Makerspace Tools: Fancy Die-Cutting Machines

Summer can be a time to relax. It is also a time to learn new tools that can enhance the school library’s services to staff and students. We recently purchased a fancy die-cutting machine that cuts fabric, wood, leather, vinyl, and more.

Why a die-cutting machine?

Back in time, a die-cutting machine consisted of bulky letters and limited options for creation. Today, there are many options that take up less space.


Cricut has various machines that work great in a makerspace. We chose the Cricut Maker for the variety of materials it cuts, including fabrics, leather, paper, and balsa wood. It also has the ability to draw on the material using the pen feature.

The less expensive option is the Cricut Explore Air 2. The Cricut Explore Air 2 is a great machine for cutting vinyl and various paper formats. Both machines work with the Cricut Design Software that allows users to upload designs or select provided designs.


The Silhouette Cameo is a lot like the Cricut with a few differences. The Cameo allows a Bluetooth connection and contains a dual carriage blade option. It can cut a variety of materials like vinyl, cardstock, and fabric. Silhouette has software that allows users to import personal creations.

The Silhouette Portrait is a smaller and less expensive option. It still has some great options with mat-free cutting. The Curio is similar to the Portrait and Cameo but allows for more embellishments.

Other die-cutting machine options include:

How do I use it?

Once you purchase the machine, you will also need to utilize the provided online software.

The Cricut requires that the material be placed on a provided “sticky” mat. A blade will need to be installed based on the material. Feed the mat through the machine and follow the prompts to cut the material. There are many online tutorials that show the process.

The Silhouette uses a cutting mat to feed through the machine. For the adjustable blade, choose the type of material to make the first cut. More information can be found from the Silhouette blog.

How can I utilize the machine with students?

The machine can be available on the library main space for students to access. Instructions along with materials will be available. In addition, students can receive direct instruction from the library staff when using the machine.

This tool will enhance a variety of projects. For example, students created costumes for small mannequins that represented characters from a Shakespeare play. Students were asked to show their understanding of the character’s development through the costume design. (Click here to view our inspiration for the lesson.) The machine will help students refine their skills in designing a costume as well as improve their use of time.

Our graphic design students create amazing designs that can now be printed on wood or leather. It adds another dimension to projects because students need to design based on material. They need to problem solve the size, debossing adjustments, and format for display.

What die-cutting machine do you use in your library? How do you utilize it with students?

Author: Becca Munson

Becca Munson, Librarian, is a National Board Certified Teacher with over 24 years of experience in education. Becca is the Coordinator for Library Systems in the Blue Valley School District. Previously, she was school librarian at Blue Valley West High School. She opened two buildings in Blue Valley and spent some time as an Ed Tech Specialist before returning to libraries. Becca supports over 45 librarians and support staff as they work to fulfill the mission of flexible scheduling, collaboration, and literacy.

Categories: Blog Topics, Makerspaces/Learning Commons

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