If you follow me on twitter, you know I'm a bit perturbed (ew weird word!) at the lack of information about die cut machines. Will they cut felt or not? Some say no, some say yes, and some say only with a few special tricks. Mystery solved: I got one, I tried it, and here are my results!
First off, what exactly is a die cutting machine, and how does it work? I had no idea before I actually took it out of the box. All I knew is that it's a device some people use to cut uniform shapes for scrapbooking or whatever. Basically, it's like a stationary rolling pin. You make a sandwich with cutting mats, the die, and your material, and send it through the roller. The cutting mats, which are just clear sheets of plastic, provide the thickness of the sandwich needed for the rolling pin to provide pressure.
The die cut is actually like a super-short cookie cutter. It has a thin layer of foam on top of the metal sheet, I guess to protect your fingers. Apparently, the taller/bigger the die cut, the better results you'll have with material other than paper.
When I took the machine out of the box, it had a little tag to explain how to assemble the roller handle. Easy-peasy. Next, I unpacked this thing:
Its official name is "Multipurpose Platform," but I'm still unclear on the function of the different tabs. The instruction booklet is crap. It assumes that you purchased all the different Sizzix brand dies along with the machine I guess, because that's the only way the booklet and the platform diagrams make sense. Anyway...
When I bought the machine from Amazon.com, I got free shipping on the entire order, so I went ahead and bought this die cut also:
It's the QuicKutz brand flower die. It was only like $6. The description was for a 2" flower in multiple sizes (I thought that meant a 2" flower and then the small ones!) but I totally misunderstood that because here's what it looks like:
They're pretty tiny. Oh well, I can still use them. I just need this exact same shape in a 2" size!!! And I can't find it anywhere. There is another kind of die cut machine, I think it's the Cricut, that takes electronic die cut cartridges so that you can change the size of the die shape, which would be perfect for my needs. Unfortunately, everything I read about that machine said that it absolutely would not take fabric or felt.
I went ahead and tested the die on different materials, because I figure if something works on these tiny little flowers, surely the material will work when I find the large-size flowers, right? *hopefully!*
I'm embarrassed to admit that it took me nearly 10 minutes to figure out the right combination of "Multipurpose Platform" and cutting pads! If the "sandwich" is too thin, the roller won't catch it and pull it through. If it's too thick, it won't squeeze under the roller at all.
The paper, of course, was no problem. The acrylic felt was a disaster. The wool felt was perfect, yay!
I have a couple concerns, though. Even with the first cut I made, my cutting pad was completely engraved:
This actually caused the next piece I tried to cut to be embossed, so I must be doing something wrong. Also, the die has little fibers stuck in it already, and I only cut the wool felt once. So it might get dull really fast, or I may have to find a way to clean the fuzz out of the die occasionally. (?)
Then I tested the die with a few different kinds of fabric:
As you can see, this particular die did not do too well with fabric. If I really wanted to, I could get the flower cut out with the help of some sharp thread snips, but I think it kind of defeats the purpose of the entire thing!
Then I thought that maybe my "sandwich" just wasn't thick enough to get a deep, clean cut. So I folded a piece of felt and sent it through the roller on top of the sandwich:
It totally didn't work, but I'm not sure why. I guess if you plan to use the machine with different brands of dies, you'll have a lot of experimenting to do!
So my conclusion is that the Sizzix Big Shot will most definitely cut pretty much anything. It's the die cuts that are tricky to find!
If you have a die cutting machine, do you have any special techniques that work for fabric and felt? What brand of dies work best?