Written by: Dana Goyer
While finishing up a quilt for one of the quilting cruises, I will be going on in 2021 I began to notice that after almost more than 15 years my cutting mat was finally starting to show signs of wear. The cutting mat had a bunch of little "fuzzies," and some of the cutting lines were beginning to sharply fade. As a quilter, cruiser, and employee of the best Quilt Shop, I began to research and ask questions regarding cutting mats and how to properly maintain them. Maybe it's time for a new cutting mat, or do you just need to give your cutting mat a bath? Well….. if you are like me you just said "What? My self-healing mat needs a bath?" I have been wondering what the best way to get all of those fuzzy threads off of my mat, so I launched into an extensive search of how the manufactures of the mats recommend you keep the mats clean - and moisture is definitely recommended! My mat that set off this whole adventure of how to clean is one of the green self-healing mats from Olfa. I have had it FOREVER (well okay, for at least 15 years), and it was getting some fuzz stuck in some of the cutting lines. Just the fact that I have had the same mat for that length of time tells you that they are of good quality and can last if you take care of them. Since I really didn't want to fill my bathtub as some people had recommended, I heavily spritzed mine with plain water while it was laying flat on my dining table and waited for about 25 minutes. I then dried it off with a towel, and I was amazed at how the color green was brighter and consistent once again. Just by drying the mat, I was able to see lots of the fuzz lifted out of those small cut marks. When the mat was completely dry, I took one of those pink school erasers and rubbed it over any of the spots that still had fuzz, and the rest of the remaining fuzz disappeared!!! Since I don't own one of the white plastic mats, I'm not sure how or if it would work on those. While doing my research, I learned all kinds of information about our precious cutting mats, and I thought I would share what I found.
Cutting mats are not created equal.
Cutting mats for years have saved the hobbyist time, energy and money.
Some cutting mats are made out of self healing materials and others are made out of plastic.
The self healing mats will last longer and tend to protect your rotary blades.
The self healing mats cost a little more. The plastic mats are cheaper, dull your rotary blades quickly, and are more likely to get deep grooves on the lines that you use often.
I would recommend that you go with a self-healing mat and get one that has a length or width of at least 23”.
Check your mat ruler lines against your cutting ruler lines.
Did you know that not all mat and or rulers will exactly measure the same?
Take your ruler that you will be using in your project and compare it against the lines on your mat.
Do they all line up perfectly?
Consistently use the same measuring device when cutting out your projects! If you are using your ruler as your measuring device, don’t use the squares on your cutting mat unless they align perfectly.
Your cutting mat should be rotated.
What I mean by this is that you should periodically turn your cutting mat a quarter-turn (or a half turn depending on your allotted cutting space) and use different lines or areas of your mat. Also, if you are cutting repetitive strips, let's say 5", cut some of the 5" line, then start a group from the 1" line and cut on the 6", then the 2" line and cut on the 7" line, etc. If you are using a ruler rather than the lines on your mat, follow the same procedure, and just move your fabric further down your mat as you cut.
Keep your mat cool.
Ironing on your cutting mat is not recommended!
It will cause the cutting mat to warp and once warped it is a challenge to ever get flat again.
If you have a mat in a hot car, make sure it is out of direct sun and laying flat. Better yet, have you seen the foldable cutting mats from Olfa?
They come in two sizes and are perfect for taking to your next retreat or cruise!! They will fit inside your suitcase and lay nice and flat - away from the direct heat from travel
Use a rotary blade that is sharp and new.
As quilters we are probably the worst at trying to use a blade until it just won’t cut another strip no matter how hard you push!!
Pushing too hard with your cutter because of a dull blade is very hard on your mat.
Even a self-healing mat cannot heal a deep cut (which is likely caused when your blade is dull).
Use the correct blade and change it when it is dull!
Rotating Cutting Mats
By now you have probably seen the different styles of rotating cutting mats.
What I have learned from buying several different products is that some rotate as expected and some do not. I have also worn out more than one of the original rotating cutting mats and since the base and mat were connected, I had to purchase another one.
Then Martelli came out with their rotating cutting mat!!!
Oh my word! If you are ever having to square up blocks or if you have discovered our favorite easy quilt using the Scrap Crazy 8” templates, you will fall in love with this rotating mat.
And another amazing feature is that if you ever wear out the mat, you can replace only the mat. The ball bearing base is still just as good as ever and rotates easily with one hand. Amazing!
Storing Your Cutting Mat
Always store your mat flat.
If you try and lean it up against a wall, your cutting mat will eventually get a curved shape that is difficult (and time consuming) to try and correct.
Cutting mats with a self-healing property are easier to care for and hold their value long term than regular hard cutting mats.
Like all of our quilting tools a cutting mat needs to be taken care of. Storing your cutting mat in the right location and temperature will prolong its longevity.
Remember to soak your cutting mats every once in a while and use sharp rotary blades.
Do you have any other tips or information regarding your favorite cutting mat and its care?
Thank you for reading - now you have the 411 on my knowledge of cutting mats! Hope you have enjoyed this information and please let me know if you have any other topics you would like me to investigate for you by sharing them in the comments.