Following on from our fun Quilt-along series inside Sew Inspired 11 and the launch of our new Quilting Starter Kit, learn how to use a rotary cutter with accuracy and precision. By Bernie Corner
When used correctly, rotary cutters are amazing for speedy and accurate cutting. They’re also capable of cutting multiple layers of fabric in one go! Cutting is often a sewist’s least favourite part of a project, so follow this guide to speed up the process and focus on the fun parts!
Purchasing a rotary cutter;
There are many rotary cutters on the market, but you must always use them with a cutting mat and an acrylic ruler. Most are universal, but it’s worth checking if they’re specifically designed for left-handed or right-handed use to purchase the one that suits you. The rotary cutter in our Quilting Starter Kit is universal.
They are also available in blade sizes of 18mm to 60mm, with the most common size being 45mm. The smaller blades are ideal for tight curves and detailed designs, while the larger blades are more suited for straight cuts and cutting multiple layers of fabric.
The blades of rotary cutters are incredibly sharp so be careful and always keep them away from children! All rotary cutters feature a safety mechanism or guard that should be utilised after every cut and whenever the rotary cutter is not in use. This is a good habit to get into as the cutter is predominately a razor blade, so care should always be taken around it.
How to use
1 It’s best to stand up when using the rotary cutter as you need to apply an even pressure throughout the whole process. Always cut away from your body. Take note of your measurement then align the fabric and ruler on the cutting mat.
2 Splay the fingers of the hand you’re not cutting with across the ruler. Avoid laying your hand flat as it takes longer to react from this position if you should slip with the rotary cutter.
3 When you are ready to cut, remove the guard on the rotary cutter. Hold it at a 45° angle and place the blade against the edge of the ruler, just before you reach the edge of the fabric.
4 Use a smooth forward action to push the rotary cutter through the fabric. If you get so far and feel like you are stretching, pause, replace the guard and move your hand up the ruler. Then remove the guard and finish the cut. Always replace the guard after cutting.
As with any blade, rotary cutter blades will eventually blunt. The most common reason for a blade not cutting correctly is because it’s run over a pin. Once this happens, the blade cannot be repaired and needs to be replaced. Always take care when removing and replacing blades and ensure that they are disposed of safely. Blunt rotary blades will still cut paper so a good tip is to purchase two and to keep one for fabric and the other for paper!