You’re not alone. These machines (the Silhouette and the Curio) look very intimidating. If there was a secret, and I’m not saying there is; but if there was, it would be this. Go SLOW and be boring.. at first.
People get so excited that they want to rip it out of the box and get going. I unerstand the excitement, I really do. But there really is an order to things. As someone has said, following the steps will set you free. There are tons of videos out there about unboxing and setting it up; so I’m not going into that here.
What I will say is that following their steps will set you free. Do the firmware update. Really. It will save you heartache and frustration. If you’re new to the Silhouette software, don’t do the beta version. Use the current version until you get some time under your belt.
My next suggestion isn’t going to be slick or glamorous. But it will help. Go to your local Michael’s or JoAnns and buy cardstock. Plain cardstock. No textures. Not the pads; just the one color cardstock from the loose paper. Cardstock is usually one color and it’s thicker than scrapbook paper.
Once you get home, as you walk by your bedroom duck in and grab an old t-shirt. once you get to your machine, pick up your mat and take the blue cover off, exposing the sticky surface. It will be VERY sticky. VERY. Use that t-shirt an blot it all over your mat to reduce the stickiness. Keep going until it’s just barely sticky. Now it’s ready for Cardstock. When you graduate to vinyl; once you pull it off a time or two the mat will lose it’s stickiness and then it’s good to use for paper. I rotate my mats. First several uses is for vinyl (adhesive or heat transfer); then they step down to paper; and then when they totally lose stickiness, I cut them down and use them for templates.
Now you’re ready to cut… something. My suggestion here is to cut a square or a circle or some other incredibly simple shape. Use this opportunity to get used to working with the cut settings. waste some paper.
Wait.. what?! Waste paper?! Yep. Use paper for your learning curve and save the expensive stuff (like vinyl) for when you’ve got a bit more experience. You’ll be glad you did. When you’re down to your last scrap of blue vinyl and it’ll take a week to get more, you’ll be glad you wasted that paper.
The other pearls of wisdom are probably not going to be ones people want to hear either but they need to be said. I can’t promise that if you follow all of these you won’t ever have an issue and all your cuts will be awesome and perfect. But I do think they’ll help.
- Just because you now have a machine, doesn’t mean should accept orders from friends, family members or even your website. If you haven’t made it before, don’t agree to make it. Be honest and tell them you’ve never made a left handed widget and it’s going to take you a while to figure it out. If they’re willing to wait for it, you’ll put it on your learning list and you’ll get it to them, whenever (don’t accept money. I can tell you from experience. People who accept a commission and then come to Facebook for help end up getting really frustrated.
- Don’t give yourself a deadline. “I have two weeks to make embossed wedding invitations for my daughter’s wedding” and the machine just arrived. You don’t need the stress, and it’ll just make you end up hating the machine and the wedding and everyone involved
- Take your time. Learn the process; live the process, enjoy the journey. Yes, there are people out there who make incredibly gorgeous things (I can think of several. Cindy Pope, Mags Bonham, Carl Tribble are just a few who pop to mind. They didn’t pop the machine out of the box and went from zero to artist in 10 seconds.
- Learn from your mistakes. Hold it in your hand and ask yourself what went wrong.
- Be patient. With your learning curve with the machine and with the software. When you get frustrated, get up and walk away. Just walk away.
- It’s probably your blade. ALWAYS keep a ratchet blade handy, even if you love your autoblade. When that blade goes bad, it’ll happen all at once and when you are three cuts away from the end of your project. The first and last thing to check when you’re having issues with a cut… is the blade in and locked down? How much have you cut that blade, WHAT have you cut with it (cardstock and glitter anything will dull your blade). When you graduate to vinyl, the best advice I can give is to get a ratchet blade and a sharpie and put a “v” on that blade. Use that blade just for vinyl.
Share your triumphs and your disasters. I can guarantee there is someone out there who will look at either and say, Yup! I’ve been there. Even your disasters can be inspiring to others.
You can do this; you really can. It’s a box of plastic and hunk of wires. You’re intelligent, your thoughtful, witty and you have hundreds of people waiting to help. Take a deep breath, follow the instructions that came with your machine (in the order they were listed); and you’ll be on your way!! You’ve found a great group of people who will help you a much as they can… and there’s always someone around who can give you at least two ways to do anything you can think of.