I thought that my "Scribbler School" was going so well, judging by how enthused my sisters were with wool applique. (I'll convert them to avid quilters yet.) I even thought they were learning the lingo. However, I was kind of crushed recently when my sister referred to a rotary cutter as a "roller." That's a new one.
The following paragraphs are a public safety announcement about rotary cutters. You may think I’m kidding, but I do not kid about safety. The rotary blade is extremely, seriously and razor sharp. Did you notice I wrote sharp? Please use a rotary cutter carefully.
When you bring home a rotary cutter, look at the safety guard. It is there for a reason and that is to protect you and the people around you. There are two positions for the safety guard. It slides down to expose the blade in the "open" position. Slide the guard up and the blade is protected and can't cut, which describes the closed position. Never leave the blade "open" and unattended.
Always close the guard when you are finished with a cut. Notice I didn't say when you are done cutting fabric for the day. I meant each time you finish one cut. Otherwise, an exposed blade could cut skin, fingers, bare feet and toes. And not just your skin, any precious child’s skin in your sewing area is at risk.
I warn students in my quilting classes about open blades, but they sometimes forget. Once I've had a student cut someone, but more times I have seen students cut themselves. I've seen students wave an exposed blade around. In this instance, they are usually “talking” with their hands while holding a cutter. It’s dangerous, so don’t do it.
Always wear shoes when you are cutting fabric. I know a friend of a friend who cut a tendon in her foot after dropping a rotary cutter accidentally. Make sure your family members wear shoes if they are in the sewing room.
Never use a rotary cutter when you are tired. If you are not a morning person or you have been sewing past your bedtime, then postpone cutting until a time when you are fresh. This advice is for all quilters, new and experienced ones alike.
Just so you know, I have never taught beginning quilting classes, but I have heard other teachers share some of their adventures. Here are guidelines for the new quilter written by me somewhat tongue-in-cheek, heavy on the tongue-in-cheek. By the way, new quilters will be referred to as “you” in the following paragraphs. My apologies if you are not a beginner quilter or a third grader.
I recommend that you go to the nearest quilt store and buy the right equipment essential for cutting fabric. (I'm assuming you already have fabric to cut.)
When you arrive at the local quilt store, ask for a rotary cutter and never refer to it as the pizza cutter. Yes, they both have round blades, but even though they look similar, they are not interchangeable. The pizza cutter stays in the kitchen and wherever you sew will be the location of the rotary cutter. The cutter comes packaged ready to go with a blade. From this moment on, you will only need to buy replacement blades because the body of the cutter is pretty indestructible. If the store offers more than one size rotary cutter (this refers to the size of the blade) buy either a 28 mm OR a 45 mm. Don’t go with a super small blade or a super big one at this point although those cutters have their uses. I’ll write more on that topic later.
Don’t leave the store without a special mat that measures at least 18" X 22." Purchase what is called a self-healing rubber mat specially made for rotary cutting. Why is that? Answer: using a rotary cutter on any bare wood table will ruin the blade and the wood surface! And that goes for just about any other surface in a home including Formica counters and so on. You want a protective barrier.
One more thing to add to the shopping list is a ruler. Don’t think that you can use just any old 12” ruler that is hanging around from grade school. You need an acrylic, see-through ruler made for rotary cutting. A 6” X 24” ruler is the first one you should buy.
Next, bring all three of these items home, but don’t use, better yet don't even open the rotary cutter until after reading tomorrow’s post. Here’s another unwritten rule: keep the mat flat during the trip home because standing it on end may curl the sides. Don’t leave the rotary mat in extreme temperatures, again because the mat might curl or warp. OK that’s it.
My name is Chris Barnard and I have been quilting for 30 years and teaching classes for 10 years. My goal is to inspire people to begin their quilting journey, to finish projects already started and to share my passion for quilts.