Quilting Blog

7 Tricks for Extending the Life of Your Quilting Cutting Mats

Ah, cutting mats — the bulky yet necessary accessory for quilters everywhere. If you use a rotary blade to cut your fabric, you likely have a cutting mat that gets a lot of use. But like any other tool in your craft room, quilting cutting mats vary in use and quality, and they actually need regular maintenance to provide you with a flat, stable cutting surface.

A good quality mat that’s well cared for can be one of your best friends when you’re aiming for perfect accuracy, so it’s important to have one that can hold up to all the slices you throw its way.

Here are some key tips for choosing, using and caring for your quilting cutting mat!

 choosing a cutting mat

Photos via Right Sides Together

1. Not all mats are created equal

If you search for a quilting cutting mat, you’ll find a wide range of prices (usually from $10 all the way up to $50 or more). On the low end are mats that are simply hard plastic. They will protect your tabletop surfaces from the rotary blade, but every slice leaves a small groove. Over time, these grooves can affect your cutting accuracy and even snag your fabric.

2. Invest in a self-healing cutting mat

I recommend investing in a self-healing cutting mat. For slightly more money, these mats have a special surface that literally closes up after being cut with a sharp blade. Many quilters can tell the difference when cutting on a self-healing mat. The surface has a bit of “squish” and tends to hold the fabric in place a bit better. It makes for a much better (and more long-lasting) cutting experience.

self-healing cutting mat
Self-healing cutting mat

3. Get the right size

Beyond the mat material, also consider the size you’ll need. The largest of the portable quilting cutting mats is 24″ x 36″. It’s a nice size, but it’s also quite large if you plan on carrying it to sewing groups or taking it on vacation. Many quilters prefer a smaller size of 18″ x 24″. If you need a large space for cutting at home, one option is to purchase a large cutting mat surface that will adhere to the top of a cutting or drafting table. There are also some smaller specialty mats that have rotating surfaces that are great for paper piecing or squaring up smaller quilt blocks.

4. Use your mat correctly

Cutting mats are designed to take some abuse, but they work best when they’re used with care. Putting off changing the blade in your rotary cutter, for example? You might actually be doing more harm than you think. When my blade is dull, I find myself “sawing” back and forth against the ruler trying to cut my fabric. The problem? This is also “sawing” into the cutting mat! Be sure to change your blades at the first sign of dullness to prevent making grooves in your mat.

rotarycutter

5. Rotate your mat

Being conscientious of your “common cuts” can help as well. It’s a good idea to move or rotate your mat with some frequency, particularly if you find yourself cutting in the same spot. Many self-healing mats (though not all) have double sides to provide you with twice the cutting surface.

6. Care and feed your cutting mat

If you own a self-healing cutting mat, there are definitely some steps you can take to extend its lifespan. The mat needs moisture in order to work properly and close up after being cut. Regularly soaking it in warm water is the best way to make sure that it is hydrated enough to function properly. Cleaning out the “fuzz” that forms in the grooves is also important. While soaking it in the tub, add a bit of dish detergent and a soft cloth or soft bristle brush and scrub it gently. The fibers should come off quite easily. If any appear to be “stuck” in the mat, use an eraser to coax them out.

7. Store your mat correctly

In addition to cleaning and soaking your mat, make sure to prevent it from warping by storing it on a flat surface (never on its edge) or hanging it on a wall. Do not expose it to heat as it’s not an ironing board!

cutting mats

Buying a good quality mat and using these tips and tricks can definitely make cutting a great experience!

How do you extend the life of your cutting mat?

Get Notions You’ll Love, Fast!

Tools and Notions

Find the tools and notions you need for your next project, at the right price.Shop supplies now>>

19 Comments

Joy

The single most important tip is: Use your ruler to measure your cuts. NOT the mat. If you use your mat, you are cutting in the same spot over and over again.

Reply
JK

Buy a small mat and use it for those repetitive cuts like trimming blocks and cutting off “dog ears”. Saves wear on your larger mat and is much less expensive to replace.

Reply
Veggy

Most importantly: what kind of material is the mat made of? Is it the PVC (poison/unhealthy)? I really do not want that in my home! It is not good for the planet eather.

I would rather have a mat made out of cork or another ecological material like linoleum!

Reply
Blighty

I agree, Veggy, that having something made of PVC is not ideal. While having self-healing mats is best for crafting purposes, the pungent, headache-inducing smell should tip anyone off that these are not good to have around a living space! I have been looking around for a more eco-friendly cutting mat but have found nothing so far. I’ll keep you all posted if I find anything else.

Reply
JulieCC

Here is one I just “taught myself” last weekend. I always cut on the carpeted floor. Well, it turns out that is hard on a mat. I cut through my mat last week due to all the “give” it does on carpet. It had lasted me for over three years, though, so that is good!

“Veggy” – cork or linoleum would not work.

Reply
Libranon

The re-hydration of the cutting mat by soaking in warm soapy water is a great tip! also keeping a small mat handy for small cutting jobs to save wear and tear on your large mat …both great tips!

Reply
Charlotte

Place a small mark in each corner (1,2,3,4 or N E W S, or arrows) put a wonder clip or binder clip to mark which orientation you used last and remind you to turn clockwise for the next project.

Reply
Ferne

I have a small bottle with vinegar and water and from time to time I spray down my mat and let it sit for a while and soak it in. I also massage it when wet to get the fibers out.

Reply
Training Wheels Sewing

Using a sticky tape lint roller each day helps keep all of the threads and fabric dust/lint out of the cuts in the mat, allowing it to heal properly.

I put fabric on the mat to spritz before pressing – maybe this helps keep it moist.

Reply
JulieCC

You can cut up old mats for use elsewhere. I love having a strip in front of my machine that fits on my freearm table.

Reply
anita stith

I am not a quilter but learning to sew on my janome magnolia manual machine.My projects are basic slipcover for hassock ( slipcovers for Dummies ) as my reference and also straight seems for curtains.
I do plan to try my hand at simple pattern dresses and planned to get a cutting mat to go on new hobby table that is 59x 36 and portable . A sullivan 59x 36 cutting mat to accompany it was recommended .Should i look for a self healing mat ? they are very expensive.

Reply
LindaG

The extra cost of a self-healing mat is worth it to save you the frustration of trying to cut over the ridges of unhealed slices in your cutting surface. I have some older, early “self-healing” mats that don’t completely heal all the slices and the “heals” aren’t always clean. They sometimes develop plastic burrs that have to be rubbed off. These tiny ridges can cause a rotary cutter or knife to skip slightly when cutting and removing lint caught in these burrs is difficult.
The newer self-healing mats are engineered better and the plastic surface is finer. The newer mats I have used are much nicer; they do really heal up so the cuts are smooth and imperceptible. They are a pleasure to use and easy to maintain.
Now, if we could just get the stores selling the mats to stop storing and displaying them on their edges….

Reply
Angela

I am looking for the white mat pictured above under item #2 (with the numbers in black circles). Can you please tell me where I can find one. Thank you!

Reply
AnneS

The white mat in the picture looks like a Fiskars brand mat. It’s grey on one side and lighter on the other so you can alternate oake yournfabric more visible. I like that it has the dotted marks at 1/4″ marks. This really helps to be sure your fabric is straight and square, especially with smaller pieces.

Reply
Deborah Hart

I have an older June Taylor. Gray cutting mat. I don’t think that it is self healing. It has dulled brand new rotary blades almost immediately. Should I replace it now? Brand new quilter needs advice now!! Deb

Reply
Rotary Cutting Mat

I recommend you to investing in a self-healing cutting mat. It would be good to improve your sewing skills.

Reply
Grand Mommu

I have 3 different mats. 1 is simply a piece (18″ x 18″) of the green/white mat used on drafting tables. I’ve used it for many craft projects and it has cuts that never healed and glue spots, etc. but it has the squishiest surface and holds fabric well.
2 is an Olfa brand, green with yellow lines (18″ x 24″) and my primary cutting mat. It’s adequate but I really want to get a much larger one. I occasionally soak it in the tub with Murpheys Oil Soap, rinse, and dry.
3. I will not mention the brand, but it is blue in color and a very inexpensive, name-brand mat (12″ x 12″). This is when I discovered all cutting mats sold in the quilting notions department are NOT created equal. I have discovered that this mat has very little “cling” and I was using it as my trimming mat, near my sewing machine; however, after many slides and errors… and testing all 3 of my mats, this one will be relegated to the gluing/ paper / other crafts table. It is not a good mat for fabrics.
I definitely prefer the feel of the squishy drafting table material; but I do want lines on it as I do a good deal of strip cutting.

Reply
Rebecca

I have been using an Olfa which is great but too small for my craft table. So I just bought a Sullivan’s and it doesn’t look self healing. Dies anyone have experience with a Sullivan? I don’t want to dull my rotary cutter….help!
Perhaps I shouldn’t use for rotary cutting

Reply
Julie

I have a carrier of cutting mats for various purposes. A set of 3 which clamp together makes a 36 x 72 surface for my padded table. Costly but fabulous! Also an 18 x 24 for portability. A 12×12 for small cuts and squaring up. It is great to put on top af a larger one and spin when changing sides or angles. Much cheaper than a rotating mat

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave a Reply