Tuesday, November 8, 2011

my big die cutting kick

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So, what does Martha Stewart glitter have to do with die cutting? You're going to have to read on (or scroll down to the end if you're one of those people who likes to read the last chapter of a book first) to find out!

I have a long and somewhat tumultuous history with die cutting. I remember back in the early days of my scrapbooking when the old Sizzix machine (remember the one with the big arm?) and its assortment of alphabet die sets were all the rage. The only problem was that I was a college student at the time- not poor, but definitely without the expendable cash to plop down $150 or more for just one font that could only be cut in one size.

Fast forward a few years to right after I'd graduated from college and was working in my first job. I could certainly afford those fonts now, but the frugality of my college days was still there, hanging around in the background and not letting me make that massive purchase.

And then it happened. The first crop of digital die cutters came out, and I bought a Wishblade. Oh, how the thought of being able to cut any font I wanted in any size I wanted to spoke to me! I loved my Wishblade (and still have it and have heard rumor that it will work with the new Silhouette software), but never used it as much as I should have.

Fast forward several more years to 2009 when I was working on cupcake toppers for my sister-in-law's baby shower. I needed to cut oodles of scalloped circle backgrounds, and Spellbinders Nestabilities dies were one of the newest, hottest things on the die cutting market. The only catch? You had to have a manual die cutting machine to use them. I procrastinated. I debated. I tried to use my old Wishblade to make the toppers instead, but the hassle of the cutting mat/blade/alignment was driving me crazy, so I finally broke down and took a 40% off coupon to Michaels one sunny Saturday morning and bought a brand new Sizzix BigKick, then placed an order for the entire set of Spellbinders Nestabilities Circles on Amazon.

And I never looked back. In the two and a half years since that time, my die collection has grown, though I've managed to keep it in check by selecting dies that are either in classic shapes or in ones that I know I use a lot.

So, even though I love my digital die cutter and own both a Wishblade and a Cricut Expression and Gypsy, today's tour of my die cutting is going to focus solely on my manual cutting setup- after all, it's the one that I use most often!

First, let's meet the little fella at the heart of the whole operation, my Sizzix BigKick. If you've seen any of my recent letterpress articles on Scrapbook Update, or if you clicked on the link to see my baby shower prep post, you may notice that this isn't the same machine I was using for those projects. No, it didn't stop working or need to be replaced, but the kind folks at Sizzix felt it was time for me to have an upgrade, and the new boy happened to arrive just in time to be in the photo shoot for this post! Sizzix has updated the colors and exterior lines on the BigKick (which is essentially the same machine as the BigShot), but the internals of the machine remain unchanged and I can still use all those wonderful dies that I love (it's compatible with dies from a huge variety of manufacturers).

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One of the biggest reasons I love this machine? Stability. Just like a car with a longer wheel base is more stable on the road, the BigKick (or BigShot) with its long base is very, very stable when you're cranking a die sandwich through it. I've used machines with shorter bases, and even with whatever clamping or suction mechanism they have in place engaged, they're still unstable and rock all over the place. This guy, though, is rock solid.

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I mentioned that I keep my die collection at a somewhat reasonable size by collecting only classic, basic pieces that I will use over and over. My collection is so small, in fact, that we can take a look at all of it right here in one post!

In this storage folder (I use magnetic folders from Quickutz) you'll find all of my Spellbinders Circle Dies, Papertrey Ink's Banner Builder collection, and part of Papertrey's Label Basics die set. I love that last one especially since I also have the coordinating stamp set and can make all kinds of great labels in whatever color I need, whenever I need them.

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You'll see a variety of shapes in this next folder- some clouds, some butterflies, and a few miscellaneous frames and labels. My most used dies in here, though? Those little doilies, the big doily, and the Half and Half labels, all by Papertrey Ink.

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Let's take a closer look at some of those, like the Doily Details dies. Don't they remind you of those little Martha Stewart doilies that were so popular a year or so ago?

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And this big guy is the Parisian Lace die.

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It makes some of the most perfect doilies you've ever seen!

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I also have several of Papertrey's Impression Plates that I use for debossing (and you can see a review I did of them as letterpress tools here at Scrapbook Update). Also in this folder is one of the most classic die sets in my collection- Labels One by Spellbinders.

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I mentioned that I used Quickutz magnetic folders to store my dies. Here's a shot of one folded up- I love that I can fit so many dies in such a small space!

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I've also got a few dies that are a bit too thick for the folders, and I haven't worked out a storage solution for them yet. I still love them, though!

These instant photo frame dies by Quickutz were a recent acquisition (you can find both the large and the small one on Amazon).

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They're just perfect for my Polaroid obsession!

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And these Sizzlit frame dies are useful for so many projects!

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And this hexagon die? Well, it's my latest acquisition. If you read my Lattice and Honeycomb article at Scrapbook Update a couple of months ago, you'll know that I'm a bit obsessed with this shape right now, so I was thrilled to find out that Sizzix makes a die for it!

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My journalistic integrity demands that I pause for a moment to credit my sources, and I'd like to thank THE May Flaum for bringing this awesome die's existence to my attention- she emailed me one day to say that I needed it, and she was so right!

This die is actually part of Sizzix's fabric line aimed at quilters, but since it's one of their big, heavy-duty pieces it will cut just about anything.

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Since this die is so thick, the cutting sandwich for it is made without the multipurpose platform that I'm so used to using for my wafer-thin dies. Instead, it consists of an acrylic cutting plate with the die on top of it, cutting side up...

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...then the paper is placed on top of the die, and another acrylic plate is put over the top.

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Then you just roll it through the machine, and out pop half a dozen perfect little hexagons!

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Chipboard is also no problem for this die- love that!

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One of the reasons I like classic die shapes such as this one is that it's really easy and fun to make your own embellishments with them- you can cover the shapes in paint, Stickles, or paper and make it look different every time!

I wanted to glitter these little guys, so I covered them with a coat of Diamond Glaze (Glossy Accents works just as well)...

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...then sprinkled them with Martha Stewart glitter (I have the 24 color pack, so it's easy to find the perfect shade to match my project). Diamond Glaze is super strong, so once the excess glitter has been brushed off there's not much worry of the rest of the stuff turning loose!

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I teamed the glittered pieces up with similarly cut bits of paper from Studio Calico's Memoir and Autumn Press collections for this layout about the recent (and rare) burst of fall color that we've had around here. I simply arranged them in a loose honeycomb pattern down the edges of my paper, where they made the perfect frame for my photos!

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Lest you think I've gone totally manual with my die cutting, I have plans in the works to rearrange my scrap room to make my Cricut more accessible (I'm one of those people who won't get something out to use it if it takes to much effort). I'm also itching to try out the new Silhouette software with my Wishblade (and I definitely have Cameo fever, as well), so you'll certainly be hearing more about those adventures in the future!

For most of my everyday stuff, though? My Sizzix BigKick is my go to machine- nothing beats its ease of use and rock solid performance, no matter what I throw at it.


Note: Today's post is in coordination with May Flaum and Nancy Nally of Scrapbook Update, who are also blogging today about their forays into the wide, wonderful world of die cutting!