Sewing Basics: Tools for Cutting Fabric

Did you know that next month is National Sewing Month? If you don’t sew, it’s time to learn the basics. And it doesn’t get more basic than learning how to choose and cut your fabric!

There are a few brands of fabric cutters that are popular for sewists and quilters, like Olfa, Fiskars, Dritz and Clover. I’ve used both Olfa and Fiskars, and I’d have to say that I find them to be about the same in quality. Tip: The Olfa and Fiskars blades are interchangeable, so you can buy one or the other for your cutter, whichever is on sale!

Rotary Cutters
My absolute favorite tool for cutting fabric is not scissors, but my rotary cutter. Rotary cutters look a lot like pizza cutters, and they come in several sizes. The smallest is 18mm or 28mm, the most common is 45mm, and the largest is typically 60mm. On the packaging, the 60mm rotary cutters say they are for thicker fabrics or cutting up to six layers of cotton fabric at a time. The smaller blades are useful for cutting around curves.

If you can only buy one size of rotary cutter, I’d say a 60mm is the way to go, but many people use the 45mm size. So did I, for a long time, and they work perfectly fine! You’ll also notice that the styles of handle are often different, which is another preference. Whichever you choose, you’ll want to buy some replacement blades as well, which usually come in a pack of five. It’s best to change out the blade when you notice that your blade is becoming dull and isn’t making very sharp cuts. Generations Quilt Patterns has some great tips for when to replace a rotary cutter.

To use a rotary cutter, you’ll also need a self-healing cutting mat and a clear plastic ruler or cutting template.

When you choose your mat and ruler, I recommend the largest size you can afford. This will save you lots of time when cutting a yard of fabric or more, because you won’t have to adjust the fabric as much on the mat. Again, this is a matter of preference on my part.

The mat will also have markings you can use to line up your fabric. Smaller mats and rulers are helpful for traveling with you to sewing meetings, but I don’t find it necessary to have a smaller size. The mat I use regularly is 24 inches long, which is a great size for cutting a yard of fabric into charm squares, which I’ll show you next!

The clear ruler should have sightlines, or markings to help you line up your fabric. I use an OmniGrip ruler with a Lip Edge, which is great because it hooks onto the edge of the cutting mat to keep the ruler from slipping while you cut.

Types of Scissors
Although I love my rotary cutter, sometimes I do actually use scissors to cut fabric. When you buy scissors, make sure they are heavy-duty and are meant for cutting fabric. Nothing will ruin your fabric faster than a dull, awful pair of scissors from the dollar store. Investing in a pair of quality scissors will make your sewing much more enjoyable!

A smaller pair of scissors, called point scissors or micro scissors, is also helpful for detailed cutting. Another tool you may find handy is pinking shears! Pinking shears have a saw-tooth or zig-zag edge for cutting fabric. You may wish to cut fabric charms with a pinked edge, for instance, to prevent fraying. Pinking the edge of fleece fabric along joined seams will make the seam less bulky. Or, you might use this edge on fabric scraps for a ticker-tape quilt.

To “pink” the edges of the charms we cut earlier, look for a pinking rotary cutter blade and use it with your rotary cutter to pink the edges the first time around.

Caring for Scissors

To care for your scissors, make sure you only use them to cut fabric. Cutting paper with them will dull the blades. Also, try not to open and close the scissors unless you have fabric in them, because this will also wear down your blades. When your scissors aren’t cutting very well any more, you can often take them to a craft store for sharpening. Ask if your local craft store if they have a special knife or scissors sharpening day.

I originally shared this tutorial as part of Sewing Back-to-School series at Sew Sweetness. Check out the rest of the series here!

Fresh Picks for Wednesday, 8.17.11

Side Table Redo

Side by Side: We love this side table redo Midwestern Sewing Girl. From the mod podged fabric-lined drawer to the dramatic stenciled top, it’s the star of the room!

DIY outdoor lights @ Crafty Butt

Learn how to make these gorgeous patio lights with supplies from your local dollar store! Get the simple tutorial at Crafty Butt.

Upcycled Jewelry Rack @ Just Sew Sassy

New in Blue: It’s a jewelry holder! It’s an oven rack! Yes, this smart upcycle gives new life to old kitchen hardware. Get the tutorial at Just Sew Sassy.

Retractable Fort @ Finding My Feet

Neat and Tidy: Who’s the genius behind this retractable living room play tent/fort? It’s Raechel! Get the how-to behind this easy-to-clean play area complete with hardware selections at Finding My Feet.

Quilted Stripes Pillow Tutorial

Simple Stripes: With some hand-quilting and beautiful fabric pairing, this pillow really takes the cake. Enjoy the Quilted Stripes Pillow tutorial at Maureen Cracknell Handmade.

Sewing Back to School

Sewing 101: Get ready for National Sewing Month (all month September) with some tips from Sara at Sew Sweetness. She’s hosting a month-long series called Sewing Back to School, with topics like fabric pairing and selection and explanation of different cuts of fabric.

Thanks for checking out this week’s Fresh Picks!
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Tips for Selling on Etsy: A Roundup

Do you have an Etsy store for your handmade business? Maybe you sell items on other sites like Artfire or eBay. If you’ve ever dabbled in the handmade marketplace, you know that you’ve got to cross all your Ts and dot your Is to make a splash.

I’ve rounded up some of my favorite Etsy tips, from ways to find free promotion to learning the ins and outs of keywords that will make your listings rise to the top of search engines. Don’t forget about packaging and fulfilling orders!

Hand Embroidered Moleskin Notebook

Etsy API: Do you know what Etsy API is? Lauren blogs all about the topic at Handmade Spark. There’s even a free four-week class!

Everthing Etsy Photo Tips

Photo Tips: Have you tried white poster board for photographing your Etsy shop items? Kristen Duke shares her product photography tips at Everything Etsy.

Etsy Relevancy Search Tips

Keyword Tips: Kim blogs about Etsy’s new relevancy search, which was formerly showing items in terms of which were the most recently listed. You can maximize your products views by using keywords and tags to the fullest. Learn how.

Etsy Promotion Ideas

Low-Budget Promo Ideas: This list of 40 cheap promotion ideas for Etsy sellers is full of great ideas! You can get great exposure for your handmade shop without paying for advertising. Check it out at Handmadeology.

Packaging Etsy orders

Packaging 101: Straight from the Etsy blog comes this excellent post on packaging your orders. A little bit of presentation goes a long way.

Strawberry Sachets

Top 10: Amanda blogs her top ten tips for selling on Etsy at her blog, Every Little Thing. I love what she says about having thick skin and not taking criticism to heart!

Crafty Kitchen: Stromboli Recipe

This recipe is the one I am most often asked for. It’s what we make when a big group of people comes over (I think we’ve made up to 8 in one night before!) and it’s an easy to prepare meal. Basically it’s a rolled up pizza that’s good fresh out of the oven or cold from the fridge the next day. Each stromboli loaf serves approximately 3 or 4 hungry adults.


  • 1 loaf frozen bread dough, thawed
  • 2 eggs yolks (save whites separately for glaze)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 pound pepperoni (or whatever toppings you normally like on pizza)
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese
  • Optional: Spaghetti sauce for dipping.

Basic instructions:

  • Roll or stretch out dough into a rectangle approximately 10″x14″ or larger. Mix the next 6 ingredients and spread over the dough. Cover with pepperoni and/or other toppings (sausage, onion, green pepper, etc.).
  • Roll up dough into a loaf and pinch the seam together and fold over the ends. Place seam side down on greased pan (or a pan covered in non-stick foil) and brush top with egg whites.
  • Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes until top is well browned. Slice and serve with spaghetti sauce for dipping.


Step by step instructions with photos:

1. Thaw the dough. It usually takes about 6 hours to thaw. I take it out of the freezer bag and rub it with olive oil and place it in a loosely covered bowl. In the warmer months I just leave it on the counter and in the winter I put it on or near a heating vent. You can find the frozen dough in the freezer section, usually near the garlic bread and frozen rolls. It usually comes in a bag of 5 or 6 loaves. You can also make homemade bread dough.

2. Let the dough thaw until it at least doubles in size. The larger it gets, the easier it is to stretch so it’s okay if it even triples in size.

3. Stretch out the bread dough into a rectangle. Mix together the egg yolks and seasonings.

4. Spread the egg/seasoning mix over the dough.

5. Put on all your toppings then roll up the dough.

6. Pinch the seam shut and fold over the edges.

7. Place on greased pan, or pan covered in non-stick foil, or pan covered in foil sprayed with Pam with the seam side down. Brush with egg whites.

8. Bake until brown. Some cheese will probably bubble out.

9. Slice and serve! Serve with spaghetti sauce for dipping. (I usually use a can of Hunt’s Roasted Garlic and Onion.)

Fresh Picks for Wednesday, 8.10.11 + Slice Winner!

First things first. The winner of the Slice Fabrique is #41 Stephanie, who commented: “I am a craft buds follower.” Congratulations Stephanie! I’ve e-mailed you.

If you’re reading this and you didn’t win this time, I’d highly recommend subscribing to the Slice Fabrique blog so you can hear about future contests. (We’ve also had some great giveaways linked up this week, including fabric, craft books, handmade items and more.)

This week’s Fresh Picks include some goodies from the garden, a way to give back, and some 10-minute crafts:

Crayon Monogram Art

DIY Nursery Art: Put broken crayons to good use with this cute and simple idea for decorating a child’s room! Lisa shares the monogram artwork how-to at The Pursuit of Happiness.

Chalkboard Business Cards

Upcycled Plant Markers: If you have some old business cards sitting around, cover up the outdated text with chalkboard spray paint and create these garden markers! Brilliant tip from Kim at Yellow Songbird.

Win this Fabric

Around the World: Help someone learn to sew around the world. You could even win some sweet fabric! Read more details at Handmade by Alissa.

Zucchini Brownies

More Veggies, Please! Have some extra zucchini growing in your garden? Turn it into something unexpected. Natalie shares her recipe for zucchini brownies at A Turtle’s Life for Me.

Giant Pinwheel Tutorial

Round and Round: It’s easy to make this giant pinwheel for an end-of-summer party! Or, why not switch out bridal bouquets for these whimsical paper flowers? Get the tutorial at Sunla Designs.

Thanks for checking out this week’s Fresh Picks!
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Free Pattern Features: Softies + Winner

These cute little softies (plush animals) are fun for kids and adults alike! There are lots of patterns available for purchase on Etsy but here’s a few you can try out for free.

First up is this adorable little hedgehog from LollyChops. I’ve always thought a hedgehog would be a cute pet but this version would be a lot easier to care for.

Hedgehog from LollyChops

Hedgehog from LollyChops


Molly Monkey is from mmmcrafts and you can customize her colors and clothes for any kid!

Molly Monkey from mmmcrafts

Molly Monkey from mmmcrafts


Chez Beeper Bebe created this Mooshy Belly Bunny from recycled T-shirts. Just like the name says, it looks squishy and delightful.

Mooshy Belly Bunny from Chez Beeper Bebe

Mooshy Belly Bunny from Chez Beeper Bebe


And lastly, we already featured Pippa the Fox and Rascal the Raccoon from Ruffles and Stuff awhile back in our Fresh Picks. They’re just so cute here they are again in case you missed them the first time around!

Pippa and Rascal from Ruffles and Stuff

Pippa and Rascal from Ruffles and Stuff


The winner of Margot Potter’s book, New Dimensions in Bead and Wire Jewelry: Unexpected Combinations, Unique Designs, chosen by is Shaiha! If you’re Shaiha, I’ve sent you an e-mail with more information. Don’t forget to enter our current giveaway for the Slice Fabrique!

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