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Company Feature and Giveaway: Spellbinders

Reported by Sarah Moore, Founding Editor

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.

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!

Cricut E2 vs. eClips

Reported by Marti Wills

Cricut Expression 2
Sizzix eClips

When it comes to making the jump to an electronic die cutting machine there are a lot of choices. It is quite an investment and there are so many things to consider. Most importantly, you want a machine that will cut well and is easy to use.

Today I want to tell you about the results of my comparison of two of these machines, the Cricut Expression 2 by Provo Craft and the eClips by Sizzix.

Most important is how well the machine can cut. So I began by testing both on a variety of materials. Both cut cardstock and paper just fine but I wanted to see what else they could cut.

First I tried chipboard – actually the backing from a paper pad. This is slightly thinner than regular chipboard but it is free, it is a great way to recycle and it WORKS. First I cut a cupcake – these are on the large size – 4″:

Both machines cut the chipboard perfectly. I decided to try a smaller and more complicated design with the chipboard next:

The results with the eClips were not as clean as the Cricut.

Next I tried some acetate – another recycled material – I used the plastic covering that my embossing folders come in – you can use any type of plastic clamshell packaging but I like the embossing folder and Spellbinder types because they are so flat and easy to store.

I cut the same cupcakes first – nice basic larger shapes. Both machines did a great job, however the Cricut cut cleanly through whereas the eClips required some punching out. However this did not effect the final result.

I also cut the smaller more intricate images again:

Once again the eClips did not quite get the smallest detail cut all the way through:

Those teeny pieces on each tip would not come out without doing some damage to the overall shape. The Cricut did not have this problem:

even the tiny circles/dots required no punching out.

Finally, I cut out some fabric appliques with each machine. Before you can cut fabric you need to add something to stabilize it and keep it from stretching as the blade makes the cuts. I tried Steam a Seam Lite first but this was not enough and neither machine cut through. Next I used Heat ‘n Bond Ultra which is much thicker.  Both machines cut the fabric perfectly:

One advantage the Cricut Expression 2 had was the ability to set it to cut each image twice which is probably why it cute through more successfully.  One of the features of the eClips is the pre-set cut settings for various materials. I used these pre-sets to do all of the cuts above. Better results might be gained by adjusting the settings manually, but I have not tried that yet.

In addition to the cutting ability there are a lot of other considerations when comparing cutters. Here is a table with some of these other things to compare:

Sizzix eClips
Cricut E2
Price – Starter Kit Machine
$499 – includes 2 blades, 1 cartridge and 1 mat
$349 – includes 1 blade, 4 cartridges and 1 mat
Footprint
22 1/2″ x 5″ x 7 1/2″
Price/mat
12.99 – 2 pack
12.99 – 2 pack
Price/blade
9.99 – 2 pack
9.99 – 2 pack
Price/cartridge
39.99 –  25 designs plus features
24.99/34.99/55.99 – 68 images/168+ images/200+ images
Cartridges available
36
228
Cardstock
5
5
Fabric
5
5
Chipboard
4
5
Acetate
4
5
Store avail.
1
4
Ebay
4   29.99/53.99
5    15.00 & up – open bidding

Both of these machines have a viewing screen. The eClips screen is on a separate handheld device and is controlled by buttons that allow you to scroll through menus and make your choices. The Expression 2 screen is mounted on the machine itself and is a touchscreen controlled with a stylus. I personally preferred the screen being attached to the machine as I have limited space and found the separate screen and its cord was always in the way.

Pros:

  • Easy to set up – Both
  • Easy to use – Both
  • Great mats and sharp blades – Both
  • Ability to save cut settings for future ease of use – Expression 2
  • Huge selection of cartridge images – Expression 2
  • Free web-based program that allows you the freedom to design and customize shapes on Cricut cartridges you already own – Expression 2

Cons:

  • Separate screen/control device – eClips
  • Cartridge based system – Both
  • Price – Both
  • Cutting pre-sets did not work on smaller more intricate items – eClips

Had I compared the eClips to the original Cricut Expression the eClips would have come out ahead. However, with the vast improvements made on the Expression 2 recently released by Provo Craft, I found the Expression to be a better machine – the cutting ability was better, the price is lower, and the image selection is vastly larger.

Do you own either of these machines? What do you think of them? Do you own a different one? Let us know!

Vendor Spotlight & GIVEAWAY!: Sizzix Big Shot

Reported by Susie Ziegler

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.

Get your own Sizzix Big Shot machine with an exclusive bundle at Scrapbook.com today!

**Giveaway is now closed. Thanks for entering!**