A few years ago, every second blog I read was given an Accuquilt Baby to review, with mixed reception. At the time I was mostly making pinafores and if I was quilting, it was mostly simple squares, strips or triangles, and though I loved the thought of giving one a try, I could never justify the expense, not just of the machine itself, but the cutting dies that go with it.
The following year I got really serious about using my scraps from those pinnies, and I started to doubt my earlier assumption about those costs. It takes a lot of time to cut 2.5" squares from random-sized shapes! Maybe it would help me use up those scraps more efficiently. I let the idea sit for a year or so.
Then for my birthday last August, Tim walked into my local quilt shop, without my knowledge, and bought me an Accuquilt Go fabric cutter. I'm sure you can imagine how excited I was, touched not only by the gift but by the thought and action also. The package came with a 'Value Die' (a mix of co-ordinating squares and triangles), and Tim also bought be a hexagon die to start with.
Since then several people have asked me my opinion about this neat, (not so) little gadget, including some in the comments under my last post. It got me thinking that every quilt I'm working on at the moment has been cut using the Accuquilt, and that every idea I have is influenced in form and size, by what dies have I have to make it easier. So I thought I would share here how I use my fabric cutter and how it's affected my making.
The Accuquilt actually works without any motor, electricity, batteries or computer. The dies are shaped blades, hidden in foam mats. When you place the fabric over the blades, and cover the fabric with a cutting mat, the 'sandwhich' is rolled though the Accuquilt with the help of a handle. The rollers push the cutting mat down onto the blades, cutting through several layers of fabric at a time.
The first quilt I finished that was cut with the Accuquilt was my Rising Balloons quilt, made with the large Drunkards Path Die, which my mum gave to me that same birthday. This was my first attempt cutting and sewing curves in quilts (though, I'd sewn plenty of sleeves in my time and it's not all that different). It took me about half an hour to iron all the fat quarters and cut a 9" strip from each. Then it took about 45 minutes to roll those strips through the Accuquilt, 6 at a time. Those cut blocks gave me a quilt 180cm (70") squared. A 9 inch strip gave me about half an inch each side of wastage, and a 3" strip at the end, which I then rolled through on the Value Die to get the pieces for the unfinished quilt above. I've since used the Drunkards path die for this quilt, and let a friend use it at a sewing retreat last year.
The next die I bought was the 3" finished half square triangle die, which cuts four triangles, 6 layers at a time. I used it for my Nine Patch Dash quilt, the Flying Geese Quilt above. I then used some Christmas money to buy the 6" quarter square triangle die and the isoceles triangle die. The first goes with the 3" triangles to make flying geese, the base of my Mountain Campfire block. The latter, I'm using for a quick kaleidescope quilt in solids, and the 3" triangles make the corners. I love that I can build my collection as the budget allows, and plan new quilts that use more than one die together. This has actually been the key to my use of the Accuquilt. I thought it would be to eat through my scraps faster (and this is still my hope!), but mostly it's stretched my designs and helped to me try new things. I love that it's not only easy to cut quickly, but it's also easy to do it the kids around or helping, as there's no exposed blades; or with visitors, because it's not noisy; or in the evening because it's portable and doesn't need to engage my brain.
While reading reviews last year, a lot of people commented on things like waste and fabric getting caught in the joins between blades. For me, the waste has been minimal compared to the time saved. I simply measure the width of the shape with my ruler and add a half inch allowance so that I have a quarter inch overhang on each side. I haven't bought the larger (5" or 8") square dies because I did think that would be a waste not justified by any time saved. I have, however, invested in the 2.5" squares die which cuts over 50 squares at a time!
I have experienced fabric threads getting caught, or not cutting properly on the join, which can be frustrating, but I've found if I have scissors handy, it doesn't take much to get into the groove of snipping those bits as I lift the fabric off the die.
Someone asked me this week if I thought an Accuquilt was essential. And I don't think I would ever naturally answer yes to $300+ question like that. I don't like the idea that anything gadgety or expensive is essential. I like the idea that quilting started with needle and thread and the good parts of a worn out shirt or blanket. But looking back on my making the last six months, I think I'd find it hard to go back! I am curious to see if, as I develop my ideas into patterns, by Go Cutter gets abandoned under my desk so I can make them accessible to everyone. I think though, I'll always now have a mix of quick quilts, new designs, and slow experiments on the go at any one time. And I'm sure my Accuquilt will feature in most of them. Time will tell!
Feel free to ask any other questions! I'll answer them here or via email.