A list of the most important cutting tools used in sewing.
There are some sarong-style skirts and tie tops you can make with shawls and scarves – other than that, all sewing involves some cutting. And cutting paper patterns, fabric, and thread before and during sewing is one of the essential facets of sewing that I have a post it separately on how to cut fabric.
When you need a job well done, you need the right tools. So here are some excellent cutting tools you should be shopping for. 13 of them.
In this article I will cover:
- Sewing cutting tools and their functions
- 1. Angled Fabric scissors
- 2. Paper-cutting scissors
- 3. Small sharp fabric scissors
- 4. Duckbill scissors
- 5. Pinking shears
- 6. Thread snips
- 7. Rotary cutters
- 8. Buttonhole cutters
- 9. Curved embroidery scissors
- 10. Double curved embroidery scissors
- 11. Seam-ripper
- 12. Awl
- 13. Exacto-blade
- Some tips on caring for your sewing fabric cutting tools
Sewing cutting tools and their functions
1. Angled Fabric scissors
There are many types of fabric scissors ideal for fabric cutting. You can get different kinds, from the flimsiest to the heavy-duty ones.
If you are seriously sewing more than two times a month, buy the best you can get.
I would get Heavy-duty angled scissors that cut fabric in one long stroke. The blades of the scissors should have a length of 8 to 12 inches.
If you are sewing a great deal with satin, crepe, and such lightweight fabrics which are slippery, you will need to buy micro-serrated scissors. These scissors have micro serrations at their edges – you cannot see them – but they are great for holding the fabric and preventing slipping, which can result in uneven cuts.
Bendhanded shears are great if you are very particular about cutting straight edges. The blades of these scissors lie flat against your cutting surface and make cutting smooth.
I have seen pictures of some scissors with little clips, which I thought were genius. I am constantly losing the scissors while cutting fabric; mostly, they are under the fabric folds, sometimes hiding in the back of the table. These clips to your dress and no more frantic searches – cutting heaven. But you cannot clip the heavy ones.
2. Paper-cutting scissors
You need these scissors to cut all those papers in making patterns, or if you have a pattern already, you need to cut it out in size.
Papercutting scissors are one of the essential cutting tools you should have in your sewing kitty. For one, you need these scissors to keep your fabric scissors sharp. (The best way is to hide it from family – they always go for my fabric scissors for anything and everything they want to cut. Sacrilege!).
I have sewing friends who use their fabric shears to cut the paper and then complain about all scissors being horrible. Do not even think about using your fabric scissors for this job. Nada – that is the death of your dependable little joe. – I mean the fabric scissors as it once was before you cut paper.
3. Small sharp fabric scissors
These small scissors are ideal for cutting small motifs for applique and for trimming and snipping seam allowances. These scissors usually have a 4 inch blade.
4. Duckbill scissors
These scissors are specially meant for clipping the extra fabric in your applique work.
These scissors have a paddle-shaped blade (which resembles a duck’s bill) that provides a clear-cutting path, and you can cut very close to the applique stitches with this one.
5. Pinking shears
These pinking scissors have a zigzag edge which prevents the fabric edges from fraying and unraveling. Pinking is great and easy way to finish fabric edges.
6. Thread snips
This handy little tool helps cut the threads when sewing or doing embroidery. You can also use it to snip seam allowances.
Always keep it near you, cut threads as you sew, and save yourself from those chores later. The one with a neck strap is my favorite.
7. Rotary cutters
These cutting tools look like pizza cutters and usually come with self-healing mats on which you place the fabric and cut. A rotary cutter is perfect if you frequently have to cut many layers of fabric at once.
These are useful for cutting thick fabric like faux fur, felt, and vinyl. You will not believe the clean, smooth cut this one gives.
Just like scissors, you should not be cutting paper with this if you do not want to dull the edges. Most rotary cutters come with spare disc blades.
You also need a cutting mat to go with this tool- because you will be keeping it on a surface and cutting and just imagining the plight of that surface if it is not prepared. The self-healing cutting mat is very forgiving. An ordinary cutting mat will protect the surface of your table – it would not self-heal from the wounds.
And do you know there is an electronic version – OMG, the cutting I would do if I can get my hands on it – but I would be wary of getting my hands on it, lest I don’t have one anymore. Rotary tools are dangerous tools as they are; I have heard horror stories of fingers getting chopped off.
Learn more about using a rotary cutter with a cutting mat here.
A buttonhole cutter is a chisel-shaped tool that makes minor cuts in the fabric. Usually, it is used to cut out the buttonhole, and it does this job very well. It gives you a sharp, neat cut. This tool sometimes comes with a small mat, or you can use a wooden piece to place the fabric for cutting.
To make a clean cut, place the chisel in the center of the buttonhole, and push it down sharply onto the fabric between the threads of the buttonhole. No more fraying of threads or fumbling with the seam ripper, or being agitated by the too-big cut you made with the scissors.
9. Curved embroidery scissors
These are small scissors with a small curve at the tip, making cutting thread when embroidery very easy. The angled tip will work very well on top of raised embroidery work and allows you to make close cuts.
10. Double curved embroidery scissors
These are scissors with a curve in the handle which fits very well over the embroidery hoops.
The curved handle of these scissors gives easy access to threads inside embroidery hoops over the hoop and under the presser foot when doing machine embroidery. The sharp blades get into tight spaces effortlessly.
I should have mentioned this as the first most essential cutting tool. I depend on this small little tool for my sewing life – so many wrong seams, all cut open with this handy thingie, to be set right again.
Whoever invented this thing has my gratitude for all his /her hundred lives.
The seam ripper cuts open threads without jeopardizing the fabric. Keep the thing in its plastic case and away from kids when not in use.
Related posts: How to use a seam ripper properly.
This tool makes small holes in your fabric, like the one you want for metal grommets (eyelets). You find you can sew reasonably well when you do not have this one. But once you buy it, you wonder how you sew without it.
You will find many uses for this tool, like feeding gathered fabric into the needle, turning corners, when bookbinding, and doing eyelet embroidery. Check out this post for other tools used to attach metal grommets here.
You may wonder about the use of an exacto-blade in sewing. I use it to make stencils for fabric painting. I also use it for making small cuts, especially small buttonholes for cloth buttons or drawstrings, where the buttonholer would make a too-big hole.
I have this manly feeling when I lay out my super sharp, well-maintained cutting tools in front of me. Into the feminine world of dresses, dress forms, and pretty threads, enter these cutting tools – these turn the vibe into something else. Aren’t you proud of your cutting tools?
Some tips on caring for your sewing fabric cutting tools
- Always keep your cutting tools clean. Wipe each of them with a clean dry soft cloth if you feel it is dirty or has lint on it.
- Please keep them in their casing when not in use. These tools are sharp if they are any good and can harm kids and pets if not stored safely.
- Oil them to prevent rust. I use my sewing machine oil for this. Just a single drop on the screws is all that is needed. Remember to wipe the tools with a dry cloth thoroughly.
- Sharpen them professionally or yourself if you know how to if you feel some dullness in the blades. Dull blades can botch a good fabric.
- For more tips for sharpening and maintaining your scissors check out the post – How to sharpen scissors