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Silhouette Cameo – Electronic Cutting Machine Review

It’s time for a mini-review, well more of a first thoughts on a product blog post, and the product I’ve been playing with is the Silhouette Cameo electronic cutting machine.


PLEASE NOTE: This review is for the Silhouette Cameo but the product links go to the up-to-date Silhouette Cameo 3 and the most current software which is now available! I don’t have the current model so the review is true for the older model.


If you haven’t come across electronic cutting machines before, they work in a similar way to your home printer but instead of printing they are loaded with a knife and cut shapes out. Some machines come with cutting mats and some don’t. Also some machines can stand alone to cut and some need to be plugged into your PC or MAC to cut.

[There are some affiliate links in this blog post, so if you buy through them I do get a small amount of money at no extra cost to yourself. Thanks for your support!]

The Silhouette Cameo comes with a 12″ by 12″ cutting mat and can be plugged into your computer. But it also has a memory card slot and you can cut from the memory card using the LCD screen on the machine itself, I’ve not tried this yet, it is on my list!

I found the Silhouette Cameo easy to set up, and it come with the basic Silhouette Studio® software on a CDRom, but I also updated it to the newest version for free via the Silhouette America site

Now, I’m the sort of person that just likes to plug things in, press all the buttons and not read the manual and yes it has led to difficulties in the past. This machine wasn’t quite plug in and go and I was very well behaved and worked my way through the very easy to follow set-up manual.

The machine itself measures 53.1 cm x 16.5 cm x 12.7 cm (20.9” x 6.5” x 5”) and weighs 2.96 kg, it can apparently cut as small as 1/4” and up to 12” wide and 10 feet long, another thing on my list to try. You can find the full specs in this PDF on the US website

The blade comes in a plastic housing not attached to the machine and you need to set the depth of the cutting blade manually with the supplied plastic ratchet before loading the blade into the machine, but this is all part of the set-up info you get.

As I said, the machine comes with the basic Silhouette Studio® software and if you want even more creative input you can upgrade, for around £30-£45 (UK) to the Silhouette Studio® Designer Edition. If you want a comparison of the features of the two Silhouette software then check out this PDF file.

With the Silhouette software you can access the online cutting files from the Silhouette America online store, you get access to some 51 free files but you will need to buy other files and I believe that most machines come with a $10 voucher to help start you off. You will also find free files each week in the online store, so keep your eye out for them.

The Silhouette Studio® software reminded me of using software like Inkscape (the open source equivalent to Adobe Illustrator). I love playing with creative software and if you do too you will take to it easily. If you aren’t used to using this type of software you might find it a steeper learning curve than you would find with some of the competing cutting machine software, but stick with it as the flexibility and creative freedom it allows you is totally worth it!

One of the biggest advantages with the Silhouette machines is that you can design your own cutting files. But if you want to design and import your own SVG cutting files you do need to upgrade to the Silhouette Studio® Designer Edition *so on my wish list*.

You can, however, actually design some of your own cuts even with the basic software and the photo frame, tab and sentiment on the card below were made to my own simple design using the basic Silhouette Studio® software and cutting some Studio Calico paper from the Heyday collection. 

Hey not bad for a first cut. Obviously I’ve got loads more to learn about this machine (you should see the list of accessories!). But you can see that it cuts well, you can use the fonts already loaded on your computer with no hassle at all and even weld them together like I did for the sentiment on this make.

Don’t forget to get yourself a free sign-in at the Silhouette America online store to access all the downloads.

So if you are thinking about adding an electronic cutting machine to your tool kit then I would give a HUGE thumbs up for the Silhouette Cameo, I LOVE using this machine. It cuts beautifully and there is a whole realm of creativity it opens up to you and I’m excited to explore this machine some more and hopefully share the results with you too.

But I would love to know what you think about the electronic cutting machines, do you have one? Do you want one? If so which one and why?

Thanks for popping by.

Kim

[Disclaimer Time: I wasn’t paid to write this review, however, I did get a machine to review. But as with all my reviews I always try to give you my honest, unbiased opinion. (Prices correct for the date the blog post went live)]



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A Little Bit Of WOW! Embossing Powder Melt-It! And A Giveaway!

*This Post will stay on top until the GIVEAWAY closes (28th March)*
Please scroll down for newer posts

I have a bit of fun to share with you today and a Giveaway too in the form of the WOW! Embossing Powder’s Melt-It!

I was curious to have a go with this new product, I think that it has been around since Autumn last year but it was recently launched at the CHA in Jan and you can find a couple of YouTube videos about the product, one from Marion Emberson of Sugar and Spice and the other on the WOW! Embossing Powder website.

So what is it?

It is an embossing powder extender to use with your moulds, shapes cutters, memory frames etc for making 3D items and embellishments for your papercraft, jewellery, altering, mixed media etc projects.

It is a super fine embossing powder, similar to the texture of icing sugar, and it comes in 160ml Jars priced at around £7.75 (at the time of writing this post). It is a white powder but melts to a clear, slightly off-white colour and you add some of your other colour embossing powders to colour it.

You can melt it in a Ranger melting pot, with your heat tool under a pie dish or in the oven (which I’ve not tried but is one of the methods they show in the website video mentioned above). My preferred method, if I have the room, is to melt it in my Ranger melting pot in a pie dish then use a heat tool from above to keep it fluid as I pour it – I like to mix my options!

You don’t need to add that much of the coloured embossing powder to change the colour of the Melt-It and that is where the extender part of the product comes in. It means that you aren’t using up too much of the coloured powder which is more expensive gram for gram. But you will be using up the Melt-It! and that is why you need the large pot and I worked with around two small teaspoons of Melt-it! with 1/2 – 1 small teaspoon of coloured powder to make approximately two or three 2 cm diameter buttons.

Also you might find differences in the colour you see in the pot of your coloured embossing powder to what you get when you have melted it in the dish but this is because some of the opaque WOW! Embossing Powders are based on a white embossing powder so they actually melt to a lighter tone when melted in this way – it is nothing to do with the Melt-It!

So if you have used the Ranger UTEEs in your moulds and 3D projects making then you are going to take to the Melt-It! immediately, but even if you haven’t used your embossing powders to make 3D items before then have a go, it is a lot easier to do then you might think.

Now, I haven’t yet tried to stamp into this product but I believe it has been specifically designed to use with the coloured embossing powders in moulds and shape cutters etc rather than for using in stamping and triple embossing techniques. WOW! do have thicker powders for using with those types of techinques. But I will have a go at stamping into it at some point I’m sure, do let me know if you have stamped into it and what results you have had, I would love to know.

Now one little word of warning, melted embossing powders do harden quite brittle when fully cooled and Melt-It! is no different so if you are making larger 3D objects just be aware that if you put any pressure on them they may snap. But for the smaller items you probably won’t even notice and you can always try adding the Ranger Flex product. I was going to give this a go but I could not find my pot of Flex anywhere *sigh* so will have to report back on that one too!

SUMMARY:

WOW! Embossing Powder Melt-It! is great if you want to make your coloured embossing powders go further when you are making 3D embossing powder items in silicone moulds, shape cutters, frames. It is a bit addictive and once you get started you will be pouring it onto or into whatever you can find!

GIVEAWAY!

The important bit! So BIG thank you to WOW! Embossing Powder for donating a jar of Melt-It! for one of my blog readers to have a go with for themselves.

Please do go show them some love over at their Facebook Page or on Twitter or on their blog but before you go remember to add your name and link in the InLinkz widget below to be in with a chance to win and I will pick someone randomly on 28th March 2013. Don’t forget to tell your friends as well!

Good Luck!

Kim

[Disclaimer time: I’m not affiliated with any of the companies or products mentioned in this blog post. I did get a free pot of WOW! Melt-It! Embossing Powder to try out for myself and for one of you guys to win but still, as with all my reviews, I try to give you my honest unbiased thoughts.]





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Book Review – Crafting With Cat Hair

Review – Crafting With Cat Hair: Cute Handicrafts To Make With You Cat by Koari Tsutaya, Translated from the Japanese by Amy Hirschman, Published by Quirk Books 2011

(Cover Photo Copyright Quirk Books)

So have you ever crafted with cat hair? Well, we get Angora jumpers from rabbit hair, Mohair scarves from goats and woollen mittens from sheep, so why not crafty makes from cat hair? Why not indeed? Well, if you fancy it, Crafting With Cat Hair has everything you need to get you started with Cat Hair crafting.

Crafting With Cat Hair was written, originally in Japanese, by cat-obsessed writer Kaori Tsutaya and then translated into English by crafter and translator Amy Hirschman. It is in a neat 19 cm by 20 cm paperback format and is packed to the brim with cute kitty photos – which you would expect of course but being another cat obsessive, it is fun seeing a craft book dedicated to kitty cats!

The book is based around felting techniques with the cat hair. There are ten projects and most of them use needle felting to decorate a felt or woollen item with an image of a cat. A couple of them, such as making a cat hair finger puppet and the project where you apply the finger puppet to a felt box, use a wet felting technique. You get help and instruction for both these techniques, although you may need some previous experience of felting with fur or at least some crafty common sense as some of the instructions are a little short. 

As Kaori herself points out, cat hair isn’t quite like sheep wool so it is good for decorating projects but you would not be able to make a usable bag from it for example. Some of the projects include a decorated coin purse, some really cute kitty badges and kitty cat portraits, and some great scarf, hat and glove decorations. All projects come with step-by-step instructions and some come with pictures to help you with some of the stages. 

The book’s greatest strength is in the details of how to groom and care for your cat with an aim to collect cat hair and have a happy, well-groomed cat of course! It answers some of your catty questions from what to do about pests, when the best time to harvest cat hair is and to how to look after the projects you have decorated with the cat hair.

There are patterns, materials lists and handy tips throughout. I loved the section where you get to meet the cat hair contributors – cute touch! There is also a great section on grooming brushes but most of the links are for Japanese stockists, apart from one American stockist, so I don’t know how readily available these brushes are for the UK and European markets, although a quick internet search did point to similar products being available in the UK.

I loved this book for its kitty pictures and great tips on looking after your cat, but as a serious craft project book I felt that you might be disappointed with the effort you put in and the end product when you finish. I think it would be perfect for a teenager who loves cats and has a crafty side, or for a cat-obsessed felt crafter who is looking for something different to felt with! You can find it over at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.

(Just so you know – this book was sent to me by Quirk books to review. My views are honest, unbiased and unpaid, well other than a free copy of the book that is!)


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Kuretake ZIG Art And Graphic Twin Pens Review

Review time! – Or perhaps I should say ‘my thoughts and experiments with…ZIG Art and Graphic Twin Pens’. 

Some of you might have noticed a new design logo in my sidebar. I’m totally thrilled to say that for the last couple of months I’ve been one of the bloggers lucky enough to have been doing some work for Kuretake.

Kuretake have a huge (and I mean HUGE!) range of pens and markers but they also do papercraft products such as paper punches, embossing powders, embellishments and lots more, perfect for us crafters!

I’ve been putting some of the Kuretake art and craft products through their paces and I thought you might find it helpful if I shared some of my experiments and thoughts on what the products I’ve tried do.

This week I’m going to start with the ZIG Art and Graphic Twin pens.

The ZIG Art and Graphic Twin pens are twin tipped, as the name suggests, with a brush tip at one end and a 0.8 mm point tip at the other. As far as I know there are 80 colours in the range and ink is water-based, xylene free and odourless. They make perfect pens for many watercolour techniques and stamping techniques, but I shall show you some examples of these later!

I have to show you this next picture, which is from Kuretake themselves, because I think it really shows how gorgeously juicy and wonderfully flexible the brush tips are, yep they really do look like that when you do that – I’ve tried it!

 The brush tips are made from rubber instead of fibre, which for me does make a big difference for this style of pen. Like many of you I’ve tried a number of watercolour pens in the past and I think they have all been fibre tipped and not very juicy or flexible. 

Ok so why is this important to me? Well first off it means that colouring directly onto stamps with the pens is a lot easier, you get really good coverage with the good ink flow and the flexible tip means it really does work like a brush, and I have an example of a make where I’ve coloured the stamp with the ZIG Art and Graphic pens before stamping. 

But that isn’t all you can do with these pens, a lot of different techniques are open to you and the more you experiment with them the more you will find! For instance the pens are great for colouring images either directly, as in the example below:

or by using a brush or a ZIG water colour brusH20 as in the next example:

So by now you can tell that I am enamoured of these pens and not just because I am designing for Kuretake, I promise!

Before I go I wanted to share some of my other experiments using these pens, the first I scribbled the ZIG Art and Graphic pens onto my craft mat and spritzed with water then laid the background down on the ink to pick up the colour. The rubber tip makes scribbling on the craft mat very easy.

My next sample shows you the results of a watercolour technique where you add texture by using salt to ‘change’ the movement of the water on the paper. This time it is the ‘juicy-ness’ of the tip that makes this a great technique to use with these pens! Notice the mottled effect on her dress below:

I hope that this has whetted your appetite for the ZIG Art and Graphic pens, and if you have them already I hope that you will feel inspired to get them out and experiment with them some more – I would love to see what you have been up to with them!

For more inspiration pop along to the Kuretake Facebook page to see some lovely work that people are doing with the Kuretake products.

Have a lovely Friday you all.

Kim


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Prismacolor® Premier Illustration Markers

Hey all, hope you are all having a good Friday and that you guys in the US had a lovely Thanksgiving Holiday and are enjoying Black Friday. I have something here that you might want to pop into those shopping baskets.

I was very lucky last week to have been sent some new pens to try out and review. Now you know how I LOVE Prismacolor® Pencils? Well I was sent a couple of packets of the new Prismacolor® Premier Illustration Markers and I’ve been playing with them ever since.

I’ve used a number of different illustration marker pens in my time, as I’m sure you have too and although they have been sufficient for the job this is the first set of pens that actually made me want to use them for everything I could get my hands on.


First of all let me run through what they are. They are nontoxic, lightfast, acid free, archival quality illustration marker pens. I’ve tried them out on various different weights of paper and card, with Copic pens and Sansodor and they did not bleed or smear and kept their intensity of colour, which is fabulous.

They come in a range of tip shapes and sizes – brush tips; chisel tips; bullet tips extra fine 005, 01, 03, 05, to the more chunky 08. They also come in a range of colours and you can see the red, green, blue and black here but you can also find them in purple, orange, brown and sepia.


I was finding all sorts of things to do with these pens, perfect for my artistic and papercrafting needs, great for illustration, sketching, journaling, calligraphy.

This card was made using the 05 and 08 bullet point pens for the faux stitching, the chisel tip pen for the sentiment and the 08 bullet point pen to draw the holly leaves which I then distressed with inks.


I even tried some calligraphy, not something I do that often as you can see. LOL! But something that these lovely pens have inspired me to do more of! That and drawing – these pens are perfect for sketching, the ink flow is so smooth they are a joy to use.


You can find them in art/stationery stores. They are widely available in the US but as they are new they are just starting to appear in the UK so keep your eyes out for them.

I think you can tell I loved using them? If I was pushed to find a negative about them that would be that the lids are just a touch tight to get on and off at first but really that is not a big deal.

The suggested retail price is $3 (approx £1.90) for a single marker and $20 (£12.20) for a pack of 8. Well worth it in my opinion.