accent pillow case baby canvas home decor Quilt Basics - Rotary Cutting & Trimming - Part 2 of 5 sofa pillow covers

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Quilts start out as lots o' little pieces. So it makes sense the first thing you should learn about in quilting is how to cut your fabric! If you ask any quilter what she/he feels is the best cutting tool for the job, the answer will be: a rotary cutter. Many compare it to a pizza cutter, and if you've sliced up your share of pizza pies, a rotary cutter may not feel foreign to you at all. If not, pay close attention to all we have to tell you. In Part 1 of this series, we discussed the rotary cutter along with the other basic tools you’ll need to start quilting. If you haven’t done so already, we recommend checking out this article before proceeding with today's installment.

Historically, when the only method for quilting was by hand, the pieces for a patchwork quilt were cut out with scissors. Obviously, you can still do that todayaccent pillow case baby canvas home decor, but why? It's so much easier, faster... and more acurate to use a rotary cutter, cutting mat, and the appropriate acrylic ruler.

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The rotary cutter is a fantastic little invention developed by Yoshio Okada, founder of the OLFA Corporation, in 1979. He was inspired by the "sharp edge created when glass is broken and how chocolate bars break into segments."? You can read about the history, as well as see a variety of new cutting tools, on OLFA’s website.

If you’ve never tried a rotary cutter, it can be rather intimidating at first. We assure you, it’s actually easy to use and slightly addicting (much like quilting overall). However, if you start without proper instruction, you can easily cut your pieces inaccurately, or even worse, cut yourself. Therefore, in this tutorial, we’ll be stressing safety first and foremost. We'll show you how to properly use a rotary cutter, cutting mat and quilt ruler (also referred to as an acrylic ruler, cutting ruler, etc.) to cut strips and shapes for patchwork piecing.

Before you can use a rotary cutter, you need something to cut. We discussed the various types of fabrics you can use for a quilt in Part 1 of our series. The most common option is cotton. If you’re a regular Sew4Home visitor, you know how much we love to use cotton. There are always new, hard-to-resist collections being introduced. In fact, be warned; building a large stash of fabric is a common side effect of quilting and you can easily become a fabricholic!?

For our examples, we'll be using 44/45” wide cotton in solid black and white.

In quilting, as in all forms of sewing, it’s important to preshrink your selected fabric. You can read more on this subject in our Preshrinking 101 tutorial.?

It’s also important to press (and starch, if needed) fabric prior to rotary cutting. Some quilters feel this is optional, but we consider it a must. Fabric cuts more easily and accurately if it’s properly prepared and crisp.?

As discussed in Part 1 of our Quilting Series, you need specific tools for rotary cutting. We have a variety of rotary cutters in our S4H studios, which are chosen based on the type/thickness of fabric we need to cut. We have a wide selection of quilt rulers and templates too, as well as a variety of cutting mats. The more you do, the more options you acquire, but to start out, get at least one of each.

One with a protective shield or a safety lock of some sort is good to help prevent accidents when the cutter is not in use.?

This goes hand-in-hand with a rotary cutter. Small ones are good for small items, but a larger surface is best for multiple uses.

Get one with non-skid surface, or a lip on the edge. This is very helpful because the rulers can easily slide and cause you to cut inaccurately. Make sure to familiarize yourself with all the markings on your specific ruler. The one we use the most in the Sew4Home studio is 5” x 24” with a lip edge that helps hold it in place.


These are optional, but will certainly make their way into your quilting tool box as you begin to expand your quilting experiences. Both templates and rulers are available in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some are designed for a specific purpose, such as cutting appliqué pieces. Others are for a specific type of quilt block or may be called for in a custom quilt pattern or tutorial.

Ready to give it a try?

NOTE: In our examples, we will be demonstrating right-handed cutting. For left handed cutting, you cut across the fabric from the opposite direction.

Below are a few additional Sew4Home tutorials that relate to rotary cutting and rotary cutting tools. And, there are always new quilting tools being introduced, including rotary cutting ones. Keep your eyes peeled for new favorites and feel free to bring them to our attention for a possible review.?

Product Review: Rotary Cutters

Products We Love: The Gypsy Gripper Cutting Tools

CHA Show New Product Find - AccuQuilt GO! Fabric Cutter

How to Fussy Cut Fabric Motifs &; More


Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Jodi Kelly

Sally Schneider

Think back to the time when you first fell in love with your sweetheart. The nervous excitement you felt when they called, the way your heart beat faster when you saw them again. Ah, romance!

This recipe is courtesy of Lisa Wagner. Download the Spiced Pecans Tag.