Scissors play a crucial part in making your sewing designs. They’re can be the difference between easy and fast cuts, or frustration and snagging fabric. Certain types of scissors will also help prevent your edges from fraying, or save you time when you are mid-seam. This post covers the different types, which ones you absolutely need, and product recommendations for the best sewing scissors and shears.
Different Types of Sewing Scissors
Dressmaker shears will be your bread and butter. These are the scissors that most people think of when they think of sewing scissors. Dressmaker shears are longer than most other sewing scissors, usually 7-10″ long. They have a blunted tip, which keeps the scissors from catching and snagging the fabric.
When buying this type of scissor, you want something that is heavy-duty, and made by a company with a reputation for quality. The sharper and tougher your dressmaker shears are, the easier and cleaner your fabric cuts will be. It’s worth the investment in a nice pair! This is the type of scissor you’ll be using the most, so find something that feels comfortable.
Note: make sure you don’t use this scissors for anything other than fabric. It will dull the blade and make it harder to cut fabric.
Scissors? Or Shears?
So far I’ve been using “scissors” and “shears” interchangeably, but this isn’t technically accurate. Scissors and shears have a few differences.
- First, scissors are typically shorter than shears, at six inches or less.
- Next, the handles on scissors are supposed to be roughly equal in size and shape. Shears have a much bigger lower handle for two or more fingers, and a smaller handle for just your thumb.
- Last, and most important for sewing: shears typically have blades that do not come straight out from the handles. Instead, the blades are at an angle to the handles. Why? It allows you to cut fabric easily when it is on a table or countertop, with the lower blade resting on the table surface. This makes your cuts more stable, and as a result, more precise.
You’ve probably seen a pair of pinking shears before. The defining characteristic of pinking shears are their zig-zag edges. These are used to cut seam edges. The zig-zag pattern keeps seam edges from fraying or unraveling. Note: sergers can also be useful for finishing edges.
Like dressmaker shears, you should be sure not to use these on any non-fabric material. There are cheaper, paper-only pinking shears for sale at craft stores, but I highly recommend that you go with a slightly more expensive (~$3-5) and get shears that are meant for cutting fabric.
Thread snips do exactly what their name says: they snip thread. When you are working on a seam, and come to the end of it, it is handy to have a pair of thread snips nearby to cut the loose thread. They are small and lightweight, so it is much easier to reach behind the sewing foot with snips than it is with big scissors.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money here. Thread snips are cheap, and you can get a good pair for $5-15. If you have kids, I recommend getting a pair that have some kind of safety feature on them. Some of the cheaper options have an exposed blade, so it can be worth the extra few dollars to get one with a cover, or a locking mechanism when small hands are nearby.
Basic Craft Scissors
The reason these are on the list is because you’ll need to cut things like paper patterns, but as mentioned above, you definitely shouldn’t use your fabric shears on paper! This will ruin or dull your blade. “Don’t use fabric scissors on paper” was the number one rule in my mom’s sewing room. 🙂
You’ll want a pair of basic craft scissors laying around to handle cutting paper, and any other miscellaneous cuts. Cheap is fine here. You likely have a pair in your house already, but it’s nice to have a dedicated pair of scissors set aside for sewing, so you don’t have to chase them down every time you need them.
There are plenty of other accessories, both for general sewing, and specialized work. Here, we’ll just cover two: a seam ripper and a rotary cutter.
A seam ripper is just what it sounds like. It’s used to rip out, well, mistakes. It has two points on the end with a sharp blade in between. You catch the seam threads with the long point, and the thread is cut on the blade. This is very handy to have around, unless you don’t make any mistakes. : )
Rotary cutters are great for cutting squares of fabric for quilts, although you could use them to cut other straight lines. Think of them as pizza cutters, but for fabric. Again, if you have kids around, it’s best to look for an option that has a safety feature to cover or retract the blade.
Which Sewing Scissors You Absolutely Need
If you buy nothing else, get a quality pair of dressmaker shears, and a cheap pair of basic craft scissors. The dressmaker shears can cover all of your fabric cuts, and the craft scissors can cover all of your paper and thread cuts.
If you can spend more, considering buying pinking shears and thread snips. Pinking shears will help create nice edges on seams that otherwise might unravel or fray. Thread snips are pretty cheap and a very handy and time-saving tool to have nearby.
If you are buying a new sewing machine, most packages come with a seam ripper (and a few other tools) included. Best to check before you buy an extra pair.
Best Sewing Scissors to Buy
For each of the categories listed above, here are our top picks for scissors.
The first pair of shears on the list is from Gingher, known for their high quality. These 8″ shears have spring-action, which means they open up after each cut. This is great if you have issues with your hands, like arthritis. It’s also great if you are doing a LOT of cutting, because your hands will get tired otherwise. Because they’re spring-action, they have a close latch (which is also great for safety if kids are nearby). Plus, Gingher shears are damn stylish.
I bought these a few years ago knowing that Gingher scissors are awesome, but these are unbelievable! I do a ton of repetitive cutting which was killing my hand, and these took the pain away.
| Spring action|
| No padding on handle|
Next up on the list is a surprise favorite from several veteran seamstresses, even a few who were loyal Gingher fans. Kai scissors, based out of Japan, have a plain but functional pair of shears for nearly half the price of the Gingher option. 8″ long. While they don’t have spring action, they are lightweight.
These scissors are without a doubt the very best scissors I’ve ever used. They’re super sharp, easy to handle, and remarkable to use. They cut through fabric like it’s butter.
Very sharp and high quality
| Not as stylish|
No padding on handle
Despite being made of stainless steel, these Mantuas 8″ shears are actually the lightest option on this list. This is the pair to buy if you like the look of the Gingher pair, but want something that is lighter, and a little less expensive. It’s the best of both worlds at 4.8 ounces. It also comes with a lifetime “Stays Sharp for Life!” guarantee.
The scissors are high-quality. They are sturdy and super sharp, and the weight makes handling quite enjoyable – not too heavy to tire out my hands, but the heftiness helps to make precise cut.
| Lifetime guarantee|
Users said sharp enough to cut through heavy materials
| Some reviewers said that the balance of the shears was “off”|
No padding on handle
These pinking shears from P.LOTOR come in pink(ish)… well, purple. These are affordable and have rubber handles for nicer grip. The spacing between the blades is nice (this can be an issue for pinking shears). Several users said that these were very sharp and worked on almost all fabrics, including denim, but didn’t work on leather. P.LOTOR also offers a 2-pack options with one zig-zag edge and one scalloped edge.
But, they were a pleasant surprise. They cut very well, even multiple layers of wool suiting. These are better than some top name brand ones costing almost 4 times as much.
Comfortable padded handles
Good for nearly all fabrics
| Start out stiff but improves with use|
One user said that the part of the scissors closest to the handle tore fabric, instead of cutting it. This means that they couldn’t use the full length of the blade.
Fiskars is another classic brand that has been around for ages and is known for high quality. These pinking shears come in both standard and “soft grip” handle options. They also come with a lifetime warranty.
The cuts are very precise and all edges are clean. If used correctly, you can easily savor the clean, sharp precise cutting edges for many years. It’s easy for me to give these pinking shears 5 stars, and I think you will as well!
| Fiskars high quality|
Padded handle option
|Some users said these were stiff and needed to be WD40’d|