This tutorial will show you how to use a rotary cutter - a tool that has revolutionized the sewing and craft world. This wonderfully simple tool is the answer to effective ‘clear–cut’ pattern cutting and crafting. The rotary cutter ensures sharp, definite and obvious cutting lines and that is the essence of ‘clear cut’. In addition, learning how to use a rotary cutter makes cutting patterns and shapes quicker and easier. What more could be asked of a cutting tool?
How to Use a Rotary Cutter
Plain, simple and clear cut – a rotary cutter! Decisions of what brand to choose when learning how to use a rotary cutter are not necessarily as ‘clear cut’ because there are several brands available and shapes and sizes too. Think about what the cutter will do for you and the amount of use you will get from this handy tool.
Ask yourself 3 little questions to get your ‘clear cut’ answer! What, why, and how.
Let's talk about:
- what are rotary cutters?
- why use a rotary cutter?
- and how to use a rotary cutter?
What are Rotary Cutters?
A rotary cutter is a fabric and craft cutting tool with a very sharp round blade set into a handle device. The blade rotates and enables you to cut faster and more effectively. They come in a variety of styles, handle shapes and sizes.
Blade sizes range from 18mm, 28mm, 45mm, and 60mms and all come with a safety lock so the blade is not exposed. The most commonly used sizes are 45mm and 60mm.
How to Use a Rotary Cutter - The Cutter
The first thing you will need is a rotary cutter. They come in different sizes and brands to suit different holders. Here is some information to help you choose.
What Size Rotary Cutter Do I Nneed? 45mm vs 60mm
The 45mm blade is the most common size you will find. It is designed for both sewing and quilting projects that are small to medium in size. A 60mm blade will cut larger projects and will go through more layers at once. It tends to be used more for larger quilting projects rather than sewing clothing.
As a general rule, the smaller blade does curves and corners nicely and the larger blade obviously handles a greater quantity of fabric at a time. Try and use the correct blade for the project to avoid accidents and to get the best results. Depending on what you are sewing regularly, you may even need more than one sized cutter.
There are pinking edges on some cutters and even scalloped edges if you want to be adventurous.
Rotary Cutter Best Brands
Different brands tend to have different safety features and there are generally many different handles available within each brand. Consider how much cutting you are planning on doing and whether you want something ergonomic or just simple. If possible go into a craft or haberdashery shop and hold a few different styles to see what feels comfortable in your hand.
Which Rotary Cutter Did I Choose?
I purchased a new cutter last week as I'm planning on some quilting tutorials for you and chose the Olfa Deluxe 45mm. My old cutter was a really simple model and was prone to wobbling as I cut. What I liked about this Olfa is the retractable handle.
It feels really comfortable in my hand and steady when I cut. I mainly cut smaller projects and just a couple of layers at a time so the 45mm size worked best for my requirements.
How to Use a Rotary Cutter - Other Supplies
When learning how to use a rotary cutter, you will also need:
- A proper cutting mat. The mat needs to be a ‘self-healing’ mat. This means that the cuts made on the mat will repair themselves. The best size to get is a size that covers your normal work surface. Get a good quality brand as cheaper mats are often hard and can slip and dull your blades.
- A non-slip ruler that you use to line up and cut against with the rotary cutter. Years ago I used to cut leather regularly and both times I cut myself badly were due to the ruler slipping. These days I only cut with a non-slip ruler such as those made by Omnigrip. If you can't get a non-slip ruler, then consider purchasing some silicone non-slip disks to add under your regular ruler like these made by Trucut.
Why Use a Rotary Cutter?
The rotary cutter makes cutting fabric so much faster, easier and more accurate. Once you have used a rotary cutter you will be totally converted to this method of cutting. The rotary cutter, with its razor-sharp blade, cuts through multiple layers of fabric and ensures that several layers or pieces of fabric are cut with precision.
The rotary cutter is the best option for the quilter or sewer who is planning on cutting multiple pieces of fabric in different sizes and shapes. The cutting mat and the correct ruler just make the whole process of cutting accurate shapes so much easier.
How to Use a Rotary Cutter vs Scissors
One of the other advantages of a rotary cutter over scissors is that there is no real difference in design for left or right-handed cutters. One type fits all! In addition, you will have clean accurate edges that are essential for professional results on sewing and quilting projects. It’s a bit like slicing pizza as you put a bit of pressure on the rotary blade and push down to slice up your pieces of fabric. It’s just so easy and you will never turn back once you experienced the rotary cutter in action.
It’s a bit like slicing pizza as you put a bit of pressure on the rotary blade and push down to slice up your pieces of fabric. It’s just so easy and you will never turn back once you experienced the rotary cutter in action.
How to Use a Rotary Cutter - Instructions
Once you have made an informed decision and have chosen your cutter then it is always a good idea to practice as you learn how to use a rotary cutter.
Learn how to use a rotary cutter to get the best outcome from the tool.
- STRAIGHT ARM - Take hold of the handle and keep your wrist, hand and arm in a straight line. This will give you the best control and pressure possible.
- POSITIONS - Try different positions for your grip, some cutters like to position their finger on the top of the handle, like a pencil, to guide the cutter.
- CUT AWAY FROM YOURSELF - Remember it is a pushing action that does most of the work. You should always push away from yourself as a safety precaution and not pull towards yourself.
- STAND UP - It is generally best to stand up as you are cutting so you can get a good firm and even pressure.
- RULER - Make good use of the ruler as a guide and stabilizer.
- FIRM PRESSURE - Press firmly on the fabric and the cutting board.
- FABRIC - Line up your fabric carefully. Make sure the grains of the fabric all run the same way.
- READ - Take note of any of the manufacturer's additional safety tips. Different brands will have different safety features.
How Do You Sharpen a Rotary Cutter?
Eventually, your once sharp rotary blade is going to wear down and need sharpening. When it is blunt, you will find that the blade will tear the fabric and struggle to cut through several layers at once. Always make sure you remove the old blade carefully so you don't cut yourself. Even a dull blade can be sharp enough to cut your skin.
Here are 3 ways you can sharpen a blunt blade:
- Sharpeners - If you want to sharpen your rotary cutter blades then think about investing in a rotary cutter sharpener. Always check you are purchasing the correct sized sharpener for the size of your blade if the sharpener does not cut multiple sizes. Rotary cutter sharpeners can be either powered (electric) or manual.
- Sharpening Edge Rulers - Some rulers are coated with a ‘diamond carbide’ edge so as you cut the blade is sharpened as you cut, thus extending the life of your blades.
- Aluminium Foil - This common household product can help you sharpen your rotary cutter blades cheaply and easily. Run your blade back and forth through several layers of foil. You will need to do this numerous times so it can be a little more time consuming and is slightly less effective than some of the other methods. None the less it can certainly extend the life your blades.
If sharpening your blades doesn't appeal to you, then you can purchase new replacement blades quite cheaply. Don't forget to match the blade size to your rotary cutter. Ideally, you should also match the brand of your replacement blade to your cutter.
Personally, I don't go through enough blades to justify a sharpener so just buy replacements instead. If you are cutting regularly, however, it will be more cost effective in the long run to purchase a sharpener.
How to Use a Rotary Cutter - In Conclusion
Now that how to use a rotary cutter has been answered, you should have a ‘clear cut’ idea on the way forward in your quest for the best rotary cutter for you. It is really a step up in the cutting world and once you have traveled the rotary cutter path you won’t look back.