Book Review: Rotary Cutting Magic

All-In-One Rotary Cutting Magic with OmnigridAll-In-One Rotary Cutting Magic with Omnigrid by Nancy Johnson-Srebro

This pamphlet could be considered an advertisement for Omnigrid. The reason I am including as a book review on my blog is that the book includes some basic quiltmaking information that is not covered in many other books. As I wrote this, it occured to me that I should cover the info in my sampler classes.

The pamphlet is 64 pages pages long with one of the last pages being an ad for other C&T pamphlets available, including the 3-in-1 Color Tool by Joen Wolfrom, which is a favorite of mine.

Continuing from back to front, the second to last page has a short bio of Nancy Johnson-Srebro with a list (possibly incomplete) of her other books. After the title page, dedication and acknowledgements (pg.4), the books starts with a detailed table of contents (pg.5-6). One thing I noticed is the clarity of the page design and font choice. These qualities make the table of contents very easy to read. Readers can get to the appropriate location quickly.

This is not a project book, though there is a link to free block designs, though the blocks designs weren’t immediately available at the main site link.. I can’t really call it a technique book either, though I suppose it is. The main point of the text is how to rotary cut. Many techniques are shown so the reader can cut almost any shape accurately. You may not have thought you could make certain blocks or quilts using just your rotary cutting kit, but this pamphlet will show you how. Non-square shapes are no problem. This pamphlet helps readers and cutters gain confidence.

The first part of the book (pg.6-8) covers rotary cutting equipment and how to cut. The bad part is that I do not use this model of rotary cutter. The good part is that the text is pretty general and, mostly, covers more than just the displayed rotary cutter model. If you do not use the model shown you will need to experiment with your own rotary cutter based on Johnson-Srebro’s suggestions.

One comment I found interesting was about accuracy. Th author writes “This piece of equipment has almost totally replaced…large dressmaking scissors in quiltmaking. The reason for this is accuracy. When you cut with scissors, the fabric is lifted slightly off the table…” (pg.6). This information makes complete sense, though I never really thought about it in these terms.

The helpful hints for successful rotary cutting “are useful for any brand or model of rotary cutter. Some of the tips are obvious, e.g “change the blade” (pg.9), but some are things about which I wouldn’t have thought such as “you are not holding the cutter at a 45 degree angle…” (pg.9).

The author prefers Omnigrid and Omnigrip rulers and explains why (pg.11). I use Creative Grids rulers because of the half inch with the 4.5 x 8.5 being my favorite. Any good quality ruler without nicks or breaks will work fine with this book. I always suggest that my students buy the highest quality tools they can afford. I still have rulers I bought when I first started quiltmaking. These are tools that last a long time, if you take care of them, and don’t need to be replaced very often. Many of the reasons Nancy likes the Omnigrid and Omnigrip rulers also applies to other brands.

The same treatment given to rulers is also given to Omnigrid mats, including how to clean them (pg.13).

After the introduction to tools, the book transitions to cutting with one of the reasons I chose to review this book: bias (pg.15-19). The author explains what bias is and the different types of bias. What other book does this? What other book even mentions bias?

One important note is included “to help keep your quilt blocks from out of square, try to cut your pieces so that the straight grain (not the bias) is on the outside of edges of the blocks or quilt” (pg.15). This is something critical to quiltmaking. It is a huge annoyance for me when patterns, especially free patterns and tutorials don’t mention bias. Modern quilt designers often do not mention (do not care??? do not know???) about the bias. This section will really improve your quiltmaking, especially your accuracy, if you think about it when you cut. The grainline diagrams (pg.16-19) could be displayed in your sewing room as a visual reminder.

Another reason I chose to review this book is the section on squaring up fabric (pg.20-23). The section covers the process in a very detailed manner, which is helpful if you have never had the whole process explained logically.

I have never heard anyone talk about the V cut. This is the result of cutting strips from fabric you haven’t squared up. Johnson-Srebro calls it “…the Dreaded V Cut” (pg.23). Keep in mind that while cutting you need to re-square the fabric periodically.

After the lesson on squaring fabric, the lessons on cutting start with a square (pg.24-25). In each of these cutting sections, right and left-handed instructions, detailed images illustrating the steps and example blocks are included.

The book includes basic cutting instructions for units as well as shapes. HSTs, QSTs and HRTs (pg.26-33) are covered. Method 1 uses a basic ruler for each of the shapes/techniques. Special rulers are used for HST method 2 (pg.31). The images accompanying the unit sections reinforce thinking about bias by showing where it is on each shape.

Cutting instructions for different shapes such as a 30 degree diamond (pg.34-35), a 45 degree diamond (pg.36-37), which is good for a LeMoyne Star or 8 Pointed Star and an equilateral triangle (pg.42-43). Unusual shapes such as trapezoids (pg.44-45) and parallelograms (pg.38-39) are also shown. For those who want to make lozenge quilts, the Double Prism shape is included(pg.48-49). There are a total of 17 units and shapes the reader learns to cut from this book. I recommend following along and cutting the shapes as an exercise so the techniques are more than theories.

Following a lesson on squaring up blocks (pg.55-56), the author includes several pages of “other Useful Omnigrid Products” (pg.57-59).

This is a good basic book that will improve your rotary cutting skills, if you take the lessons to heart.

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