I’ve told you a million times, I am not a crafter. I despise glitter, I can’t use a glue gun without burning myself, and I can’t cut a straight line with a pair of scissors no matter how hard I try. The only thing that puts me in the “craft club” is the fact that I own a Cricut. And I’m slightly obsessed with it. I use it to cut vinyl decals for coffee mugs, water bottles, journal covers, car windows...I make iron on designs for shirts and pillows and tote bags...custom stencils for wooden signs, fabric, and furniture. It’s the most useful tool in my office and has been a huge part of my business the last few years.
If you’ve got one in your craft room collecting dust because you are too intimidated to try it out, if you’ve been wanting to get one but don’t know where to start, or you use one but you could use a little helping hand...here are some of tips and tricks that have worked well for me. These aren’t basics about how to use your machine….these are just some things that I’ve learned by trial and error that make using the machine a heck of a lot easier. (I own a Cricut, but most of these will apply to any at home die cutting machine, like a Silhouette or whatever brand you’ve got). If you are looking for a full rundown on how to get up and running with your cutter, Payne Hollow Painted has a Cricut crash course, and there are a couple FB groups where you can ask questions from fellow crafters, too.
Ready?? Let's jump in!
-Skip the Cricut vinyl. I’ve used it, and I know I’m not the only one to say this...it’s kinda crappy. It doesn’t like to stick for the long haul and the iron on stuff is just as frustrating. I buy my vinyl online and I’m loyal to the brands I love. For iron on vinyl (for making permanent designs on fabric) I use Siser Easyweed HTV. The name is no lie, its super easy to weed your design, it irons on easily, and stays put. I buy these in large rolls in individual colors (I always try to have at least 5 yards of black and white on hand) to get the biggest bang for my buck. For all other projects, I use Oracal 651. It’s an outdoor grade vinyl that has a durability rating of 6 years (which I believe is for outdoor or high usage...so your average items can last a lot longer). I use this for mugs and windows and water bottles, but I also use this to create my stencils. I find it to be a lot stickier than the actual stencil vinyl, making it less likely to have bleed thru on wood and fabric. When I was just starting out, I made the bulk purchase of all the colors and it saved me a ton of money. I use the less popular colors for my stencils (yellows and browns) and save my more common colors for actual decals. Both of these brands can be found in some big name craft stores, but the cost is quite a bit less online. (Grab HTV here https://amzn.to/2UFOwUS and Oracal 651 here https://amzn.to/2WNUG83)
-Don’t waste money on the name brand tools. Cricut sells fancy picks, tweezers, and scissors at a premium price. Skip those! Go to Harbor Freight or head online and grab a set of picks for a fraction of the price. All you need to weed your vinyl is something with a small, sharp, point. You can even use a simple sewing needle or exacto knife. I like to have a few angled picks for certain projects, but you don’t need anything special to weed your design, I promise. (These are my favorite!! https://amzn.to/3dFTZUr)
-All fonts are not created equal. Your computer likely came with a handful of fonts pre programmed, and they are fine...but you’ll want more soon, trust me. But where do you get the best selection? Skip your Cricut premium fonts and purchase or download your own. If you are just doing projects for yourself, head over to Dafont * com and check out the insane selection. Most are available for personal use with no issues. If you are working on commercial projects, you can usually purchase commercial licenses for your fav fonts on that same site...but I find much better deals on FontBundles * net. They have great deals and you can often get a dozen or more fonts for the price of one. (If you are having a hard time getting your downloaded fonts to show up in your design space, unzip the file and install them, then close your design space out and reopen).
-Connect your letters! If you are using a script or handwriting font….scoot those letters together!! This is the biggest tip I can give to make your work look professional. Cursive letters are meant to connect, but they don’t always link up in your design program. You can adjust the distance between the letters to bring them closer, but often times this doesn’t work perfectly. I prefer to detach the letters and manually move them together, and then weld to remove any cut lines in between.
-Buy extra mats. I started with the 12” x 12” mat. Then I quickly realized I needed the 12” x 24” one. Then a few weeks later I realized I needed more than one. If you are cutting stencils for multiple signs or you are doing designs for multiple projects, you’ll save a ton of time by having a few mats loaded up with vinyl, ready to cut in an assembly line fashion.
-Clean your mats. They are sticky. They are made that way. They hang on to the vinyl by being sticky. Ya wanna know what else will stick to them? EVERYTHING. After a week, you’ll realize they aren’t sticky at all anymore because they are coated in dirt and dog hair and lint and glitter. Grab some Awesome cleaner from the dollar store and spray them down in the bath tub. Let them soak for 20 minutes or so and then wash off with clean water. Let them air dry and then they will be back in action in no time.
-Don’t spend a ton of money on the specialty pens and markers for your Cricut. (Yep, your cutting machine can write for you too!!) If you have some awesome markers that you love but they don’t fit into the pen holder, try wrapping them in rubber bands or those squishy pencil holders that your kiddo uses in school. This will make them larger and then they’ll fit more snug in the clasp that holds the pen.
-If you buy specialty printed vinyl (I prefer to buy mine from Etsy to get the best quality and unique designs), be sure to read the description to see if you need to reverse the image and to see what setting you should cut on. Not all printed vinyl is created equal and some have different thicknesses and need to be cut on various settings, but usually all the info you need will be listed in the description. (Also be sure to read the description to see if the printed vinyl requires a separate transfer sheet or if it comes with one!)
-Skip the expensive transfer tape and get clear, permanent shelf liner instead. It works just as well and is a fraction of the price. I even use shelf liner as a stencil medium when I’m running low on vinyl. It cuts on the same setting as your window decal vinyl and works just as well.
Sooooo, if that was too long, didn't read:
Get yourself a fancy Cricut. Skip all the fancy Cricut add ons. 😆
Does that help?? Think maybe you are ready to dust that old machine off and get your craft on?? Start with a simple design and jump in! And then lemme see what you are working on!
***If you are still on the fence about getting a cutting machine, I have the Cricut Air 2 (Not the newest version, but it does a ton and is almost half the price of the newest model) https://amzn.to/2UFTG37
Or there is the Cricut Maker (If you want the newest model, because it does all the thangs and also comes in champagne gold) https://amzn.to/2UnEjgC
(This post contains affiliate links. These help keep my business afloat and don't cost you a dime! I only link products I truly love!!)
We went on a walk at a nearby reservoir the other day to get some fresh air and exercise and were hoping to spot some owls. My mom has been visiting the same area for a few years now and she’s seen a family of owls there every time. But this year? This year was different. As we got closer to the cluster of trees that the nest is usually in, my mom slowed down and went silent. Half the trees had been cut down since she last visited a few months ago. Giant piles of logs were piled up next to the embankment and not a bird in sight. There’s a lot of construction happening nearby, bulldozers growling in the distance, smoke clouds puffing into the sky...and no owls. The birds that had called these trees home for years were displaced. In an instant, their entire lives were pulled out from under them and they had no choice but to leave, begin again somewhere new, and try to put all the pieces back together….
There are a lot of us feeling overwhelmed by the financial impact of what is happening right now. Many that are afraid of losing their homes, their businesses, their everything. And unlike other economic crashes of the past...this one is hitting all demographics. For the wealthy with substantial amounts of money in the stock market, the loss is mind boggling. If you were living paycheck to paycheck while working at a restaurant, this is catastrophic. Own a small business in town that was just closed down? Gut wrenching. These aren’t slight inconveniences or mild discomforts...these are monumental losses. And while it’s easy to be completely engulfed in all the terror, I think it’s important to remember that the owls survived. They found some other cluster of trees on another side of the lake and, branch by branch, they rebuilt.
I’m not a financial expert. Not by any stretch. But you know what I am? I’m resilient. I’m creative. I’m practical. And I’m resourceful. And right now? I’m leaning on all of those traits to silence out the fear and panic. My heart tends to spiral and focus on the loss and the devastation, but my brain is putting on the brakes. Because we don’t have time to panic...we’ve got work to do. I can’t give you advice that will magically make this all go away, but there are things that some of us can do that will maybe lessen the blow. Maybe one or two of these will hit home for you or spark an idea that can work for your business, maybe something in here will help put some fast cash into your pockets, or maybe it’ll all be rubbish. Take it or leave it, adapt what you can, and remember to keep moving forward.
Take Your Business Online
-I can’t begin to tell you how many small business owners I know that have refused to take the leap into the online world. You’ve got to be in front of folks now more than ever. Social media and a website allow you to sell items when your brick and mortar is closed, be that during a worldwide pandemic or just your normal days off. At the bare minimum, you can list items for sale on marketplace right now. But to truly set yourself up for success, get a simple website running so customers can check out and complete their purchases in a professional setting. I don’t recommend setting up an entire website with thousands of new items listed overnight. That’s way too overwhelming and your odds of quitting are sky high. Start small and build steadily. Get a basic website up and running, choose a simple template that is easy to add to when needed, and list a few items. When you are feeling up to it, add a couple more items. It’s that simple. Keep yourself from being overwhelmed and you will build slowly and steadily. And check out a few different website hosts and find one that you feel comfortable with. I use Weebly and I’ve been soooo happy with it. Start with their free package, choose a template, and customize it to make it feel like home. Then when you are ready to make the leap, upgrade to get all the extra features. They also have rockstar support so if you have any issues adding a shopping tab or integrating with a previously owned domain or anything in between, they can talk you through it via chat windows (or if you aren’t an anxious weirdo like me, you can just call them). If you end up going this route, click below and you can save 10% off your package. (Affiliate links help keep this business afloat! Thank you!)
-Times are changing, drastically...and your approach has to as well. Can you offer free delivery and drop purchases off on doorsteps? Can you teach online classes for a small fee? Can you start a subscription box to ship to clients? Would one on one web conference calls benefit your clients? Think outside the box!! Look at the world from your customers’ perspectives and see if there’s something you can do to make things easier for them. We are all adapting to a new way of life right now and business is no exception to that!
Find Money In New Places
-If your hours got cut, you got laid off, or your whole world came crashing down...start looking for additional sources of income. I’ve noticed things are still selling on marketplace like crazy. Go through your house and clean out anything you aren’t using. Have an old treadmill in the basement you haven’t touched in years? They are a hot seller right now! Have a ton of clothes in your closet that no longer fit? Throw them on Poshmark. Need something more steady? Can you sign up to be a grocery delivery driver?? How about GrubHub? I’m also hearing tons of ads for grocery stores and warehouses right now that include good pay and great benefits.
Turn Your Hobby Into A Business
-Have you been making jewelry for gifts? Do you crochet while you watch tv? Paint furniture for fun?? THIS is your time to turn those hobbies into money makers. If you’ve been thinking about it but never had the time to make the jump...well guess what?? You may have a little extra time now. If you aren't sure what you could do, ask yourself "what do you have to offer the world??". We all have talents, and most of them can bring income if played right. Is there something you make for your friends that they love? Is there something people ask you for all the time? If your friends and family love it, so will others.
Invest, Invest, Invest
-I said earlier, I’m not a financial expert. But I know that investing when the market is low is smart. I’ve wanted to join the investment world for a long time, but I could never quite time my entry and it was too scary to take the leap. (Picture me swaying back and forth at a double dutch game for the last decade) But if you’ve had the news on at all in the last week, you know things are looking pretty gloomy. So now is the time. I don’t have a fancy financial advisor to move my money around, and I honestly don’t know enough to go at it completely on my own….so I found something that worked for me and my comfort level (and finances). I downloaded an app and finally made the leap. I’ll be honest, my first leap was more like a teeny tiny bounce, but then I decided to add in a little more a few days later. I signed up for the cheapest monthly plan (only a dollar a month) and skipped the option of recurring deposits. This made it the absolutely lowest risk investment option I could find. ($12 a year is totally manageable to me for what they provide) I also used a referral link from my sister that gave me twenty bucks to play with, so my initial investment of $20 was already covered in case I totally screwed things up. It’s super easy, kinda fun, and hopefully will set me up to have a bit of a silver lining when the world feels normal again.
-Tons of guidelines are changing every single day to help us through the financial side of this pandemic. Mortgage companies are pushing payments to the back end of loans, school loans are now able to be deferred for 60 days, utility companies are backing off and forgiving late payments...you’ve just got to ask. If you are facing a financial crisis right now, it’s time to make some phone calls. I’ve read a bunch of posts saying that companies will only cut you slack if you specifically say you are in money troubles due to coronavirus (vs just saying you are laid off or strapped for cash for any other reason). I’m not sure if there’s any truth to that, but it’s not gonna hurt. Pick up the phone and ask for help.
Make Some Changes
-This is the one that I hope sticks with us long after this virus is gone. Take some time to really look at your life. What can you be doing differently?? You’ve likely already cut back your spending due to social distancing...but what else? Are there ways you can reduce even more? Can you switch to generic brands for your grocery shopping? Can you plant a garden with your kids to save money on veggies this summer? Can you bike to work to save the gas? Can you link up with a friend or neighbor to split memberships? Can you start filling a reusable water bottle and ditch the plastic? (Ok, for real, you should be doing this one already.) Maybe now is the time you needed to quit that expensive smoking habit. Whatever it may be, if there’s something that you can change to save money, and it also happens to be a change that will be better for your health or the environment?? Get on that! And stick with it in the years to come.
The owls in the park rebuilt. And so will we. I’m not saying it’s gonna be easy, but if we do it together, it’ll sting a little less. Take some time to breathe, assess your situation, and then make some major moves in the right direction. This was just a short list of ideas...but I want more!! What are you doing to survive this? What changes have you made to ensure the lights stay on? Any tips we should hear????