Tag Archives | Dana Vitek

Vendor Spotlight & GIVEAWAY!: Spellbinder Grand Calibur (Day 2 of 2)

Reported by Dana Vitek

I’ve been a Spellbinders customer since the beginning of time. I have one of the original Wizards; it says “Patent Pending” on it. I’ve been collecting the Spellbinders dies since before the Nestibilities came out. As such, I have amassed quite the collection:

I may or may not have a problem.

So when the time came to test out the Spellbinders Grand Calibur, I was the obvious choice.  Kandi did such a great job yesterday describing the contents of the box and such, I’ll just get right down to the business of showing off.

The first thing I wanted to cut and emboss has been hanging out in my craft room for years:

This is Craft-a-Board, developed by Ellen Hutson for use with the Spellbinder Nestabilities. It’s a sturdy board, like chipboard, but nicer. I could never get the Nestabilities to cut cleanly through it with the original Wizard, so I was excited to try it with the Grand Calibur.

I laid out all the dies I wanted to cut. The largest scalloped square there is the very biggest of the Grand Scalloped Squares. I also threw some scalloped paisleys on there because I had SO MUCH ROOM on the cutting platform.

Here they are after one pass through the Grand Calibur:

One piece didn’t cut cleanly all the way through, but a quick pass of the craft knife, and it was ready to go.

Compared to the trouble I had with this stuff using the original Wizard, I was thrilled!
While I had the Craft-a-Board out, I decided to make a puzzle for my daughter, using the Spellbinders Jigsaw Puzzle Die. I traced out the size of the die in pencil, and then went to town stamping and coloring the Craft-a-Board:

I centered the die over the design, and ran it through the Grand Calibur:

One pass through… 

and here it is in pieces:

Most of the pieces came apart with a little back and forth wiggling; I think I had to cut 2 or 3 pieces with the craft knife, and it literally only took seconds to do that. A quick, personalized 20-piece puzzle for my kid. These would be great as birthday party favors!

Now then, I have letterpress on the brain because I just finished up a some letterpress projects, and the packaging of the Spellbinders Impressibilities caught my eye. It says it can be used for letterpressing. Don’t mind if I do!

I pulled out my letterpress paper and ink, and inked up the Paisley Impressibility:

I laid it on top of the paper on the ‘A’ plate. I ran it through the machine using the “embossing sandwich” but there wasn’t enough pressure, and I didn’t get a good deboss.

So I tried it again with the regular cutting sandwich (‘A’ plate, paper, Impressibility, ‘C’ plate), and voila! It looks fabulous!

I was really impressed! Pun intended!

Moving on to one of my favorite media: shrink plastic! I love making little charms for cards and jewelry, and I wanted to see if the Grand Calibur generated enough pressure to cut plastic with the low-profile Nestibilities.

Test subject:

I ran it through the Grand Calibur, and the plastic cut with no trouble at all! I set my old-school Old Milwaukee heat-gun to work, and came up with this cute little dragonfly:

Here’s a fun little card for a coworker’s new baby girl, using the letterpressed paper, the dragonfly charm, and some cut paisleys:

I figured that since it could cut shrink plastic, it could probably cut thicker plastic too, like the ubiquitous clamshell packaging. I swear, I have saved every plastic package since the late ’90s. Really. I refuse to let it go to a landfill, but I’ve never really figured out what to do with it. Well, now I know!

This is actually the packaging from the Grand Scalloped Square Nestabilities
again, one pass through, no problem…
all sanded up and ready to go!

I’ll bet you’re wondering what I made with all this stuff… okay, I’ll show you.

While I was cutting paisleys, I cut a bunch of them, and made a scrapbook layout featuring my kid wearing a dinosaur hat:

this was a happy little accident… 2 paisleys=a heart!
this kid knows what’s up.

I decided my layout needed some rub-ons, but didn’t have the energy to use that Popsicle stick doohicky, so I placed the rub-on where I wanted it, and ran it through the Grand Calibur, just to see if the pressure would transfer the rub-on.

It totally did! What a time-saver!

And here’s the finished layout. This uses the largest (8″) Scalloped Square that I cut from the Craft-a-Board; the smaller scalloped square, also from the Craft-a-Board; that sanded plastic piece that I cut from the packaging, and the Paisley heart: 

Please be gentle… I am not a scrapbooker!

I put the Grand Calibur through its paces, and am happy to report that I never found anything it couldn’t do. EXCEPT. Except it is just not quite big enough to use the regular Sizzix dies. I was so hoping that I could whittle down my die-cutting machine collection to just the Grand Calibur, but I have way too much $$$ invested in regular Sizzix dies, so the Big Shot stays.


  • Wide-format opening allows for 8″ dies to be used.
  • Grand Nestabilities match the smaller Nestabilities, and allow for layering.
  • Easy-to-turn handle, no shooting the sandwich stack across the room like with the original Wizard.
  • Can cut lots of media, not just cardstock.
  • It’s pink. Ish. Kind of a raspberry, really, but I’m down with that.


  • Opening is not quite big enough to allow a regular Sizzix die through.
  • The crank handle takes many revolutions; seems like the gear ratio should be reset.
  • That’s all I’ve got. Really.
Our friends at Spellbinders have given us a set of Grand Scalloped Squares AND a set of Grand Squares (which coordinate) to give to one lucky reader (that’s a $100 value!). Just leave a comment on this blog post answering this question:

Knowing now what different media you can cut with the Grand Calibur and the Nestabilities, what would you try to cut?

One comment per person, please. Winner will be selected on Friday, April 29, 2011.


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

Vendor Spotlight & GIVEAWAY: Lifestyle Crafts L Letterpress and Epic Six (2 of 3)

Reported by Dana Vitek

I have long admired the look of letterpress, and have happily shelled out more than $6 for ONE letterpressed card. Letterpress just looks (and feels) so sophisticated. So I was very excited to try out the L Letterpress and Epic 6 Combo Kit from Lifestyle Crafts.

The Epic Combo Kit comes with everything you need to get started letterpressing. The Printing Plates are clear, rigid plastic shapes that are flat on the back. I applied the Adhesive Sheet to the back of the Printing Plates, and got busy arranging them on the Letterpress Platform.

Printing Plate with adhesive backing

I squirted some of the light blue ink onto the acrylic plate, and rolled it out with the included brayer.

Light blue ink rolled out onto the included acrylic plate

After rolling the ink out, I used the brayer to apply the ink to the Printing Plates, which were attached to the letterpress platform with the thin, double-sided adhesive sheets:

I then loaded the L Letterpress A2 paper onto the platform, closed the lid, and rolled it through the Epic 6 machine:

Tada! That was quick! And painless!

Here’s a shot at an angle; hopefully you can make out the beautiful debossing. It’s lovely in person.

I wanted to try a few different combinations, and discovered a few pitfalls along the way.

See that ink just hanging out there? Clean that up first.

It can be tricky to get the right amount of ink onto the plates. Too much ink and it will splatter or smear; too little ink and the coverage isn’t perfect. I found that erring on the side of too little ink is better.

Not too shabby…

 Here’s an example of both too much and too little ink on the same card. I’m nothing if not efficient. There was too much ink on the “g” of “thinking” and not enough on the brackets around the “you”

 I found that the printing plates with the thin lines work better than the ones with thicker lines or more solid areas. I really had the best luck with this wavy line motif, so much so that I made a bunch of them, swapping out the greeting. I’ll be able to customize them for the recipient, and most of the work is already done!

I also figured that while I had all the stuff out, I would run a bunch of the word printing plates through at once.  I’ll be able to add a touch of letterpressed class to my regular cards just by cutting around the greeting I need:

So now I can add something special to my otherwise lackluster cards!

I wanted to check out whether or not you really need to use the fancy L Letterpress Paper.

The short answer: yes. 

I tried the letterpressing process on two other papers (PaperTreyInk’s White Cardstock, and Fabriano Medioevalis Folded Card (unfolded), and while they look nice, they hardly debossed at all. The L Letterpress paper has a soft hand to it; it allows for compression, whereas the others are pretty compressed as-is… there’s no room for the paper fibers to move around.

Sorry for the bad lighting… silver ink is tricky to photograph at midnight

I know it’s hard to tell in the photographs, but trust me… the L Letterpress paper is the way to go. It comes in several typical invitation sizes, as well as mini-cards, and in both white and ivory.

Another great thing about the Epic Six is that in addition to letterpress, it can also be used for die-cutting. In fact, Lifestyle Crafts has released a bunch of great dies that will appeal to both the trendy, and classic, among us.

The die-cutting function is pretty typical… layer the die, cardstock and cutting mat onto a platform, and roll it through. There’s a great video tutorial on their website that tells you how to not only use their dies, but other companies’ dies and embossing folders as well. LOVE THAT! It’s so nice when a company designs around what I already own!

Two of the Bloom dies
Epic Six in action!
perfect cuts through Stampin’ Up cardstock

Here are some of the finished cards. The beauty of letterpress is that less is more. Of course, a little bling never hurt anyone!


  • I can letterpress my own cards. That’s HUGE!
  • Letterpress paper is available in multiple sizes and colors, and is really, really nice.
  • Epic Six is a multi-tasker; die-cutting AND letterpress!
  • Can use other companies’ dies and embossing folders in the Epic Six; it comes with different base plates to make the sandwiching easy, and there’s a video tutorial to help.
  • Modern, trendy, and traditional printing plates and cutting dies available.
  • Lifestyle Crafts has an option for Custom Printing Plates! You can letterpress your own design! Epic! (pun intended)
  • The new cutting mat for the die cutting system is not clear, it’s made of self-healing material and won’t crack like other clear plastic plates.


  • Hoo-boy, letterpress can be a mess.
  • The ink is sticky and can be hard to clean. USE THEIR WIPES… they work. I tried baby wipes… they don’t work.
  • The new cutting mat for the die cutting system is not clear, it’s made of self healing material; I can’t tell when I’ve moved the cardstock off of the die until it’s too late.

I have so many ideas brewing, and can’t wait to spend some more time getting inky!

You can buy the L Letterpress kit and dies separately if you already have an Epic Six, or you can purchase the Epic Combo Kit.

Special Deal for our readers:
Use the promo code: CRAFTCRITIQUE – for 20% off through the end of April!

Our friends at Lifestyle Crafts have generously offered an Epic Combo Kit as a giveaway to one of our readers! Answer this question in the comments below to be entered:

Take a look at all of the Cookie Cutter and Nesting dies that are available…. which ones are your favorites? What would you make with them?

One comment per person, per Vendor Spotlight: Lifestyle Crafts article (there will be three). Winner will be chosen on Saturday, April 23, 2011.


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

Hottest New Crafting Material!

Reported by Dana Vitek

Earth Day is right around the corner, and with it comes a plethora of DIY Green Crafting ideas. So-called ‘Green Crafters’ from the four corners of the interwebs come out on Earth Day, waving their recycled egg cartons and toilet paper tubes, thinking they’re saving the world by crafting with crap.

Well let me tell you… they’re right! We CAN save the world by re-purposing trashy things (and no, I don’t mean folding origami flowers out of smutty books… or do I?). No friends, I’m talking about the lowest of the low. The thing in your house with zero redeeming qualities. That stuff that makes you turn your nose up with disgust every time you touch it. That’s right. I’m talking about dryer lint.

This stuff is crafters’ GOLD! Really! There’s so much that can be done with dryer lint, and it’s FREE! You were just going to trash it anyway, so why not try these fun crafts instead?!

Any color you want, as long as it’s gray.

Dryer lint makes terrific flock… and who needs velvet ribbon with a little double-sided sticky tape and some dryer lint around?

lay out your sticky tape…
pounce that dryer lint on… don’t be shy!
look at that coverage!
a stripe of a different color?! why not!
no, thank  you, dryer lint, thank you!

Velvet Thickers?! Who needs them? Not me!

Throw some glue down…. you want something that dries sticky
You know you have a brayer. Go get it!
This photo is self-explanatory
fuzzy cardstock
die cut your letters
flocked, velvety letters! For free!
Dab on some alcohol inks (these were colored with Copics) to change the color!

Moving on to nail art… here’s an easy way to get that fab suede finish all the fashionistas are buzzing about…

before… boring…
slap on a clear top coat and some dryer lint…
brush off the excess, and voila! Epic, right? I know!


  • You can’t beat the price of dryer lint.
  • Money saved on fancy crafting supplies can be put toward chocolate.
  • You’re saving the planet!


  • Limited range of colors in its natural state, unless you dry your clothes in separate color batches, and who has time for that?
  • There can be, um, impurities in the lint. In my house it’s dog fur, but that just adds to the charm, really.
  • Recipients of your handmade dryer linted items might think you’re cheap instead of an Eco Warrior. Forget them.

Think this is all flocking ridiculous?

You’re right!

April Fools!
Speaking of flocks… check out our favorite trendy parody: Put a Bird on it!
Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!