I’ve been hand-making my gifts since glued macaroni on a picture frame was an acceptable Mother’s Day present. My skills and standards have (thankfully) improved a little since then, but there’s still only so much you can do with an X-Acto knife and pre-made stencils. Needless to say, the first time I saw a video of the Cricut Maker machine in action, I was in awe.
If you’re unfamiliar with this crafting machine, it looks like an extremely sleek printer — but its job is actually to cut rather than to print. By switching out the various knives, you can cut custom designs into an extensive range of materials, from fabrics for sewing projects to adhesive vinyl for stickers.
As someone who has tried (and often failed) to hand-make T-shirts, signs, and coffee cups, I could already tell this machine would be a game-changer. That said, I don’t think I expected it to be the absolute best thing I’ve ever owned.
Now, it’s been over a year since I pulled the trigger, and I can confidently say the Cricut Maker has earned that title. Nothing in my apartment remains untouched; I’ve personalized throw pillows, T-shirts, cakes, and kitchenware. Every single wedding I attend, I gift the married couple a custom tea box. I’ve made my own earrings using faux-leather fabric. When I throw parties, I take the themes to the next level. (Halloween prep starts in August for me, by the way.) Someone even commissioned me to make a 24-set of “Rosé All Day” cups for a bachelorette party — and while I’m morally opposed to that phrase, I wasn’t going to turn down a freelance gig in which I got paid to play with vinyl.
So how, exactly, does this magical machine work? First, you plug it in and hook it up to your computer (or tablet) using the included USB cord or Bluetooth connection. Each machine comes with access to software called Cricut Design Space, which is an intuitive program where you can create virtually any logo or project you want. Then, once your design is finished, you choose the appropriate material, stick it to one of the sticky mats, and feed it into your machine.
You then sit back in amazement and watch as the blade cuts your design into the material using precise, deliberate movements. In a few minutes, you’ve got your custom-made stencil, fabric, sticker, iron-on, or jewelry.
You can also use this machine to create handmade cards and paper projects thanks to the second tool slot, which can hold and utilize markers, special gel pens, and a scoring stylus. While the knife slot cuts, this slot is capable of writing and making fold marks.
Note that this isn’t the first machine from Cricut, but in my opinion, it’s definitely the best. Unlike the Cricut Explore, the Maker can handle fabric as well as thin leather and wood. For those who are just looking to utilize vinyl and paper, the Explore Air may cut it (pun intended), but if you’re big into sewing or texture projects, too, the Maker is where it’s at.
The Cricut Maker comes in five different colors, and you can also opt for the bundle, which includes basic tools, a roll of vinyl, and some transfer tape. I haven’t stepped foot in a bougie gift shop in over a year, so this thing will probably end up paying for itself a dozen times over.