I love quilting. Next to gardening, it is my favorite hobby. Over the years, I have acquired many quilting tools and none has been more helpful than the quilting mat and rotary cutter. These two tools make piece quilting easy and fast. Together they help the quilter make precise fabric squares, triangles, diamonds, hexagons, and other shapes with accurate cuts. There are many brands of quilting mats and rotary cutters on the market today, so I will not name any specific ones, but only give an overview of how these are made and how they work together.
The Quilting Mat
The quilting mat comes in many different sizes. I have seen some that are as small as three inches by three inches, and some as large as kitchen tables. I prefer using one that is stamped with a grid of 12 inches by 24 inches. Most are made of hard plastic and come in a variety of colors. Some are a solid sheet, while others fold. There is a grid stamped on one side, similar to numbered graph paper, which may include angled lines (to help make triangle or diamond cuts). The numbers for the grid are along the outer edges, leaving the lines easier to see when cutting fabric.
The Rotary Cutter
The rotary cutter beats scissors hands-down when it comes to cutting fabric. It can accurately cut through several layers of fabric, leaving a straight edge for sewing. There are many different styles, some having straight handles, some having curved. However, all have blades can be changed when they become dull and all newer rotary cutter designs have retractable blades to ensure the users safety. These blades are very sharp, so safety is a concern. Always retract the blade when the rotary cutter is not in use.
How the Cutting Matt and Rotary Cutter Work Together
The mat is laid on a flat surface with the grid side up. A piece of fabric is laid on the mat and aligned according to the grid lines. A quilting ruler or other straight hard-edged object is placed over the fabric and aligned with the grid lines. The rotary cutter is then placed at the bottom of the fabric, alongside the quilting ruler. While the person holds the ruler with their left hand, they cut the fabric upward, away from them with their right hand.
An Example of how to cut Four-inch Fabric Squares
Fold a one-fourth yard of fabric in half. Align the fabric end along the one-inch grid line on the right side and along one of the grid lines that runs horizontal near the bottom of the quilting mat. Lay the quilting ruler over the fabric at the four-inch grid line, being sure it aligns above and below the fabric. Align the rotary cutter at the bottom alongside the right side of the ruler and cut the fabric all the way up to the top. You should now have a four-inch wide strip. Unfold the strip and turn it the other way (long-ways), position it and the ruler the same way as the first cut and make another cut with the rotary cutter. You should now have a four inch by four-inch square fabric piece.
Sources: Personal Experience