how to use a rotary cutter on fabric, a step by step tutorial featured by top sewing blog, The Sewing Korner

If you’re a sewer or especially a quilter, you need to know how to use a rotary cutter. Simply put, rotary cutters are a little like pizza cutters because they are round and cut through fabric as you push them along the material you’re trying to maneuver. Learning how to use a rotary cutter isn’t as difficult as you think, as long as you follow some basic rules.

A rotary cutter usually comes with a mat and sometimes a ruler, and they’re used together to cut straight lines in your fabric. Rotary cutters are simple to use and make your cutting time a lot shorter, as well as keep your fabric looking more professional.

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    Getting Started with Cutting Fabric with a Rotary Cutter

    To get started and learn how to use a rotary cutter on fabric, you should first learn the different types of cutters there are available. These include three main sizes – 28 mm, 45 mm, and 60 mm – as well as two basic types. The numbers 28, 45, and 60 refer to the size of the blade itself.

    Rotary cutters also come in two types of safety covers. Most of them have a blade that retracts manually, and you have to open and close it yourself when needed. Others have covers that cover the blade automatically whenever the handle is released.

    If you’re a beginner, you might want to consider the rotary cutters that automatically cover the blade. Both types of rotary cutters are safe, but this one makes sure the blade is always covered as soon as you let go of it.

    After all, it wouldn’t take much for you to use the first type of cutter and accidentally injure yourself on the blade. The “automatic” ones also tend to have a small button that you can press that locks it into place, ensuring that the blade will not accidentally cut you.

    How to Use a Rotary Cutter on Fabric: It Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated

    Just like creating a masterpiece when sewing, both sewing and quilting need to start by making sure the fabric is ready to move onto the next step. What does that mean? In practical terms, it means making sure the fabric is ironed properly.

    When quilting, hold the fabric so that the selvage ends line up straight. You may have pre-washed the fabric first, but whether you did or didn’t, make sure the selvage edges are straight and together.

    Next, iron the fabric well and check to make sure the folded edge looks nice and neat. Then, make sure the entire cutting area is neat and uncluttered. No debris, or other sewing supplies anywhere near your cutting mat because it will only make cutting the fabric a lot harder.

    When you’re ready to start cutting, lay your fabric on the cutting mat. Make sure your raw edge is on the mat’s right side and that the folded edge is at the bottom.

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    Your very first cut is one you’ll use to square up the fabric, meaning you’ll be cutting it at the right edge. Take your ruler and line it up with the folded edge against the lines marked on your ruler. This way, you can be sure the edge is perfectly straight.

    With your left hand on the ruler to make sure it stays in place, cut along your ruler with the right hand. Use pressure that is steady and even. In the beginning, you might be surprised by how much pressure it takes to do this, but you’ll get used to it faster than you think.

    When you’re done with this step, rotate your fabric. After you’re done rotating, your squared edge – the one that you just cut – should be to the left. Try to do all of this without lifting your fabric.

    Next, line up the ruler to the next place you need to cut. Make sure your ruler is lined up at the folded edge. You want to make sure that your squared edge is straight all the way down as well.

    How to Choose the Right Size Rotary Cutter to Cut Fabric

    Learning how to use a rotary cutter starts with determining which size is right for the job at hand. Below are some suggestions for choosing between a 28 mm, 45 mm, and 60 mm rotary cutter.

    28mm Rotary Cutters

    Use 28 mm rotary cutters anytime you’re cutting curved or very small pieces. The 28mm rotary cutter is good for smaller projects and corners that can be tight.

    45mm Rotary Cutters

    Use 45 mm rotary cutters if you need to cut through 1 to 2 layers of fabric. The 45mm rotary cutter is easier to use for pattern cutting and if you are a beginner this is a good choice for your first rotary cutter.

    60 mm Rotary Cutters

    Use 60 mm rotary cutters if you need to cut through several layers of fabric at a time. If you are a quilter you might want to invest in this larger rotary cutter.

    The most commonly used and versatile rotary cutter is the 45 mm one. In fact, most quilters buy this one first before buying another one. You may even end up using a 45 mm rotary cutter a long time before going with a bigger one.

    Keep in mind that rotary cutters also come in various colors and designs, so if you want one that is a little festive and fun to use, you’ll certainly have many of them to choose from.

    How to Choose the Right Cutting Mat for Your Rotary Cutter

    Choosing the right cutting mat is just as important as choosing the right rotary cutter. Just like the rotary cutters themselves, cutting mats come in several different sizes, and each one has its own advantages. Below is a brief description of the three main types of cutting mats, 12” x 18” double-sided mat, 

    12” x 18” Double-Sided Cutting Mat

    The 12” x 18” double-sided mat is easily stored and is perfect for most projects, especially if your quilt pieces aren’t that big.

    24” x 36” Double-Sided Cutting Mat

    The 24” x 36” double-sided mat is great for bigger fabric pieces. You’ll just have to make sure you have enough room to store it when it isn’t being used.

    Rotating Cutting Mat

    The rotating mat isn’t necessary but it’s a convenient option for you. Since it rotates, it makes it easier to cut various pieces of fabric without having to turn the fabric as you work.

    Keep in mind that a double-sided cutting mat is always your smartest option. They make a much stronger mat and make sure the rotary cutter doesn’t damage what is below the mat. They also come in a variety of colors, which makes them more fun to work with.

    How to Choose the Right Quilting Ruler

    Learning how to use a rotary cutter means learning which accessories you’ll need, and this includes the acrylic quilting ruler that is a must when cutting quilt pieces. Remember that your rotary cutter is razor sharp, so using the right ruler is important.

    The first thing you’ll notice when shopping for acrylic rulers is how many of them there are. The most popular is the one sized 6.5” x 24.5”. This is a good overall size that can accommodate most of your quilting projects.

    There is also one made for smaller cuts that is sized 4” x 14”, as well as packages of rulers that have several different sizes in them. The latter includes sizes such as 2.5”, 4.5”, 6.5”, and 9.5” square rulers.

    In Summary

    Learning how to use a rotary cutter the right way is crucial because the right sewing and quilting project requires that the cutting of the fabric be perfect. Without this, the entire project can be ruined. With the right tools, including the right rotary cutter, your project is guaranteed to turn out perfectly every time.

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