Welcome to the final day of Silhouette week with me, Amy Sorensen. (I’m wishing I had more days to blog about this topic—we’ve barely scratched the surface.) Today I wanted to cover some helpful tips and techniques that work with the versatility of the cutter. Let’s jump right in!
A Few Silhouette Secrets
1. The secret to making your cutting mat stay sticky for longer. I discovered this the hard way: I once left a nearly-brand-new cutting mat sitting out, uncovered, on my desk. For an entire ten days of vacation! It was so dusty when I got back, it would hardly hold anything. That’s when I learned that to keep your mat sticky for as long as possible, you’ve got to keep it covered with the plastic sheet it comes with. This keeps the dust out and it also seems to revitalize the stickiness a little bit. Find yourself with a cutting-mat full of objects you’ve cut but don’t have time to peel off? Cover everything up with that plastic sheet until you’re ready to peel.
2. The secret to a dust-free mat. Even though I try to keep my mats protected, they eventually get a little bit of dust on them, or a few tiny pieces of cardstock from intricate cuts. Every once in awhile, give your cutting mat a wash. Use warm water, a little bit of dishwashing soap, and piece of scrunched-up plastic wrap in place of a rag. Rub gently with the plastic to wash off the dust and scraps, then let the mat air dry. (And then hurry up, put the plastic cover back on!) This won’t make the adhesive as sticky as it was when you bought the mat, but it will extend the stickiness.
3. The secret to removing little scraps. Use packing tape! Whenever I cut something that leaves a whole bunch of small leftover pieces, I reach for some packing tape. Roll it into a loop and carefully press it on top of the small remnants. Then peel the tape off and the remnants come off with the tape.
4. The secret to keeping stuff in place. Sometimes your cutting mat has simply lost all its sticky, and you don’t have a new one yet, but you need to cut something. Washi tape to the rescue! I mentioned this on Monday but I think it’s so useful it deserves its very own tip. Jennifer is the brilliant mind behind the idea: use washi tape to hold down the paper/cardstock you’re cutting. It peels right off when you’re finished. Just make sure that the object you’re cutting isn’t too close to the edge of the mat, so it doesn’t overlap the washi. This works perfectly when you only have a small piece of something you want to cut from.
5. The secret to not replacing your blade. If your blade starts to seem dull before its time, pull it out of the cutter and clean out the little tube it’s encased in. Small scraps of paper can clog the space around the blade, making it hard to turn and causing it to cut less precisely.
Silhouette Technique: Foundation Piecing
One of my other favorite hobbies is quilting, and I find that the techniques I learn with fabric quite often translate, in one way or another, to scrapbooking. Foundation piecing is a quilting technique that’s useful for small or intricate shapes; it involves using paper as a foundation, then removing it once you’ve sewn the small pieces together.
I figured out this technique when I made the title for this layout:
I wanted the title to have a mosaic feel, like the tiles you find in a swimming pool. I glued down a whole bunch of diamond shapes on a foundation of white printer paper, welded the word "memory" in the Silhouette software (I used Bemio, which I use almost every time I have a word with a lower-case y because I love this font’s y), and then cut it out with the covered-with-diamonds foundation.
Here’s another example, with step-by-step instructions:
I’ve been wanting to recreate in paper the spiderweb potholders from this blog post ever since I saw it last fall. (I also am itching to make a Halloween quilt—instead of potholders—with the same idea, but that’s totally another post!) Here’s how I made them:
1. I used this triangle card cut file by Loni Harris:
2. I ungrouped the object and deleted the triangle with the flowers:
3. Then I deleted the perforated line, drew a solid one, and grouped it all back together, which gave me a pair of 60° triangles:
4. Next I sized the paired triangles and then copy and pasted the object twice. I rotated one (click on the object, then click Object, Rotate, 180° degrees) and then lined up everything. I grouped these three triangle pairs, copied and pasted, and moved the second one down the mat:
5. Once the cut file was prepared, I got the foundation ready. I used a blank piece of white printer paper and some .5"-ish patterned paper strips. (Two of these are paper selvage—the cute edge design you cut from the edge of a 12x12 sheet.) I inked the edges of the strips, then glued them onto the white printer paper. (It’s necessary to apply glue all the way to the edge of the patterned paper strips!)
6. After letting the foundation piece dry, I cut it into two 8.5" x 2" strips, stuck these on my cutting mat in the corresponding spots, and sent it through the Silhouette. Before cutting, I changed the Cut Settings to Double Cut, since it needed to cut through two pieces of paper. (Click on the Cut button, then Change Settings to change to a Double Cut. This setting will stay in place until you change it.)
7. After cutting, I peeled the triangles off the mat and assembled the spider web following the directions in the potholder link (using double-stick tape instead of thread). Full disclosure: I had to re-glue three of the tiny triangle points. And I learned that it works better to put the web together by making two half-hexagon shapes rather than going in a circle. The edges don’t all quite match up without overlapping them a bit.
I can’t quite express how ridiculously happy these spider webs made me! I think they’d look equally as cute done in blue patterns (as snowflakes) and in pastels (as flowers.)
Silhouette Technique: Use the Pens
The first few times I used my Silhouette, I was a little bit afraid. Probably silly, but overcoming that initial will-I-do-it-right resistance was a little tough for me. That’s probably why I haven’t tried the Silhouette pens yet—but I do believe Diane has helped me get over my fears! She shared this layout:
The "Kisses for Daddy" title was done with the Silhouette pens. Here is her advice for using the pens:
Some designs in the Silhouette store are specifically for sketching. You can search for them by entering sketch designs. They also are indicated with the letter "S" in a grey box. Here's an example of one:
You don't have to use a design that is designated as sketch but sketch/outline images work best.
To sketch a design with your pens, replace the blade with the sketch pen of your choice and from the cut menu choose "sketch pen" under the cutting options. When you are done sketching an item you can also cut it out. To do this, leave the design you just sketched in place in the cutter, offset the design, change the pen back to the blade and cut the offset line.
For fonts, the thin ones work best. There are some options in the Silhouette store and several options at Lettering Delights too.
One great idea for the Silhouette pens is to use them to write the salutation on the inside of a card, like here:
To figure out where to place the text, draw a rectangle the same size as your open card in the Silhouette software. On the right side of the rectangle (the inside part of the card once it's folded), type the greeting, saying, or sentiment you want. Then place the cardstock or patterned paper on the cutting mat in the spot that corresponds to the place the image is in the software. Then delete the box and follow the above steps to sketch.
See! Totally not scary. I'm going to order pens next time I need a new mat or blade.
Silhouette Technique: Hybrid Scrapbooking
Christine taught me about the potential for using digital scrapbooking products with the Silhouette cutters. You can drag .jpg and .png files right from your file manager into the Silhouette Studio window. You can then use the trace and cut feature to turn the image into an object you can cut. To trace the image, click on it, then select Trace from the Object menu. Draw a space around the part you want to trace, then click on the Trace button. Delete the original image and you're left with the shape you can now send to the cutter as usual.
You can also use digital patterned paper with your Silhouette. Open the cut file you'd like to cut. Then drag the patterned paper from your file manager to the object in Silhouette Studio. When you let go of your mouse, the paper fills the shape. Use the print and cut feature to finish the piece.
Here's a great example to show the flexibility of the Silhouette when its paired with digital supplies. Christine created both an entirely digital layout:
and then a paper one with the same supplies as a hybrid layout:
Brilliant, yes? Christine will be sharing other hybrid scrapbooking techniques later this month—I'm excited to learn other techniques from her!
Free Cut Files
Amy Coose shared this cute layout:
The awesome part (well, besides its general gorgeousness): The circle "Love" text embellishment? Totally free! Every Friday, Chic Tags has a free cut file download. The Silhouette store has a weekly free cut file. And you can get the free WCS cut files monthly! We post these on the first day of the month.