Cutting Mat Advice Needed

Hi everyone!  It’s Cindy reporting in from Ohio.  Sandy has been traveling this week and   I can’t wait to hear if she found some new quilt shops.

Well, it’s time…I need to replace my cutting mat.

I currently use an Olfa cutting mat that is 36 inches wide x 24 inches tall.  This mat fits perfectly on the top of my cutting table with room to spare.

Yesterday, I was rotary cutting some smaller pieces and they just weren’t working out when I sewed them together. Upon further inspection, I realized my cutting mat has seen better days (or possibly years) AND it’s wreaking havoc on my perfectionist tendencies.


Lots of ridges and pits on this faithful mat.  No wonder my tiny pieces weren’t fitting together!

So…I need some cutting mat advice!

  • What cutting mat brand do you use and why do you like it?

  • What is the best way to “up-cycle” a used cutting mat?





24 thoughts on “Cutting Mat Advice Needed

  1. piecefulwendy says:

    I’ve heard good things about the Martelli mats, but I haven’t used them other than the rotary mat (which I like). My mat is getting to look the same. I rotate mine around until I can’t find any uncut grid lines; then it’s time to replace it. I do notice that not only does it affect my precision, it also causes me to think my blade is dull when in actuality, the blade is skipping because of the cuts in the mat (at least that’s my theory). I have my older mats stashed in case I need them. A quilty friend cuts her mat up and uses it as dividers in her drawers. Another cuts hers and has made mini rotary mats with them.

    • Gray Barn Designs says:

      I will investigate the Martelli mats. I like your method of rotating the mate because there are areas of my mat that are virtually uncut! Mats for drawer dividers is a great idea! I have an old mat stashed in a closet and will put it to good use while I’m cleaning out my drawers! Thanks for the great ideas!

  2. Tu-Na Quilts says:

    Turn your mat over and use the other side, using your ruler for measuring is recommended anyway rather than the markings on the mat which may not be accurate. Some people will cut worn mats to put in the bottom of their sewn purses or bags to hold the shape. When you need to replace your mat, don’t cut in the same place. I’ve used Olfa mats but just upgraded to a Calibre; It’s wonderful. As with any mat, use an art gum eraser to get rid of fabric left in ridges and give it a bath in the tub with lukewarm water or at least wipe it off with a cloth now and then. I hope these tips help.

    • Gray Barn Designs says:

      Oh…I never thought to turn over my mat, but you are right, those mat markings are not always the most accurate. I’ve not heard of Calibre mats and will investigate! Great tips for cleaning the mats…so helpful! Thank you!

  3. Lillian K says:

    I also am in need of a new cutting mat. I have an Olfa same size. I purchased this one about a year ago – seems like it did not last as long as my previous Olfa. I would be interested in what other quilters are using.

    • Gray Barn Designs says:

      Lillian, thanks for responding! Take a look at some of the comments from others, there are some great ideas! I have much to learn about cutting mats and hope these comments help you as well!

  4. Paula Hidalgo says:

    I still prefer the Olfa brand, I’ve tried a few others but always come back to this brand. I use the back side of these worn out ones for trimming my quilts and squaring up blocks with other rulers. Gives it a little more life before I toss it!

    • Gray Barn Designs says:

      Thanks, Paula! I am going to flip mine over and get some more life out of it until I buy a new one!

    • Gray Barn Designs says:

      Mary Ann,
      Thanks for sharing your tip about cutting up the mat and using in the bottom of a tote bag. Another reader does this as well. I think it’s the perfect solution because these mats are very sturdy and will help keep the shape of the tote bag. Quilters are very resourceful, I’ve learned a lot!

  5. Jill McCughey says:

    Turn your mat over! Do NOT use the lines to cut, use your ruler! I have had my mat for over 25 years (Olfa) and it still is in perfect condition. When I teach basic quilting, I always turn over the mats to the unlined side so the beginner students learn to measure accurately and not rely on the lines on the mat. The line on the ruler should be directly onto the edge of the fabric, about a thread in, but no more.
    Love your website, I grew up in Friendship, NY. Jill in Calgary/Phoenix

    • Gray Barn Designs says:

      Thanks for your tip about not using the mat lines for cutting! Another reader suggested the same thing and this is a super good tip for improving cutting accuracy. Amazing that you have had your mat for over 25 years, mine certainly has not held up so well! Friendship, NY…wow, what a small world! I love western NY and miss it…although I do not miss snow in late April…they just got about 3 inches this past weekend!

  6. Chela's Colchas y Mas says:

    Thank you for this post. I have been trying to figure out why I am always just a bit off when piecing, especially smaller pieces. I never thought it might be my cutting mat. Mine is in pretty bad condition, with lots of grooves and pits. I looked at Youtube tutorials…and they range from using erasers to soaking in white vinegar. Here is one tutorial: My mat was gifted to me, and it is a Fiskar. I read reviews on this site, and they list the top 6 brands. The first three are: Alvin, Olfa, and MMG. I do not know if I want to try and refurbish or just go ahead and buy a new one. Maybe I will wait to see what you do.😉😀

    • Gray Barn Designs says:

      Thanks so much for these links about cutting mats. My first act will be to turn over my mat and use the back side. Take a look at some of the other comments, they have offered some very helpful tips and ideas.

  7. Riceford Streams says:

    One gal uses old mats (cut to size) at the bottom of market bags. I have a small Fiskars mat, and the light pink color makes cutting easier because more of my fabrics contrast with it. I can line up my ruler edge more quickly.

    • Gray Barn Designs says:

      Thanks for the suggestion about putting in the bottom of market bags! This is a good idea because the mats provide a very sturdy bottom that won’t cave in under the weight of cans. I never thought about how the color of my mat might impact my cutting, this will help me in my quest for the perfect mat!

  8. rl2b2017 says:

    Hi Cindy! I hope Sandy is enjoying her travels. We have used Olfa for YEARS. Just recently – end of October – we got a new brand (new to us). It’s Calibre Art 24×36 “self-healing” mat. I don’t think it is self-healing at all, but then I didn’t think the Olfa brand ever self-healed either. It may be that we’re trying a new blade that’s supposed to be so fabulous and last a long time, and maybe that cuts into the mat further than before. I notice a LOT of deep cuts with little pieces of lint sticking out. Here’s a link about moisturizing and care for your mat ( that I haven’t tried yet but I saw on another blogger’s post a while back. Otherwise, how about just turning it over and using your rulers to measure and cut. They are much more accurate than the lines on the mat anyway. Sorry for the novel! Happy Friday to you. ~smile~ Roseanne

    • Gray Barn Designs says:

      Roseanne, thank you for this tip about moisturizing and caring for my mat. Honestly, I never thought about it getting dry but it does make sense. My first act will be to turn my mat over and use the backside. Others have suggested this as well and I think this will definitely help my cutting accuracy! I really appreciate all that you wrote AND I do love to read novels…thank you!!!

  9. Kat Lehman says:

    I use an Olfa mat and love it. For upcycling, I use my old mat for crafts not related to quilting, like glueing other stuff or cutting paper or something of the sort. You could always donate it to your local library for their kids craft area as a mat that keeps tabletops clean for such projects.

    • Gray Barn Designs says:

      Great tip about donating my used mat to the library! It really is perfect for helping them keep table tops clean during kids crafting!

  10. tierneycreates says:

    I do not know how to recycle a cutting mat and unfortunately I had to put a previous ruined one in the landfill 🙁
    I have been pretty pleased with my Crafty World Cutting Mat, self healing mat. My brother got it as a gift for me a couple of years ago off and it has held up very well. He is not a quilter but he used a quilting forum he found on amazon or something and other quilters highly recommended this mat.

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