To wrap up National Sewing Month, I was really excited to try out the Spellbinders Grand Calibur and some of the new Edgeabilities and Shapeabilities dies, as well as some of the classic Nestabilities shapes for fabric-specific uses. (Keep in mind, this machine and these dies were designed with paper crafting in mind.) To be honest, after hearing about the difficulties that other people have had using die cutters with fabric, I came in with several expectations: First, I thought that the larger shapes would work beautifully, but I really didn’t think the more detailed and smaller dies would work well at all. Second, I assumed that none of the fabrics would cut without some sort of fusible interfacing or stabilizer. Third, I didn’t think that the dies were deep enough to get good cuts on most fabrics. But, after trying several optionsâ€”and consulting other craftersâ€”I figured out the key to good fabric cutting with a die cutter, and was able to make detailed cuts on a surprising variety of fabrics in no time at all.
The Spellbinders folks sent me a variety of dies with various levels of detail and various sizes. I tried out the Classic Scallop and Classic Petal Edgeabilites, the Retro Mod Clocks and Cuckoo Clock Shapeabilities by Samantha Walker, and the Classic Ovals and Classic Rectangles Nestabilities.
Here’s what the dies look like in the package, plus a closeup look at the depth and sharpness of the cutting edges.
When I ran poly lining fabric through the machine once, I was very surprised to see the results. Instead of cutting, I got a perfectly embossed shape with no thread cuts at all. I tugged on fabric, let it sit, and lightly ironed, but the embossing seemed permanent. I tried the same method again with both cotton and canvas, and got the same result. Sadly, while the embossing looked really neat, it wasn’t quite what I was going for.
In the end, the only fabric that I tried where I was actually able to get a cut with the standard paper setup was oilcloth, which still had a lot of strings still connected, and needed help from a craft knife to release the shape fully.
After the initial surprise of the fabric embossing, at the suggestion of several friends, I then started to add layers of padding to get a tighter squeeze.
After trying various paper thicknesses and combinations, I zeroed in on the magic formula for cutting fabric: If you add 4 pieces of cover stock (slightly thinner than card stock) between the fabric and the cutting plate, you’ll get a nearly perfect cut every time with light and medium-weight fabrics, with only a string or two to clip (or none at all). For thicker fabrics like felt and oil cloth, you can get the same results with two or three sheets of paper. No stabilizer necessary!
The depth of the cutting surfaces seemed pretty standard across die types, so this method worked equally well for the Nestabilities, Edgeabilities, and Shapeabilities.
Once I realized that the detailed dies could cut fabrics, I was especially excited about the Edgeabilities.
The Edgeabilities come in sets, and you can combine them in different ways to get the look that you want. (Remember, with fabric, you’re only going to get the shapes with cutting edges.)
I love how the Classic Scallop looks with both cotton and felt, and think they would be perfect for adding personality to collars, pockets, or hems.
After I was done testing, I used the pieces that I cut out to create fabric appliques to add to clothing, but there are a variety of dies in shapes that would appeal to quilters and patchwork artists too.
Once I got the hang of the paper layering, I was very pleased with the details and clean cuts that I was able to achieve with the Grand Calibur and dies. I was also pleased with the quality of the machine and dies overall; both were very sturdy, and I never felt like I was going to break something while experimenting with different thicknesses and materials. That said, I do think that if the cutting surfaces were modified to be slightly deeper and sharper, it would really open up the possibility to market this tool to the larger sewing community, where I think it could become a very welcome addition to many stitchers’ tool kits.
To wrap things up, I wanted to share a complete project that would illustrate a practical sewing application for cutting fabric with a die cutting machine. So, I used the Nestabilities shapes to make a mod-inspired applique for a skirt, and now I’m going to show you how to make your own. You can head on over to The Zen of Making to see the full tutorial!
Disclosure: Samples Provided for review
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