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Sewing 101: Top Five Cutting Tools For Sewing

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You've all heard the famous advice: "Measure twice, Cut once!" I think it should be expanded to: "Measure twice, Cut once... but only with a really good pair of scissors or rotary cutter!" The most expensive ingredient in most home décor projects is your fabric, and you'll end up wasting it if you don't have good quality cutting tools. Don't skimp on these important members of your sewing basket. It really is worth it to buy the very best you can afford. Here are the Five Essential Cutting Tools that will help you get the best results.


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Did your grandma have a pair of scissors that were completely off-limits to you? Those were probably her good sewing shears. Shears look like scissors but have blades more than 6" long and different handle loops for your fingers and thumb. A good pair of shears will glide through fabric like butter and last you a lifetime. All you need to do is sharpen them occasionally, oil the pivot screw, and never use them to cut anything but fabric (see grandma).


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In sewing jargon, scissors have blades under 6" and identical handle loops for your fingers and thumb. Use your scissors for cutting patterns, stray threads, tape, etc. But don't use them to cut fabric.


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These small scissors with pointy blades are perfect for reaching in and snipping stray threads. Keep a pair by your sewing machine.

Rotary Cutter & Cutting Mat

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These look like pizza cutters and were originally designed for quilt making. Their razor-sharp edge allows you to cut the fabric as it rolls over it. You never have to lift the blade, so your fabric doesn't move and you make fewer cutting errors. As you might have guessed, your rotary cutter needs a special cutting surface. These "cutting mats" come in various sizes, have handy grid lines on them, and are are self-healing (unlike your hand should you accidentally run over it with a rotary cutter). Get the biggest mat you can fit on your sewing table, because the larger your cutting mat, the less you'll have to move your fabric. For even more detail about this tool, read our rotary cutter product review.

Seam Ripper

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If you want your projects to look professional, you have to be willing to re-do seams that don't look quite right. A nice, sharp seam ripper will help you undo seams without damaging your fabric. It doesn't actually rip the seam but neatly slices the sewing thread, allowing you to try, try again. Here's more information on ripping out seams.

Tips For Cutting Tools

  • When cutting fabric, keep the bottom blade of your shears on the cutting surface. This will allow them to glide smoothly through the fabric.
  • The less you move your fabric when cutting, the fewer errors you'll have. Use clamps to hold your fabric when measuring and cutting (see our article about Measuring & Marking Tools).
  • When it's time to sharpen the blades on your best shears, have it done professionally. You'll see a big difference.
  • Use your rotary cutter when you need to cut through two or more layers at once.
  • Rotary cutters can cut you too. When not in use, or even when you simply set it down between cuts, always retract the blade or put on the cover.


Comments (21)

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

There was a formatting issue on this comment from Helen:

I have a question I hope you ladies can answer, my Nan told me that when  cutting  material I should either close them all the way  OR  to  NOT close them all the way.  I can’t remember which the correct one is.  Can you help.

However, this isn't a tip I'm familiar with (mostly because we cut so much more often with rotary cutters). I'm going to come down on the side of not closing all the way as that way the scissors have more of a slicing action.

yousER said:
yousER's picture

thanks for these information,,now i had complete my assignment....thank you,,,god bless

yousEr namE ko 24 said:
yousEr namE ko 24's picture

thanks for the answer.....now i complete my assignment..

Aby said:
Aby's picture

I had to have a talk with the family about how important my shears are to me and why i bought kitchen scissors for all their other stuff.

Since then ... I can guarantee their safety :)

Veronica Sison said:
Veronica Sison's picture

Thank you for this article,most people nowadays probably think that's awkward but it's such a useful thing in our daily lives.

guyie said:
guyie's picture
Hi, my kids NEVER touched sewing things, My son, when he grew up, bought me the greatest set of sissors from Snao ON Tools. I lOVE them If you want the best, get them from Snap ON tools. you won't regret it. they come in a beautful case, and have three sizes . Good Luck To Everyone. Thank you, guyie
sew2day said:
sew2day's picture
I always put my shears and scissors back where they belong, so of course, everyone knew where to go for them when they needed to cut something. So, I machine embroidered a lovely sampler I framed and hung above where I keep my best cutting tools. It reads: Touch these scissors and die! I still remember my young son's face as he came out of my sewing studio the day after I hung that sampler. He had a concerned look and said, "You're just kidding, Mom, right?" I gave him my best stern look and said, "No!" As far as I know, that was the last time he went in there to use the 'good' scissors!
Beth T. said:
Beth T.'s picture
A combination lock? Oh Shana, how funny! My mom was like Carol, and used a stern look and dire warnings to keep us away from what we called her "fabric scissors". I inherited those from her, and they are still sharp and useful--making me thankful that we paid attention.
dahlya said:
dahlya's picture
i agree with regina! labelling the scissors is a very good idea! i just thought of it yesterday, after months of owning scissors and sewing machines! well, it's never too late to start!smilies/cheesy.gifsmilies/wink.gif
regina918 said:
regina918's picture
I mark all my shears and scissors "FABRIC ONLY"! Everyone knows how crazy I get about people using my scissors and shears...smilies/smiley.gif
Shana Mykytiuk Reeder said:
Shana Mykytiuk Reeder's picture
I used to put a combination lock through the handles of my "good" scissors so that no one else could use them!
CarolC said:
CarolC's picture
My children would probably tell you that they grew up with the threat of a long, painful death if they ever used my good shears to cut anything. Even my husband would look at me and say things like, it's just this little tag or piece of paper or whatever. I can still hear the words, "Don't you dare", coming out of my mouth. Needless to say, nobody died and I still have my good pair of shears after all these years!