Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Accuquilt Go! A Thorough (and hopefully unbiased) Review (Part One)

Well, it finally happened. No, not that. Not that, either—what are you thinking? No, I mean that after a few years working within the Quilt Industrial Complex (and then basically showing it my middle finger and walking away from it), I have finally been Offered Stuff. For free. In exchange for...something undefined. We never got that far.

I'm not going to say what the product was, and I hope the marketing person who offered it to me understands that I am not shaming her or her company. Companies do have to market themselves, and one way to do that is to get the product out there where it can be used and mentioned by people with an audience. I totally get that. And I also get that quilting is an expensive hobby and it's nice to get free stuff. For many people in this industry, who make an actual living at quilting and pattern writing and such, those inherent expenses can be career-breaking unless they develop a relationship with certain companies who can supply them with fabric and other necessities and offset some of that cost.

And while I do occasionally write and sell my own patterns, it is not a big enough enterprise for me to really justify free stuff for it. I mean, I can barely be bothered to blog about my actual sewing, since most of it is experiments that end up in the reject pile. I can see why a company would want me to use and promote their stuff. I do have an audience, and it's a pretty engaged audience as well, and that's what marketers generally look for. I'm frankly surprised that after all this time someone out there only just now picked up on that.

I won't go into all my reasoning, because I tend to get long-winded about this stuff, but I just don't want to be a representative of anybody but me. When I tell you "this is what I think," I want you to know that it is actually what I think and not what I've been paid or otherwise influenced to say.

I do realize that I probably overthink this stuff, but I have a hard enough time getting a good night's sleep as it is—I don't need questions of minor ethics plaguing me at night. So I chose to decline their kind offer. Because the review I'm going to do today (about a totally unrelated product) is the only kind I really want to do. I bought something with my own money because I wanted to see if it would fill a need. And now, I can tell you all kinds of things about it without consciously or unconsciously censoring myself, because mama don't owe nobody nothing. (That's three negatives; I think that works.)

So, without further blather:

The Accuquilt Go! Fabric Cutter: A Review

I have had my eye on one of these things for years, but couldn't commit to laying out the scratch. The main reason I was interested in it was accuracy. I am kind of a freak about having my pieces line up properly. See this magnificent beauty?

That's several years of practice right there. So, the accuracy I have been trying to accomplish has actually become attainable, and I thought perhaps a die cutter was no longer necessary or desirable.

Then my shoulder decided to be a total bitch.

About two months ago, I started having problems with my left shoulder, and, being the sort of person I am, decided what that shoulder obviously needed was yoga. Helps with all kinds of other things, so why not this? Instead, it got worse. I lost a lot of range of motion and many normal tasks just hurt like hell. I saw an orthopedist who injected my shoulder with steroids and sent me home with a stretchy yellow band and a sheet of exercises to do for six weeks. If it wasn't better in six weeks, the next step, they said, would be an MRI and then physical therapy.

MRI on Friday!

So, in the meantime, I cannot do any rotary cutting. (Well, I can, but I regret it later.) I happened to have a bit of money put away from a side job, so I decided to take the plunge and buy a cutter and some dies and see if I could use it with only one fully functional appendage. Why did I choose an Accuquilt? The other most popular cutter seems to be made by Sizzix, and it looks like the Sizzix cutters are generally cheaper. In addition, I have heard that Accuquilt dies can be used in Sizzix machines, but no dies other than Accuquilt's can be used in any of the Accuquilt cutters. So why did I pick something more expensive and possibly less versatile? 

Because the Sizzix website made me mad. They have a million different cutters, and I could not find a simple chart to tell me the differences between them. One, called the Fabi, seems to be marketed to quilters, but there's no clear indication as to why it would be more desirable for that purpose than one of the others. And do you want to find the quilting dies? Good luck. There is a drop down menu under "Products" at the top of every page, and the "Quilting" choice in bold letters in that menu only takes you to a page that shows you pictures of four different cutting machines. WITH NO LINKS TO ANY OF THEM. And dies? What dies? So, you go back and look at that menu again, and finally, you find another listing for quilting, under "Themes." Themes. Birthday, Halloween, Seasons, Pastafarianism, Porn, and Quilting. (Just kidding. there's no Pastafarianism dies.) I am a woman with a searing, white hot pain in her shoulder—I do not have time to dick around on your website looking for what I want. Themes, indeed.

But honestly, quilting for Sizzix seems almost to be an afterthought, though I know lots of quilters use it and even people like Victoria Findlay Wolfe design dies for them. But it still feel like their main focus is paper and scrapbooking (at least that's the impression I get from all the emails I now receive from them), and while that doesn't mean their cutters and dies aren't perfectly serviceable, even wonderful, for quilting, it's something that could sway an individual on the fence about what system to purchase towards the competitor. Like, oh say, me.

Accuquilt's website is very clear, because they are only marketing to quilters. They also have four basic models: small, medium, large, and electric (Go! Baby, Go!, Studio 2, and Go! BIG Electric). This simplifies things, despite all the stupid exclamation points, and clearly is meant to soften up cranky women who are pissed off about being in pain for two solid months. We could call this predatory, but we'll let it slide for now.  They have a lot of helpful videos, if you are into that sort of thing. I admit, I hate taking the time to watch a video, but that's because I am a very fast reader and would rather glean the specific information I want from text than sit through 20 minutes of perky people chirping about their product over some doot dee doot dee doot music. But that's just me. I will also admit that I ended up ordering from Amazon and not from the Accuquilt website, because I also decided on some dies that were not in stock there. I'm an instant (or at least next day air) gratification kind of girl.

Large, heavy packages arrived the next day, and I immediately started playing with my new toy, even though it was dinnertime and people were hungry and whiny about it.  Did I love it? Do I now want to marry it and have a million little Bitchuquilt (Accubitch?) babies? Or do I curse the name of Accuquilt forever and wish its inventor a lifetime of butt boils?

That's Part Two (click here). Also in Part Two, I'll talk about specifics of the machine, how it works, how well it works, as well as what pitfalls you may encounter when using one. I hope to post this on Thursday, January 7, but if my left arm actually falls off my body, it may take a bit longer. 

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