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Cutting tools for sewing: the shopping guide

Bow scissors, pinking shears, rotary cutters, thread clips… my oh my!

Let’s learn more about cutting options and on how to choose the best tools for our projects.

A good set of cutting tools makes all the difference when you work with fabrics. You might think you just need a pair of scissors and you’re done. Well… while you can certainly survive without anything else, having a few more handy tools will make your life way easier!

You practically use cutting tools throughout your entire project: from cutting the pattern pieces to cutting the fabric and getting rid of any small thread and imperfection.

Whatever you decide works best for you, there is just one common rule to follow (you’re gonna hear me saying this over and over again): invest in your sewing materials and always buy durable tools. There’s really no point in buying cheap stuff you’re gonna be disappointed of in no time (and forced to buy new ones again and again).
As for the rest, I think it’s a matter of what you feel most comfortable to work with, so browse this page to get some inspiration and then try some options to see what’s best for your projects.

Scissors

Generally speaking, the minimal set of cutting tools one should have would just include: fabric scissors, paper scissors and bow scissors. There’s this general belief that you can’t use fabric scissors for anything but fabric (including paper!): apparently they can be ruined quite easily. To be honest, I don’t know if paper can be such a bad thing for your scissors, but I do think if you invest your money in a good pair of fabric scirssors you really don’t want anything bad to happen to them!

What I use are two different scissors for fabric and paper. All my scissors come from this shop and you can see the collection in the pictures below. I know, they are a bit expensive but I have to admit they’re worth the price (although I’m not supposed to know their price as my husband bought me this wonderful kit as birthday gift! 😉 ). Anyhow, you don’t really need to buy the most expensive solution on the market! What you need is a good pair of tailor’s shears (FYI the ones I have are quite heavy and require some time to get used to).
Then, you can use any pair of sharp scissors for cutting paper, the ones in picture are convenient as they have very long blades for precise and straight cuts.
The bow scissors are useful for small areas and for cutting threads as you don’t want to use your heavy and big tailor’s shears for that!
Another tool I find really really handy are thread clips. They’re really ergonomic and they have a very sharp blade. They can actually substitute bow scissors in most cases, but I also use them for transferring notches from pattern to fabric and for clipping into seam allowances as they ensure the best control and precision (they cut perfectly all the way down to the tip).

Rotary cutters

Scissors or rotary cutter? That’s the dilemma!
Well, I think you may want to have both and choose depending on what you have to do. Although some people say they are not comfortable working with rotary cutters, I think it’s just a matter of getting used to them. While one can certainly keep using scissors only, I think rotary cutters have great advantages. First of all, they’re quick. When you lay down your patter on top of your fabric, you can hold the two together with some pattern weights and you’re ready to cut. No more aggressive pinning necessary! Cutting then gets very quick with a little practice. Personally, I mostly use rotary cutters for cutting fabric, they just work for me!
Second of all: precision. When you cut with scissors, you have to lift the fabric up at the risk of moving your pattern and loosing accuracy, especially if you’re not an expert. Rotary cutters don’t require any of that, plus you can switch from a bigger size to a smaller one when you move from large to small curvy areas.

I suppose there are lots of brands selling rotary cutters, but what I’ve been using are the two you see in the picture above and I believe they’re both valid. The big one has a 45 mm diameter and comes from a japanese brand called Olfa. Here you can find a pretty huge assortment of Olfa’s cutters. I found the 45 mm one to be a bit too large for most of my projects, but it’s great if you mainly cut large straight pieces. For smaller and curvy or irregular shape I think it’s better to use a smaller version (perhaps the 28 mm one). When it comes to very small areas with lots of details, the best option is to use an even smaller one. Mine has a 18 mm diameter and comes from another famous japanese brand called Clover. Here are some options you find online. I find this size incredibly useful for cutting necklines, armholes and any small patter piece.

Of course, if you decide to use a rotary cutter you definitely want to buy a cutting mat. Olfa makes great self-healing ones that never get cut and are available in a wide range of sizes. Choose the dimension that works best for your projects: if you mainly sew clothes (as I do), I suggest you buy a big one (at least 60×45 cm or even 90×60 cm) or you’re gonna have to move it around while cutting your fabric.

Wrap-Up

Well, I think that’s all for cutting tools. I hope you find this useful and if you have any question or comment feel free to add it below. Next we’ll talk about needles & pins. See you there!
Ciao ciao!

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