Digitally Cutting Skylines or Detailed Shapes For Applique

stbs-TM Skylines 54I’ve talked before about cutting machines and such, but I thought I’d shed some light on specialty techniques for cutting skylines or detailed shapes. In the Row By Row Experience, it is quite common to have rows that come in kits where the shapes are laser cut or precut for you. I can see why this is enticing you to purchase the kit, but did you know you pay a pretty high premium for those precuts? I have been pretty amazed as I sat and watched kits I purchased this year come into my home and many times I didn’t even realize I was purchasing a precut kit or a laser cut kit. I wouldn’t have purchased them had I known because I can already do this very easily. In terms of cost, I purchased a laser cut kit, thinking it was just the normal kit, and the cost was 38.00. When I found out that it was laser cut, I called the shop to find out the cost of the non-laser kit, and it was 19.99. Huge difference, so I paid someone literally $18.00 to cut part of the kit. Some parts aren’t precut, so to me, if I am going to pay $18.00, I think the whole kit should be cut. 🙂

I’ve talked before about cutting machines, but what if I could walk you thru how to do it with just normal scissors also? Yes, sirree, while it may be a bit more tedious to do, it can be done with your normal scissors also and I can show you a way that will make getting those details done quite well.

Please note: While this isn’t a video lesson, like most of my video lessons, I do not make short lessons, this lesson features 57 images in order to give you the best outcome on learning the process, but once you know it, it won’t take as long to do it… I promise you that. 🙂

This technique works whether you use scissors to cut your shapes or a cutting machine. I am going to walk you thru the steps.

Supplies Needed:

1 bottle of Terial Magic (best fabric stiffener on the market hands down)
Heat-n-Bond Lite, you will need as much of this as you will use for your project.
Sharp Scissors – these need to be sharp and if they have a pointed end, all the better.
Iron – You won’t need steam, but if you need to iron your fabric first to get the wrinkles out, clean the water out of your iron once you’ve ironed your fabrics.
Cheap Towels – you don’t need to go and buy cheap towels, you just want something to protect your ironing surface and something that can be washed, this is why I recommend cheap towels, but not dishcloths, please use towels.
Pressing Cloth it’s best if you use a large pressing cloth.
Lesson Download
Beam n Read – Optional
Brother SNC Knift Cut Setting: 5 – do not rely on this for other machine brands my Silhouette is 3 for instance on most fabrics

Patterns Used:

From The Road Home Row Along:
Patti’s PatchworkToronto Row
Batts In The Attic and Seams To Be Sews Hollywood row

There are other rows that could easily incorporate this technique that were part of the Row Along, but any pattern where you have detailed cutting could also use this tutorial. Just please keep in mind, that you trying to do a turned edge applique technique with this technique is not doable.

You’ll need your print outs already and drawn on your Heat-n-Bond if you’re using scissors. Please keep in mind that if your pattern is already reversed, you are keeping your reverse pattern printed on the HNB paper itself as it should be done. It’s very important to remember this when a pattern notes that the shapes are already reversed. All of my patterns include reversed shapes. Do not cut the shapes out tho until I show you the technique.

If not and you’re using a cutting machine, no need to draw the templates onto the HNB, we’ll just be cutting them out with your machine.

I made a small sample with my scissors, but the main part of this cutting tutorial will be done with my Brother SNC. You don’t need the Brother SNC tho, you can do this with any cutting machine. 

Heat-n-Bond is a great medium for applique projects where a zigzag stitch or a raw edge technique is going to be used. When you’re dealing with very intricate details tho, Heat-n-Bond is actually not enough to get that to work well when using scissors to cut your shapes.

So, whether your using scissors or a cutting machine, this is how you prepare your fabric:

We need to stiffen our fabric first, we are going to do this with Terial Magic, but not the way I showed you how to do in this previous tutorial.

Suffice it to say, I got lazy, I don’t worry about letting it dry anymore, I just take the iron right to it and let it do the work of drying… The samples in this part of the tutorial are featuring Paula Reid‘s Hollywood row for the Road Home Row Along, but the scissor samples will be shown featuring Patti Carey’s Toronto row from The Road Home Row Along.

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Take your towel first laying a press cloth over the board, then lay the towel on top of the press cloth.

It’s important to do this because Terial Magic will use the towel as it’s soaking agent. The towel will become stiff, but your pressing cloth and ironing board surface will not. Since you can easily wash your press cloth in soaking water, it will easily clean up later and you can throw your towel in the washing machine.

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Lay your fabric in place. Cut just the size you need, there is no need to do a lot of fabric here if it needs a little ironing do that at this time.

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Spray it so it’s wet, but not soaking. With some colors, it is difficult to tell if it’s wet, but you can place your fingers on it to find out. Keep a bowl of water handy to rinse your fingers if you need to touch it.

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Press, do not iron holding your iron in place for a few seconds. Move the iron. If it appears sticky, that’s ok, that’s just the Terial Magic doing its job. Terial Magic won’t stick to the iron.

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Press it so it’s completely dry, then lift it, does it stand literally on its own? If so, you’re good to go.

If not, you didn’t spray enough and will need to do it again, but this is really rare and would only happen if you were too frugal.

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Lay your Heat-n-Bond in place on the fabric so that the glue side is on the wrong size of your fabric. If you’re using scissors, your shapes should already be drawn or printed out on your Heat-n-Bond.

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Now if you leave your pieces be for awhile it’s possible they may curl a bit. do not let this bother you, if you haven’t ironed your HNB on yet, you can just re-iron the fabric so it’s flat, but if you have ironed the HNB on, then you may want to wait because you’ll hurt the glue by continuously ironing over HNB.

At this point with scissors, cut your shape out. If you’re using a cutting machine, prepare the other fabrics that are going on your mat.

At this point the tutorial will separate, I will first show how it’s done with a cutting machine, and the bottom area of this lesson will be with scissors. 

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Your cutting machine supplies

1 Cutting Machine Brother SNC or any other brand you already own
A Brayer (to roll your fabric on the mat so it adhere’s well)
A USB Stick to put your SVG or fcm files on (For Brother SNC)
A spatula for cutters Cricut’s spatula is very nice, I love it more than any others I own.
A cutting mat you need this for your cutting machine, You can only use brother mats on the Brother SNC (they might be used on other machines but I don’t recommend it) The Brother SNC sees which mat you’re using so you want to use one of their mats.
You’ll need a cutting knife. Do not use a dull knife or one that’s been used a lot. While you don’t need a new one, I wouldn’t recommend one you’ve used a lot, you want nice clean cuts, if your knife is even slightly dull, you won’t get that. The nice thing about Brother’s knife blades is they are easily replaced, no need to buy a new holder each time, just replace the blades.

I’m going to mention this because I’m not using my Silhouette in this demo. I used a Cricut mat on my Silhouette for many a cut and print. This was a huge mistake. While it cuts and prints fine, you’ll eventually need to recalibrate the machine and this is not so easy a task to do. My cameo currently needs to be recalibrated and I just haven’t had the time to do it. So while I use to use Cricut mats, I will go back to using Silhouette mats.

At the same time I’ve always said, the SNC cuts fabric better than the Cameo does, but this method should work equally as well on your Cameo.

The little grey stick you see is the wand one uses to help when working with the screen on the Brother SNC.

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If your mat is dirty, have a little clean, mine looks that way, but it’s actually pretty clean. I’ve just used it a lot. I do not use the sticky sheets that Brother sells for their mats, instead I place glue on my mats currently. My biggest reasons for not using the sticky sheets are that they are hard to place onto the mat, if they come off because they got cut during the cutting process, they will stick onto the fabric and they are near impossible to get off of the fabric, so I do not use the sticky/tacky sheets that Brother wants you to use.

I tried using a transfer paper for this, but the same problem occurs and it is not fun to try and get that plastic off of the fabric, especially when you have those edges that fray so easily.

I love love love love love the glue.. so I will stay with that. The glue stays on for quite some time, so you can clean and cut, clean and cut.. it will be some time before you have to re-glue, but to know when it’s time, lay your hand on the mat, lift it, if the mat sticks to your hand, it’s fine (or at least that area of the mat is fine) if it doesn’t, it needs to be reglued and that’s another cool thing, with mats, sometimes we tend to use that upper left side the most, you can just simply glue in that area alone to redo the glue so it’s sticky.

It doesn’t take long for the glue to dry, maybe 30 minutes, I only do it once, and what I love most about this is that it goes on blue and dries clear. Other glues like this don’t do that so it’s not as easy to tell where you’ve already glued at.

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Lay your fabric right side down towards the mat. (very important) The HNB should be on top, if you’ve left your paper on it’s easy to tell.

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You can use your brayer to rollover the fabric to help adhere the fabric to the mat, and this is really important, do not skip this step or just think using your hand is ok, you want that fabric on the mat so it stays in place while cutting.

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You can also lift your HNB paper off of the fabric, you will want to do this before you cut anyway, so remove the paper then run the brayer over it at least once more. If you see any bubbles or wrinkles, try to work them out.

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Placing your mat into the SNC is so so easy, no awkward lines to try and line up, it simply goes in and 

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you press the button to get the little wheels to grab the mat.

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as you can see it rolls up under the little wheels. Be sure your knife/blade is also ready and that you’ve added your USB stick into the side of the machine with your .svg or .fcm files on it.

Let’s bring up our pattern.

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Press the Pattern button

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Press Saved Data

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Press the Stored button (right side for USB Stick)

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Choose your file that your cutting

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It will then appear. We are going to scan first to see if we can play a bit with our shapes or to be sure everything is covering the fabric.

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Press the button on the left side at the bottom (looks like paper going thru a printer/scanner)  or where you see my finger.

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It’s going to tell us what it’s doing.

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You then press the Start | Stop button and your mat will start to move.

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It will go in and come back out

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When it comes back, just like that you can see it on your screen… Cool Eh!! This is the same process that is done for fussy cutting also.

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Now, while I don’t really see any editing that needs to be done, I will note that if you click up on the top button of the left side, you can do further editing. Let’s say you need to move a shape so it’s inside of the fabric line, this is when you would do that.

But since everything is good to go, I’ll leave editing for another day. Let’s go ahead and cut this

Press Ok

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Press on Cut

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and press on the Start |Stop button

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It should start cutting away… it’s blurry on purpose, it was cutting when I took the picture.. 🙂

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Once it’s done you can really see those cuts, this wouldn’t normally be the case, but with the HNB on the top of the fabric they usually show up quite nicely.

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Press the Ok button

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Press the button on the top right (look like a graph) and the mat will come right out.

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You should always be careful when you’re lifting the fabric off of the mat, but with some of these cuts and the detail you want to use your helper spatula tool to also help you lift in some places. If you rely on your “tugging” hand, you will most likely break a thin edge or cause fraying to your fabric, so use the spatulas, that’s why they are provided or purchased.

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Now while I considered this a pretty good cut, I also knew I was going to need to change my knife, because I did actually have to cut some pieces into shape to get a good clean cut.

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As you can see here, I needed to cut a straight line on that O at the top to get it to separate.

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This is how your mat should look once all your background fabric has been lifted off.

and let me just say that every single time this works out well, I smile, smile, smile.. 🙂

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I now use my spatula to help me lift off these pieces. It comes really handy when you need to lift those tree parts because they are very thin, to do to, lay your spatula under a part of the ribbon and work your way under the tree with the spatula and then to the branches, it will lift off much easier without any breakage if you do so.

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As you can see I lifted my tree without any issues. Thank goodness I had my spatula.

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This is the black skyline cut out on the mat, doesn’t it look amazing… I used my spatula a lot to lift off those pieces and don’t forget the little tiny ones, you’ll need those for the o, the a and the n in the word Los Angeles.

Store your parts in a freezer bag until your ready to use them. Try to store them as flat as possible even laying them between to mats to keep them flat if needed.

Patti Carey has allowed me to use her pattern parts for my example for you. You can download them here.

The following is the part of this tutorial
done with scissors and this technique.

When you do this technique with scissors, you only want to do it with the applique shapes themselves. I’ve noted before that you don’t want to use a turned edge applique technique for this, even tho you could by wetting the 1/4-inch seam down it’s really meant more for raw edge or zigzag applique.

You don’t want to do this with pieced shapes because you’re if you need to stretch your fabric while sewing to meet points, the stiffener doesn’t allow this to happen easily and it’s easy for your fabric to slide while sewing, so while you could do it, it’s not something I’d recommend.

stbs-TM Skylines 56So, with your shape drawn on your Heat-n-Bond, iron it on to your fabric, once that’s done, cool and start cutting.

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Start Cutting

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This is the reason you need scissors with a fine point, it helps you see the edge at which you need to cut to, and allows you to place it easier so you don’t cut where you thought you weren’t. I love my ginghers, please don’t get me wrong, but that blade is just too wide at times, these Karen Buckley scissors are much nicer for this type of cutting.

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With this kind of detail, you really have to watch your lines, if you have a Beam n Read put it on to help you see the detail to cut better, it really makes a difference. I won one of these Beam n Read‘s back in April at Quilt Shop Gals site and I admit at the time, I didn’t think it would get much use, but since I’ve owned it, I am enamored with it, every time I need to cut things closely or in detail with scissors, this baby comes right on and I love it, so I recommend it highly. I know hand quilters use this love this handy tool also, but if you think outside the box you could probably find some uses for it too.

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Take your time cutting shapes like these out, one tiny nip where you don’t want it and boom, you may have to redo your entire shape.

You can always go back and trim, you can’t do that if you goof.

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Once you are happy with the cut, remove your backing from your Heat-n-Bond

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and place your shape in a storage bag until your ready to use it. Keep the bag flat. Keeping the bag in between two heavier objects will ensure this, just be sure you remember where it is. 🙂

If you are using scissors from this lesson, you simply print out your shapes from the pdf shapes in your pattern or paper patterns.

If you’re using a cutting machine and weren’t provided an SVG file, you can view my other tutorials for this procedure here.

Because the Hollywood row also includes a machine embroidery design for stitching outlines on the buildings, I’ll add a note here about that, when you have added the embroidery whether by hand or machine, your going to get some thickness because of the threads. You may need to reapply some of the Heat-n-Bond to force it to press onto your background. In fact, if I had it to do over again I’d rather find a pen or use my sewing machine with a light grey thread to hilight the windows with because you wouldn’t get the thickness you get with having done it in the hoop.

This post does use affiliate links from Amazon, but these are all products I personally use with the exception of the iron, my Clover iron was in the other room at the time.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this lesson today. Please let me hear your comments and if you have questions, feel free to ask.


5 thoughts on “Digitally Cutting Skylines or Detailed Shapes For Applique

  1. Questions: 1. I read that you use glue to refresh your mat. I checked out the product on Amazon to see what you were referring to. Is this like a glue stick that you rub over an area? I see that it is blue and you can see where you’ve applied it, but how do you spread it evenly? 2. I watched a YouTube video showing the paper removed from the Heat & Bond, then the fabric is placed glue-side down on the mat. Have you tried this? Wondering if the shapes are harder to remove from the mat or if the edge is frayed.

    1. Hi Wendy,

      Good questions.

      1. It is like a glue stick and it isn’t, this product in particular is a “liquid” form.. very thin like liquid, it has a sponge like top that you use to apply the glue to the mat, it “rubs” over the mat, and basically you push the liquid out and spread it with the spongey surface on the glue

      This is a video that Jen Blausey made, she demonstrates how easy it is to use. She notes in the video something about it taking 24 hours for the mat to dry, but I have used a mat after about an hour to two hours after I applied glue so I’m not sure why she waits a whole 24 hours.

      When you first start using it, you need to give it a few pumps to get the liquid moving, Jen doesn’t say that in the video. A little of this glue also goes along way, I’m still using the first stick of it that I bought 2 years ago also.

      2. If your heat-n-bond is on the side of the mat, it’s reversing your shapes, so your shapes need to not be reversed already in your pattern. Since I reverse all my shapes prior to cutting I haven’t done this, but, I have made the mistake of putting the wrong side on the mat, and I will note that while I didn’t get heavy fraying, what I did get was the fabric not sticking properly to the mat and during cutting I had more errors. So while I don’t know for sure that the hnb caused it, I do know I prefer keeping the hnb on the top and something that the mat sticky can grab easily to like the fabric to keep the fabric in place.

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