What Is a Rotary Cutter, and How Do I Use It?

As a new quilter, you may have a lot of questions. There are tools to master and techniques to learn. One essential tool that quilters love is the rotary cutter. What is a rotary cutter, and why do you need one? This quick guide will help you understand the basics of using a rotary cutter and why they're so helpful for quilting. 

What Is a Rotary Cutter and How Is It Used?

A rotary cutter is one of the essential tools you should have in your quilting supplies. They look like a pizza cutter for fabric. They have a handle with a sharp blade wheel capable of cutting through multiple layers of fabric. You can find them in varying sizes – the smaller the blade size, the easier you can maneuver it. Larger blade sizes allow for thicker fabric or more layers of fabric to be cut. Here is a quick tutorial on how to use a rotary cutter: 

Prep Your Fabric

Fold the fabric so that the selvage edges meet and are straight, and press the material to ensure accurate cuts. 

Prep Your Cutting Area

Clear the space and lay out your cutting mat. 

Cut Your Fabric 

  1. Lay your fabric on the cutting mat with the crisp folded edge at the bottom of your mat and the raw edge to the right side.
  2. Line up your ruler with the folded edge to ensure your cut is straight, and hold the ruler firmly in place – your first cut will be on the right edge to square the fabric. 
  3. Cut along the ruler and apply even, steady pressure – lots of pressure!
  4. Rotate the fabric so that the squared edge you cut is now on the left – do not lift the fabric.
  5. Line your ruler against the folded edge and ensure it is straight before continuing. 

Benefits of a Rotary Cutter

While scissors are also an important tool, there are many benefits to using a rotary cutter! 

  • They are faster and easier to hold than scissors.
  • You can cut multiple layers more accurately because it does not lift/move the fabric. 
  • They are easier to use when cutting shapes with a pattern on top of the fabric. 
  • You can find decorative blades for cuts beyond simple straight lines.
  • They have more accuracy than scissors for projects that have various curves and sizes. 

What You Wished You Knew When You Started Using a Rotary Cutter

Sometimes you have to learn through trial and error, but sometimes you can glean from the wisdom of quilters before you. These simple tips will get you started. First, invest in a quality rotary cutter. Look for one where the blade pops out – if the guard pushes in while you are cutting, there is a higher chance of fabric catching on the guard. Use firm, quick cuts for more successful results. Finally, remember to replace dull blades as they start to skip or miss fabric sections. Sharp blades not only work more efficiently, but they are also safer to use. 

Discover All of Your Quilting Needs at Inspired to Sew 

Rotary cutters are essential tools, and it may take a little practice to learn how to use one, but once you know how to use a rotary cutter, you'll be thankful. If you are looking for quilting fabric, tools, or tips from sewing experts and enthusiasts, look no further than Inspired to Sew. As a premier fabric and sewing store in the Cedar Rapids, IA area for more than 20 years, Inspired to Sew offers supplies, classes, tips, and more for all your sewing projects. If you have questions about quilting, fabric, or otherwise, contact Inspired to Sew - we're eager to assist new and experienced creators to achieve their sewing goals! 


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