Using a template for placement, how do I get a clean cut of 1/4, 3/4 and 1 inch holes in fabric? What tool would you recommend?

  • Hi nonnaisaquilter, I edited your question - since you tagged it with quilting, I assumed you want to cut these holes in fabric. If not, you can edit the post yourself, or perform a rollback to the initial state. Welcome to Arts & Crafts!
    – Joachim
    Oct 15 '20 at 19:56
  • The question wording has been edited and may imply a different meaning. Is the question about how to cut/create the template, or how to cut the fabric?
    – fixer1234
    Oct 15 '20 at 21:22
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    It would help a lot if you could edit your question and describe what exactly you want to achieve. Any hole you cut into fabric will stretch and weaken the fabric in thar area. For example, if you want to put an 1 inch eyelet into a fabric and cut a 1 inch hole for it, the eyelet will fall out because the hole wil stretch. If you want a 1/4 inch hole, I wouldn't cut at all but gently push the threads aside until I could fit a 1/4 inch knitting needle through.
    – Elmy
    Oct 17 '20 at 8:45
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    @rebusB That's a possible interpretation, but we can't know what the OP intended until they clarify.
    – Joachim
    Dec 6 '20 at 20:48
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    @rebusB That's true, but not how this process works. It sets a better example to have users ask well-written questions and interact with others posting comments than to have the community make something useful out of it and see what happens whenever the OP decides to show up again.
    – Joachim
    Dec 6 '20 at 20:54

You have an easy one, I think. The best tool for cutting the holes you describe, in template plastic is a hole punch, also known as a circle punch. A quick search shows that Amazon has all three sizes you describe.

3/4" - EK Tools circle cutter

1/4" - "Conventional" hole punch - 0.25"

1" - Cady crafts Punch

All of the above are amazon links and you can certainly find other resources, but this should give you a path to take.

  • 1
    The links are all for paper cutting tools. It seems unlikely that they would work on fabric.
    – csk
    Oct 15 '20 at 22:56
  • Until the OP confirms the objective, the wording appears to reference cutting holes in plastic. Fabric can be cut with hole punches as long as the punch is not abused by cutting abrasive material. Our makerspace has similar items and are used with great results.
    – fred_dot_u
    Oct 15 '20 at 23:49
  • You have the right idea... just suggest going right to fabric punches and skipping the plastic step.
    – rebusB
    Nov 3 '20 at 19:47

If your objective is a circle template, you can just buy a pre-made circle template like this (just a random example for illustration):

enter image description here Image courtesy Amazon

They're widely available at office supply or art supply stores, big retailers, online merchants like Amazon, etc.

If you want to make your own, the best tool depends on the type of plastic you're working with. Also, I'll assume that you would rather have a single tool or tool set with a range of sizes than a different type of tool for each size hole (which is often the case with the size range you describe).

If the plastic is paper-thin, and your idea is to pin or adhere the template to the fabric and then just cut the fabric around the guide, punches of the style described in fred_dot_u's answer are probably the way to go. Just bear in mind that it will be easy to accidentally cut the template.

If your idea is to use a heavier template that provides an edge for marking the fabric, I'd suggest a different approach. For a cardstock weight plastic, it might still be practical to use those kinds of punches. But if you go to more substantial plastic, you'll want a different tool. If the plastic you have in mind is a heavier flexible plastic sheet, like from a polypropylene looseleaf binder cover, a polypropylene coffee can lid, a polyethylene milk jug, or a PVC packaging clamshell, those punches won't be a good solution. If they are capable of cutting the material without breaking or quickly wearing out, they will need a lot of leverage for a person of average strength to be able to punch such heavy materials.

If the plastic is thick enough to do well as a template (i.e., provides a useful edge), it will be easier to use a heavy duty punch designed for gaskets. You can get sets covering your size range like this:

enter image description here Image courtesy Amazon

Check places like Amazon, Harbor Freight, or hardware stores; search on "gasket punch set". Put the plastic on a flat, protective surface that will give and not damage the cutting edge, like a block of wood, position the punch, and whack the punch with a hammer.

If the plastic is thick enough to be like a commercially pre-made template (like the example at the start of the answer), it will be pretty rigid (and depending on the plastic, may be brittle). You won't be able to punch the holes, you will need to cut or drill them. The secret to cutting clean holes in plastic is to use a very sharp tool, cut slowly and without applying excessive force, and avoid building up heat (e.g., keep the surface wet), so the plastic doesn't soften and distort or melt.

There are hole saws that look like a circular band of saw blade, but they don't go down to your smaller hole sizes. There are diamond hole saws that cover your size range, but the plastic will quickly melt and fill the abrasive edge. There are a few kinds of bits that will work well on plastic.

One is a "step drill bit":

enter image description here Image courtesy Amazon

These come with varying collections of hole sizes built into the bit. You drill through the successively larger sizes until you have the hole size you want.

Another is a "spade bit":

enter image description here Image courtesy Harbor Freight

As mentioned earlier, with either type of drill bit, it's important to not stress the plastic. Use light pressure, go slow, and if practical, keep a puddle of water on the area (or even drill underwater in something like a basin).

  • Template plastic is actually an existing product that can be purchased, and is fairly thin so it can be cut by standard household scissors: joann.com/heavy-duty-plastic-templates/4793428.html I would guess this is the type of plastic the question refers to based on context.
    – Allison C
    Oct 15 '20 at 21:15

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