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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: Silhouette SD

Reported by Jessica Ripley

Of all the craft products that are on the market today, it seems to me the most difficult one to reach a decision on when it comes to what to purchase is a die cutting machine. Not only does there seem to be a version of every shape and size from capability to budget, choosing a die cutting machine is not really a “this one is the best” type of purchase. When reviewing all that is out there, we also have to take into account our personal feelings and needs, because in truth all those machines are “good,” it is just a matter of which one is “best” for us.

We are faced with questions such as:

  • Do we want excellent portability, or will the machine stay in one place on our craft rooms never to move?
  • Do we want the capability to cut our own designs or are we okay with strictly pre-made ones?
  • How computer-savvy do we need to be to use the thing?
  • At what point does the price (and future costs associated with) no longer equal a good investment?

I have asked myself all of these questions before, and that led me to originally choose a different die cutting machine for my needs. I won’t be comparing the two in this article, as again which machine we prefer can be just as much of a personal choice as anything, however I do feel like I should mention testing out and playing with the Silhouette SD has probably changed my mind on which machine I would recommend to a friend if they were faced with those same questions above. Here’s the lowdown that I’d share with them, which I hope you find helpful in your pursuit of the perfect machine for you too.

What you get

Out of the box the Silhouette SD comes complete with just about everything to get you up and running.

  • The Silhouette SD machine, which is lightweight and not overly bulky (a must for precious craft space).
  • An electrical cord and USB cord for computer connection.
  • 2 cutting mats (one for thick media, one for thin media).
  • 3 blade caps (you replace a cap on the blade for different cuts when it comes to the Silhouette SD rather than the blade itself, which I did like).
  • 1 installation CD (complete with 50 preloaded designs) and 1 detailed tutorial CD (Software for Windows XP/Vista/7 and Mac OS X 10.5.8 and higher).
  • A basic manual.
  • $10 download card for the Silhouette Online Store.

What else you need (or might need)

  • A computer, Mac or PC.
  • A longer USB cord. I found the cord which came with the machine too short for my particular set up, however an existing (much longer) cord from another machine I had on hand worked great.
  • Material to cut of course (paper from your stash, or anything from Silhouette’s line of other materials including heat transfers, temporary tattoo paper, vinyl, etc).
  • Basic computer skills.
  • An SD card to make the most of the Silhouette SD’s capability (it seems to me like they could have tossed one in the box, but most of us probably have one on hand).
  • Patience and time for the learning curve.

Set up

Initial set up of the Silhouette SD was quick and easy. The software installed on my Windows 7 PC in minutes (though do make sure all Windows updates have been applied to your computer first, as this did add to the total time for install on my end).

As far as physical space, the machine does not take up a lot of room. You do need space in front and behind it for the material to move while being cut. The machine cuts 8 1/2″ x 12″ size or smaller using a mat.

The technical side (software and online)

The paper manual which comes in the box is enough to get you up and cutting quickly, however the array of tools and options in the software does require you take some time to watch the tutorial CD and learn the basics. The tutorials are very well put together and easy to understand, especially if you are a visual learner like I am.


I liked the look of the software; it is slightly customizable in appearance (color and button size), and pretty easy to navigate. Here’s an image of the basic desktop you start off with for each new design.


I especially appreciated that hovering with the pointer over a particular tool brought up its name until I got the hang of what they all were. If you are familiar with photo editing or drawing programs, the software will seem very intuitive to you. If not, the tutorials (which are very specific) will give you a great handle on it quickly.

You are able to cut just about any design (pre-made, your own, or a traced scan) with the Silhouette SD. All True Type fonts installed on your computer can be cut, which opens up the flood gates for font possibilities in projects.

As mentioned above, the Silhouette SD software comes pre-loaded with 50 extremely usable designs:


Right at your finger tips is also a link to the online store with thousands of options to choose from (most are 99 cents each, though subscription programs are available which reduce the cost greatly), including designs from well-known companies like Hero Arts and Donna Downey. I quickly spent the $10 download card that comes with the machine while looking at all the great options!

Of course, possibilities are endless when you take into account designing your own images as well. Here’s a simple project made by creating my own design using standards fonts (Impact and Lucida Handwriting). The weld tool makes easy work of combining letters.

My design in the software:


And the finished project:

Performance

Though I only had opportunity to test the Silhouette SD on regular cardstock and paper for this review, it worked absolutely great. The machine is noisy when cutting, but does the job. I appreciate the 2 different cutting mats for different thicknesses of media, between which the only difference is the amount of adhesive (the lesser amount of adhesive meant for thinner materials).

As far as actual cutting, the Silhouette SD has more than just one option too. It also perforates. I love this option which makes super quick work of folded projects such as this pillow box (this template comes with the software).


Other features

The Silhouette has a Print and Cut feature which for me was the tipping point on why I’d now lean towards recommending this machine to a friend. I am a very big fan of cutting elements out of patterned paper for projects, and this option is quick, easy, and works great.

As an example, these 3D flowers were available in the online store.


First I printed them with the necessary registration marks so the Silhouette knows where to cut (this is covered in the tutorials) and then simply loaded into the machine for cutting. Here’s a peek of the Silhouette SD in action with the lid raised.


And the result:


Here’s a card using the finished flowers (which would have been about $2.99 in a pre-made pack).


The card template and sentiment also come preloaded with the software, and the dress form is from the online store.

To make the Print and Cut feature even more appealing, the software also includes a trace tool for tracing scanned images you wish to cut out. The trace tool takes a little getting used to, but once I practiced a bit I was able to make a near perfect replica of this vintage doily in a few easy steps. First I scanned the doily into Photoshop Elements and saved the image as a bitmap, then opened the bitmap image in Silhouette SD Studio and followed the steps to trace it, and finally proceeded just like I would with a print and cut image:



Finally, the Silhouette SD has portability thanks to the SD card slot located on the machine.


Designs are able to be loaded onto an SD card and then retrieved by the machine for cutting while not connected to a computer.

To sum up, let’s revisit those primary questions above when purchasing a die cutting machine.

  • Do we want excellent portability or will the machine stay in one place on our craft rooms never to move?

You don’t have to necessarily choose with the Silhouette SD. Thanks to the SD card slot, you are able to pre-load designs to be cut onto an SD card (not included), unplug the machine from your computer, and take it with you to a crop or anywhere else. You must, of course, take the time to load up the SD card with images first, however if you do so with ones you use often that can become very handy. I myself don’t crop out of the home much, but traveling from my craft area (where my husband is playing a loud video game) to the dining room table (where I don’t have to hear “watch your back!” every few minutes) is a nice option.

  • Do we want the capability to cut our own designs or are we OK with strictly pre-made ones?

Again no choice necessary here. Countless designs are available online, many great ones come with the machine preloaded in the software, and designing our own is a piece of cake once you get the hang of the software. And, no need to buy many designs we don’t care for either just to get a few that we do.

  • How computer savvy do we need to be to use the thing?

Basics are definitely needed, and knowledge of working with other drawing type programs would put you that much further ahead of the learning curve, however the tutorials are very good at explaining each and every tool. So there should not be any intimidation about the computer needs as long as you are willing to take the time to learn.

  • And of course at what point does the price (and future costs associated with) no longer equal a good investment?

There is certainly more freedom in how we can answer this question with the Silhouette SD versus other machines currently on the market. For one, designs can be purchased separately for 99 cents, however if you become good at it you can also design your own for free (or download the weekly freebies from the online store to build your collection also). If you find you are constantly wanting to use new images, you can choose one of the subscription plans available which roll over from month to month if you do not use them up. Also there is no third party software to purchase in order to increase the capability of the machine, it simply comes with the flexibility we wish they all had.

Pros:

  • The Silhouette SD can cut just about any image, increasing its value potential over other machines.
  • The software and online store are user friendly and fairly easy to navigate after a bit of learning time.
  • Many options are available from cutting style (straight line or perforated), cutting mat (thin or thicker media), to material which can be cut (Silhouette also offers vinyl, heat transfer material, flocked paper, and even temporary tattoo paper).

Cons:

  • Initial purchase price of around $200 is expensive and may not fit your budget, no matter what the possibilities for use could be.
  • The Silhouette cuts a smaller size overall than other die cutting machines (8 1/2″ x 12″ vs 12″ x 12″ or larger), and if you have large 12″ x 12″ stash you will be trimming a lot before cutting is possible.
  • Like other machines, eventually the blade and mats will need to be replaced which will be an added cost.

Good DEALS…
Our friends at Silhouette are providing our readers with some fabulous offers… from now until June 29, 2011, you can get…

1 Silhouette SD 
2 Packages Temporary Tattoo Paper 
for $199 (U.S. only) (that’s a $120 savings!)

Also, (wait for it…)

25% off all other products in the Silhouette shop (excluding gift cards and download codes). So if you already own the machine but want to get some of that cool Tattoo Paper or Heat Transfer material, now is the time.

To partake in this amazing offer, head on over to Silhouette and use Promo Code CRITIQUE. Offer ends June 29, 2011.
 
AND A GIVEAWAY!

They’ve also given us a Silhouette SD and two packages of their Tattoo Paper to give away to one of our very lucky readers. First enter by leaving a comment below answering the following question(s):

Do you own a Silhouette SD or are you considering purchasing one? What are your thoughts on how this machine can do versus other machines you know of? 

We can’t wait to hear from you on this one! This will give you one entry but wait, there’s more…

Optional Bonus Entries
Earn additional entry for each of the following:

■ Tweet about the giveaway! (example): WIN a Free Silhouette on @CraftCritique from @silhouetteam and read the Reviews. http://is.gd/QxOcYB

Like Silhouette America on Facebook and let them know you saw them on Craft Critique!

■ Link to the giveaway on Facebook!

Please enter one comment per entry. So, once you have done any of the additional entries remember to come back and comment to let us know. Contest closes at midnight. Good Luck!

Disclosure

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

Vendor Spotlight & GIVEAWAY: Slice Elite by Making Memories (1 of 2)

Reported by Taylor Usry

I recently had the opportunity to review the new Slice Elite Digital Cordless Designer by Making Memories. This is a little machine that packs a big punch! The Slice Elite weighs less than a pound, is 5″ by 5″ of creative power, and can cut. emboss, and draw on a variety of paper, card stock, and photos. As advertised, the Slice Elite can cut shapes and letters from one to four inches, in half inch increments. The machine can be powered by its rechargeable battery (works for about an hour), or by plugging in the power adapter.

Making Memories sent me an amazing package for review. It included the Pink Slice Elite Starter Kit, which comes with:

  • Pink Slice Elite Digital Cordless Designer
  • Basic Elements design card
  • Basic Elements design card booklet
  • 6″ x 6″ glass cutting mat
  • five blades
  • blade replacement tool
  • blade adjustment wrench
  • power cord
  • re-positionable adhesive for the cutting mat
  • foam brush
  • user manual
  • quick start guide

They also threw in some great paper and embellishments from their Dilly Dally and Tie the Knot product lines – what fun!

I read through the included User Manual a couple of times, and was surprised at the lack of information it provided, especially with regard to embossing and drawing. However, the tips to utilize those features were not included with my starter kit, so I didn’t get to test them out anyway!

I went online to check out the how to videos, and they were super helpful. As instructed, I began by putting a thin line of repositionable adhesive down the left side of the glass cutting mat. I then used the included foam brush to spread it out thinly all over the surface, and waited the recommended two minutes before applying my paper. An interesting note – I thought the adhesive smelled awful. My husband and daughter couldn’t smell a thing. Weird, huh? Regardless, it leaves no residue on your paper and washes off the glass mat easily with soap and water.

Once you’ve made you choice about shape/letter, size, etc and are ready to cut, the process is fairly simple. Place the machine on the desired location on the mat (it is easy to determine placement, as there is a small “x” on the screen where cutting will begin), press down with light pressure, and push the “cut” button (pictured above, just under the handle – it is the small pink button toward the rear of the machine). The button is perfectly placed to press while you are holding the machine to keep it steady. There is an optional Hands Free kit you can purchase, so that you won’t have to hold the machine while it cuts. But really, it cuts quite quickly and it isn’t difficult at all to hold it!

It’s easy to tell when the machine is done cutting, because it tells you. Down the left side of the screen you can see that it is “working”. Once the cut is completed, a large check mark appears, indicating the machine can be picked up and your die cut can be removed from the mat.

If you don’t wait the full two minutes for the adhesive to dry, or if you apply a bit too much and it doesn’t dry in the specified time frame, this is what will happen when you try to pick up the paper. A total mess. It washes off with a bit of warm soapy water and some scraping.

When applied correctly, your paper will peel off the glass mat very easily and leave your die cut behind. You can purchase a spatula to lift it off, but my fingernails worked just fine. When placing the paper on the mat, you want the side you want to use to be facing up (so, you will be looking at the “right” side). You do not have to wash off the re-positionable adhesive each time you use it. You can store the glass cutting mat with a scrap piece of paper covering it, and gently peel it off for the next use. Once it begins to lose its tackiness, wash it and reapply the adhesive. Making Memories also offers some spray adhesive, although I did not test that out either.

The Slice beautifully cuts out words! And using the shadow feature, you can make an outline in no time. The machine also has a mirror image feature, which is a great idea for shapes. I did change the cutting speed from high to low. When I cut my first word on high speed, the edges were a tiny bit jagged.  I did not have to adjust blade pressure at all. The Slice just cut what I wanted – no fuss, no stress, no feeding the paper in and positioning it the right way. No making sure I had tons of space behind and in front of my machine so the paper could work back and forth. That, I think, is my favorite feature about the Slice – the compact size. Easy to store, and the cartridges are the size of memory cards for a camera. So they just don’t take up as much space.

The Slice is so easy to use that I let my five year old try it out (with very close supervision, of course). I talked her through the steps, and let her watch me do it. She was able to pick out her shapes, choose different sizes, and position the machine on different areas of the paper to cut out the heart and the flower. Then she cut out the word giggle. All three die cuts took her maybe ten minutes, and most of that was deciding exactly which shape to do next. So in my opinion, this makes the Slice great for kids crafts and projects. Many of the design cards are kid friendly!

With the included Basic Elements design card, my favorite thing to make was the tags. What a super useful option! On the tag above, I paired stamps from Lizzie Anne Designs with the tag (and shadow) I die cut, a paper flower from the Making Memories Dilly Dally line, and some Making Memories ribbon. The card stock is Neenah Solar White and Papertrey Ink Kraft – I wanted to test out how the Slice cut different wights of paper. It cut through them just fine!

I mass produced this tag, using stamps from Stampendous, and more paper flowers from Making Memories. I left off the ribbon, so I can use them on a variety of gifts. I think I made about 30 of these! I’m not sharing samples I made using textured card stock (Stampin’ Up), vellum, and acetate, but the Slice cut them all perfectly. I do want to stress that I used the low speed to cut with, but the Slice still seems faster to me than my Cricut.

I could not be more thrilled with this machine, and plan to invest in more design cards to further utilize it. Check out my quick list of pros and cons:

Pros:

  • compact size and portability
  • ease of use; wastes less paper than a Cricut
  • online support and video help – great resource!
  • wide variety of accessories available

Cons:

  • the user manual could be more descriptive
  • I wish the starter kit came with at least one embossing tip
  • can’t cut an shape or word larger than four inches (which is fine for card makers, but maybe not for scrapbookers)

GIVEAWAY!
The great folks at Making Memories are giving away the newest member to the Slice Family, the Slice Fabrique to one lucky reader. Just answer the any of the following questions in the comment section of this article on this blog to be entered:

Do you own a Slice Elite? How do you like it? If not, what are you currently using for your die cutting needs?

You have until Monday, April 18th at 6pm CST to leave your comment.

Disclosure

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