In the past few years we’ve seen a huge growth in the number of maker spaces around the country (and internationally). Libraries have become repurposed as fewer people are checking out books with the increasing popularity of Kindle reading devices.
This is one in a series of articles exploring these new crafting spaces, and in this article, we’ll go into two of the most common devices we’ve been seeing in these libraries: Cricut and Silhouette cutting machines.
For those who don’t know, Cricut and Silhouette both make digital cutting machines.
We asked a few librarians for examples of the projects they see the most, expecting some pretty crazy ideas. But, a lot of them are pretty tame. Paper crafters love to use the cutters to cut their paper to size. Origami, believe it or not, is what we’ve been told us the most common craft. An example would be this origami turkey made by Paper Kawaii.
So what’s a cutting machine? What are people using them for?
Vinyl cutting machines: explained
For years crafters have used manual die-cutting machines, these work simply enough. The machine can load in a die (think of it like a cookie cutter pattern) and then apply that cut pattern to any number of materials. If you’re making a lot of cards, vinyl stickers, or labels you could use these die-cutting machines to make your crafting life a lot easier.
Their use though was pretty limited to crafters, they weren’t very popular, and the larger world mostly didn’t know they existed unless you saw one at Grandma’s house.
Enter the digital cutting machine, which turned everything on its head. Two companies, Silhouette and Cricut, both have been releasing rival versions of these machines. So how do they differ?
Digital cutting machines work more like a printer, the design is completely digital and you lay it out in software. The early machines used cartridges to load the designs in, but now they’re completely stored online. This means you can make your own design on the computer, share it with your friends, they can improve it, and then send it back. You can see why these have taken off beyond just crafters.
So what kinds of things can you make?
With heat transfer vinyl: you can make your own t-shirts or tote bags. You basically load the design into your vinyl cutter, set the material you’re working with, and then place it inside of the machine. The plotter, like a printer, goes over that material cutting out your design. You peel it off, place it on your shirt or tote, and then press it on with heat.
The heat activates a special adhesive that’s in the vinyl so that it adheres to the fabric itself. It’s pretty easy to do.
With regular adhesive vinyl, you have a lot more options. You can make your own signs (like we did here), decorate tumblers, glasses, and a lot more.
The more powerful machines (like the Silhouette Cameo 4 or the Cricut Maker) also support cutting through materials like wood, leather, or acrylic, but like we said above, most crafters seem to be using them for paper (even if they’re much more powerful).