Let me just say before I go any further, that you can make beautiful quilts with a pair of good fabric scissors, some chalk or a pencil and any old ruler! Prior to the late 1970's it was the only option available and there are AMAZING quilts from around the world as evidence of this. I don't want anyone to think that you MUST have the equipment I am going to talk about. Just know that you can Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. When you are ready to invest in this specialist equipment, you will have the knowledge you need to make a good purchase. If you already have a Rotary Cutter, I hope this information will still be useful and interesting.
|My first set of cutting equipment.|
There are 2 basic styles of Rotary Cutter:
- Classic Stick (4 Blade Sizes: 18mm,25mm,45mm & 60mm)
- Comfort Grip.(3 Blade Sizes: 25mm, 45mm & 60mm)
This is the original style of Rotary Cutter as invented by Yoshio Okada in the late '70's. As such a 45mm Stick cutter is the most common you will find, available in a lot of different brands with a huge difference in prices. It is always tempting to go for the cheapest, but I discovered the hard way that you get what you pay for. On the original "cheap" stick style cutter I purchased, the mechanism for retracting the blade back and forth was decidedly uncooperative. This made opening and closing the blade a perilous activity. I therefore tended to leave it open, which was also flirting with danger as I had 4 small children hovering around me while I worked. The device cut the fabric adequately but I purchased another quite quickly rather than risk my hobby becoming a blood sport!! If you are counting your pennies, a Classic stick is probably your best buy, but choose a reputable brand and if possible try one out to see how it feels.
Regardless of which Style you use, you also need to choose the most suitable size for the work you are doing.
- 18mm & 25mm: Used for cutting around the curves of patchwork and applique templates
- 45mm: General patchwork
- 60mm: Perfect for cutting larger stacks of patchwork fabric or heavier fabric
Care of the Blade
The retractability of the blade not only serves to keep YOU safe, but helps to protect the blade from damage when not in use. It is extremely important to only cut fabric and to only do so on a self healing mat (which I will tell you more about it Part B of this post). These cutters are brilliant for cutting card and paper, but I have set aside one of my old Rotary cutters for this specific purpose. Replacement Blades are readily available for all size, and in my experience have been universal (ie I usually have one on hand, because Murphy's Law dictates that you will need a new blade when the shop is closed! You can also purchase a blade sharpening tool for each of the 25mm, 45mm & 60mm blades. This can't return your cutting edge to it's original degree of sharpness but it will remove any bumps or burrs and extend the life of your blade significantly. I keep the blades from my fabric cutter and demote them to the paper cutter for use before I finally throw them out.
Just one final word on safety: A good friend found out that an Olfa cutter will insulate you from electric shock! How did she ascertain this interesting and valuable fact?? By slicing through the power cord of her sewing machine......I KNOW! Not something I recommend and it certainly highlights the importance of keeping all power cords safely away from your cutting area.
So how do you choose? Here is my list of things to look for when buying your first or even upgrading your rotary cutter.
- Is the blade retractable
- Does the blade lock
- Is the blade reversible (to suit left handers)
- Which size will best suit my main purpose
- Which handle style is best for me
- What can I afford to spend
Visit the Patchwork Promises Online Store to see the range of cutting tools I stock! If you have any questions about this post you can email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
PS Fancy a treasure hunt? Visit the Olfa website and find out why Yoshio Okada decided to make the Olfa products Yellow. Leave you answer here in a comment to be in the running for a fabulous prize. SO wanna know what the booty is?? At the end of this 3 part series I will gift someone the PERFECT cutting tool starter pack! (There will be a chance to enter in each part of the series and yes you may enter at each one giving you multiple chances) TELL YOU FRIENDS!!