What Can I Use Instead of a Cutting Mat? (8 Substitutes)

Prices being what they are make finding the right sized cutting mat at an affordable cost something of an adventure. Cutting mats are specialized tools so they carry a specialized price tag which some may not be able to afford. Going for an alternative is their answer to preserving their budget.

What can I use instead of a cutting mat? If you can’t afford a regular cutting mat, then you can try cardboard. The problem you will face using alternative materials is that those materials may dull your rotary cutter on the first cut. There are many alternatives to using a cutting mat that work just as well.

To learn more about those alternatives just continue to read our article. it looks at this topic and provides you with the information to help you find solutions to your cutting mat issues. take a few minutes to see if this information is helpful to you.

Substitute for Cutting Mat

There are substitutes for cutting mats so you are not stuck paying high prices when you need a larger mat than usual. Even $14 for an 18 by 36-inch mat can be very expensive to some people on a small budget.

Here are some ideas that can serve as an alternative to a regular sewing cutting mat:

  • 1. Woodcutting boards - they can be inexpensive and are sturdy to use. they won’t move very far either or slip on you. Plus, they will be cheaper than a cutting mat if you shop in the right locations.
  • 2. Laminate - this material is very smooth and works well with slippery fabrics like chiffon. These are not very expensive and can come in a variety of thicknesses as well as designer colors.
  • 3. PETG sheets - they are made from food-safe materials so these sheets are not hazardous to your health. They also come in different thicknesses and sizes. To check them out click here.
  • 4. Shelf liners - are inexpensive and a little batting spray adhesive will help hold the fabric in place. They also last along time. Their size will be their drawback.
  • 5. Desktops - these are made from polycarbonate, glass, and other strong materials and should hold up to rotary cutters sharp edge.
  • 6. 3D printing mats - if you own one or know someone who does, have them print one out for you. This is inexpensive and they can make the mat to your specifications.
  • 7. Tap Plastic Store - they make mats out of plastic, resin, and other materials and you may find what you need there. the drawback is the store is in Seattle, Wa.
  • 8. Hot Paws - this product may work for you but there are not many available details to report here.

One problem that some self-healing cutting mat owners experience is the fumes. Self-healing mats need to off-gas and should not be stored in closed containers inside the house.

They should be stored flat and in warm areas although the cold will not hurt it. This is the reason why many people are looking for alternatives.

What to Use as a Cutting Mat


Basically, you are free to use any material that is handy and will work for you without creating more problems when you go to cut. There are two main criteria to follow when looking for an alternative to a self-healing or other cutting mat.

First, the material should be strong, durable, and last you a long time. You will not do yourself any favors by using a material that lasts only for a week. That is a good way to waste money and your time.

While some people use cardboard, it is not recommended. Which brings us to the second main criteria. The material you use should not dull your rotary cutter on the first cut. Finding alternatives that meet those criteria is not always going to be easy and will be done on a trial and error basis.

Other important criteria include the material should be smooth so your cuts are not affected; lightweight so that they are easy to maneuver when you need to store them and the right size for your space and needs.

Do I Need a Self-Healing Cutting Mat?


No, you don't need a self-healing cutting mat nor do you have to have one. The only difference between these mats and normal cutting mats is that they help cover up rotary cutter marks or grooves.

Depending on the type of material used for this style of cutting mat, the rotary or other blade can be absorbed into the material helping your cuts to be smoother. They are handy to have but as mentioned earlier they do come with a gas issue that can make you sick, lightheaded, and so on.

You need to store them flat so they do not warp on you if the room gets too hot. Plus, you should use some type of fan near you to keep ventilation moving and the air around you fresh and safe.

These mats are made from very durable materials and can last you a long time. Just make sure you do not buy one too small. You can use a smaller portion of a large self-healing cutting mat but you can use a larger portion of a small mat.

When purchasing one for your sewing needs, do not just think of one project, think about all of them, and buy the size that will work for all your projects.

Do You Need a Mat to Use a Rotary Cutter?


It is a very good idea to have a cutting mat underneath your fabric when using a rotary cutter. Those blades can be very sharp and if you have nothing under the fabric, you can scratch your cutting surface, table, floor, etc., very easily.

Cutting mats help protect your fingers as well as help you cut very straight lines. They are basically a must-have item when you use a rotary cutter over a pair of scissors. There are many different types of cutting mats on the market and usually, the self-healing ones are the better option.

That is because they can ‘heal’ those grooves and keep your cutting mat ready for action with no grooves or scoring to worry about. The mat is a good idea if you are using your favorite table or desk to make your cuts.

The good news about cutting mats is that they are not all made solely to help you cut material. There are mats where you can pin your fabric, place your iron on them, and press that fabric, and can be used with other sizes of mats to make your work area larger.

Rotary Cutting Mat Alternative


The thing about using alternatives to cutting mats, you have to be very careful the material does not dull your blade the moment you finish your first cut. While you can get replacement blades with your purchase of the cutter and buy extra blades separately, replacing blades is not a good use of time or money.

Cardboard has been used by some sewers but that material is a one-time use only mat as it shreds quite easily. That material also dulls the cutter blade very quickly. You can try polycarbonate, plastic, or laminate materials as well as vinyl to see if those surfaces are smooth enough as well as protects your blade from going dull.

A glass should work well also and all these materials are smooth so you can lay your fabric out flat and get a smooth, straight cut. The best thing to do is talk to your local fabric store personal and see what they recommend as an alternative.

They may know of some local outlets that have good alternative material you can use.

Reasons to Use a Cutting Mat


The following reasons are a mixed batch combining several positive reasons for a variety of different cutting mats. Using more than one mat is beneficial as your cuts are not always going to be large nor are they all going to be small.

Take a minute or two and see all the reasons you should use a cutting mat when you are using a rotary cutter or even a fixed edge knife.

  • Cutting mats can be used by both left and right-handers
  • Comes in durable thick layers that are supposed to last
  • Most are lightweight and easy to handle
  • Most are portable and easy to transport to another location
  • They can be versatile and can be used for other purposes
  • Grid lines can be found on both sides
  • They can be very easy to clean
  • Most come with rounded edges so you do not scratch yourself
  • The materials help keep cutter blades sharp
  • They can come with both Imperial and Metric measurements
  • Many have a lifetime guarantee
  • You can get them in more than one color, usuallyb
  • Some have large handles attached
  • Some have very strong Velcro closures
  • At least one is electronic and provides 4 hours of light with new batteries, rechargeable battery included and stays cool when you touch it
  • The surfaces are very smooth with grid lines that are easy to see

The Drawbacks of Using a Cutting Mat

Just as there are reasons to use these mats, they are not perfect and they do come with some negative aspects that may have you looking for an alternative surface to use:

  • Batteries run out of power and you have to wait till they recharge or spend time replacing the battery
  • Gridlines may be hard to see due to color blindness and other factors
  • May be stiff and hard to turn over
  • ​The healing aspect doesn’t work that well
  • ​May be smaller than advertised
  • Can’t use fixed blade cutters on them
  • May warp on you if stored improperly or if there is too much heat in the room
  • Layers may separate after a while
  • Only comes with Imperial markings or Metric markings only and not both

Some Facts About Rotary Cutters

You may not have used one of these great sewing tools. If not, you should as they are very handy and easy to use. Plus, they cut better than scissors do. If you do not know what a rotary cutter is, they are the fashion world’s pizza cutter except they have safety features attached to them.

  • 1. The cut better than scissors - scissors can be hard to get a smooth straight, even cut and you end up wasting material. Rotary cutters take the hassle out of cutting fabrics.
  • 2. They are ergonomically designed - that means they are more comfortable to hold than scissors
  • 3. The fabric stays flat when cutting - this eliminates many distortions and errors that occur when you use scissors and have to lift the fabric
  • 4. You do need a cutting mat - that is one drawback to using these tools. They are sharp and can make grooves in tables, floors, and other surfaces.
  • 5. Press a safety button - this button releases the blade so you do not get cut accidentally. Sometimes the button is hard to press.
  • 6. can cut many layers - that saves you time when cutting multiple layers of material. Just make sure to keep those layers flat and smooth

Some Final Words

If you cannot afford a real cutting mat currently, you are not out of luck or choices. You have lots of materials that will work as a good alternative. Sometimes you just have to think outside the box a little to see what is available to use.

Just make sure those alternatives won’t dull your blade, be weak, or cannot last you a long time. It is your choice.

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