Pinked seams, pinking, and pinks all have something in common. They have an attractive zigzag edge. Dressmakers use pinking shears to cut a zigzag edge on fabric to stop it from fraying. Mother Nature has created delicate flowers with the same zigzag edge to delight gardeners in spring.
What is a Pinked Seam?
A pinked seam is a seam that has been finished with pinking shears. The purpose of the pinked seam is to neaten up the seam allowance without having to sew or use a serger. A sharp pair of pinking shears is required to cut pinked seams. The shears, with their sharp zigzag edges, are ideal for cutting the pinked edges of the completed seams.
Why is the way you cut with pinking shears so important?
It is very important to cut the fabric on the straight grain when using pinking shears to create pinked seams. The reason is each little triangle cut into the fabric is actually cut on the cross or the bias. The blade and the zigzag rows of teeth that make up the shears are designed to cut cross cuts into the grain of the fabric. The cross cut triangles will not fray. This is why the shears must cut along the straight grain. Directing the shears along the straight grain sets the teeth at an angle and enables the teeth to cut into the bias. Cutting curved or diagonal edges is not advisable, because the pinked edges will fray.
Pinked Seams Techniques
You need sharp pinking shears for this process. This is a really important factor. Blunt pinking shears can end up making a mess of your seam allowance and the result is a frayed edge not a neatened seam allowance. That is exactly the kind of edge you are trying to prevent.
Step 1 – Sew the Seam
Sew your seam as per the normal 5/8” seam allowance. Press the seam closed to keep neat edges. There are two schools of thought on the pressing and cutting of the seam allowance. Press the seam closed and cut the two edges together on light to medium weight fabrics. Press the seam open and pink each side individually on medium to heavy weight fabrics.
Step 2 – Cutting Pinked Seams
Have your really sharp pinking shears ready to cut pinked seams. These are often hard and heavy to handle kind of cutting tool; notice they are actually called shears. Look at your shears, and you will notice the handles are different. This is to make the shears comfortable to hold and to give the maxim pressure to the cutting edge.
You can cut through both pieces of fabric on the seam allowance, or one edge at a time. The choice to cut through two pieces of fabric, or one, depends on the fabric. Always try out your process on a scrap of the same fabric because thicker fabrics may not cut cleanly if they are doubled.
Cut with the pinking shears close to the raw edge of the seam allowance. Take long slow cuts through the fabric pressing down on the table or cutting board with a firm controlled hand.
The cutting technique is important. Open the shears and fit the fabric into the shears so the edge of the fabric you plan to cut is right up at the top of the shears. Pinking shears have a long slow slicing action, not a short sharp snipping action. Practice this way of cutting to be sure you can handle the shears properly.
Step 3 – Pressing Pinked Seams
Open out the pinked seams and press firmly through the middle.
If you have decided to pink each side individually you will use your pinking shears twice to neaten both sides of the seam. If you decided to create pinked seams on double fabric then as you open out the seam both sides will already be neatly pinked. The finished seam will be ‘pinked’ on both sides of the seam allowance. This method saves time as you only pink once.
Tips for Pinked Seams
- Always have sharp pinking shears.
- Use this seam technique on medium to heavy weight fabrics.
- Pinked seams are best suited to garments that do not require too much washing and cleaning. A pinked edge is not as hardwearing as a machine neatened seam allowance.
- Long, straight and even cutting with the shears makes a cleaner neater edge.
- Cutting the double seam allowance makes the final outcome neater on the inside.
- Pinked edges are ideal for straight seams or skirts side seams and center back seams.
- Align the teeth of each consecutive cut with the previous cut to get a neat continuous zigzag edge.
- Extra strength to the seam is possible with one line of straight stitching just about ¼” from the pinked edge.
- Never use your pinking shears to cut paper!
Pinked Seams Advantages
Here are the advantages of using pinked seams:
- It is quick and easy to do.
- It prevents bulk on the inside as the seam can be ironed flat and there is no bulky edge caused by turning over the edge of the seam allowance.
- It is useful on fabrics and garments that do not need heavy washing and cleaning.
- Pinked seams on the right side can be used for decorative purposes.
Pinked Seams Disadvantages
Here are the disadvantages of using pinked seams:
- You have to have sharp pinking shears.
- Some fabrics will unravel in spite of having pinked seams.
- Pinking seams are really more suitable for long straight seams.
- Pinking shears can be heavy and difficult to use.
How to Care for Pinking Shears
Pinking shears are precision tools and need to be well looked after. Their cutting ability is dependent on being sharp and clean. Here are some tips to keep your pinking shears in good order.
- Keep the teeth of the blades clean wiping out any threads or lint left after your cutting.
- Sharpen the edges with a cutting wheel or some fine sandpaper. Do not cut aluminum foil or paper with your pinking shears. Remember to only sharpen the flat edges of the teeth. It is not necessary to sharpen between the teeth because it is the edges that do the cutting.
- Ideally, send your pinking shears to a professional to be sharpened.
- Cut wax paper occasionally to help lubricate the shears through the wax residue from the wax paper.
- Oil the shears if they get stiff by putting a few drops of oil on the pivot screw between the blades. Move the shears up and down a few times. Wipe away any leftover oil with a dry cloth.
- Look out for any signs of rust. If you notice rust on your blades take some steel wool and plain soap. Dip the shears in some vinegar and then rub with steel wool and soap.
- Always make sure your pinking shears are stored clean and dry.
Uses for Pinked Seams
There are other exciting ideas and ways to use pinking shears and pinked seams. They can be both practical and decorative at the same time.
The most common type of pinking shears is the zigzag design, but there are other styles and they can cut your fabric differently. Decorative scissors can cut a wave pattern, a scallop pattern, and other ripple patterns, but the zigzag is the most well-known and effective for cutting edges to prevent fraying.
Getting crafty with pinking shears is a great deal of fun. Here are some ideas to play around with and they are suitable for the whole family.
- Pinking the edge of felt crafts has the double effect of neatening and adding a decorative edge. Little purses, bunting, bookmarks, and pincushions all look good with a pinked seams.
- If you are in a hurry to finish a hem, it can be pinked instead. Pink and turn to the right side and sew to make a pretty zigzag effect.
- Make your own ribbon and pink the edges for a decorative variety.
- Cut out applique pieces with pinking shears for a zigzag edge that makes your applique look different and neatens at the same time.
- Use your pinking shears to trim the edges of lavender DIY scented sachets. The lavender aroma will escape through the fabric, and you will be able to run the bags up in no time. Stitch on the outside and trim all the edges. Fill the bag with lavender and stitch across the opening. This is such a quick and easy gift to make or just the right thing for your wardrobe.
Pinked Seams – In Conclusion
Pinking shears and are the best pick up and put to use piece of equipment you have available. Pinked seams add such a pretty edge to anything you have made and they can make a practical difference to the way you finish off something small as a gift, or the inside of something bigger. Always remember to practice first to get the perfect cutting action as you slice through the fabric. Pinking shears are a great asset to every sewing kit and when they are too old for use on fabric then you can put them to use on various papercraft activities. Pinking shears add the cutting edge to your sewing tools.