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Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Take 5: Five Things I’ve Made with My Silhouette Cameo and Why I Recommend it for a MakerSpace

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I’ve had my personal Silhouette Cameo for about a month now and last week, we ordered one for The Teen MakerSpace at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County. I’ve only tapped the surface of what I can do with the machine and it has a lot of uses. For example, it can take the place of an Ellison Die Cut machine and the need to store multiple dies for doing displays and name tags.

To give you an idea of why I recommend it, let me share with you five projects I’ve done with my Silhouette Cameo.

1. T-Shirts

When you think of craft vinyl cutters, you are probably thinking t-shirts. This is what they are used most for and I’m not going to lie, I love this! I have made a ton of t-shirts. Each time I make a shirt, I learn more about how to use my machine. I’ve made my kids spirit shirts for school, holiday shirts, and just some shirts that feature their favorite characters or saying.

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I even made TLT t-shirts for all the TLTers.

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2. Tote Bags

It also transfers really well onto tote bags.

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3. Screen Printing

You can do a reverse weed on your cut and make a screen for screenprinting. I am using this process to make screens for a TMS stencil and a Libraries Rock stencil for the 2018 Teen Summer Reading Challenge.

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4. Vinyl Window Clings

You can buy special vinyl cling material to make vinyl window clings. I used this to make gear shaped clings for our Teen MakerSpace windows.

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5. Computer Bling

You can also design and make your own computer bling. Here’s a cut out I designed using a heartbeat font and the shapes feature to celebrate my love of a certain time traveling time lord. Since taking this picture I have also added a Teen MakerSpace cut out.

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As I mentioned above, I am just now learning of the various ways I can use my Silhouette Cameo. You can also cut paper, which is great for doing in library displays. In the Teen Makerspace we will be mainly focusing on paper crafts as well due to the cost of the vinyl versus paper. Though we will also use our Silhouette Cameo for special programs like our annual Summer of T-Shirts events.

Teaching the teens to use a vinyl cutter will help them learn things like layout and design, math (yes, there is math involved in making sure your design will fit onto a t-shirt), and basic technology skills.

The initial investment is quite high. A Silhouette Cameo bundle pack, and you’ll want a bundle so you get the additional tools that you need, is $269.00. And there is an ongoing cost in that you need materials to cut with your machine.

Even if you decide not to let the public have access to a vinyl cutter, I do recommend it for library use. It has a much broader range than cutting tools libraries have used in the past like an Ellison or Accucut and takes up a lot less space.

Here’s a look at some of the guides and reviews I shared early on while learning how to use my Silhouette Cameo. I will say the Silhouette Cameo is not intuitive at first and it doesn’t come with a manual, so you’ll definitely want to start with the Silhouette Cameo 101 post.

Silhouette Cameo 101: The Manual It Doesn’t Come With, But Should

MakerSpace Mondays: The Silhouette Cameo – Vinyl 101

MakerSpace: Using a Silhouette Cameo to Do Screenprinting

MakerSpace Mondays: The Silhouette Cameo – a review

 

MakerSpace: Using a Silhouette Cameo to Do Screenprinting

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This summer as part of our Summer of Shirts, we did a very low-tech version of screen printing, which turned out to be incredibly popular. So I was excited to learn that the Silhouette Cameo can be used to do a more traditional type of screenprinting. It works really well and I HIGHLY recommend it. After being pretty decent with my Silhouette Cameo, it only took me about an hour to make my stencil and screenprint my t-shirt. And since many of the supplies can be re-used for multiple projects, the cost per project is basically under $20.00, though your initial investment will be slightly higher (assuming that you already have the Silhouette Cameo of course).

Thing 2 wearing her screenprinted T-shirt

Thing 2 wearing her screenprinted T-shirt

Supplies:

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  • Silhouette Cameo and PC/Laptop
  • Weeding tool
  • Piece of 651 Permanent Vinyl
  • Scissors
  • Clear contact paper (to be used as transfer tape)
  • A wedge to be used with the transfer tape
  • A 14 inch embroidery hoop
  • Painters tape
  • A sheer fabric curtain (I purchased a white one for less than $5.00 at a local store)
  • Speedball screenprinting ink
  • A foam brush or squeegee (or credit card)
  • Gloves
  • Something to protect your work surface
  • A piece of cardboard to insert between the two layers of your shirt

Step 1: Making Your Design and Turning it Into a Stencil

Tools used in this step: Laptop, Silhouette Cameo, Vinyl 651 (permanent), weeding tool

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You begin by making your design in the Silhouette design studio. You’ll want to think about simple designs to begin with. You then send your design to the cutter unmirrored with your vinyl 651. You want to design and cut your vinyl as you would a normal vinyl project. HOWEVER, when you weed your project you want to remove the design part while keeping the edges in place to create your stencil. For example, I removed all of the guitar pieces and letters and kept the part I would normally remove attached to my vinyl backing. You final screen will look like this.

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Step 2: Turning Your Vinyl into a Printing Screen

Tools used in this step: Vinyl stencil (created in step 1), transfer tape (contact paper), wedge (used for transfer tape), painters tape, embroidery hoop, a piece of sheer curtain slightly larger than your embroidery hoop

You now have a negative image piece of vinyl that has been weeded, so you’re going to use your transfer tape (contact paper) to lift your stencil off of the vinyl backing and attach it to the screen (which is a piece of sheer fabric curtain). If you don’t know how to use transfer tape, there are instructions here: How to Use Transfer Tape for Cricut and Silhouette Projects.

After you place your vinyl stencil onto the screen and remove the transfer tape, you can cut your stencil/screen to the size of your embroidery hoop. The hoop is used to hold your stencil/screen tight for the application phase. You want to leave about 2 inches around the outside of the hoop so that you can keep it pulled tight. Use painter’s tape around the edges to help make sure you don’t go over the edge of your vinyl stencil.

The hoop plus your sheer curtain with the vinyl stencil attached is now your screen for the purposes of discussion.

A "Screen" for Screenprinting

A “Screen” for Screenprinting

Step 3: Doing the Screen Printing

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Tools used in this step: Your screen (which is the embroidery hoop with the sheer curtain piece and your vinyl stencil attached to it), Speedball ink, squeegee, gloves (if you want to keep your hands clean), surface protection, cardboard for in between layers of your t-shirt

Insert a piece of cardboard between the layers of your t-shirt to prevent bleeding through. Place the screen onto your shirt where you want it to appear. You will then put a little bit of Speedball ink onto your stencil and spread it evenly over the stencil using your squeegee. Fill in all the parts and then scrape it clean so that you have a thin layer of ink over the areas where it is supposed to print. Let it dry for a few minutes and then remove your screen.

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Your shirt is now done, but you need to let it dry for about 24 hours.

Advantages to Screenprinting vs. Vinyl Heat Transfer

Once you have created a screen, you can take it out of the embroidery hoop for storage and re-use it. From one sheet curtain panel you can create anywhere from 6 to 8 screens which you can store. This gives you a variety of ready made screens that you can pop in and out of your embroidery hoop to teach teens the basics of screen printing. Would also be great for creating summer reading shirts.

Because you are creating a screen that can be re-used, it costs less than using heat transfer vinyl on a large number of t-shirts. Heat transfer vinyl is more expensive than standard vinyl and here you are using one piece as opposed to multiple pieces for multiple shirts.

Many of the supplies and tools can be re-used, which makes this a less expensive project over time.

The t-shirts feel more like authentic t-shirts as opposed to t-shirts that have the stiff feel of vinyl on them.

What the Teens Learn:

  • Design
  • Some basic tech
  • Screenprinting

Here is a really quick tutorial that you can watch on YouTube that demonstrates how quick and easy screenprinting with a Silhouette Cameo is:

TPiB: Easy Peasy DIY Jack-O-Lanterns

So I got a Silhouette Cameo and I was trying to figure out how to use it, and how to use it with teens, when I stumbled across an easy and fun craft idea. You can do it with or without a Silhouette Cameo, it’s easily adaptable. I made my examples using the Silhouette Cameo.

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What You’ll Need:

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  • Clear plastic craft bulb/ornaments
  • Orange acrylic paint
  • Styrofoam or plastic cups
  • Black markers/stickers/or vinyl if using a Silhouette Cameo
  • OR black paper and a sticker making machine
  • Hemp cord or twine for hanging

Step 1: Painting Your Ornament Orange

You are going to be painting the inside of your ornament, not the outside. Start by saying that before anyone gets all excited and starts painting the outside, not that this has happened to me. Nope, not once.

Take the top off of your ornament and fill it with a few drops of orange paint. You’ll want to roll the ornament around a bit to make sure you completely cover the inside with paint. Place your ornament opening down into a cup to let the excess paint drip out and let it dry. It will dry quicker if you don’t use too much paint, so use paint sparingly.

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Step 2: Making Your Face

While your ornament is drying, think about what you want you Jack-O-Lantern face to look like. You then need to make your elements, which you can do in several ways.

Paper: Cut out your face elements using a template you download or hand draw. You can use glue or a sticker making machine to turn your paper into stickers and place them onto your dried ornament.

Sihouette Cameo: Download a design or make your own design, cut using Oracal 651 permanent vinyl, and place on your dried ornament.

Getting Creative:

This doesn’t just have to be Jack-O-Lanterns. You can do ghosts, monsters, robots and more. And it doesn’t have to just be Halloween, you can do a variety of animals, for example. You can also do school colors and logos, sports teams, interests and more. Or, better yet, have teens make an ornament that represents their favorite books and see what they come up with. See also, our annual Great Ornament Hack.

MakerSpace Mondays: The Silhouette Cameo – Vinyl 101

Earlier today,  I talked about the Silhouette Cameo Vinyl Cutter: MakerSpace Mondays: The Silhouette Cameo – a review. So if you buy a Silhouette Cameo, you’ll probably be making a variety of vinyl projects. Not all vinyl is the same, so here’s a little Vinyl 101 brought to you by high school librarian Dani Fouser.

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Oracal 631- Semi-Permanent

Use for walls, windows and anywhere you want to eventually remove your vinyl.

Oracal 651 – Permanent

Use for car decals, cup decals, etc. This is water proof.

Transfer Paper/Tape

Use to transfer an image onto a surface. In a pinch you can use clear contact self-adhesive shelf liner, though it doesn’t work as well as the Oracal Transfer Tape.

How to Use Transfer Paper with Vinyl | The Pinning Mama

Oracal Transparent Vinyl

Use to get a stained glass look. Best prices at www.craftvinyl.com

Heat Transfer Vinyl/Iron On Transfer Vinyl

Use this to do things like making t-shirts. It comes with transfer tape and you need print it mirrored. There are a few exceptions to this rule (like patterned paper) so be sure and read the specific instructions for the vinyl you are using.

Easy Weed Vinyl

Use this for more complicated designs that will require a lot of weeding.

Easy Weed Stretch

Has a little give in the vinyl making this good for t-shirts.

Brand Names

Siser – Most people prefer this brand

Pro-Vinyl – Comparable to Siser

As always, if you have additional tips and tricks, please add them in the comments.

MakerSpace Mondays: The Silhouette Cameo – a review

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This past week TLTer Robin Willis came and spent the week with me and visited my library (The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, Ohio) and the Teen MakerSpace. Her visit coincided with the exploration and evaluation of a Silhouette Cameo 3 machine which we are considering for the Teen MakerSpace. Here’s what we learned.

But first . . . here’s Robin with the Teen MakerSpace Manual (which you know I love) and her own Teen MakerSpace bag.

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The Silhouette Cameo is a cutting machine that you program using it’s software and it cuts a variety of things like paper, vinyl and temporary tattoos. It is similar to a Cricut machine which is popular with scrapbookers and t-shirt makers, except you don’t have to buy separate cartridges. This does not mean, however, that there aren’t additional costs, because there are. For example, you can purchase graphics and fonts, though you do so online as opposed to buying cartridges. You can also find a variety of free images and fonts online. In fact, there are Pinterest pages dedicated to this very thing. The initial cost of the machine itself is around $220 and there are some additional tools that you should purchase to help make your projects a success.

Cutting Machine Basics: What You Need To Know To Get Started

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In addition to buying images and fonts, you will have the ongoing cost of what ever medium it is you are cutting. Paper, is of course, the cheapest. You can use paper to make things like cards, signs (for example, mod podge them onto a canvas) and more. Vinyl can be used to make a wide variety of things like window decals, drinking cups, and t-shirts. You can buy vinyl at local crafts stores or purchase it at a discount online. Depending on the project, the cost of consumables can get pretty expensive.

To begin with, I first tried cutting some paper projects. The first project I designed using the software. The second project, the Cheshire cat, I found for free online and used so that I could learn how to download a project.

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After this initial success, I then tried t-shirts and hit some snags. To begin with, I loaded my vinyl upside down and it did nothing. I found the instructions hard to read on the vinyl itself and had to call a friend for assistance. Then, because I didn’t have the proper tools, I tore my vinyl while trying to pull it off.

The next day we had more success. It helps that we stopped at the store and bought the tools we needed. When the machine cuts your designs you have to do a process called “weeding” to pull off the insides of letters and things like the Cheshire cat’s teeth. Robin turned out to be really good – because she is incredibly patient – at weeding. The tool you use looks like one of those horrible dentist devices that scrape your teeth, but it’s effective and necessary. Buy the extra tools.

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We then made a variety of t-shirts and book bags.

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I then designed my own t-shirt using the software and an image I purchased through the Silhouette store.

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Overall, I am in love with this machine. So here’s a look at some of my final thoughts.

Pros:

You can do a wide variety of projects using the Silhouette Cameo; it has versatility.

It does exactly what it says it will do very effectively.

There is a great variety of online resources and project ideas to get you started and keep you going.

The end product looks sharp and professional.

High School Librarian Dani Fouser made this great window display using her Silhouette Cameo

High School Librarian Dani Fouser made this great window display using her Silhouette Cameo

Robin and I made these vinyl window clings for the Teen MakerSpace

Robin and I made these vinyl window clings for the Teen MakerSpace

You can convert and scan in images and transfer them to an .SVG image to use them with your cutter, though I have yet to figure out how. But again, there are a lot of online tutorials.

Cons:

The initial cost of the machine itself is a bit pricey.

The ongoing cost of consumables is also a bit pricey.

The learning curve is a bit steep. I was initially told the design software was similar to Microsoft Publisher but I found it to be more similar to Gimp.

The Silhouette Cameo 3 does not come with a user manual so you have to use online help resources to even figure out the basics. If you know someone who can help get you started, put them on your speed dial.

The machine is definitely more of a one on one machine, similar to a 3D printer.

Some Resources for You:

Silhouette America – Silhouette America

Silhouette America – What Can You Make?

Silhouette CAMEO Project, Tutorials and Free Cut Files

Coconut Love: 43 Project Ideas for Silhouette Cameo

19 Amazing Silhouette CAMEO Print and Cut Project Ideas

The Mother Lode of Silhouette Tutorials for Beginners

Silhouette Cameo Projects | Made in a Day

15 Blogs To Find GREAT Silhouette Cameo Project Ideas

10 Best Silhouette Cameo Projects of 2016 – Simply Made Fun

50+ Silhouette Machine Projects to Try Now – MakeUseOf

Over 200 Free Silhouette Projects, Crafts and Tutorials at AllCrafts!

19 Amazing Silhouette CAMEO Print and Cut Project Ideas

Converting Silhouette Studio Files to SVG (Free & No Extra Software)

Silhouette PixScan Tutorial for Beginners: Part 1 of 2 – Silhouette School

34 Cool Things You Can Do with Your New Vinyl Cutter | Make:

Please share your thoughts, your favorite resources and your favorite projects with me in the comments!