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If you’re new to machine embroidery or the Cricut universe, understanding the similarities and differences between these two machines can be challenging.
Unless you have experience with both machines, you likely have many questions! Thus, I want to explain in detail what a Cricut does and how this relates to embroidery.
I love my Cricut Maker so much, but, it doesn’t sew, and it doesn’t embroider. For those tasks, I use my embroidery machine.
However, if you want to add a Cricut to your embroidery space, there are many awesome things it can do to help you out when embroidering. I’ll touch on those soon, but let’s first start with the basics of the two machines!
A Cricut Can’t Embroider
A Cricut is not an embroidery machine and thus cannot mimic hand or machine embroidery stitching. But, a Cricut can make both hand and machine embroidery easier and more fun!
What A Cricut Actually Does
Cricut machines are digital cutting machines that can cut hundreds of materials. You can also use the Cricut Maker to engrave, deboss, transfer foil, and even score paper.
There are many different types of Cricut machines.
If you’re looking for the Cricut machine with the most options for sewists and embroidery enthusiasts, the Cricut Maker (check it out on Amazon or Cricut.com) is your best bet right now. This is the only Cricut that can cut fabric without bonding it first.
With a Cricut machine, you place your fabric or another blank on a sticky mat, load the mat into your Cricut, and press start. Your Cricut then reads a cut file from your phone or computer and cuts your material using the directions encoded in that file.
Anything you want to cut will need to be a .svg file. SVG stands for scalable vector graphics. This file type contains more information than a regular .jpg or .png, thus giving your Cricut very specific cutting instructions.
Cricut Design Space, the design software used by Cricut, does allow you to take other image formats and create cutting files within the software with limitations, of course.
Cricut Can Cut Hundreds of Materials
Here’s the official list from Cricut of the materials that the machine can master, which includes everything from iron-on vinyl to cardstock to even balsa wood.
In terms of fabric, anything thinner than 2.4mm that’s not too rigid can be cut with the Cricut rotary blade.
The rotary blade is like a tiny rotary cutter that the Cricut uses to trim fabric that is adhered to the specialty fabric cutting mat. (Check out my big list of free Cricut sewing patterns if you want to cut fabric!)
What An Embroidery Machine Does
In contrast to the Cricut, an embroidery machine is a computerized machine that takes a built-in design or design digitized on a computer and stitches it out onto fabric.
This involves a needle, thread, stabilizer, and an embroidery hoop. An embroidery machine doesn’t make any cuts during the stitching process.
And, you have to embroider directly onto an item. Unlike with a Cricut, where you cut your material first and then later adhere it to your desired surface. (You can learn more by reading what is an embroidery machine?)
You Can’t Use Cricut SVG files on an Embroidery Machine
Unfortunately, you cannot import an SVG file from your Cricut to your embroidery machine and have it stitch out.
While SVG files contain cutting directions for your Cricut, these files don’t contain information telling an embroidery machine where and what to stitch.
To use SVG vector files on an embroidery machine, you need to learn to digitize.
This means using software to assign stitches to your design and save this in a file format your machine recognizes, like .pes or .jef. (I use Hatch 3 embroidery software, but there are many good options.)
Many embroidery designs (mostly appliques) come with SVG files, though, which you can load onto your computer and cut with your Cricut before using the included embroidery design file with your machine.
How to Use a Cricut for Embroidery (5 Ways!)
Even though a Cricut and embroidery machine can’t read the same files and don’t have much overlap in function, there are many ways they work together!
1. Embroidery Applique With a Cricut
If you get tired of trimming large applique fabric pieces in the hoop with tiny scissors, a Cricut Maker can cut your applique fabric to the perfect size and shape beforehand.
This is time-saving on intricate designs and perfect for users with poor eyesight or limited dexterity!
Simply load any included SVG file into Cricut Design Space, and cut your fabric. (I’ve included a brief graphic of using SVG files to cut applique fabric in Design Space above.)
Next, place that perfect fabric on top of the placement line that your machine stitches on your blank. (Load the embroidery file, not SVG, on your machine to create this applique design.)
Then, start embroidering again, and your machine will encase the raw edges of the cut fabric with a border stitch, creating the perfect applique!
All you need to do here is ensure the embroidery design you purchase or create with your software comes with an SVG file. Most software like Hatch, Embrilliance, or even SewWhat-Pro/SewArt will generate SVG files from applique designs with the click of a button if you don’t have an SVG file.
Confused about what applique is? Check out how to applique with an embroidery machine.
2. Cutting Fabric for Patches + Backings
Machine embroidering a patch is very much like embroidering an applique.
You can trim the patch backing fabric by hand right after a tacking stitch, or you can place a perfectly cut fabric on the placement line on your stabilizer. I prefer the latter.
Thus, you can use your Cricut to cut perfect circles, squares, or whatever shape you need for a patch.
If you don’t have an SVG file and the shape is simple (for example, the circle above), you can easily create a shape of the exact size in Cricut Design Space.
And, if you want to make your patch magnetic or put a sticker on the bag, a Cricut Maker can also cut magnetic sheets and sticker sheets to perfect shapes!
3. Cutting Materials for In-the-Hoop Projects
If you like to make in-the-hoop projects, you can start with a perfectly cut embroidery blank.
For instance, leather teardrop earrings. A Cricut cuts the teardrop shape out of faux leather, and your machine embroiders them.
All you need to do is make sure your machine stitches a placement stitch onto your stabilizer before stitching the earring design. You simply place your pre-cut material over that placement stitch.
Other fun ITH projects to cut with a Cricut are key fobs, bracelets, and even small wallets. (Here’s a list of free in-the-hoop design websites if you want to brainstorm more ideas!)
4. Personalizing Items That Can’t Be Embroidered Well
Some embroidery blanks are impossible to embroider on a single-needle embroidery machine. Single-needle machines (without a free arm) necessitate that you flatten your embroidery blank into a single-layer surface.
If you can’t flatten a blank into a single layer (for instance, a small makeup bag or the pocket of a t-shirt), rather than despairing, you can still personalize these items with a Cricut!
I love the versatility of choosing which crafting machine I’m going to use (embroidery machine vs Cricut) to give me the best result in the easiest way.
5. Free-Motion Embroidery: Transferring Patterns
Another fun Cricut embroidery project is using your Cricut and a water-soluble pen to mark line designs on fabric. Then, using a sewing machine, you can stitch around this design with free-motion embroidery!
Of course, you can also hand embroider any designs you transfer to fabric with your Cricut.
I hope this has illuminated the difference between an embroidery machine and Cricut! As you can see, they both do different things but work together very well for extra crafting fun.
And, if you have a Silhouette cutting machine, check out using a Silhouette and embroidery machine together.