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Using a Rotary Cutter

14 May 2015 14:00


During the seies on making a quilt, I merrily talked about cutting your pieces, without really saying anything about how I did it.

The best tool for cutting straight lines is definitely a rotary cutter.  It's much easier to get accurate straight lines with a rotary cutter and ruler than with scissors.  Cutting out pattern pieces for dress-making is often easier too.

Rotary cutters come in a number of sizes.  Get a reasonably big one if you cut a lot of straight lines.  If you're going to be cutting lots of smaller, fiddly pieces, you'll probably want a smaller one.  The blades are very sharp, so make sure you keep your blade covered at all times when the cutter is not in use.  That means, if you stop for a moment to move your fabric, or whatever, cover the blade!  It's too easy to put it down uncovered, move your fabric onto the blade and then pick the cutter up by the blade because you couldn't see it.  You will, at the very least, bleed all over your fabric.  You could give yourself a very nasty cut.  Even a tiny cut will be painful for several days!

There are two types of cover; one which pushes up over the blade and one which you remove by holding down the handle whilst you cut.  This sort is safer, because as soon as you let go of the handle,  the blade moves back so that it is covered.

The blades are usually replaceable, although you can sharpen them by cutting through several layers of aluminium foil several times - in theory, at least.  I've never found it very satisfactory, but it will keep you going a bit longer whilst you source supplies!

Olfa is probably the best-known make, but there are several others, including Fiskars.  They are readily available from haberdashers, Amazon etc., in various sizes and at prices generally between £10 and £20.  I would go for the size and type of cover you want, rather than a particular make.  As far as I know, they all come with replaceable blades, but you definitely want that option.

If you are going to use a rotary cutter, you need a mat to cut on, otherwise you will damage your work surface, and the blades, too.  Get a self-healing cutting mat, in as large a size as you can a) afford and b) find a home for!  The bigger the mat, the fewer times you have to move the fabric between cuts - and therefore the more accurate your cutting.

It's also useful to get a quilter's ruler.  These are see-through, come in varying sizes and are marked for measuring - usually in inches.

Using your rotary cutter

Place your fabric on the mat, with the section you want to the left.

Put your ruler on top, using the guide to check your measurements and to make sure you will cut parallel to the edge.

Hold the ruler with your left hand, making sure your fingers are well out of the way!

Uncover the blade, put in position and cut by pressing firmly down onto your fabric, resting the blade against the ruler whilst you push it away from yourself.  Don't cut towards any part of your body!

** If you are left-handed, reverse all the instructions.**

Happy (and speedy) cutting!