Last Updated on April 25, 2018 by wendigratz
We’re getting ready to start some clothing and quilting lessons. You’ll find yourself cutting lots of strips of fabric for both of these types of sewing – and nothing cuts strips of fabric better than rotary cutting. This week I’m going to take you through the basic tools, tell you what you’ll use them for and give you some recommendations on purchasing.
All of these tools are readily available at pretty much any fabric store. I also linked to Amazon for each product, so you can see more details.
My #1 favorite tool – and one I recommend for everyone, whether you’re going to rotary cut or mark and cut with scissors – is a clear acrylic ruler. Mine is 6″ x 24″ and that’s the size I recommend*. It should have an all-over 1-inch grid, with markings down to 1/8 inch. Also look for diagonal lines that say 30, 45, and 60. Those seem mysterious at first, but they are terrific for cutting angled shapes. I’ll show you how to use them next week.
I also have a 2″ x 18″ ruler, but I hardly ever use it now that I have the big one. Just buy a big one.
The only other tools you really need for rotary cutting are a rotary cutter and a cutting mat.
This my my rotary cutter* and I love it. It takes a 45mm blade and it’s very easy to find replacement blades. Some people also have smaller cutters for going around curves, and larger cutters for going through more layers of fabric, but this is all I need. The blade is (and needs to remain) razor sharp – so keep it out of reach of kids until they are ready to use it safely – with instruction and supervision.
I have 3 different cutting mats. This is the one I use for most of my cutting*. It’s big – 24″ x 36″ and I do recommend getting the biggest one you can afford and/or have room for. Most fabric is 44″ wide and it’s very nice to be able to fold it in half just once for cutting – so look for one that’s at least 24″ on one side.
I also have a 12″ x 18″ mat like this one* that’s very handy for cutting quilt blocks when I want to spin them around to cut from more than one side. With this small mat I can spin the mat and not disturb the block. I’ve tried cutting mats with a lazy Susan-style base for spinning around, but for me that spins too easily. I’m happiest just using a smaller mat.
There are lots of other specialty rulers out there, with markings designed particularly for a certain kind of quilt block. The only one of these I use with any regularity is a 6 1/2″ square ruler like this one*. It’s great, and worth the price, if you’re making a lot of half-square triangle blocks. Otherwise it’s completely unnecessary.
That’s it – the whole inventory of my rotary cutting tools. Anyone else want to chime in with a tool suggestion?
And here’s a video showing you how to use these tools. I demonstrate how to cut straight strips and bias strips – and what the heck the difference is.
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