It started in Michael's when I saw this book: Silhouette Style by Nanetta Bananto. In particular I was taken with the votive lanterns on the front cover, aren't they keen? Did she cut all these projects by hand? Leafing through the book, I learned she used a digital cutter. I had heard of die-cut machines through Stampin' Up, and seen a few on the market like Cricut and Cuttlebugs, but it seemed to me that with such machines you were locked into a particular system that could only use a particular set of designs. The Silhouette Style book came with a CD of the designs used, but what kind of cutter would you need to use them? Could I, perhaps, become the owner of such a thing? I did a little research and when I saw the price tag of digital cutters who could use independent design software, I decided such a thing was not for me at this point in time.
I set that idea aside but then I started having an affair with the blog How About Orange (she ruined my life), which in turn led me to the incredible blog PaperMatrix and these AMAZING WOVEN PAPER SPHERES, I MEAN HELLO?!
Aren't they just the greatest things you've ever seen, they totally blow away those paper strip ornaments which still remain pretty awesome but come on! The PaperMatrix blog also ruined my life, but also very generously gives you the pattern to make these spheres. As I looked at both the intracacy of what had to be cut out along with how many you needed to cut out, I realized that what was truly needed here was (sigh) a digital cutter. I wondered if they'd come down in price since last I looked...?
But I really wanted one.
So I did some creative visualization and put it out to the Universe, I would like to have a digital cutter. In fact I started acting as if I already had one, I love my digital cutter so much, I'm having so much fun with it. Then, because I feel the Universe likes it when you do your part, when I took out cash for the week, I started socking away a $20 in the mason jar I keep by the washing machine (because I don't know about you, but any money I find in pockets when doing laundry belongs to me, finders keepers). And I started doing some comparison shopping in earnest, seeing what models would work best for me and the kinds of projects I wanted to make. Eventually I settled on the Silhouette brand, with their Portrait model as the ideal, and I started trawling online and on eBay. Finally, one showed up: not a Portrait or Cameo, but an earlier Silhouette model that the owner said still worked with the Silhouette Design software and was a great starter model for those just venturing into this world of digital cutters. $150 with free shipping. The Universe was not just putting this into my hands but hitting me over the head with it. I said "yes, ma'am," cashed in the mason jar and I bought it.
I screamed and I hugged it. And now, I am in love.
The road to love has not been a smooth one. First of all, I didn't have a PC to hook the Silhouette up to or run the software on. Using the house computer upstairs would involve hooking up the machine every time I wanted to use it, setting it on a stool nearby along with my materials and basically trying to be crafty in the middle of household chaos. Not to mention fighting the kids off to actually get some damn time on the computer. No, I wanted my own setup and I'd gladly petition the Universe and start socking money away in the mason jar again to obtain it. Lucky for me my brother fixes and refurbishes computers as a side business, and he was able to assemble for me a system out of mongrel parts. Finally I was set up, and so began the learning process. This had its own frustrations as I learned that creating Nanetta Bananto's designs wasn't as easy as opening the file from the CD and just cutting. I had to learn to use the "trace" feature of the Silhouette software to replicate the pattern, as I would for any JPG or PNG design I wanted to cut out. That was an eye-opener, and took a couple weeks to master. Then there was learning how to adjust the blade settings, cutting paper versus cardstock, and discovering that cardstock bought at Michael's is flimsier than cardstock bought through Stampin' Up, and settings that work for the former will not cut through the latter. And so on and so forth but finally I felt I was ready to attempt a project, and in my tendency to go for the hardest version of anything first, I decided to make one of those paper spheres.
A lot of you already know this story. I'll skip to the ending and say that I did make one. But I don't know if I'll attempt making any more because while they are utterly fabulous, they were quite possibly the hardest, most frustrating project I've ever attempted in my life. You hear me? In my LIFE!
I set aside my sphere dreams and looked for something else to fool around with. Panda had recently downloaded and printed some pictures of One Direction which were, naturally, strewn across the kitchen counter. As I gathered them up to toss in the recycling (I'm so mean, I know, but you give clutter an inch and it takes your house), I looked at one of them, a basic group shot of the boys, but I was now looking with my new Silhouette-trained eye, seeing the outline of the group, not just the individuals. I can trace this, I thought, suddenly envisioning the cut-out silhouette in front of a Union Jack flag. I found the same image online, saved the picture as a JPG, imported it into the software, and used the Trace feature. It worked perfectly. I cut the shape out of black paper, then found a Union Jack design from the SIlhouette store which I cut from red and blue paper. I worked in secret evenings when Panda was away. Finally assembled, I took it up to her:
She screamed. She hugged it. She hugged me. Then she took a picture and put it on Instagram.I thought, this has possibilities.
Bit in teeth, I downloaded this picture:
I traced it, cut it, assembled it, and presented it to Panda:
She screamed. She hugged it. She hugged me. Then she took a picture and put it on Instagram. After hanging both pieces on her wall, she wondered how she could have them surrounded by some 1D lyrics. "Like a wall decal?" I asked.
"Right, letters that just stick on the wall," she said.
"Well that's just contact paper," I said slowly, "or rather some kind of adhesive...vinyl."
"Will your machine cut that?"
But I didn't answer her because I knew it could and I was having yet another vision, this time of making my own wall decals. Not just the ubiquitous ones you see everywhere: Live.Love.Laugh. Family. Peace. Famous Quotation. But a truly unique and useful decal that could go by the kitchen sink that said I love you...and please put that in the dishwasher. One over the hamper that said Is that dirty or are you just lazy? Or one that was posted just outside bedroom and bathroom doors, in a beautiful font reading: turn off the light! I could make decals of ballet poses and terminology for my best friend's dance studio.
I'm now out of my head. I'm smitten, besotted, gone. I am so in love with this machine, I can't even see straight. I don't think I've been this excited about a gadget since...um...never mind (shut up, Bridget). It's awesome. I love it.