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Product Review: QuiltCut Rotary Cutting System

To see an animated demonstration, click here!

At the end of one aisle near the front of the hall at the Fall 2000 Quilt Market in Houston, there was a small booth set up with a table in the front to demonstrate one of the multitude of new products introduced at Market. Almost every time we passed this booth, there was a crowd of people around it, watching enthusiastic company representatives cut squares and triangles out of fabric. Various famous quilters, including Carol Doak, could be seen oohing and aahing along with the rest of the crowd.

What was being demonstrated was a new rotary cutting system invented and manufactured by a small Washington state company called Alto's. Alto's has traditionally been in the business of making machines which assist picture framers in cutting photo and poster mats very precisely. The leap to a quilt fabric cutting device thus was not a large one, as it requires the same stability and precision to cut the tiny pieces of fabric quilters use.

The demonstration we watched was quite intriguing, with the demonstrator slicing and dicing fabric into all sorts of shapes with great speed and precision. Impressed, Planet Patchwork purchased one to test it out for ourselves.

The QuiltCut, as the product is known, got its first test before we even got it home to Atlanta. Since the package was somewhat oversized, it posed a challenge at the airport, and had to go with the checked luggage, its only protection the shipping box in which it came. Much to our relief and pleasure, it arrived safely on the luggage carousel at the other end, none the worse for the wear.

The QuiltCut is basically a rotary cutting mat (see picture above), mounted in a wood frame. The frame is equipped with a clamp bar and rail along the bottom, and slots on each side in which a detachable side rail can be inserted. On any of these rails can be placed the heart of the contraption, a clear plastic straight-edge anchored in place in a pivot device that allows it to be swiveled to any angle, and to lock into 90-, 60-, and 45-degree positions (the most commonly used by quilters). Supplementing the straight-edge system is a small but very important piece known as the adjustable cutting gauge (or speed gauge), which can be used to cut fabric strips of uniform width without re-measuring with each cut.

Anyone who has ever cut fabric using a rotary cutter and mat knows that although this method of cutting fabric is vastly superior to scissors, it does have its problems. Rulers and straight-edges have a tendency to slip on the fabric, even as you are cutting, and the fabric itself can easily slide sideways, or even pull entirely off the cutting table and onto the floor. The QuiltCut very effectively deals with both of those problems. Because of its attachment to a rail, the straight-edge does not slip out of place as you cut. The need to walk your fingers along the ruler and hold it hard against the mat is eliminated, replaced by a moderate degree of pressure you exert on the anchored straight-edge to hold it down. The QuiltCut demonstrator at Houston told a story about a one-armed woman who was able to use a the Quiltcut by putting a small weight on the end of the straight-edge.

The clamp bar solves the problem with slipping fabric. The clamp holds even a large piece of fabric firmly in place so it doesn't go sliding off the table in the middle of a cut. After you have cut the horizontal strips you need from it, you can loosen the clamp and slide the rest of the fabric down to the bottom and out of the way. (See the demonstration).

We tested the QuiltCut by cutting four layers of four-inch strips of fabric, then slicing them into four-inch squares, and finally into half-square triangles. The whole process to cut out 120 half-square triangles took less than 10 minutes, including setup time. Moreover, the half-squares were virtually perfect. The QuiltCut works equally well for left-handed cutters, because all of its parts can be placed on either side of the board.

Basically, the QuiltCut supplies you with an extra set of hands with which to manage the multiple challenges of slipping fabric, slipping rulers, and tired fingers. You don't need to worry any longer about the straight-edge not being straight or the fabric holding steady. Moreover, since you can concentrate more fully on manipulating the rotary cutter, cutting with the QuiltCut is likely a good bit safer than older methods. Visits to the emergency room should be less frequent with this wonderful invention!

Probably the most useful part of this apparatus, though, is the Speed Gauge. This little right angle of plastic, once set properly in its place, eliminates the need for repeated measuring to cut exact strips. Just move the speed gauge to the point of the last cut, and begin the next one. At this rate, you could cut a whole bolt's worth of 3-inch strips in no time!

In very short order, QuiltCut has joined the elite group of indispensable devices in our quilting repertoire. It is brilliantly designed and sturdily built, and enjoys a place of honor on the table next to Lynn's old beat-up Bernina, on top of the rotary mat that used to be the center of cutting activity.

Retail price of the QuiltCut is $159.99 plus shipping. Planet Patchwork no longer offers this item for sale in our store. Contact the manufacturer for local dealers.

See our other product reviews!

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