If you have been to your local fabric shop lately, you will know there is a mind-boggling array of cutting tools for sewing to choose from. Here I will give you a quick guide to selecting the best sewing scissors and cutting tools for your projects.
Cutting Tools for Sewing Tutorial
I bet you're thinking, "But aren't all scissors alike? Don't they all do the same job? Well, they do all cut something but looks can be deceptive!
There are several different types of cutting tools for sewing that you will need to make your sewing efficient and without frustration.
The 8 Best Cutting Tools for Sewing
These are the most common cutting tools for sewing that you should keep in your sewing kit. Check the end of this article for some extra ones that advanced sewers may like to use.
- Fabric shears
- All-purpose cheap scissors for paper
- Thread snippers
- Embroidery scissors
- Rotary cutters
- Pinking shears
- For lefties - Left-handed scissors
- Seam ripper
If you are on a strict budget, then prioritize fabric shears, paper scissors, and a seam ripper. Even if these are all you can afford, you will be able to produce lovely sewing projects that you will be proud of.
1. Fabric Shears (Fabric Cutting Tools)
A pair of fabric shears will be one of your most used and important cutting tools for sewing. The best sewing scissors are specially designed to cut fabric.
Your fabric scissors (also called shears or dressmakers scissors) should be sharp enough to cut through several layers of fabric at one time. This means they will need to be medium to large-sized. Small scissors just don't cut through fabric and often leave burred, messy edges. They will also hurt your fingers and leave major indents by the end of most cutting tasks.
Make sure you choose a pair with comfortable handles for your fingers! If possible, try a few pairs in your local fabric shop and see what is the most comfortable. And most importantly, don’t use them for anything but fabric, or they will dull quickly.
When you look at some of the prices of fabric shears in comparison to the average paper-cutting scissors, you might think they are a bit expensive. But trust me, this is one of the best investments in your beginning sewer kit. They will be the most used item in your sewing room.
When I first started sewing, my Mum always taught me that the sewing scissors stayed in the sewing room and only cut fabric. Of course, my sister and I often snuck them out since we knew they were the sharpest scissors in the house and would cut anything! If your scissors have gone blunt, read my article on how to sharpen scissors.
Keep your fabric scissors rust-free, or you will run the chance of getting marks on the fabric you are cutting.
2. All-Purpose (Cheap) Scissors
I always have a few cheap pairs of scissors from local discount stores in my cupboard to cut paper patterns.
Downloadable sewing patterns, in particular, which are printed on regular printer paper, can dull your expensive fabric shears. This means it is better to use a pair of paper scissors.
You may find the occasional cheap pair of scissors will cut fabric, but they quickly wear down and stop cutting. So save the cheap pairs for paper.
3. Thread Snippers
These are one of my must-have cutting tools for sewing. I always have a pair of thread snips next to my machine when sewing to quickly cut threads.
Thread snippers have no handles, so they quickly snip by pressing the blades together.
Just watch your fingers as they are usually very sharp.
The added advantage of thread snippers is that they are great for cutting the ends of stitching close to the fabric.
4. Embroidery Scissors
Ever notice those vintage stork-shaped little scissors your Grandma had? These are embroidery scissors.
Small with thin blades, they are designed to snip away stray threads close to the fabric. Modern pairs may look a little plainer but still do a great job of snipping threads.
5. Rotary cutters
Rotary cutters look like pizza cutters but are made to cut fabric instead. Many sewers swear by their rotary cutters as the best sewing cutter tool, but I tend to avoid them after a couple of nasty accidents years ago. (Notice I said a couple – I didn’t learn the first time!)
So if you are less clumsy than me, rotary cutters can be a great way to quickly and accurately cut straight and even curved lines. Look for ones with safety features to protect your fingers.
Rotary cutters are mainly used to cut straight edges such as squares for quilting, but I have also seen some very competent cutters use them for cutting entire pattern pieces, curves, and all. When using a rotary cutter, may sure you keep extra blades handy. Blunt blades make it harder to cut and more likely to slip. It will also burr the edges of some fabrics like Lycra.
Extra Equipment for Using Cutters
When using a rotary cutter, you need a few extra items to make your job easier.
- CUTTING MAT - You will need a self-healing cutting mat underneath when cutting so you don’t mark your table. The cutting mats usually have grid lines on them to accurately cut squares.
- QUILTING RULER - The other item which is necessary is a quilting ruler or metal ruler, which you will use to guide the cutter straight. Freehand cutting is for more experienced sewers and those wanting to cut curves - but don't worry, as you will get there! Just start with a ruler and learn to cut straight first. You can purchase non-slip rulers which grip the fabric and, as the name suggests, stop them from slipping while you are cutting.
Read my full tutorial on: How to Use a Rotary Cutter
6. Pinking Shears
I love my pinking shears. Pinking shears have a zig-zag edge instead of a straight edge like regular scissors. As well as looking pretty, they stop the edges of fabric from fraying and are great for trimming curved seams.
Make sure you test them in-store adequately before buying, as cheap pairs often don’t cut very well and burr the edges of the fabric. Read more about pinked seams. Keep your pinking shears away from paper crafts, as they can be hard to sharpen and are generally quite pricey to start with.
7. Left-Handed Scissors
My mother is left-handed and often struggles to use my fabric shears over long periods, so I had to add in this section. If you are left handed consider investing in a specialty pair of scissors for lefties designed to make your life more comfortable.
8. Seam Rippers
While this is neither scissors nor a cutter, a seam ripper is a very useful tool for cutting threads. Depending on where you live, this may be called an unpicker. Seam rippers have one longer pointed end and another shorter end with a red ball on it to prevent the fabric from ripping by accident.
Just make sure you keep a few handy and stock up regularly, as the cutting part of the blade does get dull quickly. Luckily they are really cheap cutting tools for sewing.
Further Reading: How to Use a Seam Ripper.
What are the Brands of the Best Sewing Scissors?
Some of the most reputable scissor brands of scissors and cutting tools for sewing that I have used are Mundial, Fiskars, and Gingher.
My main fabric shears are from Mundial and are all metal. The best thing about investing in good pairs of scissors is that you can always get them sharpened if they get blunt. I've had mine for over 10 years, and they have been sharpened several times. Best of all, they are red!
If you are on a budget, then spend most of it on your main sewing scissors or rotary cutter and get cheaper brands for the other tools. Also, look for sewing scissor kits that may include some extra accessories to cut down your costs in other areas.
Cutting Tools for Sewing - Advanced Sewers
Here are a few extra tools that you won't use every day but that more experienced sewers may like to add to their sewing kits.
9. Curved Scissors
I keep a small pair of curved scissors in my drawers for cutting round objects like felt flowers and applique. They help give a nice smooth edge.
10. Electric Scissors
Did you know you can get electric scissors? Electric scissors let you cut through multiple layers of fabric with little or no effort. These types of scissors are often used in clothing production and are great if you are planning on starting a sewing business. Most are rechargeable and lightweight and ergonomic to save your hand from pain when doing extensive cutting.
11. Duckbill Scissors
These strange-looking scissors have a large flat area on one side. They are designed to protect the fabric from accidental holes or cuts. Duckbill scissors are used for applique and lingerie making. When sewing lace in lingerie, the fabric behind the lace often needs to be cut away, and this can make it easier. Regular scissors would snag on the lace.
An awl is a tool for poking holes in fabric or leather and is useful when using grommets, studs, and snaps. The metal tip of an awl can be straight or slightly bent. Kam snaps are commonly used plastic snaps for sewing and need an awl in order for the post to go through the fabric.
13. Buttonhole Cutters
Buttonhole cutters cut the middle out of a buttonhole once it has been sewn. If you have ever cut a buttonhole with scissors or a seam ripper, then you know that the potential for overcutting is very real. These handy little cutting tools for sewing will cut a clean slit with very little effort.
A buttonhole cutter must be used with a small cutting mat underneath so it doesn't mark your table. Always start from the outside edge of the buttonhole and then, if you need the slit to be longer, move to the opposite outside edge. When you use this little tool, you generally don't need to use a Fray Stop solution on the edges of the fabric.
NEXT - How to Cut Fabric
Once you have all your cutting tools for sewing, it is time to actually start cutting and then sewing. Here I have a helpful tutorial on how to cut fabric which will give you all the tips and pointers that you need.
Cutting Tools for Sewing - In Conclusion
So here is my list of cutting tools for sewing. Do you have any special scissors in your sewing kit or recommendations for cutting tools in sewing that you can’t do without? Share your thoughts and tips in the comments.