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.
As you can see, the stabilized fabric cut cleanly. Woohoo!
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.
Cheryl Wood says
I love that you are testing fabric on the machine.
I’ve cut everything but fabric on my Cameo. I’ve even cut thin craft metal.
I’ve been taking weekly online classes for my machine from Nikki’s Institches Academy for over a year. We’ve only touched on fabric once or twice so it was great to read your blog.
Thanks for chiming in, Cheryl. There is a ton of good information and classes built around the Silhouette machines, but most are related to crafting, paper arts, a gazillion uses for vinyl and applique for machine embroidery. I will be exploring how we can use the Silhouette Cameo for quilting and fabric art, along with ventures into the world of mixed media. I’d love to have you share your experience as we move along!
Chris Gillig says
Thank you for the information. I need to try this.
Give it a whirl, Chris. It has tons of possibilities!
Sherrie Chapman says
Just read a book by Lara Buccella called Crafted Applique..she coats the wrong side of the fabric with various types of Modge Podge, lets it dry, and then uses it in an electronic cutter…haven’t tried this but it sounds like an option…
Now there’s an interesting option! There are lots of ways to stabilize fabric, but I don’t think I would have considered Mod Podge if you had not mentioned it. Thanks to the reference to Lara’s book. 🙂
Carol Best says
Welcome to the digital die cutting world, Shelly!!
I have been teaching the Silhouette only for fabric lovers for awhile now. One more thing to try is to starch your fabric for non-stabilizer option, works like a charm!
My April class is all about working with appliqué if you are interested!
It’s great to hear from you, Carol. You’re so right about using starch – or going all in and using something really stiff like Terial Magic. I really wanted to see if there was a way to cut without adding any stiffness to the fabric. Most of the time, a little starch is welcome. But sometimes we want our fabric straight up. I’m glad to hear that you are part of the Silhouette sisterhood. Let’s connect over on email.
Carol Best says
Starch is less stiff than Terial Magic and cheaper :-). I tend to use freezer paper templates and starch to turn under my edges so starch on the fabric to cut is the ticket for me. Take care and hope the water returns soon!!
No worries, Carol. We were only without water for 4 or 5 hours. Not exactly a huge emergency… 🙂
Wendy Bain says
I was thinking of starch, too. Do you just use spray starch, Carol? I often spray starch 2-3 times before I use my rotary cutter when quilting, because it improves my accuracy a lot. Just getting into using my Cameo, so thanks for this series, Shelly!
You’re so welcome, Wendy. You are in good company — lots of us have the machines — we just need to learn more about them. (Including me!)
Spray starch will work much the same as Terial Magic. Your fabric will not be quite as stiff, but any type of additional stability makes for better cutting.
Janice Skene says
I love that you are sending info about cutting fabric on the Silhouette Cameo. That is the main reason that I bought mine. I have a Big Shot that I also use but the Silhouette gives many more options.
Hi Janice! Good to hear from you. The die cutting machines are wonderful, but very limiting — unless you have a huge budget for ordering custom dies. What I love about the Silhouette is the ability to resize, stretch, modify — and transform shapes in almost any way we can imagine. Once we figure out the proper cut settings, the sky’s the limit!
Gretchen Brooks says
I too have experimented with fabric cutting, but I am interested in cutting very intricate, almost filigree type of cuts, for which a heavy (Heat and Bond ultra) stabilizer works quite well. For cuts that do not involve sharp points and vees, I have successfully used lite fusible stabilizers and sometimes can use the fabric stiffener, Terial Magic, which then washes out.
You’re right about the fusibles, Gretchen. We’ll get into that with next week’s post. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Terial Magic. (It was highly recommended at the All Things Silhouette conference.) I’ll have to get some and check it out.
I can recommend using Terial Magic. It stiffens the fabric very well and cuts beautifully (I have an opposition brand cutter) and best of all it washes out so you do not need to retain the stiffness. I cut a lot of fabric and think the electronic cutters are fabulous for this.
Thanks for chiming in on the Terial Magic, Dianne. I’ll definitely have to give it a whirl.
I am so excited about learning to use my Silhouette. I got mine for Christmas but haven’t used it yet. With your info Shelly I no longer feel intimidated! Thank you!!!!!
Great! By the way, we’re just getting started. Stay tuned for a class at the beginning of June!
Peggy Lawton says
I agree with Debbie, I may now have the courage to get mine out again and rethink it. Thanks Shelley
You’re so welcome, Peggy. These marvelous machines can unlock a world of possibilities. We just have to jump in and learn more about them!
sandra bingham says
I have the Brother ScanNCut…..and a few days ago experimented with TERIAL Magic spray – on fabric……….Fantastic. Costs money of course ! but no hassle whatsoever,. The fabric THINKS it’s paper and the cut is as good as if it were paper.
SO have a go; I did NOT follow the instructions to soak– but having washed the fabric, then sprayed until pretty wet over a bowl……squeezed out into the bowl and let dry naturally and ironed. Slight stiffness – but can be washed out.
Thanks for the additional tips, Sandra. I can see I need to login and place an order today! 😉
laurie bay says
I also use Terial magic on my scan and cut and it works really well and is the most economic option I have found.
Hey Laurie, it’s good to hear from you. Yet another fan of electronic cutting machines!
Terial Magic on the way. From all the positive comments, I’m sure it will come in handy/
Marilyn Turner says
I found you get a cleaner cut, no matter what the stabilizer, if you put the fabric side down on the cutting mat and cut with the stabilizer on top. Just remember to reverse your design first!
That’s a fabulous tip, Marilyn. It never occurred to me to flip it over to fabric side down. And that brings up another question… Do you leave the paper backing attached if you are using fusible web? I feel another experiment coming on!