Cricut Cuttlebug Review

Hey everyone! Today I have a review of the Cricut Cuttlebug Machine V2. I am very new to the world of die-cutting but I want to start off right away by saying that I LOVE this machine.

Disclosure: Please note that I may receive commissions from any purchases made through links in this post, however all views and opinions are honest and my own. 


Why the Cuttlebug?

When I was researching die-cutting machines, the criteria that I considered most important were A) compatibility with as many brands of dies as possible and B) price. I wasn’t sure that die-cutting was going to be something that I would want to spend a lot of my crafting time doing so I didn’t want to pay too much, but I also didn’t want to be disappointed by a limited selection of dies. Enter the Cricut Cuttlebug Machine V2.

Cuttlebug machine opened and ready to use

Once I purchased the machine for a very reasonable £59.99, I hurried home and tore open the packaging like a child with a Christmas gift. The instructions were basic but easy to understand. I started off by trying out the included (and may I say – very cute) embossing folder on a piece of scrap card. It was so easy to do and glided through the machine without any effort.

Extra Kit

Next came the disappointing bit….but don’t worry it was easily rectified. I had purchased a Lawn Fawn die to use with the machine. After some tinkering, swearing and Googling I soon came to realise that the die wouldn’t work without buying an additional piece of kit. I think this was something to do with the die being a different brand to the machine. I’ve read that Cricut brand dies should work with just the elements that come with the machine. Thankfully my local shop had the Cuttlebug Rubber Embossing Mat available so I purchased that on my second trip for around £7 and this addition had me well on my way to being a die-cutting addict.

The Results

I do think that results will be dependent on the quality of the dies and embossing folders you use. I’ve had no problems. The Cuttlebug has been great for all of the tasks I’ve needed to complete. Embossing is crisp and even. Die-cut shapes are clean-cut, even when using intricate shapes on thicker 300gsm card.

intricate die-cut shapes

The Design

The design of the machine is really cool. The sides of it fold out and as they do they cause the bottom to suction to the table surface, providing it is flat and smooth. This makes it easier to use your other hands to guide your work and to wind the handle without having to hold the Cuttlebug in place. When the sides are folded up they fit against the body perfectly and the whole thing becomes really easy to transport using the carry handle. You can even turn the winding handle so that it fits snugly against the edge of the machine where it won’t catch on anything and reduces the space needed for storage. I even like the fresh green colour of the machine.

Cuttlebug machine closed and ready to transport


The only concern I have with the Cricut Cuttlebug (bearing in mind that this is the only die machine I have ever used) is that the top B plate has totally bent out of shape and tends to imprint patterns from previous cuts onto the back of cut shapes. I don’t find that the bend affects the quality of the cut so it’s not much of a problem and I think it may have been better to use both sides of the plate to keep the pressure equal between both sides. The imprinted patterns only appear on the back of my shapes so it doesn’t really matter as they will be hidden once glued onto another surface such as card or scrapbook.

bent cuttlebug b plate

The Ideal Starter Machine

As a newbie to the world of die-cutting, I am really pleased with my purchase and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is starting out in the die-cutting and embossing world. Now that I have a bit more experience and know that it is something I will get use out of, I am thinking that I may need a machine that can work with larger embossing folders and papers and is motorised such as the Sizzix Bigshot Express Machine. I’ll let you know if I go for it and I’ll tell you what I think!


How to make a personalised paper gift bag


With this simple tutorial you will be able to create a fully personalised paper gift bag using a photograph and scraps from your paper, card and fabric stashes. It is quick and simple but so effective. 

You will need:

A plain kraft gift bag (I got 5 for £1 at PoundWorld)
Scraps of card, paper and fabric in your chosen colours
A photograph
An instant camera style frame (available from my shop – 
Clarty Hands Crafts)
Rhinestones, letter stickers and any other embellishments you like
Glue or a tape roller
A stapler

Step One

Cut your photograph to the size of the outer edge of the frame.
Stick the frame onto the photograph.

scissors and cut-out photograph
Cut your image to size


Step Two

Layer rectangles of your paper and fabric scraps behind your mounted photograph in an arrangement that looks pleasing to you. I find that layering different textures is really effective. Once you have your arrangement, put the photograph to one side and staple the stack of rectangles in the centre to keep them all together.

red and gold rectangles of card and fabric
Stack your scraps to make a background for your photograph

Step Three

Stick the photograph to the top of your scrap-stack and then stick the entire pile to the front surface of the gift bag.

Step Four

Add extra touches to your design with your embellishments. I used letter stickers to caption the photograph with “Happy Birthday” and used self-adhesive rhinestones to add some sparkle.

paper stack, photograph and embellishments
Add your photograph and embellishments

Step Five (Optional)

I finished the bag by using a VersaMark watermark pen (available at Crafter’s Companion) to write my friend’s name and sprinkled coordinating gold embossing powder over, before blasting with a heat gun.

Personalised Paper Gift Bag
And voila! One personalised paper gift bag

What is a bullet journal?

What is a bullet journal title

Every day I go online and every day I see the term “bullet journal”. A few months ago I clicked on a couple of Pinterest posts to find out more about it but at first glance it wasn’t bright and sparkly enough for me so I investigated no further. 3 months later and this fad just isn’t going away. I still see everyone sharing their layouts and trackers so once again curiosity got the better of me. I decided to give it a try. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it after all…

The first thing I did was visit – the official site that shows where bullet journaling began and the basic gist of how to go about starting your own.

As always I have a firm lock on my purse strings (oh, the joys of maternity pay!) so instead of committing to a beautiful Moleskine notebook I shelled out a whole £1.50 on this childish exercise style notebook. After all, this was just going to be an experiment.

bullet journal notebook

I chose this book because it was dotted instead of plain or lined and would be ideal for any tables and diagrams I needed to draw. If I hadn’t found this dotted one I would have settled for graph paper or squared.

spotted notebook paper

So anyway let’s get to business. What is a bullet journal? Well…it’s…um…anything you want it to be actually but I’ll go ahead and tell you about the ways most people use their bullet journals.


However you plan – yearly, monthly, in a diary, with to do lists – this is what the Bujo was intended for in the beginning. It doesn’t matter how you do it as long as you do do it. The whole idea of the bullet journal is to make life easier with minimal time spent on planning (i.e. without paint and glitter). This can be done with an actual bullet system as described by Ryder Carroll on the official website, or you can take it further like me by making tables and charts. Although this approach takes a little more time at the beginning of the year/month/week/day, I find it much easier for my brain to comprehend (and admire) at a glance. I do use the actual bullet system for my daily breakdown to-do list as I love the satisfaction of ticking tasks off when they are complete.


The Bujo is perfect for tracking progress/results. I choose to make mine more graphic but a tally chart would be just as effective. You can track anything – cleaning, exercise, savings, business goals – you’re only restricted by your own imagination. The Bujo holds you accountable for your own goals. This is perfect if you are like me and tend to “forget” about personal targets you really want to achieve. Once it is in your bullet it will sit there glaring at you until complete…kinda like a scary headmistress waiting for you to finish writing out the dictionary in detention.


Who doesn’t love a good list?!

Shopping lists

Wish lists


Places to go




Christmas gifts




These are just a few of the ideas I’ve seen put into practice (and no, I am not joking about the Pokemon one). There’s not much else I can say about lists but I hope you appreciate the fact that I presented this section in list form!


Even if you don’t intentionally use your Bujo to record memories it will automatically become a record when you’re done. All you have to do is keep it once you get to the end of your notebook. It will be great to look back from the future when you’re a high flier. Imagine all of the fuzzy warm feelings you will get when you look back at how you got there.

I totally recommend you give bullet journaling a try. It’s the most satisfying and non-intimidating planning system I have ever tried. It is very forgiving. If you forget to use it one day then there is no page left standing empty, you just put the next day in it’s place instead. Go on… all you need is a notebook and a pen!

I would love to know if you guys have any other uses for your bullet journal. Be sure to leave me a comment and let me know!

How to make your own masks and stencils for art journaling

make your own stencils

When you’re looking on social media for art journal inspiration it can get boring pretty quickly. It seems that everyone is using the same designs and tools in the same ways. I want you guys to be able to add your own personality and flare to your art journal. A great (and fairly simple) way of doing this is to make your own stencils and masks. Don’t worry – you don’t need any drawing skills. Follow these instructions if you want to be original!

Step One – Find a picture that would make an awesome stencil.

You can either use your own photography skills or find an image online. Beware of copyright infringement! When making stencils you need to pay particular attention to the silhouette of the image. If the outline shape doesn’t look like anything then it’s not going to look like anything when you use it in your journal.

peeking dog photo

Step Two – Print out your image.

Print out the image, preferably on printer paper (it’s thicker and you can get more than one use out of it). It does’t need to be in colour and it doesn’t need to be fantastic quality, as long as you can clearly see the outline of the subject. 

Step Three – Cut out your image.

Use a craft knife or a decent pair of scissors for this. You need to try and keep the inner shape and outer shape whole, otherwise it won’t work. If you need to you can make a simple snip as an entry point to get your scissors in position on the outline, then tape the split shut afterwards. Pay attention to detailed areas as these will make your stencil look more impressive.

cut out of dog

Step Four – Have fun and Experiment!

art journal dog silhouette

Your stencil and mask are finished. Now the fun begins! There are loads of ideas on YouTube if you search “Stencils and Masks” including this great link I found.

Have you tried making your own stencils and/or masks? How did it they turn out?

How to Break Out of Your Creative Slump

break out of creative slump

Hey you! Yes you who owns a bazillion empty notebooks and has nothing to fill them with. Need some inspiration that doesn’t require much brain power? Need to have a purpose before you can put ink/paint/pencil to paper? Look no further than this lovely list I’ve made to help you break out of your creative slump!

  1. Rip up tiny pieces of junk mail and stick them down to create a word of your choice. Decorate the rest of the page to fit in with the word you chose. If you can’t even think of any words then try one of these.

    be reckless and create

  1. Cut out a magazine picture, stick it in your journal and doodle on or around the image

    giraffe rainbow art journal

  1. Find any old photograph, stick it in and draw your own version next to it

  1. Find some things that you can sprinkle. Mix them together. Glue a pattern and sprinkle the sprinkles over and shake off the excess

  2. Go outside and find some natural flat items. Use them to make a collage

  1. Take a pencil in each hand then draw and colour a beautiful mirror-image butterfly

  1. Doodle and annotate your day

    doodle journal entry
    Can we just take a moment to appreciate my outstanding drawing skills?! See – don’t let a lack of skills stop you from creating!
  1. Cover an entire page with different magazine pictures that speak to you

    magazine collage

  1. Cover an entire page with words

  1. Get your favourite book. Search for quotes and fill a page with them. Use watercolours to paint over and express the feeling that the book gives you

  1. Collect textures and stick them in

  1. Collage a picture of your home

  1. Cut two pages out of your journal, leaving a 1cm strip running parallel to the spine. Sandwich a new page of any found paper in between the strips and glue it in. Use the new page as a background for a list of things you would like to achieve in the next year

  1. Draw around your hand and fill it in with intricate doodles and glitter

    mandala hand pattern

  1. Stick an envelope in and fill it with 10 interesting facts about yourself

    I would love to know if any of you guys try any of these activities. If you do be sure to let me know in the comments!

Simple Hand Lettering for your Notes and Journals

simple hand lettering

When you’re using a computer it’s so easy to make text look interesting by using spacing and different sizes and types of font. It’s harder when you’re writing by hand, especially when you’re like me and not particularly gifted in the art of calligraphy. That’s why I’ve put together this list of easy hand lettering that you can try. All you need is any pen and paper. I couldn’t think of any deep and meaningful phrases to demonstrate so I used my DVD collection as inspiration. Give it a try. If I can do it, you sure can!

Home Alone

green home alone

Write your words in your usual printed handwriting then add dots to the open ends of your letters.

The Hunger Games

purple hunger games

For this one you need to think of a digital clock that has small dashes that make a figure 8. Different parts of the figure 8 light up to make the required digits. The letters in this font need to fit into that figure 8. The only letters that don’t work are ‘W’ and ‘M’. For those I just turned the 8 on it’s side. Let me know if you think of a better way!

The War of the Worlds

yellow war of worlds

This is small joined up writing with no loops.

Kick Ass

blue kick ass

Use your usual print again, but make each stroke 4 times before moving on to the next.

The Fellowship of the Ring

orange fellowship of ring

Italicise your print writing and elongate the stalks and tails.

School of Rock

blue school of rock

This is made up of straight lines, giving a spiky effect. The only curves are for the letter ‘O’ but if you wanted to you could make ‘O’ diamond shaped. Personally I preferred to keep it round.

Mrs Doubtfire

purple mrs doubtfire

Stretch the width of your printed handwriting. Make sure you’ve got plenty of space so you don’t go off the edge of your page!

The Karate Kid

red the karate kid

Print your words as normal and then draw straight vertical lines on the left-most down stroke of each letter.

The Goonies

pink the goonies

Think how you would draw curly hair on a stick-person as a child. Now use that curly movement to create your letters.

Kick Boxer

green kick boxer

Make a fuss of your capital letters by shrinking the left-most down stroke and exaggerating the right-most stroke/s.

See – they’re all pretty straight forward. I would love for you to share any simple hand-lettering techniques you’ve learned or invented and please let me know if you try any that I’ve shown you. 

My Current Notebooks, Journals and Scrapbooks

SODA (2)

The more I post right here on Clarty Hands, the more you’re going to see of my extensive collection of notebooks, journals and scrapbooks. For that reason I thought you guys might like to see a list of the books I actually use and to see what I use them for. So here goes…

My Business Organiser

Between Etsy, my blog and all of my social media accounts it’s pretty easy for me to get forgetful and overwhelmed with the ridiculously big to-do list that’s rattling around in my brain. This is why I need my Business Organiser. I made my own printables with OpenOffice Impress and my folder is divided into sections to set yearly, monthly, weekly and daily goals.

business planner organizer

My Scrapbook

The scrapbook I use is spiral bound with white card pages and a Kraft cover. I use this book to make layouts about important things in my life such as trips away, special occasions and people I know and love. I use embellishments, journal spots and found ephemera to make my layouts exciting.

scrapbook layout

My Art Journal

My art journal is a spiral bound, A4, Pink Pig sketchbook that I use for playing with mixed media. For me art journaling is less about preserving memories and more about enjoying the process of…well…art. I hesitate to use the word because I wouldn’t call myself an artist but I guess that’s what I am if that’s what I make!

create art journal

My Bucket List

This book is the oldest on my list. I started it a few years ago by writing down everything that I wanted to accomplish in my lifetime. Every time I meet one of my goals, I tick it off the list, write down the date and then add a photo to a clean page to prove that I’ve done it. It isn’t beautiful but I think it’ll be lovely for me and the kids to look at when I’m older. I also keep adding to the list as I think of more life goals.

The following are all A5 Kraft sketchbooks that are used as inserts in my purple elephant fabric traveler’s notebook.

traveler's notebook

My Creative Journal

My creative journal is for writing about my thoughts, feelings and everyday events in a visually appealing way. I like to keep the colours as monotone as possible and decorate with washi tape, small black and white photographs, doodles and lettering.

creative journal

My Tester Book

There are some occasions when I need to try out techniques and themes (usually for blog post purposes) that don’t belong in any of my other books so I use my tester book for them instead. It’s also useful for trying out any new supplies and tools that I purchase.

blue and green collage

My Handy Notes

This is an insert in my traveller’s notebook for jotting down ideas as they come to me. I don’t try to make it look pretty or ordered in any way as I don’t want anything to get in the way of getting the idea down on paper as soon as it pops into my mind. I refer to the notes at a later date when I transfer them to my Business Organiser and begin to plan them in a more ordered way.

My Mini Adventures Travel Journal

I class “mini adventures” as day trips and events and I document them Smashbook style in one of my A5 Kraft sketchbooks. I keep it in my traveller’s notebook so it is handy to take away with me on trips and I can entertain myself by filling it in on long car and train journeys.

15 Ways to Add Visual Texture to Art Journals

Visual Texture

Art journaling is something I stumbled upon about two years ago when searching YouTube for something completely different. That night became a vibrant blur of ink, paint and stencils and before I knew it the sun was rising. It was the next day and I knew there and then that I was hooked. My mind was spinning with ideas, visualising the contents of my drawers and cupboards and pin-pointing the media that I already had available to use. I pulled my supplies out (and a Pink Pig sketchbook that had been stashed away for years) and I began to make mess.

To this day I adore being IN my art journal. I’ve created plenty of abominations and I’ve produced the odd masterpiece as well (by “masterpiece” I mean “pages I didn’t rip out and immediately throw away”). It’s a place where I can experiment with techniques and play around with glue and glitter and paint. What more could a crafty girl ask for?! You don’t even have to be able to draw or paint. And my favourite thing about it is that making a small mistake doesn’t mean that you have to discard the whole thing…instead you can just cover it up!

If you haven’t tried art journaling yet, you really must give it a go. It is by far the most therapeutic of all the crafts I do.

In my opinion, the thing that really makes an art journal spread impressive are the textured elements of the page, so I’ve made a list of the ways you can add visual texture without adding too much bulk to your journal.

Old Book Pages

Ripping up and gluing old book pages onto one of your art journal pages as a background is a great starting point for adding texture. It is also extremely satisfying. I usually apply a thin layer of gesso over the top to push the words further into the background and to seal the paper ready for the wet media that will come to follow.

ripped book pages

Crayon rubbings

Remember in primary school when you would do an art lesson where you had to run around the school looking for textured surfaces that you could take rubbings from? And you had to lay a piece of paper over the texture and rub over the top with the side of your crayon? Yeah? Sometimes the old ones are the good ones.

Painting with old points cards

You can use an old store points card to pull paint across your page. It gives a cool effect because the paint responds to the relief of the surface you are applying it to. More paint goes into any dents and ditches and it gets scraped off any lumps and peaks.

Paint scraping


Stippling is the act of repeatedly stabbing your work with a weapon tool such as a paintbrush to create a textured effect. A few ideas for tools to use include: a dry paintbrush, a cotton bud (or Q-tip if you’re American) or a make-up sponge. This example was done with a dry paintbrush.


Painting with a dry brush

When you paint with a dry paintbrush the bristles make more of an impression in the paint, creating cool stripy texture.

Applying paint with cotton wool

I guess this sort of works in the same was as stippling, but you can also swirl, drag and blend using balls of the stuff.

Painting with a wet brush

Painting with a wet brush tends to produce more solid results so it’s great for filling larger spaces, for example, creating an all over wash for the background. The result you get depends on the kind of paint you use. Acrylic tends to be bolder and more opaque where as watercolours are translucent and allow background details to show through.


Stencils are great for adding designer textures to your work. If you aren’t very good at drawing (like me) you can also use them to add a focal point to your page. Stencils can be used with a wide variety of media, from pencils to paints to glue and glitter.


Stamps are huge in the world of crafting and there is so much variety to chose from that you can create any theme you like. Background stamps are large and repetitive and add extra detail to the surface of your page before you add your focal points. You can use picture and word stamps to create your focal point and use a variety of media to colour them. They’re great when you’re not so good at drawing!

Applying with fingers

Using your fingers to paint is a messy, fun and effective way to apply paint. It tends to create a smoother texture than painting with a brush or card does, but you have more control and can paint finer details than you would be able to when painting with cotton wool.

Removing colour with a baby wipe

When using water-soluble media in your art journal, you can remove colour using a baby wipe or a damp (not wet) cloth. This is another great use for stencils. The flower shapes you can see below are where I have removed colour with a baby wipe (Aldi Sensitive Fragrance Free if you want to know) over a stencil.

flower paint removed

Spattering paint

Flicking paint with a paintbrush creates cool spatters. If you use acrylic paint and dry the spatters with a heat gun then they retain their 3D quality. If you’re anything like me then you’ll have to resist the urge to pick them off.

Dripping ink

Dripping ink adds a sense of movement to the page. I used alcohol ink diluted with surgical spirit and mixed with Shimmerz Pigment powder.


Shading edges

Shading around the edges of your focal piece, whether it is lettering, a shape or a picture, create the illusion of standing out from the page. To do this you need to use a darker colour. You can also use white, or a very light colour to add highlights

Pencil crayons

Good ol’ “colouring in” with pencil crayons. The best thing about these is they show the texture of the paper through the lovely colours.


Once you have all of your layers built up, it’s time to scratch them off. Well not completely off…just use something sharp to scratch a design into the paint, wax crayon and ink.