Quilting Tips: Rotary Cutting Fabric

Hints and tips on rotary cutting tools and rotary cutting techniques and safety.

  1. Rotary cutting saves time but that does not mean you should work fast. Take your time for accurate cuts.
  2. Practice. Practice. Practice. Before cutting into expensive quilting fabric with your first rotary cutter, try it out on some inexpensive bargain bin fabric or old sheets. While refining your rotary cutting skills, cut 12″ to 16″ squares to use later for machine quilting practice.
  3. Always use a good clean sharp blade on your rotary tool. Blades can be expensive. I buy fabric at quilt shops but I purchase blades at JoAnn Fabrics using my monthly 40% off coupon. I have two Olfa rotary cutters; one for fabric and one for paper, crafting, hobbies, home improvement. I keep the latter clearly marked with a Sharpie.
  4. Always remember to engage the blade guard or lock your blade when not in use. This I learned by experience
  5. Never attempt cross over cuts. Holding your ruler with your left hand and cutting on the left side of the ruler can lead to bloody mess. Such a waste of good fabric.
  6. Keep your fingers away from the edge of the ruler. Again, no need to commit fabric abuse.
  7. Wear shoes while cutting. You like your toes as much as you like your fingers.
  8. Keep your rotary cutter out of reach of children and pets.
  9. Cats can become mesmerized by the spinning blade of a rotary cutter as well as the bobbing up and down of a sewing machine needle. Protect their paws. Cut and quilt in another room. (Thanks Bobbinhead!)
  10. Dispose of old blades properly. I carefully wrap mine in multiple layers of paper and then secure with masking tape or athletic tape.
  11. Save a table, use a self healing rotary cutting mat!
  12. Never, never, never leave your self healing cutting mat in a hot car. I learned this one from my sister.
  13. Fabric should be pressed before cutting. Notice I said pressed not ironed. Ironing stretches fabric.
  14. Be careful when cutting multiple layers of fabric. As a rule, I only cut through two layers but some quilters are comfortable with many more.
  15. Make sure you apply firm even pressure on your ruler to make sure it doesn’t slip as you cut.
  16. If you get a lot of slippage, consider placing small no slip stickers or sandpaper dots on the bottom of your ruler.
  17. When cutting, your blade should touch the edge of the ruler. Keep the blade vertical. Don’t cut at an angle.
  18. Cut in one direction and one direction only. Always cut away from yourself. Don’t back up with your rotary cutter.
  19. Square up blocks before you sew them together.
  20. Remember to do the math: Finished size plus 1/2″ for seam allowances.
  21. And finally, measure twice, cut once!

Please, if you have any hints or tips to add, leave a note.


About Susan Warren Utley

Susan Warren Utley is a wife and mother living and writing in the shadows of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Her stories are inspired by the unexpected twists and turns of real life and by her muse, a feisty Jack Russell Terrier who occasionally answers to the name of Lucy. View all posts by Susan Warren Utley

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