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quilting Quilting 101 Becky  

How to Use Your Rotary Cutter

There are times when I get a bit nervous in the quilting– it doesn’t happen very often, but when it comes to the rotary cutter, I get a little bit nervous.

There is a blade, people.  A very sharp blade.  One that has a sleeve to protect it, but when you are cutting…it’s out there.  Sharp edge and all.

Let’s get over the phobia of that sharp thing and find out how to use the rotary cutter for perfect cuts.rotary-cutter2

When I started my quilting adventure I started with scissors.  I had no idea what I was doing and thought that this was what everyone was using.  After my first quilt, I fell in love with a rotary cutter.  I tried a few styles out, but seemed most attracted to the small size.  It fits my hand perfect, runs around curves like nobodies business…and so- I use it every day.

All rotary cutters have a blade…depending on the brand they have different sizes.  There are even ones that do a pinking cut {love mine!}.  They also have a sliding button or a popping button that pulls the safetly sleeve down onto the blade when not in use.

I am pretty obsessive about mine….I close it every time I am done with a cut.  It’s auto for the thumb.  Even if I am doing a cut immediatly after the first one! {sometimes this is such an obnoxious habit!}.

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Let’s talk about how you use this awesome cutting machine!  You will need a few supplies– your cutter, a ruler, and of course super cute fabric.

To use a cutter, you will need to slide the protector out of the way to expose the blade.  Then you line up your ruler- placing it position.  Your blade will line up right along the side of the ruler.  That is one reason the ruler is a little thicker.   It allows the blade to bump right along side and guide the cut.

The circular blade will turn in a circle…along side the ruler…cutting the fabric- straight as can be!


You will notice that depending on your brand of cutter—there is a place for your finger.  There is grippy lines that have been cut into the handle to keep your finger from slipping.  Other brands might have a divet or impression for your finger.  Some even have a curved handle.

I suggest getting together with a few sewing friends and having a rotary cutting party.  Give a try on a few different styles to find the one that ‘fits’ the best before you buy them.

I have a few different sizes…using the smallest the most, but I do require the larger ones when cutting a lot of fabric.

As far as the blades go— they will need changing!  Having a sharp blade is sooo helpful!  I find that when my fabric doesn’t get cut in a few places, it’s time to change the blade.  I usually wait way to long to do that, and when I finally do I always think– why didn’t I do this earlier!

Along with all of this I have to say something about cutting safety.  I have heard stories upon stories of rotary cutter accidents…..I have not yet had one {see the part above about being obsessed with closing the blade}, but they do happen. There are some additional precautions you can make when cutting- like

  • safety glove
  • cutting away from you–NEVER cut towards you.
  • Have the hand holding the ruler BEHIND the cutting hand.  {I have had the blade jump the ruler and go along it’s merry way….my other had was not even close by. phew!}
  • Don’t cut more than your blade can handle.  If the fabric pile pushes the ruler high, you have a greater chance of something bad happening.

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Q & A– Do you have a favorite size or brand of rotary cutter?  Have any suggestions you’d like to share? Leave a comment and start the conversation.

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5 thoughts on “How to Use Your Rotary Cutter

  1. Terri C

    I just found out that the clear first aid tape is wonderful to put on the back side of your ruler. It keeps it from sliding. I’ve tried everything and this is the least expensive and works the best! I’ve had almost mishaps with my cutter when my ruler slips. I use about 6 pieces on the back. And you can see through it!

  2. Becky

    Terri- I haven’t tried that, but totally should! Thanks for the idea.

  3. Diane Stanley

    The fabric stores have some great no slip sheets that come in a roll. They keep your rulers from moving!! What a difference!!! You can cut them to size any rulers.

  4. CJ Hines

    I cut the tip of my finger off years ago with my rotary cutter, which required stitches. I have invested in a ruler that has a shield so I don’t do that again. It’s been a great investment.

  5. Becky

    I’ve seen that ruler. Great idea and so glad to hear it works well.

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