Archive for January, 2009

SVG? SCUT? WTF?

If, like me, you’re living in Cricut Newbie Land, and you’ve seen all those cool projects on the Internet but you’re not sure how to do them, you’ve probably been doing some reading. 

And, like me, you might find that after checking out a few forums you’re more confused than ever because there’s all this shorthand out there.  SVG.  SCUT.  SCAL.  CDS.  All you want is to be able to make those cool projects but you can’t seem to decipher the code.

 I might be able to help. 

A little. 

I’ve been doing LOTS of reading.  And distilling LOTS information.  I’ve begun compiling a glossary of all those terms we keep running across, and you can find it on another page here on my blog for your reference.  

In this post I’m specifically going to talk about Sure Cuts A Lot (aka SCAL) and the files this very cool program uses.  And trust me, if I can make sense of it, anybody can.

I’m no rocket scientist.

BTW, if you’re not using Sure Cuts A Lot and you’re not interested in using it, don’t bother reading the rest of this post.  Go check out The Frugal Crafter and her HUGE collection of stamps (and when I say HUGE, I mean HUGE…SCARY huge!)  She’s also got an awesome freebie for both CDS (Cricut DesignStudio) and SCAL users for making heart cartons — perfect for the upcoming Valentines Day.

Anyway…back to my original topic.  SCAL and what kind of files SCAL uses.  What’s a SCUT?  What’s a SVG?

In a nutshell, a .scut file is a file that’s created with SCAL.  As far as I can tell, it’s a proprietary format — meaning that it’s a type of file format only used by SCAL.  Like Microsoft Word documents have the file extension .doc, all files you save in SCAL will have the .scut extension. 

So if  SCAL uses .scut files, what’s all this we keep reading about .svg?  What is an .svg?

An .svg file is a scalable vector file.  Unlike .jpeg and .gif files which are bitmaps (the images are based on a pattern of dots), .svg files are based on geometrical formulas — in other words, they’re based on shapes, not patterns.  The advantage of vector files (like .svg) is that they can be resized and reshaped without losing their integrity.  They also often require less memory than bitmap files.

Many users of SCAL have discovered an awesome free program (yes, you heard me — free!!) called Inkscape which can be used to convert .jpeg images to .svg.  You can also use Inkscape to create .svg files from scratch.  You can then import these .svg files into SCAL.  So now not only will SCAL cut any true type font or dingbat available on your computer, you now have a wealth of shapes you can import for use.  Because of this ability, the creative possibilities for SCAL and your Cricut are infinite. 

Do you want to know the very best part of Inkscape, .svg files, and the SCAL community? 

You don’t have to be a computer genius or an Inkscape pro to fully realize the potential of your Cricut.  There’s a boatload of SCAL and Inkscape users out there who share their knowledge and their files — for free!  Yes, you heard me, for free!!!

Man, I love free!!!

In another post, I’ll include links to some of the best blogs, websites, and forums I’ve found for SCAL.  It’s unbelievable what’s available and how friendly and helpful this group of people are.  If you can’t wait a couple days for my list, just Google “scut file” or “svg file”.  You’ll be amazed at what you find.

In the meantime, happy Cricut-ing!!!

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January 31, 2009 at 10:58 am 15 comments

Creative Juices

My creative juices sometimes flow like a river, other times they’re like the slow drip-drip-drip I leave on to keep the pipes from freezing.  (Can you tell it’s been cold here?)  Lately my juices have been most like a trip through the Sahara Desert.  I think I got an idea, but I chase it and chase it only to find that it was just a mirage.

So I’ve been skulking around the Sure Cuts A Lot Users forum over at Yahoo Groups, and a question from one of the posters there sparked the first bit of true creativity my brain’s felt in a while.  I’m extremely grateful because I’d begun to wonder if I’d ever have another idea, or if this whole Cricut thing and its learning curve would forever leave me borrowing from other people’s awesome projects (not that I have anything against borrowing from someone else’s genius — seeing other people’s artwork is just one of the many things I love about belonging to a creative community.)

Anyway, the poster was inquiring about ideas for an invitation for a wedding rehearsal dinner at a brewery, and so I did a mock up of the picture I had in my head.  Turns out I liked it so much that I’m going to modify it and turn it into a Valentines Day card for my DH.

Invitation Mock UP

Invitation Mock UP

 

During this process, I was able to create my first ever *.svg file using Inkscape, and I have to give a big shout out to Dan over at My Crafty Life for his fabulous video tutorials.  Without his guidance, I definitely would not have had the slightest inkling as to how to accomplish this.

The .svg is for for a single pilsner glass, which I used as the basis for my double glasses and for the interiors with the monograms. 

I’ll add additional *.svg and *.scut files to this post as I work on the card for my own use.

May your creative juices flow like the Nile as you work on your projects, and as always, happy Cricut-ing!!!

January 30, 2009 at 3:38 pm 1 comment

The Death of Me (aka Valentines Card #1)

This Circut is going to be the death of me.

I’m up entirely too late each and EVERY night, checking out forums and other users’ blogs, searching for project inspiration, and trying to learn as much as I can as fast as I can about this wonderful new addition to my scrap space.

And every morning I pay for it.  Thank God and Juan Valdez for coffee.

I’m no spring chicken anymore.  I am (gasp!) middle aged.  I was in deep denial about this fact until my BFF, in her no-nonsense way, forced me to acknowledge the ugly truth.  Recently we were talking about a person I’d recently met, and when she asked how old this person was, I replied, “About our age, I guess.  Maybe a couple years older.”  My BFF then replied, “So she’s middle aged.”  In shock I replied, “Middle aged!?!?  We’re not middle aged!!!”  My BFF then looked me in the eye and asked, ever so calmly, “Just how old do you think we’re going to live to be?” 

Crap.  Crap squared.  Crap cubed.  Crap to the nth degree.

I hate it when she’s right and forces me to accept nasty little truths that I just don’t want to accept.  But that’s also one of the many reasons she’s my BFF.

Anyway, as I was saying, I’m no spring chicken anymore, and these late nights are taking their toll. But I’m addicted, and sleep deprivation is a very small price to pay for the awesome satisfaction I’m getting out my new toy.

I’ve made a Valentines Card for my DD, and though I wish I could take credit for the design, I can’t.  I stole the idea from here.  In the scrap world we call that “scrap lifting”.  Is there a term for card lifting?

Here’s the front of the card.  As always, it’s not perfect, and I’m forcing myself to accept the imperfections and not redo it and redo it until I’m 100% satisfied.  If I did that I’d be working on her card until Christmas.  Of 2020.

Love Bug - Front

Love Bug - Front

Love Bug - Interior

Love Bug - Interior

The directions for making the card are included on the link I included above, so I won’t repeat them.  You can download the *.scut files for the lettering on the front of the card here and the heart border here

One note about the lettering on the front of the card.  I figured out I can cut both the letters and the shadow at the same time (duh!).  So I put both my red and my white card stock on my cutting mat before loading it.  But it was almost 1 a.m. and the first time I did it I got the red & the white reversed.  So for those of you who also operate your Cricut while impaired, here’s the right way to do it. 

Mat Layout for Lettering

Mat Layout for Lettering

Tonight I’m going to do one for my DS.  And tomorrow, one for DH.

Coffee anyone?

January 29, 2009 at 10:10 am 3 comments

My First Card Project

Here it is.  My first card project.

It took WAY longer than a trip to the Hallmark store, but in the end, I think it was worth it (although my perfectionistic tendencies keep pointing out every error I made along the way).

Envelope - Front

Envelope - Front

 

Envelope - Back

Envelope - Back

The basic envelope was cut using SCAL.  I found an awesome svg file for it and have to give thanks and credit to The Frugal Crafter whose blog also appears here on WordPress.  (You can download it here, and while you’re at it, take time to check out her blog.  She’s incredibly talented.)

When you open the file in SCAL, it appears on the cutting mat very small — much smaller than what I wanted, so I resized it.  Of course, I screwed something up in the process so that when I folded the edges I had a little hole in the middle instead of the nice tight-fitting envelope that appears on The Frugal Crafters blog.  Crap!  But I didn’t want to waste an entire sheet of the paper I’d picked for this project (paper ain’t free, ya’ know), so I simply cut the file a second time at the size it imports into SCAL and then cut a second one slighter larger from a color-coordinated plain cardstock.  I then glued the little patterned piece to the little cardstock piece, folded in three sides of the envelope, dabbed a bit of Zig glue on the area where those three edges met, and stuck my little embellishment right on it.  I left one side of the embellishment unglued so that it acts as a holder for the envelope flap.  Idiocy is the mother of invention — at least in my scrap space it is.

I cut two daisys cut from Cricut’s Plantain Schoolbook Collection cartridge to embellish the front of the envelope and thought I’d attach them with a heart shaped brad.  Only one problem.  I should have attached them BEFORE I glued the envelope flaps together.  So I tacked them onto a little square of paper and then glued the square onto the front of the envelope.  Live, create, learn.  I also attached a little vellum tag, wrapping the cord around the base of the flower so it didn’t show and dabbed a bit of Zig glue along the metal edges so it’d stay in place.  I then added the recipients name to the tag using Alphabitties from Provo Craft.  (I “erased” the name in Photoshop before I uploaded it to this blog — protect the innocent and all that good jazz.)

Card Front

Card Front

A second problem that I created when I screwed up the resizing of the envelope is that it was too big for a 6×6 card.  I needed a 6 1/2×6 1/2 card.  Unfortunately, no matter how I cut a sheet of 12×12 paper, I cannot get a 6 1/2×6 1/2 card.  So I cut a strip of paper 6 1/2×12 and folded it so that the front of the card was shorter than the back of the card.  I then applied a sticker ribbon that came with the paper pack to the inside bottom of the card so that if you didn’t know any better, you’d think I’d done it on purpose.  Like I said, idiocy is the mother of invention.

I attached three stickers that came with the paper pack and embellished them with more of the little heart brads that I used on the front of the envelope. 

Finally, it came time to do the lettering.  What a pain in the  an opportunity to exercise my self control.  Once again I used SCAL.  One of my favorite fonts is Inspiration (available from My Fonts), but it’s a skinny font, and one that can be a bit difficult to work with once cut.  I cut one in normal mode and one in shadow mode.  I had to do a bit of resizing and moving the letters around to get it too look the way I wanted, so to save you some time, you can get the scut file for the normal font here, and you can get the scut file for the shadow here

Once I had both the normal and the shadow fonts cut, I just had to glue them together.  Like I said, Inspiration is a skinny font, and the normal font was difficult to get off my cutting mat.  Be very careful.  Also the first time I cut it, the cut didn’t go all the way through my cardstock.  I increased the pressure of my blade (from medium to high) and cut it a second time.  That did the trick.  The shadow was much easier to work with, mainly because I was able to weld most of the letters together.  I dabbled Zig glue on the top of the shadow cut and then placed the normal cut on top.  I then glued that to the front of the cardstock.

One problem I found is that the Zig glue kept drying on my fingertips and picking up lint from who knows where (probably from my jeans where I kept wiping them) and I found that I was getting little balls of dark gunk on my letters.  Not cool when I’d so painstakingly pried them from the mat without destroying them.  So now I know I need to either keep a box of baby wipes on my desk or find some other sort of glue to use.  If you’ve any suggestions, please please please let me know.

A quick list of materials I used for this card are:

  • Sure Cuts A Lot program
  • svg file from The Frugal Crafter for the envelope
  • Cricut cartridge Plantain Schoolbook Collection
  • Coordinating cardstock, patterned paper, and stickers from the David Walker Studios Super Slab by ProvoCraft
  • Heart brads by Making Memories
  • Inspiration font
  • Vellum tag
  • Alphabitties by ProvoCraft

Like I said, it took WAY longer than a trip to Hallmark, but it was WAY more fun.  And since this is my first real attempt at card making and I’m still learning my way around in SCAL, I don’t think it turned out too terribly awful.

Hope you enjoy my project, and please please please feel free to email me with any suggestions or recommendations you may have.

As always…

Happy Cricut-ing!!!

January 27, 2009 at 8:01 pm 2 comments

To SCAL or Not To SCAL?

Okay, the wonderful thing about my Cricuts is that they have tons of options available.  The terrible thing about my Cricuts is that those options come on individual cartridges which are not cheap. 

Oh sure, both my machines came with a few cartridges thrown in, and I ordered the extras they offered as part of the package.  But I’m still limited to what’s on the cartridges I have. 

I don’t like limits.

During an internet search of the Cricut community, I stumbled upon information about a program that would completely eradicate those limits and allow my to cut ANY true type font (TTF) I have on my computer.  It would allow me to create my own images and cut them.  So I kept looking and reading.

The program is called Sure Cuts A Lot.  It is NOT made nor is it endorsed by the manufacturer of the Cricut.  In fact, use of the program will void my Cricut’s warranty.

I knew there had to be a catch.

See, ProvoCraft (the company who manufacturers the Cricut machines and all those expensive cartridges) offers a program of their own.  It’s called Cricut Design Studio, or CDS for short.  You install the program on your computer, connect your Cricut to your computer via a USB cable, and use the software to access any of the images from any of the cartridges offered by Cricut.  The catch?  You have to own the cartridge in order to cut the image.  So CDS does not elimate the need for yet another cartridge, it just gives you more flexibility to combine images from different cartridges.

Damn.

After much research and thought, I finally decided to go with SCAL. 

So, for those of you who are considering doing the same, and who are awesome scrappers but don’t know much about computers, here’s a quick overview of what I had to do to make it work.  (BTW, Windows XP is the operating system running on my PC.)

First, I had to connect my Cricut to my PC using a USB cable.  Current knowledge indicates there’s a problem with connecting through a hub, so this might be a stumbling block for those of you with networked computers.   For users like me who aren’t networked, you just plug the cable into a free USB port on your PC and into the port on the back of your Cricut.

The second thing I had to do was update the firmware on my Cricut.  SCAL requires a version 2.1 or 2.3.  My Cricut Expression came installed with version 2.0.  In order to find out which firmware version your Expression has, turn it on.  The display screen will appear and will tell you which version you have.  In order to update the firmware I went to http://www.cricut.com/cds/DesignStudioTrial1.aspx and downloaded a trial version of CDS.  Once I’d downloaded and installed the program, I opened it, clicked on Help, then Update Cricut Firmware.  The directions are very clear and very easy to follow.  Just make sure you follow them exactly.

The last thing I had to do was download and install SCAL.  I found a Cricut community where they said the best price on the software was at http://store.candacraft.com and sure enough, it’s offered there for $59.99.  However, at the time I was searching for it, it was on backorder, so not only did I have to wait for them to get it in stock, I had to wait for them to send me the CD.

I’m not big on waiting.

So I found an immediately downloadable version at www.craftedge.com/ for $75.00.  It cost me 15 bucks more, but I didn’t have to wait.  For $90.00 I could have ordered both the downloadable version AND they’d have shipped me a CD.  Instead I just made sure I copied the program file onto a CD, labeled it, and put in my storage case with all my other programs.

SCAL’s interface is awesome.  Within fifteen minutes I had the basics down and had my first cut.

No wonder ProvoCraft insists that if you use SCAL you’ll void your warranty. 

Stay tuned for pics of the projects I’m turning out (once my camera has been either revived by the Canon techs or replaced), for project instructions and free…yes, FREE…files for you to use. 

Happy Cricut-ing!!!

January 26, 2009 at 8:59 pm 5 comments

I’m SOOOO Hooked!!!

It came!  It came!  My Cricut Expression finally came!

The post man delivered it to my door, and I was so happy I would have given him a big fat wet kiss except we attend the same church and that might have proved to be embarrassing for both of us next Sunday.

I brought it in and put it on the kitchen table, and I was like one of my kids on Christmas morning.  No, I was WORSE than one of my kids on Christmas morning.  I happy danced all around it, and that was BEFORE I even cracked the tape on the shipping package! 

I would have taken pictures of every wonderful, amazing, damn-I’m-so-glad-I-bought-you piece in the box, but my digital camera suffered an unexpected and untimely death about two weeks ago and has been shipped back to Canon for (cross my fingers) resuscitation. 

Now here’s where I have to admit my gluttony.

I already own a Cricut Personal Electronic Cutter.  Even though my scrapbooking went digital about three years ago, I bought the thing anyway.  It was just too cool. 

But like my hubby’s tool collection, one just wasn’t enough.  I wanted the expanded flexibility I could get with the Expression.  I watched the infomercials and drooled and dreamed.  And finally, in a weak moment, I gave in to my desire.

I’m already dreaming of all the awesome gifts I’ll be able to make.  My friend Michelle is having a baby girl in May, and I’m already designing a very special piece of wall decor for the nursery.  I’m thinking of plaques for the grandparents and wall words for my newly painted kitchen and etched mirrors and a custom shower curtain to hang next Christmas.

I’m completely out of control!!!

So…for those of you new to the Cricut community, I’ll be sharing my experiences.  My success and my failures.  And I’ll be sharing in depth information about what I’ve bought, what I’ve made, what was worth the time and what was just too much damn trouble.

And I hope that through it, we’ll discover just how creative we really are.

Happy Cricut-ing!!!

January 26, 2009 at 8:04 pm Leave a comment


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