Stamp and Punch sets yet? What do you think?

Disclosure

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

Vendor Spotlight: Martha Stewart Double Edge Punch

Reported by Taylor Usry

I received a Martha Stewart Double Edge Punch (along with some wonderful paper) from Martha Stewart Crafts recently, and jumped at the chance to test this new product out. The punch I’m sharing with you today is called the Bangle Chain Deep Double Edge punch; there are several other styles available in stores and online.

I started by comparing the overall size of the double edge punch to several of the other Martha Stewart Punch Around the Page edge punches I currently own. Wow – this new double edge punch is much bigger! You can see above how much taller it is.

Here are the punches viewed from the front. The beefier one on the left is the Double Edge Punch.

Looking down at the punches it is easy to see the difference in length as well. For this shot I unfolded the sides of both punches. The Double Edge Punch also has a heavier weight than a regular edge punch, and a larger handle.

The Double Edge Punch is very simple to use. When viewed from underneath, you should see the wrong side of your paper – so you put the paper in the punch right side up (the side you want to see on your project).

It take a bit more force to squeeze this punch, but that is attributable to its considerable heft. I often hold my regular punches upside down to punch them, and that made this one a bit harder for me to squeeze (Note: I have nerve damage in one arm, which is why I do it this way. They are designed to just press down on). It still punches through card stocks and patterned papers just as well as the regular Martha Stewart edge punches. To line up the design and punch correctly, you want to make sure to place the punched-out image directly above the guidelines. In the picture above, you can see some of the cream-colored punch base. That is the incorrect placement for your paper.

Always line up your punched paper as shown above, precisely over top of the cream-colored outline. This will ensure a perfect punch!

The finished piece is about an inch and a half thick, as you can see when it’s placed on my Martha Stewart Scoring Board. Isn’t that wood grain paper gorgeous? It’s from the In Nature collection, and I was lucky enough to receive it in my goodie box from the kind folks at Martha Stewart Crafts!

Here’s another close up shot of the intricate design of this punch. You can see how cleanly the punch operates. There are no jagged or frayed edges, and every segment lines up really well, thanks to those guides on either side of the punch.

I made a few quick projects using this punch. The first were little paper cone treat holders for party favor treats (my son’s first birthday party was this weekend, and this seemed like a great idea for kids of different ages!). Doesn’t this Double Edge Punch make a gorgeous handle? And I love the yellow paper (also from the In Nature collection).

I also made a simple, botanical-themed card. I used the punched piece in lieu of ribbon, and set it with jumbo eyelets to create a raised ripple effect.

On the edge I placed a little butterfly, created using a Martha Stewart Stamp and Punch set. I love that Martha’s products work well together.

I am absolutely enamored with this Deep Double Edge Punch from Martha Stewart Crafts! It punches a variety of card stocks and patterned papers quickly and cleanly, and the possibilities are endless with it. I’ll be able to easily make borders for scrapbook pages, cards, altered and 3D items….my head is positively swimming with ideas!

Pros:

  • able to create quick borders and accents
  • easy to use guides make proper punching a breeze
  • available in a variety of designs
Cons:
  • larger size doesn’t fit in the same drawer as my other punches (I’m being nitpicky, I know!)
  • due to the heavier weight of this, it may be a bit harder to squeeze the handle together
  • I’d like to see this offered in matching patterns to existing edge punches, so people (ok, ME!) can create sets of coordinating items
The Deep Double Edge Punch is available online and in retail stores, and will jump right into your shopping cart with a budget-friendly MSRP of $17.99. 
Do you have one of these punches, or have you tried one before? Tell me all about it! What amazing projects have you made with it?

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