Saturday, April 19, 2014

SVGCuts - Seaside on the Explore!

Do you know SVGcuts?  If you have a Cricut Explore, you know you can now import files!  You are no longer tied to cartridges as your only source for images, although I love to combine Cricut cartridge images with other kind of files.  I recently posted a treehouse I made using two SVGcuts files and a bunch of Cricut cartridge and before that, I posted my bunny house boxes that I decorated with cart images.  SVGcuts is my very favorite place to find 3D files for several reasons:  the designs are perfect and imaginative, they include a "menu" guide to the cuts, and all the dimensional files have corresponding construction videos.

I was recently approached by Melody Lane, fellow crafter and crafty-video-guru, to collaborate on a project: use my blog and her videos to share something we both like.

It is no surprise that SVGcuts was a perfect topic for us!  You can find Melody's video that corresponds to this blog post by clicking here.  Melody's video makes using SVGcuts so easy to do-- be sure to check it out!

We both love their designs because they are so much fun and so detailed!  They are unlike anything I have in my cartridge library or that I have found on other sites.  They have whimsical files that magically form into carriages, villages, dress forms, lipstick cases, teapots, campers, cameras, and so many more! They are functional, serving as gift boxes! One example of the the construction details I love with these boxes is the inclusion of an inside liner piece to hide construction tabs.  I love that idea so much that I now cut liners for all the boxes I make, even Cricut ones!  It really finishes the project perfectly. Designer Mary Kowal also uses decorative panels that are glued over construction pieces to add weight and cover scoring used to make curved shapes.  Those decorative panels are perfect because they can be embossed, distressed, and made from decorative paper, saving plain papers for the base cuts.

I love the file "menu" with each collection.  For Explore owners, that means that we don't have to worry that the files don't import at native size into Design Space; we can size them to cut exactly as the designer planned without guessing.  It also means that we get to see, with a color legend, how all the cuts look and all the extras that are included.  As a person who has many Cricut cartridges and enjoys thumbing through handbooks, I print out the SVGcuts' menus each time I buy a file so I have a reference and a reminder of the files I have purchased.  I also have a convenient place for my notes and changes that I make to the files.

I love that the company posts construction videos on Youtube so that there are no surprises and no guessing on how to glue the pieces together!  You will never have to rush to a message board or Facebook to ask if someone knows how to put something together; you will know how it goes together before you even buy the file, if you wish to watch the videos first!

The newest SVGcuts file is Seaside-- and it is also FREE until April 21, 2014 with any $9.99 purchase-- so you still have a couple of days to get it free!  I got it for the light house, but I need a hostess gift for this weekend, so the little Light Keeper's House is the project I needed to make!

Right now, SVGcuts is also offering a free sand dollar image.  If you are a little worried about how to cut SVGs in your Explore, let me suggest you do two things:  download the free sand dollar file (click here) and watch Melody's video (click here) so you will know exactly how to do it!  

On to my hostess gift...

To cut this box, I first found where I saved the file on my computer and imported it using the Import Images button on the left panel and then selected Vector Upload.  One at a time, I uploaded a file, named it, tagged it, and saved it.  There are ten files that make up the Light Keepers House, so I had ten file pictures that I had to select before clicking 'Insert Images' at the bottom.  In case you find this helpful:  I did find the first time I uploaded a project like this with many files, I uploaded them one at a time, re-sizing and attaching score lines before uploading the next.  If that is helpful to you, it won't affect your Design Space file at all, and is an option.

Once on my mat, I clicked on one group at a time to re-size.  (When re-sizing the cuts, keep the little lock icon on so that when you enter the width, the height will change proportionately.)

The most important thing to remember when importing 3D project files in Design Space for the Cricut Explore to cut, aside from re-sizing the pieces, is attaching the scoring lines to each piece!  Design Space will place them on a separate mat by default, but by highlighting the piece intended to have scoring along with the score lines, and clicking 'attach', the Explore will cut and score correctly (on the same mat).  And to be clear, SVGCuts utilizes cut-in dash marks for scoring, not the score tool and solid lines for scoring so you will not need a score tool or to remember to use it!  Attaching the score lines will make the pieces turn black.  After this happens at each file, just change the color back (or to another one you like that corresponds to your paper choices) so that they will appear correctly on different mats.

Then, all that's left is to cut and glue!  The construction video produced by SVGcuts for this collection can be found by clicking here.

I did make a few, small, easy changes to the file.
  • First, I cut the windows out of recycled acetate that I cut from clamshell packaging so the windows would have clear 'glass' instead of cutting from vellum.  I added a material to the Explore custom settings.  I called it 'clamshell acetate' and set the pressure to 338 and multicut to 3.  It sort of scored it but it was effective in getting it to a point that I could just "peel" it along the cut line to get my windows.  

  • Next, I cut extra house_panels1 and house_panels2 in white to match the base so that I could back the inside of the box, hiding the edges of the acetate.

  • Then I separated the window frames from the roof panels.  I wanted the roof (base) that you can see around the edges of the roof panels to match the window frames and door.  I did that by hiding the contour lines for the roof panels.  Not the most efficient use of paper, but it worked for me.  Next time, I will try ungrouping instead!
  • Then I used a Writing Font and a Marvy LePlume II pen so the Explore could write a personalized message on the door in lieu of a tag for my gift.   I love that the Explore has Writing Fonts and that it can write directly onto a shape that it cuts on the same mat.  Remember to highlight the door and the writing and to click the attach button!  

  • Lastly, I copied the step that is part of the house2 file so that I could make flower boxes from a scaled-down version of it.  I started a new file (because it was getting crowded and I wanted a less complicated space) to which I added a square canvas sized to 1-1/2" just for reference.  I adjusted the size by eyeballing it a bit.  I used the contour button to remove the house, leaving just the adjusted shape.

         I attached the scoring to the step, then cut and constructed it exactly like the step.

        I used an edge punch and Martha Stewart center punch for the flowers to finish the flower boxes.

I added an edge punch trim around the base.

This is the perfect gift wrap for the embroidered tea towel hostess gift that will go inside.  If you plan to make this box, please keep in mind that the paper base foundation will best support a light-weight gift inside.  A battery-powered tea light can be placed inside if you want to use it for a tablescape or decor item!

If you are looking for more tutorials for the Cricut Explore, check a previous post here, where I included details on how to cut fabric, how to use the Windows Snipping Tool to make .pngs, how to use .pngs in Design Space, how to add notes to your Design Space files right on the mat, how to write on cut images using the Explore, and which pens fit in the Explore.  I also have pages you can click on at the top of the blog for the Explore.

Quick Links:
SVGcuts Website
Seaside Collection
Seaside Assembly Video
Melody Lane's Video: SVGcuts in Design Space She shows you how to navigate the SVGcuts webpage, how to upload SVGs into Design Space, how to size the pieces, and how to attach scoring lines!  Be sure to subscribe!

Thank you for looking at my blog today!  Thank you to Melody for inviting me to collaborate on this project! If you found your way here from Melody's video, please let me know and thank you for swinging by!

You can see many of my previous projects by checking My Projects Gallery.

Happy Crafting!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Cricut Explore Treehouse - Blending Cartridges with SVG Files

I grew up in a house my mom rented from my grandparents.  It was their first home, one they later kept as a rental property even after they moved on to a bigger, nicer home.  It was a shotgun house built in the early 1900s.  Everything about it was old and every bit of it was something that my grandpa could build upon, fix up, change, or maintain.  It was the kind of house that had more layers of paint than it had rooms, but it had a huge, long backyard and my grandpa used to take half of that space for a giant garden every year.  He would come over every day and garden until the noon alarm sounded at the firehouse.  One day, he took it upon himself to build me a playhouse.  It was built off the back of the ancient garage and featured sliding windows and a real door.  My grandpa was the kind of person who could build something from nothing.  Living through the Great Depression and World Wars trained him, or so he said.  He was highly creative and skilled but he would have told you you were crazy if you suggested that.  He was modest and kind and always devalued his abilities, thinking he would have been better had he been formally educated.

That old playhouse has been long overrun by weeds, water damage, and birds happy to have a winter home. The trees in the yard are as old as the house, towering high over it.  That is something my mom thinks about whenever we have wind or ice storms, as she inherited that house.  Even in the '70s when that was my playhouse, those big, old trees were part of the experience of being in the little structure. 

My own daughter is really a bit too old for playhouses, but maybe not treehouses.  I often think of how much she would have loved the one from my childhood.  I have been noticing unusual ones springing up in neighborhoods, where they peek from side yards, over privacy fences, or attached to outbuildings.  Recently, I saw one that was plopped down on a big 'ol tree trunk... the kind of trunk where despite someone's handy chopping, the tree isn't quite finished thinking of itself as a tree and sprouts up new branches.  That was the inspiration for a paper treehouse I just finished.

Recently, I provided tutorials and shared what I have learned about the Explore.  You can find those on my two previous posts and on my new Explore pages at the top of this blog.  Today, however, I just wanted to share something fun that will probably teach nothing, but I hope is fun to look at.  I combined two SVGcuts files - Gingerbread Chalet Village and the round box under the egg house from Cotton Tail Village along with Cricut cartridges Kate's ABCs, Nate's ABCs, Wall Decor and More, Spring Cottage, Mother's Day Bouquet, Suburbia, and Stretch Your Imagination and punches and hand-cut elements.

This is actually a functioning gift box.  The round box on the bottom opens--I changed the size to be much smaller.  The house on top was originally a box, but I altered the front to be open and glued the roof in place.  I also removed the light holes that are on the original file.  I used Cuttlebug folders to add dimension to the round box to minic bark.

I used the back layer from the tree on Wall Decor and More and applied leaves from Mother's Day Bouquet.  The flowers around the base are a combination of cuts from Kate's ABCs with those punched from  Martha Stewart punches.

I added to the house window on the back wall by adding a window frame and flower box from Spring Cottage.  On the inside, I have a silhouette of a bunny on a chair cut from Kate's ABCs.  I placed acetate in between the pane cuts.

I hand-cut a banner and used little brads to look like nails used to hang it.  I found some great faux bois papers that I used to make my structure look weather-worn.

I created a vine using a branch from Stretch Your Imagination and butterflies that I hand-colored from Kate's ABCs.  I used Marvy LePlume II markers on the leaves, vines, and butterflies to add color and dimension.

I added a girl from Suburbia.  If you are interested in how to make those flat silhouettes of people into dimensional characters, you are invited to check out a tutorial I did on this by clicking here.  

The girl is looking at a butterfly... and so is the little bunny in the chair behind her.  Wonder when she will discover the bunny?

I added a bird next from Nate's ABCs and more butterflies in the tree and on the vine.

I worried that using an Explore and designing on a computer would hamper my ability to make things that look handmade and unique from the SVG files and cartridge cuts I made from them.  I found that the secret was to make multiple files!  I started with one that allowed me to adjust the sizes and cuts of the bottom box and house.  (The house was sized as recommended from SVGcuts but the round box was reduced in size.) Next I made one with the trees that I altered.  I made one with all the Nate and Kate images and realized that I would never even be able to sort out which teeny cut went with which image so I hide images and worked with one at a time.  (I usually appreciate the color sync function, but at some point, you just need to think about each individual element!)  I hand-cut the dress for the girl so I could bend and crease at the hem, added an extra arm cut so it would pop up and get some dimension.  I made separate cuts for the leaves and vines so I wouldn't have to hide other images!  I hand-cut the pennant banner.  I had more fun with this than I have had in a long time!  It was such a nice mini vacation from the stress of everyday stuff!  And all the technology of using Design Space helped the project and made it so easy to keep notes as I went!  (If you don't know how to make notes on your Design Space file mat, I have a little tutorial on my last post-- click here.)  It was a nice realization.. and a relief.

Thank you for checking my blog post today!  To see some of my previous projects, visit My Project Gallery. I have also updated my blog pages and have added pages for Pens and Writing on the Explore and How to Cut Fabric on the Explore.    Happy Crafting!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Explore: Making Monograms from PNGs Plus Other Tips!

Wow!  Has this been fun  playing with the new Cricut Explore or what!?  The projects here are ones I was never able to make in the past with my Cricut die cutters because previous machines did not allow for the use of imported files.  What I like most about the Explore, and what makes it different from every other cutter on the market, is that now you can cut and join imported files with cartridge images.  The Explore also has a dual housing carriage which allows the machine to cut as well as draw and emboss on the same mat without removing the mat from the machine--- and it prompts you to put in a pen or embossing tool as needed!  

So this post is all about what I have learned this week after more experimenting. In this post, I have tips for: 
  • How to make monograms using a free service from Mark and Graham.
  • How to use the Windows snipping tool to make a .png file of your Mark and Graham monogram.
  • How to attach writing to a cut piece on the same mat.
  • Which pens work in the Explore for writing.
  • How to make notes on the mat in Design Space.
  • How to cut fabric with the Explore. 
I am loving the energy and excitement around the Cricut brand-- it has been a long time coming!

For this card, I made a monogram online and imported it to Design Space.  I used the handwriting option to put the monogram on the card.  I assembled the card as usual.  

How to make a monogram (and how to work with and cut a png file in Design Space!):
  • Go to Mark and Graham (click here) to create a .png file of your monogram.  (Thank you to Sara Brauer for sharing this link on Facebook!  It is an awesome tool for anyone with a die cutter that can cut .png files!)
  • Enter your initials.  The program will re-arrange the letters so the last name initial is in the correct place.  Select the style you like-- there are twenty-seven to choose from!  
  • You will see a preview.  
    Now, at this point, you can click save+share and it will be emailed to you, but honestly, it takes a while to get the email and some of mine were never emailed so instead I do this: 
    1. Use the Windows snipping tool on your computer (click start and in the search box type 'snipping').
      The snipping tool allows you to screen shot anything so you can make it a png file that you can use with your crafting!  Simple black and white images are ideal for use with Design Space!
    2. A little box will pop up and you can highlight the monogram.  
    3. A box will pop up with your monogram in it.
    4. Click file, Save As.  Choose the location you want it saved in on your computer, name it, and see that the saved file type is PNG (default). 
    5. Now you have your monogram ready to import into Design Space
  • Go to Design Space and click file and select new.  
  • Click import and select 'upload image' under Basic Upload.  Click 'continue to step 1'.
  • Click 'browse' and find the file where you saved it on your computer.  Click open and it will appear in the Design Space preview window.  
  • Select 'simple image'.  Click 'continue to step 2'.
  • Click the magic wand icon and then click on the white background around your monogram.
    Be sure you also click on any spaces that are white, like inside an A.  All the areas behind your monogram must have the blue checkerboard behind it.  Click 'continue to step 3'.
  • Your monogram appears in the preview window.  Type in image name and tags.  Click 'save image'.
  • Your monogram will appear in the Uploaded Images.  Select it and click 'insert images'.
  • Your monogram appears on the mat!  
At this point, you can size and work with your monogram to fit your needs!

How to Put Notes on Your Design Space File:

After I make a project file in Design Space, I like to add a note on the mat so that I can remember where I got the image (cart names, SVG locations, and any other note I want to make).  To do that, you simply click 'add text' like you would if you wanted to add text to a project.  I like to edit the text to 'handwriting style' and I use Cake Basics, but you should use one you have.  I resize the text box to my mat.  Remember to hide the text box before hitting go or skip mat if you forget.  (Choosing a text you have will keep the program from trying to get you to buy it if you forget to hide it.  Remember that if your text box is too big and you forget to hide it, the program will tell you your project is too big for the mat!!)

How to Attach Text on an Image:

  1. Insert your cuts from imported files or from Cricut cartridges in Design Space.  Size it for your needs.
  2.  Ungroup if it is a grouped image.
  3. Click Add Text from the panel on the left.
  4. Edit to change it to handwriting style and choose a font.  Size it to your project.  You don't have to use a handwriting font, but other fonts will only draw the outline of the lettering, not fill it in.
  5. Highlight your cut with the writing and click 'attach'.
You can check that it is done correctly by clicking 'go' and looking to see that the handwriting is on the same mat as the cut.  OfficialCricut is the very best place to look on Youtube for great videos, including the one for "Attaching".  If this is still confusing to you, check out their video (click here).  

Pens for Drawing with the Explore:

There are several pens on the market that fit into the Explore.  Aside from Cricut brand, these will also fit into the pen housing and draw in the Explore.  I haven't tested all of these; they come as recommendations from other Explore owners:
  • American Crafts Slick Writers and Precision Pens
  • American Crafts Metallic Marker Medium Point
  • American Crafts Galaxy Marker Medium Point, White
  • Crayola Fine Line
  • Staedtler Triplus Fineliner (available at Staples and
  • Recollections Fine or Medium Point
  • Bic Ballpoint 
  • The Write Dudes Infinity Neon and Accent Pens
  • Marvy LePlume II (for ultra fine tip)  I used these pens for the 3/4" tags that I put on the bottoms of Hershey kisses.  They write very tiny text!  They are available in 108 colors and are my very favorite ultra fine pen to use!
    Marvy LePlume II for super tiny writing.
This is the BIC pen!  Writes even finer than the Marvy LePlumeII.  It has to be this style, not the kind with the clear barrel.  Since it can't bleed, you can use it for designs that get traced multiple times, like these butterflies

Crayola Fine Line

How to Cut Fabric with the Explore:
I have been experimenting with cutting fabric on the Explore.  For this bag, I cut fabric using my same monogram image.
  • Iron your fabric to prepare it.  Set the iron for the fabric and use steam if that is appropriate for the fabric you have chosen.  If it is something that will be washed in the future, you are advised to pre-wash it to shrink it first.
  • Press with your iron HeatnBond Ultra Hold to the wrong side of your fabric.  
    "Press" is different from "iron" in that you will lift and lower your iron and not move the iron over the fabric, risking a shift of the fabric on the bonding agent.  Don't use steam on this step.  
  • Place your backed fabric on a very sticky mat.  I just use a new mat, standard grip, but there is a Strong Grip mat available. I use a brayer to press the backed fabric into the mat.
  • Cut as usual with your explore, selecting 'fabric' on the dial.  If you are using heavy fabric, you can move the dial one notch over (between 'fabric' and 'poster board' and the machine will multi-cut 2).  Felt has its own setting, by the way.  For cutting felt, just select "Custom" on the dial and select "felt" on the drop down box on your screen in Design Space.  The felt setting will automatically multi-cut 2.
  • Remove the cut from the mat, peel off the backing and press to your project.  Here, you can use steam if that is appropriate for the fabrics you are bonding together.  
  • HeatnBond, unlike SteamASteam, is not permanent after fusing.  You are advised to stitch around cut edges for permanent hold.  HeatnBond, however, is preferred for use as a backing because it is a smooth and even backing!
  • I experimented with cutting felt, backed and unbacked, factory-backed taffeta, and quilting-weight cottons.  They all cut beautifully!  I did use a multi-cut when cutting the felt, but for all fabrics, I used the standard blade housing, NOT the deep cut.  I also used the Standard Grip Mat.

After this week, I do have a new set of "wishes" for improvements to Design Space and the Cricut product line.  (You can see my first list on my previous post- click here.)
  1. We need a way to center automatically one element onto another.  I would have loved a one-click way to center the monogram writing onto the center of the card since I attached it!  I eyeballed it and it is off a bit.
  2. White gel pens!  Come on Provo Craft, we need gel pens that fit in the Explore-- especially white ones!  So far, I haven't found any on the market.  Glitter pens would also be great!  Use the same concept as the gel pens you sell for the Expression, but put them in a barrel that fits the Explore! Pretty please!! 
  3. I linked 317 cartridges this week.  Some of them just don't show up in the search.  For example, Simply Charmed doesn't show up in My Image Sets, but it does show up in All Image Sets as "purchased" so I know I linked it correctly!  Another example:  Art Philosophy doesn't show up in My Image Sets or in All Image Sets, but the individual images show up in My Images as purchased.  It makes it impossible to find something on purpose for those missing-but-linked carts!  
  4. While linking those carts, I found that George and Basic Shapes and Celebrate with Flourish could not be linked and had to be linked by Provo Craft customer service.  When I called, the rep was very nice, but she told me, "I will do this as a one-time-kind-of-thing."  That made me think it was some special favor but I later found out from my favorite expert that  my George cart is probably blank.  The images were programmed into the Baby Bug and subsequently the Expression and the cart was just a "connection" so to speak.  Once PC realized people were hacking the "connection" with some paper clips, they started creating real George carts and redid the Expression programming.  That's why some people can link their George and some can't. Celebrate with Flourish had a programming error because they misspelled it when it was initially programmed.  So when you try to link it, the title reads it from the card but it doesn't match the one the one in the list of carts in the Image Library.  They did correct that problem too but most people can't link that cart."  So now we ALL know the details-- just need to clue in the Customer Service folks!
  5. Not all of my cartridges could be linked using my Explore.  I was able to link them (except for George and Flourish mentioned above) in CCR by hooking up to my Expression.  Seems like that could be a problem for many people in a couple of months, as I only had a two-week subscription to the Image Library but all those folks with the three-month subscription may have this problem too, if they are like me and never linked carts previously. 
  6. The embossing done by the Explore needs to be deeper or adjustable.  We could use it for form not just function if we could see the embossing, such as in outlining the monogram for cards.  It would be more effective if it were deeper too.
Thanks for checking out my blog!  I would LOVE to read and see what you have been learning about the Explore too!  Let me know or send me to your blog.  And if you find gel pens, specifically white ones that work in the Explore, please share what they are and and where you got them!  Happy Crafting!

But wait! There's more! Click 'older posts' above!

But wait!  There's more!  Click 'older posts' above!