Memorial Day 2011

Today we honor and remember those who gave their lives so that we could enjoy freedoms that we often take for granted.  Please take some time today and reflect on our American way of life and the ultimate price so many paid for it.


Rolling Thunder 2011

Each Memorial Day weekend, hundreds of thousands of motorcyclists converge at our nation's capitol to ride in Rolling Thunder.  Started in 1987 to raise awareness of prisoners of war and those missing in action, Rolling Thunder has evolved to an impressive show of patriotism and support for our troops and veterans of all wars.  Roll on, brothers and sisters!


YouTube University

YouTube University?  Yep, that is what I call it.  That is where I go to learn quickly.  For example, in my last post I noted the unique (to me) cutting layout of the Cricut Expression vs the screen of Sure Cuts A Lot 2.0.  After I posted, I hopped over to YouTube and watched a couple of videos and lo and behold, one showed how to change the screen to reflect how the Cricut actually cuts (properties > document).  Watching videos is great and I will watch all the ones I can find about the Expression and Sure Cuts A Lot 2.0.  However, the manuals can be pretty comprehensive, so I'll grudgingly read through those a little at a time, since it is not my best way of learning.  Here's a video from one of my favorite Sure Cuts A Lot "professors".


Sure Cuts A Lot 2.0 - New User Perspective

After realizing that Provo Craft was never going to enable the Cricut Imagine to use stand alone software like it did for the Cricut Expression, I decided to buy an Expression and Sure Cuts A Lot 2.0 (SCAL).  I got a great buy on a used Expression on eBay ($63) and SCAL was a very reasonable $60, so my buy-in price wasn't too bad.  I had also read on some message boards that the Roland cutting blades were superior to the PC ones, so I bought 5 of those for around $2 per blade on eBay (versus almost $4 for the PC blades).  I bought the 60 degree blades although you can easily buy the 45 degree blades (60 degree = PC deep cut blade; 45 degree = PC regular blade).  Both sizes fit in the regular blade housing.

Operating the Expression and the Imagine are very different and I was a bit intimidated.  Same with SCAL, but I'm not real big on reading manuals at first.  I'd rather dig in and try my hand at things and see what I can come up with.  My first order of business was to find some files that worked with SCAL.  The Internet is a treasure trove of all sorts and getting free graphics is no exception.  I found some very nice (FREE) .svg files that would work with SCAL and downloaded to my hearts content.

My first cutting attempts with SCAL were made using my regular card stock and I wasn't very happy with my results.  I had to experiment with pressure and blade settings to get things right and then find paper that would release from the cutting mat without making me spend too long struggling to ensure it wouldn't rip.  I ended up giving up on my regular stuff and started cutting some pearlized paper end cuts I bought from Paper Works.  WOW!  Nice crisp cuts, fine details.  comes right off the mat.  OK, now I'm happy.  Here is a picture of a heart.  It is made up of three cuts:  the base, the heart, and the swirl.  I used a glitter pen as an experiment.  I usually don't use glitter as it is a no-no for Operation Write Home cards (glitter can put our troops in harms way - 'nuff said).

I then decided to try to print and cut.  This is without benefit of reading any directions from the poster of the graphic and template.  I would imagine those are available but I'm not even sure where I downloaded the items from, so I had to use trial and error.  I cut out the template as-is on my first cut.  Boy, that was one big cut and I had the paper in the wrong position - ugh!  Then I printed out the graphic.  OK, no way they match up!  Fortunately, SCAL is very accurate about showing you where your cut will happen on your mat IF you take note of the unique perspective.  I don't know if the Expression is always like that but what you see at the top of the screen is NOT what cuts at the top of the page.  The Expression's starting point is upper right on the cutting mat and cuts sideways as you look at the mat, so top to bottom is actually right to left.  The Imagine's starting point is upper left on the cutting mat and cuts just as if you were reading a book, that is, left to right.  Long story a little shorter, I finally came up with this nice printed graphic of a tea cup with flowers and then cut it.  I trimmed a little here and there with my craft knife and then glued it to some white card stock that I cut out after making a couple of slight modifications to the template.  Here is a photo of the card I made from the tea cup.

First impressions:  I'm loving the flexibility of SCAL and the Expression.  I'm really glad I have both the Expression and the Imagine.  I think I have the best of both worlds.  I'm very happy with the added capabilities of the Expression and look forward to exploring those in the future (you'll see my posts on my experiences).  Thanks for reading and please come back soon.  If you want, go to the bottom of my blog and sign up for the RSS feed.  That way you'll know when I've added something new.


Finding Inspiration

If you are coming from Linda Kaiser's The Paper Boutique, welcome! Linda is very kind in showing a card I made, inspired by the very creative Joy of Obsessed with Scrapbooking.

I've learned a lot from both Linda and Joy and they continue to inspire me to go beyond merely reproducing what they have done. I am always on the lookout for new ideas for card designs as I make cards for Operation Write Home. I really get a great deal of pleasure making cards that troops will send home to family and friends. I had been pushing myself to ship over 100 cards per month. That necessitated some expedition in the card making process. After about 6 months of that, I've reconsidered and decided to not make as many and focus on trying new techniques and materials. I am going to try to make more detailed cards with more elements and layers, some "fussy cuts", and possibly even try my hand at dimensional and pop-up cards. As I work my way through, I'll post the results here. You'll see the good, the bad, and the ugly (well, my pride might not allow me to post the ugliest mess of all, but you get the idea).

I am in the process of learning how to use the Cricut Expression and Sure Cuts A Lot 2.0.  As I start experimenting, I'll certainly write about my experiences and how I find working the Expression into my usual workflow of the Cricut Imagine.    I hope you will decide to visit again and leave comments about my cards and other projects.


Operation Write Home sends Millionth Card!!

I am so proud to have contributed just a small drop in a rather large bucket. Here's to the next millionth card and beyond!