Making school valentines on my crafty robot

For Christmas I got myself a crafting robot. It’s a Silhouette Cameo, which is basically an ink jet printer with a knife where the ink ought to be. It’s a pretty neat bit of crafty hardware!

Like all good parents I started thinking about valentines for my kid’s class approximately 12 hours before her class party. Like all good craft hoarders I had a couple packs of festive pencils leftover from kiddo’s birthday party goodie bags, so I decided to make some pencil-holder valentines on the Silhouette Cameo . These were super quick to whip up and a great option for when you want it to look like you care (but you don’t).

The first step, and the one that took the longest, was finding a picture of a heart that was sufficiently cute. I got mine from OpenClipArt. I imported it into Silhouette Design Studio and resized it to be about 3″ tall.

Resize by selecting the image and dragging the handles

Next I drew a rough outline of the heard with the “Draw a curve shape” tool.

The tool icon kind of looks like the infinity symbol

Then I cleaned up the shape with the point editing tool (2nd icon from the top of the toolbar)

I have the heart a 1/8″ border by using the offset tool. I like borders like this because it hides any minor issues with registration. In general the Cameo is great with registration, but when you’re running a classroom’s worth of valentines it’s easy to get lazy.

The last step of the design was to remove the inner cut line (the original curve line I drew) and add a few slits for the pencil. Make sure these are at least an inch wide or you’ll have trouble getting the pencil through and have to widen them by hand with an xacto knife. Ask me how I know this.

I was able to fit 6 of each heart per page by flipping half of them upside down.

Before printing I had to nudge the hearts around a bit to make sure nothing was outside the registration area (red border) or within the registration margins (hatched area). The size of this area is determined by how close your printer can print to the edge of the page.

After printing the sheets on my laser printer cutting them on the Cameo was pretty straightforward. I used the default cardstock setting and the automatic blade. My daughter addressed / decorated the backs and I pushed the pencils through the slits.

Don’t feel like doing all that work? Feel free to download the Silhouette file and print out these right now!



This week’s topic at weeklyblogpost is ‘free.’ I usually am not a fan of writing prompts because they give me flashbacks to grade school, but somehow I’m ok with the ambiguous one-word topics.

Lately I’ve been trying to calculate the cost of free. Specifically in the stuff I give out to promote my business, Tinysaur.

A lot of craft shows give out swag bags full of goodies to the first n number of shoppers, and in theory it’s a way to get some “free” advertising. Free as in you didn’t have to pay anyone else for the placement, but it still costs you the time/materials to make the promos.
I’m sending out samples rather than promos. There’s a big difference between the two, and I think it’s an important one that’s often overlooked.

Promos are little slips of something with your contact information on it. Business cards, buttons, magnets, etc. They don’t really do anything, and frankly I’m not convinced that sending them out carte-blanche is really worth the effort. All those things are pretty cheap, comparatively, but they’re not free. You still have to design/print/ship them, and most of them will end up going straight into the trash.

Save your promos for people who are already interested. Add them to your outgoing orders, give them out at craft shows, but don’t think that throwing them in a gift bag with 100 other promos is going to get you much “free advertising.”

Samples are a different beast entirely. Samples are just that: a sample of your product. Something that gives people a real idea of what it is you make, and why they might want to buy it. It took me a while to come up with a decent idea for a sample. They need to be cheap enough that you can affort free, but nice enough that someone will want to look at them.

For two upcoming shows, Not Yo Momma’s Craft Fair and Spring Bada-Bing, I’m sending dinosaur skulls. Little sample packs of just the Tinysaur head, pulled from T-Rex and Triceratops. I figure it’s just enough for people to see how small the peices are, punch them out, etc, but still leave them wanting more.

The samples are pretty cheap, but there are still some real costs associated with them. I have to pay per-minute for laser time, and while the plastic bags / tags are *practically* free on a per-promo basis, the time it takes to assemble it all adds up. Sure, I don’t have to front any cash for it, but it’s time I could be doing something else, either for my business or for myself.

I think it’s important not to mix up “free” and “worthless.” If you’re giving things out, make sure they’re things with some value to them. Information people want, things people can try out, something that will actually get looked at before heading to the recycle bin.