When I first started out with quilting, rotary cutting seemed like the only way to go when it came to cutting through my fabrics quickly and efficiently. Nothing beat lining up my ruler and cutting whole strips at a time, one after the other. People were so clever to come up with this!And I still love rotary cutting, especially when it comes to smaller projects where I only need a strip here and there. And then I discovered the world of die cutting.
It started off so innocently, this new love: I wanted to make a quilt with lots of curves and didn’t fancy cutting all those curves by hand. I loved the idea of cranking them through and having perfect cuts with registration points to line up the middle. Over and over again. As many times as I wanted, and it worked every time. Then I realized how many options there were for modern quilters! Perfect HSTs, strips of different sizes, exact circles, and equilateral triangles, alphabets, and more, all of which I can use in the quilts I make.
This is where die cutting is really useful: cutting the same shapes and sizes over and over again perfectly. The dies I use the most, and which I personally believe are worth investing in are the strip cutters. These come in a huge variety of widths, and are great for cutting many strips at once. I like to use mine for patterns that call for 2 1/2″ strips and I also have them in the sizes I use for making binding. You can also your these strips and lay them at different angles to cut squares and diamonds. “But what about improv,” you ask? Victoria Findlay Wolfe uses the fabric she makes as the base for her projects with die cutting, blending improv techniques with a variety of blocks and has her own line of dies with Sizzix. Bill Kerr also has a line of dies with Accuquilt for the GO!
Undoubtedly, the leader in knowing what’s what about die cutting is Ebony Love of LoveBug Studios, who has literally written a book on die cutting (and she has a DVD too!).She also works extensively with dies from two of the big players in the die cutting world, Accuquilt and Sizzix. Ebony also wrote an article on die cuts in the Winter 2015 issue. Here is a copy for Modern Quilters. Modern Tools Die Cuts
If you’re curious but not ready to commit to your own, ask your local shops if they have a die cutter you can use (usually there is a small fee for rented time). This will allow you to try it out and see if it is something you wish to invest in, and also allow you to try out the different dies available. My local shops have dies that I wouldn’t normally purchase for myself, but which I can use when necessary (like alphabets for applique! I don’t use them all that much, but they’re nice when you need them). There are also some very cute dolls out there, like these designed by Kerry Goulder (aka Kid Giddy) check them out here.
When looking into purchasing a die cutter, consider what you will be using it for in your sewing life. How much cutting will you be doing? Do you need extra help cutting because of arthritis or hand, wrist, or arm pain? Would an electric version be helpful? Do you do paper crafts as well, and want something that would allow you to cut both fabric and paper? How much space can you give to a die cutter? There are many options out there, and finding the right cutter for you is totally possible!