A cutting mat is an integral part of a quilter’s toolset. So if you don’t have one yet, it’s about time you get one. But before you go out and get the first one you see, here are a few things you should know.
What is a cutting mat for quilting?
Essentially, a cutting mat is a flat surface upon which you cut fabric using a rotary cutter. Not only does using it protect your work surface but it also keeps the blade of your cutter from dulling out.
To use a cutting mat, all you have to do is spread it out flat on your working surface before placing your piece of fabric on top of it. Afterward, you can then make your cuts either using the mat’s gridlines or your own ruler as a guide. All things considered, it is quite an easy and highly efficient process.
Plastic vs self-healing cutting mats
There are two types of cutting mats; hard plastic ones and self-healing ones. While the former option is usually made of solid polyethylene plastic, the latter has a plastic core and a vinyl surface.
As such, any cut marks made on plastic mats are usually permanent and can even snag on your fabric and cause significant damage. However, due to the softness of their vinyl surfaces, cut marks on self-healing mats seem to close up. That is why these mats appear to have “self-healing” properties.
Needless to say, this is the main reason most quilters prefer self-healing mats over plastic ones. It just seems like the most logical choice, especially considering that they are also cheaper and hold the fabric in place better.
Do cutting mats wear out?
The truth is, even the strongest of mats wear out eventually. If you’re using a plastic mat, after a while you’ll notice that the cut marks you have consistently made have now become grooves, affecting your cutting accuracy and even snagging on fabric.
On the other hand, if you’re using a self-healing mat, over time you’ll just notice that your cuts have become very inconsistent. Whatever the case, these are clear signs that it’s time for a replacement.
How do you treat a self-healing mat?
Taking proper care of your self-healing mat will ensure that you can use it for as long as possible. Here a few things you can do:
- Rotate/flip it often: this helps you avoid repetitive cuts on the same spot
- Store it flat: this helps it maintain its original shape
- Keep it from extreme temperatures: this keeps it from melting, warping, or becoming brittle
- Avoid harsh chemicals and detergents: only wash your mat with lukewarm water and a mild detergent
- Keep it hydrated: occasionally soak your mat in warm water to rehydrate it
- Never use a dull rotary cutter: dull blades reinforce grooves in your mat
The 5 best cutting mats for quilting
Now that you have a basic understanding of how cutting mats work, here are the top 5 you can get:
This self-healing mat comes in not only a variety of colors but also a variety of sizes. Moreover, it’s 3mm thick, double-sided, and has a strong grip; all features that ensure that it is as durable as they come. What’s more? It comes with clear gridlines that guide you as you cut. So whether you’re a newbie or an experienced professional, this is one cutting mat you’ll never regret buying!
Measuring 17” by 24” and with a thickness of 2.5mm, this mat can comfortably handle small to medium projects. You can even use it to cut several layers of fabric at once. However, by far its major highlight is the fact that it can be folded for easy transport. And as if that wasn’t enough, it’s double-sided, with one of its sides even having grids. I mean, need I say more?
Honestly, the fact that this mat can rotate to help you easily cut out squares is the main reason quilters love it. I mean, the sheer time this function saves you is enough reason to buy it. And when you add on the fact that this mat is self-healing and has an easy-to-read grid, it becomes irresistible!
Not only does this cutting mat have durable 5-ply construction, but it also has a ½” grid with 1/8” markings. To make things easier for you, it even comes with 45-degree and 60-degree guides. What’s more? It’s double-sided. So whether you want to quilt or work on your other crafts, this mat can handle it.
If you’re looking for something that can withstand even knife cuts, this is it. This professional self-healing mat is as sophisticated as it is functional. It is made of high-quality vinyl materials and is 3mm thick; a testament to its durability. And if that doesn’t convince you, its detailed gridlines surely will.
Ultimately, no matter which one of our recommended cutting mats you go with, you won’t be disappointed. Each of them is of premium quality and is highly rated by quilters and crafters alike!