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.
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.
Quilt artist Ebony Love is a pro at using these machines; she uses Sizzix® models. Ebony demonstrates how to use them to your creative advantage in a new Quilting Arts WorkshopTM video, Die Cutting for Beginners: Traditional Quilt Blocks to Contemporary Designs.
There are three basic types of die-cutting machines to choose from, says Ebony: electronic, electric, and manual.
Electronic 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.
Electric 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.
Manual machines are similar to electric machines, but you have to use a crank to send the mat sandwich through the machine.
The manual machines are the most popular, 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 desk-top. 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, spend an hour with Ebony and Die Cutting for Beginners.
P.S. Do you use a die-cutting machine? Share your tips below.