A cutting mat is a measurement tool used for sewing and crafts projects. Generally, cutting mats are a rectangular piece of durable material, such as vinyl or rubber. They are marked on one side with a grid guide of specific measurements, usually of one quarter to one inch (6.35 mm to 2.54 cm). A cutting mat is used both to protect the surface you are cutting on, and to provide measurement guidelines and references to ensure a clean and straight cut. It is useful in a variety of projects and is considered an essential for accuracy in many crafts.
The material used to make the mat is generally self-healing, which means it absorbs small nicks or cuts and survives multiple uses. Cutting mats range in area from around 88 inches2 (2.23 m2) for small projects, all the way up to 32 feet2 (9.75 m2) for large-scale cutting. Some companies offer custom mats in even larger sizes, used to cover cutting tables or production surfaces. Usually, the grid-imprinted side will also include 40 and 60 degree angles along with the standard measurements, while the opposite side is left blank for general cutting.
When using a cutting mat for sewing or crafts, most people work with a rotary cutter. This tool is a pizza-wheel shaped knife blade that rolls along material, cutting as it goes. A straight blade, like a utility knife, may also be used, but rotary cutters are considered by experts to be easier to handle and safer for beginners.
For quilters, a cutting mat can be invaluable for cutting out precise squares. With extremely long pieces of fabric, using a cutting mat and rotary cutter is more efficient than the repeated motion of scissors, and following the grid marks ensures precision. However, cutting mats can be used for a variety of projects, not only for those involving sewing or fabric.
If you are a baker who has difficulty dividing dough into even amounts, a cutting mat can be a useful tool. Simply pour a little flour on the grid side of the mat to prevent sticking and roll your dough directly onto it. By using the grid marks as a guide, you can ensure perfectly identical dough strips for pastries or pasta.
Another use for a cutting mat is to aid in handwriting. Those studying calligraphy can slip a mat under their paper and use the grid marks as a reference to ensure even and equal-sized lettering. This technique also provides protection to the surface below, keeping it safe from ink leaks.
Small cutting mats are generally inexpensive, starting at around $5 US Dollars (USD). Prices go up with size and durability of materials, with some of the larger varieties costing $200-$300 USD. You can find such mats at crafts stores, sewing and notions stores, art stores, and on many online sites. For cutting, crafting and even for baking, a cutting mat is a valuable tool that can aid almost any project, and fit almost every budget.