How to choose the right cutting mat for sewing and crafting 2023
Speed up your fabric and paper prep – a world of safe, precision cutting awaits! Here are all the reasons you need one a cutting mat in your life and the best ones out there on the market
Still using scissors to cut your fabric or snip your scrapbooking accents? Treat yourself to a cutting mat and you'll never look back. Whether you craft at your kitchen or dining table, in a dedicated craft room or perhaps even on the floor (we've all been there.. haven't we?), a mat will protect your surface and make your projects easier to prepare.
If you haven't already tried using one, here's why we think you should give it a go. When it comes to cutting fabric or paper, freehand with scissors can take you so far, but invest in a rotary cutter or craft knife and cutting mat and you'll speed up and neaten up overnight.
My housemate brought me my first, A3 cutting mat – along with a craft knife to match – 20 years ago, when I was living in a city flat share and dabbled in card making on my weekends. It honestly took me by surprise how much I loved using it. I still own that mat today (albeit quite scratched up and stained by many a past project). The combination of grid lines to guide my cuts, plus the ability to cut on a flat surface, instantly transformed my cutting overnight to be neater and so much quicker.
I but have since grown my stash and invested in an A2 version for larger patchwork and home sewing projects. I also have a mini square self healing mat which is super portable. I use this for eyelet setting and smaller papercraft projects. Even with these mats in my stash, on the times I have skipped using them I have been known to cut through carpets and scratch my dining table more times than my husband cares to remember. Plus a couple I never told him about.
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Self healing cutting mats allow safe cutting that won't damage the surface you are working on, as the mat essentially repairs itself after you run a rotary cutter or craft knife over it's surface. You can also get glass cutting matts, which are popular with those who prefer how they look on their work surface, and for others who like to work craft with paint and wet supplies, which benefit from the easy-wipe nature of glass. In this round-up though, we'll be focusing on self-healing cutting mats. You might find cutting mats useful if:
- Cutting out units of several layers of fabric for patchwork
- Cutting around pattern pieces on fabric with a rotary cutter when dressmaking
- Cutting intricate paper shapes using a craft knife for card making or scrapbooking
- Cutting strips, squares or sections of paper for layering and framing when card making
- Paper punching or eyelet-setting with a hammer
I've shared my top 8 best cutting mat recommendations below. Have I missed one that you use and highly recommend? Leave a comment and let me know so we can check it out! You might also like our guides to the best quilting rulers and best sewing machines for beginners.
Do you love watching crafty TV shows? Check out our guides to The Great British Sewing Bee, The Great Pottery Throw Down and Interior Design Masters for more creative inspiration.
Are cutting mats worth it?
Yes! You will never look back. Cutting mats will last you for years, protect your work surface and speed up your fabric and paper cutting, as well as allow you to cut more accurately when you combine them with a rotary cutter or craft knife. If you make craft projects regularly that involve fabric or paper cutting, they are a real game-changer. When you work out the price-per-use of adding one to your craft kit, they could well offer the best value for money of any craft supply that we can think of.
How long do cutting mats last?
Another great reason to invest in a cutting mat is how long they last. I have my mats for over 10 years and they are still going strong. While this can vary a lot for each crafter, self-healing cutting mats should last you for years. Most makers I know have had their mats for over 4 years and mine have lasted a lot longer, though they aren't used daily, I use them every month for one project or another with a rotary cutter.
To take care of your mat, use a sharp blade and rotate your mat regularly so your cuts go in different directions. It's also essential to store them flat, as if you leave them in a position where they naturally buckle or bend a little, they can hold that shape and warp slightly when you go to use them. I usually store my mats under my bed or bookcase when they're not in use, and also like to have one out and ready-to-play on my craft desk when possible.
How are cutting mats self-healing?
Cutting mats are really the wizards of the craft world. They can undo the damage of your cuts by healing over the mark that you cut with your blade. To do this they're made from a material that is split into lots of tiny pieces, which are then pressed together to create the surface that you work on. When you pierce that surface with a sharp blade, the pieces of the mat essentially part ways to allow the blade to travel through, and then fall back into shape behind it. Clever, eh?
What to look for when you're choosing a cutting mat
Cm or inches?
How do you like your measurements? This question is so much personal choice, and can be partially influenced by the kind of sewing you do. Quilters for example (myself included) often work in inches. Cutting mats usually come with a set of gridlines to help guide you through common measurements. The metric of measurement can vary, so before you buy, check that the marks on the mat will suit your favourite type.
What are you using it for?
Some cutting mats have angle lines to mark 45 degree and 60 degree angles, which are super useful if you're cutting a lot of patchwork fabric triangles or other shapes that benefit from this helping hand. Especially so if you don't have an acrylic quilting ruler. If you're more into card making and papercrafting, for example paper cutting, you might actually want to be cutting a lot of fiddly curves with a craft knife, in which case these angle lines aren't as essential for you.
Is it self healing?
While self-healing mats are the most common type on the market, you can also get glass mats. Some crafters prefer these as they are easier to wipe if you're working with wet mediums like paint.
Some say the bigger the better – and I'd say if you can afford it and have room, a bigger mat gives you more scope for future projects and less chance of your knife running off the edge when cutting larger shapes. But again this depends what you're making. If you only make small cards or paper cutting projects, an A4 may be all you need and it's easier to store.
6 of the best cutting mats for sewing and papercraft 2023
I've used many brands of cutting matts over the years. My favourites are Olfa, Sew Easy and Provo Craft but there are hundreds out there to chose from. Here are the best mats on the market at the moment and the reasons we love them.
1. Olfa Gridded Cutting Mat
- Buy it now (Amazon, £53)
Best for: Large size
Features: Double-sided, self-healing
The largest mat in this round-up, with grid measurements in inches and angle lines to guide you when cutting triangles, this is a really useful mat for patchwork and quilting, or cutting large dressmaking pattern pieces from fabric.
2. Prym Pink Cutting Mat
- Buy it now (£27.90. Love Crafts)
Measurments: cm and inches
Best for: Style
Features: Bright colour, double-sided, self-healing
The Omnigrid collection of cutting mats offer a trusted brand with good quality mats for your sewing and crafting. This hot pink version makes a nice change from the dark green standard colour of most mats on the market – especially useful if you sew with a lot of green fabric and like it to stand out from the background mat! It comes marked with helpful grid lines and the double-sided format allows one side to be marked in cms and the other inches.
3. Sew Easy Rotary Cutting Mat
- Buy it now (Minerva, £11.99)
Measurments: Imperial and metric
Best for: Crafting in a limited space
Features: 30°, 60° and 45° angle grid lines, double-sided, self-healing
This is a more compact mat than some of the bigger beasts in this selection, but this also means it comes at an affordable price point and will comfortably cutting areas up to A4. With measurements marked up for metric and imperial, it works whatever your preference. It comes with a hole punched at one end for if you're lucky enough to have a peg board for wall storage of your sewing stash. Sew Easy mats are tried and tested (I use one for my patchwork cutting every week) and I can highly recommend for durability.
4. Aniso A3 Craft cutting mat
- Buy it now (Amazon, £6.95)
Measurments: Imperial and metric
Best for: Durability – a heavy duty choice
Features: Clear grid lines, comes in 6 colours, double-sided with inches on one side, cms on the other
This heavy duty, self-healing mat is a beauty with several colourways, so you can pick the one that your favourite fabric colour palette will stand out against the best. Made from 5 layers of PVC for strength and durability, it should last you years. It's double-sided with inches on one side and cm on the other, and offers a non-slip, non reflective surface. One thing to bear in mind is, it's been designed to use with a rotary cutter, not a papercraft craft knife, so while it's a beauty for sewing and quilting, it's not the one for you if you want to work in multiple mediums.
5. Trimits cutting mat, small
Buy it now (Love Crafts, £6.99)
Best for: Budget
Features: Double-sided, self-healing
A good choice if your cutting requirements are more to protect your surface, and possibly get a little guidance with cutting lines and small pieces, but you don't necessarily want to be put off by lots of angle grid lines for more advanced patchwork.
6. We R Memory Keepers Glass Cutting matt
- Buy it now (Amazon, £19.34)
Measurments: Imperial and metric
Best for: Scrapbooking
Features: Tempered glass cutting mat, non skid feet, smooth, wipe-clean surface
Designed with scrapbook paper sizes in mind (12x12in papers), The We R Memory Keepers Precision Glass Cutting Mat is great choice for papercrafters, with all the handy grid lines that you need plus a wipe-clean surface that's also really handy for working with ink or paint.
Zoe is the launch Editor of Gathered.how. She has over a decade of craft publishing experience under her belt. She's a quilter and sewist who works with the UK’s best-selling craft magazines including Today’s Quilter, Love Patchwork & Quilting, Simply Sewing and The World of Cross Stitching. Zoe loves being immersed in Gathered’s quilting content, tweaking our tutorials and publishing new patterns. Zoe has previously written for radiotimes.com, Simply Knitting and The World of Cross Stitching and was previously Deputy Editor of Papercraft inspirations magazine. She has guest-lectured at Bath Spa University. She’s a keen quilter with 5 projects in progress at any one time and another 12 or so planned.
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