Saturday, June 15, 2019

TP rolls, craft tubes, whatever you want to call them — we're showing a number of crafts based on covering empty toilet paper rolls, or using the brightly-colored versions we used to sell in the store. Corporate came up with some instructions to (excuse the pun) roll our own from cardstock. The big issue I have with their instructions is, umm, staples. Not the office superstore down the road, but those U-shaped metal wires that are made to pierce two or more pieces of paper and then get their uprights stamped down into a bow shape (when the machines work properly). Even with the sometimes sharp points inside, these can pose hazards to young hands instructed to stick their fingers inside the tube to glue various craft materials in place.

There's a better way to do this, though it takes a little more time, and a handful of perfectly-reusable Jumbo Gem Clips (standard trombone-shaped paper clips).

Step 1. Cut out your blank form. This is a 7.5" x 4.5" rectangle of cardstock. A paper cutter will give you a more even edge than scissors, but it's not necessary. You could even use fancy-shape scissors on the long edges of the rectangle, to get a fancy top and/or bottom of your tube.



Step 2. Use a bone folder, or a ruler with a sharp (metal) edge, to induce a curl in your rectangle. Hold a short edge of the rectangle firmly in the center. Place the ruler parallel to that edge, as near to it as possible, and at an angle to the table. Press firmly with the ruler and pull the ruler towards the opposite short edge of the paper. This will curl the edge away from the edge you are holding. Turn the paper 180 degrees (so you will now be holding the curled end) and repeat. You may need to do this a couple of times to create enough roll to allow you to roll the cardstock neatly.
 


Step 3. Use your hands to form a roll from the curved paper. It should be about 1-1/2" in diameter, but it can vary depending on your hands and your needs. This will be just shy of two full rotations of the paper.


Step 4. Place a thin line of white glue along the open edge of the roll. Aleene's Fast Grab Tacky Glue works best, but Elmer's School Glue will do just fine, and it's child safe.


Step 5. Use paper clips to clamp the edges in place until the glue dries. Press down in the center (un-clamped area) to help the glue adhere there as well.


Step 6. Remove the paper clips. Your craft roll is ready to use.


By the way, given the potential for the spread of harmful bacteria, I would not recommend using actual empty toilet paper tubes for crafting.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Mini Cupcakes Need Their Own Wrap!

One of my ongoing challenges with Design Space (and Cricut Access) has been that of creating cupcake wrappers with organizational logos. My issues have been mostly registration issues, where my logo would end up too high or too low, or the Explore Air would not "cut on the lines" of my cupcake wrappers.

Leading into this year's AVENGER anniversary party (I've been a member of the USS AVENGER chapter of STARFLEET, The International Star Trek® Fan Association since its inception, 34 years ago), I decided to tackle the cupcake wrapper issue again — this time using Print Then Cut to get my alignment just right.

Starting with the cupcake wrapper files I had saved in Adobe Illustrator, I moved my wrappers into a space that would fit into Print Then Cut's limitations (6.25" x 9"). I added my logos, then saved the file once as an .svg and once as a .jpg, and uploaded them to Design Space.


While Design Space understood the files, more or less, and could cut on my lines, I could not get it to not cut out the logo, regardless of how I uploaded the file, and regardless of whether I designated the design as Cut or as a Print Then Cut. (The only difference was whether it tried to cut just the outline, or every little color change.)


Finally, I tried something else. I created a second file identical to my logo-bearing file, but without the logo. I added a 4-point-stroke, no-fill rectangle around the wrappers so Design Space would know exactly where to cut.To prevent errant lines, I set the stroke of my wrapper outlines to None in both files. (The downloadable .ai file has hairline strokes so you can see where to place your logos.Select the wrapper outlines and set your stroke to None before printing.) I uploaded the second file as a Print Then Cut file, and loaded it onto my canvas (the project is available on my Cricut profile page). I printed the file from my original (logo-bearing) file, and when I went to Make the wrappers in Design Space, I clicked on the "I've already printed" link to skip printing out a blank rectangle.



I ended up with perfect cupcake wrappers — but I had a number of mini cupcakes, and they needed to be wrapped as well!

Try as I could, I could not find a premade design for mini-cupcake wrappers — so I did what any engineer would do: I ASSumed the two sizes of cupcakes had the same exact proportions, and based on a 3" top versus a 2" top, scaled everything down to two-thirds.



Yes, there's a reason it's spelled ASS-U-ME. When we went to wrap the mini cupcakes before icing them, we found the wrappers were over a quarter inch too tall, and didn't have enough curvature to hug the bottom of the cupcake liner. Well, so much for wowwing folk with the minis at the event — but afterwards, it was back to the drawing board.

The wrapper sticks out the bottom (too tall),
and there is excess space around the bottom of the mini-cupcake (not curved enough)

After a bunch of trial and error, I'm down to something that's about the right length and the right curvature, but if your mini cupcake has any sort of "muffin top", it's still about 1/8" too tall.

Original 2/3 size, interrim rework, final rework
(If it's just filled to the top of the tin, with a very little crown, the design works fine.)


The mini cupcake wrapper is available on my Cricut profile.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Unicorn Party Hat

One of my colleagues is known for her collection of deely-boppers and headbands; she has at least one for every occasion, and is always collecting more.

While some of our customers suggest I should do likewise, that sort of head decor is not really my thing. My Kitschy Christmakwanzakah Fascinator (with full sets of felt Chanukah and Kwanzaa "candles") is about as far as I'm willing to go.

That said, a couple of weeks ago I was tapped to do another "Unicorn Fantasy" birthday party at Michaels. I had recently licensed a number of unicorn and unicorn-related images from DesignBundles.net, and decided that a party hat might be a cool thing to design. After a bit of browsing through the many images in the "Unicorn Bundle" I'd licensed, I decided on one of MStudio's designs from this group: a horn with a pair of horse ears and simple paper flowers. The original design also had eyelashes, but in order to make a headband, I needed to delete them from the image I'd be cutting.

A very large horn (left) before some better-scaled ones
Because I wanted my headband to have some dimensional layering, I had to reconstruct the underlayers from the original design so one could see the entire horn and flowers from both front and sides.

Backer piece, held onto the headband with paper tabs
On the fit side, I needed to add curvature so the design would sit on a human head and attach to a headband to hold it there. I also needed to create a backer for the design elements as well as the headband, and set everything to a reasonable scale. It took several tries to get it right.

I used Aleene's Quick Dry Tacky Glue and Studio G dimensional foam dots (similar to these) in the assembly process: first, manually gluing the horn bits to the back of the design, then the inside ears, then several layers of outside ears, and the top half of the tabs that secure the back to the headband.

(Note: I suggest using paper clips to clamp glued papers together until they dry.)

Side view shows holes for optional elastic.

Finally, the flowers went on with dimensional dots, and the design was ready to try out.



The design for this party hat is on my Design Space profile.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Business Card Holder Redux

After looking at the Business Card Holder design I published last month, I realized it would be an easy fix to make it slant backwards in the way we are used to seeing business cards presented. I also decided I didn't like the way the edge of the "holder" piece stuck out over the top, and the way the top corners of the "stand" piece were exposed.

In this edited design, the holder will stand slightly slanted, and the top of the "holder" is scored so that it can be glued across the top of the "stand".

I originally thought to suggest a pair of glue dots to secure the front part of the "holder" to the folded-to-front sides of the "front". As it turns out, Aleene's Fast Grab Tacky Glue is really good on this project, as long as you use paper clips to clamp the glued areas in place until they dry (about a minute or two).

Both of the above links should forward to my projects on Cricut Design Space.

The unicorn-theme paper design was tiled from Krystsina Kvilis (@peace-art)'s "Magical collection of unicorns II" from Design Bundles.net. (I had intended this particular holder for use at a unicorn-themed event.)

Front view (it got a bit crushed traveling)

Side view: slanted versus upright card holders

Oblique view, comparing the two designs

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Cricut Project: Business Card Holder


This is the edited and completed version of the project I started at this year's Trenton Computer Festival (TCF). It is available on my Cricut Profile Page.

The instructions there are a bit terse, having to fit inside 500 characters. Here's a more complete version:

Supplies:

Preparation:

  • Print an allover design on cardstock (optional)
  • In Design Space, set all text to "not visible" (or just ignore the black mat)

Settings:

  1. Set your materials setting to "Poster Board" or "Poster Board +"
  2. If you have a Cricut Maker, use the Double Scoring Wheel.
  3. Cut "pretty side down" if appropriate (not what I did).
  4. Set your material size to 11" x 8.5" (letter)

Make the Project:

  1. Cut and weed both mats. You will have three pieces ("Stand", "Holder", and "Front")
  2. Take the "Stand" piece and fold all score lines to the back.
  3. Secure the top corners to the folded back top of the stand using Glue Dots.
  4. Hold the "Holder" piece so the three parallel score lines are towards the bottom. Fold the upper two score lines to the front; fold the lowest score line to the back.
  5. Use a tape runner on the plain side of the bottom of the holder to secure it to its adjacent section.
  6. Holding the "Front" with printed side facing you, fold all score lines to front at 90 degrees. 
  7. Turn the piece so you are looking at the unprinted side.
  8. Using a tape runner or Glue Dots, secure the "Holder" piece to the "Front", matching up the large rectangle and the folded-up ledge beneath it.
  9. Fold the side fronts over the "Holder", and use Glue Dots to secure the corner flaps to the bottom ledge. 
  10. Using Glue Dots, secure the two long tabs to the bottom ledge.
  11. Using the tape runner, Secure the front/holder piece to the "stand", matching large flat rectangles.

Finishing

Add business cards and set on table.

Note: if you prefer your cardholder to slant rather than stand upright, align the "Stand" with the top of the "Holder" rather than the bottom.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Cricut: Demonstration at Trenton Computer Festival

I spent Saturday at the Trenton Computer Festival (TCF), the longest-running amateur computer show in the United States. (Disclosure: I am Secretary of the Amateur Computer Group of New Jersey, one of the Festival's co-sponsoring organizations.) TCF prides itself as a place for the hobbyist to learn about new and interesting developments in the world of computing. We present a number of hobbyists and professionals speaking on a variety of computer- and computing-related topics, a Ham Radio licensing session, and an Arduino workshop.

This year, I went in with two goals: to present an introductory talk on home electronic cutters, and to display some of my T-shirt and other Cricut-fabricated designs at a vendor table in the hope of selling something (or at least getting some orders).

The talk went reasonably well, considering that for the first half of it I had to make do with downloading my PowerPoint presentation onto the school's computer and walking my iPad around the classroom so people could see how Design Space differs depending on the platform. (Note: the SlideShare version linked to above did not copy the Kelson Sans and Lato typefaces used by the PowerPoint template I chose, Kental NMNL from Creative Market.) After the talk ended, I carried my Cricut and computer back to the Vendor room to man my table.

Earlier that morning, I found that instead of having business-card display holders in my table supplies, I had only tri-fold brochure displays. I did have 100-lb cardstock and a variety of adhesives in my table supplies, and a month subscription to Cricut Access, so I searched its database for a business-card display holder.

You'd think that with over 70,000 images, box designs, and so on, and an audience that includes hundreds of small-business owners, there'd be something as basic as a business-card display holder. No such luck. Fortunately, it's something easy enough to jury-rig — and when complete, a design I could make public so other small-business owners can use at vendor tables of their own. (A more refined version, available over at my Cricut profile, is the subject of my next post.)


It took me a couple of tries to get something usable for on-site — which was fine for demonstrating the device, but not so fine for having my head far enough outside of my computer to engage the public as much as I'd have liked. That said, having my Cricut actually working was probably a better demo than just explaining it and showing folk my already-made samples.

There was more interest from people who thought I was selling Cricut machines or who wanted to know what the machine did, than people interested in buying my designs or having me design something for them. There were also a few folk who were looking for more information than I could present in a 40-minute deonstration, or whose family members had a Cricut (or other home cutter) and who wondered what the machine was and what it did.


Monday, March 25, 2019

Business Card Thoughts


Despite it being the age of bump-or-touch to transfer contact information, most of us still need, prefer, expect, or collect the paper prĂ©cis of our professional identities and contact information in the form of 3.5" x 2" pieces of cardstock known as business cards or calling cards. As someone who crafts, instructs, is an officer of a local computer club, a long-standing member of an international fan association, and who has been active in the Diabetes Online Community, I have needed to carry several different versions of these cards, each of which requires a different professional or personal identity, and different subsets of my contact information.
Computer Club (current)
Blogger Card (Blog is still there, just inactive)

While most business-facing people never need to carry more than one version of their card at any time, those of us with social lives or "side hustles" cannot afford to be so narrow-minded.
Early version of our Web Warren cards
The speed with which our social lives change mean that for many of us, ordering 500 business cards through a service like VistaPrint means that 400 or more are likely to be obsolete before they get handed out. For us, home printing has been the service of choice for the past 20 years or so. We purchase 50-sheet (500-card) packages of microperforated paper from Staples, download the appropriate template from Avery (or create our own), add in our personal information, and press "Print".
Front of 2013 diabetes card
2014 card removes AOL Instant Messenger
That said, home printing for me entails a lot of waste. Some of that is because the margins on business cards are so narrow that a slight misregistration ends up with print trailing into the perforated margins (or worse, onto adjacent cards on the page), and some of that because I've had a number of two-sided designs that misfed or misregistered on the second side, rendering a sheet of paper... useless.
Back of 2013 diabetes card
2014 card removes defunct communities,
updates Tour de Cure information
Right now, we're at the stage of having to purchase a new pack of business card blanks. Unlike 20 years ago (or even 10!), the cost seems quite expensive compared to what I remember, and even compared to some of VistaPrint's higher-quality offerings. In comparison, cardstock is relatively cheap, and the flexibility of Design Space's "Print then Cut" feature made me wonder what Cricut's business-card potential might be.

(This is not to say that home electronic cutting machines would be the only way to create business cards from non-perforated cardstock: good manual paper cutters run half the price and serve admirably in a pinch. The problems are that the paper often shifts, and you don't have the sort of precision you can get from an electronic machine.)


For my latest Craft Instructor business cards, I wanted to work with the "Marble Glitter Business Card" template I'd gotten through an email subscription to Font Bundles/Design Bundles. I had some initial font issues in InDesign. After finding and installing the correct typeface and running a test print, the writing came out looking washed out, and the colors were too brownish. Since the original design was a Photoshop file, I opened it to edit. Photoshop CS4 only showed me one business card at the time. I tried Word, but it wasn't letting me layer text over the image frame. It was at this point that I imported the Photoshop-edited single-card graphic into Design Space.I resized the graphic to what seemed a reasonable size, not realizing it was meant as a full-bleed design, meant to be cut inside the decorative border. I ended up with six cards, approximately 3.6" wide by 2 1/6" tall — a bit larger than the standard 3.5" x 2" North American business card. I Attached the cards together to force Design Space to Print Then Cut a three by two grid of them on a single page of cardstock, rather than trying to make them all right-side up and spread over two pages.

I next tried to create a bordered card using one of the "Gold Digital Papers" designs from Design Bundles. I rescaled the paper from a 12" x 12" background to 1.25" and tiled it over a business card template in InDesign. I layered an opaque white rectangle in front, and my text box on top, and exported my single card to an importable .jpg file. After uploading my card to Design Space and resizing it a bit, I used the Square from Basic Shapes and elongated it into a 3.5" x 2" rectangle, centered it over the card, tweaked my card size, and Sliced the two layers it to create my business card. Setting these cards one next to the other which comes out to three rows of two cards, rotated sideways, plus one card in readable orientation. These printed out well, but my choice of typeface resulted in unreadably small text.


Finally, I used a background from a group called "Set of Marble Texture Cards" along with the "LD Laundry" typeface to create something a bit whimsical. I also used the Web Warren's short URL generator to create a custom link to my Design Space profile. Between this version and the gold-and-black design, I found that even Print Then Cut can end up with very small registration errors that can mar the final finish of your business card.

I reformatted my canvas with the Marble Texture card to allow for bleed. This reduced my yield per sheet of cardstock from 7 to 6. At a retail price of $16 per 100-sheet pack of 100-lb cardstock, this comes out to just under three cents per card for the cardstock. Compare this to $25 per 500-card (50-sheet) package of microperforated business card blanks, and you come out ahead, despite the larger volume of wasted-space on a page. Of course, if you're like me and buy on sale or with a coupon, your costs may be a bit less. Then again, the amount of time it takes to feed page after page of cardstock into the printer and then your cutter may make the costs of a service... worth it.

Update: check these posts for info on how to make a matching business card holder for a desk or display table:
Upright Business Card Holder
Slanted Business Card Holder

Friday, March 22, 2019

Noshin' Hamantaschen

Oh how happy we shall be, noshin' Hamantaschen!

A snippet of a Purim song — all that I think my Dad remembered — floated through my mind this past week as we approached the Jewish festival of Purim. While the religious cause of the celebration is the Jews' escape from the genocide proposed by the Persian vizier, Haman (as described in the book of Esther), the celebrations are loud, drunken, and often in costume — to the point where it's best described as "the Jewish Mardi Gras".

The marquee food of this festival is Hamantaschen — a triangular shaped cookie or pastry, traditionally filled with poppy seed paste or prune butter, though modern filling variations range from fruit preserves (usually raspberry or apricot) to chocolate, peanut butter, or even pastry cream. Depending on which story you hear, the name refers to Haman's hat, his ear, or his pocket/money pouch. At any rate, when we eat them — just as we shout, stamp, and wave noisemakers (graggers) during the public reading of Esther — we are obliterating the name of the story's villain.

Purim T-Shirt with cardstock positioning template

I Googled the snippet I remembered, only to find that I had learned the first part of the snippet incorrectly, that the lyrics came from a 1940s-era pedagogue, and that the familiar children's melody came from a drinking song often heard at Renaissance faires. (The pertinent results here.)

Of course, I would bake Hamantaschen (how could I not?)... but I also had an idea for a fun Purim T-shirt. (Hey, I'm a bit old to pass for Queen Esther or Queen Vashti, and nobody dresses up as Haman's wife!) I was able to use the basic shapes in Design Space to create a bitten-into Hamantaschen and some scattered crumbs, along with Cookie Monster's patented "nomnomnomnomnom" for my design.

Shirt next to real homemade Hamantaschen

While a shift at work meant I was not going to get drunk enough to not know the difference between "Blessed is Mordechai" and "Cursed is Haman", I have another shirt design to share (my Design Space profile here).