Thursday, February 12, 2015

Quick and Easy DIY teacher (or anyone) gift!

Are you ever in need a of a cute, quick, and easy little gift for someone? Maybe a teacher, a friend, a neighbor, or co-worker? My kids were addressing their valentines for their classmates today when my daughter announced "I love my teacher. Can I give her a special Valentine's Day present?" Normally I'd scoff and say "No way, give her a little valentine and call it good!" But instead, thinking of my trusty Silhouette Cameo I've been having so much fun playing with lately, I replied "Sure, why not?" 

I went downstairs to my craft room and rifled around through some of the blanks and fun little treasures I've been hoarding collecting for inexpensive projects. That's when I spotted these cute little metal buckets I picked up from Target for $1 each. At the time I had no idea what I was going to do with them, but now I was thinking I wanted to put her teacher's name on it and fill it with some candy I may already have stashed on my nightstand. I had all the materials on hand - the bucket, vinyl, and transfer paper, plus my Silhouette. 


The first thing I needed to do was to figure out how big I wanted to make the name. I used my sewing tape measure and estimated that 3 1/2 inches by 2 1/2 inches looked to be about the perfect size to fit on one side of the bucket. In my Silhouette Studio software I used this free font and sized it accordingly, using the grid lines on the mat on screen. After double checking the spelling, size, and placement on the mat, I was ready to cut some vinyl.



Since I was just cutting small letters there was no need to use an entire sheet of vinyl for this project. I was able to find a perfect little scrap piece that was leftover from an earlier project in my scrap drawer. I love using up my scraps! I try not to waste anything. I stuck the little piece of vinyl on the mat, lined the mat up to my Silhouette, and selected "load mat" on the screen of the machine itself.


Now, before I could cut, I needed to adjust my cut settings. I clicked on the "cut" icon on the top right of my screen. Then I selected "vinyl," which opens up and expands the cut menu even further by using the right-most scroll bar (some people miss the right scroll bar, so I made sure to point it out in the photo. It can get confusing!) I had to adjust the preset cut settings slightly for the brand of vinyl I use. These were my settings: blade at a 2, I lowered the speed to a 5, and I kept the thickness at the recommended 9. I swear, on my machine this is the perfect setting for vinyl. It cuts like butter and leaves the backing still intact. This is what they call a kiss cut, and this is what you want for cutting vinyl. You want the blade to be just deep enough to cut the vinyl without cutting through the backing. Every machine is different though, and depending on the brand of vinyl and the sharpness of your blade you may need to adjust yours accordingly. When in doubt, do a test cut. If I scrolled down all the way in the cut settings you would see a "test cut" button at the very bottom on the right hand side of the screen. This button will save you from a lot of wasted material! Always do a test cut if you are unsure of your cut settings! I know my machine though, so I made my cut selections and then hit "send to Silhouette." That's when the magic happens.


When it was done cutting, I hit "enter" on the Silhouette to unload my mat. This is what my mat looked like after cutting. Perfect!

Now comes my favorite part- weeding! Weeding is removing the excess vinyl from the design. In this case it would be the insides of the hearts and letters, and then the excess white around the letters. I used my handy dandy hook tool to get all of the little tiny pieces out. This part is so fun to me. Maybe I'm crazy and I know some people find this part tedious, but it's so satisfying for me to pull the pieces up and really see my beautiful design come to life! Sometimes when weeding super small designs it can really strain your eyes though. Grab a lamp and make sure you weed in good lighting. 


Now, here's a tip: before I peeled up all of the extra white vinyl around my lettering I made sure to use my scissors and trim off the excess so as not to waste it. There was still a good chunk of un-cut vinyl leftover around my design and I'd hate to peel it up and throw it in the garbage! I cut it down and here's what I was left with. Ta-da! 


See how many scraps of vinyl I've saved? These really come in handy for other projects later on and then I don't have to cut into a brand new piece of vinyl. My scrap drawer is full of little usable pieces that some people (gasp!) just throw away! That's like throwing away vinyl, and vinyl isn't cheap.

Now that my design was all weeded and ready to go, I was almost ready to place it on the bucket. Now, should I peel up each individual letter and just stick it on there? No way. That would be crazy talk. Here is where I introduce you to the magic of transfer paper, which is going to allow me to pick up the entire design at once and place it perfectly on the surface of whatever it is I'm decorating.

To transfer my design the first thing I did was cut a piece of transfer paper big enough to completely fit over my lettering. Next, I peeled up the transfer paper like a sticker and carefully placed it directly on top of my weeded design. Then I used my Silhouette scraper to press firmly, or burnish, my design. You really want to make sure to press down all of the little corners so the transfer paper can pick up the design off of its backing. Then, starting at one of the corners, I carefully peeled up the transfer paper and lifted my vinyl up. My design successfully peeled up and the sticky backing of the vinyl was revealed. Now it was ready to be stuck all at once. So cool! Transfer paper is amazing, and I love this one because the grid lines really help when you're trying to get something perfectly straight.


Before I just stuck this on the bucket I made sure to wipe the surface with some alcohol and a paper towel. This removes any dirt and oil that may have been on the bucket's surface from handling it, which could result in the vinyl not sticking well or peeling up. You want to make sure the surface is clean and dry before you lay the vinyl down. After carefully deciding on where I wanted the lettering to be positioned, I laid the vinyl down as straight as I could get it. You kind of only have one shot with this so I just went for it. Luckily, I got it on there pretty straight. Next, I pressed down firmly over the transfer paper, making sure to smooth down every little corner of the vinyl and making sure that the entire thing was securely stuck onto the bucket. Then, beginning at one corner, I slowly pulled the transfer paper up and the letters stuck to the bucket. If some of the vinyl had started to pull up with the transfer paper I would have simply stopped and laid the paper back down over it, using my fingers to go over it again firmly before trying to peel it up again. Sometimes you have to do that. This one stuck perfectly though, thanks to the super clean surface and super sticky, high quality vinyl.


Isn't it cute?! And so easy. All it needed was some candy. I know Mrs. Rabold (who is about 8 months pregnant and about to start her maternity leave) is going to love it! I mean, who wouldn't love a cute little bucket full of chocolate? Lily is so excited to give it to her too. She really loves her teacher and she's already got tons of suggestions for what she should use the bucket for after the chocolate is gone (how cute would it look on her desk with some pencils in it or something?!) 


All in all, this was a really quick and easy (and cheap!) gift. From start to finish it only took me about 15 minutes, and that was because I was stopping to take pictures. The bucket was $1, the amount of vinyl I used was merely pennies when I broke it down, and the candy I had on hand. Plus, it works for everyone and for pretty much any occasion- Valentine's Day, Easter, St. Patrick's Day, Teacher Appreciation Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Grandparent's Day, Halloween, Christmas...you get the point! The dollar section at Target is great for finding little buckets, bins, tubs, cups, etc, and Dollar Tree is amazing for all of those as well as glass dishes, mugs, bottles, and so on. Stick a little vinyl on them to personalize and jazz them up and you've got a cute little gift that is sure to please anyone.



Who's day would you love to brighten with this?
Happy crafting!

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