The Cricut Joy Is An Essential Companion For DIY-ers

The Cricut Joy Is An Essential Companion For DIY-ers
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As adults, we all need hobbies. They keep our mind off the state of the world, particularly as we continue to experience to knock-on effects of a devastating global pandemic. For some people, it’s watching TV. For others, it’s more creative pursuits.

In my free time, I love creating jackets. It’s a hobby, but it’s also become a side-hustle. My creations have featured on American TV, in local Australian shows and on major wrestling pay-per-views in Japan (including Wrestle Kingdom, the equivalent of WWE’s WrestleMania).

So far, everything I’ve created has been done by hand. But when I discovered the Cricut Joy, I realised just how much I’d been missing out on.

What is the Cricut Joy?

The Cricut Joy is a $349 craft machine designed to cut or draw on fabric, vinyl and iron-on materials. It connects to a funky little app filled with creation ideas and designs you can use — and it also lets you create your own patterns, logos and designs.

For full use of the app you will need to pay for the $13.99 Cricut Access subscription, but the base app will give you everything you need to get started.

There’s a fairly steep learning curve when it comes to figuring out everything the app can do and how best to upload and style your images, but once you’ve got the app down pat, you’re good to create anything your heart desires. It’s just a matter of exploring every nook and cranny and discovering the generous library of images available to you.

To explore what the Cricut Joy could do, I started with card-making because it was the simplest part of using the machine.

Card-making with Cricut

cricut joy review
Image: Lifehacker Australia

In Cricut Design Space, you can find a variety of pre-cut patterns perfect for good-looking cards. Select designs also have slots to put a secondary colour so you can really make those stencils shine. Without Cricut Access there isn’t a heap of stellar designs to choose from so if you’re a frequent DIY-er and you want to save on birthday or Christmas cards, it’s well worth signing up for the service.

The best news about these designs is you barely have to spend any effort bringing them to life. You simply load up the design you want, insert your card stock using the Cricut tray and the machine cuts out the stencil you need.

While you may need to unpick some of the more stubborn pieces of the design, the stickiness of the tray means designs usually come away cleanly.

As I recently discovered, birthday cards are expensive but you can create a good-looking card on your own with the Cricut. If you want text on the card, you can also insert special coloured pens and have the machine draw for you. Pair that with a nice holographic insert, and you’ve got a pretty flashy card on your hands.

But beyond card-making, the major use I found for the Cricut was creating iron-on patches and stencils for my funky jackets.

Creating iron-on patches

cricut joy
Image: Lifehacker Australia

Customising jackets is excellent fun, and it’s unbelievably simple to create iron-on patches for them with the Cricut Joy. So easy that I’m really kicking myself for not discovering the machine sooner.

My process prior to using the Joy was this: hand-copy a stencil using a projector or a laptop screen. Cut out the stencil using a pocket knife, piece by piece. (No matter how complicated.) Then outline the stencil in fabric pencil and hand-paint every part onto the jacket. It was a process that often took weeks.

With the Cricut Joy, it’s a simple matter of choosing a design from the app (or designing your own to upload) and directly printing it as an iron-ons. You are limited to about a 15cm width for all your patches due to the small nature of the device (the Joy measures about 20cm x 13cm across) but for regular-sized patches, you’re absolutely in business.

If you’re after a particular colour for your patch, Cricut has nearly every colour under the sun available as Smart material, including holographic and glitter vinyls. It can also cut any “unofficial” material you have (card, vinyl and iron-on).

Basically: if you’re looking to create the snazziest jackets of all your friends, you’re in business.

The machine’s ability to create vinyl stickers goes far beyond that, though. Want to customise a notebook? Bam, the Cricut Joy can do it. Want to stick your name on a lunchbox so Greg can stop stealing your food from the office fridge? Yep, you can do that too.

cricut joy vinyl stickers
Image: Lifehacker Australia

Stencilling

My current project is a replica Nicolas Cage jacket — because we all know he’s the most stylish actor around — and the Cricut Joy has been incredibly handy for creating the stencils I need to finish it.

cricut joy stencils
From stencil to completion. (Image: Lifehacker Australia)

Because you can upload any images you like, it’s only a matter of creating a transparent image of what you envision and uploading it into the app. Here, you can refine the pattern and then have the machine cut stencils to your heart’s content. In this case, I chose to paint the logo onto my jacket using a cut-stencil but it’s also easy enough to turn these designs into an iron-on for a more refined job.

This was a fairly simple design, but you can also create more sophisticated shapes with the Cricut Joy like mandalas and other intricate patterns.

cricut joy iron on patch
Image: Lifehacker Australia

For the best transfer results with these patches, you will need a Cricut Heat Press. This is a device that functions as a tiny iron for applying patches. It’s not entirely necessary (a regular iron will work if you’re careful) but it is extremely handy and makes attaching decorations super easy. With the Heat Press, it’s just a simple ironing job and your jacket is that much more stylish.

That’s really where the Cricut Joy excels. It makes any kind of craft simple and accessible for anyone, even without needed pre-existing skill. Its simplicity is pretty genius, and anyone can learn to use it.

It’s just a matter of loading designs via the app, choosing materials and letting the machine’s blade (or pen) fly.

Final verdict

The Cricut Joy is a machine I wish I’d discovered years ago. Now that I have one, I can’t imagine creating anything without it — so it’s safe to say I’m pretty enamoured.

There are some downsides that are worth noting, like the fact that fancier designs require a subscription, but the good absolutely outweighs the bad. In the end, the subscription service isn’t strictly necessary, and for creators looking to print their own designs, it won’t be a major issue.

Beyond these minor foibles, using a Cricut Joy is an absolute breeze, and it’s meant a massive boost in creativity and productivity for me.

For anyone who’s interested in craft or DIY, it’s a truly excellent machine to have at your side.

Update, 6:12 p.m. AEDT: This article has been updated to reflect changes to Cricut’s previously announced intentions to limit the use of the Upload feature in Design Space. After community consultation, the decision has been made to keep user uploads unlimited.