Monday, 5 August 2013

your questions - answered

Wow! What a great response from last week's post asking whether you had any questions for me! I'm going to work my way from the first comment down and hopefully those of you that are curious about the Big Shot will be more enlightened!

Quite a few people asked specifically about which are my must have dies. Personally I am one for dies that I know will get a lot of use - so my tip to you is look at the quilts you make, what are the most popular shapes, what do you like to do?

My must haves are the following;

The 2.5" strip die is great - you can use it for cutting sashing, binding, making strip pieced quilts (such as  the scrappy trips around the world quilts that I've been obsessed with making recently). It's also easy to sub cut the strips into smaller rectangles, squares or diamonds using your rotary cutter and ruler. For the money you get a lot of use out of the strip die - it might seem a large investment at first because it is one of the most expensive dies but I use mine so much, I can't really imagine not having it now.

Squares - I like the 2.5" (unfinished) square for scrap quilts. I cut my smaller scraps as I go with this die, it makes them easy to store and ready for when I want to start a scrappy quilt. The one with 4 squares or the single 2.5" square, both of these are incredibly useful.

There are other sizes of square too - you might prefer a larger one - maybe one that cuts 5" squares to co-ordinate with charm packs you already have?

Half Square Triangles - how many times have you cursed because you have a million HST to trim for a quilt? The HST die trims off the dog ears so there's none of that cursing - it's a really handy die, and you can get a square to co-ordinate size wise which makes it a great duo for an awful lot of traditional blocks.

Hexagons - I like to have one size for cutting papers, and the next size up for cutting fabrics but you don't need both. Get the size you want to cut your papers and then use squares or roughly cut around the paper for your fabric if your budget is tight. The paper cutting is what makes this die the most useful - I use old envelopes or scrap paper to cut my papers (takeaway menus are particularly good for nice sturdy papers)

Then there's the shapes you don't much enjoy cutting with scissors or a rotary cutter - the curved shapes like the drunkards path, or the clamshell or an apple core. Of these 3 I think the most useful is the drunkards path. You need 2 dies for this. The quarter circle and the arch and fan

I love these 2 dies - they make piecing drunkards path blocks a breeze, and I am not the best at curved piecing but I've been really successful with those dies.

So those are my top tips for the most useful basic dies and the ones I most enjoy using.

Jan asked about waste fabric - do you get much waste? You do get a little more waste than if you were using a rotary cutter and ruler, and some dies waste more fabric than others. If you are frugal with your placement, and only cover the area that is going to be cut rather than the whole die you will waste very little fabric. Here's an example from cutting squares (the waste is to the top of the picture)...

waste 2

Pippa asked why we don't get all of the dies that are available in the US over here in Europe. Well, there are more dies coming over all the time and it's really a case of patience and waiting. Like fabric it takes a while for things to trickle over to us. The US market is so huge compared to the rest of the world for everything regarding the quilting industry and sometimes there isn't the demand for every single product, whatever they may be (not just dies - it may be fabric, or wadding, or tools).

Deb asked about distribution down under - specifically New Zealand. Print Blocks is the Australian distributor and they might be able to help you better. Also try the site for stores, they have a list of suppliers. Annies Designs in Australia might also be able to help you out. Sizzix is there down under, so hunt them down!

Helen asked specifically about storage for dies. I use boxes from Ikea for the smaller dies (the range I like is Kassett), I take my dies out of the packaging because it's a little awkward getting them back into it once you've opened the box and they fit really nicely (the lids perch on top rather than fit snugly - but that works well for me)


The larger (long or big squares for my big shot pro) I put on a shelf, again out of their packaging. I've used a dymo to label the very ends so I can grab them quickly.

If this post has spurred any of you to think of more questions - please ask them, I'm happy to answer! I will also be at the Festival of Quilts this week in Birmingham, so if you are taking the trip come and find me. I'll be on the Cotton Patch stand (part of the Coats Crafts stand - you can't miss it, it's stand number A24/D14) and there are free patchwork workshops run by Angela on stand C43 where you can give the Big Shot a whirl for yourself (and have a sit down for a little while, which is always nice!)


  1. Thanks Katy - off to add to my collection of dies now, thanks for sharing your storage tips too - mine can't sit on the living room coffee table forever!

  2. I have a big shot that I bought years ago for scrapbooking. I'm now doing quilting and hardly look at my scrapbook stuff. Do the fabric cutting dies fit the big shot? I know some are too big, I'm just wondering what I should look for, if its possible.