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What are Fabric Scissors?

By Lou Paun
Updated May 16, 2024
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Fabric scissors are scissors with extremely sharp blades made for cutting fabric. Technically, those shorter than six inches (15.24 cm) are called fabric scissors while longer scissors are called fabric shears, but the terms are often used interchangeably. Some types of scissors have specially shaped blades that make them suitable for specialized sewing jobs.

High quality fabric scissors have tempered steel or stainless steel blades that create an even cut along the entire length of the blade, all the way to the tips. In some models, the blades are very slightly beveled to create sharper cutting edges. Some models have micro-serrated blades for the same reason.

The blades are joined with a tiny screw, not a rivet, in good quality fabric scissors. This means that the scissors can be adjusted or repaired if they are damaged. The screw can also be lubricated with sewing machine oil.

Many types of scissors are available to suit the needs and preferences of sewers. Scissors designed for left-handed sewers are very helpful. Scissors with cushioned handles are especially comfortable for sewers with arthritic fingers. Some scissors have the blades set at an angle, so they can remain flat on the cutting surface during use.

Sewers often purchase pinking scissors as well as straight bladed scissors. In fact, the two kinds of scissors are sometimes sold as a set. The blades of pinking scissors are toothed, like saw blades. They work together to cut a zig-zag edge in fabric. Pinking scissors are used to grade seams and to make fray-resistant edges.

Test the store models before purchasing fabric scissors. The shears should feel almost like an extension of the sewer’s hand. Try cutting layers of fabric and fabrics of different weights before making a decision.

Never cut anything but fabric with these scissors. It’s the quickest way to dull the blades and ruin the scissors’ performance. Avoid cutting over the tips of pins.

Fabric scissors should be professionally sharpened occasionally. The frequency depends on how much they’re used and what kinds of fabrics they cut. Synthetic fabrics dull blades more quickly than natural fabrics. Most good fabric stores can recommend a professional to sharpen scissors. Many manufacturers will sharpen scissors for their purchasers, too.

Taking care of fabric scissors is simple. Wipe fabric dust and lint off the blades after they’re used to keep the blades sharp. Protect the points when the scissors are stored. Oil the screw occasionally. Keep the scissors dry. Don’t drop the scissors. With good care, high quality scissors can last a lifetime.

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Discussion Comments

By anon266693 — On May 07, 2012

I didn't find out exactly what I was looking for. I was hoping to find some more detail on what they're actually used for instead of hearing about what you do to keep them in top condition. If I wanted to find out about that, then it's a good article, otherwise, it needs more information about more general things.

By naturesgurl3 — On Aug 07, 2010

Fabric scissors can also be good for doing little crafts with kids, since they come in so many different kinds.

For instance, pinking shears make a fun edge for a little girl's bag, and you can use scalloped fabric scissors to make fun felt designs.

Of course it's probably better to have an adult on hand to do the actual cutting, but the kids can enjoy the shapes!

By galen84basc — On Aug 07, 2010

This was a very helpful article to me -- I am just starting to get into sewing as a hobby, and was debating whether I really needed special scissors for fabric, and if so, what kinds were out there.

Now I know -- very helpful article, thank you!

By closerfan12 — On Aug 07, 2010

I have to tell you, buying a good set of fabric scissors is one of the most important things when you're assembling your quilting supplies.

It sounds like an overstatement, but even if you're only making a small quilt, you will still be doing a lot of cutting, so you want to make sure you get a good pair.

Some people try to scrape by with craft scissors (as I did on my first quilt) but really, you should just invest in a pair of fabric scissors.

It will make your project that much easier and more enjoyable, and gives your quilt a much more finished look.

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