Many quilters who use appliqué, patchwork patterns, or repeated motifs in their art, swear by die-cut machines. The machines can save time, make cutting easier on the hands and back (no endless hours with the rotary cutter and mat), and improve accuracy.
It’s super helpful to find quilt patterns that are created or recommended with machine-cutting in mind. The Cutting Fabrice eBook shown above includes six quilt patterns that are cutting machine friendly and easily adaptable to die cutting or digital cutting. It’s a great place to start if you’re not sure what to look for in a quilt pattern when beginning your machine-cutting adventure!
Quilt artist Ebony Love is a pro at using machines for cutting fabric (she prefers the Sizzix® models). She demonstrates how to use them to your creative advantage in Die Cutting for Beginners: Traditional Quilt Blocks to Contemporary Designs. Depending on the machine, you can cut through several layers of fabric at a time, cut multiple shapes in one pass, and even cut fusible web at the same time. The dies come in a wide variety of shapes, from strip cuts (make your own Jelly Rolls) and half-square triangles to hearts, houses, or bows. She had us at Jelly Rolls!
There are three basic types of die-cutting machines to choose from, according to Ebony. Let’s take a look at those…
3 Fabric-Cutting Machines: Electronic, Electric, and Manual:
These machines hook up to your computer. You use software to make designs, then send the designs to the machine for cutting. This type of die-cutting machine works well for someone who likes to create their own designs for appliqué.
These machines are free-standing and use pre-made dies. You make a sandwich of the die, fabric, and protective plates, and the machine pulls the sandwich through the cutting bed.
These machines are similar to electric machines, but you have to use a crank to send the mat sandwich through the machine. Manual machines have been the most popular in the past, Ebony says, but if you don’t have much arm strength or you have arthritis, an electric or electronic machine might be better for you.
The die-cutting machines come in a variety of sizes, from portable to desktop. Machines with larger beds usually allow you to cut more fabric with a variety of dies at once.
I must admit, I didn’t realize I wanted a die-cut machine until I saw Ebony demonstrate how they work. Now, I can see myself holed up in my studio with a die-cutting machine, some favorite dies, and a whole bunch of fabric, cranking out shape after shape for patchwork quilting and more.
If you’re curious about how to use die-cutting machines in quilting, or already have one and want to learn more about how to use it, grab your fabric-cutting machine-friendly quilt patterns ready and spend an hour with Ebony and Die Cutting for Beginners.
P.S. Do you use a die-cutting machine? Share your tips below.