“Close your blade!”
Anyone who spends any amount of time sewing with me will hear this, and hear it constantly if you’re one of those people who leaves your rotary cutter open when you put it down.
If fact, last week, at my quilt guild’s lovely charity sewing day*, I got told by a member that I was being micro-managing because I was being a hawk about open blades.
Well, I am a hawk about open blades, ESPECIALLY in a group setting. This particular group had over a dozen people in it, and we were all wading through piles of scrap strips to make string blocks. Imagine what would have happened if an open blade was buried under the strips someone grabbed. Yep – there could have been an injury.
Getting hurt on your own turf, and through your own misfortune is one thing, but taking your bad habits to the quilt store is negligent, and let’s face it, somewhat arrogant: you are more than welcome to risk your own hands, but please don’t risk mine. I need both of my hands to be fully operational to run my business and enjoy my life. You have no idea which medical conditions your friends might have that can be compromised or exacerbated by a cut. And let’s face it, NO ONE has time for an inopportune injury, and I daresay the unexpected medical bills that would accompany it will give most of us a bad case of the sweats, if not kill off the next fun thing we’re saving for.
We obey plenty of laws for the common good, so adding a good blade closing habit to your skills shouldn’t be something to resist!
I’ve had several friends do battle with rotary cutters and lose big time. One friend recently gashed her palm while changing blades and was off work for the better part of a month over it. Another had to see a hand surgeon to re-attach a finger tendon that got sliced right through (did you know that those tendons can snap back up into your forearm?) Several friends have had stitches. Personally, I sliced the side of my finger off one night when I was working late (and tired) and because I was on blood thinners at the time, it took over an hour to get it to stop bleeding. And that finger is still skinnier along the side I sliced.
Rotary cutting is a major innovation for quilters, but these blades are dangerous and need to be respected.
I was fortunate to be taught by a great teacher who made sure that we learned to close the blade from the very first class. If you can’t get your head around closing the blade you MUST buy a cutter that will do it for you. There are good cutters out there that will close automatically when you release them:
Olfa makes this one – you squeeze the handle to uncover the blade and it retracts when you let go.
And Dritz makes this one – it’s pressure sensitive, so the guard goes back as you press down to cut (and FYI, if you dropped this on your foot the blade would probably come out and cut you – so you’d be better off learning to close your blade on one that can’t do that!)
SO CLOSE YOUR BLADE!
And for my tips on maintaining your rotary cutter, read this post Slicing, dicing… and oiling.
* More about this to come… I’ll be interviewing the amazing woman who runs our charity sewing it in the next couple of weeks.
Links are NOT affiliate!
My husband brought me one of the Olfa squeeze handle rotary cutters from a Safety Convention he attended many years ago before they were released for sale to the public. I immediately saw the advantages and have never used any other cutter since! I don’t see why they still manufacture any other style of cutter that doesn’t retract automatically. As we always say ‘It is a Safety issue’. Cindy
I tried a self retracting cutter, and squeezing the handle proved a challenge to my hands. Back to the original!
This is a very good post, Sam. I have many rotary cutters but I find I gravitate to the ones that self-close or are easy to close with one hand. I close them between cuts even if I’m just re-arranging fabric slightly on my otherwise clear mat. If you make it a habit, you won’t get burned. I have young-ish grandkids who visit and although I have a child resistant door knob cover on my sewing room door, I feel that rotary cutter safety practices are still very important.
Especially with the young kiddos!
I chopped the tip of my thumb off a couple of years ago. It was my own fault for the being sloppy with holding my ruler and I am so very lucky that it was reattached.
But I too am that cranky lady who shouts about opened cutters. Some people!
Cranky ladies unite!
Thank you Thank you Thank you for open blade micro-managing. We need to all be doing this. As friends and quilters we owe it to each other to do no harm.
We certainly do!
You are right to be the blade hawk. I too am hawkish about it and charge $1 EACH time I see the cutter with the exposed blade. Most catch on within a dollar or two. Once someone paid $6 as she didn’t want to learn. The money collected goes to the food bank. Win win!
I have always loved your blade fines, Ursula! I need to start doing this 🙂
I’m the nag about this too, in a group setting. And people are annoyed with me.
If they saw the barefoot woman who dropped an open blade on her foot, as I did, in a class some years ago, they would be a believer and maybe understand my nagging.
Makes me crazy when there is a pile of scraps on the communal cutting table, and an open cutter tucked under. . .
I haven’t seen a blade/foot injury, but I have a very good imagination!
Yay! It’s nice to know that I am not the only “close that cutter” nag out there. That’s how I was taught too. I do love my Olfa self-closer. In fact I just got a new one 2 weeks ago.
Keep up the nagging friends!
I’m a close it or else kind of person also. I was teaching my sister to quilt and finally had to tell her that she couldn’t lay it down unless it was closed. It finally worked after about 10 times of my reminding her. I think I’ll buy her a self closing one for her birthday.
I think I should get a couple in my studio for the repeat offenders!
I, too, am a rotary cutter micro-manager and with good reason! I only have one of the “old” style cutters at my retreats for my left-handed quilter who prefers it. All of the others are self-closers and it eases my mind to know they are safe! 🙂
It’s hard to imagine we are handling a WEAPON when we sew but it’s true and I agree with you. Especially in a public setting. MAKES ME NUTS – six ways to Sunday.
I gauge the quality of the quilter by how she handles her tools, not just her product. Is she kind to her machine? Does she have it serviced yearly, if not every 6 mos? Does she sling her pins or leave them where they are dropped.
I join Sam on the Soap Box of Safety. I hope you will join us there too.
Truly. A community project needs community care and awareness!
From the moment I started teaching daughter Charlotte to sew, closing the rotary cutter has been part of the syllabus. Thank you for what amounts to saving people pain, heartache, and money!