Digital Cutters for Gear Makers

Cricut, Sillhouette, USCutters, etc. Useful for technial gear and apparel workshop? Some thoughts and considerations after using a Cricut Maker for a few years.

Cricut Maker

Desktop Cutting Machines

This is NOT a sponsored page. Below is my unbiased answers to frequently asked questions about the Cricut Maker and digital my workflow.

What is this magic?
Think an inkjet printer, but instead of spitting ink the machine carries a cutting tool. Material such as paper, cardstock, vinyl, heat transfer vinyl (iron on), fabric, foam, etc can be cut. All vinyl cutting machines can make stickers with a kiss cut. Meaning they only cut thru the vinyl layer, not the carrier paper. Some machines use cutting mats and some can accept roll fed materials. A few higher end machines have multiple heads and tools such as pens, rotary blades, and exacto knives tips.
How to design cut files?
Each brand has its own software to work with their machines. I only know about Cricut Design Studio, which is the design software and main UI for projects. I design patterns or labels in Inkscape, then import an SVG file into Cricut Design Space. Cricut software then arranges the cuts efficiently and sends the cut instructions to the machine over bluetooth.
I bought a pattern, can I have the source file?
By policy, I don't share source files. I think its awesome you are experimenting with digital tools like Cricut or laser cutters. Tell me about it and show me how its going. So you know, most of my large format A0 pattern PDFs can be imported and converted. But I don't provide support for these workflows.
What is the cut capacity?
Depends on the model. Cricut Maker max capacity is 11.5 x 23.5 inches using a 12 x 24 inch cutting mat. Silloutte Pro is 24 inches x 10 ft with matless, roll fed vinyl. Commercial vinyl cutters, e.g. USCutters, are much wider and roll fed.
Recommend Cricut?
Sure, for home based crafting or sewing, the Cricut Maker is a nice-to-have tool for small projects like fanny packs, hats, and vinyl labels. The rotary knife cuts everythign from 1.0oz HyperD up to VX-21 and 500d Cordura with ease. There is a knift blade that can cut thin foam and model making materials like balsa wood. Depending on the project, I find a full digital patterning workflow to be faster than patterning with paper and pencil. Cricut makes the process easy and their software appears to be the best available. They are constantly releasing updates and have a full ecosystem of projects, designs, materials, tutorials, etc. Many are free but most are paid content. BUT there are some downsides I observe. See below.
Downsides to Cricut brand
One regret and one complaint. First, you trade footprint for cut capacity. As my projects have gotten larger such as hoodies, cutting width has been a limiting factor in my use. I find that fabric cutting is more novelty than practical in most cases. One use case that absolutely makes sense for fabric cutting is batching out repeated small, complex shapes such as 5-panel hats. For most makers, thats not a typical scenario.
My purchase regret is the persistent threat of a Cricut Access subscription. In 2021, Cricut announced plans to force existing customers to pay a subscription fee to upload their own designs. They backed down after an outcry from customers and widespread coverage in National news. However they constantly displaying pop ups and promoting Cricut Access wich is a subscription for digital art files and pre-designed projects. Cricut is a closed environment and for their audience they offer a ton of content and resources. I recognize I'm not their target audience. Conversely, other brands appear to be more open or atleast not threatening a subscription based business model. I only have direct experience with Cricut.
Am I a Cricut Affiliate?
I dropped the program in 2021 when they started pushing subscriptions. See "Downsides". For the most part, I'm happy with the Cricut Maker and continue to use it. Do your research as other options exist such as the Silhouette Cameo. If you have the floorspace and patience for clunky software, then a commercial grade vinyl cutter may be a better investment.
Using a heat press for HTV?
Nope, just a domestic iron. No steam. Follow the instructions provided with your heat transfer vinyl (HTV) for temp and time.
Is HTV durable?
In my experience, yes. In rare instances, I've had a few labels peel off grosgrain after washing. Vast majority of self-made labels have been long lasting so I think its just user errors in application.
Can HTV be applied to x, y, or z
Most likely yes. The question you're really asking is "can this fabric withstand heat from an iron". Likely yes but you need to be careful with technical or synthetic fabrics. Use low heat and experiement on scraps. Don't blame me if you ruin your Gore Tex jacket because you want 15 pieces of flair.
"Diggin' it dude, how can I support LearnMYOG?"
Share photos of project you made. Tell your friends. Engage on social. Watch one of my YouTube videos. Buy one of my patterns. Shop Amazon (affiliate). Buy from Ripstop by the Roll (affiliate). For more information see Disclosures.