I used to think that cutters beyond scissors or rotary cutters were not a necessity in my studio. Indeed, I was a little snobbish about it. LOL But now I would really not like to do without them. I have both a die cutter and a digital cutter and use them both.
Some years ago I bought the Accuquilt Go! cutter and have slowly added the admittedly expensive dies to my collection over the years. Quilt shows often have particularly good sales for these dies. The most important use I make of them is to cut borders, blocks, and bindings. I can cut out a fast simple cuddle quilt in a matter of minutes, truly, and they are accurate and easy. It enables me to make a wonderful quilt in a couple of days, complete with quilting and binding. It helps me use up some of the fabrics I have laying around, thereby freeing up space in my stash. I also have a collection of fun shapes..circles, leaves, animals, flowers, and so on…that I have used a lot, particularly when I was putting together kits for teaching and needed a lot of them, and they make a nice addition to some of those fast cuddle quilts. You can cut layers of fabric at once in the Go! cutter and it is an excellent tool for quilters of all stripes. I wouldn’t like to do without it.
I got a Brother Scan and Cut 125e in March for my birthday and now I wonder how I ever did without it, especially for the kind of applique quilting I often do. The primary advantage of a digital cutter for me, of course, is that I can design my own shapes, or use published patterns, and don’t have to depend on the die shapes that are available or cut intricate shapes out by scissors. You can only cut one layer at a time, but it will cut paper, fabric of a wide variety, cork, vinyl, plastic, and so on. You do need several kinds of mats and blades for cutting all those things, and I did find it a little hard to figure out at first, but it is so easy to use now that I have. I have made several greeting cards for friend and family with it too. I suspect other brands work as well, and my library has Silhouette cutters available for public use, which I have used. So you might check at your local libraries.
I have found that the Scan and Cut will cut fabrics with precision in very detailed shapes that are hard to accomplish with scissors. This is especially good as my aging hands with developing arthritis find such intricate cutting to be harder to do otherwise. In fact even if you don’t find scissors cutting difficult, the cutter is still a fast and accurate way to cut your appliques. I keep coming up with other ideas for its use.
So recently, over YouTube I learned how to make a stencil with the Scan and Cut and I plan on making some for marking refined and delicate quilting patterns on quilts. I have not yet tried it, but that opens a world of possibilities for future quilting. I have gotten pretty good in free motion stitching with my Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm without marks, but sometimes it is important to have the quilt marked for stitching with attention to detail or when you need symmetry. It will cut stencil plastic easily, but I am thinking of trying a doubled layer of freezer paper for single or limited use designs and it could be ironed in place for Pounce chalk marking. If I create quilting designs that I think will be useful on multiple quilts, I will cut it from the stencil plastic.
As those of you who follow my work know, I use stitched, raw-edge applique quite a lot. In the past, I printed out the applique shapes onto printer paper in reverse, and traced the shapes onto the fusible web and cut it out with scissors. Now, I send the shape to the Scan and Cut, iron the fusible web onto the fabric wrong side, and send it through the cutter. I get it done in a third of the time or less and with greater accuracy.
But what if you wanted to do stitched turned edge appliques? For that, I turn to the expertise of Kathy McNeil where she demonstrates the method, but I add in the cutter to help out. She uses a very light weight fusible interfacing precut by hand in the shape of her applique and irons it to the wrong side of her fabric, then cuts around it a little less than a quarter of an inch from the edge of the shape. Then she prepares the applique using glue and appliquick sticks available in her web store. Here’s a video of that process. She sews her appliques on by hand. I would use the machine of course.
So if I start with the applique shape I have drawn or downloaded on my computer, and instead of printing it onto paper and tracing it to the interfacing, I can wirelessly send it to the Scan and Cut from my computer. The shape needs to be reversed for ironing onto the back. You can do that at the cutter if you want to before cutting. Then cut the interfacing pieces and iron them to the applique fabric and continue as she shows with the sticks and the glue. So if you have a bunch of these appliques, you can cut as many as will fit onto a 15″ x 15″ piece of interfacing (the size of the cutting mat) at one time. It’s quite easy to take the shapes and move them around once they are digitally in your Scan and Cut. NOTE: You need to use the low tack mat for the really light weight interfacing by itself.
Sew I have found that having both cutters in my studio is a really nice addition to the tools available for me and they each have their own use and don’t cancel each other’s usefulness out. They are separate tools with their own uses.
Sew happy everyone! Have fun in your studio!