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Tips & Techniques

Make your rotary mats last longer.

To avoid excessive wear, don’t cut repeatedly in the exact same spot. When your mat becomes nicked and worn in the area you use for cutting, flip it around and use the opposite side or end. Using a clean, unmarked surface will double the life of your mat AND your blades. You can also use the back of your mat. And remember, don't leave your mat sitting in the hot sun, in a hot car, or put it near a heating source. Your mat will become warped and will be useless and dangerous for cutting.


What to do with dull rotary blades.

You may be tempted to try one of the rotary blade sharpeners on the market, but you won’t be able to return your OLFA blade to its original sharpness and may be disappointed. Instead, try recycling your worn blades. When your blades no longer cut your fabrics as precisely as they once did, use them for paper, cardboard, photographs, vellum, template plastic.


Stay fuzz-free. 

Keep a lint roller handy at your sewing table for removing lint and threads from all of your projects.  Works especially well on black fabrics which have a tendency to collect dirt and dust. 


Recycle old or worn rotary mats. 

Using a sturdy pair of shears, such as the OLFA SCS-2, cut your worn mats into strips to be used for cutting chenille.  Place the strips in the channels and cut fabric open using your favorite rotary cutter.  You can also use worn mats for templates.  Cut them into squares for pillows, rectangles for borders, triangles for piecing, whatever your template needs!  Trace the shape you want with a pen or permanent marker.  Cut on the lines and you’ve got a reusable template.


Recycle worn blades. 

Rotary blades do dull over time depending on the amount of use you put them to. You may be tempted to try one of the rotary blade sharpeners on the market, but will be met with mixed results. Unfortunately, you will not be able to return your Olfa blade to its original sharpness and may be disappointed.  Instead, try recycling your worn blades.  When your blades no longer cut your fabrics as precisely as they once did, use them for paper, cardboard, photographs, vellum, template plastic. Put them in a spare rotary handle and mark with a “P” for paper. Just as you keep your scissors for paper and fabric separate, keep your rotary blades separate as well.


Keep it clean. 

Try cleaning your rotary mat with an art gum eraser found at your local artists supply store. It will pull the fibers out of the mat without gumming it up and leaves no residue.


Eliminate odors in a snap. 

Sometimes you may notice a plastic smell coming from your rotary mat. To reduce the odor, try wiping your mat with equal parts mixture of white vinegar and water. Let air dry.


Great for trimming things up

Keep a small 6” x 8” rotary mat and mini 18mm cutter next to your sewing machine to trim threads and seam allowances as you sew. These are also great tools to keep at  your ironing board, especially when doing crazy quilting or paper piecing.


Easy inside out. 

Try using chopsticks when piecing requires you to sew and turn your work inside out. The rounded tip works beautifully to get crisp corners and nice edges. Chopsticks are inexpensive and easy to find.


A little extra when you press. 

A little bit of spray starch used when ironing your fabrics keeps fabrics crisp and makes for easier cutting and piecing.


Quick curves. 

To sew curves with no puckers, clip the seam allowance of the convex piece and sew with this piece on top, gently stretching the pieces to fit.  Sew slowly to keep your ¼” seam allowance.


How do you measure up?

You probably know that a ‘fat quarter’ is a cut of fabric that measures 18x22” {that’s a half yard cut in half at the fold}. They’re wonderful for scrap quilts or appliqué, where you need an assortment of colors to choose from. Too often, we’re afraid to cut into them because they look so nice!


Next time you’re planning a project, use this cutting guide to help you put your fat quarters to work.

  • 99  -  2” squares
  • 56  -  2 ½” squares
  • 42  -  3” squares
  • 30  -  3 ½” squares
  • 20  -  4” squares
  • 16  -  4 ½” squares
  • 12  -  5”squares
  • 9  -  6” squares
  • 6  -  6 ½” squares


Choosing fabrics with ease!

When choosing background fabrics, use a variety; plaids, stripes, and lots of florals. Lay the fabric out (uncut) on the floor or design wall, leaving it there overnight. The next day, decide if any of the fabrics look out of place, or if the color is wrong. Substitute another fabric and you’re ready to piece a spectacular background!

Accurate measurements with the Circle Cutter.

When it’s important for your circle to be a specific size, follow these steps.  Remember that the depth is half the diameter of the finished circle.

  1. Lay a 6x12" ruler on an OLFA® mat.
  2. On the circle cutter, loosen the measurement slide with the pivot point and take off the point cover.
  3. Put the point tightly against the ruler, centered on the 6" mark.
  4. With the point pushed into the mat, use the measurement guide to adjust the depth of the circle by placing the blade exactly on the ruler measurement that you want.
  5. If you want a 4" circle, we put the blade at 2". 4 1/2", the blade is on 2 1/4".  Cut a 4 1/4"  circle by putting the blade at 2 1/8".
  6. Tighten the measurement slide to hold the blade in place.



Machine applique tricks.

When you begin to machine appliqué, insert the needle into the fabric to take a stitch, then pull the bobbin thread up from the back. Hold onto both thread ends when you begin stitching. This trick prevents nasty wads of thread on the back of your work.

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