Rotary Cutting for the New & Accident-Prone

Do you use a rotary cutter? Do you love it?

rotary cutter vs. scissors

I’ve had mine for years, along with my nice blue cutting mat. (I love that it’s blue as most mats are green.) For the Bombshell Swimsuit, Heather recommended using a rotary cutter, and I’d recently found mine again, so I thought I’d follow her suggestion.

If you are new to rotary cutting, or like me, have one and never use it, here are my tips for working rotary cutting into your routine.

First off, let me state the obvious and say those things are sharp! Yup, I cut myself. it’s a fairly normal thing to me to get minor injuries here, luckily I stock band-aids in the supply box. Nope, I did not stain my fabric thankfully! It just slowed me down a little so I came over to the computer to type out my thoughts on rotary cutting. Fast, fun but dangerous! (No wonder it’s appealing.)

Always, close the blade cover when you put it down. This takes practice to remember, but just lightly brushing your finger against the open blade will make a deep cut. I had to focus on closing the cover.

close cover on rotary cutter

If your blade is dull, replace it! A dull spot will make for a part that doesn’t cut.

dull rotary cutter blade

The whole point of using a cutting mat and rotary cutter is to make it faster and easier. Don’t make it harder for yourself by using a dulled blade! (Learn from my stubbornness. I used the dull blade for most of my cutting, trying to ‘save’ the new blade and use the bad one as long as possible. Silly logic, I know.)

You don’t need fancy weights. By all means use them if you have them! I just use whatever is reasonably heavy and flat. Phone, camera, seam roll, tape dispenser, whatever. The flatter the object, the better it will hold the pieces in place. (Caroline’s hockey pucks would be great.) Press hard as you roll over the fabric.

weights for rotary cutting

And for this pattern, don’t cut the dart! Those may look like cutting lines, but they’re not. If you follow the sew-along, this is obvious, but if you’re cutting enthusiastically you may have the urge to cut along those lines. (I actually got out the scissors to cut and then thought, is this right? It’s not. Don’t cut along those dart lines.)

bombshell swimsuit, don't cut the dart!

Do you have any tips for using a rotary cutter? If you use one, do you use it exclusively for cutting and never use scissors, or do you switch it up?

Thanks Heather for reminding me that I own this useful tool and to give it another go. It was surprisingly fast and fun.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

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94 Responses to Rotary Cutting for the New & Accident-Prone

  1. Lisa August 2, 2013 at 6:09 am #

    I love my rotary cutter. I usually remember to close my blade because in the back of my mind I think “what if my kids get a hold of this”. I need to change my blade as well its getting dull and not cutting either.

  2. Cate August 2, 2013 at 6:22 am #

    Always roll the rotary cutter away from your body!

    • Tasia August 5, 2013 at 11:12 am #

      Yes! Good point. I read that somewhere else and thought, yeah yeah, but after reading all of the injury stories I will ALWAYS cut away from myself now!

  3. Nina August 2, 2013 at 6:24 am #

    I have one of the Olfa ‘deluxe’ cutters where the blade only comes down into cutting position when you squeeze the handle – but I’m pretty paranoid about cutting my fingers (musician!) so I even try to remember to click the safety lock on each time I put it down. I find it especially useful for cutting jersey, which can get pulled around so much with scissors.

  4. Carla August 2, 2013 at 6:46 am #

    Love this post and your silly logic is not too silly cause I used too! LOL
    I am glad you did this post because I can use more tips about it!… will be coming back later today to read everybody posts. Mega-interesting!

  5. Jenny August 2, 2013 at 6:51 am #

    I love my rotary cutter – I use it almost exclusively and I use whatever is nearby as a pattern weight. Flat books work especially well for larger pieces. It’s funny but I actually hate using the scissors to cut. I see that you cut the dart out of the pattern pieces. I’m assuming it makes it easier to trace the dart with chalk. Silly me, I was tracing and it was annoying! I think I’ll start cutting my darts out too!

    • Tasia August 5, 2013 at 11:11 am #

      I don’t know why I cut that dart out, probably more ‘sewing while tired’ happening. I think I thought we were going to have to cut it out of the fabric like a wedge. Or I think, because there is no outer line, the cutting line has that pie-shaped cutout, so I just followed the line.
      But yes, it would make the dart lines easier to mark!

      • Seraphinalina August 6, 2013 at 1:28 pm #

        I trace my patterns and then poke a hole for the bust point and little snips where the dart meets the edge so I can chalk the spots (or pin the bust point for the other side if cutting in a double layer) and draw the lines with a ruler afterwards. But cutting the triangle is a neat idea too.

        I use my rotary cutter for cutting out patterns. It’s quick and accurate but like you I worry about safety. I’m occasionally horrified to look down and see I didn’t close it.

  6. Shona Stitches August 2, 2013 at 6:54 am #

    Yes, I second the safety tips! Just after I bought my rotary cutter a couple of years ago I accidently left it laying on the table with the blade exposed. I was clearing off the table and the rotary cutter fell straight down on my foot. I didn’t even feel it! The blade was so sharp it cut through my nerves (and, well, everything else) resulting in a very dramatic trip to the ER. Now I have a scar and a couple of numb toes. Go ahead and make closing that safety a habit after every single cut! It’s just a reflex for me now, I don’t even have to think about it.

    That said, I use my rotary cutter for every project and couldn’t do without it! I’m also one of those silly folks still using a dull blade…time for a new one!

    • Elena Knits August 2, 2013 at 7:35 am #

      That’s a terrible story, I’ll remember that forever. I’ll follow your advice if I get a rotary cutter.

    • Seattlerain August 2, 2013 at 9:05 am #

      Oh, Shona! That story will stay in my mind! Thanks for sharing it- I bet the experience left you with new safety routines.

      I cut my hand and a digital nerve in a non-sewing accident earlier this year. During my weeks in a splint/cast, I collected several stories of freak accidents. One of them was a woman who dropped a kitchen knife accidentally on her foot, resulting in cut tendons. Ugh! I started wearing clogs around the house during sewing, food prep, etc but stopped. I’m going to drag those out again!

      • Tasia August 5, 2013 at 11:02 am #

        Ahh! I never think about wearing shoes in the kitchen, but that’s a good point. What if I’m not fast enough in jumping out of the way?

        Thanks to you guys I have started wearing shoes in here when cutting, trimming, etc. I tend to walk around barefoot or in sock feet but just thinking about dropping scissors on my feet makes my toes curl.

    • Tasia August 5, 2013 at 11:10 am #

      Oh Shona! That is a scary story, and from now on I will never cut barefoot again just in case! What a terrifying way to learn rotary cutter safety. Thanks for sharing your story and I bet you’ve helped to reinforce good safety habits in a ton of other people today. Wow. I’m sorry to hear about your accident!

  7. Therese August 2, 2013 at 7:19 am #

    Don’t spend the money to buy a blade sharpener!!!!!

    I spent over $40 to purchase one and it was a waste of my hard earned cash. The one i got looks like a three ring hole punch. You run the blade over the stone to sharpen, but ut just didnt sharpen the blade enough to make the investment worth while. Just remember to always close it, don’t drop it and DON’T TRY TO CUT THROUGH PINS and please don’t cut yourself or any vital fabric pieces incorrectly in your zealousness.

    No, no and no, too much enthusiasm is usually a bummer.

    Always have a supply of new blades on hand and change them as soon as your blade starts skipping.

    • Tasia August 5, 2013 at 11:07 am #

      Thanks Therese! I was thinking about the blade sharpeners, because maybe that’s more environmentally friendly than buying new blades all the time, so I appreciate the feedback that they don’t work well.

  8. Elena Knits August 2, 2013 at 7:33 am #

    I’ve never tried one but I’ve been tempted. The only flaw I see is that you need a large mat and those are expensive. I guess I’ll have to see it for myself one day. Thank you for the tips!

    • Elisabeth August 2, 2013 at 8:40 am #

      I bought mine at Joann’s with one of those 40% off coupons which helped with the cost. :)

    • Carol September 16, 2013 at 6:56 am #

      Walmart sells them now for a great price!

  9. Diane @ Vintage Zest August 2, 2013 at 7:51 am #

    I use it almost exclusively for cutting and just use scissors to trim up tight corners or places where I couldn’t reach. I have a question too actually. There are some pattern pieces, like those for a maxi skirt, that are too big to fit on my cutting mat (24 x 36 in.), so I have to shift it halfway through. I’m always afraid that it will distort everything, but there’s nothing else that I’ve figured out short of buying a second cutting mat. Advice anyone?

    • Lorinda August 2, 2013 at 11:23 am #

      Larger cutting mats – Use a coupon or wait for a sale and buy the large mat that covers 60″x32″. It will be a great investment for cutting larger items.

    • daiyami August 3, 2013 at 9:21 am #

      I have two 24×36 mats on a 6-ft folding table from walmart. Very happy with my setup, easy to put away when not needed. LOVE my rotary cutter–I hated cutting out with scissors so much that it would block me from sewing.

    • Tasia August 5, 2013 at 11:06 am #

      I haven’t used mine a ton, but I just shift the mat and re-adjust the fabric as needed. I think of it like cutting the same big piece with scissors, where half of it is hanging off the table. Cut, shift, reposition, cut again.

  10. O! Jolly! August 2, 2013 at 7:51 am #

    Stories about injuries have kept me away from rotary cutters so far. I’m very happy with cordless power scissors. There are a couple of really good brands.

    • Tasia August 5, 2013 at 11:05 am #

      Interesting, I have never tried cordless power scissors! Something for me to experiment with in the future I think..

  11. erica August 2, 2013 at 8:37 am #

    For everyone who is concerned about not having large cutting mats — I highly recommend the Olfa 35″ X 70″ mat that comes in 3 pieces. This makes it much easier to store flat, and when you want to use, it you just clip the 3 pieces together and it works perfectly like one large mat. It’s also exactly the right size for my dining room table.
    Jo Ann’s sells it, and if you wait until they have a big sale with 50% or 60% of coupons, you can get it for a decent price. I think I paid around $50 for it, and it has made my life so much easier!
    http://www.joann.com/olfa-gridded-cutting-mat-set-35-x70-with-clips/prd37587/

  12. SewSleepy August 2, 2013 at 8:45 am #

    I made a dress (Colette Hawthorn) on Sunday with a rotary cutter that I had from years ago when I thought I could make a quilt – less said about that the better- I am now a convert. The pieces that were cut actually resembled the pattern, which meant that the dress was sooooo much easier to sew together. If you haven’t yet tried this way of cutting out I strongly urge you too especially if you are new to sewing. It also was soooo much faster too.

  13. Sewist August 2, 2013 at 8:47 am #

    +I’ve always been terrified about cutting myself, so I always close it after putting it down.

    +I never use weights alone, I always pin, because the fabric could shift.

    +Weights made for sewing are preferrable; weights like cans can leave marks. I use the little weights that look like bean bags,although I’d prefer big metal ones.

    +I find I have to practice on a scrap if I’m using a ruler as a guide to cut straight edges because I have to angle the blade towards the edge more than would be my natural instinct.

    +I don’t cut more than two layers at a time.

    +I have a 45mm, but prefer to use a 28mm or 18mm.

    +The “ergonomic” Olfa version with the safety lock kept unlocking.

    +It’s great for tight curves. I get a much cleaner line with the cutter. If I’m only cutting a neckline, I may use a small mat instead of the full size.

    +It will never be a substitute for scissors or shears.

    • Tasia August 5, 2013 at 11:03 am #

      Good tips! Good point about practicing on scrap, to get comfortable with the cutter and to make sure you’re angling the cutter properly.

  14. Kelly August 2, 2013 at 9:45 am #

    I have been using a rotary cutter to cut my clothing pieces for years. (I’m a quilter as well). My tip is to pair your rotary cutter with a ruler. This will protect your fingers and hold your fabric down while you are cutting. Also, what you showed in your photo is not from a dull blade, but a knick in the blade. Small difference, but I mention because you can easily knick your blade by bumping into stuff or running over pins. Just be safe and careful with your rotary cutter and you will love it!

    • Tasia August 5, 2013 at 10:59 am #

      Thanks Kelly! Good point about the nick in the blade, not a dull blade. A dull blade will just be harder to cut overall, not missing a spot as it rolls through the fabric.

  15. MTangel August 2, 2013 at 9:55 am #

    Rotary cutters are awesome, but it’s so easy to cut yourself! I have a mental store of stories about dangerous things (irons, scissors, jump ropes) and I have lots of rotary cutter stories!

    Once I tried to cut through several layers of fabric. To put more pressure, I had my pointer finger out. It slid down right over the blade and I didn’t even realize that I was slicing my finger (really deep!) until I finished the cut. My sister cut herself badly enough to needs stitches once, and another friend actually cut the tip of her finger off (they stitched it back on, luckily).

    It’s really important to develop good habits from the start – before you cut, just glance down and double check that none of your fingers are over the blade. If you use a straight ruler for quilting, double check the hand that holds that too, to make sure none of your fingers are over the cut line. Always close the blade before setting it down, even if you’re going to make another cut in just a minute. It only takes a second to do a finger check and close/open the blade, but emergency rooms take a long time!

    • Jessica August 2, 2013 at 10:07 am #

      Yep, I’m one of those that sliced off part of her finger tip. I WISH the ER had sewn it back on, instead they just had it heal and I’m still missing part of the tip. Wah, it was over a year ago, I’m not sure if it’s ever coming back. Stupid Kaiser ER!

      Basically, as I was slicing, my rotary cutter jumped up and over the plastic ruler edge and sliced straight into my finger (those rulers are only, what, 1/8″ thick?) I had positioned my hand a good 3″ from the edge of the ruler, so, uh, yeah, not sure what happened. Actually, one thing that happened was that I’d been using a dull blade for years and just changed to a new one, so I was used to having to apply a lot of force to get my fabric to cut, and was probably overly enthusiastic in the amount of force required. Anyhow. I am very, very careful whenever I use my blade now (not too often, to be honest) Friends have suggested I attach a handle or block of wood to my ruler, to elevate my hand and prevent that from ever happening again!

      • MTangel August 2, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

        Oh, yikes! I can’t imagine how much it must have hurt! Maybe it’s sort of standard practice – my friend said they tried to throw her finger out too, she had to insist they sew it back on. It was several weeks later when I saw her and it was still all black but starting to heal. Apparently it doesn’t always “take” or something?

        My mom has one of those suction cup handles, but she found it slipped around a lot. Maybe if you combine the handle with those little sandpaper gripper dots it would work better. I’m going to be really nervous next time I use my cutter.

        • Tasia August 5, 2013 at 10:47 am #

          I lost the tip of my middle finger in a car door when I was 12, and they didn’t want to sew it back on either!

          (Stop reading this part if you don’t want to hear gross stories..)

          The tip fell out when we opened the door. I think they told me the same thing, it won’t heal back on, but the finger can grow a new tip or a partial tip. It was cut off below the bottom of the fingernail, but grew back on nearly a full nail. It’s still misshapen and shorter than it used to be but they do grow back, sort of!
          You never see it in photos because I’m always taking photos with my right hand, but it’s a good reminder not to cut off any more finger ends!

      • Tasia August 5, 2013 at 10:56 am #

        Me too! Well, I closed mine in a car door, but the ER also didn’t want to reattach it. Most of mine grew back but not the whole thing. I can’t believe you sliced off a finger with a rotary cutter! Note to self, cut slowly, cut carefully.

        I like the idea of adding a block of wood to your ruler so your hand is up higher. Someone else mentioned suction cups, so that you can remove the handle if needed.

    • Tasia August 5, 2013 at 10:58 am #

      Oh wow! Scary injury stories. I agree, good habits are important from the start. I work hard to remember to close my blade every time I put the cutter down, even if I’m just tossing something in the garbage. So much that I pick up the cutter to cut again thinking I left it open, and start cutting with the safety on!

  16. Carol August 2, 2013 at 10:11 am #

    I’ve learned that you can get a little more life out of your blade if you cut through several thicknesses of aluminum foil a few times. Some quilters wear a glove very much like a gardening glove on the hand holding the ruler (or pattern) to protect that hand.

    • Tasia August 5, 2013 at 10:54 am #

      Interesting! I haven’t tried that, there’s nothing to lose by testing it on an already-dull blade though.
      Love the idea of a safety glove!

  17. Jennifer August 2, 2013 at 10:12 am #

    I don’t know how practical this is, but a drafting table doubles as an excellent cutting surface. My boyfriend studied architecture in college, and I’ve been using his old drafting table for rotary cutting without a cutting mat. I don’t know what the table surface is made of, but it works perfectly with a rotary cutter.

    Not sure how much a used table would cost, but if you need another table for sewing projects it might be something to check out. Just make sure the table top is laying flat when you use it!

    P.S. To actually answer your question, I like using my rotary cutter. But only on straight lines. If there are any curves, usually for the neck and arms, I use my regular shears.

    • Tasia August 5, 2013 at 10:53 am #

      I have heard that harder tables can dull the blades of the cutters faster than soft mats. Sounds like it’s a nice big cutting surface though!

  18. Milena August 2, 2013 at 10:13 am #

    I LUUUURVE my rotary cutter. A girl at a fabric store recommended it when I was getting started and I have never turned back. I don’t even have fancy fabric shears.

    I fully recommend rotary cutters for anybody who works with slippery fabrics. Even if you set the fabric on a surface, when you try to sneak the scissors under to cut, the fabric can shift and then you wind up with a crooked cut.

    I also agree that changing the blade as soon as it’s starting to dull is best practice. I save my dull blades and use them when cutting paper patterns, so that I effectively never use my scissors!!

    (Oh yeah, I guess another tip is to never use the rotary cutter on paper unless you have a blade for it. If you do, the blade will dull faster.)

    • Tasia August 5, 2013 at 10:52 am #

      Oh yeah, for sure don’t use the rotary cutter on paper! Treat it like fabric shears, fabric only.

  19. Katherine August 2, 2013 at 11:03 am #

    I recently reached for my tracing wheel and grabbed my rotary cutter (the one with a similar diameter) by mistake. I then confidently traced the vertical darts on my fashion fabric, slicing right along the dart! I thought “this feels different”, but did not realize what I had done until I picked up the fabric and saw the slices. I love my rotary cutter but now I think twice when I reach for either my tracing wheel or my cutter!

    • Tasia August 5, 2013 at 10:51 am #

      Oh no! I have a tracing wheel with sharp points, like so – http://www.southwestsewingmachines.com/ProductInfo.aspx,,productid,,NPT10 it’s meant for tracing through layers of paper or card paper, for patterns. You don’t want to mix that up with the regular transfer-paper tracing wheel!

    • Jessica September 16, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

      It just occurred to me the other day that I could accidentally do this, and I’ve been having daydream nightmares of it ever since.

      I think once I’m onto marking, I’m going to stash that tiny rotary cutter elsewhere for a bit…

  20. Hope August 2, 2013 at 11:12 am #

    I never really cared for rotary cutters, I could never get it to cut straight or evenly. I never used weights with it though,just pinned the pattern so maybe that would make a difference. thanks for sharing your tips.

    • Sewist August 2, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

      When I first read about them, I thought it would be easy. But nothing with sewing comes easily to me and I was glad I practiced.

      Another tip: Make sure the cutter has cleanly cut both layers of the fabric before removing it. Sometimes you have to go over the same spot.

      I’ve actually become very good at cutting with my 8″ shears, but for curves there’s no substitute.

    • Tasia August 5, 2013 at 10:50 am #

      I’ve done both, and find that with tissue and pins, the fabric slides a bit and it’s hard to cut close to the edges properly, and not cut the tissue. Stiffer paper, or weights, or using a ruler on the straight parts might help.

  21. Lorinda August 2, 2013 at 11:20 am #

    I love my rotary cutters. I have been lucky not to cut my finger, but I have seen the ugly results that can happen. There are tools available to help prevent these accidents. Kelly pairs it with a plastic ruler which is a big help and there are also suction cup handles that will keep your hand above the cutting surface which you can attach to the plastic rulers. Fon’s and Porter also have a glove that helps prevent cuts on the hand that supports the ruler. I have used my rotary cutter for years. I really like it when cutting kids clothing because you can stack up several pairs of shorts and cut them all at once. I also use it to cut quilt pieces. Anywhere you buy rotary cutters you should be able to find the suction cup handles or safety gloves.

    • Tasia August 5, 2013 at 10:49 am #

      Thanks for the glove suggestion! I found it and bought myself one. It was called the Klutz Glove, embarrassingly enough. :)

  22. MrsSmith August 2, 2013 at 11:46 am #

    I’m not a fan of mine. I don’t like the pressure I end up exerting on my wrist. BUT, visiting my mom this weekend, she asked how to use it and when I was showing her how, I was surprised at the ease at which it cut, compared to mine. I need to find out the brand and where she got it.

    • RG August 2, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

      It could be that you need a new sharp blade. If you have to press hard to get through a single or double layer of fabric, that’s usually a sign of a dull blade.

    • Tasia August 5, 2013 at 10:48 am #

      Mine is an Olfa, 28mm, I am pretty happy with how it works. I do find that a brand-new blade requires less pressure, so perhaps a new blade would help?

  23. Kristen August 2, 2013 at 11:48 am #

    I have never used one but I see it in my future. I’m accident-prone so Thank You for this! I got to remember to stock some band-aids. Too many puncture and slice wounds… but it’s part of the process and fun of DIY :)

    • Tasia August 5, 2013 at 10:48 am #

      Oh yeah, I am so accident-prone. I stock band-aids in my office, they’re great for sewing rooms so that you can keep on going after pricking your finger. Give it a try but be careful!

  24. Heather G August 2, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

    Good suggestions for the rotary cutter. Also, I had an epiphany while reading your warnings about not cutting out the darts. I hate marking my darts and cutting it out is a GREAT idea; making it easy to see/mark. Thanks for the tips – I always enjoy reading your blog!

    • Tasia August 5, 2013 at 10:44 am #

      Glad to help! That’s a great idea, cutting out the dart like a pie-slice would make it easy to draw in the dart lines. Especially on curved or shaped darts. It’s probably best on stiffer paper, not fragile tissue.

  25. Anne Marie August 2, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

    Glad to hear you didn’t bleed on your project! (That’s the worst – I’ve totally done it.) Did you know that the enzymes in YOUR spit work as a perfect stain remover for the enzymes in YOUR blood? True story. So, if you every do bleed on your project, spit on it. I guarantee it will remove the stain immediately. (A little spit and a little scrubbing go a long way!)

    • Tasia August 5, 2013 at 10:43 am #

      Thanks for the tip! I have heard that, I didn’t know it was ‘your spit, your blood’ though. I thought it was a general rule that spit cleans blood but that makes sense to me!

  26. June August 2, 2013 at 1:28 pm #

    OMG, I’m cringing and tearing up at the stories of people cutting off their fingertips. Agggghhh…

    I bought the Cadillac of rotary blade sharpeners a couple years ago (NAYY, but it’s the Grace brand) and make a point of sharpening my rotary blade before each use, just as I use a ceramic sharpening steel on my kitchen knives before each use. This sharpener doesn’t restore the factory finish but it does a pretty good job. It will turn a perforating blade back into a cutting one, and I don’t have aching wrists anymore after cutting a large project. A lot less pressure is needed to cut when the blade is sharp.

    I recall a story from Michael Ruhlman, he was describing a chef’s knife so sharp that when he accidentally touched it with the side of his finger, the knife didn’t move at all but his flesh split apart around the blade and he was bleeding. Factory-fresh rotary blades can do that, too, so please be careful.

    • June August 2, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

      I should clarify that mine is an electric sharpener. Grace brand makes a number of sharpeners, it appears; the one that I have that works well is the True Sharp power rotary blade sharpener.

    • Tasia August 5, 2013 at 10:43 am #

      Thanks for the thoughts on the blade sharpener! I know what you mean about pressure when the blade is sharp. You barely have to glide the cutter along the fabric and it slices cleanly through! Kind of like shaving with a new razor. :)

      That’s how sharp my cutter was when I brushed the side of my hand against it – it barely grazed my hand but sliced the skin and it was bleeding! I will be very careful. I need my hands!

  27. Sewist August 2, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

    I would never use the rotary cutter (or shears, for that matter) with the pattern. It’s too easy to cut the pattern and is awkward. I usually draw the pattern onto the fabric with chalk (never wax tracing paper).

    I have a self-healing mat, but I’ve read that you can use a harder mat, but it may wear out sooner.

    My paranoia about using the cutter has paid off. I’ve never had an accident (Knock on wood.).

  28. Mae August 2, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

    I love my rotary cutter. I always hold a spoon in my left hand when I use it, because I just can’t resist occasionally holding down an edge. The spoon works fine for this and my finger is safe.

    • Tasia August 5, 2013 at 10:40 am #

      Another great suggestion! I know, I want to put my finger down on the fabric too, just to hold the edges down. Or just to keep it from sliding. Love the spoon trick!

  29. Nancy August 2, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

    A tip regarding blood on your fabric that I learned in the Quilt world. If it is just a small amount, your own saliva will remove the blood from your fabric. It works!

    • Tasia August 5, 2013 at 10:39 am #

      That is a great tip! Will keep it in mind as I am frequently pricking my finger.

  30. Sandra August 2, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

    I have recently become a rotary cutter fan and use it all the time – although I still pin my pattern to the fabric. Oh and I have a pink cutting mat and a pink rotary cutter :-)

    • Tasia August 5, 2013 at 10:39 am #

      I want a pink cutting mat! How fun is that? I’ve never seen pink, only green, and here I thought my blue was the rare colour..

  31. Lucy August 2, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

    I like my rotary cutter. I have two – one 4mm and one 2.5mm. (The little one is great for tight curves.) It’s one of the ones you squeeze to get the blade out.

    Annoyingly, I was getting dull spots so I bought a new, very expensive blade – and it’s still doing it. Why? I wonder if there are grooves on the cutting mat.

    No real disasters over here – I learnt the easy way to be careful once when I wasn’t being careful and had my middle fingernail (thankfully, NOT the fingertip) hanging over the edge. It needed a trim anyway, but a rotary cutter is not the safest way to do it!

    • Tasia August 5, 2013 at 10:38 am #

      Ahh! I would have a little panic if I’d sliced off my fingernail, knowing how close I came to cutting my actual finger.

      Victoria in the comments here has the same problem – new blade, but it’s still missing spots when it cuts. I don’t know why! Perhaps it’s the mat?

  32. Gillian August 2, 2013 at 5:17 pm #

    Funny – I *just* posted about my love for rotary blades and cutting mats on my blog! http://crafting-a-rainbow.tumblr.com/post/56876388217/lazy-tips-for-sewing-knits-cutting-tools

    Once you get in the habt of being safe and careful, I love how fast rotary cutting is! I’m never ever tempted to use scissors instead!

    • Tasia August 5, 2013 at 10:36 am #

      Great minds think alike! I agree, it is so fast and makes cutting fun!

  33. Sarah August 2, 2013 at 11:41 pm #

    I just got my rotary cutter last christmas, and it’s probably my most useful sewing gadget so far. Shears have their ireplacable usefullness, but some things just go from slow and tedious to fast and easy when you use rotary (like corset pieces. I just made my first corset since getting the cutter, and definitely think they should be mandatory for that job). To be honest though, I’m pretty crap at cutting things out with shears and having them turn out any shape resembling the pattern, so that might have something to do with my preference :P.

    Yes, ALWAYS set it down with the blade covered, and cut slowly and carefully with fingers well out of range, because damn those things are sharp! I also check before every flurry of cutting that the blade is tight, and snug the bolt/screw thing up if it has any wobble.

    • Tasia August 5, 2013 at 10:36 am #

      Great reminder to check that the screw is tight! It’s probably easy for it to loosen over time or from bumping it.

  34. Kelly August 3, 2013 at 8:55 am #

    Rotary cutters have always freaked me out, and reading these stories certainly didn’t change my mind, yikes!! I’ll stick with scissors, thanks :)

    • Tasia August 5, 2013 at 10:35 am #

      I know eh? I knew they were sharp but had no idea the types of injuries that were possible. (My mother told me you could slice your finger right off, I googled it but found nothing so I thought it was a story to keep me safe, but now I think it may be true!)

  35. SometimesSewist August 3, 2013 at 10:48 am #

    I rotary cut everything. Totally love it. It’s definitely faster for me, and feel like my cuts are more accurate than with pins/scissors. I have some of those fabric weights that look like marshmallows that work just fine, but I think the big washer wrapped in fabric or ribbon would be much more effective (and a lot cheaper!).

    I prefer to cut most of my patterns with a 60mm blade, and use my 45mm or 18mm for tight curves. For patterns with pleats that have sharp turns, I typically pin just that section and cut out with a scissor. A tip I picked up from PatternReview: they sell 45mm blades that are very close in quality to Olfa (I haven’t tried mine yet, but the person who recommended them vouched for them) at Harbor Freight. I think they’re called “carpet cutters” and you can get a 2 pack for only 2 bucks!

    My one other tip, and this should really be a no brainer, but I’m still gonna say it: make sure your fingers are not in the path of your cut/blade. I’ve cut myself twice (one time almost passing out) and it’s been because I spaced and cut, just assuming my bits and pieces were out of harm’s way. Always be diligent; never cut when tired or distracted!

    • Tasia August 5, 2013 at 10:34 am #

      Excellent point about not cutting while tired or distracted, that is me most of the time! I can’t believe you cut yourself to the point of almost passing out, or rather, I believe it and am sorry that it happened to you!

  36. michele maks August 3, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

    Rotary cutters are THE BEST way to trim fringe on a knitted or crocheted garment.

  37. Bryna August 4, 2013 at 3:23 am #

    Random story: I live in DR Congo and although I planned to sew here, I never got a machine. I did however bring my rotary cutter and mat. My night guard at our house is also a tailor, and he sews ladies dresses late into the night doing both jobs at once. I decided to give him the cutter and had to explain, in my crappy French, how it works. They do not have a lot of new sewing technology here, so it was kind of a revelation for him. He was blown away and so excited… I felt like sewing Santa Claus! I had to repeat so many times “really, it’s sharp! really sharp! be careful!” He now tells me he uses it a lot to cut multiple layers at once and it makes his work a lot faster.

    • Tasia August 5, 2013 at 10:33 am #

      That’s a great story! How kind of you to give away your cutter to someone who could really benefit from it.

  38. VictoriaR August 4, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

    I have a rotary cutter, but I can’t get it to work. The photo of the dull blade skipping is how mine cuts all the time, even with a new blade. I have changed the blame twice thinking the first two were duds, but I can’t seem to get it to work. I’m thinking of buying a new cutter, but I’m afraid it won’t work either. I have never seen anyone using one in person. I don’t know if I’m doing something wrong. I have an Olfa with a nice mat. I’m so disappointed.

    • Tasia August 5, 2013 at 10:29 am #

      Hi Victoria! I wish I had a solution for you. The first thing I would have said is to change the blade, but I have no idea why a brand-new blade wouldn’t cut smoothly. Also I would have said, how about the mat, but you have a nice one. Could it be the fabric is too stiff? Perhaps you need to press harder? (Or maybe you did what I did once, put TWO blades into the cutter at once, that caused some weird cutting..) Have you bumped it into pins and nicked the blade? Can you go to the store you bought it from and ask for help? Sorry that it isn’t working properly! It should be easy and quick (although sharp and dangerous!)

  39. Gaenor August 5, 2013 at 3:19 am #

    I was really fortunate that my Mum kindly demonstrated how easy it is to cut yourself with a rotary cutter the first time she showed me how to use hers. Since then I have been scrupulously careful with it, always put the cover back on and even tend to rest it back in the box I keep it in between cuts – especially as my kids find watching me cut fabric fascinating and I don’t want them bleeding all over the fabric. ;-)

  40. francesca August 6, 2013 at 3:02 am #

    You guys are so lucky. I live in Malta – Mediterranean island – and cutting mats seem to not exist here. I have an A1 size mat I bought in Madrid when I lived there, plus a Prym rotary cutter (or other German make) that I got from ths same crafts/quilting shop. I tried it out for cutting strips from quilting cotton and it’s hopeless even with a new blade. I would love to get a bigger mat and a better rotary cutter, but cannot seem to find the joann type three piecer on line anywhere that ships to Europe – or in Europe. I have also tried to find the type that rolls up which would be better for mailing. I’d love to be able to use it for knits and silk :(.

    At least the mat comes in useful with a cutting blade for cutting out PDF patterns. I usually trace patterns onto greaseproof butcher’s paper and I can use it for this too, so it gives my hand a break from cutting, which can make my carpal tunnel flare up. Because I have cuts I am hyper careful about closing the blade in every time i put the knife down, the last thing I want is to see one of my kitties spouting blood, quel horreur…

    if you want a really scary fingertip story – you know those giant hole punchers? Well, in the job before this, I was adjusting a pile of papers at the edge so as to punch them with this big hydraulic two hole puncher… dumb ex-boss comes up from behind and “helps” by pushing handle down, thereby neatly cutting off the tip of my left forefinger. Not with the hole puncher but with the triangular bits at the back where the paper sits! The office looked like night of the living dead – it gushed everywhere. I ended up in emergency with this tip hanging off by a thread of skin… they sewed it on alright but I can’t pick up pins with it, it basically has no feeling.

  41. Erin August 7, 2013 at 1:16 am #

    Reading this post caused me to get up and check to make sure my rotary cutters were locked & closed even since I haven’t used them for a few days. Apparently I’ve been lucky with avoiding injury which is impressive since I’m slowly working my way down my left hand cutting fingers with knives.

    As for tips I try to avoid distractions while using them – no music, movies and my phone is on silent with vibrate off as well. I have a 6×24″ plastic ruler for straight or even long cuts to hold the fabric in place. I use a jumbo handle with 2 suction cups that keeps my hand elevated out of harms way, I’d probably bang my hands together before cutting myself. One of those things I wonder why I didn’t get sooner. I love my 45mm ergonomic for the majority of cutting although for tight curves I use an 18mm instead. And my pink/lime green reversible mat.I make it a habit to put them away in a plastic storage container when done so they don’t accidentally get unlocked.

    I’ve seen gizmos that help you safely change blades but haven’t used one myself. They look promising but haven’t heard any reviews of them.

  42. elementsofmylife August 11, 2013 at 11:27 pm #

    I just thought I should chime in in case anyone else with wrist or thumb problems wonders how to make rotary cutting manageable. Thanks to the ladies at my old local quilt shop I was introduced to Martelli’s “Ergo 2000 rotary cutter”. In Canada you can find it through “A Great Notion” as well as the odd quilt shop. It has made cutting fabric possible but I definitely learned the hard way that pressing hard does not help, and the cutter works better with light pressure.

    Strangely, I have reserved my cutter for quilting or other projects that use straight lines and yet cutting with scissors is not just slow for me, but become uncomfortable too. I think I may have to try it with my next muslin.

    Happy sewing!

  43. Janome Gnome September 21, 2013 at 2:08 am #

    How about this one…? Never put pins in your mouth, not even for a second! No big deal? Get this. My mum’s friend put a pin in her mouth while sewing, just for a second. Then somehow, no idea how, not walking round or anything, something happens and she actually swallows it. No pain or anything. But she has to go to the emergency room. Walks in and, you can imagine yourself in her position, starts mumbling “well, so I think i swallowed a sewing pin and I’m terribly sorry for wasting your time over something so stupid but I thought I should come in and check it out”. And while she’s acting all embarrassed, suddenly all the doctors around her go into major alarm mode, like they’re dealing with a car crash or something, slap her onto a gurney, whisk her directly down to the operating theatre, straight to the top of the surgery queue and remove it. Apparently you really don’t want a punctured digestive tract. And what’s amazing about the limitless ridiculous of the human mind is the number of times, since my mum told me that story, that I’ve gone to hold a pin in my teeth for a second and actually had to give myself a talking to and put it somewhere else. (I should probably finally sort myself out with a pin cushion, shouldn’t I?)

  44. Carol October 17, 2013 at 6:48 am #

    Interesting reading all those horror stories. I have one but so far I have only used it for bias strip cutting…. it’s great for that! But I definitely intend to use it when I’m cutting slippy fabrics, at least for the straight lines. I like the idea of the Klutz glove, I was wondering about the metal ones that butchers use.

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    […] to scissors. And I always knew that it was quite necessarily sharp, but I never , until I read a post by Sewaholic Tasia, back in August, thought to be scared by it. (and don’t worry; this is […]

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