Today’s “I’ve Got a Notion” is one of my most used quilting tools—the rotary cutter! But how did this useful piece of equipment make its way into the quilting world?
Well, the first rotary cutter was introduced by the Olfa company in 1979 and was used primarily for garment making. However, the minute quilters found out about this revolutionary tool, they more than adopted this useful tool as their very own.
Prior to the invention of the rotary cutter, quilters often traced handmade templates of the necessary shapes onto the wrong side of the fabric or onto newspaper or cardboard then adding 1/4-inch seam allowances around all sides. They then used a hand held pair of sewing scissors to cut out each piece before starting to re-sew them together to form the quilt block.
Not only was this method inaccurate because tracing over and over is not an exact science, it was also extremely slow. So, when the rotary cutter hit the scene as a way to cut without tracing first, its sales soared.
A rotary cutter is made up of a short-handled tool with a circular blade attached to one end. The blade itself rotates while cutting, thus where the tool’s name came from. Usually used in conjunction with a clear acrylic quilting ruler, these blades can cut straight lines very quickly and very accurately.
Rotary cutter blades are also very sharp, can be re-sharpened, and are available in different sizes. They can also cut through several layers of fabric in one cut, which is another time saver in the quilting process.
Today there are many companies making rotary cutters. They come in a variety of handle types and colors and some include specialty blades to cut curved or zigzagged lines. Others even have retractable blades or covers that pop over the actual blade itself to prevent injuries or to store when not in use. And I don’t think we have seen the last of where the “next” technology of rotary cutters will take us!
But we as quilters all know one thing…..the rotary cutter is one tool that most of us can’t live without!