Saturday, September 16, 2017

Its a Maker: One Quilter's Comparison with Die Cutting

Well, my amazing Cricut Maker is totally AMAZING! Yup...I love her more than any Cricut I've had and I've loved them all! I'd like you to meet her now, too.

Introducing "Maizie" Maker!

She has merited her name, meaning "pearl," which she really is....a jewel with many talents and strengths. My absolute favorite is her amazing rotary blade. Maizie's been a busy maker and is quickly becoming my quilting companion.

I have been asked why "Maizie" Maker is taking this position. Up until now, it has been my die cutting system for quilters; it has traveled with me and been the start of almost all of my quilts. As much as I love it, it has limitations. The dies are very expensive, and, despite my collection I often do not have the one I need either at home or locally. Dies are static sizes meaning that all of my quilts are based on an eight inch block, unless I invest in the dies that make a nine inch block. But, with "Maizie" Maker, the blocks I can create and cut are limited only by my imagination. 

At first I was concerned with the Maker's cutting speed and cutting of a single layer of fabric. My die cutter can handle 4-5 layers of fabric at a time and will cut several of the same shapes at once. This takes very little time. As I have used her, I have found "Maizie" Maker to be no less quick in her cutting.  The photo below was cut in no time at all. In fact, I didn't have the chance to start the timer! 

I've been very impressed by the true shapes "Maizie" cuts. Squares are square; triangles are just that. I may get the same result with my die cutter, but specific shapes require a specific die. With the Maker, it is possible to cut any shape from the same fabric (the light below) at one time; a time saving feature for sure! Just as when using my die cutter, I know that cleaner cuts are made when I take the time to prep my fabric. I size and iron each piece of fabric that I will use; this decreases the fray and the static. Despite the prep, with my die cutter I often have some shifting of fabric and always static! With the pink fabric mat, there is no shifting and definitely no static! It is a wonderful thing! Some fabrics are simply going to fray. I have to pick the threads out of my die blades to avoid damaging the blade. It is tedious, but necessary. Threads are left on the Maker fabric mat, but they don't seem to bother the cutting process. I have heard many ways to take care of this mat; I simply use a baby wipe without any chemicals when I am finished. The left behind fibers literally wipe off. My mats are well used and still sticky! 

At first I was a little discouraged that I could only cut a 12" width of fabric. I was worried that this would be limiting; I have not found it to be so! In fact, the Maker width is 2" more than my die cutter maximum width. Okay, I'll be honest---as a quilter I would have LOVED to have the machine handle the 18" fat quarter---but that can be a dream for another day! Even with my die cutter I have to cut fabric down to a width that the die machine can handle without blocking the rollers. In my opinion, it is much easier to cut the fabric width for the Maker! A 12" square ruler, hidden in my stash is perfect for this task! And, I now have a bin of fabric that is ready for "Maizie" Maker to sub-cut into usable blocks. 

It is said that the proof to excellent shape cuts is actually the finished product. I know that the thread I use, the seam allowance as well as the fabric can impact the finished size of my block. I use Aurafil for piecing my shapes as it is a thin, strong thread that blends beautifully. I also have experimented and determined the placement of my machine needle so that I get a scant 1/4" seam. I did not bother to change anything when stitching my blocks cut on the Maker. I was blown away! For the first (yes, you read correctly) time in my life, a block planned to finish at 9 1/2" cut finished at 9 1/2" cut! Despite the fact that the die system I use claims a consistent seam allowance, I have not found that to be the case. I am always adjusting my needle position on my machine to get the size block I had planned to have. With "Maizie's" block---no adjustments necessary! 

One of the truest tests of accurate cutting is the ease with which corners and points match accurately. 
I'll be honest, I am not a perfectionist here; close is good enough. But, I believe this attitude developed because no matter how hard I would try, my die cut shapes would not intersect accurately. Happily, I may need to rethink my stand. The shapes created with "Maizie" Maker went together easily and perfectly! My block has sharp points! My corners are spot on! I couldn't be more excited!

Yes, "Maizie" Maker is definitely becoming my quilting companion! She is truly a gem in my quilting life and my craft room. Thank you Cricut for this amazing Maker of crafts! 

Until next time, "keep sorting those scraps so you can generate your gems!" 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

It's a Maker: Felt Flowers--take 2!

If you visited when I initially posted this, first, thank you! I thought I had a huge issue after Cricut Care contacted me about a Pink mat problem cutting these flowers. Wellll......I humbly apologize for any confusion. You see, it turned out to be operator error; but that is okay because I not know what NOT to do. 
On to take 2!

As I was saying..... I don't know about you, but I'm starting to stockpile gifts for the holidays. Thanks to my Cricut Maker, this cute little pot of flowers can be done in a very little time! 

Supplies needed:

Felt: (I used the pre-cut premium from Joann's--personal preference) two red and one green
3" Styrofoam balls: 1  per project
Clay flowerpot: 4" across top
Corsage pins (or long straight pins with a larger head)
Regular seamstress straight pins (without a colored head)
Optional glue
Cricut Maker with Rotary blade
Ribbon (optional)
my design space file linked here

1. Do not cut the Lettering File! Turn it off by clicking on the "eye" in the layers panel.

Note: From the materials list I selected "Felt". 

I then lowered the pressure of the blade.

2. Cut all of the file pieces using the rotary blade. The wine layer, the pink layer and the red layer are cut from the red and will use both red pieces of felt.  The green is cut from the green.

3. Cover the styrofoam ball with the large wine cut. To do this, place the cut piece on the ball, securing every other "wing" with a regular straight pin.

4. Finish covering the ball by securing the remaining four wings with the regular straight pins. You may need to overlap some of the felt; that is okay. Your styrofoam ball should now look like this:

5. Place the ball in the pot with the bare side down. You may choose to glue the ball into position to keep it from shifting while you arrange the petals. 

6. Each of the blossoms will be completed in the same way. You will need a small blossom. a large blossom, and a leaf. I often only place the leaf on about half of my blossoms. 

7. Layer the small blossom on the larger and insert a corsage pin through the center. 

8. If using a leaf, continue through one point of the leaf, brining it under the blossoms. Assemble all blossoms. 

9. To arrange the blossoms on the styrofoam base, begin with one blossom at the top. Push the entire pin into the styrofoam, securing the blossom. 

10. To continue: Secure the next 3 blossoms as indicated by the corsage pins in the above photo. They form a triangle when looking down onto the project. 

11. Finally, fill in the remaining blossoms, covering the styrofoam base. 

I use my remaining leaves as fill for the bare spots. To attach the leaves I use the regular straight pins through one pointed end, pin to styrofoam base, and let the free point extend out of the blossoms! 
Add a ribbon around the pot if you desire.

Here is a different color way in which I used jewelry findings rather than corsage pins. I also cut the petals in two different colors of felt.

Thanks for stopping by today and letting me share this little project with you! Until next time....

Keep sorting those scraps so that you can generate the gems! 


Saturday, August 26, 2017

It's a Maker!

When Cricut released it's newest machine, the Maker, I was totally intrigued. Team Cricut seemed to have engineered the machine of my dreams--especially in fabric cutting. Years ago, an infomercial touting the Cricut Expression's ability to cut fabric pulled me into this crafting family. And, to make a long story short, I have used that ability with all of my Cricut babies thus far. Pretty secure and comfortable here. So, despite all of the Maker's qualities, I didn't think I needed it; but my husband did! (Love him!)

Enter my Maker!

As I experienced the unboxing, I was amazed by the attention to detail and the care taken in the packaging. It just made me feel special. More importantly, it was obvious that Team Cricut was very proud of their new product. 

Unboxed and touchable, my Maker truly appeared as a beautiful product.

But, my initial experience wasn't over. Inside of the "getting started box" I found two pleasant surprises: a REAL book and what I really was looking for---the rotary cutting assembly.  

The book of instructions was filled with beautiful photos and excellent directions. I couldn't help but be pleased with the fact that there was time and talent used to give me a reference book that I could peruse and touch! I saw the beauty of the photography again as a reflection of Cricut's pride. So far. My pleasure was steadily increasing. But, I had to ask myself, " Would this machine really allow me to be a more productive "maker" of crafts?"

It seemed the best way to decide was not to compare my ExploreAir and the Maker, but rather to compare the process of making something. And not just something new, but this felt flower pot originally designed by me and made with my Explore. Now I would make it with the Maker.

A little background on this project. In 2015, I designed this project in Design Space to be presented as a workshop on cutting various fabrics with the Explore.  Always one to find a way to do what I want, I had experimented or several months on the best way to prepare and cut felt on my Explore. My process worked pretty well. But it was tedious and messy; the felt had to be treated with a wet stabilizing mixture, dried completely, and finally have fusible applied to the "back". Depending on humidity it could take 2-3 days simply for preparation. And after all that, the felt was stiff and rubbery! But my Explore could cut it -- it worked. 

So, how did the process compare on the Maker? (Okay....I really wanted to use the rotary blade and the fabric mat. I'll admit it!) To truly compare, I even used the left-over 9 x 12" felt squares from the purchased at Joann's for the original project. Design Space still had my original file so I opened it, and went to work.

Advertised to not need fusible with the rotary blade, I did no preparation of the felt other than removing the store stickers. I placed it on the mat and took care that there were no bubbles or ripples in the fabric. In Design Space simplicity, I followed the prompts, loaded the mat, chose "felt" from the materials list, pressed"Go" and held my breath. 

My Maker started singing to me! It was a sweet sound....seriously! And in just a few moments my leaves were finished and perfectly cut!

The pink mat released the felt quite easily. But, the default pressure seemed a bit high for the type of felt I was using. When the mat for the petals was ready to cut I decreased the pressure. To my pleasure, the flower petals also cut quickly and precisely. Crisp points, both inner and outer. What can I say: attention to detail! 

I had read that there would be fibers of the felt embedded in the blade marks on the mat so I was prepared for my mat to look like it did.  No problem--Cricut recommends using heavy duty transfer tape to remove these fibers and preserve the mat and cleaning the mat took a very few minutes. And my mat was ready for my next project. 

I am in love; pure and simple. The Maker's capabilities have taken the process of cutting my felt from 2 days to just few minutes with picture perfect cuts! Team Cricut has a right to be proud of this one, from its looks to it's name. It is truly a Maker and it promises to help me become a more productive maker in the process. 

Until next time, Jeannie

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Adventures in StitchArtist: Creating Blackwork Motifs

In my last post I explored using the motifs found in StitchArtist as the fills. You can find that adventure here, using all levels of StitchArtist.
One of my favorite features of  StitchArtist 3 is the ability to create and save my own blackwork motifs which I can use in the same way as any motif already included in StitchArtist. My embroidery....from the start! Okay, I fess...maybe not from the absolute start.

I discovered that there are many, many sources for inspiration in creating motifs. I did a Pinterest search and was pretty much overwhelmed. A few of my results are pictured below (I attempted to link the photos, but as of this moment the link is broken)


Join me on my latest adventure, reproducing this stitch in StitchArtist 3.

Thanks for joining me on this adventure! To help you create your own motifs, please feel free to download the PDF version of the slides seen in the video by clicking here

Until next time, let's keep sorting the scraps so that we can generate the gems together! 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Adventures in StitchArtist 1-3: Blackwork and Motifs

True confessions: I love hand embroidery; I don't like to DO it, just look at it. Relief on that one! So, as I was Googling different types of handwork, I came across an interesting post on "Craftsy" about Blackwork. (You can find the article here.) The whole article pulled me in, but it was the final question that intrigued me. It asked, "Have you tried blackwork yet?" Guess it is time for another adventure. will you join me?

My search for free clipart took me to which had a great selection of personal use art. I wanted a simple black and white pumpkin outline, like this one:

You can find this image by clicking HERE

So let's begin this adventure which can happen in StitchArtist 1, 2 or 3!

And, there are always scraps of information that seemed to help me. Here they are:

1. Green bow tie is the beginning of the stitch sequence. Red bow tie is the end.
2. Using the motif fill, don't worry so much about the ins and outs. 
3. After setting the line stitches go back and check where your sections begin and where they end, different styles may change the location!

I look forward to sharing more scraps of my adventures with you soon! Until then, keep sorting the scraps so that you can generate the gems!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Adventures in StitchArtist3: Columns and Contour

A while back I shared an adventure creating a garden fairy pillow using the "left-right alternating point column stitch" (what a mouth-full!) in SA3. Well........I realized that it was time to revisit the technique!

Join me in my adventure as I create the butterfly wings in this embroidery!

And just so you can review :

I hope that you have found these "scraps" something that you want to add to your stash, too!

Until next time....

You can find the Garden Sprite series of videos beginning here: 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Adventures in SA: Cutting an Exported SVG with my Cricut Explore

I'm in several embroidery FB groups. Recently, there here have been an increasing number of questions as to how to bring the SVGs created in Embrilliance into Cricut Design Space for cutting.
Time for an updated adventure using my wonderful Embrilliance Suite (Essentials or Stitch Artist)
and my amazing Cricut Explore!

I wanted to create a quilt label for a very "beachy" quilt--it had to be a flip flop. Easier said than done, but eventually my search brought me to this free line art:

With a little tweaking I digitized it as an appliqué.

But, the adventure begins with exporting this appliqué as an SVG to be cut on my Cricut Explore! 
Join me on this journey.....from Embrilliance to Design Space!

Look how perfectly the base of the flip flop cut:

Here is the positioning stitch:

And look how perfectly they fit together!

I love my Explore, its capabilities and the clean ease of Design Space 3!
 For more information click here!

 For additional information regarding appliqué and Embrilliance, please check Lisa Shaw's video on Applique: How to Create Applique Files in Embrilliance Essentials

And, there are always scraps of information that seem to help me and I'd like to share them with you!

1. Always use a clean sticky mat for fabric on the cutting machine!
2. Just like scissors, I keep a blade specifically for fabric.
3. Starch the front of my fabric, then apply the fusible. (I use Steam a Seem Lite.)

Until next time, keep sorting those scraps and generate the gems!