Choosing Scissors & Cutting Tools


Choose the right tool for every crafty cut and snip.

Scissors


Anatomy of a pair of scissors

As one of the most fundamental craft tools, it's unsurprising that scissors come in all shapes and sizes, even though they all generally have the same basic structure:

Scissors & Cutting Tools Buying Guide

It's important to make the right choice when selecting scissors. As with any tool, that choice should be guided by function, or the use to which you intend to put them.

Most scissors can be used to cut either fabric or paper.

The materials used to make paper will dull blades more quickly than most fabrics, so using your fabric scissors to cut paper will shorten their life. It Is important to keep your fabric scissors for fabric, and your paper scissors for paper, as this will keep them performing at their best.


Fabric & Dressmaking

  • For clean edges, precise cuts, and minimal fraying, it's important that your fabric scissors are always sharp.
  • Choose scissors with good quality stainless steel blades, and keep them for use only with fabric.
  • Choose scissors that cut all the way to the tip of the blades to keep cuts clean and consistent
  • There is a size and shape of scissors for every job within your fabric craft:

TYPE

FEATURES

USES

Large dressmaking scissors

Long shanks.

Handles generally shorter than shanks, so the lever effect increases cutting power.

Dressmaking, quilting, and other fabric crafts.

Thick fabric such as denim.

Multiple layers of fabric.

Longer lengths of fabric.

Medium standard scissors

Average length shanks.

Everyday fabric craft.

Light to medium weight fabrics such as cotton and linen.

Small standard scissors

Short shanks.

Lightweight.

Maneuverable.

Detailed work such as fussy cutting.

Trimming corners and threads.

Large scissors with angled handles

Long shanks.

Bottom shank lies parallel to the table for minimal disturbance of fabric while cutting.

Dressmaking, quilting, and other fabric crafts.

Any project requiring precise cuts on large pieces of fabric.

Pinking shears

Blades with interlocking teeth that create a zigzag edge when cutting.

Creating cuts that won't fray. Ideal for dressmaking, and other fabric crafts.

The zigzag effect can also be used decoratively, to create textured edges.

Curved detail scissors

Small scissors, with blades that curve upwards.

Allows for trimming ends close to work in embroidery and other detailed sewing projects.

Thread snips

Unlike other scissors, snips generally have a body that is held in the palm of the hand and activated with fingers close to the point.

Usually have a spring action, making them easy to handle and quick to work with.

Trimming corners and loose threads in all fabric craft.

 

Paper Craft

  • Scissors are essential for almost all forms of paper craft, though paper trimmers and guillotines are also very useful tools to add to your kit.
  • Plastic handles make scissors lightweight, maneuverable, and comfortable to hold, so consider choosing a pair like this for your paper crafting projects.

TYPE

FEATURES

USES

Large standard scissors

Long shanks.

Handles generally shorter than shanks, so the lever effect increases cutting power.

Cutting through thicker card, or multiple pieces of paper.

Making long straight cuts through large sheets.

Medium standard scissors

Average length shanks.

Almost any paper crafting task.

Small standard scissors

Short shanks.

Lightweight.

Maneuverable.

Fine and detailed work.

Ideal for decoupage and collage.

Paper edgers & pinking shears

Blade edges are not straight, and create zigzags, waves, or other patterns as they cut.

Create decorative edges for cardmaking and scrapbooking.

Non-stick scissors

Blades are coated with a non-stick material such as Teflon.

Cutting through glues, tapes, and adhesives without becoming sticky.

 

Scissors & Cutting Tools Buying Guide

Embroidery

A small pair of scissors is a must for any needlecrafter. Embroidery scissors should be:

  • Small, for precision when working on a small scale
  • Light, so they are easy to control
  • Sharp, so that threads are cut cleanly without fraying

Most embroidery scissors have straight blades, but some have blades that are set on an angle. This makes it harder to accidentally snip the back of your stitches, and easier to cut threads closer to the work for a neat finish.


Kids Craft

Cutting and pasting crafts are great for building creative and motor stills in kids. It's important to teach them how to handle scissors safely, so having special kid-safe scissors in their craft supplies is a must.

These scissors will usually only work on paper, but they won't be dangerous for little hands, which means children are free to play, create, and learn.

Scissors & Cutting Tools Buying Guide

Craft Knives & Blades

Craft knives and single blades lack the lever mechanisms that scissors have, making them suited to different tasks. Small ones can do very delicate work and get into tiny spaces, while heavy duty ones like stanley knives allow the user to exert the kind of pressure required to cut through thick layers or bulky materials.

  • Craft knives have slim handles with a blade at the end.
  • These blades are almost always replaceable, and can be swapped out as they become dulled from use.
  • As blades are not usually retractable, craft knives come with safety lids that should always be replaced after use.
  • Variations on the standard pen-shaped craft knives include finger grip knives which literally wrap around the finger. These can come with fixed or swivel blades .
Scissors & Cutting Tools Buying Guide

Stanley Knives

  • These have thicker, heavier handles, and larger blades than craft knives.
  • Their size makes it easier to apply the kind of pressure required to cut thicker materials, but this also makes them less maneuverable.
  • Ideal for use on thick cardboard, corflute, and even wood veneer, leather, etc.

Rotary Cutters

  • Most commonly used in quilting, rotary cutters cut clean, continuous straight lines when used with quilting rulers.
  • The circular blade is almost always replaceable.
  • All rotary cutters come with safety mechanisms to cover their blades. Some slide on and off manually, and others are activated by pressure.
  • There are a wide range of handles and grips to choose from when buying a rotary cutter, so choose one that feels comfortable in your hand. Left handed people should look out for cutters specially designed for them.

All of these tools require cutting mats to protect the surface you're working on. Self healing mats come in an enormous range of sizes, so you can choose one that's best suited to the scale of the work you do, and the size of your workspace.

Scissors & Cutting Tools Buying Guide

Trimmers & Guillotines

Trimmers and guillotines are particularly useful for crafters who do work that requires cutting precise straight lines, or cutting paper in large quantities.


Paper Trimmers

These consist of a base, generally with a grid for measuring the size of the pieces you're cutting, and a blade on a track. When you place the paper in the trimmer and square it up, you can engage the blade, and push it smoothly along the paper for a perfectly straight and precisely measured cut.

Choose a paper trimmer that:

  • Is the right size for your work. For example, if you're a scrapbooker, make sure you choose one that accommodates standard 12x12 scrapbooking paper.
  • Is the right size for your space. If you don't have a lot of storage in your craft space, find a trimmer that can be folded down to a smaller size when not in use.

Fabric Trimmers

These work in the same way as paper trimmers, but instead of placing the fabric in the trimmer, you lay the trimmer on top of your fabric, with a cutting mat under both. Fabric trimmers have a ruler attached to them so you can square and beasure as you work.


Guillotines

Guillotines also have a base with a grid for measuring the size of the pieces you're cutting. They have a long blade that chops the paper with a lever motion.

Some paper crafters prefer guillotines to trimmers because they believe they make an even cleaner cut.

Choose a guillotine that:

  • Is the right size for your work. If you're only going to cut photos and cards, you can find small ones that will do the job without taking up too much space
  • Has reliable safety features such as a lock and a finger guard.


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