Road Test: Gemini by Crafter’s Companion
The one consistent thing required for any type of patchwork or appliqué is the need to cut out the required shapes before starting to stitch. Initially scissors may have been used, but the craft then progressed with the rotary cutter and now we have ‘dies’ that are used with machines. The newest addition to the range of die cutting machines is the Gemini by Crafter’s Companion.
The Gemini is a compact machine, measuring approximately 36cm wide, 14cm high and 20cm deep. It is surprisingly heavy for its size, weighing in at almost 7kg. However, this is because the machine is electric and has rollers that pull the materials through the machine under pressure to make the impressions or cuts. Once it’s in place, you do not need to move the machine as long as you can access the front and back when feeding the items into the machine. Weight is not an issue and adds to the stability of the machine when in use. The cutting area of the machine is the size of the Cutting Plates — 9in x 121/2in.
To use the machine, a layered ‘sandwich’ is made and then fed into the opening on the front of the machine. A Clear Cutting Plate is the outer layers, or bread. Between these are placed the Plastic Shim (for thickness, adding pressure), fabric, Extra Deep fabric Cutting Die and the Metal Cutting Plate. This whole sandwich is guided into the wide opening on the front of the machine.
Once inserted, the motor will start and the rollers will pull through the sandwich, stopping automatically once it has exited the back of the machine. Should the whole thing be too thick, the machine will sense this and will stop feeding through the combination and will reverse it out of the machine. Once you have adjusted the thickness, you can feed it through again. Age and medical conditions can hinder people’s ability to cut into fabric. With not even a handle to turn, this machine cuts fabrics with a push of a button. And there is a wide variety of die shapes to cut! The dies for this machine are fine metal with a cutting ridge. For fabric, the extra-deep 11/2in dies must be used. The paper dies are not as deep. All shapes are sold in sets of multiple sizes.
The machine comes with all the cutting plates and shims as required and three card dies, one fabric die set and an embossing die. However, the company has the two brilliant sets of dies for quilters, all housed in very handy boxes with a draw system. Build a Block has your most basic shapes used in patchwork — squares, half-square triangles and quarter-square triangles. All of these shapes come in 1 1/2in, 2in, 2 1/2in, 3 1/2in, 4 1/2in and 6 1/2in cut sizes. From these basic shapes, hundreds of blocks can be made. Each shape comes in its own drawer, with a sheet displaying the size and placement of the die in the draw.
As the dies are relatively fine, no sizes can be written on them. But it is easy to locate the dies in the drawers and to know what size you are using. To extend the possibilities, the Build A Block Plus+ presents the dies in the same manner, but has six rectangles, four isosceles triangles and four half rectangle triangles, all in sizes to coordinate with the original Build a Block set of 18 dies. Each box set comes with instructions for the cut shapes required for 20 blocks in multiple sizes, and in four languages! However, many more designs are possible and you could use block books as a guide for inspiration. Many other shapes are also available. Have you ever tried to cut an accurate circle or oval? This machine had no trouble with either shape. I tried plain fabric, fabric with fusible web and even wool felt with fusible web. All fed into the machine and were cut through cleanly.
When using the machine you can fold, or layer, your fabrics and cut up to eight layers at one time. This will vary with the thickness of fabric being used. As you only have a single die of each size or shape, a maximum of eight pieces can be cut at once. However, it is very easy to send the sandwich through, grab it on the other side, lift and move the die to the next section of fabric, and send through again.
It took me no time at all to cut the half-square triangles for the star blocks. And, unlike the traditional technique of cutting a square, then cutting it in half on the diagonal, all triangles were cut the same size. You can plan ahead and roughly cut your fabric into the size of an A4 sheet to maximise the layering on the Cutting Plate. I placed my chosen fabrics right side together so that they were already paired, ready to sew. I did find it easier to make my sandwich by placing the Cutting Plate, then metal Cutting Plate, multiple layers of fabric, Cutting Die with cutting ridge facing down, Plastic Shim and finally the second Cutting Plate. When I placed the die under the fabric, I found that it moved sometimes. I could see the placement when I placed it on top of the fabric.
More variety of dies are being added to the range. Larger squares and hexagons are being added, as well as a set of six dies for cutting strips. The strips are 1 1/2in, 2in, 2 1/2in, 3in, 4in and 5in. The strip dies are a little different as the cutting edge only runs along the long sides of the dies. This allows you to fold your fabric to fit between the flat ends, to cut a strip, rather than a rectangle. For all cuts, lining up the straight edge of the dies with the straight of grain of the fabric will give you a better cut.
You can find out more about the Gemini by Crafter’s Companion (UK) if you do a search on YouTube.