Stories Of Rotary Cutters


I bought the wrong blades for my small rotary cutter last week.  How did I not know that there were four sizes, not three?

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Stories Of Rotary Cutters

Rotary cutters were invented for the garment industry. They were introduced by Olfa in 1979 – not that long ago. The invention of the rotary cutter by Yoshio Okada followed the earlier invention in 1956 of the Snap-Off Blade Cutter. The story goes that he was inspired by a snap-off chocolate bar.

Stories of Rotary Cutters


Rotary cutters don't have the popularity in garment sewing as they do in quilting. I think that the reason is that folks who sew clothing don't do as many straight line cuts as we do in quilting, so they are not convinced that the investment in tables and mats is worthwhile for them. However, those who use it for sewing really love it. One commentator on a blog said that she just puts her pattern on the fabric (she says it's perfect for knits), weighs it down with some weights like tiles and washers, and goes to it.


Just like the better mousetrap, people have tried to invent a better cutter. This cutter was created to be strapped to the wrist to relieve pain for folks with arthritis in their fingers.



There are indeed four sizes for rotary cutters: 18mm, 28mm, 45mm, and 60mm. Most quilters start with the 45mm due to its versatility: medium duty and multiple layers of fabric. The numbers refer to the diameter of the blade. Why metric? Remember, they were invented in Japan.



The smaller blades are used for techniques such as English paper piecing and hexies. They are useful for small hand stitching projects such as applique, single layers of fabric, and for cutting curved pieces. The 60mm size is great for cutting more layers of fabric, thick fabrics, and batting. This is especially true when squaring up multiple blocks at one time.



I don't want to get into the discussion of which blades last the longest but suffice it to say that many factors are involved such as the condition of the mat and rulers. Factors also include the use of the blade on fabrics such as fleece, corduroy, leather, or fur, which will dull the blades.


Paper will dull the blade very quickly, so put one of those little poison stickers on your good rotary cutters also. I have one cutter with an old blade that I reserve for cutting paper. Checking the internet for good cutter stories, I found that one lady reported giving the dull blades to her husband for "whatever". His "whatever" turned out to be sharpening chalk pencils.


I don't let a topic go by without history and often safety tips:

  • Make sure your blades are sharp. Dull blades can lead to slipping and poor cutting. This can also lead to slicing off the tip of your thumb – trust me!
  • Dispose of old blades properly where no one can get cut by them. I use an old tough plastic box.
  • Close the safety feature of your rotary cutter when not in use. I am reminded of someone who fined me $1.00 at a retreat for not closing my blade when I set down my cutter.
  • Cut while standing. The angle is better for most cutters, and you are more likely to keep the rule to cut away from yourself.
  • Your blade can get nicked by a cut or worn ruler, so replace your rulers as needed to prolong the life of your blades.


Gotta Run! My hubby just picked up my rotary cutter instead of his!


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Attaching individual pieces of fabric to a background to form a design.

Same As: Appliqué

See Also: Freezer Paper Applique, Needleturn Applique, Machine Applique, Reverse Applique, Shadow Applique
The layer in the middle of a quilt sandwich between the Top and Backing layers consisting of wool, polyester, blends, silk, or cotton.

Same As: Stuffing, Filling, Wadding, Filler
A quilt that is so badly damaged or worn that it's only purpose now is to be cut up for other craft projects.
English Paper Piecing
A method of hand piecing where paper templates are used inside the block elements to guide where the edges are turned under and templates are removed. Baby Blocks, Grandmother's Flower Garden and other non-square shapes are often pieced this way.

See Also: Assembly Piecing, Machine Piecing, Chain Piecing, Paper Piecing, Hand Piecing, Piecing
Rotary Cutter
A very sharp tool that looks like a pizza wheel which is capable of cutting through multiple layers of fabric.
A heavy plastic measuring guide that can come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Debi Warner
Author and humorist, Debi Warner, retired after many years as a clinical librarian and information specialist. She has her Master’s in Library and Information Science and achieved a Distinguished level in the Medical Library Association’s Association of Health Information Professionals. She has worked on teaching physicians to use computers and electronic resources. She also worked on several grants teaching the public how to use the National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus public database and is co-author of several articles on health literacy. She took up quilting after retirement in 2012 and chaired the Rio Grande Valley Quilt Show in 2019. She currently teaches several quilting classes over Zoom and writes for QuiltingHub.
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