• September 29, 2014

Rotary cutter revolutionized quilting world

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Posted: Friday, July 25, 2014 4:30 am

I was flipping through my latest issue of Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine and several advertisements caught my eye.

It occurred to me that the quilting industry is very busy devising gizmos and gadgets that are meant to make our craft easier.

The first “new invention” I think made the biggest impact on quilters everywhere is the rotary cutter. This little pizza-cutter-looking gadget changed the way almost every quilter cut their quilt pieces. To use this cutter, you needed a rotary cutter mat, and the all-important rotary cutter ruler. I’m not sure when these three items came on the market, but I bought a packet that included all three in 1982.

I still have my original mat and rotary cutter, although I have purchased a good assortment of cutters and rulers since then, each having their own improvements from the original.

One cutter I purchased has a spring loaded guard so I don’t have to remember to “close” the cutting blade to prevent accidental slicing. These little cutters are of razor-blade quality and many quilters have missing parts of their fingers or stitch scars where a cutter fell off the table and landed, blade down, on their feet. You can purchase mats in a large variety of sizes and materials.

My favorite is my first green mat, but I have several more.

The rotary cutter also birthed the ruler industry. Any quilter can tell you, she could go broke buying all the different rulers on the market. Some can be used for everyday cutting for all varieties of quilts, but others have only a single purpose to make a specific quilt design. They usually come with a book that gives directions on how to use the ruler and several corresponding quilt designs.

Before the rotary cutter, the method for cutting a quilt was tedious. When you found a pattern you wanted to make, you made pattern pieces, usually out of stout cardboard. You traced around the cardboard pieces on the back of the fabric. Then, you needed to draw a sewing line. This depended on if the pattern piece included the sewing line or not. Either way, you had to mark a second time to complete that piece of the block.

After marking all the required pieces on all the different fabric for the quilt, could spend several days or weeks cutting each piece out with scissors. After cutting all the pieces of a quilt, your hand was usually numb for a week.

I have to admit, cutting a quilt is the step I like least. Once the feeling in your hand came back, you could start to piece the quilt together — either by hand or by machine.

Using a rotary cutter enabled us to cut strips in long lengths and then re-cut these strips into quilt pieces.

All very fast and easy.

There are many books dedicated to using a rotary cutter and hundreds of quilts that could be made by using this handy gadget.

It would be safe to say every quilter has a rotary cutter, mat and at least one or two rulers in her quilting room.

Going back to tracing around cardboard pattern pieces went the way of the buggy whip. The first step for a new quilter to learn is how to use a rotary cutter.

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