Lately, after a long or even short evening of quilting, I’ve woken up with aching hands. This is not unusual for me if I have been hand-quilting, especially if I haven’t quilted for a while. Who knew that you had to be “in shape” for quilting season? Go figure.
But aching hands after a simple night of cutting, pinning, piecing, and pressing. What gives? So I got to thinking. When was the last time I changed my rotary cutter blade? I didn’t know. This tells me two things—1) I need to change my blade, and 2) I need to keep track of when I changed said blade.
Three signs that your blade may need changing:
- Aching hands in the morning, or sometime after your cutting session, depending on when you quilt.
- You’ve been doing “the double cut.” You know, cut then repeat. Or worse, “the saw,” where you saw back and forth with your blade to get those last hanging threads which prevent the “clean cut.”
- You have to push the rotary cutter hard into the cutting mat and find yourself more worried about the life of the self-healing mat than the cutter itself.
If these things are happening, it’s time to change your blade. I think most of us tend to use blades longer than we should because, let’s face it, blades are expensive. But so are emergency stitches which you might have to get because you were pushing so hard the ruler slipped (and no I don’t have experience with this but I do think about it when cutting with a dull blade, rather than thinking—hmmm I should change my blade).
To keep my “per blade” costs down I tend to buy blades in a multi-pack. This is expensive, but cheaper than buying blades individually (now there’s some high powered math). This also means I don’t have to go to the store every time I need to change my blade. Another way I keep my blade costs down is by buying them at a “big box” store (no names listed to protect the…store) and I use a coupon, ideally a 50% off coupon. [Note: Please don’t leave a comment saying I should shop local/support small business. I do for most of my quilting supplies and encourage others to do the same. After all, I learned to quilt in a LQS and I am fiercely loyal. That being said, sometimes I am forced to buy select items in a store I like to call hell or from the internets.]
Regarding the frequency of changing the blade I thought it might be smart to write down the date of the new blade. Maybe I could even use some of my pretty washi tape rather than just staring at it in its jar. I think taping it to the handle is as good a place as any, although you could also write it down someplace so long as you thought to check it. Oh, and you may be wondering about the green tape on the handle. I use that tape as if to say “this is mine.” Because, you know, when you get together and share supplies at your guild stitch-ins or at classes and an identical cutter shows up you can keep yours straight. I do this for rulers as well. It’s sort of the “some bags look alike” principle for quilting.
I keep my old blades in a blade case marked “old blades” (I know, right), with the intention of using them to cut paper. I never do but I have them if I need them and that
is hoarding makes me feel better. I apparently also have a case labelled “relatively new buggered blades” which means I did something stupid—changed a blade then immediately cut fabric that was laying on top of a hiding straight pin. Doh! Putting used blades back in their cases is also a good way to protect yourself and the garbage man when disposing of used blades. I also use older but not completely worn out blades when I do foundation piecing since I am cutting paper and fabric.
And while we are on the subject and in the interest of identifying products I love (and there is nothing wrong with having favorites) I am an Olfa girl, 60 mm thankyouverymuch. And I own one, and only one in this size. It is the first cutter I bought 13 years ago when I started quilting. I take good care of it, even taking it apart and cleaning and lubing it with sewing machine oil in between blade changes (which we have established isn’t frequent enough).
So, when was the last time you changed your rotary cutting blade?