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Perfect cutting mats: Which ones work best for quilting AND why

Perfect cutting mats: Which ones work best for quilting AND why

by Claire Haillot

Don’t stop reading just now! Now that you know the secrets for a perfect stitch when hand quilting, see what I have to say about the perfect cutting mats. You’ll be surprised how much you really know about them. As soon as you begin quilting, you’re immediately told you need a cutting mat. In fact, the basic beginner trio consists of the cutting mat, rotary cutter, and ruler. It can be quite overwhelming when you begin searching through the various styles, sizes, and prices. Our initial thought is that we need a mat to protect our working surface from possible damage from a rotary cutter. But there is so much more to understand.

3 green cutting mats and 1 gray cutting mat in different sizes on a white background; Omnigrid Cutting Mat 18" x 24", Komfort KUT 360° Rotating Cutting Mat - 18″ x 18″, UNIQUE Folding Cutting Mat - 12″ x 17″

Find out all you need to know about quilters cutting mats

Today, I’m giving you a quick tour into the world of cutting mats and showing you my favorite ones. Perhaps this information will guide you in your next creative projects or make it onto your wish list for the coming holidays.

Why is it called a self-healing mat?

 Let’s start with the basics. When you’re a quilter, you want to have a self-healing mat as opposed to the big white cutting mats seamstresses have. The self-healing mats are less damaging to your rotary cutter and allow precision cutting. Why’s that? The mats are made with what I like to call a gel membrane which consists of several layers of PVC, vinyl or synthetic rubber, depending on the brand, compressed together. When you’re cutting your fabrics, the blade of your rotary cutter cuts into these layers which automatically close back together or ‘heal’ after the blade is removed.

Dos and don’ts to keep your mat healthy

 To ensure that your mat lives a long time, there are several things you need to remember.

  1. To store, always lay your mat flat. If you roll a mat, or leave it curved behind a desk, your mat will no longer lay flat as the gel membrane will warp, making cutting fabric less accurate.
  2. Avoid placing hot objects on the mat as it will alter its shape. This includes your coffee mug and heated leftovers.
  3. When cutting, always move the blade in the same direction. Don’t go backward with your cutter; you’ll surely be cutting the gel membrane as it closes, causing grooves.
  4. Try to avoid cutting repeatedly in the same location, or wait for the mat to heal before cutting again to reduce the risk of creating grooves.
  5. If you’ve cut batting on your mat, you probably have pieces of batting stuck in it. To remove the ‘fuzz’, simply roll the mat gently to open the crease and use a soft white eraser to rub that section gently. This removes the excess batting quickly.
  6. Most mats have grids with measurements as they can also be used for other crafting hobbies. The grids and measures are useful if you’re into scrapbooking but don’t use them when you’re a quilter. That’s right! Quilters use their rulers to measure and cut fabrics. But that’s for another blog post.

Now that we covered the rules to ensure a long life for your mat, I want to share my favorite list of mats. That’s right! When you start quilting, you begin with one mat but as you develop your passion and style, you might find you need just a bit more.

Omnigrid mats

 My favorite mat to have in my design room is the OMNI Cutting Mat 24″ x 36″ because it’s double-sided. One side is green with the grid, and the other is gray and self-healing. I love this mat because I can cut my fabric on either side.

The back of a gray cutting mat on a green cutting mat with yellow grids marks; Omnigrid Cutting Mat 18" x 24", OMNI Cutting Mat - 17″ x 23″

I love the OMNI Cutting Mats as they’re double-sided self-healing mats.

Have you ever tried to cut a green fabric on your green mat? Yes, it’s difficult to see which is which. It’s the same thing when you have a fabric that’s not contrasting enough to see. That’s when I switch to the other side and find the contrast between the mat and fabric helps me see what needs to be cut.

When cutting my fabrics for a project, I use the 17″ x 23″ OMNI Cutting Mat. It’s the perfect size and allows me to rotate the mat to cut the fabric instead of moving the fabric. That’s right. To ensure the precision cutting of your fabric, you should never touch your fabric until it’s all cut. Rotate the mat instead of the fabric.

A white quilt with red flowers with a partially cut border of excess batting and backing fabric on a large green cutting mat and a rotary cutter and quilting ruler; OMNI Cutting Mat - 23″ x 35″, Omnigrip Ruler - 8½″ x 24″

The 23″ x 35″ OMNI Cutting Mat is ideal to cut off excess batting and backing when finishing a quilt.

I use the 23″ x 35″ OMNI Cutting Mat when cutting fabric for borders or finishing off my quilts, and cutting off excess backing and batting to add the binding. The 35’’ length is quite handy to square off the edges.

But those aren’t the only mats I have at home! Here are two more I couldn’t live without.

Komfort KUT 18” square rotating cutting mat

 This 18” x 18” 360° Komfort KUT Rotating Cutting Mat is gray and has a 6-ply self-healing surface. I love using this mat when I need precision cutting blocks at different angles. The mat can rotate endlessly to help you cut at the right angle without having to move either ruler or block. Although I never used it in this matter, it can also be locked into position with a simple flip of the centre disc. The foam backing provides a non-slip cutting surface which comes in handy.

I love using this mat to make my hexagon cushion and 6-point pillow projects.

A gray square rotating cutting mat, with a black disk on the bottom right corner, separated to show the black bottom part of the cutting mat with a circle cut-out where the center disk goes on a white background; KOMFORT KUT 360° Rotating Cutting Mat - 18″ x 18″

The center disc makes your cutting mat rotate endlessly or block in place.

UNIQUE folding cutting mat

The latest addition to my mat collection is the 12” x 17” UNIQUE Folding Mat I just got to fit beside my sewing machine on my desk. I honestly have to say that I love it and don’t understand why I didn’t get it sooner. I never thought I would use it as much. Since I can fold it, it’s become a handy travel companion that I bring to my quilting classes and retreats. It’s perfect for cutting while you’re sewing your basic square blocks together. It has an anti-slip coating which makes it safe and stable to work on. But you do have to be careful when cutting the fabric to avoid the fold line on the mat. If you cut fabric on the fold line it usually won’t cut, so it can be annoying. I used the mat for a paper piecing project and just loved it.

The green UNIQUE Folding cutting mat folded in half

I love the UNIQUE Folding Cutting Mat.

That covers my list of mats. Hope you found all my posts this week inspiring and that you now have a better understanding of what you need to create your beautiful projects. This is also perfect timing as you begin a wish list for the upcoming holiday season.

This is part 5 of 5 in this series

Go back to part 4: Secrets for a perfect stitch when hand quilting [Tips included]


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