What is a Silhouette Machine?

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Note: This post was first published in 2013. I have since switched to a Cricut for cutting vinyl and applique designs. See here to learn more.

A few weeks back I wrote about my temporary sewing room and someone commented about my Silhouette Machine which is seen in these photos. I was even asked, “What IS a Silhouette Machine?”

sewing room
Silhouette on shelf

The Silhouette is an electronic desktop cutting machine that hooks up to your computer. It’s about the same size as a small printer and comes with software that enables you to basically create anything and then cut it out on paper, vinyl, fabric, or heat transfer material. The possibilities are endless.

Die Cutting Machines

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Silhouette makes two different cutting machines, the Portrait and the Cameo. I’ve pasted a chart below that shows the differences between the two machines; but, the basic difference is in the size.

The Cameo  has a 12″ x 12″ cutting mat and cuts out on a larger space. Silhouette also makes a cutting mat that is 12″ x  24″ for really large projects. The upside is the ability to cut out larger projects; however, there can be more waste when cutting smaller projects. Walk down the aisle of any craft store and you will see sheets of paper that are 12″ x 12″. These sheets fit perfectly on the Cameo.

The Portrait  has an 8″ x 12″ cutting mat making it ideal for smaller projects. The Portrait has the same cutting ability, only smaller. And, did you notice the difference in prices ~  that tells it all.

Silhouette Cutting Machines chart

Before I owned a Silhouette Cameo, I had a manual die-cutting machine. It cut fine, but I was limited by my dies and they were costly ~ around $25-$40 EACH. Yikes! There are other brands of electronic cutting machines sold in craft stores. Most of them require expensive dies or die sets. Those costs can really rack up fast, plus, it requires a trip to the store to get a new die.

Enter the Silhouette where you can go to the Silhouette online store and download designs for $.99 or less when on sale. That means I can go online, choose a design, download it, and cut.

Since I do a lot with applique , especially lettering,  this is ideal. With lettering, I don’t have to purchase a design, I just choose a font and size it to my project. Having a Silhouette Cameo makes projects like this a breeze. {psst ~ I used the Cameo to cut these out}

LOVE applique

Of course, there is a little more to it than that. The real secret is in the software. Both the Silhouette Portrait and the Silhouette Cameo come with a Silhouette Studio Software plus an assortment of pre-loaded designs. If you want a little more design diversity, Silhouette has a software upgrade called Silhouette Studio Design Edition  which sells for around $50.

And, then there are the unlimited projects. If you subscribe to the Silhouette blog, you will have more ideas than you have time to create. Here’s a project that uses paper and fabric. And, the design was free.

Silhouette Projects
Silhouette ideas

One of the coolest features is print and cut. This allows me to set my design in the software, send it to the printer, then send it back to the Silhouette for cutting. This is a sample project showing what you can do with this feature.One of the most popular uses for a Silhouette is cutting vinyl. I confess, I have yet to do this and I will tell you why below. Nevertheless, cutting on vinyl can really open up creative possibilities. Vinyl makes great stencils and beautiful lettering.

Silhouette pantry

I originally purchased my Silhouette Cameo to cut out lettering for applique. Cutting fabric requires a ‘fabric’ blade. To cut letters for applique I iron on fusible web like Heat ‘n Bond Lite to the back of my fabric. Then I peel off the paper backing and stick the fabric to the mat with the fusibile web side down. Load it into the machine and hit the ‘cut’ button. (affiliates)

Since purchasing my Silhouette Cameo last year at an online Black Friday sale, I’ve had to replace my cutting mat and blades a couple of times. The blades dull after a lot of cutting and the mat loses its stickiness (which is essential to all cutting projects). To extend the sticky life of my mats I use a temporary adhesive spray by Sulky called KK2000. It’s just the right amount of stickiness for the mats.

I am hoping to post a few projects using my Silhouette Cameo. I especially want to try some vinyl.

I’ll keep you posted.

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