OK, so I was out with friends on an errand run, and we all stood at Joann Fabrics in front of a display of interesting, new little machines from Simplicity. Most of them had no appeal for me, because I am not a frequent quilter, but there was one that looked to be a great asset to my workroom. I tried, but could not resist purchasing the Simplicity Rotary Cutting Machine, on sale for $60.
As you can see, it is a tiny little thing that looks like a sewing machine, except that there is a rotary cutting blade instead of a sewing machine needle. The machine cuts by pressure between the blade (which is not actually sharp) and a metal wheel under the feeding bed. There is a little screw that you can use to adjust the pressure between the wheel and the blade, similar to a screw on your sewing machine’s bobbin case.
Now, before I opened the box, I read a little on the Internet about this machine, and some of the first impressions were that it does not work very well. However, after more in-depth reading, it seemed to me that perhaps these complainers had not actually read the instructions, which specifically state that you should not expect it to cut well right out of the box – it needs adjustment.
The machine has been designed for quilters, in order to cut strips for piecing, or to cut strips which can then be run through Simplicity’s related bias tape-making machine. I bought it for two reasons. For one, I work often in paper crafts where I use a rotary cutter to cut things like ATCs and small strips for collage. Secondly, I often recycle cotton fabrics for use in my hollander beater to make pulp for papermaking. Cutting those fabrics up into little squares for processing takes a while, and is hard on my hands. So, I thought I’d give it a whirl.
Out of the box, the first thing that I noticed is that the machine’s pedal is poorly designed. It has a combo plug from the pedal – part of which runs to the machine, and the other part which plugs into the wall. Unfortunately, while the pedal-to-machine cord is long enough to reach to the floor, the pedal-to-wall power cord is very, very short, making it so that you can’t plug it into the wall and still be able to put the pedal on the floor where you are working. Still, I solved it with an extension cord, which worked nicely. Or, you could take my daughter’s route, and put the pedal on the table to operate with your elbow while you feed.
I have to say that I am pretty impressed with this machine. Here are some things I have tried through it.
1. Index card stock – cuts like a dream, and very quickly. When the card stock comes out the other side, it may seem still attached, but the two pieces are very easy to separate from each other with a little snapping motion, such as you would use to separate perforated paper. The edges have a slight, rough, deckle sort of edge which is probably only noticeable to me since I have been making razor-sharp edges with my hand rotary cutter for years. A huge plus is that this machine has a little guide that can be set at widths between 3/8″ and 2 3/4″ (I really wish it went to 3 1/2″). The cuts are extremely accurate as you feed them through, which was nice for my daughter, who often has trouble with the ruler slipping when she uses a rotary cutter. We all know guillotines are none too accurate, either.
2. Poly-cotton muslin – ripped right through with a nice, clean edge. It was very easy to feed, due to the sizing.
3. Kona Cotton – had been hand-dyed, so therefore washed, with no sizing residue. It is slightly thicker than most quilting cotton. It also whizzed right through with nice edges.
4. recycled cotton t-shirt – this was not as easy to manage. Because of the fabric’s stretchiness and tendency for the edges to roll, it went through the machine at a slower pace, and I had to be careful to keep it fed evenly or it would bind up on the blade. I wasn’t entirely sure a hand rotary cutter would not be faster, but this machine is darn-sure easier on the hands. It took me about 10 minutes to reduce the front and back of a medium-sized t-shirt to 1 1/4 inch strips. I will have to cross-cut with scissors or a rotary cutter, but more than half the hard work has now been done.
5. Cotton corduroy – the finer wale – cut like a dream, and I cut across the wales
6. burlap – didn’t cut at all
7. Nylon organza – cut beautifully.
8. Acrylic felt – didn’t cut at all, but this felt had been painted with Dye-Na-Flow, so I will try a regular piece of felt and see if that’s better.
In conclusion, for my purposes, this machine is a wonder. I expect I’ll be able to recycle fabrics for papermaking with wonderful ease and less stress on my hands. It can handle fairly heavy fabric, though I couldn’t lay my hands on any twill or denim to try. If it cuts those fabrics, I will be golden. It will make cutting strips for ATCs much easier.
Looks like I’m going to need the extension table. It also comes with a pinking blade, and you can buy extra decorative blades for $4 each. The blades supposedly last longer than a traditional rotary blade because the machine cuts by pressure and not sharpness.
Check it out!