Accuquilt Go Review

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.

Use Your Words Quilt.

I have my first finish for 2015! And I usually try to avoid clothesline photos, but when your new clothesline is old wobbly fencing wire woven through old timber planks, next to an old rusty bath tub and blue shipping container, it's worth a try, right? Add to that a husband away for the week, and a break in the rain, and it's practically fate!
This was my already cut, post Christmas haze quilt. No thinking. Just plug in and play. So while I fed fabric through my machine, I let it's therapeutic hum take my mind around all the events of the last few months, and various things that lead to me being here today.

When I was about 15, I wrote a music essay for school. I remember putting a lot of thought into how I would frame the arguement and bring it all together. My teacher handed it back with high praise. She told me she thought I should pursue journalism as a career. It meant a lot to me and I thought about it seriously. I chose all my subjects the following year that involved a lot of writing so I could improve. And then at the end of the year, I applied for a week long work experience with the local News station.
After a week talking to people about their pets, listening to the police radio chatter in hope of some disaster and doing a story about a school musical, I was utterly discouraged. What was the point?
I finished school the following year, tired of writing and completely bewildered as to how I could use it in a 'real' job and I went to Poland instead and became a missionary in an old Polish castle.

It wasn't until recently, when I was considering my name change, and thinking about what I love most about this part of my life, that it was the writing that stood out to me as a really important process of my making. I enjoy quilting most when I'm doing it to say something. Not necessarily preachy things or teachy things. I just like telling my story and having your share yours.
I chose these texty prints because I thought the Drunkards Path blocks in circles might look like thought bubbles. They don't. But I still like how graphic it is. And almost 3-dimensional. Unisex. Grown up. All those parts were pulled off like I hoped!

And here I am, 20 years later, enjoying the fulfillment of those encouraging words way back then, and in such a different way than I could have ever imagined. Proof that if you use your words kindly, you never know the long lasting fruit that can grow ever so slowly inside someone's heart.  

Linking up with Finish it up Friday

Rising Balloons Quilt

A quilt commission, a new fabric line, a birthday present. I'm excited about this quilt because it would never have been without the convergence of these three occurrences.
A dear friend of mine asked if I could make her a quilt for a mutual friend and her family. They've been living in Australia for almost a decade, originally from England, and are returning home at the end of the year. I immediately thought of Emma Jean Jansen's recent lines Terra Australis I and II. They are bright and modern, they have a great selection of beautiful and fun basics (kangaroos!), and it's distinctly Australian without looking like a cheap souvenir shop or retro tea-towels.
Our friends have been living in Canowindra, home of an annual Hot Air Balloon festival, so Jewels asked, if possible, for hot air balloons, but ultimately trusted me with the design.

Soon afterwards, my amazing Tim gave me an Accuquilt Go fabric cutter for my birthday! He actually walked into my local quilt shop, bought it, and a hexie die to go with it, and arranged for it to be delivered because he was on his bicycle! I asked my mum if she'd buy the large Drunkard's Path die for my birthday to go with it. I'd avoided curves so far in my quilting. I'd sewn in plenty of sleeves in my time, so I knew I could do it, it was just the cutting that kept me away. With my fat quarter bundles of both lines in hand, I cut a 9" strip from each prints that I wanted to use (all the basics plus a few extras). Cutting 6 layers at a time with the Go cutter, I had the entire quilt cut in about 45 minutes!

I arranged the quilt in overlapping circles, hoping that it would look a little like hot air balloons rising up en masse. I free motion quilted around the circles in a swirly design, to represent the wind. This mix of colour, design, and quilting is so different to what I usually make and I love it! I found the whole process really satisfying and inspiring. The biggest challenge? Trying to get photos on our weekend in the country in full sun with a strong breeze! Thank goodness this old brick shed we found. Not quite the wheat field pictures I had in mind, but lovely (and protected!) just the same.

In the centre of the circles, I almost quilted lines that would look like hot air balloons, but I was too afraid they'd just look like basketballs! So I went with this simple flower so that the circles would still POP! but would have a special feature to draw the eye.
I backed the quilt with a couple of the feature prints from the lines, mixed with other prints from my stash.

Usually custom orders make me feel limited, more like a manufacturer, rather than an artist, and I've really enjoyed the break I've given myself this year to make for friends and ideas. I haven't missed the constant evaluation of time and price, which usually led to less experimentation and a safer mix of colour. In this instance, I offered my work for free, which enabled me to play, without worrying about keeping my hourly rate above sweat-shop level.
For me it throws into question what I want my sewing to be for me (a successful business? A means of creative expression and sanity in the baby years? A hobby that pays for itself?) but I'm enjoying the things I'm learning, both personally and creatively, while I let the question float a while...