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Forum > Quilters' Corner > rotary cutting with arthritis ( Moderated by Sharon1952)

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rotary cutting with arthritis
holding the ruler steady
South Australia Australia
Member since 11/29/02
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Date: 8/25/12 2:00 AM

I am making a baby crawl quilt after a long time away from quilting. When rotary cutting strips, I have found that holding down the ruler causes a lot of pain in my badly arthritic left hand base of thumb joint. This joint is the very worst of both hands, and I have had to take special care of it with everyday activities, but I cannot think of a method of using the rotary cutter/ruler without pain. I have used a suction-capped handle years ago, but found that it kept coming adrift!
Any suggestions would be gratefully received.


Aless(Adelaide,South Australia)

You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm.- Colette

Elcue  Friend of PR
Member since 6/13/12
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In reply to Aless
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Date: 8/25/12 3:36 PM

One thing I can think of is adding weight to the ruler or beside the ruler. I use divers weights that vary in size and shape. some are just lead squares, others are neoprene bags filled with lead shot. Also dumbbells are easy to lift. A steel straight edge can be clamped to the table.


Irene  Friend of PR
California USA
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Date: 8/25/12 5:33 PM

If I use less slippery rulers, they require less pressure to keep them in place. Sandpaper dots, adhered to regular rulers, work great. In recent years, there are rulers made with rubbery paint (e.g., Omnigrip by Omnigrid, and Olfa makes non-slip rulers, too) that reduce the likelihood of slipping.

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Date: 8/25/12 7:03 PM

Fiskars Rotary Ruler

This product seems to be discontinued, but that doesn't mean it's not available someplace (eBay? Etsy? Craigslist? "old" stock somewhere?) It takes regular 45 mm blades, and combines ruler and cutter all in one.

If you are willing to spend some serious $$$$, there's always an Accuquilt cutter and the associated dies. Accuquilt cutter comparison chart. Yes, you can cut strips with this.


a7yrstitch  Friend of PR
Texas USA
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In reply to Aless

Date: 8/25/12 7:58 PM

I have recommended using a sanding block for safety reasons and think it would also work well for you. Mine has a surface area of just over 3 inches by an exact 9 inches. It is made of a nice smooth composite resin. It already has a grippy rubbery pad on the bottom. And, the clamps on the end that are intended to hold sandpaper do not get in the way.

Another PR member liked the idea but had to add nonslip shelf liner to the bottom of the one that they purchased.

Place the ruler down and the sanding block on top of it. Hold the length of the palm of your hand along the top of the handle. Extend your fingers up and out as you are able. The extra surface area maximizes your contact with the cutting ruler.

I started using my sanding block after a trip to the emergency room. It does keep my fingers out of harm's way but I have also been pleased with how firmly it secures a long length of the cutting edge.

I'll be cutting this week and will try to remember trying it with the edge of my fist pressed against the handle also. I think if a bit of non slip stuff was wrapped around the handle that the pinkie side of a closed hand edge should work pretty well.

I don't remember if my sanding block came from the wood sanding area or the drywall sanding area of the store - I would check both to see which has the best.

I have no idea what Apple thought I was saying so be a Peach and credit anything bizarre to auto correct.


m/m  Friend of PR
New Jersey USA
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Date: 8/26/12 12:44 PM

I use home-made drafting type weights that sound similar to the diver's weights mentioned above. I used Tyvek (the stuff used as vapor barrier on houses and also for sturdy overnight envelope pouches) and an old suede jacket purchased on final discount at a local resale shop. You can make circles or rectangles of any size you want (I use both) and you can use more than one stacked together either on the ruler or draped over the edge of the ruler opposite the side you're cutting against.

I cut matching pieces of Tyvek and the suede. Then I put the pieces together like a "sandwich" of suede right side up on top of two matching pieces of Tyvek, and ending with the second piece of suede right side away from the Tyvek. I stitched most of the way around (seam allowances are exposed on the outside) and then put lead pellets from a sporting goods store inside and sewed up the rest of the opening in the seam. I used heavy duty thread and either a heavy duty or leather needle and a longish stitch.

Mine are about ten years old now and get lots of use. They haven't leaked (my big fear) and they're heavy enough that I don't need to press too hard to keep the ruler in place. The suede nap helps to keep them in place.

Also be sure that your rotary blade is really sharp and do use the sandpaper dots.

Courtney Ostaff
Courtney Ostaff
West Virginia USA
Member since 11/23/10
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Date: 8/26/12 3:42 PM

I have a heavy wood point presser that I use. It's heavy enough that with most fabrics, I don't need to hold the ruler at all.

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Date: 8/26/12 5:38 PM

There's an Australian product called the "RuleSteady" which a couple of people I know have found very helpful.

You can see more info about it here:
And there's a YouTube video of it here:
RuleSteady Demonstration

It isn't cheap, and buying it in the US would be even more expensive due to the Australian dollar being higher than the US at the moment, but if it allows you to keep doing something you love, it could be worth it for you.

PS - Just re-read your message and discovered you are actually in Australia! So ignore that bit about the exchange rate...
-- Edited on 8/26/12 5:39 PM --

PortlandMaine  Friend of PR
Maine USA
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Date: 8/26/12 5:41 PM

This may be totally not what you want to do -- but maybe one of the machine cutters would work for you?

Or, maybe you could make quilts from pre-cuts?

Quilting up a storm!

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In reply to Aless

Date: 8/26/12 6:49 PM

Have you considered electric scissors? I saw them once on a Sewing with Nancy show long time ago.

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