A die-cutting machine is a great Christmas gift for the serious crafter on your list, and the Cricut Explore, $249.99, demonstrates that such a purchase needn’t necessarily break your holiday budget.
This model is a lot of fun and hits a sweet spot for overall value. True, it isn’t up to engraving metal or cutting wood, but models that handle those materials can easily cost upwards of $800. For a crafter who seeks to fashion stylish scrapbook pages, cards and decorations from paper or fabric, the Cricut Explore is more than sufficient.
This is one of the very best die-cut machines for a beginner. A materials dial offers presets for different materials such as paper, vinyl, fabric and poster board. A more advanced hobbyist may miss the ability to manually fine-tune the blade depth for each project. However, Cricut Design Space, the supplied software, provides options for customized settings if you really require them.
Where most die-cutting machines allow only one tool at a time to be installed, this Cricut allows for two. That means instead of cutting a project out, replacing the blade with a pen and reloading the project, you can have the machine cut and draw in one pass.
You can use Cricut cartridges, which contain collections of digital designs, or dies, related to a holiday or other theme and plug into almost all Cricut machines. Alternatively, the Design Space software allows you to start a project from scratch, use existing designs from a library with more than 50,000 choices, or alter one of the library designs to fit your needs.
The program is cloud-based, however, so it requires internet access. This die cutting machine has Bluetooth capability, though, which could add a layer of portability back in by allowing you to control your machine, cord-free from your tablet. On the plus side, at 10.9 pounds, the Explore is lighter than many machines and comes with an included carrying bag.