Scissors are one of the most important tools in sewing. But even novice crafters, sewers, and quilters know that there are many different styles of scissors for different purposes, so it can be difficult to know which pair would work for you. In this blog post, we will take a closer look at the different types of scissors and shears for sewing, what sets them apart from general-purpose scissors and rotary cutters, and point out some features you should consider when choosing the perfect pair.

Types of scissors and their uses

For sewing projects, you can choose from several different types of scissors and shears. Each type is designed for a specific purpose, so it pays to understand the differences between them.

1. Dressmaker’s Shears

Dressmaker shears are a type of scissors specifically designed for cutting and trimming fabric. They typically have longer blades than regular scissors, which allows for a smooth slicing cut when dealing with larger pieces of material. The blades of dressmaker shears may be straight or slightly curved; the curvature helps to reduce the drag on the fabric and makes it easier to get an even cut without having to move the fabric around as much.

dressmakers shears

Dressmaker shears are best used for cutting large fabrics such as denim, wool, silk, and other heavier materials. Their long blades make them ideal for cutting trim along seams and hems as they can reach farther and give greater control over fabric edges. They are also perfect for creating detailed shapes like curves or circles thanks to their ability to hold layers together while cutting. As a general rule of thumb, dressmaker’s shears should not be used on flimsy or thin fabrics such as chiffon as this could cause fraying or leave unsightly cuts.

When using dressmaker’s shears, always ensure that your material is flat on a table or surface before beginning any project. This will help you get cleaner, more precise cuts if needed, and prevent any damage from occurring during use. Also, be sure to keep your scissors sharp and clean to ensure accurate results every time you cut.

2. Tailor’s Scissors

Tailor scissors are a type of shears designed specifically for tailoring, garment making, and dressmaking. They have long blades that are slightly curved which helps to reduce the amount of drag when cutting through fabrics. Tailor scissors are generally heavier than regular scissors, which allows for greater accuracy and precision when dealing with fabric edges.

Tailor scissors can be used for cutting all types of fabric. They are most commonly used for cutting out patterns as well as creating seam allowances on garments. The sharp blades allow you to make precise adjustments along with perfecting curved edges or lines. Tailor scissors also work great for trimming up frayed edges or snipping off loose threads from finished pieces.

When using tailor scissors, it is essential to keep them clean and sharp for consistent results every time. As they are designed specifically for stitching and tailoring purposes, they should not be used on any other material such as paper or cardboard as this can dull the blades.

3. Small Fabric Scissors

Small fabric scissors are a type of cutting tool designed for precision cutting in sewing and other fabric-related projects. They are typically smaller than tailor scissors or dressmaker shears, with blade lengths ranging from 3 to 6 inches.

Small fabric scissors are ideal for cutting small or intricate shapes, trimming seams, and clipping threads. They are also useful for snipping into corners or curves without damaging the surrounding fabric.

These scissors are designed to be lightweight and easy to maneuver, allowing for greater control and accuracy when cutting. They may have straight or curved blades, depending on the specific application.

4. Leather Scissors

Leather scissors are specialized shears designed specifically for cutting leather. They have pointed blades with a serrated edge which helps to grip the material and prevents it from slipping or bunching up when being cut. Leather scissors come in both curved and straight options, allowing for greater accuracy and control when dealing with complex shapes and curves.

Leather, with its timeless allure, can be a sustainable choice, provided it’s well-sourced and lovingly crafted. Yet, sewing with it is a unique challenge, requiring just the right tools, a specially equipped leather sewing machine, and a pair of heavy-duty, extra-sharp scissors. Leather scissors are designed to handle the thickness and toughness of leather, which can be difficult to cut with other types of scissors or shears. They are also capable of cutting through multiple layers of fabric at once.

Leather scissors are used for a variety of leatherworking applications, including cutting leather for clothing, accessories, and upholstery. They are also used for trimming and finishing leather edges and for cutting leather strips or cords.

You might be interested in: How to sew a leather tote bag

5. Pinking Shears

Pinking shears are a type of special scissors designed for use on small pieces of fabric or textiles. They have pointed blades with a sawtooth pattern which helps to create a wavy edge when the material is cut, giving it a more finished look than regular scissors would.

These types of scissors aren’t just used for decorative purposes but can also be used in dressmaking and tailoring to finish seams and prevent fraying. The sawtooth pattern created by the pinking shears helps to stop fabric edges from unraveling, meaning you don’t need to hem or overlock your seams all the time. Additionally, these scissors can be used for mending clothes or for making adjustments or repairs such as hemming trousers or skirts. Pinking shears come in different sizes and shapes, so it’s important to choose one that’s suitable for the job at hand; otherwise, if you select a pair that’s too large, you won’t be able to get close enough to the seams without cutting them.

6. Thread Snips

Thread snips are small, handheld cutting tools designed for quickly and easily cutting thread, yarn, and other thin materials. They typically have short, sharp blades that can be opened and closed with one hand.

Thread snips are used in a variety of sewing, embroidery, and quilting applications to quickly snip thread tails and excess yarn. They are also useful for trimming small areas of fabric or for clipping small notches or curves.

Thread snips are designed to be lightweight and easy to maneuver, allowing for greater control and precision when cutting. They may have a spring-loaded handle that automatically opens the blades after each cut or may require manually opening and closing the blades.

7. Embroidery Scissors

Embroidery scissors are a special type of scissors created for trimming threads and embroidery floss. They feature a curved blade, which can easily slice through stitches without leaving any rough edges, making them ideal for tasks like threading needles and working on delicate projects like quilting, beading, or appliqué.

Additionally, the small size of these scissors makes it easy to precisely cut buttonholes or shapes in appliqué fabric. Embroidery scissors are also great for mending clothes and tidying up frayed edges around seams. Their small size gives you extra control over cuts and trims, allowing you to create perfectly symmetrical designs every time.

8. Duckbill Scissors /Applique Scissors

Duckbill scissors, also known as applique scissors or duckbill applique scissors, are a type of cutting tool that features a unique, curved blade design. The blades are shaped like a duck’s bill, with a wide, flat surface on the bottom and a narrow, pointed tip.

applique scissors

Duckbill scissors are used primarily in sewing and quilting applications, particularly for applique work. The wide, flat blade helps to hold the fabric in place while cutting, while the narrow, pointed tip allows for precision cutting in tight spaces.

Duckbill scissors come in a variety of sizes, ranging from small, hand-held models to larger, heavy-duty versions. They are typically made of stainless steel or other durable materials and can be sharpened as needed to maintain their cutting edge.

9. Patchwork Scissors

Some manufacturers like Clover and Kai offer a specialized line of patchwork scissors. These types of scissors feature two blades of different lengths which meet at an angle, much like a pair of pliers. The longer blade is sharp and pointed while the shorter curved blade has serrated edges. This combination allows users to make quick yet precise cuts that won’t fray or distort their fabric. Patchwork scissors are particularly helpful when working on intricate projects such as cutting appliqué shapes, trimming seam allowances, or slicing through multiple layers at once. They have finely serrated blades that grip the fabric firmly so you can achieve a perfectly precise cut every time. Plus, patchwork scissors come in various sizes for different kinds of cutting tasks – from fine trimming to cutting through multiple layers of fabric and quilt batting with ease.

patchwork scissors

10. Buttonhole Scissors

Buttonhole scissors are specialized scissors designed to cut holes for buttons in fabric. They feature an angled blade with a sharp, triangular tip and a notch in the center that provides extra control so you can precisely cut the hole without snipping the surrounding material. What makes these scissors special is their adjustable width – just with a turn of the adjusting nut you can change the size of your buttonhole. This gives you the flexibility of creating different-sized buttonholes.

11. Multi-purpose shears

Every crafter should have a good pair of general-purpose shears. They’re versatile and can be used for all sorts of tasks, from cutting paper to trimming thread, ribbons, and more.

You should never, ever cut paper with your fabric scissors, so a pair of multi-purpose shears will come in handy when you need to cut paper for pattern pieces or other craft projects.

What is the difference between scissors and shears?

Scissors and shears are both useful cutting tools, but there are some key differences between the two. Scissors are generally smaller than shears, have symmetrical finger holes that can be used by right- or left-handed people, and usually have blades that measure less than six inches long. They’re ideal for cutting thinner materials like paper, thread, and fabric and tend to be lighter and more comfortable to hold for extended periods of time.

Shears are larger than scissors with blades that are longer than six inches. These robust tools are better suited for heavier materials such as leather, cardboard, and upholstery fabric. Shear handles feature different-sized finger holes – the larger one is for the thumb and offers greater leverage when cutting thicker materials. Additionally, the blades of shears have an angled design which provides even more leverage when cutting tough materials compared to straight scissors.

Scissors or rotary cutter: which one is better?

When deciding between scissors or rotary cutter, you should consider the task at hand, your personal preferences, and your comfort level with each tool.

Scissors are good for making precise cuts to lighter materials, while rotary cutters are suited for cutting through heavier fabrics or bulkier materials like upholstery or foam. If you’re looking for accuracy and precision, then scissors might be the right choice. However, if you need to make multiple repetitive cuts quickly and easily, then a rotary cutter is probably better. Personal preference also plays a role, as some people may prefer the feel of scissors in their hand, while others may prefer the ease of use of a rotary cutter.

rotary cutter

Different types of scissors for different types of fabric

Type of Scissors Best for Cutting
Dressmaker’s Shears Most fabrics, including heavier materials like denim and canvas
Pinking Shears Woven fabrics, to prevent fraying
Appliqué Scissors Appliqué work, trimming close to seams without cutting fabric
Embroidery Scissors Delicate fabrics, threads, and embroidery work
Thread Snips or Clippers Cutting threads and trimming seams
Tailor’s Shears Heavy fabrics like wool, leather, and upholstery materials
Serrated Scissors Slippery fabrics like satin, silk, and chiffon
Rotary Cutter Straight cuts on most fabrics, especially multiple layers

Features to consider to help you choose the right kind of scissors

Sewing projects are often complex and include a number of different tasks that require different tools. Here are some features to consider to make sure you have chosen the right tool for the job when it comes to cutting.


The size of the scissors can affect the ease of use and the type of materials that can be cut. Larger scissors can handle thicker materials and cut through them more easily, while smaller scissors are better for more delicate and precise cuts. Additionally, the size of the scissors can also impact the comfort of the user, as scissors that are too large or too small may cause discomfort or strain during extended periods of cutting.

Blade Shape

Scissors can have different types of point shapes, such as sharp, rounded, or pointed tips. The point of the blades affects the precision and safety of the scissors. For example, sharp-pointed scissors are better for precise cutting and detail work, while rounded or blunt-pointed scissors are safer for use around children or for cutting in tight spaces without the risk of accidentally poking or injuring oneself or others. Additionally, some scissors may have angled or curved blade points, which can be helpful for certain tasks like cutting fabric or cutting around applique designs.

You should also take a look at the blade edges. Straight edges are perfect for cutting smooth and precise lines, while serrated edges are ideal for cutting through tough materials like cardboard or fabric.

Serrated or Non-Serrated

serrated vs non-serrated

Serrated scissors have tiny teeth on the edge that grip and hold fabric in place, making them ideal for cutting delicate or slippery materials, and they help prevent fraying. Non-serrated scissors, on the other hand, have smooth edges that provide a clean, precise cut, making them great for everyday sewing but less effective on slippery fabrics. However, serrated scissors can leave visible marks on lighter fabrics and are harder to sharpen, while non-serrated ones can leave edges more prone to fraying.

Construction material

The material of the blades is critical in determining the quality of the scissors. Blades can be made of stainless steel, high-carbon steel, or titanium. Stainless steel is rust-resistant and durable, high-carbon steel is harder and can hold a sharper edge, while titanium blades are lightweight and strong.

Right-handed or left-handed

Many scissors are designed to be used by either left- or right-handed people. This is important, as it can make the difference between precision and frustration. It’s also important to note that some scissors may only be available in one “handedness” – so it pays to check before purchasing.

Why can’t left-handers use right-handed scissors?

When a right-hander uses a pair of right-handed scissors, they naturally apply pressure in such a way that the blades are pushed together. This gives a clean cut and keeps the paper or fabric from slipping between the blades.

But here’s the pickle when a lefty tries to use them: the natural motion of left-handed cutting tends to push the blades apart rather than together, causing the material to slip between the blades instead of being cut. Frustrating, right?

Also, the orientation of the blades is designed for right-hand viewing, meaning lefties often can’t see their cutting line. A bit like trying to sew with your eyes closed, not the most effective way to get a straight line! For a visual demonstration, check out this video:

Handle design

The handle design of the scissors plays an important role in using the tool comfortably. For example, some scissors have offset handles, which help to reduce strain on the thumb and wrist when cutting. Additionally, scissors may have non-slip grips or a locking mechanism that helps to keep your fingers in place while you’re working.

The material used to make the handles also affects the comfort, durability, and safety of your scissors. Handles can be made from plastic, rubber, or metal – each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Plastic is lightweight and cheap, but not as durable; rubber provides a comfortable grip but may not last as long; and metal is strong but heavier and potentially less comfortable for prolonged use. There are also ergonomic handles designed to fit the contours of your hand for extra comfort and strain relief.


The weight of the scissors can affect comfort and ease of use, especially during extended periods of cutting. Heavy scissors can cause fatigue and strain on the hand and wrist, while lighter scissors can be easier to handle and maneuver. However, the weight of the scissors should be balanced with the material of the blades and the intended use of the scissors. For example, heavy-duty scissors designed for cutting thick materials may be heavier to provide more power and leverage for cutting.

Which are the brands of scissors for sewing to look out for?

Several brands of scissors for sewing are highly regarded by sewing enthusiasts and professionals. Here are some brands to have in mind when looking for the righ type of sewing scissors:

  1. Gingher: Known for their precision and high-quality, Gingher scissors are a favorite among many sewists. They offer a variety of scissor types and sizes, including dressmaker shears, embroidery scissors, and thread snips.
  2. Fiskars: Fiskars is a well-known brand in the crafting world and offers a range of scissors for sewing. Their scissors are known for their ergonomic design and durable blades.
  3. Kai: Kai is a Japanese brand that is known for their high-quality and sharp blades. They offer a variety of scissors, including dressmaker shears, embroidery scissors, and serrated scissors for cutting through difficult fabrics.
  4. Mundial: Mundial is a Brazilian brand that has been making scissors for over 100 years. Their scissors are known for their precision and durability.
  5. Wiss: Wiss is an American brand that has been making scissors since 1848, and they are known for sharp blades and comfortable grips.

Types of scissors that are not suitable for sewing

Scissors are an essential tool for sewing, but certain types are not suitable for this type of activity. For instance, office scissors generally have short dull blades which can make them unsuitable for precision trimming or cutting thicker fabrics. Kitchen scissors are designed with robust blades but may not be true to size as they are used mainly for household tasks such as opening packets or cutting meat. Lastly, children’s scissors usually come with plastic handles and dull stainless steel blades meaning that they cannot perform more detailed work needed for intricate sewing patterns. To avoid disappointment, it is best to arm yourself with the right tools when undertaking any sewing project.

How many pairs of scissors do you need?

When it comes to taking on a sewing project, having different types and sizes of scissors can make all the difference. For starters, you should always have at least two pairs of fabric shears – one for cutting straight lines and another for curves. If you intend to work with thicker fabrics or even leather, then a pair of heavy-duty scissors or an electric rotary cutter may be necessary. Additionally, embroidery scissors and pinking shears are great for precision cutting and finishing off raw edges. Lastly, keep a smaller pair of thread snips handy for snipping threads or picking out unwanted stitches. These will provide the versatility required to help you complete all your sewing tasks in one go.

When it comes to sewing projects, the wrong type of scissors just not gonna cut it (I'll show myself out). Different types of scissors can be used for specific tasks, depending on their size and material. However, certain types of scissors such as office or kitchen scissors may not be suitable for the purpose and should be avoided. Having a selection of different scissors in various sizes will help you tackle all types of sewing projects with ease. Knowing what types of scissors to buy, and how many pairs of each you need, will help make your next sewing project a success. I hope that this guide has been helpful in your search for the perfect scissors!