Why You Need a Rotary Cutter

rotary cutter

At first, the idea of a rotary cutter can be intimidating but it will soon become one of your favorite tools once you learn how to use it safely. While it is an investment initially, the cost is totally worth it. It will save both time and energy (and your hand won’t hurt like it can with scissors).

Along with the rotary cutter itself, you will need to get a cutting mat and large plastic ruler. I find it useful to have two rulers: one that’s 3” by 18” and the other 6” by 24”. It’s also smart to go ahead and buy a package of extra blades just to have on hand. This is another tool where you will get what you pay for. If you do a lot of sewing, it’s worth getting the larger, nicer, ergonomic handled cutter.

How to Use a Rotary Cutter

When using the rotary cutter, you always want to think safety first. Use the lines on the cutting mat and ruler to orient and square up your fabric. You can fold your fabric over so that you’re cutting through multiple layers in order to see the lines on the mat. Place your non-dominant hand (left hand if you use your right to hold the rotary cutter; they do make lefty cutters) on the ruler and shift your body weight into that hand so that the ruler stays in place.

Make sure your thumb and fingers are all on the ruler and away from the edge. Keep the blade of the rotary cutter against the edge of the ruler the entire time and shift some of your weight into the cutter. Always push the cutter away from you; never pull it towards you and do not use a sawing motion. Move the mat and/or the fabric so that you are always cutting in a safe way – no acrobatic cutting please!

Once you have passed over the fabric with the blade, put the rotary cutter down but do not take your hand off the ruler. Gently tug at the fabric to see if it cut through all the layers cleanly. If not, keep your ruler hand in place, pick up the cutter, and pass the blade over the fabric again.

Tips for Using a Rotary Cutter

Go slow, especially when you are just learning. If you try to rush, you will end up veering away from the ruler or hitting the ruler (which will cause a dull spot in your blade). If you find that your blade always leaves a bit of fabric uncut in the same spot, replace the blade. If the fabric is not well cut the whole length of the ruler even with a new blade, you probably need to shift more weight into your cutting hand. A blade in good condition should cut through one to six layers of cotton like a hot knife through butter and is so satisfying!

Want more beginner sewing tips? Check out this article: Essential Sewing Tools and Supplies

Have something to add? Leave a comment or email editor@nationalsewingcircle.com.

Discussion
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7 Responses to “Why You Need a Rotary Cutter”
  1. Dorothy Maxwell

    You mention the need to press firmly, I have also found it pays to press down vertically, not at an angle. So no low chairs – best of all, stand up when cutting!

    Reply
  2. Audrey

    Could anyone say about how long one blade should last please? Not had mine very long and it doesn’t seem to be cutting properly.

    Reply
    • jean.wozniak

      Hi Audrey. A general rule of thumb is to change out your blade after every project. If you generally cut thinner, light weight fabric your blade may last longer.

      Reply
      • Mrs Peralta

        Oh my goodness my blade is indeed in need of a change. I’ve had it since 1989 and been using it since. I am off to the store to get a new blade today !

        Reply
  3. JULIANA

    I am still having problems cutting an entire strip, even with only 2 layers of fabric and a new blade…any additional hints?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi,

      Your issue may be that you are not applying enough pressure on the rotary cutter when making your cuts. Try applying more downward pressure while ensuring that you are holding your ruler properly so it does not shift while you are cutting. Here is a quick video from our sister site National Quilter’s Circle, that should help you:

      https://www.nationalquilterscircle.com/video/make-accurate-cuts-012117/

      Hope this helps!

      Cheers,

      Ashley

      Reply