Patchwork: Beginners Rotary Cutting Set

The Beginners Classes I’m teaching this term are nearly through. During the penultimate session last Saturday students tried out walking foot quilting techniques and learnt how to pin baste their quilt sandwich. I’m looking forward to seeing all the near complete quilts on Saturday 23rd when I’ll be teaching the making of straight grain binding and demonstrating how to attach binding to a quilt. I have my homework cut out as I’ve yet to sandwich and quilt my own version of the Dashing Stars quilt! 😀

But, rewinding to Session One of the Beginners Course, I’ve been giving some thought to what should be included in a Rotary Cutting Starter Kit. Ours is not a cheap hobby but having the right tools makes aconsiderable difference to the enjoyment derived from this branch of creativity. And as the tools available tend to be good quality and long lasting they are generally worth the initial outlay.

After more than ten years of patchwork quilting I have acquired quite a selection of cutting equipment. It’s hard to think of paring it all down to a starter kit but after giving it some consideration this is the rotary cutting equipment I’d recommend to a first time patchwork quilter:

Rotary Cutting Beginners set by Allison Reid

A self healing cutting mat, 18″ x 24″ with a grid marked in inches. Why this size? A board this size is portable so can be taken to workshops; and it is large enough to cut strips from a width of fabric with only one fold required. I do have a 23″ x 35″ double-sided cutting mat which is great for cutting larger pieces of fabric and for squaring up and trimming quilts before adding the binding. I also have a 11″ x 17″ mat that sits by my machine and travels with me to workshops. However I think the 18″ x 24″ mat is the most versatile of them all. Average cost £20.

A 45mm rotary cutter with an effective blade cover and comfortable handle. Average cost £11 – £15.

Ruler corner detail by Allison ReidA 12½” by 6½” ruler with markings in Imperial measurements. Ideally the ruler should have a 45º line marked on it that runs to a corner (this is really useful when trimming half square triangles). Average cost £12 – £15.

Deciding which ruler to include in a Starter Kit had me in the biggest dilemma. A 24½” x 6½” ruler is pretty essential for cutting WOF strips but for sub-cutting strips into smaller pieces it is very unwieldy and it’s a bit of a worry travelling with such a large ruler – they can snap if packed badly. Here is a photo of the basic rulers I have collected over the years:


Basic ruler collection by Allison Reid

As I’ve said the long ruler is great for cutting WOF strips and also for squaring up quilts; the 12½ square I probably use the least but it’s useful for measuring and trimming large blocks; the 6½” square is well used for sub-cutting fabrics and for trimming blocks including HSTs and Flying Geese; and the 18″ x 2½” ruler is great for sub-cutting WOF strips.

I came late to the 12½” x 6½” ruler but it’s worth it’s weight in gold to me. It is easy to transport, ideal for cutting pieces from Fat Quarters but can also be used to cut WOF strips if the fabric is folded twice; it can also be used to trim blocks including HSTs and Flying Geese.

Which are your go-to rotary cutting tools? What would you recommend be purchased by someone new to patchwork quilting?

Linking with Susan for Midweek Makers and with Jennifer for Wednesday Wait Loss.


PS. Gratuitous photos of Autumn colour – it’s all so beautiful!

Oak Leaf Hydrangea 2019 by Allison Reid
The Oak Leaf Hydrangea in our front garden gave a wonderful display of white flowers and now it’s a blaze of shocking pink to deep purple leaves.
Mature trees at the top of our road catching the early morning sun.


5 thoughts on “Patchwork: Beginners Rotary Cutting Set

  1. Your picks are perfect for a starter kit. For me, though, I really love Kaye England’s Cut For the Cure specialty rulers from Nifty Notions. I can cut my fabrics to the same width strips based on the finished size of the units I’m wanting to make, then subcut HSTs, QSTs or whatever from those strips without having to add 7/8″ or whatever. I use them all the time, but the set was pricey purchased all together so would not recommend them for a beginner kit. But I would add one thing: Every beginner quilter kit should include a SEAM RIPPER! You don’t have to sew it right the first time; you only have to sew it right the LAST time!

    • Thanks for the recommendations. I shall look up the speciality rulers – I haven’t heard of them or seen anyone using them but they do sound interesting.Oh! Yes! The seam ripper! We all need one!

  2. Looks like you’ve given this a lot of thought! Great choices–I’d recommend them to a beginner. Thanks for sharing on Wednesday Wait Loss.


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