Silhouette Fabric Test

About a two years ago, I moved my long arm sewing machine into the smallest bedroom in our house. When setting up the room, I decided I wanted to stencil a phrase of encouragement on the wall.  Looking on-line, I found that the custom stencil I was thinking about (“Dream it…  Plan it…  Do it!) would be expensive.   Instead of ordering one, I thought I should check out options for a personal cutting machine to make my own stencil.  While more expensive, I realized that if I purchased the cutter, I could use it for a lot of other ideas. So, I purchased a Silhouette Cameo cutting machine, made my own stencil, and it turned out great.

Since then, I have used my Cameo for a few other projects – personalized cards, applique templates, and recently glass etching stencils.  One of the things I never really thought I would try to cut with the Cameo was fabric – I just didn’t think that the blades would not be able to cut smoothly.

However, last week, while reading one of my favorite blogs (Cedar Canyon Textiles), I began to rethink that opinion.  In her blog, Shelly Stokes described her attempts at fabric cutting with a similar cutting machine.  In her description, she commented that from what she had been told and read, you need to “stabilize the dickens” out of fabric, in other words “turn it into paper”.  Realizing that sometimes heavy stabilizer are not wanted, she set up several tests to see if she could cut fabric.  She tested:
– Plain fabric (no stabilizer)
– Fabric stiffened with Totally Stable
– Fabric stiffened with freezer paper
– Fabric fused to Steam A Seam Lite
– Fabric fused to Steam A Seam 2 (not lite)
She found was that fabric alone did not cut well, but when stabilized with Totally Stable and freezer paper the outcome was acceptable (but not perfect) and the fabric retained original feel after the stabilizer was peeled off.  Fabric stabilized with fusible web cut cleanly, with the heavier the fusible web the cleaner the cut.
Since I like to use Misty Fuse when doing applique so that there isn’t a lot of extra bulk, I really don’t want to use a heavy stabilizer when cutting out applique pieces.  So, I decided to do my own experiment.  I liked the freezer paper idea, but thought I would try to enhance that approach to make the fabric stiffer for a cleaner cut.
Experiment #1 – Starched fabric with freezer paper


I thought that if I heavily starched the fabric prior to stabilizing on freezer paper, I may get a better result that must freezer paper alone.

I used my own starch spray recipe, to have control over the stiffness created.

Starch Recipe: 1/4 cup Sta-Flo liquid starch
                        1/4 cup Potato Vodka (a natural starch that evaporates quickly)

                        2 cups distilled water

This recipe makes a fairly stiff starch spray (for normally pressing when I am quilting, I omit the Sta-Flo from the recipe).  The starch in the Potato Vodka gives a very nice, soft feel to the fabric while pressing very smooth.

After starching, I fused freezer paper to the back of the fabric, attached it to the sticky cutting mat and loaded it into the Cameo cutter. The cut file that I had created included some basic shapes with straight lines and curved lines. I also included an intricate butterfly to see how well the details could be cut.

The Cameo cut the basic shapes really well.  But, the details of the butterfly were less than impressive. The blade tended to pull the fabric when moving.

So, I thought – what if I load the Cameo with the fabric “sandwiched” between the cutting mat and the freezer paper?  Would this keep the blade from pulling on the fabric?

Experiment #2 – Starched fabric with freezer paper above the fabric

After starching and fusing to freezer paper, the fabric was and loaded it into the Cameo cutter with the freezer paper facing upward. This configuration  meant that the fabric was sandwiched between the sticky cutting mat and the freezer paper.

I was amazed to watch the Cameo cut the basic shapes and the details of the butterfly with great precision!

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