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Tips for Cutting with Rotary Cutter Blades

by Judy Cozon
(Charlotte NC)

Do you have any tips for ACCURATE cutting?

Is it better to cut all on the same day...I am assuming that if the pieces don't line up exactly the problem is in the cutting.

I have also discovered that cotton vs cotton blends vs polyester don't necessarily cut exactly equal.

Lesson #1...use fabric from the same line fabric content!

Check and check again.

If there are any good suggestions, would love to learn!


I do not believe that fabrics of different content (i.e. poly/cotton blends vs. 100% cotton) would behave differently when cut with the same rotary cutter and rulers as long as they were of the same weight. If one was significantly thicker than the other, there may be a difference, depending on how you hold your rotary cutter. I don't stack more than eight layers when I'm using the 60mm blade. Usually only 4 to 6 at a time. The more layers the more chance for shifting as you cut.

Here are several tips for more accurate cutting:

  • Use clean, sharp rotary cutting blades. Change to a new blade at the slightest hint of dullness on your current blade. Replace a nicked blade immediately. I can't tell you how many times at a bee retreat we've remarked how much difference a new blade makes AND how cheap and stupid we were not to change blades sooner. (Sorry to my Loose Threads Bee for giving away our secrets!) Use your Joann's or Hancock's coupons to buy rotary blade in multi-packs to reduce the cost.

  • Use the right size blade for the job. Your 45mm blade is a good, all-purpose rotary blade. If you are cutting many layers of fabric move to the 60mm rotary cutter. If you are cutting around curved templates, move to the 28mm or 18mm blade and cut fewer layers at a time.

  • Attach your rotary blade properly. Hold your cutter with just two fingers and push it along your mat without fabric. The wheel should roll easily with little effort and no wobble. If you have to exert more force for the blade to turn, it's too tight. Loosen the screw that holds the blade a tiny bit.

    Make sure you've installed just one blade. Once I couldn't figure out why my cuts were so ragged. After looking at my blade closely, I realized I'd installed TWO blades instead of one. The lubrication on the blades in the packaging can make it hard to slide the blades apart, and that's exactly what happened. Now I double check!

  • Cut away from your body in a standing position. You lose some perspective and control when sitting to cut.

  • Apply an even pressure when cutting Not too hard, not too light. Again, this is a control issue.

  • Place your blade right next to the ruler. Some like the blade completely perpendicular to the ruler, I prefer at a slight angle into the ruler as Sally Collins, an award winning miniature quilter, recommends. Just make sure if you angle your blade, you aren't cutting underneath the ruler.

  • Use the same brand of rulers for cutting. This is not always possible if you are switching to templates, but make the effort to use the same brand. The measurements on different brands can be slightly off creating problems during piecing. And do cut with the printed lines of the ruler next to the fabric. Cutting with your ruler upside down distorts the lines. Think of it like looking through a glass of water.

  • Fabric grips help to hold the ruler in place. These can be made of vinyl like "Clear Grip" or even sand paper dots.

  • Rotary ruler sight lines

    Good rulers have breaks in the measuring lines
    called "sight" lines.

  • Use rulers with "sight" lines These spaces within the lines, themselves, help you to line up your fabric consistently.

  • Cut on a rotary mat you can turn. Turn your mat, not the fabric. Every time you pick up the fabric to position it for another cut, there's a chance for pieces to shift and cutting to be off.

  • Stop to move your hands. When you are cutting a long strip and you need to move the hand holding the ruler, stop with the blade in the fabric and walk your hands up the ruler into better position. Then continue cutting. Your hold on the ruler will be more stable if you are "up" on your fingertips. Placing your palm flat on the rotary ruler can cause it to shift from the pressure.

  • Clean up your edges often. Before you started to cut, you cleaned up the edge by making a cut at a 90 degree angle to the edge. As you cut strips, the fabric moves the tiniest of bits. After several cuts, the angle has probably shifted and is no longer a perfect 90 degrees. Double check often and clean up this edge as necessary.

  • Cut on your dominant side. If you are right-handed, hold the rotary cutter in your right hand and ruler in your left. Cut on the right side of the ruler. Do not cut down the left edge towards you or across the top or bottom of the ruler. For cuts like these, the blade has a tendency to stray from the edge of the ruler, resulting in inaccurate shapes. Turn your mat instead of your body.

And finally, though not a cutting tip, do remember to close your blade for safety after each cut.

I hope this information has been helpful to you. If I haven't been clear enough, please do let me know and I'll fix it.

Readers, if you've got tips to offer for cutting more accurate shapes, please join in with a comment below.


Julie Baird

Comments for Tips for Cutting with Rotary Cutter Blades

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problems with rotary cutter
by: Chris

I am very short (4-11) and I have a problem getting enough weight behind the cutter so I get incomplete cuts. I've also shaved off tiny bits of my ruler. I have bought a 3-1/2" stool which helps, and started using an Ott-Lite when I'm cutting. These things have helped, but my ruler still drifts off the mark at the very end of the cut. I've been so frustrated I even switched to scissors for a short time.

Rotary blades
by: Anonymous

Nowhere have I found info on switching the blade Like flipping it over to the second side.

Is it ok to do?

From the Editor: If the blade needs to be switched out because it is dull or leaving behind threads, I don't believe that flipping it will solve the problem.

Of course, if the blade is flat and the mechanism allows it you can try, however, I would be very surprised if it cured either problem.

~ Julie

Shifting blade unscrews.
by: JaniB

When I use my rotary cutter, it just becomes unscrewed! I have even gone back to the store where I bought it and checked the packaging to make sure I've assembled it properly. I've tightened the screw myself, had my son do it tighter, but it still unscrews.

The second problem I'm having is that I'll be halfway through a cut and the blade will have slipped into the plastic handle and gotten wedged, therefore it won't roll. What am I doing wrong?

This is a Fiskars handle and Fiskars rotary wheel.

From the Editor: I suspect that somehow the screw is either defective or it's been stripped (though I can't imagine that you could do that hand turning the screw).

But it's the blade slipping back while you're cutting that worries me. That's just an accident waiting to happen.

I'd get a new cutter. Not what you wanted to hear, I know. But that's what I'd do if I was in your situation.

I've used the Olfa cutters since I started quilting back in the early '90s without mishap.

I wish I could be of more help.


Julie Baird

Rotating blade
by: Anonymous

Thank you so much for the tip about loosening the blade to make it turn.
This is the fourth site I've looked at to see if it was supported to turn, and the only one to state that it's supposed to actually rotate and - obviously - the only one to offer the tip about loosening it.

From the Editor: I learned that trick in a quilting class very early on in my journey...and have been grateful for it ever since.

Anything that makes it easier on our 'body parts' without sacrificing accuracy and efficiency is a big win in my book!

~ Julie

blade material
by: Terry

Do you have a blade made to last? The mini CD looking ones don't for me.

Also, I'm pretty sure I'm shaving my ruler bit by bit over time. Suggestions or downright rebukes??? :)

From the Editor: I'd be willing to bet that all quilters wished for this...along with a never-ending bobbin!

No, I haven't found a blade that lasts forever.

And yes.

While I've not seen it written anywhere, and certainly not by the ruler companies (Readers-please correct me if I'm wrong), I believe that over time we do shave off the tiniest bits of our rulers. Especially where we use them the most.

Great minds think alike!

~ Julie

Using a rotary cutter to cut hearts
by: K. Chinn

I would like to use my rotary cutter to cut hearts. In the first batch, I cut the full heart. The second batch I folded the fabric which allowed me to cut half the heart yet have a full heart.

Cutting the second batch was easier than the first, however, I still struggled with cutting the V shape of the heart. Do you have any suggestions on using a rotary cutter successfully with hearts or other shapes that have similar V’s?

From the Editor: I think it's just the nature of the cutter...assuming that you're talking about over-cutting into an area that you don't want to be cut.

You might try the smallest blade or a cutter that looks more like a razor on a stick.

Or revert back to scissors.

I wish I could be more helpful.

~ Julie

cutting throu layers
by: joyce

Can I cut through four layers of cotton - using a rotary cutter?

From the Editor: Yes, you should be able to cut through 4 layers of quilting weight cotton with the 45mm blade.

~ Julie

Newbie to rotary cutters
by: Gill

I bought my first rotary cutter today... I couldn't wait to have a go but it's not going too good it cuts for about 2 inches then doesn't do a thing for an inch then cuts again i'm completely confused - have i been sold a used one (it was in a sealed pack). I've loosened the screw & tightened the screw but it's still not working how i imagined.

What do you think!

From the Editor: I'm going to admit, I'm perplexed. A blade with a knick in it will skip (not cut) a couple of threads. I'd suggest switching to a different blade to make sure it's not the blade. Why it would cut for an inch or more is puzzling. I can't imagine that one in sealed packaging was used.

If you have a local quilt shop, I suggest taking it there and seeing if someone can have a look at it.

I wish I could be of more help.



rotary cutter does not cut
by: Anonymousdolores

for some reason my cutter does not cut the fabric just i a new blade. and changed it.
dont know if I am cutting wrong...I am left handed does that make a difference. Also could it be the mat..have had it a long time...

thank you

From the Editor: Without seeing the cutter in person, it's hard to make a good suggestion. The best I can offer is that you go to your local quilt store and ask if someone can take a look.

I'm a righty so that means I cut everything upside-down and backwards from you. But being left-handed doesn't make it harder to cut. Just different.



Cutting the Last Half Inch
by: Anonymous

I discovered a way to get a straight cut with a rotary cutter, down to the top half inch or so of the fabric.

When I would cut strips, no matter what I would do, the last little bit of fabric wanted to move underneath my ruler, making my cut bow out at the end.

To avoid this, before I begin my cut from the bottom, I make a little half inch cut at the top. Then when I start at the bottom, the fabric being pushed up ahead of my cutter has somewhere to go. This little tip works about 90% of the time, but that's a huge improvement for me!

From the Editor: Great minds think alike!

I use this very same technique when I'm cutting squares in half for half square triangles.

The 'tip within a tip' is to make sure you've got a nice sharp blade. Not one of those that skips a couple of threads every sew often. I'm very guilty of not changing my blade just as soon as I need to.


Julie Baird

Rotary Cutting
by: Hummaira

Recently I bought a Rotary Cutter but I don't have the mat ... I place the fabric on a glass top but it did not work. Is it necessary to buy a Rotary Cutting Mat in order to get great results? Please guide me as my Cutter is not working the same way as I see in the videos ...thanku

From the Editor: Yes. Most definitely. You need to use a self-healing rotary cutting mat with your cutter. You can learn more about these mats here.

I hope this helps.


Julie Baird

Fixing mess up made with a rotary cutter
by: Anonymous

I am making a blanket for my son and I just made a huge mistake and cut right in the middle of my square. How do I fix it? :(

by: Trudi

I seem to being cutting just a little shy of the exact size I need and I think I cut a little bit under the size I really need.

How do I solve this issue?

From the Editor:There are a couple of possible problems.

  1. Check that your ruler is straight along the edge. If you've been using your ruler for a long time, it's possible that you've worn down the cutting edge. To check, on a very flat surface stand your ruler up on it's cutting edge—the really skinny side. If it's straight and true, you shouldn't be able to slide an index card underneath it. If you can, you should probably replace the ruler. Remember to test both sides, because like me, you probably use both.

  2. You're using multiple rulers by different manufacturers in the same project. Though an inch should always be an inch, sometimes there is a slight variation between rulers. (That's one of the reasons why I don't use the marks on my cutting mat to cut by...). Cut a three inch squares with one ruler. Then measure it with the other ones you use to confirm that they are all the same.

I hope this helps clear up the problem.

~ Julie Baird

Cutting with rotary blades
by: Anonymous

Thank you for the tips. Even though I do not quilt, I watch and read the quilting shows, blogs and websites. Many of the tips apply to people who sew like me. We use some of the same tools and I am grateful for the tips you share.

Thank you so much!!!!!!


From the Editor: You are most welcome! I appreciate that you took some of your time to let me know! Thank you!

~ Julie Baird

New to sewing
by: Sharon

Thanks for all your tips, very helpful!

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