Rotary Cutting

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Rotary Cutting Guide and Tips

Safety Comes First

Three rules in safety - the rotary cutter is extremely sharp.

  • Always cover your cutter blade when not in use with its protective cover, it is a good habit to form.
Rotary cutters closed and open
Cutter closed and open
  • Make sure it is not left where curious children or anyone else for that matter, can reach it.
  • Always cut away from you. 
Cut away from you when using a rotary cutter

Cut away from yourself

Protect your blade and work

When using your rotary cutter, always use a self-healing mat. This saves the blades from wearing quickly.

rotary cutting: self-healing mat and rotary cutter

Self-healing mat and rotary cutter

Never have pins on your mat or try to cut fabric which has pins in it. As soon as you roll over a pin with your cutter, you will have a dead spot in the blade which does not cut through the fabric.

Threads not cut due to dead spot in blade

Threads not cut due to dead spot in blade

Have a clear mat, free of other fabric and quilts, especially in the direction you are cutting towards.

pins on mat can deaden rotary cutter blade if ran over

Keep your mat clear of pins and fabric, especially in the direction the cutter is heading for. Wouldn't you hate to slip?


Transparent rulers with accurate and clear markings are best to use. I prefer the type that clearly define up to 1/8" markings.

Ruler showing 1/8" markings

Ruler showing 1/8" markings

When first starting out, I recommend the 6" x 24" or similar ruler as it is the most versatile. It is advisable to purchase one that is in whole inches (eg 5" or 6" rather than 6½") as this makes it easier to work your measurements from either side. It is less confusing and you are less likely to make mistakes.

I recommend a small square ruler (approx. 8" sq) for your second purchase.

Small square 8" ruler

Small square 8" ruler

Before Cutting

Make sure fabric is well pressed before trying to cut your pieces.


When cutting, stand over your work so you are looking directly down onto the ruler, rather than at an angle.

Keep the rotary blade vertical against the ruler, not tilted left or right otherwise the strip width will vary and the cut not made accurately.

Correct and Incorrect ways of holding a rotary cutter

Left: Correct (vertical) Middle: Incorrect (tilted left) Right: Incorrect (tilted right)

The blade side of the cutter, should be closest to the ruler.

Blade side closest to ruler

Blade side closest to ruler

Place hand pressure on the ruler so the ruler does not shift as you roll the cutter along the edge. For long cuts position your supporting hand in the first third of the ruler while you cut along the edge, but only to 2 or 3 inches passed your supporting hand. Leave the cutter in the fabric whole you reposition your supporting hand. Repeat this procedure throughout the entire cut. Note: Be aware of where your fingers and knuckles are positioned, making sure they are not over the ruler's edge where the cut will be made.

How to make long cuts

To make long cut, cut just passed support hand, leave cutter in work and reposition hand before finishing cut.

When making a cut on folded fabric, align the ruler's guidelines with the folded edge, not the selvage or raw edges. Place the folded edge closest to you.

Align guidelines along folded edge

Align guidelines along folded edge

Always straighten one edge before beginning to cut your pieces. The cut should be at right angles to the fold if any, or the selvage.

Straighten one edge discarding piece on the right

Straighten one edge discarding piece on the right

To cut strips, the straightened edge should be to the left for right-handed users or to the right for left-handed users. Align the correct ruler mark on the straightened edge, support the ruler with your non-cutting hand, then make the cut.

correct ruler positioning for a one inch cut strip

Photo shows correct ruler positioning for a two inch cut strip

For wide cuts, two rulers can be used by butting them together and using in the same manner. Steady the ruler next to the cutter with the support hand.

Use two rulers to make wider cuts.
Use two rulers to make wider cuts

Photo shows ruler positions for a 10" strip

Now you are ready to begin some of our online workshops and patterns.

Happy Quilting!

Author: Ruth Blanchet

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