1) PLAN-HTV Materials Don't Last Long.
I am used to using vinyl with my Cricut machine. Vinyl is cheaper than HTV, so I had plenty of it on had. Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV) was all new to me and so when purchasing materials, I bought a few sheets of different kinds of HTV material-some from online and some Silhouette brand from Jo-Ann's-never wanting to get too much of a color, because, hey--who wants a bunch of green laying around when you really need a blue?? Big mistake! Huge! You really need to have an idea of what you are planning to use the htv/vinyl for when you purchase it. I had no clue so I bought a 12x12 for several colors-some glittered, some metallic, some plain. Once I started on projects, I realized I needed more than just one sheet of a color. When making an initial shirt, I will use a 12x12 on just one shirt...that's not good when I am making sister matching outfits...think out your projects first. Then I would have considered that the initials would cut out at roughly 9 inches each and a 12x12 square would never be enough for two.
2) Not All Materials Are Made The Same
I learned this the hard way. My first HTV project was created using a white Silhouette brand that I purchased from Jo-Ann's. It was on sale, but it still cost $9 and there wasn't a lot of material. With that in mind, I was very picky about what I made. I decided to do initials on a shirt-the fancy scroll initials on a 100% cotton tshirt. It turned out super cute!! I used the same material and made a car and name pillowcase for my son to take to preschool. Super cute! Well, that's all I could make out of that since the amount was limited. So...here's the problem. The shirt started to peel after the SECOND wash!! If I am giving this item as a gift, I would be
embarrassed mortified that the product was defective after one use. Even worse if this was something that I sold to someone!! I watched tutorials online and knew I followed all of the steps...but still!!! Now, the pillowcase, although it is very cute, it also is cute from a distance! When applying the HTV, I used the towel over the top as suggested, no water in my iron, and the highest setting. But it still burned the vinyl. There are parts where the vinyl is not white, but looks a dingy brown. This has to be the heat from the iron. You can imagine that after this first experience I was willing to throw in the towel, cuss my machine, and then give it all up. I looked online and found several posts of those who were upset with their Silhouette brand HTV (Sorry, Silhouette). So, I broke down and purchased materials online. WOW! Big difference-Huge! The most success has been the glittered HTV. It has a strength to it that holds up excellently, and is easy to apply and work with-not to mention it doesn't burn and looks SO CUTE! My regular HTV projects have turned out perfect since using the new brands. I still wash them all inside out and in cold water and hang up to dry-to be on the safe side, but the success has definitely been with the new brands.
3) Some Fabrics Don't Like HTV
I have heard that a Heat N Press is much better to use than a household iron. I do not doubt this at all. However, seeing as how I just dropped 3 Benjamins on my Cameo...I can guarantee a Heat N Press is not coming to my house anytime soon. Keep this in mind when making HTV projects. Not all materials will respond the same way with an iron. Example-all cotton made items have been excellent projects and have held up through the 'wash' tests. Now, my running clothes...not so much. Yes, they are cute when I make them, but when I wash those nylon shorts, the HTV will just peel right off. I am not sure why they do not want to adhere, but they do not. I do not give up easily, folks. A one time experience does not set things in stone for me. I also HTV'd 2 different running shirts-some were polyester blend, one straight polyester. In both of those cases, it held up past the initial wash, but crinkled and cracked after the second. I know that if I had a Heat N Press this would probably not be an issue. With that out there....be mindful of what you are applying your HTV to-it may not hold up.
4) Weeding Makes A Huge Difference
For years I have not understood the value of weeding. I know you can do it, I have the tools, but I don't do it. I cut my project, apply transfer tape to the whole thing, put the whole thing on my project and then go in and weed. WHAT WAS I THINKING??? And why did it take me so long to do this correctly. I have since learned the importance of weeding and how much of a time saver it is-not to mention crucial when getting your materials on your project straight. I now weed every cut before adhering it to my project. I may weed before I put the transfer tape on (recommend) or I may apply the transfer tape and then weed (depends on the project). However, you do it...just DO IT! Your tears will thank you!
5) Indoor/Outdoor Vinyl
There are different types of vinyl-indoor, outdoor, glossy, matte, etc...I was unaware of this when I first started...my thoughts were more like...'Oh, there are different kinds? Duh...there's red, blue, green, yellow...' When I bought my vinyl I bought a massive amount of glossy outdoor vinyl. At the time I didn't have a clue-I saw color and I saw price...Now, I am happy that I did. It's just a personal preference, but in 9/10 cases, the glossy vinyl looks best on many projects. The matte can sometimes appear dingy. If I was making a saying to go across my living room wall, then I would want the matte, but otherwise, I love the glossy. There is a difference between the indoor and outdoor vinyl, though. The main difference is durability. This has pros and cons to it.
Outdoor Vinyl -Yay, its durable! Yay, its also hard to work with. The intent of outdoor vinyl is to hold up through all kinds of elements and weather. So, it doesn't have as much give to it. Its stiffer in use and once applied, plan on it being there unless you are ready to scrape it all off and throw it away.
Indoor Vinyl - Yay, its easy to work with! Yay, its also not very durable. Its not intended to go through freezing temps and rain. So, it has lots of give and is easy to work with. In many cases, that means it is very easy to reposition if you make a mistake or decide to take it off and change it out. That also means that although it will easily come off of a project in one piece, it will also easily come off of a project. I do not like to walk in to my sons room and see that one of the letters on his name canvas is about to peel off...yeah, not a big fan of that. If you are creating something that will have a sealer of sort over it, then go right ahead and use this with confidence...but if your'e going to the extra time to use a sealer, you could have just used the outdoor vinyl, without the sealer, and saved yourself a step.
Oh, the wonderful 'Free Design' cards that come with the Cameo...How I love thee...Let me count the ways...well...I love it for roughly 25 ways...that's how much free moneys worth of designs I got :) But...when the card ran out....whew! It can start to add up. I have gone online to Google and used many images-trace, etc..and for some, its perfect. Other times, Silhouette Store has EXACTLY what I need and I don't want to try to recreate it-or I'm pressed for time and the 0.99 isn't a big deal. The store saves you so much time and you KNOW you are getting a quality cut when you purchase the file. This is my favorite attribute over the Cricut. If you consider the value and the deals, then you would know that a Silhouette Subscription is the way to go. Yes, it is cheaper if you purchase longer time periods outright, but if you have to buy just the 3 month plan, it is STILL cheaper. The 3 month plan is $11 a month (you can always get discount codes to get this cheaper-mine was $9 a month) and that gives you $25 worth of files...So instead of buying $9 files for $9, you can get $25 worth of files for $9...no brainer, People....
7) Loading Cutting Mat
I am not sure why this is, but sometimes when I load in my cutting mat, it takes it in a little crooked. Not much, just a itty bitty tiny bit, and had I not been looking when it loaded, I probably wouldn't even notice. If this happens with you-UNLOAD! Do not say, oh, well, that isn't much and continue with your cut. It didn't take your mat in correctly in the first place and it will not continue to take it correctly. Instead, it will continue to pull the mat crookedly through the machine and mess up your cut, not to mention, waste your material. Go ahead and unload, and load back the mat. When it loads properly, it will cut properly. Don't think this is trivial--it is NOT!
8) Shop Around
Shop Around for your products!! I went to Etsy for all my vinyl needs...why?? Yes, Etsy is great and I still shop there, but why didn't I look around? There's expressionvinyl.com that has great quality and ships super fast! There's also craftvinyl.com which offers excellent deals, along with their penny deals, if you don't mind an extra couple of days waiting on your order to arrive-not to mention they will be ANY websites vinyl prices! But who says that you have to order online? I was waiting on an order to come in when I was asked to create a large order within a couple of days. I knew that my order would not be in by the due date. So...I had to really think about it. There was a vinyl store about 30 min down the road-I gave them a call and they actually sell vinyl by the roll to the "Cricut machine users in the area". Well, I'll be! I drove over there, bought a quick batch and came back home and had the order done the next day. Utilize your local resources!! This place only carries the basic colors, so I will still have to shop online for the others, but they get my business for the basics-and their prices are better than the online stores.
9) Seek Help!
This should be a common sense approach, but surprisingly, it is not. There are so many groups and forums dedicated to Silhouette that getting help is simple and easy. Not to mention there are tons of other Silhouette Addicts that WANT to help and offer advice. I have loved being a part of the Silhouette School Facebook group. Not only are there tons of tutorials and advice, but every Saturday is a chance to
get great project ideas from others post up your latest projects! :) You get a chance for Show and Tell! See what others are doing and show what you are doing. You would be surprised at the amount of help people are willing to give to help you when recreating their projects.
10) Do Not Limit Your Creativity
Do not see Suzy Jane's new shirt and think I can do that and that's all you do. Do not spend the $ on this incredible product and then let it sit and collect dust. This machine is worth so much more than just a couple of monograms here and there. And no...it is not just for girls. Yes, the glitter makes it easy for this aunt to want to make cutesy items for her nieces, but I have already started on the Superhero bedroom redo for my sons room. Not to mention the items for the game room-and I already used it to redecorate my classroom at school in our mascot Redbug Pride! Everything can be transferred to add a little extra meaning and creativity. Just spend an hour (if one hour at a time is possible) researching ideas on Pinterest and you will realize its potential. Many of the items are so much easier to make than you would imagine-you just need to have the desire to actually create them.