Hello, Quilters! A day in the life of a quilter involves cutting different fabrics and stitching them together to create some awe-inspiring works. But using manual rotary cutters or scissors can make what’s supposed to be a fun-filled activity extremely tiring and demanding. That’s why it’s important to invest in a die cutter that’s specifically meant for cutting fabric.
At this point, it’s important for us to wade into the digital vs. manual die cut debate. And from our observations, digital machines only seem to work best when one only needs to cut a few fabric pieces every so often.
However, if you’re looking for a machine that you can use full-time, then a manual die cutting machine would be a much better choice. In particular, these cutters provide you with the freedom to cut bigger dies plus they can also cut multiple layers of fabric at once.
It also goes without saying that manual cutters are quite easy to use. This is especially the case considering the fact that there are no blades involved and, therefore, one doesn’t need to waste time experimenting with different blade depth settings.
1. Sizzix Big Shot
The Big Shot is one of the most effective manual die cutters for fabrics. The versatile machine boasts a 6” wide opening and is meant for both cutting and embossing functions.
One thing we couldn’t help but notice about it is that it has some pretty large sides. As such, you can comfortably use it to work with some pretty large dies. What’s more? The machine weighs in at well over 7.5lbs – as such, it isn’t too challenging to move around.
It’s pretty easy to use the Big Shot. You only need to place the material you intend to cut in between the cutting plates. Then simply follow the directions provided on the multipurpose platform. That will help you get the correct thickness level before you send any work through this machine.
Yet another thing we really like about it is that it has an easy-to-turn handle. Generally, the machine is quite sturdy – plus its rubber feet protect it from moving when embossing or cutting. And the best part is that this machine can handle almost everything thrown at it, besides fabric of course.
Some extra materials that you can use this machine to cut include:
- Craft aluminum
- Metallic foil
Yet another good reason to fall in love with the Big Shot is the fact that it’s capable of working with a wide variety of dies. For instance, it can work with dies from Accqucquilt, Anna Griffin, QuicKut, Spellbinders, and Cuttlebug dies.
So, that pretty much sums up the fact that the Big Shot is one of the most versatile machines available today.
- Protected by a 3-year warranty
- Can work with dies from different manufacturers
- Easy to move from one place to another
- It’s a multipurpose cutter than can also emboss
- Its sides don’t fold up
- Its handle screw needs some work
2. Cricut Cuttlebug
This is yet another one of the highly sought-after cutting and embossing machines. A quick look at it reveals that it’s cleverly built. In fact, unlike the Big Shot, this one has sides that can be folded up and even tucked away. What’s more? The side handle can also be tucked away. So, it’s much easier to transport than the Big Shot.
Apart from fabrics, the Cuttlebug can be used to cut a wide variety of materials among them cardstock, thin felt, chipboard, tissue paper, and even fun foam.
Indeed, the device comes with a 1-year warranty. That’s beside the fact that it’s extremely easy to maintain – in fact, it doesn’t need anything other than just to be kept clean.
In our opinion, the Cuttlebug is a decent machine and its price is quite appealing. In fact, the only gripe we could pick with this device is that you’d need a C plate for it. This plate is sold separately which is unlike before when the original version of this machine used to be sold.
It’s still not clear why Cricut decided to no longer keep the C plate. But why do you need it anyway? Well, the plate comes in handy when you need to use dies from other companies such as Spellbinders and Sizzix.
So, it’s safe to say that, unless you buy the C plate, separately, the Cuttlebug would be a less versatile die cutting device compared to the Big Shot.
- Well built
- 1-year warranty
- Can cut a wide variety of materials
- With the C plate, you can use multiple dies
- Easy to transport
- The C plate is sold separately
- Limited to a 6-inch opening not compatible with A2 and 5×7
3. Sizzix Big Shot Pro
The Big Shot Pro came into the limelight in 2009 when Ellison acquired Sizzix. Like its sibling, the Big Shot, the Pro is specifically designed for embossing and cutting.
Once again, this is a manual cutter which means it doesn’t require a mat to cut fabric. And the best part is that its unique design makes it possible to cut multiple layers of fabric with it. Indeed, the Pro stands out with its generous dimensions of 24 1/4 x 15 x 7 1/2 inches. That means it’s almost twice as large as the Big Shot in length.
Another awesome thing about it is that its mouth can comfortably cut materials of up to 13 inches. So, if you’re thinking of taming some huge pieces of cloth, you can easily do so using this machine.
The fact that it’s almost twice as large as its sibling the Big Shot might make it seem a bit bulky. Fortunately, its boat-like design and feel make it pretty easy to handle. Plus its bottom is hollow providing you with some extra space to stash your knick-knacks.
In total, this Pro weighs 44 pounds which makes it a bit challenging to move around. On a positive note, though, this weight prevents unnecessary movement while one is working using the machine which is quite a common challenge with the Cuttlebug and Big Shot machines.
- Can be used with both Ellison and Sizzix dies
- A huge mouth can accommodate up to 13-inch materials
- Cuts and embosses all in one pass
- A bit bulky and, therefore, not easily portable
- Doesn’t come with a multipurpose platform
4. Accuquilt Go! Fabric Cutter
If you’re looking for a machine that’s powerful but not too heavy, we’d suggest you take a closer look at what the Accuquilt Go! Fabric Cutter has to offer. The machine is quite powerful and that’s because it weighs 15lbs which is almost twice as much as the Big Shot weighs. As you know, the heavier the machine, the easier it is to use and the more powerful it’s likely to be.
And to eliminate any potential, portability challenges, the fabric cutter comes with sides that easily fold up. This creative, space-saving design makes it easy to pack up and transport.
What’s more? The cutter can comfortably cut up to 6 layers of cotton all at once. And best of all, it can take 10-inch x 24-inch dies. The icing on the cake is that the outstanding design of this machine comes in handy in reducing arm strain.
This also reduces cut time allowing you to quilt more. And at the same time, you can count on it to make precise cuts every time.
- Highly portable
- Extremely easy to use
- Light in weight
- Capable of cutting up to 6 layers at once
- Packaged with the Go Value die
- Limited die choices provided
5. Accuquilt Go! Baby
The Accuquilt Go! Baby is the Accuquilt Go! Fabric Cutter’s younger brother. But unlike its big brother, it’s a whole lot easier to transport. In fact, it weighs a paltry 8 pounds making it a go-to cutter when portability is of the essence.
And don’t let the name Baby fool you. This cute little kid can cut fabric at speeds 90% faster than the scissors and manual rotary cutters. What’s more? You also get razor-sharp precision with every cut.
In keeping up with other leading die cutters in the industry, the Go Baby model comes with a crank handle. So, you won’t need electricity or batteries for it. And best of all, its comfortable grip ensures you retain ample control of the cutting process all the time.
On top of that, the Baby boasts an easy-to-lift handle which makes it quite convenient to bring with you when heading out for quilting bees, classes, and retreats.
Lastly, it’s backed by a 1-year limited warranty, which ensures that you get good value for your money even if, in case, there’s a manufacturer’s flaw involved.
- Light in weight
- Great for achieving precise cuts
- Highly portable
- Can be used with fabrics
- Compatible with 60% of Go dies
- Can be tricky to use when cutting multiple layers
Before you settle for any die cutting machine, it’s important to think about what you specifically want to accomplish. For instance, you want to figure out just how much fabric you’ll be cutting. If you’re planning to be cutting quite a lot of fabrics every day, then we’d suggest going for the Sizzix Big Shot. Want a functional machine that’s also a space saver? Consider either the Cuttlebug or the Accuquilt Go! Baby. Looking for extra cutting space? The Accuquilt Go! Fabric and the Sizzix Big Shot Pro would be your best bets.