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Pinking shears are specialized scissors which are designed for use in cutting fabric. The blades have a distinctive sawtoothed edge which creates a zigzag pattern when fabric is cut. While these scissors were developed for the dressmaking trade, they are also sometimes utilized in art and craft projects where the scalloped edge look is desired.
The origins of the term “pink” or “pinking” in reference to a scalloped cut are a bit obscure. Some etymologists have suggested that the term may be a reference to the ruffled edges of carnations, sometimes known as pinks. Whatever the origins, pinking shears have been around since the late 1800s, and they have proved extremely useful to dressmakers and other people who work with fabric.
When fabric is pinked, the scalloped edge is less likely to unravel, and if it does, the lengths of thread will typically be short. This can be a useful trait for projects which need to be finished quickly, and for cuts which will be hidden, but critical to the integrity of the finished piece; for example, pinking shears can be used to cut fabric which will be sewn together, ensuring that the fabric does not start to ravel at the seams once the finished piece has been assembled.
Pinking shears may also be used decoratively. Some people like the scalloped look, and it is also possible to find pinking shears which cut in other patterns, including curved scallops. In the case of garments with cut edges which will show, the shears can add an extra dimension of visual interest. These sewing tools can also be useful for cutting fabrics used in applique and other fabric crafts, and for making decorative trim in a hurry.
Like other scissors designed for use with fabric, pinking shears should only be used on fabric, to prevent the dulling of the blades. They should also be periodically oiled and sharpened to ensure that the edges stay crisp so that the shears will cut fabric neatly. If the shears start to mangle and crush fabric, rather than cutting, they are definitely due for a sharpening. It is also not a good idea to cut through too many layers of fabric at once with pinking shears, as the cuts may become uneven and irregular, and the layers may dull the shears.