Do you need a die cutting system?

Short answer: No.

My answer: Yes, particularly if you make a lot of quilts, have hand/joint issues or are pressed for time. Definitely if you have kids/grandkids who want to learn how to sew!

Let me explain.

I own both a manual die cut system (AccuQuilt Go!, Sizzix Big Shot Plus) and a Cricut Maker.

I have a well curated collection of dies that cut basic shapes – strips, squares, HSTs and a few specialty applique shapes (hearts, snowman, gingerbread man, dog, cat, flower, bird). My 2-1/2″ strip die, 2-1/2″ square and and 5″ square dies are the ones I use most often. I recently ordered QSTs in 3″, 4″ and 4-1/2″ finished sizes to round out my basic dies used to create 6″, 8″ and 9″ blocks. The applique shapes are used for both raw edge applique in quilting and school-library related craft activities.

I bought a Cricut Maker because it was more cost effective to buy it than to invest in and store a complete set of alphabet and number dies. This machine allows me to cut any size letter in any size font, plus intricate appliqué shapes for fusible applique. To me, it was well worth the purchase for this alone – even though the machine is capable of much more.

Advantages:
1. My young sewing friend was able to cut her block fabrics using the AccuQuilt Go! (There’s no way I’m letting an 8-year-old use my rotary cutter.) She was so proud of herself.

2. HSTs and Flying Geese were a breeze to make with the FG die. Yes, it took a few minutes to figure out the best way to cut, layer and “fan” the strips, but OMG, I saved so much time and aggravation on the 150+ HSTs and 50+ FG I had to make for a quilt.

3. Scrap management is simplified and fabric waste is minimized. I took the leftover FG bits and and cut 1-1/2″ squares from them before I threw the rest away.

4. Shapes are more consistently uniform when cut by a die cutting machine.

5. The manual cutting system requires no power, software or app (plus device) to cut shapes.

Disadvantages:

  1. The cutting systems and dies can get expensive. They do go on sale periodically for 40-50% off. Quilters downsize and list them on FB marketplace, set them out at local yard sales or estate sales for a fraction of the original cost. Try eBay and Goodwill. Your local quilt shop may also offer a die cut rental service where you can pay a small fee to come in and use their dies and cutting equipment.
  2. Finding storage space for the machine and dies can be an issue if you have limited space. Again, buy one machine and only the dies you’ll really use. Yes, bundles are popular with AccuQuilt, but you probably won’t use every die in that bundled set. I keep small dies in a tote I can easily carry and longer dies & cutting mats lay flat on a shelf in my closet. The AccuQuilt Go! folds up for storage. The Sizzix Big Shot Plus does not.
  3. Few patterns are written to include die cutting instructions. You’ll have to figure out the amount of fabric to buy for a project rather than relying on the back of the quilt pattern envelope. It’s no different than when the designer writes the pattern for 8 at a time triangles and you prefer to use triangle papers.
  4. Dies from AccuQuilt & Sizzix are not interchangeable. You can use the 5″ and 6″ wide AccuQuilt dies on a Sizzix Big Shot Plus machine with an Adapter G pad, but not the other way around. Strip cutting dies ranging in various widths from .5″ to 5″ are available from both Sizzix and AccuQuilt. I tend to cut my own larger width strips, but find 1.5″, 2.5″ & 3.5″ strip dies to be extremely helpful. Unless you already have 10″ AccuQuilt dies on hand, you may find the Sizzix Big Shot Plus machine is your best bet to be able to utilize a variety of shapes from both manufacturers.

For me, the investment in a die cutting machine and a curated selection of dies was well worth it. I think the Cricut model just below the Maker (Explore?) would have also met my needs at a lower price point. Regardless, I look forward to working with my die-cuts to create more quilts and experimenting to see what all the Cricut Maker can do once retirement becomes a reality.

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