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If you don’t have a fabric cutting machine, you’re missing out!
I LOVE using my fabric cutters to create perfect applique shapes and quilt pieces. And, I don’t know about you, but less time spent cutting fabric means more time sewing, which is a win in my books!
While my AccuQuilt Go! is my favorite machine, my Cricut and Sizzix are also well-loved for different reasons.
Check out my reviews of the best fabric cutting machines and my thoughts on the whopping five I own!
What Fabric Cutters Actually Do
Fabric cutters cut fabric in predetermined shapes and sizes. They can be used to cut fabric pieces for sewing patterns or quilt blocks and even make applique shapes for hand or machine embroidery.
Some machines like the Cricut Maker use a small rotary blade to cut fabric, while others like the AccuQuilt and Sizzix Big Shot rely on cutting dies.
Consider These Things Before Purchasing
Prices and functions vary wildly, and picking the best machine that cuts fabric depends on many factors.
1. Electric vs. Manual Fabric Cutter
Manual die-cutting machines for fabric require no more than cranking a handwheel to perfectly cut fabric pieces.
All you do is place fabric on top of a die and top it with a cutting mat. Then, add any necessary cutting pads or platforms and roll the combination through the machine. Pressure is applied as the die passes through, which slices the fabric.
One downfall of manual die cutters is they can be challenging for quilters with arthritis, shoulder problems, or other related conditions to use.
Electric, electronic, or digital fabric cutting machines, in contrast, have no requirement for strength but are more expensive than manual cutters.
Some rely on dies, and others use blades and a cutting mat.
In addition to electricity, some digital fabric cutters require technical expertise and a computer or device with a WiFi connection.
And, in general, electric machines have parts that are more likely to malfunction and are more challenging to clean.
2. Multi-Craft Use vs. Cutting Fabric Only
AccuQuilt die-cutting machines can cut only fabric (and the occasional paper) without dulling the blades of their dies. These are one-trick ponies, and all shapes cut must be done using a premade die.
On the other hand, cutting machines like the Cricut Maker and Sizzix Big Shot cut fabric and hundreds of other materials! Being able to use embossing folders was why I purchased my Sizzix Big Shot Plus in the first place.
3. Frequency of Use and Goals
It is essential to know what you want to cut, how much you want to cut, and how fast you need it cut.
Do you want to cut quilt block pieces once in a blue moon and a few appliques here and there? Are you a professional quilter who wants to increase efficiency by eliminating the need for hand-cutting fabric? Or, do you run a machine embroidery business and applique all day?
4. Tech-Savviness and Ease of Use
Some fabric cutters like the AccuQuilt Go! or Sizzix Big Shot Plus require no computer, electricity, or technical expertise.
In contrast, other machines, like the Cricut Maker or Silhouette Cameo 4, require a computer, tablet, or phone with software. Plus, you need to know how to load cutting files into Design Space or Silhouette Studio, respectively, and work with graphics.
Learning to use Cricut Design Space or other computer programs could be difficult if you are not technologically inclined.
Manufacturers like Cricut, AccuQuilt, and Sizzix have different price tiers. Your budget can thus impact machine selection.
In addition to the machine itself, you need to consider the cost of supplies needed to get started. For instance, the AccuQuilt and Sizzix machines require dies for every fabric-cutting project!
The prices for accessories add up quicker with fabric die-cutting machines than with a Cricut Maker, for instance, which simply requires computer files to direct cutting. (The Cricut rotary blade and fabric cutting mat are included with the purchase.)
6. Size and Weight
Consider the fabric cutter’s size, weight, and fold-up possibility if you plan to transport or bring it out of storage for use.
For instance, machines like the Sizzix Sidekick and AccuQuilt Go! Me are significantly more portable than professional fabric cutting machines like the Sizzix Big Shot Pro or AccuQuilt Studio 2.
Also, some machines like the Sizzix Big Shot have a foldaway version.
And speaking of size, make sure the opening of your die-cutting fabric machine is big enough to accommodate all the dies you want to use.
5 Best Fabric Cutters (Reviews)
1. AccuQuilt Go! Ultimate Fabric Cutter
I own the AccuQuilt Go! Ultimate Fabric Cutting System and love it, which is why I recommend it as the best quilt fabric cutting machine.
The Go! is a manual die cut machine that folds for storage and unrolls for cutting.
Here’s a quick comparison of the AccuQuilt fabric-cutting systems.
|Go! Big Electric
I chose the Go! over the larger, electric fabric cutter (AccuQuilt Go! Big) because electric things eventually go kaput, so I prefer a hand crank.
I also received the Go! Me free with my purchase, but I gifted it and kept the Go!. This is because the Go! Me, with its 6″ opening, wasn’t large enough for several blocks dies I had my eye on.
Now, by far, one of the most significant advantages of an AccuQuilt machine is the versatility of dies.
Examples of awesome AccuQuilt dies to convince you to love AccuQuilt:
- Simple shapes like squares, half-square triangles, parallelograms, rectangles, etc.
- More unique, complex shapes like rag blocks, clamshells, apple cores, and other curved piecing dies.
- Qubes contain dies with shapes that form blocks of a specific size. I love my 8″ Qube and its two companion sets.
- Strip dies for long fabric strips in a variety of sizes. The 2.5″ strip cutter was the first reason I considered purchasing an AccuQuilt!
- Applique dies to cut applique fabric shapes quickly and perfectly.
- Block dies to cut all the pieces you need to make a specific block. For instance, my double wedding ring block is pure perfection!
I also love that quilt patterns come free with each die to inspire your next projects! Also, all dies come with dog-eared corners and notches, when applicable, to help line up fabric pieces.
Furthermore, most applique dies come with free machine embroidery designs. (Learn how to use AccuQuilt embroidery designs!)
Lastly, if you’re an Electric Quilt 8 user like I am, you can grab AccuQuilt blocks to use in the software! How convenient is that?!
- AccuQuilt website has patterns for every die – yay for inspiration!
- Lots of AccuQuilt users, so robust support groups of serious quilters online
- So many dies to choose from, and you can even commission custom dies
- Cutting mats and dies are good quality and last a long time.
- It will cut all different types of fabric — I even used my raggy die to make a sweater quilt recently with perfect success.
- You must first cut fabrics to a rough size to fit through the cutter.
- Not zero-waste, as you have scraps left after cuts. A rotary cutter can be more fabric-conserving.
- Dies are expensive if you like significant variety for quilting projects. (I recommend at least one Qube!)
2. Cricut Maker Original or Cricut Maker 3
The best thing about Cricut cutting machines is they cut fabric and pretty much any soft material less than 2.4mm in thickness. I’ve cut balsa wood, acrylic, thin metal, vinyl, iron-on vinyl, and even craft foam with my Cricut Maker’s knife blade!
Now, if you want a machine for fabric cutting, I recommend the original Cricut Maker or the new Cricut Maker 3, as fabric does not need to be prepared before cutting.
The big difference between the two is the Maker 3 cuts faster than the original Maker and can use Cricut Smart Materials; thus, the Maker 3 is technically the best Cricut for fabric cutting.
While there are other less expensive Cricut cutting machines (ex. Cricut Explore Air 2 or Cricut Explore 3), they require bonding fabric before cutting. This is perfect for applique, but I don’t bond quilt fabrics.
Now, the Cricut Maker uses a small rotary wheel blade to cut fabric pieces adhered to the special Cricut fabric cutting mat (the pink one!) Thus, if you want a machine without dies, this is your best bet!
Cricut help says you can cut multiple layers of fabric simultaneously, but I’ve never had good luck using temporary fabric adhesive.
Thus, I recommend cutting a single layer of fabric at a time. This takes longer than an AccuQuilt to cut pieces.
I also recommend having multiple cutting mats to prepare fabric ahead of time, expediting the assembly line process required to cut an entire quilt’s worth of fabric. Purchasing a 12″x24″ cutting mat is also helpful as this makes much quicker work than the standard 12″x12″ fabric mat.
For quilters, Cricut Access (their monthly subscription service) has a variety of standard shapes that can be scaled into different sizes. You can also create your own in the software.
Additionally, there are several free quilting patterns. You can also purchase Riley Blake quilt patterns (and some others) or download them with a Cricut Access subscription.
The super-simple baby quilt above was made 100% using my Cricut to cut the fabric. Cutting time was less than 30 minutes all said and done! (Check out other Cricut Maker quilting uses to learn how to make labels, templates, and more.)
Lastly, if you just want to cut sewing patterns, check out this list of free sewing patterns for Cricut to get an idea of Cricut’s capabilities.
As I mentioned, I have an AccuQuilt Go! and a Cricut Maker. Here’s how I divide my fabric time between the two.
- AccuQuilt cuts all shapes I have dies for. (My go-to because of speed, ease of use, and convenience.)
- Cricut cuts any shapes I don’t have dies for that I can easily design in software. It also cuts any intricate designs.
- Cricut also cuts sewing patterns that I have design files for.
- I also use my Cricut with my embroidery machine for applique when I don’t have an AccuQuilt die. Many embroidery applique designs come with .svg files for a Cricut, which is helpful.
- I use printable, fusible fabric that I cut with my Cricut to make quilt labels.
You can learn all about the differences and similarities in my AccuQuilt vs. Cricut comparison, though!
- Endless supply of free designs online, and you can design your own
- The best cutting machine for fabric and vinyl, iron-on, plastic, and 300 more materials
- No need to continually buy dies, so the Cricut is cheaper in the long run vs. AccuQuilt
- Computer or WiFi-ready device and internet connection required
- Must be tech-savvy to use Design Space software and work with .svg files
- Not many pre-made quilting designs, so you must make your own shapes or download them
3. Sizzix Big Shot Plus
Sizzix machines also use special dies, called Bigz Dies. These dies are similar to AccuQuilt’s dies in that they have a steel blade ensconced in foam.
Bigz Dies, however, cut more than just multiple layers of fabric! (Check the list of materials the Sizzix Big Shot can cut.)
I also use my Sizzix machines with the wafer-thin Thinlits and Framelits dies used to cut cardstock, and I love my embossing folders, which add texture to paper and even metal.
Now, there are several popular Sizzix machines, but I recommend the Sizzix Big Shot Plus for home users and Sizzix Big Shot Pro for industrial needs.
|Big Shot Plus
|Big Shot Pro
|Manual and electric versions
|Manual and electric versions
|AccuQuilt Die Compatible?
|Yes, with adapter
|Yes, with adapter
Here’s a quick comparison of machines and how they relate to AccuQuilt’s counterparts.
1. The Sizzix Big Shot cuts materials up to 6″ wide like the AccuQuilt Go! Me.
2. The Sizzix Big Shot Plus cuts up to 9″ in width, which is a big deal if you want to cut 8 1/2″ x 11″ papers. (Compare this to the AccuQuilt Go!, which has the 10″ cutting width.) The Big Shot Plus has an electric and manual version.
3. The Sizzix Big Shot Pro is a more commercial or industrial fabric cutting machine with a 13″ opening.
Now, while I love my Sizzix fabric cutting machine, I don’t think it is necessarily the best fabric cutter anymore.
This is because the company sadly stopped producing new shapes of quilting dies several years ago! And, most of the older quilting shapes have been discontinued and are difficult, if not impossible, to find.
To purchase older dies, I’ve found the most success at Walmart, Amazon, eBay, and Sewingmachinesplus.com. However, the Sizzix website still has its quilt projects sections, which is worth a browse if looking for free inspiration!
Theoretically, you could also purchase a Big Shot Plus and use some AccuQuilt dies with this special adapter. (AccuQuilt dies are not compatible with the Sizzix Big Shot, only the Sizzix Big Shot Plus or Big Shot Pro).
Understanding cross-compatibility is a little complicated, so I recommend reading my AccuQuilt and Sizzix die compatibility post for the best understanding!
So, while the Sizzix Big Shot Plus is less expensive than the AccuQuilt Go! and can use some AccuQuilt dies, why do I not recommend it first for fabric cutting?
Well, the Big Shot Plus opening is smaller than the Go! opening, which means many dies that fit through the Go! won’t squeeze into the Big Shot Plus.
For instance, my clamshell, raggy, and 2.5″ strip cutter dies (and many Block-on-Board dies) cannot be used on the Big Shot Plus. (They can be used on the Big Shot Pro with an adapter, although this large, industrial machine is not as popular for home use.)
(Read more in my AccuQuilt vs. Sizzix comparison post!)
- Can cut paper, emboss, and work with more than just fabric! I use mine primarily for card making and as an embossing machine.
- Less expensive than AccuQuilt for the machine, yet still some compatibility with dies.
- Easier to use than Cricut since there is no need for technical expertise
- Sizzix applique dies don’t come with machine embroidery designs
- Not much support for fabric-cutting Sizzix aficionados. Mostly cardmaking groups.
- You must buy adapters for different types of dies, and costs add up as you must also buy all dies you want to use.
4. Brother ScanNCut
I’m a gigantic Brother fan, as my sewing, embroidery, serger, and coverstitch machines are all produced by Brother.
Overall, I prefer the Cricut Maker, though, to their line of cutting machines. (I have the Brother SDX330D, the top-of-the-line version, which came with my Luminaire embroidery machine.)
One reason is the ScanNCut digital cutting machine is WAY more expensive than the Cricut Maker, and supplies are not as easy to find (or afford) for it.
Nor is there as much online support as it’s less popular. Finding entry-level tutorials was also more difficult when I was learning to use it. So, a bigger initial learning curve since you have to teach yourself more.
And, the darn low tack mat loses so much tack after just a few uses that cardstock doesn’t cut cleanly for very long. Also, there are no generic mats that work as replacements, and the Brother-branded mats are EXPENSIVE.
Furthermore, the ScanNCut doesn’t have quite as many blade options and thus slightly fewer project options than the Cricut.
However, I still recommend the ScanNCut as a great cloth-cutting machine!
First, it has more versatility than an AccuQuilt. And, many models also don’t require a computer or particular program to use the machine (although Brother CanvasWorkspace is still helpful to have on your computer).
With a connected user interface, the Brother SDX125E and higher models have a built-in scanner (hence “scan” in its name) to convert drawings, pattern piecess, and other images to cuts without much technical expertise needed.
You also don’t have to select a material to cut (as in Cricut Design Space). This Brother cutting machine has auto blade sensor technology that’s promised to give more accurate cuts on different materials.
Furthermore, there are 100 or more quilt patterns included with many ScanNCut machines, and you can cut fabric with the Brother ScanNCut with or without backing. The pattern list for the SDX330D (starts on page 28) will give you an idea of the quilt blocks and shapes it can cut if you’re interested in built-ins.
Speaking of built-in patterns, all Cricut patterns included with Cricut machines are in Cricut Design Space and are accessed that way, whereas hundreds of free designs are included in the software on the Brother ScanNCut machine.
It’s also nice that my Innovis ScanNCut connects to and “talks with” my embroidery machine to cut applique fabric. I can also plug in a .pes embroidery file USB straight to the machine and have it cut the applique fabric for it. While this a nice function, I could also generate .svg files from .pes embroidery designs using embroidery software and then just use my Cricut for cutting fabric.
5. Silhouette Cameo
Cricut’s biggest competitor is arguably Silhouette, and I’m a little late to the Silhouette game, but I do own a Silhouette Cameo 4 now. (There’s since a Silhouette 5 now, which is a slight improvement over the Cameo 4 in terms of speed and cutting force.)
Like Cricut and Brother, Silhouette also makes electronic machines that cut fabric and various materials.
Now, older Silhouette machines require fabric to have interfacing or fusible web on the back for the best results, making these more applique cutting machines rather than quilting fabric cutters. (Here’s Silhouette’s official tutorial for cutting fabric with backing.)
For new machines, like the Silhouette Cameo 4, you can use the Silhouette rotary blade without a fabric backing.
As a Cricut user first, I think how Silhouette’s rotary blade cuts is just plain weird. And, it makes for more fabric waste and not quite as clean a cut. (The machine also sounds like it’s dying when it cuts.)
Furthermore, the rotary blade is not included with the Cameo 4 purchase. If you don’t want to invest in it, you can still get a fairly decent cut on stiffened and backed fabric using the Auto Blade included with the machine.
I will say that I think Silhouette Studio, their proprietary software, is much more full-featured than Cricut’s Design Space.
However, the Cricut machine itself has more versatility and support available. (It’s almost impossible to contact someone at Silhouette in a timely manner, and their software can be buggy!)
It’s also a little annoying that you have to buy upgrades for the software if you want to import and use SVG files and work with embroidery designs in Silhouette Studio. I begrudgingly shelled out the money for their Silhouette Studio Business Edition so I could have these extra features.
Reasons to Buy a Fabric Cutter
So those are my favorite options. Now, why would you spend the money on one?
Between imprecisions when cutting quilt fabric by hand to ever-so-slightly inaccurate seams when piecing, there are many ways a quilt can go from being perfect to looking like an amateur made it.
With a fabric cutting machine, you can at least guarantee that pieces are cut perfectly to size! One step closer to a gorgeous quilt.
And, if you’re an applique lover, worry no more about trimming fabric in the hoop when machine embroidering! Say goodbye to annoying, fluffy fabric edges sticking outside those satin stitches.
2. Time Saved
While admittedly, professionals can cut fabric by hand faster than I can, fabric cutters still make fast work of making pieces for a quilt project.
I can cut all my pieces for even the most intricate quilts or sewing projects in less than an hour or two!
3. Safety + Love Your Body
I watch TV while I cut fabric. I’m so far 100% injury-free using my fabric cutters, but unfortunately, my fingers can’t say the same when I use my rotary cutter and only half paying attention.
Quilting is also a labor of love and painful when I spend long hours working without a fabric cutter.
Thus, my back thanks me when I use my cutters! Turning a crank and pushing a button are much more body-friendly than using my rotary cutter or scissors.
Fabric cutters are fun, efficient, and a great addition to a craft room. I’ve accumulated five for different purposes, and I love having them! They’re so much easier and safer than using rotary cutters.