Some hate it, others can’t live without it, but the fact is, once you got a grip on it, the rotary cutter offers you the best cutting results. A rotary cutter is the tool Alessa of Farbenfreude really wants to own, so here is her nomination:
Rotary cutter is an innovative cutting tool with a cutting wheel mounted on a handle. It can cut through multiple layers of thick and thin fabrics in a perfectly straight line without any shifting. It can be used in the right or the left hand and cause less arm and hand strain than scissors. Rotary cutters are available in most sewing notions stores.
I love using rotary cutter for cutting bias strips, or any other bias cutting.
Here are few tips for using the rotary cutter:
Rotary cutter blades size varies from 18mm to 60mm. Larger diameter is better for cutting multiple layers or long straight lines as they roll easier and are sturdier. The smaller blades are more convenient for cutting around curves and any sections of fabrics where you want to have more control of the line.
The Tungsten steel blades are especially sharp and are a standard for most leading rotary cutter manufacturers. Always have some reserve blades, as they dull after a while. Use new(er) blades for delicate fabrics. Use separate blades for cutting paper and polyester as these materials dull the blade faster. If you have to use a rotary cutter for cutting paper, use older blades. I keep a separate blade for silks only and make a little mark on the blade with my Sharpie marker, so I don't confuse blades.
There is a wide variety of handles available in stores. If possible try to hold it and press it against a surface to see which one is the
Self-healing cutting board, or mat, is a necessity if you use a rotary cutter. If possible, go for a size that can accommodate a larger pattern piece, so you won’t need to shift fabric for cutting. Also, 45º guides on the mat for bias cutting are very helpful.
One tip for rotary cutter users is to avoid pinnable cutting mats for cutting thinner or delicate fabrics as the cut fabric edge gets embedded into the mat surface and you will have to pull slightly to release the fabric – a pain for silks and thin knits. Also, because the surface is pinnable it can also be cut into, shortening the life of your blades. Go for hard-to-penetrate PVC polypropylene styrenate mat instead, such as Big Mat by Sewing Emporium
The downside of using the rotary cutter is the price of cutting mats. Be prepared to pay from $60 to $120 for a decent size mat with guides. But if you don’t mind absence of guides, Judith Neukam, technical editor of Threads Magazine has a great advice: “ … go to your local office-cupply store and buy a low-cost mat designed to protect floors from office-chair wheels.”
An acrylic (transparent) ruler is very convenient for cutting longer lines. Check quilting stores for ruler – they have a wide variety of ruler in different shapes. I have one longer and one shorter acrylic ruler for cutting, marking and patternmaking.
Rotary cutters are extremely (!) sharp! Keep them away from children and always make sure the blade is retracted every time you put the rotary cutter down! A special safety latch will prevent cutting accidents. In addition, some rotary cutters are pressure sensitive (such as Dritz Kai Rotary Cutter) so the blade engages automatically when pressure is applied to the cutter.
Finally, if you are fascinated by rotary cutter and want to learn even more about this tool, check this great article on Threads Magazine website: Rotary Cutters and Mats