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Choosing and Using Rotary Cutters and Mats

Unlike scissors, a rotary cutter cuts through multiple layers of fabric and a pattern without lifting the stack off the table. Rotary cutters cause much less arm and hand strain than scissors, and most cutters work for either the right or left hand.

Scissors are essential to every sewer, but for cutting a pattern, I prefer a rotary cutter. Unlike scissors, a rotary cutter cuts through multiple layers of fabric and a pattern without lifting the stack off the table. A scissor blade can shift layers when it slides under them.

Olfa P1K2 pinking cutter
Olfa P1K2 pinking cutter

Cutting a seam with a rotary cutter’s razor-sharp circular blade is often as easy as a wave of your arm. And because they cause much less arm and hand strain than scissors, rotary cutters are ideal for arthritis sufferers. Most cutters work for either the right or left hand.

Using a rotary cutter requires a special mat underneath the fabric to protect your table and the cutter’s blade. Large mats are expensive—the main drawback to rotary cutting. I’ll tell you how to ease that expense below.

Rotary cutters come in a variety of sizes and shapes

Blade diameters determine the handle size and range from 18 mm to 65 mm (approximately 3/4 inch to 2 1/2 inches). Smaller cutters navigate tight curves such as armholes or necklines. Larger ones cut through heavier fabrics, loftier thicknesses, and more layers, and they move effortlessly along a straight or moderately curved seam.

Omnigrid 45-mm Rotary Cutters
Omnigrid 45-mm cutter with a soft-cushion handle.

Olfa 18-mm Rotary Cutters
Olfa 18-mm cutter

Dritz 45-mm pressure-sensitive handle Rotary Cutters
Dritz 45-mm pressure-sensitive handle

Martelli's 45-mm ergo Rotary Cutters
Martelli’s 45-mm ergo rotary cutter

Olfa rotary circle Rotary Cutters
Olfa rotary circle cutter cuts 1 7/8- to 8 1/2-inch-diameter circles

Clover's 45-mm Rotary Cutters
Clover’s 45-mm cutter with replacement blades and protective holders

Fiskars's 65-mm Rotary Cutters
Fiskars’s 65-mm cutter; handle accommodates 45-mm and decorative-pattern blades

Olfa 28-mm ergo Rotary Cutters
Olfa 28-mm ergo rotary cutter with push-button and self-releasing safety lock

Alternative cutting edges include blades for pinking or scalloping, which are interchangeable and far less expensive than their corresponding shears. Circle and point cutters provide unique cutting for specialized use.

All brands offer replacement blades, but you can extend…

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Previous: How to Use Rotary Cutters to Cut Fabric with Ease Next: Handy Accessories for Rotary Cutters


  1. FinelyFabricated | | #1

    Most rotary cutters can be used with either hand, though none of the ergonomic cutters can be. Look at the pictures of where the For those of us who have issues with our hands, the ability to switch hands is as important as ergonomics. I'd gladly have more than one rotary cutter if I could find a rotary cutter I can use with my left hand. A soft cushion handle helps, but it still puts the wrist in an awkward angle. Having had surgery on both wrists in the past, ergonomic is required. I'm mainly left handed, so left handed is required.

  2. User avater
    LunaOpal | | #2

    this is winderful cutter.

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