When you are learning to sew, it pays to spend just a bit of money for quality cutting tools. So, how do we find these good tools? And what do we want – fabric shears or fabric scissors?
For cutting fabric, you will want good sharp fabric shears, but for cutting your paper sewing patterns and other paper items, you will want scissors. The reason for this is that cutting paper will dull the blades of your fabric shears.
You will also want to avoid cutting other things with your fabric shears, for fear of nicking the blades. If the blades are nicked or dulled in spots, they will chew your fabric instead of making a nice smooth cut for you.
What is the difference between scissors and shears? Some say it's just a difference in length, with shears being longer than scissors, but there is another difference.
Scissors have handles (the bows) which are the same size. The blades emerge from the very center of the bows.
Shears, on the other hand, have one handle which is larger than the other, and the blades look bent, from the side. This allows the blades to slip along the table surface without being lifted when fabric is being cut.
Nonetheless, a lot of people refer to the instrument they use to cut out their fabrics as their “fabric scissors”.
How do you tell if the scissors or shears you have are quality-made? Blades of scissors and shears are ground so that they are just very slightly concave. The blades only make contact with each other at one point along their length when the blades are open to any given position.
If you hold the closed scissors flat in front of a light, you should be able to see light between the blades, except at the very tips, which should touch.
Also, if you hold the open scissors up in the air by one handle and allow the blades to close gently by themselves, they should remain open from about halfway down the blades. This is where the blades begin to contact each other.
If your scissors close completely or not at all, you may want to look for a more carefully manufactured pair for ease of use.
Also, the surface of the scissor blades should be extremely smooth, to prevent the tearing or catching of the materials being cut.
So when you go to get sewing tools for cutting fabric, it will be easier to use shears (not scissors), because they will slide along the cutting table surface smoothly. Also, look for the quality characteristics I have mentioned above, so the cut will be smooth and easy on your cutting hand.
When you are looking for a cutting tool to trim patterns and other paper notions, you will want to pick up a nice pair of scissors, to avoid dulling your fabric shears.
There are, of course, other types of cutting tools which sewists use, and we'll be talking about those also, in future articles.