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The Difference Between Scissors Vs Shears In Sewing

In sewing we use scissors and shears for cutting fabric, but what are the differences, and does it matter which we use?

Scissors Vs Shears

Let’s start by looking at the difference between scissors and shears.

  1. Scissors have equally sized handles, and blades of equal length
  2. Shears have handles with different size and shape for the finger hole, and the blades are different too
Shears and scissors in sewing

Four Types Of Shears In Sewing

When it comes to cutting fabric, there are three types of shears:

  • Dressmaking shears
  • Paper shears
  • Pinking shears
  • Tailor’s shears

They differ in several ways. Let’s look at how!

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Dressmaking Shears

Dressmaking shears differ from both scissors and tailor's shears

These are used by dressmakers and are usually shorter and lighter than tailor’s shears.

While the blades are still made from metal, it is a lighter metal and so not quite as strong as what you find on tailors shears. This makes them great for cutting fabrics that are lighter in weight.

My favourite dressmaker shears are these ones from Kai. They’re comfortable to hold and the blade length allows me to cut many fabric types with ease.

Paper Shears

Paper pattern shears have a shorter blade for cutting sewing patterns more accurately

Although this type is not used for cutting fabric, they are used in cutting sewing patterns. The blades are much shorter than those found on other types, which makes them great for cutting round tight curves on sewing patterns.

I have a great pair from Morplan in the UK but these ones are also good.

Pinking Shears

Pinking shears - cutting tools for sewing

Similar to dressmaking shears, pinking shears have one or two serrated blades which when ‘closed’ create a pinked edge on the fabric.

You can learn more about how to use pinking shears here.

Tailors Shears

Tailor's shears have a much longer blade for cutting fabrics

This type of shear are created with heavy tailoring fabrics in mind. The blades are often 30cm / 12 inches long and they are from solid metal, which can make them quite heavy and cumbersome if you have small hands.

Mine are by Mundial, and while shorter than most, they’re still very heavy and cut well!

These are left handed tailor’s shears, great for those left handed sewers!

Types Of Scissors

Scissors differ from shears in the handle and the blade length

Scissors are a standard cutting tool in sewing. The handles are the same size, the blades the same length and shape, and although the size can range from small to long, they typically do not have blades greater than 25cm / 10″.

When you lay scissors on the worktable in front of you, they look symmetrical on both sides, whether the blades are open or closed.

Fabric Scissors

Used for cutting fabric, these can feel tricky to use as both handles are the same size. This makes it tricky to lay keep the blade parallel to the cutting table, which can cause cutting lines to be less accurate.

The great thing about fabric scissors is that you can easily pick up left handed scissors which is less common for shears.

Small Snip Scissors

Snips are a smaller scissor used to cutting threads when sewing.

I LOVE these smaller scissors from Fiskars for trimming threads and notching my fabrics.

Should You Buy Scissors Or Shears For Sewing?

Should you buy scissors or shears for cutting fabrics? A selection of scissors and shears on a green cutting mat

If you’re serious about sewing, you’ll definitely want a pair of shears and a pair of sewing scissors. You’ll use them both plenty.

The question then becomes which type of shears should you buy and this comes down to the size of your hand – the smaller your hand the more you will struggle with the weight and size of tailors shears – and the kind of fabrics you intend to use most.

For me, I have all four types. I use my pinking shears for grading seam allowances and finishing raw edges. I use my Kai dressmaking shears when cutting out regular weight fabrics like cotton, silks and lightweight denim.

The paper shears are used whenever I cut out a purchased or self-drafted sewing pattern. And if I am cutting out heavy denim or canvas, or even wools for a tailored skirt or jacket, then I use my long and solid tailors shears.

It’s quite possible that you’ll find uses for all three too, but start by investing in the one you’re more likely to use most – you can always add to your collection later on!

Learn about other cutting tools in sewing such as rotary cutters and I have a great guide to self healing cutting mats to go with it!

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