This post is part of the Tula Pink Sew Along!
Hi! It's Katy from I'm A Ginger Monkey here. Sara asked if I could share my thoughts on the Sizzix Big Shot machine as part of the Sew Sweetness X Tula Pink sew along, she knew I already owned a big shot and had heard me mention over on twitter that I use it a fair amount.
What is a Big Shot?
It's basically a die cutting machine - fabric (or paper, or card or any number of other materials) are safely and precisely cut using blades concealed within a foam case (a die) as they are fed through a set of rollers. The pressure of the rollers pushing onto the die cuts the material. It cuts cleanly, safely and incredibly precisely - each time you cut a shape it's exactly the same size and shape as the previous shape. The Big Shot is a small, compact machine that is light weight and portable and easily stored in a closet or on a shelf.
I've seen these kind of things before and they don't cut fabric on the grain, so there's a risk of stretch and distortion isn't there?
Other machines that use the same principle don't always cut fabric straight on the grain - the blades in the dies are sometimes set at a slight angle. The big shot dies are different, they are completely straight, the only way you'll cut off grain is if you place the fabric itself at an angle. Lay it straight on the die and you'll get straight cut on the grain shapes each and every time.
Don't they waste fabric?
The honest answer here is they can if you want them to, but not if you cut carefully, just as you would when using a ruler and rotary cutter. There will always be some waste with every project, you very rarely use every single last scrap of a yard of fabric in one project.
If you make garments, do you waste a little bit of fabric that is left from where you cut out your pattern? Or when you're cutting shapes that don't tesselate perfectly for quilting? What do you do with those spare bits of leftover fabrics? You put them in your scrap bin, right? I'll tell you what I use my Big Shot for most of all - cutting scraps into 2.5" squares. I have an obsession with 2.5" squares, they're so handy to have. I sit in front of the TV with my Big Shot, my 2" finished square die and a pile of scraps and I cut cut cut. It's the most satisfying thing in the world. The leftover scraps I then keep to one side as strings for other scrappy projects.
This is an example of the kind of quilt you can make using scraps and a 2"finished square.
Pretty cool, huh? I probably have enough pre-cut 2.5" squares for another 3 of those!
I struggle with my wrists, isn't the handle hard to turn?
If you are stood up with the Big Shot on a firm surface like a table top or counter in front of you, the handle is easy to turn, the dies move through smoothly and easily and if you have a problem with your wrists, or your hands and can't grip something like a rotary cutter you can use a Big Shot.
Those blades must dull fast. How often do you need to replace the dies?
I have had my Big Shot since the Spring of this year, and I have used the 2" finished square die to cut literally thousands of squares. It still cuts as well as when I first opened the box. I have since bought a second set of cutting mats (these are around $6 a pair, my first set are still in use, but I now have a back up set as well). Sizzix claim that the dies will last for years, and I don't doubt that - the Big Shot was originally designed for Scrap Bookers and Card Makers. Card stock and paper dull blades way faster than fabric (which is why we never use our good fabric scissors to cut anything other than fabric), but I searched online to find some complaints about the dies losing their cutting ability within the scrap booking community and I couldn't find any complaints.
What else is good about them?
You can cut multiple layers of fabric at once. It varies depending on the kind of fabric (regular quilting cotton I tend to cut 6 layers at a time). You can cut a whole range of different materials - batting, for example for rag quilts, or fabric with fusible web on the back for applique. There is a whole range of fantastic dies that cover just about every type of shape you would want to use, and the range is growing all the time so there will be more added as time goes by.
Cutting shapes that are slightly awkward, such as curves is really simple with the Big Shot.
Oh look - it's Tula cutting some curves on a Big Shot at the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, UK this Summer!