Basic techniques

How to use a rotary cutter

 

BASICS of Rotary Cutting                                      

 

SUPPLIES

Cutting mat: cutting mats have a self-healing and long wearing surface with inch or cm grids on it. After cutting with a rotary cutter there will be no marks visible on the mat.

Rotary Cutter: there are several variations of rotary cutters available left- and right handed, in different sizes. For cutting several layers of fabric at once, the 45mm rotary cutter is most common to use.

Ruler: the clear rulers are made from a high quality acrylic plastic. The gridlines are marked at 1/4, 1/2 and 1 inch (or cm's).The 30, 45, 60 and 90 degree markings are very helpful to cut angles. The yellow and black markings make it easy to use a ruler on light or dark fabrics. Suitable for right- and lefthanded. 


GETTING STARTED

 

Once you get the hang of rotary cutting, you’ll love being able to speedily and easily produce a whole stack of pieces at once so you can start sewing right away. You can cut strips, squares, triangles, and diamonds in a fraction of the time it would take to cut pieces individually.

When cutting, hold the rotary cutter at a 45-degree angle to the cutting surface. Keep an even pressure on the rotary cutter and make sure the blade is touching the edge of the ruler. The less you move your fabric when cutting, the more accurate you’ll be.

As convenient as rotary cutters are, they can be dangerous if you don’t watch what you’re doing. Retract the super-sharp blade whenever you’re not cutting. Keep your cutter out of the reach of children.

Most quilt project instructions list pieces in the order in which they should be cut to make the best use of your fabrics.

Always consider the fabric grain before cutting. One or more straight sides of the pattern piece or template should follow the fabric’s lengthwise or crosswise grain.

The lengthwise grain, parallel to the selvage (the tightly finished edge), has the least amount of stretch. (Do not use the selvage of a woven fabric in a quilt. When washed, it may shrink more than the rest of the fabric.) Crosswise grain, perpendicular to the selvage, has a little more give. The edge of any pattern piece that will be on the outside of a block or quilt should always be cut on the lengthwise grain. Be sure to press the fabric before cutting to remove any wrinkles or folds.

 

SQUARING UP THE FABRIC

The key to successful rotary-cutting is to "square up" your fabric before you make the first cut. Squaring up means making one edge straight and at a 90-degree angle with the fabrics’ fold; all remaining cuts will be measured from this straight edge, so squaring up the fabric edge is an important step.

There are several different techniques for this, some of which involve the use of two rulers. For clarity and simplicity, we have chosen to describe a single-ruler technique here.

Position the folded fabric on the cutting mat with the selvage edges away from you and the bulk of the fabric length to your left. With the ruler on top of the fabric, align a horizontal grid line on the ruler with the lower folded fabric edge, leaving about 1" of fabric exposed along the right-hand edge of the ruler. Do not worry about or try to align the uneven raw edges along the right-hand side of the fabric.Lay your fabric on the rotary mat with the right side down and one selvage edge away from you. Fold the fabric with the wrong side inside and the selvages together. Fold the fabric in half again, lining up the fold with the selvage edges. Lightly hand-crease all of the folds.

 

 

Hold the ruler firmly in place with your left hand, keeping your fingers away from the right-hand edge and spreading your fingers apart slightly. Apply pressure to the ruler with your fingertips to prevent it from slipping as you cut. With the ruler firmly in place, hold the rotary cutter so the blade is touching the right-hand edge of the ruler. Roll the blade along the ruler edge, beginning just off the folded edge and pushing the cutter away from you, toward the selvage edge.

The fabric strip next to the ruler’s edge should be cut cleanly away, leaving you with a straight edge from which you can measure all subsequent cuts. Do not pick up the fabric once the edge is squared; instead, turn the cutting mat to rotate the fabric and begin cutting strips.

CUTTING AND SUB-CUTTING STRIPS 

1. First cut a 3-1/2"-wide strip crosswise on the fabric. Assuming you have squared up the fabric edge as described earlier, you can turn your cutting mat clockwise 180 degrees with the newly squared-up edge on your left and the excess fabric on the right. Place the ruler on top of the fabric.

2. Align the 3-1/2" grid mark on the ruler with the squared-up edge of the fabric. (Align only the vertical grid mark and the fabric raw edge; ignore the selvages at the lower edge that may not line up perfectly with the horizontal ruler grid.) A good guideline to remember when rotary-cutting fabric is “the piece you want to keep should be under the ruler.” That way, if you accidentally swerve away from the ruler when cutting, the piece under the ruler will be “safe.”

3. Placing your rotary cutter along the ruler’s right-hand edge and holding the ruler firmly with your left hand, run the blade along the ruler to cut the strip. Remove the ruler.

4. Sliding the excess fabric out of the way, carefully turn the mat so the 3-1/2"-wide strip is horizontal in relation to you. Refer to Squaring Up the Fabric to trim off the selvage edges and square up the strip’s short edges.

5. Then align the ruler’s 3-1/2" grid mark with a squared-up short edge of the strip (the 3-1/2" square you want to keep should be under the ruler). Hold the ruler with your left hand and run the rotary cutter along the right-hand ruler edge to cut a 3-1/2" square. You can cut multiple 3-1/2" squares from one strip by sliding the ruler over 3-1/2" from the previous cutting line and cutting again.

 

TIPS AND TROUBLESHOOTING

 

Remember, precision counts when rotary cutting. To avoid cutting multiple crooked strips, square up your fabric again before cutting too many more strips.

Maintain good posture, bending at the hip rather than the waist when rotary cutting is easier and puts less stress on your back and arms. Place your cutting mat on an appropriate height table or countertop. Raise your cutting table by finding bed risers at your local linens or chain store.

If you haven’t cut through all the fabric layers, check the following:
Is the blade dull?
Is there a nick in the blade?
Did you put enough pressure on the rotary cutter?

Products in our webshop for rotary cutting
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