Quilting Rotary Cutters: A Complete Guide

Learn all about different rotary cutter sizes, handles, and blades in this complete guide to quilting rotary cutters. Find the best rotary cutter for you! Suzy Quilts #rotarycutter #quiltingtools #quilting

We have Rachel Thomeczek, of Wren Collective, here to share with us about the different types of quilting rotary cutters available and what they're all used for. Want to know more? Keep reading!

Quilting rotary cutters--every quilter's best friend. Nothing slices and dices our favorite fabric like these nifty little tools.

But not all rotary cutters are created equal; there are a variety of handles, blades, and sizes to choose from. So what gives? Why would anyone need to own more than one rotary cutter? Is it possible they have different purposes? Let's dive in!

45mm Quilting Rotary Cutters

When it comes to quilting rotary cutters, the 45mm is the gold standard. It is the perfect size to make all of your basic quilting cuts and is comfortable to hold.

Even the 45mm quilting rotary cutter has different styles and options, though. In the photo below, you'll see two popular versions of the 45mm rotary cutter. On the left is a standard straight handle and on the right is an ergonomic handle.

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Learn all about different rotary cutter sizes, handles, and blades in this complete guide to quilting rotary cutters. Find the best rotary cutter for you! Suzy Quilts #rotarycutter #quiltingtools #quilting

One of these is not superior to the other; it's completely personal preference. For a lot of people (myself included), it seems like whichever rotary cutter handle you start quilting with becomes your favorite. 

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45mm Rotary Cutter Uses

This quilting rotary cutter is perfect for cutting all fabric during the quilt piecing process. With a sharp blade, these rotary cutters can cut up to 6-8 layers of cotton fabric at once. 

Quilting Rotary Cutter Blade Options

While we're talking about 45mm rotary cutters, let's also discuss the blade options you often see for this size.

Learn all about different rotary cutter sizes, handles, and blades in this complete guide to quilting rotary cutters. Find the best rotary cutter for you! Suzy Quilts #rotarycutter #quiltingtools #quilting

Standard Blade

These standard 45mm rotary cutter blades are great and can be found at most quilting shops, online retailers, and big box stores. The types of fabric you're cutting with these blades as well as how often you're using your rotary cutter will dictate how long these last before going dull. 

There are sharpeners for rotary cutter blades which can be used to extend the life of each blade, but I've personally not had much luck with them. I've found that using the endurance blades is the best fit for me.

Endurance Blade

These endurance blades claim to cut twice as long as traditional 45mm blades, and it's seriously true! I was a bit skeptical when I first learned about them, but these are the blades you'll find on my 45mm rotary cutter. They're amazing!

Pinking Blade

Much like pinking shears, these pinking rotary cutter blades can be used to prevent fabric from fraying. These blades are used often in crafting (think decorative bunting banners, fabric bookmarks, etc.)

A pinking blade is also useful to cut along the perimeter of a project that will be handled a lot, such as an appliqué or hand quilting project. This prevents fraying while the project is being worked on. 

While the pinking blade is useful for certain things, it should not be used along rulers to make quilting cuts for a couple of reasons.

  1. First, the pinking blade makes a wavy cut, so it's not meant for precision. And we all know precision is important in the quilt piecing process!
  2. Second, the "wavy cut" aspect can cause the pinking blade to jump over your quilting ruler and bite you! Those who have suffered rotary blade injuries know this is no laughing matter. Emergency room visits and stitches are often involved. As a side note, these Klutz gloves are excellent to protect your hand while using your rotary cutter.
Learn all about different rotary cutter sizes, handles, and blades in this complete guide to quilting rotary cutters. Find the best rotary cutter for you! Suzy Quilts #rotarycutter #quiltingtools #quilting

Alternate 45mm Rotary Cutter Uses

If you were wondering why I own two 45mm rotary cutters, I'll tell you why. Much like having paper and fabric scissors, I have fabric and paper rotary cutters. 

Every time I notice my blade getting dull in my fabric rotary cutter, I switch it over to my "paper blade" container and pull from that stack each time my paper blade gets dull. 

Paper blades are great to cut certain templates and to cut apart fabric color swatch chips. It can be very helpful having color chips separated to allow for mixing and matching when planning a quilt. 

Learn all about different rotary cutter sizes, handles, and blades in this complete guide to quilting rotary cutters. Find the best rotary cutter for you! Suzy Quilts #rotarycutter #quiltingtools #quilting

18mm and 28mm Quilting Rotary Cutters

These pint-sized rotary cutters pack a big punch when paired with the right project. Both sizes are geared towards smaller projects and can be used interchangeably. 

The 18mm rotary cutter is the perfect tool for those small cuts that accompany small projects, such as English paper piecing and hexies. Any small hand stitching project is perfectly paired with this cutter.

The 28mm rotary cutter is also geared toward small projects. This size is perfect for cutting fabric template shapes for curved piecing.   

Learn all about different rotary cutter sizes, handles, and blades in this complete guide to quilting rotary cutters. Find the best rotary cutter for you! Suzy Quilts #rotarycutter #quiltingtools #quilting
Learn all about different rotary cutter sizes, handles, and blades in this complete guide to quilting rotary cutters. Find the best rotary cutter for you! Suzy Quilts #rotarycutter #quiltingtools #quilting

60mm Quilting Rotary Cutters

The 60mm rotary cutter features a larger blade that cuts through thicker materials and more layers than its smaller counterparts.

When it comes to quilting, this size is perfect for squaring up quilts after they have been quilted. It cuts through the fabric and batting with ease, making the squaring up process a snap!

The adorable bird print in the photo below has been matched perfectly along the quilt backing seam. To learn how to easily do this, check out this post.  

Learn all about different rotary cutter sizes, handles, and blades in this complete guide to quilting rotary cutters. Find the best rotary cutter for you! Suzy Quilts #rotarycutter #quiltingtools #quilting

I hope you've enjoyed this guide on quilting rotary cutters! What is your preferred rotary cutter? Let us know in the comments below!

Learn all about different rotary cutter sizes, handles, and blades in this complete guide to quilting rotary cutters. Find the best rotary cutter for you! Suzy Quilts #rotarycutter #quiltingtools #quilting

15 thoughts on “Quilting Rotary Cutters: A Complete Guide

  1. Felicia says:

    Would love to know how long a blade typically lasts you? Both endurance and regular. I suppose the time measurement would be number of quilts? I bought an endurance blade but was shocked by how quickly it seemed like it had gone dull, but I see high praise for them in this article. Questioning if my expectations are too high?!

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      I think there are two factors that play into how long a rotary blade lasts – type of fabric you’re cutting and how much you are cutting. Heavyweight fabric, like canvas will wear out a blade faster than lightweight quilting cotton. I probably change a regular blade every 5-6 quilts or when you have to start rolling over fabric multiple times for a clean cut.

    • Zoe says:

      Hi Felicia, I’m glad to hear someone else was disappointed in the Endurance blade. I had higher expectations than it delivered, for sure. I guess I was hoping it would last twice as long. Didn’t happen.

    • Linda Creswell-Hartman says:

      One facet of rotary cutters not addressed is the blade protector. Some models automatically retract the blade when you stop pressing down while others mu ssd t be retracted manually. A subcategory also locks the blade out, hence the protective gloves to decrease hospital visits.
      Also if you cut fleece, corduroy, faux leather or fur that will quickly dull your blade or scissors.
      Thank you for a great article.

  2. Jeanette says:

    The omnigrid pressure sensitive cutter is the best I’ve found. I’m left handed and it allows me to easily switch hands. Fiskars didn’t work for me unfortunately.

  3. PrunellaD says:

    I’ve been using my 45mm rotary cutter for years and learned so much about why I need different cutters. I’ve just made it work and didn’t know it could be easier. Thanks for the great article!

  4. Vivian says:

    Great article ! I just wanted to say that in the 20 years that I’ve used them I have found that the stick straight handle – like the Fiskars in the right hand side of the picture can be hard to handle if your hands are sweaty. I have more than once slipped down the handle with my forefinger and nearly over the blade. Use caution with this handle design. The Olfa and the Omnigrid handles are better designed. I love all other things that Fiskars make-just not this style of handle.

  5. Sonja says:

    Hello, I’ve found that the cutting mat can have a big influence on how long a rotary blade lasts. The hard pebbly mats dull the blade more quickly than a self-healing mat. I’ve also discovered that if I continually cut along the same lines, it creates grooves in the mat and when the blade doesn’t make good contact with the mat, it doesn’t make a clean cut. I’ll often test whether it’s the blade or the mat by flipping my mat over and making a few test cuts on the back.

    My favorite cutter is the Martelli ergonomic cutter https://shop.martellinotions.com/cutters.html. I have arthritis and am prone to tendinitis and this has made a huge difference.

  6. Mea Cadwell says:

    I’ve found oiling my blade between uses has definitely lengthened the life of the blade. I live in Wisconsin so it isn’t like my blades are rusting or anything but it does keep them sharper longer. I swipe some mineral oil on the blade edge (both sides), wipe it off well, when cut through once or twice on scrap fabric, before I cut anything the next time.

    I’ve been using my current blade since last winter! It’s been through two skirts, a petticoat, two sets of curtains, three quilts, two large fabric wall hangings with pockets (made of canvas), 8 lined totes (using duck fabric), several sets of cloth menstrual pads (flannel), a stuffed animal (fleece), a peacock pincushion (more duck fabric), and it’s still going strong with no skipping. And it’s just a regular Olfa blade.

    A worker at a fabric store told me to try it and I’m glad I did.

  7. Kaholly says:

    I have been using a rotary cutter since forever….I hate to admit I’m that old. I’ve only ever owned two, and only because one just plum wore out! I have a 28mm and find it’s all I’ve ever needed.

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