Quilting Can Be Dangerous!

Image showing how to use a rotary cutter, ruler and mat

Quilting is obviously my favourite hobby, but like many hobbies it can be dangerous if safety measures aren’t taken.  You might scoff at this because, let’s face it, quilting is not mountain climbing, skydiving, or race car driving.  However, knowing how to use tools and equipment safely is very important in any hobby.  So let me tell you about a quilting accident I suffered 2 1/2 years ago.  

The background

It was early in January 2021.  With the holidays over, I was ready to get back to work quilting again.  I was squaring up a quilt that I had longarm-machined for a friend, preparing it for the binding process.  When cutting any quilt fabric, it is very quick and precise to use the standard quilter’s tools.  These are a cutting mat, an acrylic ruler, and a rotary cutter.  I use an Olfa 45mm Ergonomic Rotary Cutter.  I believe that Olfa rotary cutters are the best in the business.  Under no circumstances do I blame my rotary cutter for my carelessness.  

How a quilter cuts fabric

As you can see in the photo above, the quilter places the fabric to be cut on a cutting mat.  Good cutting mats are designed to withstand possible damage that could be caused by the pressure of a sharp blade.  The quilter then places an acrylic ruler on top of the fabric.  Using both the marks on the mat and on the ruler, the quilter cuts out the piece of fabric needed.  Of course, this action should always be made with safety in mind.  If you clicked on the link above, you will have read about my Olfa rotary cutter.  It is fitted with an “ultra-sharp Tungsten Steel Blade”.  “The sharpness of this blade allows for cutting up to eight layers of cotton fabric in a single pass”.  

So what happened that day? 

In my haste, I placed the blade of the rotary cutter down on top of the acrylic ruler.   I should have placed it right next to the side edge of the ruler.  I hadn’t realised my mistake until it was too late.  As I zipped the cutter straight up, it slid across the ruler and sliced across the top of my finger. It cut through the centre of the nail on my left index finger.  Ouch!!!  It still gives me the shivers to think about it.  I stared at my finger for a few seconds before it started to bleed profusely.  I realised I needed to get myself to the Emergency Room as quickly as possible.  Luckily my husband was home to take me.  

What had I done?

It turned out I had sliced my fingernail into two parts and also had cut deeply into the nail bed.  The entire nail had to be removed, and 13 stitches were needed in the nail bed.  The Emergency Room staff on duty that day were wonderful and did an excellent repair job on my finger.  Within six months my nail had grown back and my finger appeared perfectly normal again. 

What did I learn from this traumatic experience? 

Well, I learned that many more quilters than I could have imagined have had very similar accidents.  Like me, they did not take safety precautions when using rotary cutters.  I also learned to be more careful when I cut fabric in this way.  I now use one or two 3kg dumbbells to hold the ruler in place I always keep my left hand on top of the dumbbell while applying a slight pressure.  This helps prevent the ruler from slipping.  (See the photo below.) 

Looking at the bright side

I like to take small breaks now and then when working in my quilting studio.  Now my dumbbells are right there at hand for use in exercising! 

How to use a rotary cutter safely when cutting fabric for quilting

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