Truth time: I bought a Silhouette cutting machine 8 years ago. I excitedly took it out of the box, quickly got frustrated because I didn’t know how to hook it up to my computer, and back in the box it went. Somewhere in between moves from California to Texas, then back again, the Silhouette went missing. It wasn’t a huge loss.
Fast forward to present day. As I started to prepare more and more DIY tutorials, a common piece of feedback was, “You should try using vinyl. The details would be a lot cleaner.” My best friend, Jo, was team Vinyl but I still had PTSD from my past machine. It wasn’t until we worked on a team project where she walked me through the entire vinyl cutting process. I was transfixed on how simple she made it seem and how flawless my costume came out in the end (to view the full step by step DIY tutorial, check it out here). I was sold.
Silhouette was nice enough to believe in me and sent me the Cameo 3 to try my hand at using a cutting machine (I wasn’t sure which cutting machine to choose, but since Jo had the Cameo 3 too and ensured she would help me, I went with that one. The biggest difference with the Cameo 3 was the wireless Bluetooth capability and the automatic cutting blade). I was pumped! I can do this! This box full of vinyl supplies was my oyster! …And then I opened the box.
CORDS. INSTRUCTIONS. DOWNLOAD THIS. DON’T TURN IT ON. OKAY NOW TURN IT ON. I took a deep breath and talked myself off a cliff. If an average person can do it, surely I could too. After I got over my initial shock, I realized that the instructions were pretty straight forward and literally told you step by step what to do. If you’d like to see a video of what happened in real time as I set it up, you can view it here.
Throughout the setup process, the hardest part was getting my computer to recognize the connected Silhouette. I 100% think that this is an issue with my computer, but somehow after restarting it, crossing my fingers, and doing a rain dance, everything was communicating properly.
I excitedly went to the Design Page to type out my first project: a Peter Pan inspired leotard that would say “Think Happy Thoughts”. I poured over the fonts in the Silhouette Digital shop for well over an hour and picked a pretty script font that embodied the feel of my quotation perfectly. I intended to have “THINK HAPPY” written in big, sans serif font, with “thoughts” whimsically scrawled across the top, just like it looked in the sample. I bought the font (which was free since you start off with a $25 credit) and it thankfully loaded into the Silhouette software automatically.
The first step was to print out “THINK HAPPY” in white vinyl. I’ve seen my friend work with vinyl before so I knew that I had to flip the text horizontally. Another piece of advice that I was given was to always practice cutting paper first. I loaded cardstock into the paper, hit send, and eagerly awaited my perfectly cut words to exit the Silhouette.
It was not perfect. The blade even cut outside the boundaries of the cutting mat! Good thing it was just paper. In a time of panic, I did what any normal person would do. I called in an SOS to my best friend. I texted her a photo with a mad face emoji, to which she laughed and reminded me that the Silhouette needs a lot of light. A figurative lightbulb went off in my head as I remembered that she would always shine a light directly on the blade. I grabbed my daughter’s phone and shined the flashlight all over the Silhouette as I crossed my fingers and pressed “repeat job”.
IT MESSED UP AGAIN. This time, the cutting mat got caught on my floor which nudged the blade a bit. This was the next lesson: the Silhouette is a picky beast. It’s best to work on a flat clear surface. I attempted one last time, shined the flashlight on the blades, and set up a nice little friction free area for the mat.
Hallelujah it WORKED. The success I felt when the letters came out correctly was immense! But now it was time to try on vinyl. Luckily I had enough foresight to figure out what direction to put the vinyl (shiny side down, back side up, and make sure you’re using the HEAT transfer vinyl). The letters came out great! Almost too great–the blade cut all the way through the vinyl and onto the mat. I’m still not sure how to adjust this setting, but I used my McGuyver skills and rigged a way to keep all the letters together using transfer tape (and I KNOW you’re not supposed to use it for heat transter vinyl, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
Now that my bold text was done, I was ready to cut my whimsical “thoughts” text. You seasoned Silhouette users probably know where I’m going with this. The text was way too thin! There was no way I was going to get the vinyl off the sheet without it ripping. Lesson learned: don’t use thin lines in designs. It will backfire.
A went back to the design board to create an easier to cut design, and I was well on my way. I cut out all my text and was even fancy enough to figure out how to buy a feather design in the digital shop for 99 cents (but remember, free because you’re given $25 to start). I continued to use my unapproved transfer tape method to transfer all of my designs to the leotard, where it ironed on easily without event or fanfare (remember, you need to use some sort of pressing cloth in between your iron and your garment. I used a teflon cloth but you can use a pillowcase).
When I pulled off the final piece of plastic to reveal my masterpiece, I was so proud of myself. I DID IT. I slayed the metaphorical giant which was my own fear of learning something new. And I am here to tell you that it is okay to mess up. And you probably will. Your first project will probably not happen as seamlessly as the DIYs look on pinterest. But the journey is in the process, and not the destination! I was thinking about editing out all the hiccups that happened along the way, but that would have been boring. I am an ordinary mom, just like most of you, and if I can do it, you can do it too.
I was sent the Silhouette Cameo 3 in exchange for an honest review. I couldn’t get more honest than this. Thank you Silhouette for believing in me. Stay tuned for (hopefully) more refined DIYs. Visit me on instagram for more DIYs.