Fast And Accurate Cutting With QuiltCut
|January 6, 2003||in Product Reviews|
A review of
from Alto’s EZ Mat
Alto’s QuiltCut Fabric Cutting System is really a “system.” It includes a heavy tabletop platform, a rotary cutting mat, a fabric clamp, a cutting guide on tracks, and a Speed Gauge for setting up repetitive cuts.
The system is built on the tabletop platform, which also keeps the rotary mat from sliding around. The fabric clamp holds the fabric in place for cutting.
The acrylic cutting guide takes the place of a ruler, and has a knob to make it easy to position. And the Speed Gauge helps make repetitive cuts without doing any math. The Alto’s QuiltCut is really a good idea well implemented.
The QuiltCut system makes cutting strips, squares, triangles, diamonds, and other shapes faster and easier. The flexibility in the movement of the cutting guide reduces the repositioning of fabric, saving time and reducing cutting errors.
The tracks for the cutting guide eliminate the most common cause of bad cuts: ruler slippage. The QuiltCut cutting guide rides inside grooves in the tracks. The full 2-1/2-inch width of the cutting guide engages the track, keeping the guide from moving side to side or shifting when you cut.
The Speed Gauge is an arm that attaches to the cutting guide. It projects beyond the cutting edge of the cutting guide by the width of the strips you’re cutting, so you can cut multiple strips without any math.
Just set the Speed Gauge to the size of the strip or patch that you want to cut, up to five inches. Align the edge of the Speed Gauge with the edge of the uncut fabric. Make your cut, then align the Speed Gauge with the new edge of the uncut fabric and you’re ready to cut your next strip. This couldn’t be any easier!
Before making any cuts, I watched the 15-minute instructional video that comes with the QuiltCut. All the features are demonstrated using strips which are then cut into squares, triangles, and other shapes.
The demo impressed me because the movements involved were so smooth and easy. No fighting with the fabric or the rulers. The fabric, once clamped into place, stayed on the cutting surface without moving until the finished shape was cut.
This made the process seem so easy. I like the idea of picking up shapes off the board ready to sew instead of cutting all the strips, then placing them individually back on the board for sub-cutting. This reduces the handling and aligning of strips and the resulting errors that can occur.
In addition to the video, Alto’s publishes a pattern book, Pretty And Pieced, especially for the QuiltCut. But it doesn’t come with the QuiltCut — you have to buy it separately. I wasn’t terribly impressed with the book, as you’ll discover if you read my review.
Read my review of Pretty And Pieced
For my tests, I put fabric under the fabric clamp. The clamp only rises a very little over the surface of the mat, so I had a little trouble feeding the fabric under the clamp.
Once I got the fabric under the clamp, but before I could lock it in, the weight of the fabric hanging over the end of the table pulled the fabric out of the clamp and onto the floor. That didn’t happen on the video!
I got it right the next time. Later, I discovered that feeding the fabric from the cutting-board side of the clamp gives me better control and more fabric to hang onto.
With the fabric locked in place, I was ready to begin. I chose an Olfa Deluxe 45mm rotary cutter since I was only going to cut four layers of fabric at a time. If I were going to cut more layers, I would choose a 60mm rotary cutter.
Read my review of the Olfa Deluxe Rotary Cutter
Instead of using a ruler to cut along, the QuiltCut uses a cutting guide that you align with marks on the cutting mat. The cutting guide is clear acrylic, with no markings. It has a square knob for lifting, making it easy to place it perfectly in line with the grid on the mat.
The cutting guide slides along a track on one of the sides of the mat for cutting strips, or along a track at right-angles to the side tracks for sub-cutting strips into pieces. The side track can be positioned on either the right or the left side of the mat. I set the track on the right side, since I’m right-handed.
But I can use my rotary cutter in either hand. I found that using my left hand while cutting with the guide on the right hand track allowed me to get closer to the zero line on the cutting mat.
In the video that comes with the QuiltCut, moving the track from one side to the other seems very easy. But it’s not as easy in practice – it’s very hard to pull the track out of its slot in the tabletop platform.
Cutting Strips And Shapes
I found cutting strips to be very easy. Because you don’t slide the cutting guide along the fabric, you get more precise strips and have to straighten the fabric edge much less often. And the handy knob makes picking up the cutting guide very easy.
For cutting shapes, you can angle the cutting guide at 45 degrees, 60 degrees, or 90 degrees. The 45-degree position is used for cutting half-square triangles or 45-degree diamonds. The 60-degree position is good for 60-degree diamonds used in Tumbling Blocks. And 90 degrees, of course, is for squares and rectangles.
Both angle positions are easy to set and require no measuring, thanks to pre-set stops at 45 and 60 degrees. The cutting guide will handle any angle from 30 degrees to 150, but you need to measure the angle if it is other than 45, 60, or 90 degrees.
In addition to indicating the cutting line, the cutting guide also holds the fabric in place. I found it much easier to get good, straight cuts using the QuiltCut than I usually get by holding a ruler in place.
Easier cutting isn’t all that the QuiltCut has to offer. The QuiltCut can also be used as a worktable, making it easier to mark sewing or cutting lines on strips or pieces.
Using a speed-piecing method for making half-square triangles (HSTs), I used the cutting guide to draw cutting lines on strips. Then I sewed pairs of strips together. I returned the sewn strips to the QuiltCut to cut the strips into finished blocks made from two HSTs.
The video says the QuiltCut will easily cut through 10 or more layers. I found it a little difficult getting more than six to eight layers under the fabric clamp, but it was certainly doable. How many layers you cut through, however, still depends on how much strength you have.
I wouldn’t call the QuiltCut portable, but it is transportable. It is over 28 inches long, 19-1/2 inches wide and made from 3/4-inch-thick particle board, making it quite heavy. But if you want to take it along, Alto’s publishes a pattern for making your own QuiltCut Tote-Bag.
The only real drawback to the QuiltCut that I found was the price. At $160, many quilters will find this product too expensive, especially if they do mostly applique.
But as soon as I get more quilting space, I plan to get one of these handy tools. The time savings and the quality of cuts that I get using the QuiltCut Fabric Cutting System makes it a good investment for me.
Another big Quilter’s Review “Thank you!” to Bittersweet Fabric Shop for lending me the Alto’s QuiltCut Fabric Cutting System. I got to use it at home for several days to get the real feel of this nice quilting tool. I really appreciate their kindness and help in my reviews.
Bittersweet Fabric Shop in Boscawen, New Hampshire, is a Janome Sewing Machine dealer, a Handi Quilter dealer and an Alto’s dealer. And they carry fabric and notions too.
Dave, Don, and Audrey have extended me the same wonderful customer service that they provide all their customers. What a great shop!
Where To Buy: QuiltCut Fabric Cutting System