Nothing cuts strips of fabric better than rotary cutting. It’s so much easier on your hands, wrists and shoulders than using scissors! Plus, you get more accurate cuts.
In this post 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 – those links are affiliate links.
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 show you how to use this ruler in this post – Rotary Cutting: How to Square Up Your Fabric and Cut Strips.
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 two 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. Only get these if you make a lot of that kind of block. These are the only specialty rulers I have. . .
- This 6 1/2 inch square ruler is awesome for making half-square triangle blocks.
- This 15 inch square ruler is my go-to ruler for trimming finished quilt blocks to size. I use this ruler with every single quilt I make. There’s a tutorial showing how I use it here – How to Trim Quilt Blocks.
- This 20 1/2 inch square ruler is a bit of a splurge, but it makes trimming larger blocks (like the ones I use to make this Polaroid quilt) super easy.
That’s it – the whole inventory of my rotary cutting tools.
Here’s a round-up of tutorials showing how I use these tools. . .
- Rotary Cutting – How to Square Up Your Fabric and Cut Strips – a video post showing how to cut straight strips and bias strips – and what the heck the difference is.
- How to Make Half Square Triangles
- How to Trim Quilt Blocks
- How to Make a Polaroid Quilt – a free tutorial
I’ve been sewing 40+ years and am just now discovering how handy rotary cutters and mats can be to even a non-quilter.
Can’t wait to see how you cut bias strips. Love using bias for piping and trim – hate cutting it.
I don’t do anything fancy for cutting bias strips – but I do explain those mysterious lines on your ruler. Took me forever to figure those out! Also- when to use bias cut and when to use straight.