man using a rotary cutter on a piece of leather

If you are aspiring sewist or quilter, you probably don’t have all possible accessories and tools. A rotary cutter is one of those small things that can make your (sewing) life easier. Some people still use scissors to cut fabric and it’s okay. To be honest, it is a matter of preference. After all, the first rotary cutter was manufactured in 1979. And we had been sewing, quilting, and cutting fabric long before a rotary cutter came along. 

However, rotary cutters do offer some advantages, so I believe that we will use our scissors less in years to come. Of course, we will always use scissors for some minor cuts that don’t require perfect precision. But, when it comes to quilting, cutting multiple layers or heavy fabric, there’s no doubt that the rotary cutter is the best tool. Simply, rotary cutters provide better accuracy and do the job faster

So, if you have second thoughts about getting a rotary cutter, don’t overthink it. If you’re on a tight budget, you don’t have to purchase one immediately. However, if you’re into quilting, the speed and precision of rotary cutters will make your first steps much easier. It is also a great gift for your sewing friends.

How to Use Rotary Cutter

Using a rotary cutter is simple and easy. However, you will need a cutting mat as well. Cutting mats protect your working surface. Also, your blades won’t become dull as quickly. Cutting mats come in different sizes, so choose one that fits your working space and your projects. So, place a cutting mat on your work surface. Then, lay your fabric flat on the cutting mat. Place the pattern on the fabric or measure and mark where you want to cut if your cutting mat isn’t graduated, although it’s not often the case. Unlock the safety button and you’re ready to cut. 

How to Choose a Rotary Cutter

While using it is quite easy, there are several things to consider before choosing a rotary cutter. 

Blade size. Rotary cutters come with different blade sizes. Common sizes are 18 mm, 28 mm, 45 mm, and 60 mm. Each size is suitable for certain projects. 

18 mm and 28 mm blades are suitable for small projects such as applique. Cutting curves, circles, or tight corners is also much easier with these small, fine blades.

45 mm blade is a sort of all-purpose rotary cutter blade. It is a versatile blade perfect for a variety of cutting tasks. It works well on multiple layers of fabric, leather, paper, vinyl or felt. So, you can use this blade for various sewing, quilting or papercraft projects.

60 mm blade is a heavy-duty blade that can cut through thick materials such as upholstery fabric or multiple layers of heavy fabric.

Choose sharp blades. You can’t really test the sharpness, but my advice is to purchase reputable brands. They produce sharp and durable blades. Your rotary cutter can be perfect but it won’t cut well if the blade is dull. And all blades will become dull eventually, so you need to replace them every now and then. Cheap, no-name rotary cutters will become dull too quickly.

Handle and safety button. Different rotary cutters have different handle shapes and safety buttons. However, there are no good ones and bad ones. It completely depends on your preferences. Most of the handles have an ergonomic design but some of them will fit your hand better.

Beginners Tips

Even the simplest tasks can go wrong if you do it the wrong way. Making mistakes is normal when you’re learning a new skill. That’s why some simple tips can help you a lot. Avoiding unnecessary mistakes will save you some time and you will enjoy your progress more. So, here are some basic guidelines that can easily be overlooked by inexperienced quilters, crafters and sewists.

Don’t over tighten your blade. Your blade is attached to the rotary cutter body with some sort of screw. If the screw is too loose, the blade will be wobbly, and if it’s too tight, you will need to apply extra pressure to get it going. 

Don’t apply heavy pressure. When you’re not confident it’s natural to apply more pressure. But, it’s unnecessary. Your hand will get tired quickly, and you’ll damage your cutting mat more. It takes some practice, but you don’t really need a lot of force to get your rotary cutter rolling smooth.

Combine rotary cutter with a ruler. A ruler or cutting guide will help you achieve the highest level of accuracy. 

Keep the cutting line in sight. Your eyes should be positioned directly above the rotary cutter. That way you can see clearly as you roll the rotary cutter over your fabric.

Use pattern weights. It’s just another precaution to provide precision and accuracy.

Check-out if it fits left-handers. If you’re left-handed, that is. Most rotary cutters can be adjusted to fit right-handed or left-handed users. Still, check it out, because if you get a non-adjustable kind, it will be very awkward to use.

Always lock the safety button after use. It’s an obvious safety measure, but you should make it a habit as soon as possible. These blades are very sharp.

Conclusion

A rotary cutter is one of those convenient things that we can live without. However, once we get used to it, it is difficult to go back. Nowadays, there’s a myriad of tools and accessories to help us with any kind of task. While we don’t need to have each and every one of them, I like to get every tool that can help me do my work easier or faster. A rotary cutter does both, so I really recommend getting one.