Rotary cutters are the preferred tool for cutting fabric, especially if you’re cutting quite a bit of it for a machine quilting project.

They are a sharp tool used cut out quilt pieces quickly and cleanly to begin the sewing part of your project right away.

There is a bit to know about how to properly use a rotary cutter, so check out these helpful tips and tricks on using one and breeze through all that fabric fast.

You’ll be ready to get going with your quilting machine in less time with less fabric cutting frustration!

Cutting Blade and Handle

The cutting blade is an important part of the rotary cutter and does most of the work.

To roll easily through layers of fabric when cutting out quilt pieces, pay attention to these tips about the cutting blade:

  • Always Use A Sharp Blade - Though they do last, the blades will dull so replace it when it’s not cutting cleanly or easily to avoid problems with cutting precision.
  • Use the Right Size Blade - Blades are available in multiple sizes. 45mm is a great all-purpose size, use a 60mm if cutting many layers of fabric, and go as small as a 28mm making smaller or more detailed cuts.
  • Attach the Blade Correctly - Although attaching the blade can be a little tricky, ensure a precise cut by properly installing a single blade and test it out.
  • Hold the Handle Correctly - Don’t grip it in your fist and hold on for dear life; hold it more gently with the fingers and palm and place your index finger at the top for downward pressure.

Cutting Mat and Rulers

Important tools to use with your rotary cutter on a machine quilting project are a quality self-healing cutting mat and clear acrylic rulers that act as guides for the blade:

  • Choose the Right Mat - Buy a mat that’s large enough for the cuts you will make or one that covers your cutting table. If using a smaller one that needs frequent repositioning, buy one with a slippery back so it can slide around easily without having to pause and lift it every time.
  • Choose the Right Rulers - Buy quality transparent rulers with measurements down to â…›” or sight lines between measurements in various lengths and shapes according to your needs. Buy the same brand if possible as the markings and thickness will likely be the same.
  • Hold the Ruler Correctly - Once it’s positioned, press the ruler down with your thumb toward you and fingers faced away from you and apply pressure. Use fabric grip beneath to hold the ruler in place on the fabric and put your hand in the middle of the ruler’s length.

Technique To Use

For clean, accurate cuts so the quilt top stitches up perfectly on your quilting machine, use a rotary cutter the right way: 

  • Cut Away From Your Body - Push the cutter away from you for safety and the longest reach; don’t pull it toward you.
  • Cut Quickly and Firmly - Whether cutting one piece of fabric or multiple layers, position the ruler, hold it down, and then make one quick cut with enough pressure to go through all layers.
  • Position the Blade Correctly - Cut with the edge of the blade right up against the edge of the ruler and keep the cutter totally straight or angle it slightly as long as the blade cuts along the ruler and not under or away from it.
  • Check the Edges - After a few cuts, make sure the ruler is still aligned at 90-degrees, as it or the fabric may shift a little bit especially when cutting multiple layers. Reposition the ruler and trim off any crooked excess fabric to continue with a straight cut again.

Remember These Tips for Rotary Cutter Success!

Using a rotary cutter is not hard at all; however, there are definite tricks that experienced quilters use.

Follow these simple tips and fly through fabric cutting for your next project and spend more time sewing at the quilting machine!