Moda Bake Shop Basics: Rotary Cutting

Join Oda May today with a few tips for rotary cutting!
Rotary cutting is an essential part of quilting (thank goodness! I would hardly get anything done if I had to cut everything out with scissors. Patience is not my strong point.) Rotary cutters are also probably the most dangerous part of quilting. I personally have the quilter's trademark squared off index finger so I've come by these tips honestly.


  • Always cover the blade with the built-in cover when you set it down. Every single time - even if you're just setting it down for a second. Make it a habit.
  • Always cut away from your body.
  • Replace your blade when it stops cutting well. Working with a dull or damaged blade can cause you to cut in an unsafe manner - using excess pressure to cut through your fabric, etc. and that’s a recipe for disaster. 
  • Only use the rotary cutter for its intended use.
  • Keep your fingers well away from the edges of templates and rulers while cutting. You don't want a squared off index finger like me. (Plus blood stains can ruin your beautiful fabric.)
  • Plan your cutting before you start to minimize waste.
  • Press and starch fabric before cutting.
  • Square up fabric edges before you start cutting.
  • Use the lines on your ruler or template for a straight edge, not the lines on the mat. 
  • Save yourself some back pain by cutting on a counter-height surface.
Did I leave anything out? Let us all know your safety and cutting tips in the comments!

Safely Sewing,

Oda May


Julie said...

Your index finger should extend when you hold the handle, resting on the little ridged area on the handle for better control. I was taught that's why the ridges are there on all brands of rotary cutters.

Melissa said...

If you feel any pain or fatigue in your arm as you are cutting - or after - consider buying an ergonomic rotary cutter. Trust me, they work! I don't know if I can name the brand, but the one that saved my cutting life has a bent red handle, and it is a very well designed rotary cutter. :)

Barb said...

The use of the Gypsy Gripper with my ruler has been a lifesaver! Easier to keep a steady ruler, fingers are safely off the ruler, and the ruler is easier to pick up off the mat. Love 'em!

Annie said...

The Fons & Porter Klutz glove is a fairly inexpensive safety measure when using a rotary cutter. It was just a little hard to get used to at first, but now it's very hard for me to cut with my rotary cutter when I don't have it on!

Pierro said...

^ all EXCELLENT and great points here in the comments.
Rosemary B here:
Thanks for this rotary cutting guide
I appreciate any and all information regarding these little devils lol

goecker said...

Let's see the instructions for all of us who cut with our LEFT hand - if we try and do it this way, just wouldn't work for lefties!

Carol said...

Julie is right about the ridges - if you put your index on them you have more control.

If you change your blade and it cuts weird, you might have 2 blades in your cutter. I've seen that a few times working in a quilt shop. Also, don't wipe all the oil off your blade - just wipe the part that is exposed while cutting. Don't tighten the nut too much - just barely finger tighten.

Buy replacement blades that are the same brand as the handle.

If you cut a lot, you might want to invest in a sharpener. I've tried a few and really like the electric one, but it is really loud. I save $ in replacement blades.

Beth said...

I can attest to Carol's comment about the possibility of putting 2 blades into a cutter. I couldn't figure out why I was ending up with so much shredding as I cut and it turned out I had two blades in.

And thanks, Carol, for the advice about the oil. Dealing with the oily blade is what makes me reluctant to change it as often as I should. Isn't that ridiculous? I'm going to put in a new blade tomorrow.

Mary Douglass @ said...

I use tweezers to handle the blade when changing one.

Rosa said...

This is one of my fav tool!

Sandy said...

Never combine alcohol with rotary cutting. I make it a rule to only drink wine AFTER I have cut everything out.

Karen Ackva said...

One very important cutting tip: when you use the rotary cutter, always try to cut with the ruler covering your desired rectangle, square, triangle, etc. In other words, it is better to cut into the excess fabric if your cutter slips rather into your desired shape.

Karen Ackva said...
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Karen Ackva said...
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Ruth B said...

Love Oda May tips! My best tip is to put the cutter up on a shelf when the grandkids come over!