One of the big things I wanted to understand about my Silhouette Cameo cutting machine was how to cut fabric. At the conference I attended, and in the instructions I have read, everyone called for stabilizing the dickens out of the fabric (making it more like paper) before cutting it with the machine.
But what about times when we don’t want fusible web? Iron-on sticky stuff is not always welcome! Think about needle-turn applique – or hand piecing. There are times when we want our fabric straight up! (And if you’re thinking that I’m not exactly a hand applique kind of gal, you can thank my friend Joan Ford for putting this notion in my noggin.)
At any rate, it was clearly time for a Silhouette Fabric Test to see if I could see if there might be a way to cut fabric without turning it into a board.
For my tests, I chose 5 options: Plain fabric, fabric stiffened with peel-away stabilizers, and fabric stabilized with light and heavy fusible web. We’ll talk about the first three options here and dig into the final two options in the next post.
I love the long 12 x 24 mat for doing tests because I can run several tests in one shot. The blue fabric was not stabilized, the green fabric was stabilized with Sulky’s Totally Stable product, and the red fabric was stabilized with freezer paper.
If you choose to duplicate these tests, be sure to switch over to a new blade. I have a fabric blade (in the blue casing). It’s exactly the same blade, but having a different color housing is an easy way to remember to make the switch. (Cutting paper and other material will dull a blade faster, so it’s the same deal as fabric scissors and paper scissors.)
Option 1: No Stabilizer
For the first test, I attempted to cut the shapes without any stabilizer. As you can see, the result not good. The fabric did not adhere to the stick cutting mat well enough, and it shifted as the blade dragged through the fabric. Before throwing in the towel, I wanted to see if taping the edges of the fabric to the mat would help.
Securing the edges of the fabric with blue painter’s tape was considerably more successful. Two of the shapes cut cleanly, and there were just a few threads hanging on the other two shapes.
I chose not to apply the painter’s tape on the edges where the rollers grip the mat. The rollers are all-important to feeding the mat through the machine properly. It’s best to keep everything off the edges of the mat so they can do their job.
Option 2: Stabilized with Totally Stable (Sulky)
I added a layer of Sulky’s iron-on/peel-off stabilizer to the green fabric. It works much like freezer paper, but it is softer and more cloth-like. I also taped the top and bottom edges of both the green and red fabrics to eliminate any shifting during the cutting.
Option 3: Stabilized with Freezer Paper
Next, I cut the same shapes from the red fabric backed with freezer paper. The cuts were clean, but I did notice that the fabric pulled away from the freezer paper a bit during the cutting. Even so, the results were pretty darn good.
Comparison: Totally Stable v. Freezer Paper
The edges of the green shape (attached to Totally Stable) were slightly cleaner than the edges of the red fabric (attached to freezer paper). But the difference was not enough that I would encourage anyone to go out and buy something they don’t already have on hand.
Both freezer paper and Totally Stable are easily peeled away from the fabric, and the fabric is back to its original state. If you’re cutting fabric for needle-turn applique or hand piecing, this is definitely the way to go!
Check Your Cut Settings
I pretty excited with my Silhouette Fabric Test, but it’s not quite as easy as just putting pieces of fabric on the mat and clicking on the GO button. In truth, the stabilizer is only part of the story. When you are working with a Silhouette cutter, the Cut Settings are always the bottom line for successful cutting.
To cut fabric like quilting cottons and batiks on a Silhouette Cameo, use these options in the Cut Setting window:
- Under Material Type, chose Fabric (Thin fabric like cotton prints)
- Reduce the Speed to 1
- Check the Double Cut option
- Set Line Segment Overcut to ON
- Set the Start Extension and End Extension to .9mm (the highest it will go)
Over on the machine, I set the ratchet blade to a depth of 3. (The setting you see in the software does NOT change the blade depth on the machine. You have to do that yourself.)
As always, you will need to make your own test cuts to make sure these settings work for you. Lots of variables affect cutting and you may need to make slightly different adjustments. (But that’s a whole ‘nother story…)
Do you cut fabric on a Silhouette machine? Are there any special tricks or settings that work especially well for you? Chime in below. I’m still learning to use my machine, and I would love to hear any tips you can share.