As the OLFA® rotary cutter celebrates its 35th birthday this year, it’s easy to forget how this simple but ultra-efficient tool—a mainstay for hobbyists around the globe—flipped the quilting and crafting world on its collective ear when it debuted in 1979.
How did this cleverly designed cutter literally reshape quilting and crafting? For perspective, think about preparing large meals without a food processor; fashioning clothes without an electric sewing machine; or assembling music playlists without an iPod.
In short, the rotary cutter—invented by the late Mr. Yoshio Okada, the founder of OLFA—was a game-changer that evolved quilt-making from painstaking and time-consuming to a quicker and more enjoyable process. Along the way, it also empowered imaginative crafters to realize their wildest aspirations in unique, complex quilt designs.
TEMPLATE FOR SUCCESS
It may be hard to fathom, but back in the day, quilters actually used to make templates out of cardboard cereal boxes, and then use the cardboard templates to cut out various shapes in fabric with scissors. OLFA inventor Mr. Yoshio Okada recognized a need for something more efficient after seeing a tailor cut a delicate silk with large dressmaker’s shears. He knew there had to be a better way, and Mr. Okada found his inspiration after observing a rotating automobile tire. That’s when he devised the rotary cutter, which safely and accurately cuts through up to eight layers of fabric at once. Better yet, the ergonomically designed, easy-to-grip handle doubled as a protective sheath and minimized wrist fatigue, too. Now that’s innovation!
Other hobbyists took notice. Today, a variety of smart, passionate and detail-oriented crafters—from scrapbookers and paper crafters to sewing aficionados and leather fashioners—have enthusiastically embraced the precise OLFA rotary cutter. And why not? It requires fewer recuts and comfortably fits in your hand.
The original OLFA rotary cutter came in one size: 45mm diameter. Today, OLFA offers three more must-have sizes: 18-, 28- and 60mm diameter blades. And for crafters with a flair for fashion, OLFA also offers replacement blades with decorative edges, including pinking and scalloped blades. Being creative is just that easy!
But the OLFA rotary cutter does more than just make quilting easier. This premium-quality tool gives both newbies and veteran crafters the confidence to bring inspired designs to life—one cut at a time.
PIECING IT ALL TOGETHER
From the release of the first rotary cutter to an exciting must-see collaboration of bloggers and designers, find your favorite OLFA tools in the milestones below and stay tuned for a quilt like you’ve never seen before. (Hint: more details on this unique project can be found at pinterest.com/olfacreates ).
- 1979: OLFA founder Yoshio Okada invents the 45mm-diameter rotary cutter.
- 1980: The 28mm cutter is born, great for cutting curves and other detailed maneuvers.
- 1994: A 60mm-diameter cutter debuts, which cuts larger-scale projects or thicker and more demanding fabrics down to size.
- 1995: Consumers, meet the pinking rotary cutter. Fast, decorative cuts without using pinking shears or scissors? Yes, thank you!
- 1998: The deluxe rotary cutter makes the scene, featuring a safer and more comfortable, ergonomic handle design.
- 1999: OLFA introduces a double-sided cutting mat that incorporates both inches and metric measurements. How cool is that?
- 2003: Rotary circle cutter debuts. Making circles without templates or scissors just got a lot easier.
- 2005: The 12-inch rotating mat hits the market. It works like a lazy Susan; just make a cut, spin the mat and make another cut—no need to lift fabric off the mat and reposition it for the next cut.
- 2006: OLFA introduces a specialty tool—the chenille cutter, which allows users to make their own chenille.
- 2007: 45mm quick-change rotary cutter makes changing blades a snap, sans washer and nut components.
- 2013: The 45mm Splash rotary cutter debuts, offering a new, aqua-colored handle that integrates many desired handle features (contoured handle and quick-blade change mechanism) at a lower retail price point.
- 2014: OLFA rotary cutter turns 35! Follow an exciting quilting collaboration of bloggers and designers—a unique project that will be on display at the International Quilt Market at Houston in October. Check out the progress at pinterest.com/olfacreates .