What is a Rotary Cutter?

Is it really necessary?

by Beth Cooper
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Hey there, new quilter.  How are ya?  So, you’re asking yourself “What is a Rotary Cutter?”  And you’re probably also asking yourself “Why the heck can’t I just use scissors?”  Well, my friend, this should help.  The short answer is yes, you need a rotary cutter and although scissors do have a purpose in the quilting world, you won’t use them to cut out your quilt blocks.

Let’s start at the beginning. The rotary cutter comes in several different styles and shapes, but they are all the same concept – it is a handle with a round blade at the end.  This blade, when rolled alongside a ruler, will make a very straight, very precise cut of your fabric.  It also has the ability to cut every ounce of flesh off of a finger and cause you to either faint, cuss, or scream.  Or perhaps all three simultaneously.  So, be very careful with your cutter and never allow a child access to it.

Three different sizes of blades are shown here, as well as the difference between a regular handle and an ergonomic handle. The CutterPillar Rotary Cutter set of three is available from Missouri Star.

There are different brands and different sizes available.  There are ergonomic rotary cutters and pink cutters and blue cutters, and well, you get the idea.  Check out some great rotary cutters here.  If you are a beginner, look for a 45 mm cutter.  That is the most common size and will work in every situation.  As for what style you buy, well that’s a personal preference.  You may need to try out a few and see how they fit your hand. 

Are you left-handed?  No worries.  Nearly every cutter can be reversed to a left-handed cutter (the blade is just moved to the right.) 

The beauty of a rotary cutter is that when used alongside a ruler, you are sure to have more accurate cutting.  When you have more accurate cutting, you have more accurate piecing.  And when you have accurate piecing, you end up with a well-built quilt.  Although this is a simple tool, it is a very important tool and a must-have for any quilter. 

Check out this tutorial from Natalie at Missouri Star Quilt Company for more cutting tips and tricks.

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