Choosing the Right Kind of Scissors for the Job

by Lisa on March 26, 2009

While it may seem like a no-brainer to go to the craft store and purchase a pair of sewing scissors, there really is a lot more to choosing scissors than meets the eye.

I have to admit that I have typically gone for the cheapest pair of scissors I could find, and then always, (and I do mean always) regretted it soon after when my $6.00 cheapies got dull and useless in less than a week.

The interesting thing I’ve learned is that there really is a scissor for everything related to sewing!  Small, medium, large, pointed, rounded, there is a wide variety which all has a use to make your sewing life easier.

• Shears: Shears are made for fabric cutting, and are especially good for thicker or multiple layers of fabric. When I think of shears, I fondly recall holding my Grandmother’s huge silver dressmaker’s shears as a child, pondering what I could try them on that she wouldn’t notice until  after I went home, or see if they really were heavy enough to knock my sister out with.  Shears have blades 6”-7” long and have odd shaped handles, one for the thumb, the other for more fingers, and are preferred for cutting fabrics.

• Small scissors: Smaller scissors come in handy for a variety of things, and are useful in the 3-5” blade length range for smaller snipping jobs.  Buttonhole scissors help create clean, uniform buttonhole slits, while short clipper scissors make trimming threads, ripping seams and making small precision cuts easier and more efficient.

• Pinking or scalloping shears: These are the fun scissors!  Kind of like the patterned scrapbooking scissors, but for fabric!  Pinking shears leave a ravel-resistant edge to fabrics in a zigzag or scalloped pattern. This helps prevent fraying of cut edges and can be a permanent, decorative edge for fabrics that don’t need to be hemmed, like felt.

• Serrated Shears: Did you know there are scissors made just for cutting slippery fabrics, like silk?  If so, you’re far ahead of me! If you’ve struggled with cutting sneaky or slinky fabrics, you’ll want to give these shears a try. The blades have a finely ground serrated edge which cleanly holds fabric in place while you cut.

Additionally, a few tips to complete our scissors 411: 

For cutting patterns on fabric, try and choose a shears or scissor with a slightly curved handle. Straight handle scissors can force the scissors to lift up as you cut and cause inaccurate cutting or lifting of the fabric.  And, if using your scissors to cut paper or patterns, (yes, it IS okay to cut paper with your fabric scissors!) be sure to clean the blades frequently to remove paper lint and residue buildup-especially before using the scissors on fabrics again. Sharpen often and keep your scissors safe from harm (or from the hands of your children, who may harm others), and you’ll happily not have to run to the craft store for scissors on a weekly basis ever again!


1 Kathy Brown 03.26.09 at 7:00 am

Ah, one of my favorite obessions: scissors! I love scissors, always buy expensive ones and have several. I completely agree that the right tool for the job is a must!

Of course, when discussing cutting instruments, don’t forget rotary cutters! I also have several of those in varying sizes and blades.

Hmm, maybe I have a problem. ;)

2 Kemi 03.26.09 at 7:17 am

I laughed out loud when I read the line about knocking your sister out with your grandmother’s sewing scissors.

So glad it was just a thought and not an action…

3 Courtney @ Sister To Sister 03.26.09 at 8:09 am

I agree with the scissor obsession!

The right ones can make your sewing life so much easier!

Thanks for the great tips!

4 Jodieth 03.26.09 at 8:35 am

I agree 100 % on having the right scissors. My are off limits to anyone in my family. I do not allow anyone to use them unless they are cutting fabric and
they must ask me first. I got my first pair of Gingers shears and pinking shears when I graduated from high school in 1979 and STILL HAVE THEM!

5 Katrina Hertzer 03.26.09 at 10:10 am

Thanks for the useful information about serrated shears!

6 Lisa Otto 03.26.09 at 10:21 am

Thanks for the comments, everyone. I’m glad you like the article. You know, I really did sneak my Grandma’s shears and cut anything I could get my hands on (covertly, of course), like her drapes, throw rugs, stuff hanging in her closet. I think I was 4 or 5! My scissor obsession started EARLY! lol

7 Evelyn 03.27.09 at 6:32 am

I am leaving a comment about why I am interested in quilting. A group of friends started a quilting circle and I got involved. I liked the challenge of creating something useful and sharing it with others. I made a baby quilt to give away to a mom whose baby was stillborn. To this day, it hangs in her room. Now, I know it is easier to go to a store and by items, but the effort of actually thinking about a project, researching it, and, then, doing is far more precious. It is a gift of love. (Right now, I am making an Easter dress for my daughter. She is so excited!)

8 Carolyn 03.27.09 at 7:33 am

I did not realize there was such an animal as serrated scissors!! I’m going to have to check into them… sounds like a good item to request for a present !!

9 Harriet 03.27.09 at 7:41 am

I too have a scissor obsession. I have many pair, mostly Gingher. Love them all, but my favorite pair were my Grandma’s. We were never allowed to touch them, but after she passed away, I got them. Even as old as they are, they’re still my favs and hold a great edge

10 Bobbie 03.27.09 at 7:47 am

I too am obsessed with scissors and rotary cutters! I have so many pairs, that my husband thinks I am crazy! I tell him, that they each have a specific job and since I quilt, sew, embroidery, and do crafts, a girl can’t have too many! I think I am gonna love this new site!

11 Julie 03.27.09 at 8:33 am

So I am trying so hard to eneter your contest for the quilting machine but it will not let me leave a comment on that post? WHY!!!!!!? Ahhh! I so NEED that machine! So I have signed up for the news letter.

12 Julie 03.27.09 at 8:34 am

Also, I need to tell you that just yesterday my sister-in-law was showing me the cutest quilt she made and I so want to get into quilting now. My mother made a very special quilt for all of her children when they got married and I really like this tradition. I so NEED this machine!

13 Julie 03.27.09 at 8:35 am

And I added your button to my blog at but it is private. Do I need to invite you?

14 Julie 03.27.09 at 8:35 am

I also added the button to my blog at too! It isn’t private…

15 Julie 03.27.09 at 8:36 am

And I’ll add it to my facebook too if it will let me! And did I mention that I NEED this machine! :)

16 Julie 03.27.09 at 8:36 am

I also LOVE your tutorial on how to make a bubble skirt from sizes 1-8! That is how I found out about this giveaway!

17 Julie 03.27.09 at 8:38 am

Please let these comments count! I really tried to get them on your last post but it is giving me issues, probably because everyone wants this machine… BUT I NEED it… Yes I have declared it as a NEED now:) I love your blog and your websites! They are fabulous!

18 carol c. 03.27.09 at 8:39 am

now can you really have enough scissors?? I think not! :)

19 Julie 03.27.09 at 9:05 am

And I posted about it in my facebook:) I don’t know how to contact you to tell you I can’t comment for some reason in your last post… :(

20 kathy s 03.27.09 at 9:24 am

I am going to show my husband this blog, to show him not to use my good scissors on everyday thing , because he get mad when I go out to get new ones.

21 SewGurl 03.27.09 at 10:27 am

I started quilting about a year ago. A friend knew how much I love to sew and suggested I join her at a quilting class. I fell in love. I haven’t had the time to do much quilting, but have subscribed to several magazines and have several projects planned for “when I have time”. I have signed up for the newsletter, shared on facebook and now you all know why I love quilting.

22 Suzanne 03.27.09 at 4:53 pm

I am so glad that younger women are learning to quilt and use quilting techniques in so many other ways too. To me, quilting represents the timeless heritage of all women, and it has always been a way that women could create something as beautiful as it is useful.

23 Roxann 03.27.09 at 5:40 pm

I have to say that I learned to quilt on my own at a very young age. I have since completed many projects, none of which I own myself. I really enjoy making quilts for baby showers, because while I’m quilting I’m thinking of that new baby and their mom snuggling in a comfy cuddly home made quilt. I have gotten so many rave reviews and comments at each and every baby shower that I have attended. And the best part of all is that each one is completely different. I do not remember ever making 2 of anything. Quilting is a wonderful relaxing joyous hobby that pleasures everyone. The quilter first and of course the receiver, and then the great onlookers. Also you will never know everything about quilting, because just when you think you got it down pat, you learn a new
way of doing something that is a much better way or an easier way of doing it. I just can’t say enough about one of my favorite past times.

24 craftytammie 03.27.09 at 9:17 pm

I have learned to keep my sewing scissors in a hidden place, or else I find my husband using them as a tool, or the kids cutting paper!

25 Pam 03.28.09 at 4:09 pm

I lost a pair of beloved scissors. Haven’t found any that quite worked quite as well as that pair did.

26 Karey 03.29.09 at 10:22 am

Thank you. I got some new information out of that. I have recently discovered “good” scissors for my sewing and I love them.

27 Tina 03.30.09 at 1:26 pm

I have found my big problem is keeping up with my scissors. When I do my monthy Major Clean up I usually find about 5…….then slowly they disappear until it is clean up time again!!! Is there a contraption that will solve that problem….without getting lost too?

28 Jenelle 03.30.09 at 3:29 pm

I tried to add a blog comment to be entered into the sewing machine drawing, but it would not give me a place to type anything on that blog subject. I hope this works to get me into the drawing.
Thanks so much, I’m excited to learn more about quilting.

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