Saturday, April 10, 2010

My Thoughts on the AccuQuilt Go! Fabric Cutter

Several quilters have asked me my opinion of the new AccuQuilt Go! fabric cutter ever since I purchased one. The overall answer is: I like it. There are both things I like as well as dislike about it. It makes cutting my fabric scraps much faster. This is a tumbler quilt top I made from scraps I had on hand. I used the AccuQuilt Go! cutter to cut the tumbler shapes for this simple lap-sized quilt. At the time I cut these fabrics I was working through piles of fabric from a couple boxes of scraps I had accumulated over several years. I'm a fairly frugal person so I do not usually throw away a scrap of fabric that is larger than 2 1/2" square. After all, I spent good money on that fabric! And I love scrappy quilts! My thinking is, "Why throw away something that I can use." Admittedly that means I tend to hang onto things that others might throw away. Now it seems many more people have come back around to the "Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle" concept that I picked up growing up. I know we frugal types have been around for a long time. Recycling just goes in and out of vogue over time.

At the time I was working through those big boxes of scraps I was cutting the largest pieces into 5" squares and tumbler blocks. I have the Go! cutter dies for both these sizes. Here you can see the start of those stacks. My 5" (charm) squares have increased to a larger plastic tub at this point. I have separated them according to color and tried to coordinate them together for future quilts. The tumbler stacks are also color-coordinated at this point. I think they are so easy to sew together. The die cuts off the dog-ear corners so no extra triming is required. I like that feature of the tumbler die.

When I first considered purchasing the AccuQuilt Go! fabric cutter it was because of pain I was experiencing in my right shoulder. When I was working at J&R Vacuum and Sewing I injured my shoulder (rotator cuff, frozen shoulder symptom) after lifting a sewing machine up onto the counter during a machine repair check-in. I felt a hard twinge of pain and heard a pop at the time. The shoulder has hurt every day ever since that time. I went through physical therapy for awhile. The doc said this type of injury would take a good 18 months to heal. I can confirm this length of time, and actually longer, for a fact. There were days it hurt so much I just wanted to cry. It interfered with everything from taking a shower, washing my hair, getting dressed, walking the dogs, carrying anything (weight restriction of not more than 10 pounds for a long time), quilting and other hobbies, etc, etc. The scary thing the doc said is that those people who have this happen often have it happen to the other shoulder at some point, too. I hope and pray that doesn't happen to me. Once is more than enough!! There are times it still pops and goes back into that achey, painful state where it takes a week or so to calm down again. Even when it is in that more calm state, there is still an underlying soreness to it. If I keep busy I can usually keep my mind off it, but later the soreness returns. It is something that is just always there.

Anyway, here I am distracted . . . I mentioned this as a lead-in to the main reason I bought the Go! fabric cutter. The reason for the purchase was to find a less painful way that allowed me to cut quilt fabric. I was having trouble pressing down on my ruler to hold it in place when I cut with my rotary cutter at the time. I tried the Go! cutter at the store and it seemed that I would be able to turn the handle to cut just fine. I take turns cranking the handle with both hands in turn as my shoulder gets tired. But I've found when the cutter is at the proper height on my cutting table it usually goes smoothly. There are times I use my ruler and rotary cutter, and times I use the Go! cutter . . . depending upon how my shoulder is feeling that particular day.

These next couple photos show other size squares I have cut from my fabric scraps. They range in size from 5", 4 1/2", 4", 3 1/2", 3" down to 2 1/2" squares and assorted 2 1/2" strips. I recently also cut some 2" scrap squares for the Scrap Therapy class I took. I figure combining these sizes will give me 12", 9" and 8" blocks for use in a variety of quilts. I love scrap quilts. I have lots of scraps cut and ready to go, even more than you see here. There are probably half a dozen future quilts sitting there in my scrap bins right now ready and waiting to be sewn.

The questions I always get about the AccuQuilt Go! fabric cutter basically revolve around: "Would I recommend the cutter to others?" and "If I were to buy it again, would I, now that I've had the experience of using it?" The answers are both yes and no. Not necessarily in order to those two questions, but depending upon what you are looking for.

If you have shoulder pain or other physical limitations that interfere with your ability to cut fabric, and you are able to crank the handle with ease - Yes, buy the cutter. You will be able to cut your fabric much easier.

If you have lots of scraps and fabric and want to cut them up quickly - Yes, buy the cutter. You can cut through fabric piles faster.

If you like to sew up quilts quickly or sew with a group (such as a church group, guild, as a business) who make quilts quickly - Yes, buy the cutter.

If you have the money for the cutter and a bunch of dies and you are a 'gadget girl' who likes to have cool tools - Yes, buy the cutter.

If you are a perfectionist who likes all their quilt blocks perfectly and precisely cut - No, you might want to re-think this purchase. I know this cutter is advertised as being an ACCUcutter and the advertising tag-line is "Perfect cuts make perfect quilts" (oops! just kidding!) "Better cuts make better quilts". I have found it really is not all that accurate. This was the most disappointing thing about it for me. You see, I can cut with a ruler and rotary cutter more accurately than my Accuquilter Go! fabric cutter can cut. There are still times I do, in fact, use my ruler and rotary cutter exactly for this reason.

In fact, after having first purchased my cutter with it's sample die along with the 5" square die, I returned the 5" die because I thought it was defective. The squares I was getting were not 5" squares. They might measure 5" (or very nearly 5") on one side, but the other opposite measurement was often off. And it would vary from square to square. It was inconsistent - sometimes measuring 1/8" to under a 1/4" off. That just doesn't cut it for me (Pun intended! :) hee! hee!) so I took the first 5" die back to the store (the die itself measured 5"x5" on the blades) and they replaced it with another one which also measured 5"x5" on the blades. I went home and joyfully cut a bunch more squares only to realize they were off, and inconsistent, as well. I re-read instructions. I went on-line to look for hints and tips. I tried cutting less fabric at a time, even only one layer at a time. I was still off.

You will notice on the instructions there is a statement to test-cut your fabric first before cutting all the pieces for a quilt. The direction of the grain is important. The fabric can stretch and move as it is being cut. The instructions are on-line as well as packaged with the cutter.

At this point I still do not always get accurate cuts with the Accuquilt Go! fabric cutter. My better results come with pre-starching the fabric before I cut it. But it still isn't always accurate. If I find a solution I'll be sure to write another post about it. My sewing friend was with me when originally looking at the cutter. After seeing my results, and cutting some fabric herself on my cutter, she said she is glad she did not purchase one.

I am currently using the blocks I've cut, but fudging on my quarter inch seams at times to sew them together. It is aggravating when I have to flip the blocks over and sew a seam from the other side in order to allow my feed-dogs to gather-in one side that I am sewing so that the seams I've pinned together will line up accurately. I have a Pfaff with dual-feed that I like to use, and that defeats the use of having dual-feed. Usually a quilter doesn't want to have their fabric sliding when they are sewing. But when one square is slightly bigger than the one it is supposed to line up with, I lay it so the slightly longer side is down against the feed-dogs, dis-engage the dual-feed, and allow the feed-dogs to ease-in the longer fabric so they line up at the seams that are pinned. It's a hassle. The next big quilt I make with these blocks I will probably try sewing a four-square patch then square up the block before proceeding with sewing them together further. It's an extra step with squaring-up, but would mean I could use my dual-feed as intended and less agravation in the long-run.

I heard there was an AccuQuilt group on Yahoo. I haven't looked there yet, but perhaps they have some info on the slight in-accuracy of the cuts. Obviously it is a result of the fabric moving and shifting during the cutting process. I don't have a good remedy for it yet.

I like having pre-cut squares on hand. There are so many patterns and books available that use the 5" charm square, the 2 1/2" jellyroll strips, and other basic quilt square sizes. When I just want to chill out and do some relaxing, mindless sewing while I watch a movie on DVD, I grab my pre-cut squares and start sewing. That makes having the Go! fabric cutter nice to have on hand. There's always pieces ready to sew.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Scheduled Sewing Day

A big pile of pre-washed fabric awaiting ironing.I am so happy to know I have set aside at least two days each week for sewing. I say 'at least two days' because I have scheduled two days a week to sew with a friend. If you are having trouble finding time to sew, why not schedule the time? It could be time scheduled with a friend like I am doing. Or it could be time you schedule with yourself. Write it on your calendar or planner if need be. Make a commitment to yourself or with a friend today. We schedule our lives around so many different things. It makes perfect sense to schedule our hobbies, our time for ourselves. We all need a bit of time to refresh and relax, to engage in our own form of renewal. Relaxation and personal time for sewing are intermingled. For me, sewing is my type of relaxation that allows me to recharge my batteries. I get in the zone, lose all sense of time, and before I know it I feel recharged, refreshed and ready to tackle other issues. Is sewing that way for you? Then by all means, schedule more time for it!

Okay . . . so today I did other things besides sewing. One of them was to press this pile of fabric I pre-washed yesterday. Yes! Ironing! Maybe that is not the most fun part of sewing, but with my friend here for a sewing day with me the ironing time passed quickly while we chatted. I say if you want to double your sewing fun invite a friend over and go to it. I got all caught up on this ironing business and enjoyed the day! Whenever my friend and I end our day of sewing and we go our separate ways . . . Aaaah! A big sigh of delight! What a great day . . . I cannot wait till next time!

Now, off to those calendars and planners to set up your sewing schedules. Fifteen to twenty minutes? One to two hours? A whole day or afternoon? Whatever you can fit in will work. Let me know how it goes!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sew Every Day - Feel More Quilty - Not Guilty

My Accuquilt Go cutter has been useful in slimming down my scrap pile.I have used my Accuquilt Go Cutter quite a bit over the last several months. It really has been a quick way to work through my scrap pile. I've already started sewing these rectangle pieces together. They will soon become my new Brick Quilt. By staggering the placement of each rectangle I do not have to match up any seams. Right now all the rectangles are sewn together into long strips. Once I get the seams pressed I will start sewing the strips together. That's all there is to this Brick Quilt. Then it just needs to be quilted together. It is that easy. It's super simple.

I've been trying to sew every day. Or trying to get at least a little bit of sewing time in every day. It is one of the ways I am working to get more accomplished with my sewing. I want to make time to sew even if some of those times are short times. How do you make more time to sew? I've found it works to have my machines set up and ready to go. I am fortunate to have established a dedicated area of our home for sewing. My area is in the basement. In fact, that area has expanded to encompass the main area of the basement. I used to have my sewing stuff spread out into several different rooms. With my recent re-organization and de-cluttering I have managed to fit it to one room in an organized and work-friendly way. Granted there are still some things I feel need a bit more tweaking. But overall, I have arranged everything to create a good flow from one work area to another. I even have room for friends to come into my studio with plenty of room to sew together, chat and enjoy an afternoon. It is truly a blessing to have a 'room of my own' to practive my creative sewing endeavors.

I read recently about using a timer as an aid to help in getting more accomplished. The idea is to set the timer to 15 minute intervals. Decide to dedicate the next fifteen minutes to the task at hand, then work on the task till the timer goes off. At that point you can continue with the task, or move on to another task you want to accomplish, setting the timer again for another fifteen minutes. This is supposed to help you stay focused on the one task you are doing instead of being distracted with the many other things you need to get done during the day. I am trying this timer technique with chores like washing dishes and cleaning and straightening up around our home. I can concentrate on one thing for a fifteen minute timeframe, trying to get as much of the task done in as quick an amount of time possible. I've found I cannot always get some things done in the fifteen minutes. But knowing I can allow another fifteen minutes to the task or move on to something else frees me from feeling guilty that I 'should' be doing something else, and distracting me, when I'm in the middle of another thing.

It also helps me focus and get specific things done in a timely matter when I can categorize and prioritize the things that need to be done. I'll keep you posted on how this is working for me. I like the idea of not thinking about, "Gee, I've got to get the dishes washed" while I'm trying to enjoy myself sewing. Or thinking, "Man, I would rather be sewing right now" when I'm in the middle of washing dishes (or some equally boring chore). What do you think? Does this timer technique seem like it is something that would work for you?

Afterall, the goal is that I want to feel more 'quilty' and not so guilty about unfinished chores. And I get some sewing therapy and enjoyment out of every day.