A Most Useful Toy For Applique



I promised I would share my somewhat new toy and a wonderful use it provides for applique. The Silhouette Cameo  cutting machine.

This makes me absolutely giddy. So I need a life but hey, discovery keeps me young and keeps the inner curmudgeon away.

My students will tell you how much I talk about reducing the issue of “operator error” when working with intricate layered applique. The really and truly small stuff. Just a smidge of error in size can make life a virtual hell before you ever get started with needle and thread.


All Those Mistakes Add Up

One of the reasons I work with the vinyl overlay is to reduce the errors of pencil drag that ends up placing the traced line in the wrong position. Meaning the applique is already off before you have ever taken a stitch. And then……

Another step in a journey of preparation is tracing the template, in my case freezer paper. Now I have created more error because it is humanly impossible to exactly trace over the drawn/printed line of the pattern. And then…….

Time for cutting out that imperfectly drawn template. We will always cut out a different overall shape compared to the original traced line of the template. We think we did good staying on the line, but we are human and it will never match up.


Can you mentally visualize how much we can be off in matching up to the drawn/printed design with a technique that needs to match up as precise as possible to be successful? No wonder hand applique has a bad reputation as the “A” word.

If I can eliminate as much of the human error interference as I can, guess what? A frustrating experience can suddenly become, dare I say? pleasurable?!


Eliminating the Tracing and Cutting Error Percentage

This brings me to my new toy. IMO, it works far better for handwork than cutting out fusible fabric pieces. Whatever floats your boat though.

Reducing two of the big factors in matching. Tracing & cutting the Template. Even if you use the acetate, this works. The machine just needs to recognize it is cutting acetate (in the cut settings menu).

With Illustrator, I have the ability to take my computer drawings and create a SVG file that works with the Cameo software. Sorry Brother Cut & Scan machine owners, the Brother software will not do this due to their proprietary software. The Brother will take a scanned file. Whether there is a slight size change to the image (much like a copy machine) I do not know.

As for the Cameo, there are tons of great YouTube videos that can help with scanning and cutting. I tend to figure out just what I need to know for what I do. Which is minimal with my lack of time.


I have opened up my Illustrator .svg file into the Silhouette software to cut templates for leaves out of 8.5 x 11″ freezer paper.



I instruct the software to trace the leaves and send to the machine to cut. My freezer paper is shiny side down on the Silhouette cutting mat and loaded into the machine and ready.




Then the magic happens……


You can see the cut images as the machine proceeds to cut all of the leaves. Because the mat is slightly sticky it holds the cut pieces in place until all is done.



When cutting is done, the sheet is unloaded from the machine, then I pull away the non-template portion from the mat revealing the templates perfectly cut. You can also see how I cut my quilting stencils too. Aha! Is your brain on overdrive with application ideas????



All of my leaf templates ironed to my chosen fabric and ready for marking and cutting. All exactly the shape they should be.



From tiny 1/16th” dots to intricate small shapes, they are perfectly cut every time. <cue Fred Astaire and music “Heaven, I’m in Heaven…“>


Oh and yes, you can also print and cut meaning I can print the applique order numbers onto the these pieces as well.

The machine does not cut very fast (think dot matrix printer) so I won’t be able to do mass production and offer pre-cut templates until the speed catches up. For now, I hope you will find this useful information for your own projects and an option for cutting templates and having your applique match up better.

Did I mention how much preparation time this saves?…….


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About Sandra

I am an Author, Designer, Illustrator and a major international award winning quilt artisan. I love working with fabrics and threads and they have become my medium of choice.

17 thoughts on “A Most Useful Toy For Applique

  1. This proves I was right not to buy the scan and cut when I first saw it and fell in love. I had a thought that technology changes and improves quickly … and it just might be worth waiting. I think I will wait a little longer for more improvements … and for the budget to catch up!

  2. I’m with you. I love, love, love my Cameo. And if you want to spend a lot of time messing with the software, you can even cut your fabric with it, but for the most part I don’t do that as it is very time consuming. But for applique templates, it is awesome. I have spent a good portion of today cutting out star shapes in fabric to be used with machine applique. What a timesaver!

  3. I had to stop reading after all the descriptions of their errors I must be making with the rudimentary tools I have.
    Gave me the heeby jeebies. I had to sit down. Liquid fruit might be called for.
    I am just going to pet one of my bird kits and think about this.
    What about something you did not draw the pattern for?
    Could you scan it and then cut? Not any of your patterns…..
    You provide great freezer papers already for me….

  4. now to get my cameo out of the box and clear my mind to try and understand how to use it! Wonder if I can find a “cameo fairy” to cure my laziness”)? lol

  5. I love my Cameo! When I made your “Little Bird” pattern, I pulled the PDF into the Cameo software and cut the freezer paper that way. I have also used the Cameo pen holder and a Sharpie to draw the pattern onto the vinyl for placement. Depending on the size, you do need to manually tile the design, but it sure is quicker than tracing.

  6. Judy, I really looked hard at the Brother because it does have some really worthwhile (for the money) benefits but when I found out about the proprietary software that does not recognize the Illustrator svg files?–a deal breaker. For that kind of money it was a no go.

    I shall wait to see if they correct that major error in thinking. 😉

  7. Oh Sandra, Now I know how you spend your time at quilt conventions.Sounds like a wonderful tool. Copying to the vinyl overlay would be awesome. Thanks as always for your sharing your wonderful finds.

  8. Can the illustrator files be converted to jpg or some other common picture file format that can be used with assorted publishing programs from Word to professional programs?

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