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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.

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.

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.

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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.

GIVEAWAY!
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.

Disclosure

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