You know what doesn’t get enough credit? The non-tippable wine glass. Seriously, what an amazing invention. Definitely a must-have for your crafting surface of choice.
You know what else doesn’t get enough credit? Cutting mats! Cutting mats are even more essential to your crafting surfaces than non-tippable wine glasses (I can’t believe I said it, but I did.) If you use a rotary cutter, you probably use a cutting mat All. The. Time. And you probably don’t even thank it. But it does a lot of good work for you.
That’s why you have to make sure you pick a high-quality cutting mat, and treat it right. Get ready for Cutting Mats 101, a very important quilting course with me, Professor Suzy (but you can just call me Suzy. And, if at any point you feel the urge to stand on your cutting mat while nobly saying, "Oh Captain, My Captain," I'll accept that as well. But, yeah, Suzy is fine.).
What are the Best Cutting Mats for Quilting?
Plastic vs. Self-Healing
It depends. When you are looking to buy a cutting mat, there are a number of things to think about: material, size, usage… You have some options. Let’s talk about ‘em.
Cutting mats come in many shapes and sizes… and prices. You can definitely find cutting mats for as low as $10, and if this is where your budget is at, know that these mats will protect your table or desktop, but if it’s made with hard plastic, it will come with a price.
When you use a rotary blade on a hard plastic cutting mat, you leave a small groove in. It might not seem like a big deal at first, but over time, all these grooves add up, and can affect your cutting accuracy, or worse, snag your fabric! Nooo!
This is why, if at all possible, you should invest in a self-healing cutting mat. You’ll dish out a few more dollars, but in return, you’ll be getting your own little piece of magic. Self-healing cutting mats are actually made with a surface that closes up after being cut with a blade. It really does self-heal! These mats are also a tiny bit squishy, so they hold your fabric in place a little better, making rotary cutting a breeze.
Large vs. Small
Now let’s talk sizes. When it comes to cutting mats, bigger isn’t always better. Sometimes, but not always. The main thing you want to think about is portability. Are you a big vacationer? Do you do a lot of quilting in sewing groups, at other people’s houses, or in a class setting?
If you answered “yes, I need a vacation right now, and my quilting project is coming,” then you may prefer a smaller cutting mat, like an 18” x 24” mat. It’s a great size for travel, and won’t need its own seat on the plane.
If you’re going for both size and portability, the largest portable table quilting cutting mat you’ll find is probably the 24” x 36”. It’s big. It’s bad. It’ll guide your rotary cutter to infinity and beyond. Portable cutting mats are handy if you’re not always quilting on the same surface all the time, or if you like to rotate your cutting mat, and slide it out of the way when you’re not using it.
Here are some official Professor Suzy Recommendations:
5 Best Cutting Mats
Small, Portable Cutting Mats
June Tailor Cut ‘n Press - 12” x 18”
- I have had this cutting mat for years. I like to keep it in my lap while sewing so I can quickly snip dog ears, trim blocks and iron without having to keep getting up and sitting down.
- Be sure not to accidentally iron on the cutting mat side. I did that a couple times and now my Cut ‘n Press has a bit of warp to it.
- Note: This is not a self-healing mat, so I wouldn't recommend this being your main cutting surface.
OLFA Self-Healing Folding Mat - 17” x 24”
- I recently reviewed one of these foldable cutting mats so you can see the smaller 12” x 17” version here.
- The curving seam allows this mat to completely fold in half and then pop back into place without an obnoxious seam induced “dead zone.” You can cut anywhere on the mat and your rotary cutter won’t get snagged by the fold.
Fiskers Self-Healing, Rotating Mat - 14" x 14"
- I treated myself to this little cutting mat a few years back and always get really excited when a project arises that allows me to use it. The rotating function is perfect for trimming down blocks.
- A 6 ½” square ruler and this cutting mat doubles my speed every time I make a Kris Kross quilt.
Standard, Larger Cutting Mats
OLFA Double-Sided, Self-Healing Mat - 24" x 36"
- This is my standard go-to cutting mat for quilting. It’s large enough so that I can cut yardage easily and also is portable so I can throw it on the floor to trim a quilt.
- My exact setup includes this kitchen island from IKEA with a 25” x 40” piece of plywood on top (a guy at Home Depot cut it for me) and this cutting mat perfectly placed on top of that. It may not be the best cutting table, but it’s the perfect height (so I don’t have to bend down and make my already bad posture worse), the perfect size for my small studio and has shelves for storage.
Alvin Self-Healing Mat - 36" x 48"
- 3mm thick, 3-ply high-tech polymer material - translation: indestructible. This professional-grade cutting mat is large enough for you to cut a standard yard of quilt-weight cotton (36” x 42”), fully laid out. Since you will be able to see all of the fabric at once, it's perfect for fussy cutting as well as large scale projects!
Check out more of my favorite sewing tools!
- How to Choose the Right Quilt Batting
- The Best Sewing Table
- The Best Quality Thread: Part 1
- Best Rotary Cutter
- The 4 Best Quilting Rulers
- The Best Iron for Sewing
- The World's Best Sewing Scissors
- Your Guide to Finding the Best Thimble
- Best Pins for Quilting
- Fusible Batting Tape: Why You Need It and How to Use It.
Some Not-So-Secret Quilting Cutting Mat Tips to Remember:
Be nice to your cutting mat! I mean, yes, it’s made to have blades run across it all the time so it’s going to take some abuse, but there are some ways you can make your cutting mat’s life a little easier.
- Don’t use a dull rotary cutter. This is a good rule of thumb anyway, since it’s pretty annoying for both you and your fabric when you get to the “sawing” stage of a dull rotary blade, but that same back-and-forth motion can cause grooves in your mat. There are some wounds even magic mats can’t bounce back from.
- Rotate your mat. You may notice that you have a few “common cuts,” or lines your rotary blade follows much more often than others. Rotating your mat can prevent you from putting too much wear on a certain area of your mat. Bonus if you have a double-sided mat, so you can flip that baby over!
- Feed your mat. It’s true: cutting mats get hungry… er… thirsty? Self-healing cutting mats need moisture to work their self-healing magic. Soak your cutting mat in warm water to rehydrate it so it can get out there and do its thang.
- Give your mat a happy home. You can prevent your cutting mat from warping by storing it flat, or hanging it on a wall. Never store cutting mats on their edge! It will totally ruin their posture, and end up looking like me. Also: remember that your cutting mat is not an ironing board. 😉
And that’s the end of class today, everybody. Great work. Cutting Mats 101 wouldn’t have been the same without you. This is Professor Suzy, signing off to go take a bubble bath… with my self-healing cutting mat. And a non-tippable glass of wine.
53 thoughts on “The 5 Best Cutting Mats for Quilters”
Awesome info!!! I never knew to “feed” my mat! How long do you soak it? Just warm water or soap also? Thank you!
Skip the soap, unless it’s looking dirty. When the moisture is gone from your mat it will look faded and the cut marks will begin to show. It will also stop self-healing – dulling your rotary blades. Soak your mat in room temp water for about and hour, then let it completely dry. That’s all you have to do. Good as new!
I leave my large cutting mat on my cutting table and, when it’s not being used, I spritz it with a spray bottle full of water. This has made it so I don’t have to lug the huge thing to the tub as often.
Love your posts! Makes me have a giggle in the morning after shipping kids off to school!
Also, didn’t know about the “soak the mat”, must get a bath ready for him 😉
hahaha be sure to put on some mood music too.
Great info thanks. Yikes, I need to go move my mat off its side 😂
Thanks for the tips, I was totally clueless about re-hydrating your mat! I LOVE my Alvin translucent self healing mat (36 x 48). I’ve never had a issue seeing lines on it and my rotatory cutter blades seem to last longer. For travel I really like the Omnigrid cutting and pressing station. Thanks again I’m really enjoying these “Best of…” posts.
Awesome info! How often do you “hydrate” your mat?
I would suggest just doing it as needed. If your mat is looking flaking or if the color is fading, that’s a good sign.
The non-self healing mats with pressing surface on the reverse side will warp if you use steam in the iron.
The best mat is reversible with different color on each side which helps visibility on light or dark fabrics. They are made by Martelli in Pensacola, Fla.
Awesome mats and other supplies. But best of all is David and everyone who works at Martellis
For 20 years of quilting I used an Olfa mat. Read about Adir mat ordered one…OMG what a difference!!! I love the Adir, it’s denser, thicker and heavier and it’s amazing.
I really enjoyed this post. Very helpful! I never heard about hydrating it!
very interesting but I have always been told not to let the mat get warm as it will warp so surprised about feeding it mind you not sure how I would soak it anyway as it is much bigger than my sink and too wide for the bath, perhaps I could spray it with cold water
Speaking from experience, don’t accidentally rest your iron on your mat. That is definitely too hot and a great way to warp it. Laying your mat flat and spraying it with water is a great idea! If it’s warm outside you could easily do it there.
Yes, and i found that using a wool mat on top caused same problem. I have to have separate tables or i repeatedly do the same stupid thing!
Love this post! Definitely didn’t know that about “soaking” my mat! Maybe that’s why I feel I haven’t been getting the life out of it I should be!
I Love & Respect Your Blog***** I Love the idea of A large mat, But, I would Love it too also Rotate. Is there such an Item as a rotating large cutting mat??
I am looking for a large matt 4′ x 8′ self- healing where and what is best place and price?
Hey Tom, if you do a Google search for 4′ x 8′ cutting mat, you will find what you’re looking for online.
I have been sewing for a long time, but never was a quilter. Only started with 2 baby quilts. I am so happy that I have found you on Pentrest. Thank you for the free quilt, and for all your information.
So happy we found each other! 🙂
I bought the Olfa 12 inch rotating mat a while back, it smelled so bad I couldn’t use it, didn’t want the fabric to stink from using it. I tried everything I could think of to let it air out, but nothing helped. I returned it to the store (Joann’s) and they gave me a refund. They opened another one from a sealed package, but that one smelled just as bad. They couldn’t give me an answer as to why this is happening. I’ve never had trouble with the 12 x 18inch or the 24 x 36inch Olfa mats. What do you think?
Girlfrand, I know the smell. It’s awful. Kinda like burning rubber? Yes, unfortunately that smell seems to be a new trend with OLFA cutting mats coming straight from the factory. I have not noticed this smell emitting from any other brand of cutting mat, which is good. I got my large one in 2004 before they started stinking. The great thing about these mats is that once you get one, you’re good for about…20+ years.
I personally know about the terrible smell because I have purchased other smaller OLFA mats and have dealt with the same thing. I can say that it does eventually go away. To get mine to chill out, I left it outside every day for a week. It still smelled faintly, but not too bad. It’s now been a few months and the smell is pretty much gone. I think you could also soak it in a tub with some Dawn dish soap and even let some scented oils soak into it overnight to freshen it up.
I bought an Olfa and it smelled soooo bad. I washed it. I left it out in the sun. I sprayed everything in the world on it and I could not stand to go in the same room with it. Does anyone have any idea? Do all the self healing smell this way?
Cris, another person just commented with your same issue. See my response above for more details. So even after washing the mat it still smelled? Did you try fully submerging it and letting it soak for a few hours? I think the smell is when it’s fresh from the factory. I don’t know what OLFA is doing to make their mats so stinky. I haven’t smelled this burnt rubber scent on any other cutting mat brands.
I had the same experience when I bought an Olfa. I returned it and got a light green Fiskars environmentally friendly mat. It has no smell at all. I don’t know if it’s really the best mat, but it is completely odor-free.
You didn’t have Martelli’s in there. Really good stuff, especially their Round-About Cutting Mat and Base. They may be a bit expensive, but the quality is top notch.
I agree with you regarding Martelli mats. They last forever and I do a lot of cutting/piecing.
Suzy, you have some status in the quilting community. Would a conversation from you (and perhaps some others in the field) with Olfa help? If they thought the smell was driving customers away they may well change the way they make or package these mats. For example, they could either change whatever it is what is creating the smell or wait for a longer period of time until some or most of the outgassing dissipates. If you do contact them, please let us know what they say. Thanks
Loved this post, Suzy. I want to pick up a larger cutting mat and was going to get another Olfa. Now I guess I’ll reconsider because of the smell? Looked at the Adir, have you tried those>
You are the best at these recommendations, I appreciate your input as I shop for supplies. Your amazon link doesn’t include the large size you mentioned. Really want to try it out as my son cracked my large Olfa mat in half, but I’m not able to find a source online. Thanks- love watching your instastories. You are gifted
Your mat cracked in half? Oh no! You must have a rambunctious son. 😉 If you’re looking into the large Adir mat, it looks like the listing has changed since I wrote this post. I’m going to update that to a 36″ x 48″ ALVIN mat. I haven’t tried that brand personally, but I know other quilters who love theirs.
I know, right?
Thanks a bunch, I’ll consider trying the Alvin one
Great info about watering the mat! I am returning to quilting after about 7 years away from it… i always used and loved Olfa mats, but recently purchased one from Amazon and am wondering if their quality has gone down — after just a week of use it is in terrible shape, with cut marks so deep they are collecting fuzz from fabric sticking in them. I’m returning it as defective! Looking forward to checking out the Alvin mat, and I’ve heard amazing thing about the (insanely priced) Martelli mats…
This is really disappointing news about OLFA going down in quality.
All of the cutting mats now have warnings on them that they are made with a cancer causing substance now. Maybe the fumes from the chemical on the mats is what people are smelling.
Oh yikes! That’s news to me.
Everything from California says that.
I am fortunate and my hubby is making me a 4′ x 8′ cutting/project table and I want a BIG self healing cutting mat. Any suggestions?
I can’t speak from experience, but this website has a lot of large self-healing cutting mats. This sounds like the kind of thing you will probably need to order online.
Ok, I have a very important question that I am very worried about. I had to get a storage unit (not temperature controlled) in Arkansas), so I could go to my sisters house in Arizona. I am a single old lady (67) and had to have a major surgery. My sister wanted me to come stay with her so she could take care of me. I have now been here 9 months and I am worried now if my cutting mat is ruined as well as my sewing machine? Do I need to get a new cutting mat and sewing machine?
I bet everything is just fine, especially if your cutting mat is stored laying flat. Even if it’s a bit warped when you are reunited, get it wet and lay it flat for a couple days. Most likely it will return to it’s original alignment. Once you are back with your sewing machine, have it serviced. The mechanic will give it a good cleaning and oiling and I’m 95% sure it will be humming beautifully again. I hope you have recovered from your surgery!
Great review! I’m getting that OLFA Double-Sided, Self-Healing Mat – 24″ x 36″ very soon! Thanks for the tips!
Great review- my question is- how do you hang a mat? I have a 24×36 that I keep propped up behind a door… my sewing room is finally under construction though…
If you want to hang a mat on a wall you could drill/cut holes in the corners and hang it on hooks. I have a large peg board in my sewing room fill with hooks for notions.
What would be the next size up from the 36×48?
Had a question about the life of a mat. Changed blades and still not able to cut fabric easily. Did not know about rehydrating a mat. Will see if I can rejuvenate it before I replace it. Thanks so much for your information. Will be checking in on your site again
I had a June Tailor cut & press, and found that the measuring and pressing side of it was NOT laid out correctly! The inch markings along one side were off. I would not rely on that pressing side for measuring.
I love my Fiskars 14” rotating mat, and use it often. I like that I can square off a 12×12 block on it.
I finally invested in a Martelli mat. Oh heavens! It is huge – 30×60, so it fits my IKEA
Linnmon tabletop with just a 1/2” overhang (I pulled the table out from the wall to accommodate for that. I never need to move it, and wouldn’t want to with how much it weighs, and can cut and fold very large pieces of fabric on it. And one even surface across the whole table!
Which mats are solid on the back without the grids … I find all those lines distracting and often unnecessary …. I cut with my rulers not my mat lines as I find them inaccurate.
If you flip any of them so the back is facing up the backs do not have markings.
On Planet Earth plastic does not soak up water to any degree that you’d notice in a house. Plastics are hydrophobic by and large. Olfa in fact denies this myth. Wipe it down when you must. No oils, no cleaning fluids at least on a regular basis—chlorine or ammonia might embrittle it. On the other hand you’ll probably wreck it with your rotary cutter long before that happens. Don’t waste your time.