A Good, Clean Cut

There are two things that make a huge difference to the success and appearance of a finished project – careful pressing and the removal of bulk.

Accurate cutting is the foundation of every garment; not only is the importance of accuracy with the initial cutting of the fabric critical to a good result, but also during construction when clipping, trimming and grading to reduce bulk.

Using the best tool for each cutting task makes it much easier to cut and trim accurately; rip and remove wrong stitching and remove temporary threads without damaging precious fabric.

These are my favourite fabric and thread cutting tools:

  • Long blade paper scissors – short blades can tend to chop the pattern tissue
  • Shorter blade household scissors to cut boning, millinery wire, etc
  • Soft Canary 210cm dressmaking shears – they are light and easy to handle with arthritic hands and they cut like a hot knife through butter!
  • Soft Canary 230cm serrated blade dressmaking shears – the serrated blade keeps slithery fabric in place resulting in nice clean cuts rather than ragged edges which make construction inaccurate and difficult

    Paper scissors and Soft Canary Dressmaking Shears and Serrated Shears

    Paper scissors and Soft Canary Dressmaking Shears and Serrated Shears

  • Soft Canary pinking shears – an oldie but a goodie! Sometimes any additional treatment to a seam edge can eventually show through to the right side of the garment.  These little bias cuts prevent further fraying of the fabric and keep the cut edges soft and light.

    Soft Canary pinking shears - use when a smooth finish is needed

    Soft Canary pinking shears – use when a smooth finish is needed

  • Gingher 5” Craft scissors (Tailor’s Points) – I could not do without these. I discovered them when watching a Kenneth D King DVD from Taunton Press.  They have one knife edge blade and one bevelled edge blade and a very strong spine which makes them perfect for precious cutting and trimming, even on very thick fabrics

    Gingher Tailor's Points - my very favourite - wonderful for clipping, trimming and grading - very sharp right to the point and very strong.

    Gingher Tailor’s Points – my very favourite – wonderful for clipping, trimming and grading – very sharp right to the point and very strong.

  • Gingher thead snips – I resisted thread snips for a long time until I found these. By placing the opening over my middle finger I achieve excellent control, especially when trying to clip elusive thread tails
    Gingher thread snips - very strong and sharp

    Gingher thread snips – very strong and sharp

    Control thread snips by placing finger through opening.

    Control thread snips by placing finger through opening.

  • Gingher appliqué scissors (Duckbills) – very useful when doing heirloom sewing, these very versatile scissors are excellent for grading and when it is necessary to trim close to an edge on one layer without cutting the under layer – great for machine rolled hems
  • Havel’s lace scissors – these tiny gems are excellent when working on hand application of delicate laces

    Gingher Duckbill applique scissors and Havel's lace scissors

    Gingher Duckbill applique scissors and Havel’s lace scissors

  • Buttonhole chisel and wood block – mine are over 40 years old and have successfully cut lots and lots of buttonholes without ever needing to be sharpened – a wonderful clean, on grain cut stops thread pulls during wear and care of the garment

    Buttonhole chisel and wood block for great clean and accurate cuts

    Buttonhole chisel and wood block for great clean and accurate cuts

  • Rotary cutters – 45mm and 18mm blade – I have always used these wonderful cutters top cut straight waistbands, buttonhole lips, pocket flaps and bias strips. The smaller blade is excellent and more accurate for cutting curved edges.
    45mm and 18mm rotary cutters - smaller blade great for cutting around curves

    45mm and 18mm rotary cutters – smaller blade great for cutting around curves

    Perhaps if my arthritis worsens, I will try cutting out my fabrics as I know there are many sewists who swear by this method.  I will need to practice first I think as it can sometimes be difficult to change the habits of a lifetime of sewing.

Another important cutting task is the dreaded unpicking.  Using patience and the right tools for the job can make this inevitable task much less stressful (on the sewist and the fabric!).

These are my favouring “unstitching” tools:

  • Gingher seam ripper with retractable blade – super sharp but with safety device built in – using this tool requires a light hand and the patience to cut a little at a time from the reverse side of the fabric – wonderful for removing a buttonhole which is not in the right place (BEFORE it is cut!!!)
    Gingher Retractable Seam Ripper and Unpicker with thread remover on top of lid

    Gingher Retractable Seam Ripper and Unpicker with thread remover on top of lid

    A buttonhole mess - gently and slowly pass the blade over the underside of the stitching

    A buttonhole mess – gently and slowly pass the blade over the underside of the stitching.  I place my wooden block underneath so there are no accidents!

    Turn work to right side and gently release the thread which was cut away underneath; remove remaining fluff with thread eraser.

    Turn work to right side and gently release the thread which was cut away underneath; remove remaining fluff with thread remover.

  • Unpicker – a good size handle grip which fills your hand together with the “red dot” is an invaluable tool.
    The way most sewists were taught to use an unpicker - slide the blade under and break the stitches.

    The way most sewists were taught to use an unpicker – slide the blade under and break the stitches.

    Third hand bird and clamp

    Third hand bird and clamp

    Clamp fabric and pull the seam to be unpicked until it is taut

    Clamp fabric and pull the seam to be unpicked until it is taut

    Insert red ball on the end of the unpicker between the stitches and push forward to open the seam.

    Insert red ball on the end of the unpicker between the stitches and push forward to open the seam.

    Seam opens ahead of the unpicker.

    Seam opens ahead of the unpicker.

    Because these tools are used regularly by most sewists, they can become really blunt so treating yourself to a new one every few months will save strain on your fabric and sanity

  • Thread tweezers for removing those pesky threads which are difficult to remove once the ripping is finished

    Clover thread tweezers - a new acquisition and they are superb!

    Clover thread tweezers – a new acquisition and they are superb!

  • Thread eraser or masking tape – these are excellent for cleaning up fluff and stray bits of thread after unpicking

As with all of our precious tools, care and maintenance is paramount to ensure their long and useful life.

  • Prevention is better than cure so be careful not to drop your scissors on to a hard surface; do not expose them to moisture and do not try to cut other than fabric with your fabric scissors. The occasional use of fine tissue paper to aid with cutting slippery and fine fabrics will not usually cause a problem.  Cardboard, boning, plastic etc is another story!
  • A lot of fluff occurs when fabric is cut and sewn so lightly polishing your tools with a soft cloth after each session is very beneficial.
  • A tiny drop of light machine oil where scissor blade join can keep them from becoming stiff – be sure to wipe them afterwards and cut through some scrap fabric to be sure no residual oil will mar a future project
  • Should you have a small burr from the accidental striking of a pin, a gentle rut with fine grade sandpaper can provide a temporary fix
  • Scissor sharpener to remove burrs

I am often asked about having scissors sharpened and I have to say that finding someone to do this has become harder over the years.  I usually suggest enquiring where quality knives are sold.  However, with diligent home maintenance and having a few pairs of scissors to rotate, I usually don’t have any problems.

Anyway, because I love scissors, an excuse to replace a pair would not necessary be a bad thing!

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