Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My Review of The Sizzix Big Shot

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, 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:

And it did seem to help a little, but only with the cotton. The slippery fabrics just weren't cooperating.

Then I tried the same technique but I put the folded felt inside the sandwich, thinking it might protect my cutting pad from getting all scarred up:

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?


factorygirlashli said...

my mom has one of these machines... I think hers came with rubber mats for the multipurpose platform that help keep everything in place. I couldn't tell from the pics if you were using those or not.

I agree that the platform is rather confusing... but it just takes a lot of practice.

Also, the cricut is an epic fail with felt. I've seen someone almost make it work, but she still had to use scissors to "clean it up" and like you said, that defeats the purpose.

Deb - Two Cheeky Monkeys said...

Thanks for your review! I have been considering getting a cutting machine but wasn't sure which one would work best for my crafty endeavours.

Down To Earth News said...

Depends on what you want to make with the fabric. But, I think if you iron a fabric backing/interfacing, to make the fabric stiff it might work.

I bought my daughter a Pazzle for her birthday, but she has yet to get it up and working, but when she or I do, we will share the results with you.

blondiesvintage said...

Hi, thanks for the review, I always enjoy reading these!

I don't have a Big Shot, but have the Big Kick and really like it. I've read it's pretty comparable to the Big Shot.
It came with the 2 acrylic? cutting boards & the multi-platform, but no rubber mats. And yeah, the cutting pads/boards do tend to get engraved/scratched up easily. *Something I learned was to make sure to flip them over every once in awhile, to keep them from warping/bulging.

Good luck & have fun!

Jenni said...

You're like the Mr. Wizard of crafting! Great experiment, er, review!!!

The Lone Dollier said...

You can actually peel the foamy stuff off the die and use it that way. Just be aware that things will get "stuck" inside the die and you will need a pin to gently tease paper out if you use it for that.

I have a Big Shot, the Revolution, and the Quickutz Sqeeze-it. I use them all for different applications. IF you use Spellbinders embossing dies, you'll need to purchase their embossing pad and for the Big Shot, if you use the larger dies, you will have to purchase the larger plastic mats. A little bit of a hassle, but I LOVE playing with mine. And, I'm not a scrapbooker at all!!!


Jessica said...

Neat! I hope this works for you :)

Holly @ Domestic Dork said...

The cricut will absolutely cut fabric if it's backed with fusible web! It's one of their selling points in their recent infomercial! I don't know if it will cut felt...*maybe* if you had the deep cut blade and deep cut blade housing? I would google "cricut felt" and see what comes up.

You can also get software {not made by Provo Craft} that lets you design your own images/shapes/etc. and cut them on the cricut with a USB connection.

Renae said...

I also have the Big Shot and use Sizzix "Original" or "Bigz" dies. They are about 3/4" thick and cut felt perfectly! I do appreciate you posting this -I was always so curious about the thinner dies!

Anonymous said...

(Excuse my imperfect English) I have worked with the Big Shot in 5 years. I am textile artist (author of "Pynt og Pift" where I also shows the machine) When I use the Sizzix "Original" or "Bigz" dies, do I always have a piece of plain printer paper on both sides of the fabric - it makes the machine cutting directly through the fabric. When you do it without paper, fabric is pulled down in part by "around" the edge that cuts, and therefore the fibers are not cut but more "jagged". You must cut very thin fabric - silk, etc. You can also stiff your fabric with different types of adhesives (based on what you need it to) or ironing, for example. vlisofix.

Hugs Dorthe

Julia said...

I have just upgraded from the old red machine to the Bigshot pro. I will cut absolutely anything that I throw at it from the very fine like voile, to the weighty like mounting board. I have some quickcuts dies, but to be honest they are only good for paper. Invest in proper sizzix dies, they are expensive for a reason! The cutting edge is so much deeper than any of its rivals which is why it will cut anything with such ease.

Kirsty said...


I just bought one after reading this! I use lots of felt, so wanted to see if it worked and yours seemed to come out well so I grabbed one.

using the originals and Bigz dyes with felt and working fine. No luck with the sizzlits but that was expected.

Thanks so much for testing this.

Just Me said...

I bought mine last week and also bought embosser dies, quickcut, Bigz, the originals and Sizzlets dies. The small ones don't do much for felt (Like the quickcuts & Sizzlets) But the originals and the Bigz, they work like a charm. No problems cutting through felt, materials, or foam. I think they must have a deeper cutting blade than the Sizzlets and the Quickcut.

Charlotte M said...

Oh wow! I'm just looking into getting one of these (slow of the mark I know) but what a great post. I now actually know what these things are about! Great post. Will have to buy one for sure now. I love your blog. Will have to prettyfy my own some day. Amazing!

Anonymous said...

Just got the bigkick machine and some spellbinder dies-hoping to cut felt. I had the lady at ac moore show me how to use it with the same dies that i got and the same felt-worked great-but mine doesnt even begin to cut through felt! Anyone know what i am doing wrong?

SewSweetStitches said...

Are you sure you have the cutting pad at the right thickness? It has to be a super tight squeeze. I'm not sure if the bigkick works the same as the bigshot?

Colorado Stitcher said...

I do believe that when cutting fabric on the machine is has more to do with the die than the machine. The nice thing about the BigShot is that you can use other brands of dies with the machine. I think thinner dies do not work so great on fabric.

Anonymous said...

I am intrested to buy a big shot or cuttlebug. I am confused . which one is better for me . Kindly suggest me which one I buy

Anonymous said...

You need the thick black cutting pad/dies to cut fabrics, even cuts up to 4 sheets. Please keep trying and research it xxx

Paula Talbert said...

The small silver die of flowers that you are trying to use is a QuikCutz die, it is very thin and is only for extremely thin stuff like regular paper. Sizzix dies are sturdier and able to cut thicker things.

Kim L. said...

Is anyone else having problems with the Big Shot engraving the cutting pads? Just bought this and wondering if I am doing something wrong.

TD said...

I just got a Big Shot machine (and some dies and framelits, etc.). I had watched videos on how to use it and was having a good time using all the different types of dies and embossing folders I'd purchase. Everything was working great, and then I did a bunch of framelits and the top sandwich board got very bowed. I flipped it over and cut some more, but it didn't correct the bow. Having done my homework about how to use it, and also viewed the instructions on the working platform, I don't know what went wrong..?

Dorabel Mercado said...

Hi: I have the big shot for four years,,but for now she's not cutting well at there something I can do?