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The Tool That Changed Everything

Just so we’re clear -

I’m referring to the rotary cutter.

I’ve been sewing since I was young. Mostly crafts and smaller projects.  I moved into sewing clothes for myself. I was always taller than the average bear, so finding clothes off the rack wasn’t easy - unless I wanted to look like I owned nothing but “high-waters”. Today, that is the look we’re trying to achieve, but back then it was NOT what I wanted. It always embarrassed me. So, I made a lot of my own clothes -  always adding length to the sleeves and legs. Using a pattern, scissors and sewing machine was about all you needed to stitch together an outfit.

I didn’t start getting interested in quilting until I was pregnant with my son and wanted something unique for his crib. I made all the bedding and quilt for his room. I cut every piece for his quilt by hand. I didn’t know what a walking foot was at the time. All things considered, it turned out well…I still have it in his trunk.

I enjoyed making the quilt and working with fabric so much that I decided I wanted to make a more challenging quilt. (I mean, how hard can it be?) I went to the local fabric shop (I’m sure it was a JoAnn’s) and picked out  a bunch of fabric for my Queen sized project. The pattern that I chose to make was a pineapple block quilt. (Yes, I’m known in my family for biting off more than I can chew.) I had no formal quilt classes, but I felt I knew enough to make this work.

I got busy making the 2” lines on the fabric and cutting them out with scissors. (Yes - with scissors.) I started sewing the pieces together. I made 4 or 5 blocks and laid them out to see what my masterpiece was going to look like. It was a disaster - pure and simple. None of the blocks were the same size and a couple of them were so wonky that I tossed them immediately. The entire project was designated to a box in the bottom of my closet for many years.

Fast forward a few years. I was able to find the time and tools to attempt another quilt project. It was a much smaller project - a wall hanging I think.  I don’t really know exactly when I discovered a rotary cutter, but I think there was a cutting board, rotary cutter and ruler my Grandmother gave my mother in her sewing stuff. I had been using a straight edge knife, cutting board and ruler for many years as a Graphic Designer. It was the rotary cutter that changed everything for me. I still had a few issues before I got it all figured out - like how to make your cuts on the straight of grain. But, I did get it figured out and what a game changer! Game. Changer.

I’ve had a bit of a love/hate relationship with my rotary cutter though. I used to sew late at night when the kids were in bed. (It was the only time I could find that was my own.) I was cutting out a project and didn’t realize my rotary cutter blade was very dull. In addition, I was probably tired. I cut right across my thumb. I didn’t even realize it at first. I just stared at my thumb that had a chunk out of it. It was white as snow - until it started to bleed. I had blood everywhere. Luckily, I lived next door to the Village Fire Chief. He was still up and I called him at 11pm. He told me to go to Urgent Care. I didn’t get stitches, but I did have a nice fat bandage that prevented me from cutting or sewing for a week or two. Moral of the story - don’t quilt late at night with a dull blade unless you live next door to a first responder.

I want to know what tool was a Game Changer in your quilting journey. Do you have a favorite tool? How did you discover it? Do you use it in other ways than it was intended? Let me know in the comments below- I am always looking for a new tool that can make my quilting easier, more accurate or faster. I’m thinking of buying a tool I don’t have and maybe your experience will make the decision for me. Thanks!

Quilt with Joy!


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