Friday, 28 September 2012

Beginner Tutorial 1 - Cutting Tools Part B : Cutting Mats

 A Cutting Mat is the necessary partner of the Rotary Cutter; it is hazardous to use a Rotary Cutter without one. The main purpose of the mat is to Protect your work surface, but it also serves to protect the blade from the work surface. They were not made exclusively for use in Patchwork. Like many things cutting mats were first used in an industrial setting with the principle being co-opted for a variety of domestic applications. As you can imagine they would be very useful in paper craft or model fact any activity where you use a sharp blade of some description.

There are 2 types of Cutting Mats
  • Self Healing
  • Hard
 Self Healing Mats
These are the style of mat that has been most commonly available. A great deal of mystery surrounds their actual composition, this is one of the few time Mr Google has failed me. I can tell you they are made of several layers, the core most likely some form of vinyl which acts to stabilise the outer layer of mystery polymer. This type of mat does exactly as the name suggests: the surface heals when it is cut. That first mat of mine, the one I showed in the previous post is the self healing variety. It may have been cheap, but it certainly stood the test of time. Name brand self healing mats will be at the higher end price wise,but my experience has proven that even a knock off will do the job. No matter the price you pay, this style of mat has one major draw back. They must be kept completely flat at all times or they will buckle. If they warm up ie the sun hits them through a window...they will buckle also and no amount of reheating and squishing will make them flat again.

Hard Mats
Thes are thinner and lighter than a self healing mat as they only have the one layer. The brand I am most familiar with is made from 100% recycled materials and is manufactured in a carbon neutral factory. They are also made in Australia by an Australian owned company. Somewhat surprisingly they come in at a more affordable price than the self healing variety which is not often typical of products manufactured at home. I am also told that the surface of the the hard mat is kinder on the blade of your cutter. Unlike the self healing mats, hard mats are warp resistant. (Trust me that is quite a big selling point)

Life span of either style will depend on how much you use the mat, how well you care for it and maybe a little surprisingly HOW you use it. Your actual cutting technique plays a significant part in the life of your mat AND the blade of your cutter. (There will be a cutting technique tutorial coming in the future.....)

Matilda's Own 17" Rotating Cutting Mat
You can buy anything from a 12" square travel style mat up to a 54" x 26" counter mat that is used in a retail store. There are also a new style of round mats, or smaller square mats that incorporate a Lazy Susan style mechanism. It is useful to be able to spin the cutting surface rather than disturb a neat pile of fabric. This also improves safety when cutting as it eliminates the temptation to cut awkwardly. What size you buy will depend on what money you have to spend and the space you have to use and also store the mat. When I worked in the house on the dining room table I had an 18" x 24" mat. I currently use a 22" x 34" self healing mat, but I now have the luxury of a large table in a dedicated studio. I am thinking of getting a counter mat, I mean why wouldn't I? Honestly bigger isn't always better, so don't fall into the trap of mat envy.  With the correct technique you can make good use of whatever size you can afford & store.

Mats that are designed specifically for patchwork feature an imperial grid with the addition of some 45 degree angle lines also printed on the surface. Some mats are double sided, and usually those that are feature a metric grid on one side, the typical imperial on the other. These lines aid you when cutting fabric for your quilts, but more about that in the Cutting Technique Tutorial.

Traditionally all mats have been a dark green with yellow writing. Lately I have seen mats in a rainbow of colours....the colour makes no difference to the performance.

So how do you choose? Here is my list of things to think about when buying your first or even upgrading your cutting mat. 

  • What size is practical in the space I work in.
  • What size is practical for me to store safely.
  • How much do I have to spend.
Yes the list is quite short, because in my mind they are the only 3 criteria you need to address. Let me give you an example. If you are a Grey Nomad who packs up for several months a year to travel the country in a caravan.... choose a small hard mat. Obviously space is tight in a caravan for using and storing a mat but also the warp resistant nature of the hard mat suits an environment where there is potential swings in temperature.

Pictured below are 2 mats by the same Supplier, one of each type. The size is not exactly the same but is the closest I could find for comparison. As you can see the difference in price between the 2 types is quite significant even factoring in the size disparity. In this situation spending more is not necessarily getting you a better quality product. You could ask why you would spend more when a quality product is available at the more affordable price? I have used both and find I have a preference for the Self Healing Mat....but if my circumstances or needs changed I would absolutely consider the Hard variety.

22" x 28" Hard Cutting Mat RRP $35.00            24" x 36" Self Healing Mat RRP $89.95                  

So my final word? In this case you are spoiled for choice. I truly believe it is hard to make a wrong decision.

You will not presently find Cutting Mats listed on my Website. I am still working through which is the most user friendly size, generally speaking and the safest most cost effective shipping method. In the meantime I will happily special order anything I don't have. Or if you would just like some more advice, drop me a line.

NOW for today's treasure hunt! Can you make out the Brand name of the mats I have featured in this post?? See if you can, and then see if you can find out where their Head office is...leave your answer in a comment here!



PS Don't forget to share this blog.....the more the merrier!!

PPS I may not have Cutting Mats...but I have LOTS of other awesome why not stop by the store anyway..... SHOP HERE!


Sooli said...

I think it looks like Matilda's Own and they're at 2-6 Redwood Drive
Dingley Village, VIC

blessed speedy said...

The mats are Matilda's Own ones and they are great (I have one!) They are made and supplied by Victorian Textiles and are located at 2-6 Redwood Drive, Dingley Village,Vic 3172

Lindi said...

Matilda's Own - Victorian Textiles Dingley Village, Melbourne.

Jeanette said...

Love a good cutting mat would love to get a rotary mat one day

Head office
2-6 Redwood Drive
Dingley Village, VIC, 3172

jennyg said...

Matilda's own by Victorian textIles in redwood Dve dingley