Sometimes when I am teaching a class, I forget how much I know because I actually lived it! And, in quilting, the industry was forever changed when Olfa developed the first rotary cutter and mat! The year was 1979 – and that is the year I had my first child and hand quilted my first quilt!
I’m not sure when this technology made it to the U.S., but I will tell you that I was horrified when a shop owner first showed me one! I couldn’t shave my legs without cutting myself – and she was calmly telling me that I was supposed to put pressure on a “razor blade on a wheel” – and cut through eight layers of fabric at once!
But, after watching her cut out a log cabin quilt in less than an hour, I was hooked.
This article is meant to be a generic article on rotary cutters, but all pictures are of Olfa cutters – sometimes we need to pay homage to the original. And, when I checked out the top 100 Notions from Checker, all of the top sellers were by Olfa.
Rotary Cutters are available in four sizes: 18mm; 28mm; 45mm; and 60mm. The most popular size, by far, is the 45 mm version. The original was #20 on the top 100 list over 30 years after it was invented. That is truly amazing! 45mm is the width of the blade. Every quilter I know has this size. The handle or brand may be different, but the blade size is the same.
Item #RTY2 Retail $20.49
This rotary cutter can easily cut through eight layers of fabric at a time – if the blade is sharp!
The 60 mm version is the largest size made. I love this larger version to trim quilted projects before binding; cutting fleece or Minkee; and thicker fabrics such as wool and flannel. You can use it to cut the same fabrics as a 45 mm, so many of my friends use it for everything. The handle is larger, so as they get older and arthritis flares, this model is easier to grip.
Item RTY3 Retail $32.49
Sometimes, a pattern calls for a smaller blade. The 28 mm is popular for cutting curves. The smaller circumference of the ruler makes it easier to cut circles.
Item #RTY1 Retail $14.49
The smallest version is an 18mm. This is for very small, detail work. If you need it, the pattern will refer to it – and tell you why you need a mini. Some customers take it to class, but I prefer to use the same tools I have in my sewing room.
Item #RTY4 Retail $13.49
Until 1999, this was the only style available. That year, Olfa released an ergonomically correct cushioned handle. Because of the curve of the handle, the rotary cutter could not just be flipped for right or left handed use. Therefore, it was engineered so the blade could be switched.
Item #RTY2DX Retail $28.49
I love this rotary cutter, but when I owned a shop, I couldn’t use it. I am left-handed and most of my customers and employees were right-handers. They constantly switched the blade, so I never had a “left handed” version available. It was my rotary cutter of choice at home, however. It has a nice cushioned handle and saves a lot of wrist strain.
Enter the newest improvement:
Item #RTY2NS Retail $32.49
I LOVE this version. The blade protector is actually two pieces. Therefore it works for right and left handers without changing the blade. Expose the appropriate side of the blade with a flip of the switch. But, if you DO need to change the blade, you can do it one handed! You no longer have to take apart the washer, screw, bolt, blade, and handle – and then take a picture of it with your phone so you put it back together in the right order. You don’t even have to touch the blade!
This version – and the ergonomically correct version above are available in the most popular sizes – 45mm and 60 mm. Both are perfect choices for those customers who are experiencing grip issues with aging.
If you have not re-visited your rotary cutter needs this century, it is time you did! Your customers will buy what they see you use – and once they use the best, they are not going to go back to the original! Quality tools are always worth it!