Cutting Out Leaves

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Because I live in wine country, one of the my most popular items at show events is my cork wine tote. Giving a bottle of wine is great for almost any occasion, but it can sometimes seem too easy or impersonal. However, when the bottle of wine is given inside a handmade gift bag, and made of sustainable materials like cork and bamboo to boot, the gift takes on special meaning and lasts longer than the bottle of wine. In this case, it's a gift we hope will get re-gifted, again and again.

Like all my embellished cork items, I cut all the pieces by hand. I have envelopes that hold my paper templates that I have sketched out with a pencil on scrap paper. The leaf pattern template for the wine tote was a scraggly thing, filled with hundreds of pin holes from attaching and re-attaching it to the dark cork. In the evenings, a regular activity while watching TV was to cut the shapes and file them in my envelope filing system.

But when I got an order for 132 leaf-pattern wine totes (in addition to 132 striped wine totes), I knew I could not watch enough TV to cut that many leaves! Plus, I am very prone to carpal tunnel issues, and I needed to be able to use my hands for brushing my teeth and typing, amongst other things, after all the leaves were cut.

Like most women of a certain age, I used to be a scrapbooker. So I knew about die cuts and had old-fashioned die cut machines (i.e. Sizzix and the lesser known Zip-E-Mate, pictured above). These were the pre-cursor to today's fancy schmancy machines like the Cricut and I don't even know what else--computerized machines that seem to cost a fortune and will cut all kinds of intricate shapes and letters. The problem with the new-fangled machines is that they don't cut custom shapes and I wasn't sure if they would cut cork fabric. I just needed a custom steel rule die that I could use with my existing old-fashioned machines.

After a bit of online research, I found Richard of Ace Dies in San Francisco. Custom dies aren't cheap (this one was about $200), but I decided that my hands needed me to make the investment. I reproduced my scraggly paper template in Adobe Illustrator, emailed the file to Richard, and picked the finished die up two days later.

And voila! What used to take me about 10 minutes of cutting by hand, now takes less than 10 seconds. Perfect every time. When I went to pick up the custom die, I brought my Zip-E-Mate machine with me, to make sure the die would fit through it without any problems. Richard laughed when I showed him my "toy"--I think he's used to working with big industrial dies for heavy equipment, not little purple plastic machines with a crank handle.

Oh well, whatever does the trick! It was an investment worth every cent. Cheers!


Min March 27, 2012 at 3:13 PM  

I always wondered how you made all your beautiful cork creations. I love getting an inside look!

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