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August 2015

Hello again friends

This month we are chatting about how to cut fabric.

Sounds easy enough right?  But if you've ever wandered into around in a sewing store, you'll soon see that there is a myriad of tools that cut - each with a slightly different function to the last.  Shears, scissors, snippers, rotary cutter and mats - argh!  Fear not, for I've got you sorted.

I love connecting with people who are busting to learn how to sew but just don't know where to start.  If you know anyone in this boat, I'd appreciate your help in forwarding this email to them and encouraging them to visit my online haunts (website and Facebook page mainly).  Alternatively beginner sewers can sign up at and receive a bonus mini kit as my special thank you.  Check out that page for more info.

I'll be back in a couple of weeks to show you what I've been up to.  Now let's get to slicing up that fabric!

Happy Sewing, ♥ Sarah x


For the Shear Fun of It

Yup, I love a good pun.  Did you know there's whole pages of the interwebs dedicated to fun names for hairdressing salons... me either until yesterday. And yes, I'm very easily distracted.

Right, so here's everything in my sewing room that I use to cut in one way or another...

A bit more about each one starting from the top

1.  Dressmaking Shears - notice their shape, particularly the off-set handles.  They are shaped so you can use them along a flat surface, say a table, without lifting the fabric too much.  These ones have two different types of blades - one knife edge and the other has little grooves which help hold the fabric while you cut.

2. Pinking Shears - the blades are jagged and give a zigzag cutting pattern.  Great for cutting curves and also trimming the edges of seams so they don't fray.

3. 28mm Rotary Cutter - more manoeuvrable than the usual 45mm.  I use this one when cutting circles (more info below) and cutting out clothing.

4. 45mm Rotary Cutter - my workhorse cutter of choice.  I've got the standard shape on but you can get a more ergonomic version too.  ALWAYS replace the safety shield the moment you put this baby down - it will save you from toe surgery if it ever falls off the bench.  Mine is an Olfa brand but I use these generic replacement blades without any issues.

5. Embroidery Scissors - sharp with a fine point.  I use these a lot for cutting out felt letters for appliqué.

6. Buttonhole Punch - Used with a hammer, the blade on the end will cut through the layers of fabric.  Handy to have but not essential 

7. Quick Unpick or Seam Ripper - this lovely wooden one is a gift from one of my Helpdeskers (hi Bron!).  Used for cutting threads rather than fabric but it's important you replace them every now and again as the blade will dull with use.

8. Thread Snips - Again, used for thread rather than fabric but this is what I gave my pre-schoolers when they insisted on 'helping' in the sewing room before letting them loose in the scrap bin.

9. Cheapy Office Scissors - used for felt and PDF paper patterns as slicing these will ruin the cutting edge on your good fabric shears.
The Ready, Set, Sew Beginner Tool Kit gives you everything you'll need to get started in sewing today.  It includes an ultra-sharp pair of 8" fabric shears (left and right handed options available), thread snips and many other useful items.  My favourites tools all together so you can bypass the confusion and frustration of large unhelpful shops.  Also includes a bonus pin cushion project.  
$47.95 with free postage to Australian Addresses. Shop Now  
International friends add A$7.50.

How to Use a Rotary Cutter

A rotary cutter is essentially a bladed wheel.  Popular with quilters, the cutting edge is SUPER sharp (seriously, it's very easy to slice the ends of fingers with these things - maintain a healthy respect for this tool) and it will easily cut through 2-4 layers of cotton fabric.  You'll usually use this cutter with a clear plastic ruler and self-healing mat.

To use....  I'm soooo right handed so just flip these instructions around if you're a left paw.  
First you'll need to trim the leading edge of your fabric straight.  Match the selvedges (if they're roughy square) and place the bulk fabric on the left of the cutting edge of your ruler.  Line up one of the marked ruler lines to the top of the fold.  Pull back the safety shield on your cutter and push it away from you along the edge of the ruler.  Use a wide spider hand to prevent the ruler slipping as you cut.  Replace the safety shield before putting down the cutter.  Now flip the fabric over so the bulk is on your right.  I wanted a 3" stripe so I lined up the now straight edge of the fabric to the 3" marked line on my ruler.  Repeat as before - pull back safety shield, cut using a pushing action along the ruler, replace the safety shield.  Stand back and admire your first straight strip of fabric.
They make straight lines a breeze but you can also use rotary cutters to cut garments.  It's a lot faster than scissors and I find the smaller 28mm blade easier and more accurate.  Be careful you don't cut over any pins as you'll end up with a ding out of the blade.  Some people use pattern weights to avoid this issue.

Replacing Rotary Cutter Blades

That old chef adage of no one ever gets cut with a sharp knife is also true of sewing tools.  Your cutting tools are safer and work better when they are sharp.  There are businesses that will sharpen your beloved dressmaking shears (here's one near to me in Perth) but rotary cutter blades are very easy to replace yourself.  You can source genunie blades that match your brand of cutter (Olfa, Clover and Fiskar are the main brands available) but, as I now go through them quite often, I buy these generic 45mm ones from an Aussie eBay seller without any problems. 
Yours might be a little different but here's how I replace the cutting blade on my rotary cutter - flip it over and un-do the little screw on the back.  Remove the bendy washer.  Put your thumb on the centre of the cutter to keep everything together while you flip it over.  Take this central bit out and slide the blade off carefully.  Wrap in heavy card and dispose. Put the new blade on (they normally come in a stack and may have a coating of sewing machine oil to stop any rusting in storage).  Slide your new blade into position and reverse the process - replace centre, flip, add the bendy washer and finally the nut.  Mine nut is indented and the indent faces towards the blade so that I can move the safety cover up and down - I always try it the wrong way around first.  Done and dusted!

Tips & Tricks

I've photographed my button hole punch above but the easiest way to cut a buttonhole is with your unpicker.  Tip is to place a pin just in from the threads at each end.  The pins will stop you accidentally slicing through those precious horizontal threads.
A re-purposed mug tree is a great way to store scissors and cutters.  I used spray paint and scrapbook paper on this one, which now lives on a high shelf away from small hands ;) 
About Sarah

Hi!  I'm excited that you've subscribed to my newsletter and even more that you've made it all the way to the bottom.  

I live out on a farm in Western Australia so I'm used to connecting remotely and thinking outside of the box to solve problems.  I love living in the country; there are so many things that I enjoy about the rhythm of life out here. Being a long way from a fabric shop isn’t one of them (thank goodness for online, I love fabric parcels in the mail!). It's my goal to teach you how to sew, no matter where you live.

When I finally pull myself out from behind my sewing machine, you’ll find me tending a sadly neglected garden with a G&T in hand while the kids bounce on the trampoline. I may also be found occasionally in the sheep yards helping my farmer husband.

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