A surgeon has his scalpel. A professional chef has his knives. And a sewist has shears, scissors, thread snips, and yes, the unloved seam ripper.
These instruments will help us bring our dreams of insanely pretty garments into 3D life.
NOTE: If you’re ready to begin this journey and would like to buy my recommended tools and supplies, please click HERE!
Rule #1: NEVER cut over pins. This can damage the blades of your dressmaker’s shears.
Rule #2: Show your shears love and respect — and wipe the blades clean after every use.
Rule #3: NEVER cut over pins. Yes, it is important enough to write twice.
Quality Sewing Shears Are a Must Have
First, do you know the difference between scissors and shears?
Didn’t know there was a difference?
Well, there is and it is this…
All shears are scissors. But not all scissors are shears.
A pair of shears is at least seven inches long AND the handle has two holes that differ in size and shape. The smaller hole is for your thumb and the larger hole is for two or three of your other fingers.
The handle of dressmaker’s shears is usually bent so that the blade and the tip stay in contact with the cutting surface as you cut. This keeps your fabric flat, so you can cut cleanly and accurately.
A high-quality pair of shears can make the chore of cutting out your fabric positively dreamy.
Psst! Cheap and dull shears will shred up your lovely fabric and make sewing accurately an impossible dream.
The three most well-known brands of shears are Fiskars, Gingher (now owned by Fiskars), and Kai.
I own a pair from each company because I’m a very lucky dressmaker:
- a Kai 5210 8-inch Dressmaker’s Shears;
- a Fiskars RazorEdge Shears for Tabletop Cutting; and
- a Gingher 8-Inch Micro-Serrated Knife Edge Dressmaker’s Shears, Blunt Tip
I bought myself a pair of Kai shears because I read so many wonderful things about them online from a number of sewing professionals.
Apparently, you can cut paper, cardboard, whatever, and the blade doesn’t get dull. I can’t attest to this. But they do cut nicely.
Then, there are my Fiskars RazorEdge Shears for Tabletop Cutting. These are very interesting.
They take the whole concept of bent handles to the extreme to ensure that your fabric has no choice but to stay flat on your cutting surface as you cut.
And finally, let’s talk about my Ginghers!
I love, love my Gingher 8-Inch Micro-Serrated Knife Edge Dressmaker’s Shears. I’m mad crazy about how easy they make cutting lightweight knits and fine, delicate, slippery, silky fabrics.
They work this magic by helping to hold delicate or lightweight fabrics in place.
And that’s not all…
I love how substantial they feel in my hand.
I love looking at them. They are very shiny and pretty.
So if sewing floaty dresses in silky dreamy fabrics or fluid knits are part of your future dreams too, then you will need a pair of serrated dressmaker’s shears.
Sew easy tip #1: According to the experts at Kai, you can cut very thin tissue paper with your dressmaker’s shears and not dull them!
Sew easy tip #2: When funds allow, I recommend that you buy a second pair of dressmaker’s shears so that when one is out being sharpened you are still in business.
RELATED: Click HERE if you’re ready to learn how to cut with your beautiful shears!
Pinking Shears: The Other Shears
When a seam allowance (SA) is “pinked,” bias angles are created — and anything cut on the bias is less likely to fray.
While these are definitely optional shears, they can be very useful:
- You can use them to finish raw edges on fabrics that don’t fray excessively.
- You can use pinking shears as a quick and easy way to trim and notch curves.
- You can use pinking shears to simultaneously trim and clip enclosed seams.
If you decide that pinking shears are for you, make sure to buy a good quality pair. They will be a joy to use and last a very long time.
RELATED: Click HERE if you’re ready to learn how to use your pinking shears!
Plain Ole Scissors
Never ever use your dressmaker’s shears to cut paper.
Because if you do, the sewing gods will descend from heaven and…
Alright, maybe not. But just don’t do it.
After all, once you’ve saved up and paid hard-earned dollars for your lovely dressmaker’s shears why the frack would you even think about treating them like a cheap pair of utility scissors?! Why?!
I really like these Fiskars Everyday Non-Stick Titanium Scissors. Because they cut tape… and (drumroll, please) stay clean. Yep, no more unwanted sticky residue taking up permanent residence on your scissors.
Thread Snips for Tiny Jobs
As for snipping threads, snipping notches, clipping curves, and trimming corners and seam allowances, I use a pair of Gingher 4-inch Lightweight Embroidery Scissors.
I love that they allow you to not only snip threads but also get in close to clip and trim corners without damaging your fabric.
These tiny babies feel good in my hand, look attractive, and can do double duty as a seam ripper.
I have two pairs. I keep one by my sewing machine and one conveniently on my ironing board. Because when I’m in the flow, I don’t want to be running around like a chicken with no head looking for something to snip with.
However, feel free to use traditional thread snips if you prefer something a little less delicate. Click HERE to see the one I like, the Fons & Porter Thread Snippers. But I must warn you that they aren’t as versatile as embroidery scissors.
I’m sorry to be the bearer of a harsh truth:
But unless you are the ONE and ONLY perfect being that has ever lived, at some point, you will have to undo and then redo something you have stitched. I guarantee it!
And when it is your time, a seam ripper will be the tool you use.
The seam ripper is no one’s favorite sewing tool. But they really don’t deserve so much hate.
In fact, a wise dressmaker knows that this tool is a best friend forever (BFF). Her personal sewing CTRL-Z (Undo) — and she keeps it close.
For some reason, regardless of much money you pay for a sewing machine, sewing machine manufacturers insist on including a puny seam ripper as their “gift” to you.
Please for the love of sewing, as you gather your essential sewing toolkit, chuck that puny seam ripper. And invest in a seam ripper worthy of undoing your mistakes.
Personally, I am crushing on the Dritz Seam-Fix Seam Ripper. These seam rippers are The Incredible Hulk of seam rippers.
What I love about my Dritz seam ripper is that you can see it. It fits comfortably in my hand. And get this…
It “erases” those pesky threads from the stitches you unpick without warping your beautiful fabric and trying your patience.
In other words, no more painstakingly trying to remove pesky thread devils with stubby fingernails, tweezers, or Scotch tape.
What’s not to love?!
Sew easy tip: Over time, a seam ripper will get dull. Replace it, please.
RELATED: Click HERE to meet the “hulk” of a seam ripper and learn how to CTRL-Z (unrip) properly!
How to Care for Your Shears
Now that you know why you need to respect your shears, here’s how to show them a little love…
FIRST, after every use wipe the blades clean with a soft microfibre cloth.
And if there is gummy gunk on the blades of your shears, squirt a bit of sewing machine oil on the blades and wipe them free of that mess. You may NOT use any other type of oil to clean your shears!
And then, about once a month if you are sewing frequently and using your shears a lot, do the following…
- Open your shears completely.
- Place a tiny bit of a quality sewing machine oil on both sides of the pivot screw or fulcrum.
- Next, with your blades pointing down, use a cutting regular motion to close and open them a few times.
- Finally, wipe away any excess oil, stroking lovingly along the length of each blade. And you’re done!
This will take you about 30 seconds from start to finish.
Well, you should always wipe your blades clean after every use.
And one more thing:
Don’t drop your shears, because this could damage them! And when shears are damaged, they are less likely to cut accurately or cleanly!
How to Sharpen Your Shears + Scissors
Honestly, my shears haven’t gotten dull enough for me to test this.
But several experienced sewists swear by it. So I thought I would go ahead and share it with you.
When your shears or scissors get dull, get a sheet of Reynolds Wrap Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil Paper, fold it in half, and cut it several times from pivot to tip.
Now, that sounds easy enough if it works. (When I try it out, I’ll let you know.)
UPDATE 02/25/2019: I tried this with my tiny Gingher 4-inch embroidery scissors and it seemed to work. I would use this in a pinch.
Sew easy tip: When your shears go dull, it’s probably best to have them professionally sharpened.
Again, I urge you to buy yourself a quality dressmaker’s shears that feel comfortable in YOUR hands. Gingher and Kai make superb shears.
Then, treat them with all the love and respect you can muster.
Take good care of your shears and they will serve you well for years.
As for the lowly seam ripper, show it some love. It is not your arch enemy. It’s your friend. Your own little CTRL-Z (Undo).
Now that you know the importance of the proper cutting tools and have armed yourself appropriately, you are ready to go forth and cut!
Life is the ultimate red carpet event. Dress for it!