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5 Keys To Owning The Right Fabric Cutting Mat

Summary

So it is time to buy a fabric cutting mat, but what features are best for you? We dive into 5 great tips on selecting the best cutting mat for your needs.

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5 Keys To Owning The Right Fabric Cutting Mat

Good tools are essential for making quilts that will make you happy. These tips should help you decide what color, size, and type of mat will work best for you.

5 Keys To Owning The Right Cutting Mat

 

1. Cutting Mat Color

It is easiest to cut on a mat that is not the same color as your fabric. When choosing a mat, try to purchase one that will give you the most useful options. If your favorite color is green and you make lots of green quilts, you may want to invest in a grey, pink, red or blue mat rather than purchasing one that is green on both sides. There are lots of color options available, red with orange, pink and blue, green and black, green and grey, purple, and yellow. Some mats will have different colors on each side while others will be the same color on both sides but may be gridded on one side and plain on the other. Make sure that the markings are easy for you to read with your color choice.

quilt fabric cutting mat color

 

2. Cutting Mat Size

Yes in this case size matters! What size workspace do you have available? You certainly don't want to purchase a mat larger than the table you will be putting it on. How much storage space can you devote to storing your new purchase? Do you prefer to use long rulers and cut lots of yardage, or are small projects and short rulers your favorites? Answering these questions will help you make the best decision for you, especially if your budget is tight and you will need to choose only one mat to begin with.

quilt fabric cutting mat size

 

3. Cutting Mat Markings

If you live in the US and purchase your patterns in the US, you will want to make sure that your new mat has measurements in inches, but if you live and purchase in other countries, you may wish to have metric measurements as well as standard on your cutting mat. The good news is that there are mats that have standard measurements on one side and metric on the other so that you may be prepared for using whatever pattern you wish. You will also want to pay attention to whether the markings incorporate the sizes you traditionally use. The mat may say that the size is 11 x 17" but that may not mean the markings are 11 x 17" that size may only indicate the overall size of the mat.

Cutting Mat Markings

 

4. Cutting Mat Features

Considering the above information there are lots of mats to choose from. But there are still more options that you may want to consider. If you will be traveling with your supplies, you may decide that a double-duty product will be best for you like a cut and press option. Some manufacturers make this product as a foldable tote that you can use to press your fabrics on one side and then place your fabric on the other to cut with no flipping required. Another manufacturer makes a product that requires you to flip the mat over to go from one surface to the other. Which would work best for you? Perhaps you don't need a pressing surface and a foldable mat would serve you better that would be smaller to transport, but would still provide a generous cutting surface, there is a product perfect for you also. There are also mats that will rotate which are perfect for people who enjoy paper piecing, but would not be as helpful for cutting long strips.

quilt fabric cutting mat
quilt fabric cutting mat
quilt fabric cutting mat

 

5. Cutting Mat Quality

Is the mat self-healing and how thick is the self-healing surface? Some mats are as few as 5 layers while others are up to 15 layers thick. This may impact how you will want to store your mat, whether it may warp, and how long its' useful lifespan will be. Don't forget to check the warranty, the most reputable companies usually provide a warranty to assure you that they believe in their product and that they will stand behind it. You may need to pay a little more for these products initially, but it is worth it to have a product that will give you years of reliable service and help you to enjoy making beautiful quilts.

 

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Glossary

Cutting Mat
Surface used for cutting with a rotary cutter. The mat protects your tabletop and can serve as a measuring tool when you use the gridlines on the mat to line up your fabric. Many mats are self-healing which means that the blade of the rotary cutter will not create permanent grooves in the mat.
Paper Piecing
A method of hand piecing using paper templates of shapes to assist you with cutting, piecing and sewing accurately. The paper is used as a guide for sewing and then later removed.

See Also: English Paper Piecing, Assembly Piecing, Machine Piecing, Chain Piecing, Hand Piecing, Piecing
Press
Method of using an iron to press seams and blocks. This means simply pressing downwards on the seam with the iron from above and not moving the iron back and forth which can distort the block or seam.
Pressing
Picking a hot iron up off your fabric or quilt top and then putting it down in another place to remove the wrinkles. When you press your fabric, you do not slide the hot iron.

See Also: Ironing
Warp
Threads which are put on a loom under tension and raised and lowered to allow the weft to pass through. The warp direction (parallel to the selvages) is the most stable in the finished fabric. Some quilters always use this warp direction for cutting borders.
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Quilting Contessa
Quilting Contessa is a collection of various authors around the world that have submitted articles for the QuiltingHub 'How To' quilt wiki.  These are authors that do not write enough to have their own authorship, yet provide valuable content for the site.  If you wish to submit an article, contact us on QuiltingHub.
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