If there is one unsung hero in crafting, sewing, and quilting, it may be the cutting mat. Cutting mats, of course, make the difficult tasks of doing your craft easy. It would be best to have the best large cutting mats in every room wherein you use a rotary cutter or a utility knife.
Cutting mats prevent damage to your work surface. Moreover, cutting mats help prevent the knife blade from quickly dulling. They also come in different types like those with extra-thick bodies, markings in Metric and English measurements, and self-healing properties.
Factors to Consider When Looking for the Best Large Cutting Mats
Since there are myriads of cutting mats on the market today, you will indeed get confused as to which one you should be buying for your personal use. We deemed it proper, therefore, to provide you with the following brief factors that you should consider to zero in on the best cutting mat based on your sewing or quilting needs:
Depending on if you are planning to create large quilts or simply looking to hem a pair of jeans from time to time will determine the size and features you need in your cutting mat. If you are a professional quilter, for example, you will most likely require a larger workspace with additional measurements for ease and accuracy when cutting multiple layers of fabric at once.
On the other hand, someone who sews more sporadically may not need anything more than a small, portable cutting mat that can be stored away easily when not in use. It is essential first to consider your specific needs before making a purchase.
The Size : Deciding on whether you need a large or small one!
First and foremost, you need to decide on which size of a cutting mat you should buy. However, bigger sizes aren’t always the best or better. You may have a problem with portability if you would opt for the larger ones. If you regularly engage in quilting, for example, in groups, and you often have to work at other people’s houses, you may find the larger cutting mat a liability. A smaller cutting mat like an 18″ x 24″ may do the trick for you in such a case. This size is undoubtedly ideal for someone who always travels with his/her cutting mat.
You can also go for portability and size if you choose, for example, the 24″ x 36″, which is the largest size that could still be portable. It is indeed huge, yet, you can still carry it around. The good thing about portable cutting mats is that they are handy. You can also immediately remove them if you don’t need them.
Choose Between Plastic or Self-healing!
There are many factors that you should consider when buying a cutting mat. But one thing for sure, you would eventually decide between plastic and self-healing. Plastic cutting mats, of course, can be easily damaged. You would see small grooves after using a plastic cutting mat. The tiny tracks may not look bad at first, but these small grooves add up over time and eventually become very obvious. They may also affect your accuracy in cutting. In the worst case, they may cause damage to your fabric while you cut.
Hence, if you could, you should never think twice about investing in cutting mats that self-heal. Self-healing cutting mats may be a tad expensive than plastic cutting mats, but they are more durable. Moreover, the self-healing cutting mats surface is made of materials that readily close up when cut by a blade. Thus, they appear to be capable of self-healing. They are also a tad squishy; hence, they can hold fabric better, allowing you to cut through the fabric with ease using a rotary cutter.
About the only time I would look into a plastic mat is if you do not plan on cutting musch fabric, for example you are only interested in pre-cut quilt kits or other such projects.
Check the Cutting Surface!
If you are looking for a cutting mat that would serve you for a very long time, then you should ensure that its cutting surface is hard enough. The best way to test the hardness of the cutting surface is by using your fingernail. If your fingernail could make an impression on the cutting surface, then it means that the cutting surface is too soft. And if that’s the case, you should look for other options because a soft cutting surface would quickly get damaged. You would see small grooves all over the cutting surface in no time. Again, these tiny tracks may not look bad at first, but they will eventually become very obvious, and they will also affect your accuracy in cutting.
It would help if you also looked for a cutting mat with a beveled edge. The beveled edge is essential because it can prevent your fabric from slipping while you cut. Slipping fabric is one of the leading causes of inaccurate cuts. If you are cutting a straight line, for example, and your fabric slips even just a little bit, the line that you would eventually cut would be curved.
Moreover, the beveled edge can also help extend the life of your cutting mat. The beveled edge can act as a buffer against wear and tear. The beveled edge can also help protect your cutting mat’s surface from being damaged by the blade of your rotary cutter.
Check the Adhesiveness!
You should also make sure that the cutting mat you are planning to buy is adhesive enough. The adhesiveness of the cutting mat is essential because it can help keep your fabric in place while you cut. If the cutting mat is not adhesive enough, your fabric may slip while you cut, and that would result in inaccurate cuts.
To test the adhesiveness of the cutting mat, you can try to stick a piece of paper on the cutting surface. If the paper can easily be removed, then it means that the cutting mat is not adhesive enough. But if the paper can’t be removed easily or if it leaves a residue when you try to remove it, then it means that the cutting mat is adhesive enough.
Moreover, you should also make sure that the adhesive of the cutting mat is not too strong. If the adhesive is too strong, removing your fabric from the cutting mat would be quite a challenge. You may even damage your fabric in the process.
Figure out the color that you really want!
Your choice of color for your mat should not be solely for aesthetics. The color should also provide enough contrast against the fabric. The perfect colors for providing contrast are the white mat and neutral gray. On the other hand, if you prefer neutral fabrics, you might choose colors like bright green. Bright green, of course, provide excellent contrast against neutral fabrics.
At present, you can buy mats whose sides have different colors. This type of mat offers extra flexibility for artisans. Moreover, you should ensure that the lines printed on the mats contrast nicely with the fabric and the mat color to ensure that you will not have difficulty following them.
Consider the line-markings!
When buying a cutting mat, you should go for those with line-markings. Of course, you will surely use rulers when cutting, but the line markings will facilitate the cutting process for you. Cutting mats may have triangles or circles. So, if you could, you should go for those mats that have ample useful line-markings.
Consider the price!
Cutting mats come at different prices. Some cutting mats may be as cheap as $10, while some maybe $50 or more. On the lower end of the price spectrum, you will surely get mats made of hard plastic. On the higher end of the price spectrum, you’ll get better self-healing cutting mats.
Essential Tips on Buying Cutting Mats
Mats are not created equal. Some can be easily damaged, while some are self-healing. Some are more expensive than others or bigger than the others. Less expensive mats made of hard plastic more often develop grooves that eventually become too obvious. These grooves may also snag your fabric over time.
So, if money isn’t an issue for you, you should, at least, go for a self-healing cutting mat. As mentioned above, the grooves created by blades on the self-healing mat’s surface closes up. In a way, they self-heal. Moreover, they can hold better fabrics because they tend to be a bit squishy. Hence, investing in these self-healing mats is undoubtedly a good investment.
Another great tip that you should take heed of is that, at the onset, you should get the right size of mats. Your size’s choice boils down to what type of cutting mat user you are. If you are an itinerant, you would need something portable. If you only work in a specific workplace, then portability may not be an issue for you.
Lastly, it would help if you used your mat correctly. Cutting mats, of course, are explicitly designed to take much abuse. Yet, despite their remarkable capacity to absorb abuse, you should use them with care. One way to care for your cutting mat is to ensure that you regularly replace your rotary cutter’s blade when you see that it is already showing a tinge of dullness.
All in all, self-healing mats are the best cutting mats for quilting. They are, of course, more expensive than regular hard plastic cutting mats. But they offer more advantages that make them worth every penny. With proper care and handling, your self-healing mat can last you for a long time!