The WWQP How-To's
Basic Rotary Cutting
Rotary cutting offers the quilter the ability to cut a large number of fabric pieces quickly and accurately. The basic equipment needed for rotary cutting is a rotary cutter, a special mat designed for use with rotary cutters, and a heavy plastic ruler. Rotary cutters come in two sizes. The large size rotary is recommended for all rotary cutting. The smaller size is optional and can be used for cutting and trimming. The mats for rotary cutting in in many sizes. The quilter should try to purchase the largest size mat that he/she can afford. The recommended size for most quilting work is 18" x 24". Cutting mats are marked in a 1" grid on one side and are blank on the other. Check the grid with a ruler to be sure that the markings are true before relying on the grid for cutting. There are many rulers and templates available to the quilter for use with rotary cutters. The most useful ruler for quilting is one that is 6" by 24". Rulers used for rotay cutting should be marked in with a 1" grid with markings representing 1/8", 1/4", and 1/2" of an inch. Besides the basic plastic ruler, there are other measuring tools for rotary cutting such as squares, diamonds, and wedges in various degree measurements.
Safe Rotary Cutting
Rotary cutters are extremely sharp and caution should be used when rotary cutting. Always close the blade or make sure that the blade guard is engaged EVERY time the rotary cutter is put down. Use the rotary cutter only with a specially designed rotary cutter mat. Using any other surface can damage the cutter blade, the surface, and can cause the cutter to slip while cutting. Devote full attention to the ruler and rotary cutter while cutting. Many a quilter has received a serious cut because of a distraction. Keep the rotary cutter clean. Lint and fluff can build up under the blade preventing it from rotating smoothly. Following the directions for cleaning that came with the rotary cutter. Change the blade in the rotary cutter as soon as it becomes dull. Finally, take EXTRA precautions when using a rotary cutter around children.
Preparing the Fabric for Rotary Cutting
All fabric should be pressed before cutting. Carefully fold the fabric in half so the selvedge edges are aligned. Smooth the fabric making sure that the fold runs along the lengthwise grain of the fabric. Fold the fabric in half again brining the folded edge into alignment with the selvedge edge. The crosswise fabric edge must now be evened. To do this, place the folded fabric on the cutting mat and place the straight edge of the plastic ruler perpendicular to the folded fabric edge and align the plastic ruler about 1" away from the right hand crosswise fabric edge. There are several ways to be sure that the plastic ruler is perpendicular to the folded fabric edge. The quilter can use a T-square, placing the T portion of the square along the folded edge of the fabric and aligning the ruler with the T-square. Or the quilter who owns a plastic rotary cutting square can line one edge of the square up with the folded edge of the fabric and place the plastic ruler even with the square crosswise on the fabric and then remove the plastic square.
If the quilter does not have either the T-sqaure or a plastic cutting square, the ruler can be placed in such a way that the folded edge of the fabric aligns with one of the crosswise lines of the ruler. Once the ruler has been placed, the quilter should carefully place his/her left hand on the ruler to hold it in place being careful not to shift the postion of the ruler. Holding the rotary cutter in the right hand, place the rotary cutter so it touches the right side of the ruler and, applying a slight amount of pressure, push the rotary cutter along the edge of the ruler away from the quilter's body. (Left handed quilters should reverse the right and the left.) The croswise edge of the fabric should now be cut even with the crosswise grain of the fabric. Now, move the fabric so that the just cut edge is on the left hand side. The fabric is now ready to be cut into the desired shapes.
Rotary Cutting Basic Shapes
Strips - Take the finished width of the strip and add 1/2" for seam allowances. For example, 2" finished width + 1/2" for seam allowance = 2 1/2" width to cut. Place the plastic ruler on the fabric so that the cut edge of the fabric aligns with the markings on the ruler for the desired strip width. Following the cutting directions described above, cut the strip. After several strips have been cut, it may be necessary to even the crosswise edge of the fabric again. This is a normal accurance cause by slight shifting that will occur when cutting the fabric.
Squares - Take the finished size of the square and add 1/2" for seam allowances. For example, 4" finished size + 1/2" for seam allowance = 4 1/2" width to cut. Cut a strip, following the above directions, the desired width. Place the strip on the cutting mat so that the longest edge of the strip is parallel to the lower edge of the mat. Trim the fabric selvedge off from the end of the strip making sure that this cut is perpendicular to long side of the strip. Now, place the ruler so that the marking for the desired square size alignes with the just trimmed edge. Cut along the edge of the ruler to produce the desired size square.
Right Triangles - Take the finished length of the straight side of the right triangle and add 7/8". This is the size of the square which, when cut in half diagonally, will produce two right triangles including seam allowances. For example, 3" finished straight edge + 7/8" = 3 7/8" size square to cut. Following the directions above, cut a square in the desired size.
Next, take the ruler and carfully place it so that the straight edge runs from one corner of the square to the opposite corner of the square. Cut the square on the diagonal. This will result in two right triangles.
Quarter Triangles - Take the finished edge of the straight side of the quarter triangle and add 1 1/4". This is the size of the square, which when cut in half twice on the diagonal, will produce four quarter triangles including seam allowances. Following the directions above, cut a square this size. Next, take the ruler and carfully place it so that the straight edge runs from one corner of the square to the opposite corner of the square. Cut the square on the diagonal. This will result in two right triangles. Now, place the ruler so that the straight edge runs from center of the diagonally cut line to the remaining corner of the square. Cut on the edge of the ruler to produce four quarter triangles.
Further References on Rotary Cutting
Take a lesson in rotary cutting from Judy Martin & learn about Short Strips
There are many good books on rotary cutting currently available. It is possible to rotary cut a great many more shapes than just the basic shapes described on this page.
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