The quilting world has certainly been turned on it's head with these time saving fabric cutting machines, also known as die cutters. You know, those machines that easily cut strips and shapes, making our quilting life easier. There are those that are manual, such as Accuquilt
meaning they require shaped metal dies to do the cutting.
or the Brother Scan n Cut
|Brother Scan n Cut
Both of these machines require software to design the cuts to make.
Now this discussion is not meant as an endorsement for any one machine, nor is it a detailed discussion of the features of each. Links are provided for each machine pictured, so that features, costs and the fine details can be explored further. But today's discussion is about choosing between a manual or digital die cutting machine, which should be based on what your quilting needs are.
Manual die cutting machines
These machines, such as Accuquilt and Sizzix, are wonderful if your style of quilting features a lot of the same shape, such as strips, squares, triangles, etc. These machines (whether hand crank or motorized) make quick work of cutting numerous pieces, making the machines especially handy for quilt groups, business owners making kits, or those with hand and/or shoulder issues who have difficulties with rotary cutters.
The downside? The dies are limited to the variety and size set by the manufacturer, and can be expensive. And not all dies work in all machines - size and manufacturer determine which dies work with which machine.
Digital die cutting machines
These machines, made by Silhouette and Brother (and others), use software to create designs that are sent to the cutter for cutting. The software, which is usually easy to learn, allows for unlimited creativity in designs, from the most simple and basic to the elaborate and intricate - the sky's the limit!
The downsides here? Large quantities of a shape are time consuming to cut, as the system uses a 12" x 12" sticky mat to hold the fabric, paper or vinyl. Certainly can't stack layers of fabric as for the manual machines. And eventually, blades and mats need replacement after numerous cuttings.
Here's a handy chart, based on my observations of both types systems:
Best Used for:
Large numbers of strips, squares, triangles, etc
Limited to the manufacturers variety and size of dies
Cutting your own designed shapes – unlimited possibilities
Mats and blades
Time consuming to cut large numbers of pieces.
Though manual die cutting machines have certainly revolutionized quilting for many, I chose to purchase the Silhouette Cameo digital die cutter.
My reasons? I wanted a machine that gave me the ability to cut my own designs, such as the snowflake parts above. And because I don't make quilts with predetermined sized strips, squares, triangles, etc, the manual machines with dies just wasn't the right fit.
So, if you're considering investing in a die cutting machine, think about your style of quilting, and how your going to use the machine, along with the cost and features. Whichever you choose, enjoy your machine and the new directions it takes your quilting!