What should you do if you work from home, your wife is a nurse and busy at the hospital, and your kids are learning remotely while school is out due to a health pandemic?

Taking on the role of “arts and crafts dad” is one option, especially if you can technically do it for work. Okay, maybe that’s a rare set of circumstances. Either way, the new iPhone-controlled Cricut Joy is an awesome entry into the world of smart cutting machines.

What’s a Cricut Joy?

My exposure to Cricut before now has been limited to seeing family make festive decals and Mardi Gras t-shirts. Their machines are larger, pricier, and frankly more intimidating than Cricut Joy for someone with my more casual level of experience.

Cricut Joy is the newest smart cutting machine in Cricut’s lineup. It’s portable, affordable, and easy to use for all skill levels. Cricut Joy is also a fun way to explore a creative DIY project using your iPhone.

Cricut has Design Space apps for iPhone, iPad, Mac, Android, and Windows, and the new Joy hardware connects wirelessly over Bluetooth. Unlike other models, there are no hardware buttons; everything is controlled from the Design Space app.

Cricut Joy can easily fit in a bag or purse too. It weighs less than four pounds with 5-inch by 8-inch dimensions.

Features and price

The $179 Joy is capable of cutting and writing on over 50 materials as wide as 5.5-inches — ideal for cards, labels, decals, and more.

Cricut Joy is also the first machine that works with Smart Materials for cutting shapes up to four feet long or making continuous cuts up to 20 feet long without a cutting mat. Cricut Joy also works with the easy-to-use Card Mat for creating custom cards in seconds unlike other models.

Explorer Air 2 adds scoring capabilities on 100+ materials as wide as 12-inches and USB connectivity for $249.99. The higher-end Maker is compatible with over 300 12-inch width materials and includes many more tools for crafting for $399.99.

My first project

Setup was super fast. Download Cricut’s iPhone app, power up the Cricut Joy, then pair the phone and cutting machine over Bluetooth.

Technically, my first project was a sample cut that the Design Space app encourages new users to try. The app lets you choose from a variety of glyphs to cut onto sample material. I chose a flower shape on metallic silver sticker material. In a matter of seconds, I had created a shiny new flower sticker for my daughter’s already sticker-covered iPad case.

She told me she loved it with a squeal that only a seven-year-old could create. That’s a win for dad!

For testing the new Cricut Joy, I took a shot at creating a neat card of encouragement for my daughter Emily on her first day of remote learning while her school is closed for the next month.

She’s quickly picking up my enthusiasm for space history and exploration. She recently saw her first rocket launch after seeing Space Shuttle Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center, and Cricut’s app had the perfect project to celebrate this: the Out of this World Card.

Admittedly, I felt like I was out of my depths at the start (and my wife was working at the hospital and couldn’t save the day), so I turned to my go-to resource for all things over my head: YouTube, not the manual.

Awesome resource, kudos Lorrie Nunemaker! Once I had the general concept down, I was on my way to completing my first DIY project with Cricut Joy!

I only made one mistake. Cricut Joy lets you swap between the two tools for cutting and writing. The first step of creating my card required drawing, but I didn’t realize I needed to switch the marker for the blade halfway through the process.

After realizing my mistake, I picked a different color combination of card and card insert to make something I loved even more. With a few taps on the iPhone, Cricut Joy created a very impressive card with a cool space theme.

Made on iPhone (and Cricut Joy)

The real moment of surprise and delight was realizing the spatula tool used to remove the card from the card mat also left behind all the excess pieces of card from the cut! Super easy.

If I was more ambitious, I could have created a cool drawing insert to sticker onto the inside of the card. Instead, I settled on a personal note and drawing:

I’m still learning my way through the world of Cricut, but a simple machine like the new Joy cutter is perfect for my casual skill level. My daughter gave me the biggest hug when she discovered her card on her desk, and I can’t wait to show off to my wife how crafty I can be!