Rotary cutters, a guaranteed argument
I have no doubts a lot of people won’t like this entry which is the reason I haven’t written it before. It’s a guaranteed argument every time I bring it up. Try as I may, I can’t find a pretty-pretty way to make this palatable so no one’s feelings get hurt. The issue is how you use rotary cutters. If you’ve traced the patterns, remove them and then use a rotary cutter to cut the goods, that’s fine. Carry on. I have no doubt you’re practiced enough to do a good job.
However, if you lay the pattern down and use the rotary cutter to cut around the edges of the pattern, stop it. Stop it now. I know you’re not careless, I know you’re not sloppy, I know you are diligent but the fact remains, you will accidentally cut pieces off of the pattern each time you use it. Over time, no matter how careful you are, your pattern will degrade. You’re basically remaking the pattern every time you cut it out. And what if you have people helping you? Basically, you’ve given anyone cutting out one of your patterns, Carte Blanche to make adjustments to your pattern on the fly, without permission, oversight or foresight. Heck, if you don’t give that much power to the person who made the pattern, why would you give that power to someone who uses it? Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.
It’s a rare occasion for me to visit a DE so I forget you do these things. The last time I saw somebody doing this was several years ago when I went to consult with a new client, then a two person operation. Wife did all the sewing, husband did the cutting -with a rotary cutter. When I mentioned they’d have to start tracing their patterns before using the rotary cutter, I got ten reasons why their way was better. My response was to bend over, put my index finger on the floor and hold it up for their inspection. Attached to my finger were too many to count tiny pattern slivers. The second thing I did was to fold the most recently cut fabric piece in half, matching the right side to the left and of course, it didn’t match up. He started to say something but she cut him saying “hey… I always have trouble sewing the binding to that side”. I told them like I tell everyone, if you plan to make it in this business, sooner or later you’ll end up doing it my way so you may as well start now. I went to visit again two years later and I wasn’t surprised to see they’d gone to tracing and then cutting. They’re set to do seven figures this year. I doubt they’d be doing as well if they were doing things akin to recutting their patterns with every single cut.
Now, if you’re an enthusiast, have at it. Do whatever you like. It’s required for quilting. I use a rotary cutter to cut fringe but I’m doing it along a ruler’s edge, not a pattern. Since enthusiasts are making one-offs, you only have to worry about making this one cut work. You’re not reproducing a second generation style from the first pattern (with further unintended iterations) based on unintended iterations from the original. You know, it’s like cloning a clone. The genome just gets messy. “Everybody” says RTW manufacturers take short cuts but I ‘m beginning to wonder if that is actually true once I started to notice how enthusiasts take short cuts. And on critical things. Things we could never get away with. For example, manufacturers spend a lot more time on the pattern process, the laying of goods (letting it rest overnight), marking and fusing. All of these time consuming functions are critical to the final result. For enthusiasts, anything that comes before the good part (sewing) is a necessary evil you get through as quickly as possible. And believe me, I’m with you on that. I don’t like cutting and want to get through it as quickly as possible. But, manufacturers don’t have the luxury of taking those short cuts, not if they expect to be here next year. It has to be done right. Cutting along the pattern edges with a rotary cutter isn’t.
Enthusiasts can use rotary cutters all they like.