Quilting Basics - Cutting Implements


Welcome back! I enjoyed reading all of your comments on last week’s post, and have been inspired to include a whole post at the end of this series with supply recommendations from Quilter’s Mart readers. There’s still plenty of time to throw in your two cents, so go back and add your comments to last week’s post with your own personal supply favorites!  If you didn't read last week's post - read it here

This week’s installment in the Quilting Basics series is about cutting implements. We even have a few videos to share with you, starring the Quilter’s Mart Boss Lady, my sister-in-law, Kim!

A reminder of some cutting implements we recommended for your basic kit:

  1. Rotary Cutter
  2. Fabric scissors
  3. Tiny thread-cutting scissors

The tiny thread-cutting scissors probably have a formal name that I’m not aware of (maybe you’ll enlighten me!), but whether you call them by a proper name or not, you have to have them! The reason they’re so handy is because they’re tiny and easy to aim when you’re cutting those itty bitty threads. Try cutting a loose thread with regular fabric scissors, and you’ll never get a precise enough cut!

These little scissors are great for lots of different scenarios, like when you’re hand sewing binding or hand quilting, when you’re cleaning up loose threads on your quilt top, or if your sewing machine doesn’t have a built-in thread-cutter.

Fabric scissors may not be ideal for cutting threads, but they are a must, too. You should really get some that are designed specifically for cutting fabric. Kitchen shears or scissors intended for cutting paper are not going to give you the desired clean cuts that fabric scissors will.

Fabric scissors are much bigger than thread-cutting scissors, and they’re very sharp - or at least they should be! If you’re trying to cut fabric with dull scissors, you’ll shred it to bits!

They’re super for cutting shapes, like with the Quilter’s Mart acrylic templates, snipping off extra bits during piecing, and trimming off excess fabric and batting after you complete quilting.

Here is a video of our acrylic templates and some good, sharp fabric scissors in action. 


What fabric scissors aren’t great for is cutting straight lines. For that, you’ll want a rotary cutter, as you saw in the video above. More often than not, your quilt will call for pieces with straight edges - rectangles, squares, triangles, strips - you name it!

Here’s a more thorough demonstration of how to use a rotary cutter:

Like your fabric scissors, you will want your rotary cutter to be sharp. This will keep your cuts clean, making piecing easier, and enable you to cut through multiple layers of fabric in one swipe, making the cutting process much more efficient. If you find that you’re needing to back-track over your cuts to make it through your fabric, it is time for a replacement blade!

Here is a video of how to replace a rotary cutter blade.

Having the right cutting implements is just as important for a quilter as it is for a chef! If you can’t get your cuts right, piecing will be difficult, and every step after that will be a headache, and you may end up displeased with your end result! Good tools will lay the foundation for good cuts and an easier, more enjoyable process overall.

There are tons of specialty items out there in addition to these basic cutting tools. Calling on our more experienced quilters - are there any other cutting nice-to-haves that you really love? Share in the comments!

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  • Carolyn Knees
Comments 8
  • Peggy

    If you can possibly afford it, it’s good to have a smaller rotary mat or a rotating mat when cutting with templates. It is hard to keep some fabrics together when you have to pick up and move your fabrics and it is dangerous to cut in awkward directions (ask me how I know). I always use a 12 × 12 mat on top of my larger cutting mat when I have little shapes to cut out using templates and a rotary cutter.

  • Danette

    I am making a picture quilt. Do I need to put a fusible fabric on the back of each piece?

  • Alice Woodhull
    Alice Woodhull

    I call the little scissors thread snips.

  • Dawn

    Interested if rotary cutter blades can be resharpen. I have many dull ones.

  • Christel

    embroidery scissors

  • Lillian Woltz
    Lillian Woltz

    Can rotary cutters blades be successfully resharpened? My blades seem to get dull quickly.
    Also, which blades are the sharpest?

  • Ella West
    Ella West

    Well done – I am a little more advanced but always nice to refresh!

  • janis brown
    janis brown

    Sharp instruments such as scissors/ rotary cutter are essential for sure. I couldn’t do quilts without them. I still need to add the tiny scissors though. Thx for videos too.

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