Making the Cut for Christmas

Publish Date
Fri, 10 Dec 2021, 7:40AM

Making the Cut for Christmas

Publish Date
Fri, 10 Dec 2021, 7:40AM

Remember home-made presents?

Your mum always told you they meant so much more than things bought from the shop.

She was lying of course - but it helped create those nice, warm fuzzies we all crave around the holidays. I mean, who wouldn't want a photo-frame constructed from coloured paper, glitter, spare bits of Lego and a few blobs of playdough?

Admittedly, as a dad, I do appreciate a D.I.Y. card - not just because they're cute and funny but it means pocket money I've paid hasn't been wasted on a $7.50 card from the bookshop.


What if you could add a personal touch and come up with something that actually looks professional that you wouldn't mind other people seeing?

Until a couple of weeks ago I'd never heard of Cricut and I didn't even realise devices like these existed. Cricut makes a whole range of machines that look a bit like printers but are actually cutting tools designed to create stickers, signs, cards and other things that would be simply impossible to produce using a pair of scissors, a craft knife and a packet of felt pens.

The Cricut Joy seemed like the obvious starting point on my crafty Cricut journey.

Smaller than a block of cheese, the Cricut Joy takes up hardly any desk space - although depending on your project, you may need to allow a bit of clear area at the back for things to feed through the device. Given the complexity of the tasks it can perform, there's virtually no setup required. Plug it in and it powers up, with a single LED showing to let you know it's switched on.

That's really all it takes for you to begin creating your own home-crafting masterpieces from your smartphone, using the Cricut Joy app.

There are a few sample materials included in the box so you can try out the various functions, with the app prompting you to try out a small vinyl sticker first. This worked perfectly, first time and resulted in a tiny "Create" sticker, which I was able to successfully extract from its backing paper and stick onto something else. 

This process was aided by the essential "Weeding Tool" - an accessory I was sent along with a spatula and scraper in conjunction with the Cricut Joy itself. The weeding tool looks exactly like that thing dentists use to prise nasty bits off your teeth - and it kind of serves the same purpose here; getting into all the tiniest corners you've cut out to provide you with the tidiest result possible.

Emboldened by my success in producing a "Create" sticker, I set about the seasonally appropriate task of coming up with a bespoke Christmas card for my colleagues, Mike and Kate.

That's where it all went horribly wrong.

There are several ways to get something from your head into the Cricut Joy for production; there are a number of apps out there, other than the specific Cricut Joy mobile app itself. There are templates, suggestions and full designs you can use to create anything; banners, signs, clothes, covers, mugs and decorations of all kinds - hell, you can even decorate your own Cricut machine if you want.

The options seem to be endless. In fact, they might literally be endless. I'll certainly never get to the end of them.

But there are limitations and I quickly ran into the first of them.

Cricut sent me a pack of blank greeting cards with holographic inserts. The idea is you cut out pictures and words on the front to see the shiny coloured card underneath. This was perfect; I wanted Christmas cards after all and sure enough, I didn't have to look very hard to find a whole selection of Christmas card designs on offer.

I chose my favourite, followed the animated instructions on the app, stuck my blank card onto the cutting map (included) and fed it into the machine. And then this happened...

Not quite the result I was looking for.

It didn't take me long to realise my mistake - although Cricut had sent me a lot of stuff to try out; tools, cards, sticky vinyl in different lengths and colours - I hadn't been sent the greeting card cutting mat. Cutting mats are basically thick lengths of very tough card with a special sticky surface. When you're cutting things like paper and cardboard, the cutting mat holds it in place when you feed it into the machine. In order to successfully craft a greeting card however, you need a special mat with an extra layer of sticky plastic to hold the fold of the card in place.

Didn't stop me trying though...

It's actually surprisingly difficult to jam the Cicut Joy up. But there's nothing you can't do if you're determined enough. This is high quality, extensive reviewing and it turns out even if you do get jammed, the old turn-it-off and turn-it-back-on-again trick works every time.

Then I had an epiphany - could I design my own card? Instead of using a greeting card template, perhaps I could just flatten the card out and treat it like one single sheet.

It worked. Sure, I got it wrong another three or four times but I got there in the end. Very satisfying, in a slightly deranged, obsessive way.

The point is, I broke the golden rule; when all else fails, follow the instructions. The Cricut Joy is a simply amazing piece of technology, as long as you use the right materials and follow the right steps. This means your consumables bill can add up pretty quickly - sticky vinyl doesn't grow on trees you know. But if you're a craftier person than me, this could definitely be your next hobby - there really is no end to the list of labels, stickers, signs and designs you can create.

The machine itself is so well put together and doing things like changing out the cutting blade for a fine-tipped pen is effortless. Yes, the Cricut Joy can definitely draw as well as cut - and it writes a lot more neatly than I do, that's for sure.

If there's someone in your life who loves making things, loves clever gadgets or just loves sticky labels, the Cricut Joy could be a wonderful Christmas gift. Just a small word of advice; if you get them the greeting card pack, please make sure you throw in the cutting mat as well.

Click here for more information on the Cricut Joy.