What happens when you encounter something that you want to make, but it can’t be die cut? Block 3 of the Splendid Sampler is a perfect opportunity to illustrate that situation, and I wanted to take today’s post to show you what I do when a block can’t be die cut.
As an aside: technically, Melissa’s awesome block CAN be die cut; it starts out with rectangles and squares, and it’s pretty straightforward to do the cutting. Here’s the die chart if you just want to make the block she designed.
Die Cutting Chart for Lots of Love
|Fabric||(Qty) EDeN Number|
|Prints||(2) REC-1×2 from 5 prints
(2) REC-2×4 from 1 print
Are you new to my Equivalent Die Notation (EDeN) System? EDeN is how I standardize shapes across the various die cutting systems so that you can easily identify the dies in your collection that cut a specific shape.
You can read more about EDeN and download a complete EDeN Chart for free over at equivalentdienotation.com. Once you learn more about how EDeN works, and mark your dies with the EDeN Number, it will be really easy for you to see what dies work together and you’ll always have them handy for the next project!
Hypothetically speaking though: what IF the block couldn’t be die cut? That’s what I want to cover in today’s post.
First of all, there’s a rule in my studio: if it can’t be die cut, it’s not getting made. I know that seems like it might be limiting, but the real limiting factor for me is time and interest. I find it endlessly boring to stand at the cutting station moving my ruler this way and that, cutting the same shape over and over again. But I don’t have that same feeling when I’m die cutting. And the truth is, I’d rather be sewing than cutting, so whatever puts me in front of my sewing machine faster is what I’m inclined to do.
I love the planning process for die cutting. When I’m starting a new project, I have to figure out the shapes I need, and then start pulling dies. This is an easier process for me because I have all the EDeN Numbers written on the sides of my dies:
Once I pull the dies, I can then figure out how many I need of each shape, how many shapes I can get from each strip of fabric, and how many strips I need. I love making die-cutting charts. I think that’s the engineer in me. 🙂
In yesterday’s Splendid Sampler block though, I quickly realized that this block would not easily lend itself to die cutting if I were trying to cut each individual shape. I drew it out to see exactly what I was dealing with:
The largest shape in the block, which is like a rectangle with a bad haircut, is not a die-cut shape. So what to do?
Tip 1: Have A Custom Die Made
I’m not opposed to having custom dies made for shapes I want that don’t exist in the die catalogs. I probably have a dozen or more custom dies that I’ve had done over the years. A couple of them are duds, but the bulk of them were well worth the trouble to have done.
Custom dies are not cheap, but for those of us used to paying for Studio dies, there isn’t a huge difference. Custom dies can be made for all the AccuQuilt machines and the Sizzix machines as well, so anyone can have a custom die made – just don’t think you’ll get it for $20.
When I consider a custom die, I think about how many of that shape I need for the current project, how often I might use that shape in the future, and whether it’s worth the time and expense to have one made.
In the case of this buzz-cut rectangle, I don’t think so, but if I wanted to make an entire quilt with this exact shape, it might be.
Tip 2: Redraft the Block with More Familiar Shapes
As I studied this block, I thought I could recreate it with more basic shapes that would be die cuttable:
Now this block is made up of rectangles, HSTs, and QSTs. My die collection includes every size strip, HST, and QST known to man, so this block would ordinarily not be a problem to cut. However, at the current 6″ finished size, the smallest half-square triangle finishes at 3/4″… and my smallest HST is 1″ finished.
At this point, I could revisit the custom die option, and have an HST die made for this size, but there’s also something else I could do.
Tip 3: Resize the Block
There are a few pattern designers out there who seem to make things harder than they have to be in order to achieve their vision. They sometimes get locked into a certain design, and don’t really consider the challenge or difficulty involved in someone reliably cutting dozens of 2-3/16″ strips. (I am guilty of this kind of myopia, I’m just skewed in a different direction, where I just refuse to make things if I don’t have a die handy.) I’m also exaggerating a bit, but… it’s like designing a 9-patch to finish at 8″. Sure, it can be done, but it would be so much better to design it to finish at 7-1/2″ or 9″ – something that’s actually evenly divisible by 3.
So for this block, the way I’ve redrafted it, doesn’t work at 6″, but it would work at 12″. Here’s how that die-cutting chart would look:
|Shape||(Qty) EDeN Number|
My smallest shape is now an HST-1, which is the smallest HST currently available, and everything else is easily done with existing dies. So let’s say I wanted to make a quilt from this block, and the original quilt used 6″ blocks set in a 10×10 grid that finished at 60″ x 60″. I could make a different version of the quilt with the larger block, and now it would be a 5×5 grid that still finishes at 60″ x 60″.
In the case of our sampler though; the block needs to finish at 6″, so there’s one thing left to do.
Tip 4: Change the Block
At the end of the day, sometimes a block just can’t be die cut, no matter what you do, and in that case, I will sometimes change the parts that can’t be die cut into something else entirely. It changes the look of the finished product, but if you’re a hard core die cutter, sometimes that’s what you have to do.
I swapped out the small pieces for basic squares and turned the block into a heart with a checkerboard:
The die cutting chart for this block then becomes:
|Fabric||(Qty) EDeN Number|
|Prints||(10) SQ-1 from 5 prints
(Of course, being realistic here – if I’m only making one block, I’m not going to drag out my strip dies to cut one rectangle… but I think you get the idea.)
After I drafted this block, I of course had to make it in real life:
Maybe one day I’ll write up a tutorial on how to make this block or include it in another project. It will probably also be a good substitute block for those days coming when I know there will be a block without a die cut at all. I think it turned out really cute!
And of course, after all that… I probably will go back and make Melissa’s block the way she designed it. It’s really cute and I LOVE hearts. 🙂