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How To Use A Rotary Cutter

Let me begin by saying a few words about rotary cutters. What exactly are they? Exactly how do they work? Before I get started, here are three different quilt rotary cutters available at Amazon. Associate Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I earn commissions from qualifying purchases.


In appearance (and in terms of how they work!) rotary cutters are very similar to pizza cutters.

My favorite type is one with a 45mm blade that can handle multiple layers of fabric at the same time, and I like that it is not too large so that it can be easily handled when I am using it. Because of the ergonomic handle on the cutter, I can hold it at the perfect angle without having to worry about my wrists cramping up.

If you want to get a rotary cutter, make sure you get one with the blade that pops out. This is better than one where the guard is pushed in while you are cutting.

Cutting Fabric With A Rotary Cutter

Prep Work

Before cutting with a rotary cutter, you’ll need to prepare the fabric for cutting. Pressing fabric, regardless of whether you pre-wash it, is a necessity for accurate cutting.

The first step is to fold the fabric in such a way that the ends of the selvage meet. As a result, you may have to unfold and refold the fabric, shake it a little, etc., and you may have to straighten the non-selvage edges again – don’t be worried about that! What matters most is that the selvage edges are aligned and the edges are straight.

It is now time for you to press your fabric and ensure that the folded edge is nice and crisp.

The second step is to prepare the area where you are going to cut. As soon as you have laid out your cutting mat, you need to clear the space all around it. Having a few toy cars or some candles right off the cutting mat can cause you to make a mess of everything you cut out.

Cutting The Fabric

In the first step, you should take your fabric piece and lay it on your cutting mat so that the raw edge of the fabric is on the right side. Make sure that the crisp folded edge of the mat is aligned with the bottom of the mat.

In order to square up the fabric, the first cut will be made to the right edge of the fabric. Using the lines to make sure it is straight, line up your ruler with the folded edge and ensure it is straight with the lines.

To hold your ruler in place, place your left hand on the ruler and hold it in place with your left hand. When you are using a long ruler like a 6″ x 24″, you might want to use your elbow to keep your ruler from moving when you are using it. It’s been my experience that moving my hand up mid-cut makes my ruler move, but also that this elbow move can hurt my shoulder after a while, so I strongly recommend caution when using this method.

The next step is to cut along the ruler with your right hand while holding the ruler. Ensure that the pressure is even and steady. The first thing you need to know if you are new to this is that it takes quite a bit more effort than you think it will.

Next, you need to rotate your fabric so that the squared edge you just cut is on the left side of the fabric. Please take care not to lift the fabric at any point during this process in order not to mess up your work up to this point.

In the next step of the process, line up your ruler with the measurement you need to cut. Make sure that the ruler is lined up at the folded edge and then that it is right all the way down on the squared edge as well.

I prefer to move my cut piece out of the way, but I don’t move the rest of my fabric out of the way. In this case, I simply position my ruler on top of the fabric and continue to cut the fabric as normal.

Final Tips

The most important thing to keep in mind when cutting with a rotary cutter is to make sure that you do a quick, firm cut. Slowly cutting the fabric can lead to the fabric shifting as a result. It is important to note that if you are having difficulty cutting the fabric with one cut, you either need to apply more pressure to the fabric or your blade needs to be replaced.

You will find that as you gain more confidence in using your rotary cutter, you will be able to cut fabric faster and cut multiple layers at once as well.

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