This post is sponsored by Cricut and contains affiliate links.
I’ve shared a few posts previously about using the Cricut Maker digital die cutting machine to cut fabric, including a scalloped bunting and a quilt kit. Today I want to share a little more about it’s capabilities for cutting custom quilt blocks because I think it’s one of the coolest functions of this machine.
And I’m going to show you how to get perfect half-square triangle blocks without having to square-up or trim all of those dog ears. It’s true!!
First a little background on the Cricut Maker and then more details on specific shape cutting.
I have used and reviewed multiple different fabric die-cutting systems previously. I can honestly say that the Cricut Maker has become my favorite system for cutting fabric because of the infinite possibilities it can produce.
Most die-cut systems require “dies” that cut one specific shape and so in order to cut multiple shapes with the cutters, you need to buy multiple separate dies for every shape. And those dies add up!
The thing I love about the Cricut Maker is the fact that it can cut any shape at any size you want! You can custom design the pieces you need for your traditional quilt blocks and have the machine do all of the work. I’m going to show you some examples below.
The additional feature that makes this digital die-cut machine different from other digital (electronic) die-cutting systems is that it’s the only one that has the ability to cut regular fabric without having a stabilizer like Heat n Bond ironed to the back. The reason this works is the unique Rotary-cutter tool that is part of the unique Adaptive Tool system
The Cricut Rotary Blade is one part of this Adaptive Tool system – meaning there are multiple different blades and pens that fit into the system. The Rotary Blade and the fine point blade (for paper, vinyl, felt, etc.) are both included with the Cricut Maker. (Other blades like the knife blade and the bonded fabric blade are sold separately.)
The Rotary Blade only works in the Cricut Maker machine (not previous versions of Cricut cutters.) For more details on the different blades that work with the Maker you can read my introductory post. For more details specifically about the Cricut Rotary Blade attachment, check out this post by Melissa of the Polkadot Chair.
Today I want to focus on the possibilities for cutting your own shapes for making quilt blocks.
A die-cut system may not be for everyone. I realize that some shapes would I could probably cut faster and with less waste using a rotary cutter, ruler, and mat – which is true of any die-cutting system. But cutting specialty shapes like hexagons or circles is where the accuracy of a die-cut system can really save time and improve the accuracy of the shape. They can also be a huge help for anyone who struggles with repetitive movement, has limited mobility, or chronic arm or wrist pain.
And as with any die cut system, there will be some fabric waste, but another thing I really like about the Maker is there is more efficient use of fabric. When designing your shapes to be cut, you can easily edit them in the on-screen design canvas software and see where each shape will be cut on the fabric. This allows multiple sizes and shapes to be cut at once for the most efficient use of material and much less waste. That is definitely an added bonus for me.
The first option is to use the Cricut Design Space to create custom shapes. The Cricut Design Space is where all designs to be cut are created. There are hundreds of pre-designed options including 31 different Quilt Patterns with pre-programmed shapes ready to cut. (You can read more about my experience with one of the Quilt Patterns and Kits here.)
Or you can make your own using available images, fonts, and shapes. Anyone can create a free account in Cricut Design Space to check out all of the offerings and play with the features, whether you have a Cricut cutting machine or not. There are lots of free designs available, you you can purchase individual designs or sign-up for a membership for unlimited access to the full library. Lots of options.
To create perfect custom shapes for piecing, there are a few different options. You can start with the Shapes option on the side toolbar.
Choose any of the shapes and it will appear on the design table. You can drag the arrows (bottom right corner of the shape) to make the shape any size you want. Or, to make it even easier if you are going for a custom size, you can type in the dimensions on the top toolbar.
You can then copy and paste that shape as many times as you need. Just place them on the design space – you don’t need to worry about lining them up strategically.
When you click the green Make It button in the top right corner, Cricut will automatically place the shapes in the most efficient layout for cutting on the 12″ wide mats. If you have a larger number of shapes Cricut will either divide the cutting into multiple 12″ x 12″ mats, or you can change the size on the drop down menu where it says Material Size (right hand side of the screen) and go as large as the largest cutting mat which is 12″ x 24″.
You can custom create multiple different shapes to be cut from the same fabric. You could easily go in and create a whole screen full of the shapes you need cut for a quilt pattern (as long as one side is always smaller than 12″).
There is another clever method for cutting quilt pieces that is especially efficient if you need to cut multiples of the same shape. Cricut is gradually rolling out Quilt Cartridges – this is a traditional quilt shape available in multiple size options starting from (finished shapes) 1″ to 10.5″. The first four shapes available are Half Hexagons, Half Square Triangles, Hexagons, and Squares. You do pay extra for each shape cartridge.
(To find these click on Images on the left hand toolbar. Click Cartridges in the top right corner and search ‘quilt’ or try this link.)
There are 18-22 different size shapes in each cartridge going up a half inch in size. Here are the hexagon shapes. First of all, I think it’s great that I can just choose the finished size shape that I need and go.
When you open the cartridge you get four different grouping options for each size hexagon – a grouping that will fit on a 12″ x 12″ cutting mat, a grouping that will fit on a 12″ x 24″ cutting mat, a smaller grouping and a single shape. You can choose whichever grouping fits you need depending on the number of pieces you need. Here are the groupings for the 1 1/2″ (blue) unfinished hexagons and the 3 1/2″ unfinished hexagons for an idea of scale.
I love the hexagons especially because to me, they are a pain to cut out manually. AND the fact that they are laid out in a honeycomb fashion means no fabric waste when you’re cutting a lot of them.
Assuming I only need a small number of them, I can choose the single shape and copy and repeat it multiple times to get the exact number I need.
Another great use for these shapes is cutting the paper templates for English Paper Piecing!
I just used regular cardstock and ran it through the machine and got dozens of paper hexagon templates. (Keep in mind, these hexagons are measured by the height of the shape from flat bottom to flat top, not by the length of the side like when you buy paper templates from other sources.)
Remember to change your blade to the the Fine Point blade for cutting paper. (The good news is that the smart machine will remind you if you forget when you select what material you are cutting before you start.)
Then I cut my fabric pieces. I chose the paper templates at the size I wanted my finished hexagons and then set my fabric hexagons to cut at the size 1/2″ larger.
I love to glue-baste my fabric to the paper template in preparation for hand sewing them together.
I will cut a smaller number of hexagons in multiple different fabrics to create my hexi-flower blocks. I did manually fussy-cut the center flower print. If you want to fussy-cut something, then manually is the only way to do it. But, if you need to cut multiple hexagons from the same fabric, this saves so much time! (The fabric is from my latest fabric collection, Gretel.)
The Maker makes it super slick to prepare both my paper templates an my fabric hexagons all at once. (If you are looking for a simple tutorial for the sewing part of English Paper Piecing, I recommend Sue Daley.)
The other cartridge I especially love is the Half Square Triangle cartridge. It’s amazing! Once again you’ve got 20 different sizes to choose from. Be sure to pick based on the finished size of the half-square triangle block (a square made up of 2 triangles on the diagonal) that you need.
Once again, the cartridge gives a selection of multiple numbers of half-square triangle shapes per size for maximum cutting efficiency.
This run through cut 24 perfect triangles so quickly. But here is the best part. Not only does it quickly cut multiple half-square triangles quickly and efficiently, it pre-cuts out the dog ears for you.
Yes, I just put that in bold italics for a reason. This is such a hug time saver!!
After cutting all of my individual triangles, I simply matched up the two different triangles and chain sewed them quickly through my machine.
As long as I was careful with my 1/4″ seam allowance and made sure the seam ran from corner to corner, the blocks turned out perfectly every time.
No trimming dog ears and no squaring-up needed! (And I’m usually a stickler about squaring up!)
Amazing! I may cut all my future half-square triangles this way – especially when you need to cut a lot from the same fabrics. It was a huge timesaver!!
The squares cartridge is also very handy when you need to cut lots of squares the same size from the same fabric.
As of right now, Hexagons, Half Square Triangles, Squares, and Half Hexagons are the only cartridges available, but Cricut confirmed they are planning to roll out more shapes like different diamonds and parallelograms as well as dresden wedges! All shapes that typically take much longer to cut by hand.
One more quick thought about the Cricut Rotary Blade. As we all know, all blades dull after a lot of use. I’ve been curious to see when I noticed a need to change this blade. I’m pleasantly surprised to report that I’ve used this same rotary attachment for all of the projects I’ve cut in the past year and it is still going strong. I haven’t been using it non-stop in that amount of time, but it has still handled more use than I expected it to!
Eventually, as with every rotary blade, it will need to be replaced and Cricut has a simple kit for safely replacing the blade, but in the meantime, I’ve been impressed by the longevity of the blade on the Rotary attachment.
I’ve had fun working on this traditional Shoofly quilt block and will be sharing a tutorial for this mini quilt in the upcoming weeks.
If you have any questions about the Cricut Maker, feel free to ask in the comments section.
The majority of the fabrics in this post are made with my Gretel collection for Riley Blake Designs.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Cricut. The opinions and text are all mine.