Faux leather is still very much on-trend for making earrings, but have you tried CORK??? This natural fabric (often called cork leather), made from the bark of the cork-oak tree and imported from Portugal, can be a bit of a challenge to work with but provides unique results! Here are my tried and tested tips for cutting cork leather on your Silhouette machine.
My best advice for cutting cork leather is TEST, TEST, TEST! Be prepared to waste a little fabric until you get your settings just right. (Remember, it’s really not a “waste” if it helps you save time and materials in the future!!!)
Choosing a Design
Because of the texture and thickness of the cork leather, small details and accents tend to get lost so choose your design carefully. If in doubt, cut a small portion of the design to see if the details are visible before you cut the entire piece.
Placing the Cork Leather on the Mat
Be sure to use a new or almost-new mat. You want it to be VERY sticky. I found that the cork leather adheres better to the mat and cuts best if it is FACE DOWN. Place it in the center of the mat and use a brayer or squeegee to really adhere it well. Secure all edges to the mat with painter’s tape. The cork leather is a bit spongy and has some stretch and you want it to be very stable for cutting. Remember to mirror your design if necessary!
I prefer to use the Premium Blade to cut cork leather but a ratchet blade, fabric blade (identical to ratchet blade but a different color), or AutoBlade work as well. In my experience, a Deep Cut blade is not required.
Rather than using the built-in Test Cut in the Silhouette Studio software, I recommend you use an uppercase “B”. With this type of test, you get straight lines, corners, outer curves, inner curves, and small pieces to weed from the design. Placing the “B” near the bottom of the cork leather will allow you to check the cut and then cut again (if necessary) without unloading/reloading your mat.
What to Look for in the Test Cut
When working with any material, a perfect cut is the combination of blade depth, speed, force, the number of passes, and the overcut selection. Each of these factors works in conjunction with the others. Don’t automatically assume that you need to increase the settings if the cork leather doesn’t cut all the way through or doesn’t look exactly like you think it should when cut.
If the design looks choppy or unrecognizable, lower the speed. If the blade barely marks the leather, increase the force. If you see distortion in the design (caused by the push/pull of the leather as it moves under the blade), decrease the force. If the design looks good but the leather isn’t cut all the way through, increase the number of passes.
Increasing the blade depth should be your last choice. Sometimes you will actually get a better cut by lowering the blade depth, adjusting the force, and increasing the number of passes.
Here are the settings I found work best when cutting cork leather on my Cameo 4 with a Premium Blade:
If the interior sections of the design don’t cut well (or at all), it is likely due to the cork shifting after the outside borders are cut. To remedy this, go into the Advanced Cut Settings menu and check the boxes for Minimize Roller Movement and Sort Interior Contours First. With these settings, the interior portions of the design are cut first and there is less back and forth movement of the rollers.
The backing of cork leather tends to ravel and leave a lot of fuzzy edges. Use a lint roller to easily remove it.
- Purchase enough cork leather so that you have some to test.
- Choose a design with few or no intricate details.
- Place the cork leather FACE DOWN in the middle of the mat and secure it well. Apply painter’s tape around all edges. Mirror the design if necessary.
- Create your own Test Cut using the capital letter “B”. Begin with the settings listed above and adjust accordingly. (My preference is the Premium Blade.)
- Design looks choppy or unrecognizable – lower the speed
- Blade barely marks the surface – increase the force
- Parts of the design are distorted – decrease the force
- Design looks good but is not cut all the way through – increase the number of passes
- Use a lint roller to remove any fuzzies that remain on the cut edges of the cork leather.
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I hope you’ve found these tips helpful and that you’re inspired to try cutting cork leather on your own. If you have any questions, leave a comment below or come visit me over in the Silhouette Crafters by Design Facebook group. It’s a great place to find help and be inspired!
Until next time,
Lycia is a lifelong crafter whose goal is to help others find value, confidence, and joy in whatever they create. She geeks out on using technology to supercharge craft projects with Silhouette Studio, Design Space, Glowforge, sublimation, etc.! Lycia teaches these skills and more through online tutorials and videos as well as in-person classes at both the local and national levels.