An Illustrated Guide to sewing scissors

I love scissors. Not only are they a tool I use constantly in my sewing practice, but they just look cool. I love the sound that my sewing shears make when they slice through fabric - it’s so satisfying! I’m definintly going to get a tattoo of a pair of scissors at some point - the only question is where I want it. Back of the neck, or forearm? Such a tough decision.

I’ve created a cool infographic about the different types of common sewing scissors (and shears!) and what they are used for. I used this infographic to create last week’s design post about how to make an infographic in Canva. You should definitely check it out if you want to make your own easy infographics

An Illustrated Guide to Sewing Scissors Infographic by

I’ve been wanting to make this infographic for a long time - because I want to print it as a poster for my sewing room wall. It also makes a lovely Pinterest graphic for your sewing-related Pinterest boards! Feel free to print it out for your sewing room as well.

I’ve also made up a list of the scissor types here, and included some information about the best scissor brands and how to care for your scissors and shears! Read on…

Types of Sewing Scissors

Dressmaker’s Shears

Shears are different from Scissors. Shears are designed asymmetrically with one handle having a smaller hole for the thumb, and one a larger hole for multiple fingers. This is more comfortable and easier to control when cutting fabric. Dressmaker’s shears are typically 8-9 inches.

Pinking Shears

Pinking shears have a special serrated edge that creates a zig-zag pattern. They are used for finishing seams, as the zig-zag prevents fabric from fraying. They are a good choice if you don’t have a serger. They are also useful for trimming the edges of interfacing to prevent it from showing on the right side of the fabric, and clipping the curves of seams.

Embroidery Scissors

These are small scissors for delicate cutting or snipping threads. Typically carried in a hand sewing kit, they can be very decorative or plain. These are scissors, not shears and have a symmetrical handle.

Thread Snips

These are small, spring loaded scissors made for clipping threads quickly while machine sewing. The can have a small handle for one finger on the bottom, or none. They are also useful for clipping yarn in knitting or crochet.

Applique Scissors

Applique scissors are made for trimming layers of fabric. They have a unique, “duck billed” shape on the bottom blade. This protects the bottom layer of fabric while trimming away the top of an appliqued shape. They are also useful for trimming seams and cutouts.

What’s the difference between scissors and shears?

Scissors and shears are actually different. Scissors are made for all purpose utility cutting. Shears are specifically made for fabric and heavier work. Scissors are typically made of lighter aluminum, not steel. They also have less durable fasteners holding the blades together. Scissors are symmetrically shaped, both the finger holes and the blades. Shears are asymmetrical. They have differently sized finger holes - one for your thumb and one for multiple fingers. This enables you to grip them more comfortably for long working times and also gives you more control when cutting fabric. The handles of shears are also tilted, unlike scissors. This is to make it easier on your wrist when cutting flat. Additionally, the blades of shears are shaped differently. The bottom blade is heavier and has a dulled tip so that you can slide it under fabric without snagging.

Highest rated sewing scissors brands

The highest rated sewing scissors brands are Gingher, Fiskars and Kai. All three of these brands rate highly on both Amazon, and Sewing and Pattern, which is a go-to site for sewing related reviews. I personally use and love my Gingher shears. I also own a pair of Mundial shears which have lasted me years and are still going strong. Fiskar and Gingher are both available at your local JoAnne’s Fabrics, and I know Fiskar is sold at most craft stores.

Other types of cutting tools

Shears are the main go-to when sewing, but there are also a few specialized cutting tools. Rotary cutters are basically a super-sharp pizza cutter for fabric. These are used by quilters to cut large amounts of geometric shapes quickly. There is also an electric version of a rotary cutter, which looks like a Dremel tool, except with a rotary cutter blade. This makes cutting lots of things even quicker! I never use these, btw. I’m scared to death of the electric rotary cutter. In sewing clothing, they could be useful for things with longer, straighter seams like pant legs and skirts. But unless you are cutting in bulk, I find it easier to just grab my shears.

Care of your shears and scissors

Make sure to take care of your shears and they will last you a lifetime. Treat them like the valuable tools that they are. Keep inexpensive scissors for your paper and twine cutting needs around the house - your sewing scissors should only be used to cut fabric. Never cut anything that might create a nick in your blades.

You should take your shears to get sharpened and oiled regularly. It’s not hard to find a local place that will sharpen shears, just search on Yelp. Never try to sharpen your shears at home, unless you are trained. The special angle of the blades requires a specialist and a specific sharpening tool.

In looking into all this scissor information, I got curious about the history of scissors! I went to Wikepedia and looked into the history of sewing scissors.

Here’s a few interesting facts!

The first sewing scissors were probably made around 1500 BC in Egypt. In the middle ages, scissors were made one by one by hand forging them. The Chinese began manufacturing scissors since around 1663, and the first European company to begin manufacturing them was William Whiteley & Sons Ltd. in 1760.

That extra little sticking out part on the handle that some scissors have is called a finger brace or finger tang. It’s to give you extra leverage or control when cutting.

Low quality scissors aren’t very sharp, the rely on the lever action of the blades coming together to get the job done. But sewing scissors and shears are high quality tools, with very sharp blades so that fine fabrics don’t become damaged when cutting.

Scissors are designer for right-handed people. There are some specialized scissors designed for left handed people, but due to the way that scissors are shaped asymmetrically to fit the human hand, left handed scissors have to be designed so the top blade covers the fabric and you can’t see where you are cutting as well. Wierd!

If you want to read more cool facts and interesting details about scissors, check out the Wikepedia article!