Why Do You Need a Rotary Cutter?

If you are into sewing, quilting, or any other fabric-related craft, you might have heard of a rotary cutter. A rotary cutter is a tool that can make your cutting process faster, easier, and more accurate. But what exactly is a rotary cutter, and why do you need one? In this article, we will answer these questions and more, and help you choose the best rotary cutter for your projects.

What is a Rotary Cutter?

A rotary cutter is a tool that consists of a handle with a circular blade that rotates. It is used to cut fabric and other materials in a straight line, without having to lift the material or use scissors. Rotary cutters come in different sizes and types, depending on the material and the task you want to perform.

Rotary cutters are usually specified by their blade diameter, which ranges from 18 millimeters to 60 millimeters. The smaller the blade, the more precise and detailed the cut. The larger the blade, the more layers and thicker materials it can cut through. Some rotary cutters also have different blade shapes, such as pinking, scallop, or wave, to create decorative edges on the fabric.

Rotary cutters are designed to work on a solid surface that cannot be scratched or cut open, such as a cutting mat. Cutting mats are made of plastic or rubber, and have grid lines and measurements to help you align and measure your fabric. They also protect your table and your blade from damage.

Why Do You Need a Rotary Cutter?

There are many benefits of using a rotary cutter for your fabric projects. Here are some of the main reasons why you need a rotary cutter:

  • Speed: A rotary cutter can cut through multiple layers of fabric at once, saving you time and energy. You can also cut faster and more smoothly than with scissors, as you don’t have to open and close the blades or lift the fabric.
  • Accuracy: A rotary cutter can cut along a straight edge, a ruler, or a template, ensuring that your cuts are precise and consistent. You can also avoid distortion and stretching of the fabric, as you don’t have to pull or twist it while cutting.
  • Versatility: A rotary cutter can cut various types of fabrics and materials, such as cotton, wool, fleece, leather, vinyl, paper, and more. You can also use it for different purposes, such as quilting, sewing, applique, patchwork, and more.
  • Safety: A rotary cutter has a safety lock or a retractable blade that prevents accidental cuts when not in use. You can also control the pressure and the angle of the blade, reducing the risk of injury.
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How to Choose and Use a Rotary Cutter?

To choose the best rotary cutter for your needs, you should consider the following factors:

  • Size: The size of the blade depends on the type and thickness of the material you want to cut, and the level of detail you want to achieve. A 45 millimeter blade is the most common and versatile option, as it can cut through most fabrics and materials, and is still relatively maneuverable. A 60 millimeter blade is ideal for cutting many layers or thick materials, such as leather or denim. An 18 or 28 millimeter blade is suitable for cutting small, detailed, or curved shapes, such as applique or paper piecing.
  • Type: The type of the blade depends on the effect you want to create on the edge of the fabric. A straight blade is the standard and most widely used option, as it can cut any shape or pattern. A pinking blade creates a zigzag edge that prevents fraying of the fabric. A scallop or wave blade creates a decorative edge that adds interest and texture to the fabric.
  • Material: The material of the blade affects its durability and sharpness. Most rotary cutter blades are made of stainless steel, which is strong and rust-resistant. Some blades are coated with titanium, which is harder and longer-lasting than steel. Some blades are also serrated, which helps them grip and cut slippery or stretchy fabrics.
  • Handle: The handle of the rotary cutter affects its comfort and ease of use. There are different types of handles, such as straight, curved, ergonomic, or soft-grip. The best handle for you depends on your personal preference and hand size. You should look for a handle that fits your hand well, feels comfortable, and allows you to control the blade with minimal effort.
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To use a rotary cutter effectively, you should follow these steps:

  • Prepare your fabric: Before cutting, you should wash, dry, and iron your fabric to remove any wrinkles, dirt, or shrinkage. You should also fold your fabric in half, with the right sides together, and align the selvages and the grain lines.
  • Prepare your cutting mat: You should place your cutting mat on a flat and stable surface, such as a table or a floor. You should also make sure that the mat is large enough to accommodate your fabric and your cuts. You should avoid cutting on a surface that can be damaged by the blade, such as wood or glass.
  • Prepare your ruler or template: You should use a ruler or a template to guide your cuts and measure your fabric. You should choose a ruler or a template that is suitable for your project, such as a quilting ruler, a sewing ruler, or a shape template. You should also make sure that the ruler or the template is clear and accurate, and has markings for inches, centimeters, angles, or other measurements.
  • Prepare your rotary cutter: You should choose a rotary cutter that matches your fabric, your cutting mat, and your ruler or template. You should also make sure that the blade is sharp, clean, and secure. You should unlock or extend the blade when you are ready to cut, and lock or retract it when you are done.
  • Cut your fabric: You should place your fabric on the cutting mat, with the folded edge facing you and the selvage edge facing away from you. You should place your ruler or template on top of the fabric, aligning it with the edge, the grain line, or the desired shape. You should hold the ruler or template firmly with your non-dominant hand, keeping your fingers away from the blade. You should hold the rotary cutter with your dominant hand, and position it next to the ruler or template, with the blade facing down. You should apply even pressure and cut along the edge of the ruler or template, from the bottom to the top, in one smooth motion. You should avoid stopping or changing direction in the middle of the cut, as this can cause uneven or jagged edges. You should also avoid cutting beyond the edge of the fabric or the cutting mat, as this can damage the blade or the surface. You should repeat the process until you have cut all the pieces you need for your project.
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A rotary cutter is a tool that can make your fabric cutting easier, faster, and more accurate. It can also help you create different effects and shapes on the fabric, depending on the size and type of the blade. To choose and use a rotary cutter, you should consider the factors such as the material, the task, the handle, the blade, and the cutting mat. You should also follow the steps and tips for cutting your fabric safely and efficiently. With a rotary cutter, you can enjoy your fabric projects and unleash your creativity.