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How Do Pinking Shears Work?

Ever wondered what pinking shears are, how pinking shears work and why you should even have a pair of these serrated scissors in your basic sewing kit? Well, today I’m going to explain all you need to know about these special sewing scissors!

What Are Pinking Shears?

Pinking shears are a type of scissor used in sewing to trim seam allowance and stop fabric fraying.

They come in different sizes but the most common size for cutting fabric are those with 8 inches / 20cm long blades. They are often called ‘zig zag scissors’.

Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you make a purchase at no further cost to you.

How Do Pinking Shears Work?

Because pinking shears are specialized scissors, they use a pinking blade to cut a zigzag pattern in fabric.

The blades on these scissors are serrated with deep ‘V’ shapes along both blades, and when the blades cross the woven cloth ends up with a zigzag pattern along the cloth edges.

How do pinking shears work?

If you don’t have pinking shears, there are other ways of finishing seams including:

Why Should You Use Pinking Shears?

Close up of closed pair of pinking shears showing how pinking shears work!

While they will never beat the straight edge achieved with other fabric cutting tools like regular scissors or a standard rotary cutter when cutting out fabric to make your own clothes with, pinking shears really do have a place in any sewing toolkit.

Here are four things they can help you with:

  • Creating a simple and neat seam finish when using open / plain seams in your sewing projects
  • Tidying up a raw edge on non-fray fabrics with a decorative edge on hems and facings
  • Reduce fabric fraying on suitable woven fabrics
  • Grading the fabric edge on woven fabric with pinked seams to trim down any bulk

How Do You Cut Fabric With Pinking Shears?

Cutting red fabric ribbon with sharp pinking shears

To cut fabric with pinking shears, you’ll want to use a woven fabric with minimal / no stretch.

  1. Place the fabric on a worktable, so that it lies flat.
  2. Lift the fabric slightly with one hand, and move the shears so that the fabric is between the blades.
  3. Cut the fabric as you normally would with fabric scissors, keeping teh blades straight and not on an angle for the best results

6 Best Pinking Shears Brands

You’re convinced that you need a pair, but what are the best pinking shears for fabric?

You can pick up pinking shears very easily in haberdashery shops and online, but as I’ve had my fair share that struggled to cut fabric though, I’ve listed some of what I consider to be the best pinking shears below that I have either owned or tried, which will handle cutting fabric with no issues!

I have to say, my favourite pair of pinking shears are these ones from Kai. They’re not cheap – but in my experience, cheaper ones tend to blunt faster and damage my fabric too! – but they’re worth every penny.

My second choice for pickers are the Fiskars easy action pinking shears. These are a little more budget friendly than the Kai’s but work really well too.

As well as pinking sewing scissors, you can also get a 45mm rotary cutter and use a specially created serrated circle blade for pinking! Lots of people find this an easier way to cut long lengths of fabric with a pinked edge!

5 Common Questions About Pinking Shears

An open pair of pinking shears showing how they work

Okay, now that you know why you should have a pair and how to cut fabric with these fabric shears, let’s cover some common questions!

My Pinking Shears Don’t Cut Near The Blade Tip

If you’re only getting a neat zig zag finish at the handle end of your shears, either your fabric is too thick / not suitable or the blades are blunt.

Try to cut through a thinner / more suitable fabric and if the same thing happens, it’s time to sharpen your pinkers or buy a new pair!

Can I Use Scalloped Or Lightly Serrated Pinking Shears With Fabric?

It is possible to use both types of shears – but both finished will be less effective at preventing fabric fraying and are for more decorative purposes instead.

How Do I Sharpen Pinking Shears?

It is very tricky to sharpen pinking shears because of the zigzag finish on the blades – most people will simply buy a new pair!

That said, you can try cutting through steel wool, tin foil / aluminum or a finely grained sandpaper with your shears a couple of times to try and sharpen them up a little.

I personally would only try any of the above if my shears were completely dulled and I had no way of getting them professionally sharpened!

My Blades Are ‘Stiff’ – Help!

If the blades are ‘stiff’ when opening and closing, then try rubbing lightly along the blades (tricky I know) with a little sewing machine oil on a cloth.

Just make sure to wipe away the excess so that the oil doesn’t damage or ‘bleed’ into the main fabric from the seam allowance!

You can also add a small drop of oil to the screw that the blades pivot from, which can help loosen things up a little too!

Can I Pink The Raw Edges Of My knit Fabrics?

As discussed in this guide to knitted fabric types, knit fabrics are created differently to woven fabrics and so are not prone to fraying. This means that you won’t need to pink the raw edge of knitted fabrics.

In fact many knit fabrics can be left with a raw edge though it is good practice to serge or zigzag stitch them to stop them ravelling up!

Final Thoughts On Pinking Shears

While not everyone loves them, these type of dressmaking shears do have their place in a sewing kit. Not only will they help with minimising the amount of fabric fraying on raw edges, but if you don’t have a serger / overlocker, or find your sewing machine isn’t stitching a decent zigzag stitch, then having the option to pink your fabric edges is a no-brainer.

While they’re not the first fabric cutting tool I pull out, they definitely have a place in my sewing kit for all the reasons listed above!

Will you be getting yourself a pair of pinking shears? And if not, why not? Let me know in the comments below!

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