Clueless about an electronic cutting machine? Find out the what, how and why of these amazing contraptions, and get the low down on how to choose the best fabric cutting machine!
This post was created in partnership with Cricut. All opinions are my own.
The machine pictured here is the Cricut Explore Air 2 from this post.
Cutting machines are hot ticket items in the crafting world today and they are truly amazing little devices! But if you’re like I was a few years ago, you may be completely out of the loop and wondering what the heck these machines even do. Have no fear; you’re in the right place! Today’s post is allllll about cutting machines, including an in-depth look at the Cricut Maker machine (my latest acquisition in the world of cutting machines). Ask any questions you have about this machine or any other in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.
Quick note: These electronic cutting machines are NOT the same as manual die cutters and they don’t require any additional cartridges like the manual machine of old. Read on for more details on how these little marvels work!
The two main players in the cutting machine world are Cricut machines and tge Silhouette Cameo. Most people have an allegiance to one or the other but I’ve owned and used both. Cutting machines are small, printer-like devices that connect to your computer (either via USB cord or wirelessly) and can cut a variety of materials according to the specifications sent to it by your computer.
The first cutting machines just did paper, cardstock (think cutesy cutouts for scrapbooking, party decor, banners, invitations, card-making, etc.) and vinyl. I owned my Silhouette for several years and loved breaking it out any time I hosted a party. The trend of cutting out iron-on and vinyl to personalize all the things has been a fan fave on the craft scene for a few years now. A Girl and A Glue Gun is a hilarious vinyl expert who makes incredible things with her cutting machine!
Now, however, horizons have been broadened and the Cricut Maker has entered the scene with the capability to cut literally hundreds of different materials (yes, it is even considered a fabric cutter which you know makes my heart happy!).
These cutting machines work in a similar way to an actual printer: they feed materials in and out (usually while the materials are stuck on a special machine-specific mat) while a tiny blade goes to town cutting whatever design the computer tells it to. Its precise cuts mean that you can get incredible detail regardless of the material you’re using.
All the basic machines work in essentially the same way, some (like the Cricut Maker and Explore Air 2) also have the ability to use a pen to draw on the material as well as cut it out. Super cool.
The Cricut Maker takes the awesomeness to a new level by adding a second cartridge, 2 new blades and a TON of extra power. This means that the Maker can both cut and draw on the material in one step and the added blades really amplify this machine’s precision and creative abilities. Not only can you use the fine tip blade to cut paper, cardstock, iron-on, vinyl, etc. as usual, but the knife blade (and added strength) can cut much thicker materials like balsa wood (think puzzles or 3d models) or leather (jewelry! patches! sewing projects!), kind of like an automatic X-acto knife with super clean cuts.
Then, enter my personal favorite, the rotary blade. This is where the Cricut Maker gets exciting for us sewists because it can literally cut hundreds of different types of fabrics. And, they don’t need to be backed with anything before cutting. In the past, cutting machines could handle some very basic fabrics but only after they were first fused to some sort of backing material. #Gamechanger Now even delicate fabric can be cut by the rotary blad without errors.
Some of my favorite features of Cricut cutting machines include their size (they don’t take up much space at all), their high speed (I’m always suprised when my project is whipped out in just a few minutes) and the perfect cuts (no one wants wasted material due to messy cuts).
In this closeup you can see how the Cricut Maker can hold both a pen (on the left) and blade (right) at the same time.
So the question becomes, what sort of cutting machine is right for you? Well obviously you must be somewhat interested if you’ve read this far 😉 so let me break it down: if you’re mainly a scrapbooker, party planner or maker of vinyl-signs/iron-on T-shirts, the basic machine might be fine for you. I’m a huge fan of the Cricut Explore Air 2 because of several reasons (read them here). However, if you’re a fan of fabric crafts at all, and a sewist in general (even just an aspiring one with a dusty sewing machine in the basement), I think that the Maker is the right machine for you.
When I attended the Cricut Mountain Make-a-thon in Utah a few months ago, I was getting just giddy with the idea possibilities of creating with the Maker for fabricaholics. Quilters can cut out an entire quilt in just minutes, including fussy cutting, hexies, curved cuts, etc. And for apparel/accessory makers, the opportunites are also endless when it comes to fabric shapes: laser cut-out hems, scallops, patchwork, leather accessories, fringe, applique and reverse applique…I mean it’s kind of dizzying thinking about all the amazing things we can do.
And if you’re a sewing noob, you might even be the luckiest group of all because Cricut has partnered with Simplicity Pattern Group and is now offering over five hundred of their patterns as digital downloads that sync with the Maker. That means you can purchase and download the pattern for a cute little mermaid doll, then slap your fabric on a mat, feed it into your Maker machine and it will cut out and mark your fabric pieces for you. Then the only thing left to do is just peel the pieces off the mat and sew them up. THAT’S IT. I’m not sure anyone who’s never cut out a 37 piece pattern can fully comprehend the jaw-dropping genius of this invention. But there is just no easier way to get your feet wet with sewing as a beginner. All the hard stuff is done for you.
If you’re a more experienced sewist, you’ll be thrilled to know that you can actually create your own designs as well, and Cricut design space is a great, beginner friendly software especially for non-designers. Those of us in the sewing world have been waiting a long time for this sort of techincal capability made possible by automated rotary cutters. Isn’t technology amazing?
So, there you have it. Cutting machines are the latest and greatest in creating super cool stuff and I highly recommend all hobbyists have access to one! You’ll be surprised how often you use it. And if you’re a fan of fabric like I am (or any of the other amazing materials the Maker can tackle) I say go for the Maker. I think it’s about to blow the lid off the sewing world and I want a front seat. I really believe it’s the perfect machine on the market.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Cricut. The opinions and text are all mine.