Selecting and Using Equipment: Cutting Tools

The quality of the cutting tool and the way it's used will directly affect the fit of the garment. Scissors that shred cloth and push or pull it out of line cause changes in the size and shape of fabric pieces.

If these tools are to maintain a sharp cutting edge, they should be used only for cutting thread and fabric. High-quality shears or scissors are expensive, but with proper care and use they should last a lifetime. Buy the best quality available within your budget.

The best shears and scissors are made from hot-dropped, forged, surgical steel and have been coated with nickel or chrome to prevent rust. The screw should maintain blade tension, not allow it to loosen or tighten. The cutting action should be smooth, even, and clean for the full length of the blade. The tool should be easy to use and feel comfortable in your hand. Before purchasing, try several pairs on single and doubled layers of various fabrics. Cut the fabric using the full length of the blades.

With the blades still closed, pull them away from the fabric. If they have rough edges or hooked points, they will not free the fabric. Dull areas on the blades leave poorly cut areas of fabric or will not cut at all. Also look for comfort and ease during the cutting process.

The weight and size of the selected tool should be compatible with the weight of the specific fabric. Lightweight scissors or shears will not cut heavyweight fabric accurately. Fabric that's too heavy can spring a tool that's too light, thereby damaging it for future use.

Dropping scissors or shears can break the tips or the screw holding the blades together; it can also spring the blades so they no longer have the proper tension to cut accurately. Cutting tools should be stored flat in a closed, dry place. Some are sold with a sheath to cover and protect the blades.


This tool is of heavy construction and is shaped with a smaller handle for the thumb and a larger handle to accommodate the last three fingers. Such a formation permits excellent control and the application of considerable pres sure. Shears are used for extensive cutting tasks on thick fabric or multilayers of fabric. The most common sizes of shears are 7 inches (17.5 cm) and 8 inches (20 cm). The handles are shaped for either the right hand or the left hand. (It is almost impossible for a left-handed person to use right-handed shears or vice versa.)

The blades of straight shears extend outward between the two handles. The blades of bent shears are even with the lower (large ring) handle. Bent shears permit more accurate cutting because the angle allows the blades to lie more nearly parallel to the table. Shears with serrated blades prevent a fluid fabric from moving away from the pattern edges and the blades during cutting.

Lightweight shears are widely marketed; if they are made of good steel, they are serviceable for lightweight fabrics. However, with these shears heavier fabrics must be cut one layer at a time to maintain cutting accuracy and to prevent damaging the shears. Many cheap imitations of top-quality lightweight shears have flooded the market. They are not tempered, they dull easily, cut poorly, have riveted blades, and usually can't be sharpened.


Scissors are usually less than 6 inches (15 cm) long and are of lighter construction than shears. They are used for delicate jobs of snipping or for cutting light- to medium-weight fabric at the sewing machine, ironing board, or fitting area. The blade and handle are usually straight, but bent types are available. Frequently both handles have ring openings of the same size. To be effective, scissor tips must be very pointed and sharp.


The blades on clippers are either riveted together or connected with a loop of spring steel. Clippers don't have traditional handles. This tool should operate with a brisk, spring-hinge action. It permits quick snipping of thread ends and seam stitches during fitting and construction. Most brands are not heavy enough to snip fabric; to attempt to do so damages the blade tension. Some people hang the clippers on a loop of tape around the neck to keep them accessible while fitting or sewing.


This device aids rapid removal of unwanted stitching. Both large and small rippers are available. The point is usually protected with a cap. A large seam ripper has a more comfortable handle and a thick blade tip that's useful for cutting basting stitches during fitting. A small ripper has a very sharp point and can be used to remove fine stitching without damaging fabric. The cap fits over the end of the handle during use to extend the ripper and provide more control. Store the tool with the point covered.

To prevent damaging fabric with seam rippers, cut the stitches at close intervals on one side of the fabric, then quickly pull the unclipped thread. It will free itself in one continuous strand and will also loosen the clipped thread sections, which are then easily removed.

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Friday, 2009-10-16 18:21