Ask the Experts: Scissors

on January 3 | in Sewing + Quilting Tips | by | with 20 Comments

It’s time to “Ask the Experts” one of our burning sewing questions! We’ve asked about interfacing, batting, thread and starch. Today we got the scoop from Tasia Pona, Sarai Mitnick, Jen Carlton-Bailly, Katy Jones, Shannon Cook, Heather Jones and Rae Hokstra about their favorite scissors. Add your own answers in the comments! We’d also love your feedback about which questions you’d like us to ask in future posts.

What types of scissors do you use for sewing? Do you have favorite brands? Do you have favorite sizes or designs for different types of projects?

Tasia Pona: I use Ginghers that I actually bought from Sew,Mama,Sew! I upgraded last year and wish I’d upgraded sooner. They’re sharp and feel good in the hands. So far they’re the best pair of scissors I’ve used, although I haven’t used a wide variety of different brands. I use the same pair scissors for nearly everything, except that I did also buy a great pair of thread snippers. They’re Clover brand and are super sharp! Great for trimming threads as you go.

Tasia Pona from Sewaholic and Sewaholic Patterns joined us on the blog before with her Seven Essential Sewing Skills. Tasia hosts some fabulous sewalongs on her site and has developed Sewaholic into a great resource with sewing tips, guides and more.

Sarai Mitnick: I have several types that I use in the studio. My main ones are a pair of 8-inch Gingher knife edge dressmaker’s shears. But I also have some Fiskars pinking shears, a pair of thread nippers from Southstar Supply, smaller emboidery scissors, and several pairs of scissors that I use only for cutting paper (i.e. patterns). I also have rotary cutters in different sizes. The Ginghers are my mainstay though… I’ve had them many years!

Sarai Mitnick is the owner and designer of Colette Patterns and author of the fantastic The Colette Sewing Handbook: Inspired Styles and Classic Techniques for the New Seamstress. You can find more from Sarai at the Coletterie, where there are always great sewing tips, smart discussion and sneak peeks at beautiful patterns to come. Sarai joined us last year with The Hows and Whys of Clips and Notches and All About Grainline ~ A Grainline Primer.

Jen Carlton-Bailly: I rarely use scissors! Wherever I can I use my rotary cutter. (I have three different sizes.) However, when I do use scissors I use Fiskars Razor Edge– Just the standard size you’d find in most craft/sewing stores. They have a nice chunky handle that feels good in my hand. I have two pairs, one for fabric and one for paper. The paper ones were my old fabric ones until my husband got hold of them and decided they’d be perfect to cut up a bunch of paper.

Jen Carlton Bailly is a self-taught sewist who learned from online tutorials. Before learning to sew she graduated from the Art Institute of Seattle in Fashion Marketing. With a love of textiles, fashion and art, a move to sewing/quilting was a natural progression and a quick addiction. Involvement in the Modern Quilt Guild as the first president of the Portland Chapter opened up a whole new culture to Jen. She finds inspiration in everything from a old dresser drawer to a run-down Portland building. You can read about her crafty endeavors and forthcoming patterns at www.bettycrockerass.com.

Katy Jones: I am a bit of a scissor freak! I cannot resist tiny ones that look cute for hand sewing and snipping threads, but my favourite brand for big jobs would be Gingher. My big shiny Gingher shears feel like “proper” scissors; they cut through fabric like butter and make a really satisfying sound as they cut. I keep them in a special pouch so they’re always safe and clean, and keep them super sharp because they’re so beautiful (I even had them tattooed on my arm I love them so much).

Katy Jones from the Fat Quarterly team and Monkey Do co-authored Fat Quarterly Shape Workshop for Quilters: 60 Blocks + a Dozen Quilts and Projects, released in 2012. (More on the book here.) With a successful Fat Quarterly Community Retreat in London this past summer and her consistently gorgeous quilts, there’s always something new and fun to see and learn about at Monkey Do. Katy joined us early last year for some thoughts on the sewing industry and more; don’t miss the amazing quilts in the interview!

Shannon Cook: I like to use Fiskars brand for my sewing scissors and pinking shears. I think I have about six pairs in different sizes. I have scissors for everything! I love small foldable ones from knitpicks.com for my knitting notions and paper cutting scissors and even craft scissors with fun shapes from Martha Stewart’s line for a fun way to add some creativity to anything paper!

Shannon Cook has created a warm, happy gathering place at luvinthemommyhood, full of sewing and so much more. Shannon has been a board member here at Sew,Mama,Sew! and she’s a great source for crafty round-ups of the best sewing tutorials, “Wow!” projects, holiday fun, resources, etc. Find Shannon at luvinthemommyhood and versus. She’s also on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest!

Heather Jones: I typically use different types of scissors for different types of projects. My all-time favorite pair is a spring-loaded, fine tip set from Fiskars. They have small blades that taper, and they are my go to scissors for thread snipping and any applique work that I do. While I don’t do much applique these days, my professional creative journey began with applique raw edge fabric designs onto kids’ tees, and that’s how I discovered how awesome these scissors are. The fine tips make it easy to cut small pieces of fabric very precisely. I also use them frequently as seam rippers and the tapered blades make it really easy to snip stitches to remove an area of sewing. Here’s a link to them.

My favorite pair of scissors for cutting larger pieces of fabric is another pair, also by Fiskars. It’s their Softouch scissors and they also have a spring, which makes cutting fabric really easy. I have an older pair, but they are similar to these.

For big cutting jobs, I use a rotary cutter and my favorite is Havel’s 60 mm rotary cutter. I really like how the blade retracts from the handle and locks in place. I’ve used other brands of rotary cutters before and have had the blade move to the closed position while cutting, and that’s never happened to me with the one by Havel’s. The 60 mm blade also cuts easily through many layers of fabric. Here’s a link to the rotary cutter.

Heather Jones of Olive and Ollie is the founder and former president of the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild. She has a line of modern quilting patterns which you can find in the Olive and Ollie shop. She will be a lecturer at The Modern Quilt Guild QuiltCon conference in 2013.

Rae Hokstra: I have Fiskars sewing shears and pinking shears. I’m left-handed so it seems to be a little harder to find the really nice scissors when I see them in shops, but Fiskars seems to work just fine. In fact, I’m still using the same two pairs of scissors that I’ve been sewing with since high school, so until you asked me this question it didn’t occur to me that maybe I should upgrade. I use the regular shears for cutting out fabric or trimming seam allowances that will be hidden (french seams or inside linings) and the pinking shears for trimming seam allowances that will be seen. I use a rotary cutter to cut out most pattern pieces, so I use scissors less than you might think. For clipping threads I just use a pair of kiddy craft scissors. It’s actually pretty embarrassing. On the plus side though, I had my small scissors taken away a few times at airport security, and kid scissors are always easy to replace!

Rae Hokstra from Made by Rae creates fabulous patterns for you to purchase and sew. She hosts the well-known “Spring Top Week” at Made by Rae, and co-hosts “Celebrate the BOY” (boy-themed posts for a whole month!). Rae is also one of the nicest people you’ll find in the online sewing world and she is, hands-down, our favorite sewist who is also a “temporarily-retired” high school physics teacher!

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20 Responses to Ask the Experts: Scissors

  1. Andrea says:

    My favorite regular scissors are a pair of lefty ginghers. I recommend mundial left handed pinking shears for all the lefties! They have a similar feel to ginghers, and I found mine at Hancock for 70% off! Great deal!

  2. Kirbee in IA says:

    I have Gingher lefty shears that I got as a birthday present last year. Love love love them, although the only pain with them is keeping the fluffies out. They really get bogged down when they get linty, but maybe that is just normal scissor behavior. I am longing for Gingher’s lefty pinking shears (which they discontinued). Santa didn’t bring me any, so I am on the prowl. My poor ancient sewing machine (a beautiful cast aluminum Montgomery Ward circa 1960), doesn’t have a zigzag stitch, and I don’t have a serger. Pinking shears are not a luxury for me, they are a necessity. If I have to borrow my mother-in-law’s right-handed shears yet again, I’m going to cry. Cutting that many seams with right handed scissors is excruciating.

  3. diana says:

    I am left handed too and my favorite are the fiskers – so hard to find good left handed ones. I had ginghers and got rid of them

  4. Veronica says:

    I have lots of scissors. My newer ones are Fiskars and Ginghers, but I also have several antique pairs of Wiss and Schaaf & Good scissors. The later are 40 to 60 years old and belonged to my grandparents who once worked in a clothing manufacturing plant in GA. They definitely need to be sharpened!

  5. Java Jane says:

    I have used the same pair of Wiss fabric shears since my first sewing class decades ago. They are older than most of your readers! Occasionally I have them professionally sharpened but the key is to use them for fabric only. My boys have learned not to mess with Mama’s shears!

  6. Kristie says:

    I have a pair of Kai shears and they cut thru fabric like butter! I just love them!! I also am a big fan of rotary cutters and use them whenever possible as well.

  7. PKJ says:

    I use rotary cutters whenever I can. After going through many, many different brands of scissors I found KAI to be the best. Now they are the only brand I allow in my Studio.

  8. Debbie says:

    By far the best scissors I have ever used is the Karen K Buckley “perfect scissors”.. They are fantastic. The blades are fine and slightly serrated so they grip the fabric, keeping it from slipping. Truly the best scissors ever.

  9. Kim says:

    I have gingers and fiskars, but rarely use them since I finally got the feel for the 60 mm rotary. Thanks for this post- it reminds me that I need to find a good sharpener north of Atlanta. Any recommendations?

  10. What about when scissors dull? Do you get them sharpened or just buy new ones?

  11. Deb H. in PA says:

    I have had Ginghers for years. Last year, my friend bought me a pair of Mundials. I really like them just as much. For my little embroidery projects, I like cute little scissors of any brand. They just have to be cute.. My favorite are a pair with pink polka dot handles because I love pink.

  12. Ellen says:

    I have used Finnys for years. They are made by Solingen a Germany company and they are great. Light, sharp and comfortable to handle.

  13. NannyKK says:

    I have had Fiskars, then 6 Ginghers. Now I have Kia professional shears, serrated, pinking, tailoring, and dressmaking. I guard them with my life. They cut like I’m cutting through air. When I got them my teen daughters took turns making a cut. They oohed and awed like they were magic. The best ever.

  14. Linda says:

    Ginghers are my scissors of choice. However, I wouldn’t recommend taking them to just any scissors sharpener. To maintain the guarantee on the scissors, and restore scissors to like-new condition, Gingher will sharpen them for only $8. Go to this web link to find out where to mail them: http://www.gingher.com/pages/repair-and-maintenance/4/

  15. Valerie Larck says:

    @ Rae, I too am left-handed and use the Fiskars, spring-loaded scissors for sewing and left-handed Fiskars pinking shears. It is very hard to find scissors for left-handed people….I learned to make do with right-handed scissors when I first started sewing.

  16. Laurie says:

    FYI- Gingher will sharpen/refurbish your scisors any time forever. You only have to pay for shipping. I did it recently and they are like new!

  17. I’m not a professional by any means, but I have a slight vintage sewing notions/tools problem. I buy nearly every pair of vintage scissors I come across. Many of them are in excellent shape and I have an inexpensive supply. I have no idea what the brands are on many of them, but they are my little bits of sewing history and can keep them all around the house.

  18. Michelle says:

    Love my Gingher Shears for sure! I use an inexpensive pair of fiskers curved embroidery scissors for my applique work. Would love to upgrade to Gingher but just haven’t taken the time to go out and buy a pair.

  19. Really useful post, thanks. I won’t tell you about my scissors – I have too many! But as for ideas for future posts, how about asking the experts if they could recommend one sewing book to a sewing newcomer, which one would it be? This would have been SO useful to me when starting out.

  20. Lauretta6 says:

    Ginghers by far. I have a pair from my Grandmother that still work great and are in the original box. I know that those are at least 30 years old. Ginghers can be sharpened by a good sharpener person and last forever.

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