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Choosing a Rotary Cutter Size

Choosing a Rotary Cutter Size

Using rotary cutters has revolutionized quilting as we know it. Long straight lines are easy to cut and having the right rotary cutter for the job makes sewing and quilting a joy. So which cutter is right for you? I love having all three sizes to work with, as each one has specific duties it performs best. So, let’s take a look at the three most common sizes, and what each one can do.

The small 28mm size is ideal for precision on small cutting jobs, intricate patterns with tight curves, cutting around corners, appliques, wool work, cutting with plastic templates, and cutting ‘dog ears’ off piecing. For safety, when cutting around small shapes for things like wool applique, use a pencil’s eraser tip to hold the piece instead of your fingers.

The small blade can cut into inside corners on intricate appliques with better control than a larger blade.

The smaller size is also ideal for cutting clothing pattern pieces with curved lines like armscyes and notches.

The next size up, 45mm, is perfect for up to four layers of quilting cotton and most projects. It is the one to choose if you only have one rotary cutter as it does most cutting jobs well. This is the go-to size for use with medium size cutting jobs like squaring up elements and blocks.

Choose the 45 mm size when you have small straight cuts to do, like cutting on the line for half square triangles.

The largest 60mm size is great for those who have larger hands. It is good for cutting up to six layers of quilting cotton, and best for long straight cuts like the width of fabric folded. This size will stay sharp longer when doing a lot of strip cutting due to its size. It takes fewer revolutions per cut to get from one edge to the other.

The large 60mm size is also the best choice for thicker fabrics like corduroy, cutting filler like batting or foam, and trimming fully quilted projects of excess batting and backing.

Change your blade when you notice that little spots are occuring in the fabric where the cut doesn’t go all the way across. Also, if you have to press harder than usual, or go over a cut several times to cut multiple layers, then it is time to change the blade.

Changing the blade is easy, just be careful not to handle the edge as even a dull blade can cut your finger. At no time should you ever hold the cutter in your hand to change the blade. Be sure the guard is fully extended to cover the blade edge at all times unless you are actively using the cutter to cut. Lay the cutter, blade side down on a piece of batting or felt so it won’t slide. Remove the screw and nut.

Place them to the side so you remember which side goes up. The washer should curve up toward the nut when it is reassembled. Lift the handle off, then use a pencil or chopstick to lift the edge of the blade so you can safely pick it up to discard. I use a hemostat to pick up the blade to discard.

Place the new blade on the spindle, then replace the handle and nut, making sure the curve goes toward the nut.

Replace the nut, and tighten just enough to hold everything together, but not so tight that the blade is difficult to move.

Discard the dull blade safely. I put mine in empty metal cans that are going to the recycle center. I put the blade under the can lid inside the can to prevent even dull edges from cutting the bag. This is an ideal way to handle the larger 60mm used blades.

Another way to safely dispose of the used blades is to make a sharps container from a large pepper can. The hole in the top is just the right size to take a 45mm blade, or the smaller 28mm blade. I also use this container for dull and bent pins and dull needles. It will take a lifetime to fill it up, so I decorated mine to match my sewing space.

Careful care of your cutters will keep the blade sharp longer. Know that tightly woven fabrics like batiks will dull a blade faster, as will using a mat that isn’t self healing. Always close the blade shield every time you put the cutter down. This is not only for safety to prevent cut fingers, but also protects the blade in the event it falls on the floor.

The cutters now offered by Madam Sew are a joy to use. The handle is more comfortable than any other cutter I’ve used. The soft rubber grip areas are easy to hold, and the symmetrical design means that they are suitable for both right-handed and left-handed sewing and quilting artists.

See more basics on how to use a rotary cutter, safety and tips with my article Rotary Cutter Basics. Use your new rotary cutters on some small projects from the Madam Sew blog. See my travel set series - click on Lingerie Case / Book Cover, Jewelry Roll, Curling Iron Case, Cosmetic Bag, and Shoe Case. Then check out my Wool Pressing Mat Carrier, Through the Window Wall Hanging, Crazy Quilted Christmas Stocking, and Creative Pincushions. Put your embroidery machine to work with my Embroidered Wall Hanging project.

Stop by my blog for more easy projects. Have fun sewing!



  • I have been using rotary cutters for four years now and didn’t realize how much stuff I apparently didn’t know about them! Thank you. I have all three sizes and will now use them for their best purposes (and will replace the blades earlier, too). The big two are ergonomic designs, but the 28mm I recently purchased from Madam Sew turned out to be as easy to hold — or maybe even easier.

    Mike D'Angelo
  • Thanks for your rotary cutter tips
    Gonna start using mine more often

    Vikki Brock

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