Scissors, Shears or Rotary Cutters for Dressmaking and General Sewing?

Hilary Pullen Dressmaking Tutorials, Tips & Tricks 0 Comments

We take a look at the options and what you need when it comes to dressmaking scissors, shears or rotary cutters for cutting fabric. Be sure to let us know what your favourite brands are in the comments and if you have a trusty pair of snips you couldn’t live without!

Should I use Shears, Scissors or a Rotary Cutter?

Most of us have a standard pair of dressmaking scissors, often annoyingly blunt when we find they have been used by family members for cutting paper! If you have recently got more serious about sewing and dressmaking and realised that your current scissors just aren’t cutting it (pun intended!) you may be wondering whether you should be spending your money on a brand new pair of decent dressmaking shears and whether you want to also invest in a rotary cutter and mat.

In this dressmaking tips and tricks article, we take a look at what kind of tasks each tool is best for when it comes to saving you time and waste, cutting out patterns and fabric quickly and with ease. We have a range of Sewing Tools & Accessories available to browse in our Haberdashery including a great selection of scissors and rotary cutters.

What is the difference between dressmaking scissors and shears?

The finger holes on a pair of scissors are equally sized and they are usually under 6″ in length. On a pair of dressmaking shears, you will see a small finger hole and a larger one which enables you to put more fingers in and glide the blade along the surface as you cut, making for a fast and quick cut on straight lines, shears are also normally bigger than 6″. It’s unlikely you would use shears for precision cutting, whereas a small pair of scissors is perfect for cutting pattern notches and getting precision around corners.

You must keep your dressmaking scissors and shears for use on fabric alone or the blades will quickly get blunt. There are lots of other ways to keep scissors sharp

  • Don’t cut through pins – take care when cutting as this can damage your scissors
  • Don’t drop your scissors – they can become misaligned and this will impact cutting
  • Keeps scissors clean, remove fluff or fabric glue after you have finished with them
  • Open the blades up fully when cutting – you’ll hear a satisfying cutting sound when you hit the right spot!
  • Keep your shears and scissors in a case.

What is a rotary cutter best for in dressmaking and sewing?

Rotary cutters are predominantly used for cutting straight lines, similar to shears they are ideal for whizzing across large straight cuts and broad curves, such as when creating bias binding or in quilting where they are indispensable. They’re not good for small or curved cuts where a proper pair of sharp dressmaking scissors are essential.

If you are quilting or will be cutting out large amounts of fabric a rotary cutter can be more comfortable on your hands. Rotary cutters can take a little getting used to as sometimes the angle needed to hold the cutter may not feel natural to start with.

We found this fantastic video from Professor Pincushion who explains that “while it is very popular for quilting, rotary cutting can come in handy in cutting out various types of projects including garment sewing. This doesn’t mean you should go ahead and toss out your fabric sheers but there are some advantages to using a rotary cutter.” Read her full post here – Rotary Cutting 101

Let us know if you have any questions about purchasing new shears or a rotary cutter for your dressmaking or quilting – We have a range of Sewing Tools & Accessories available to browse in our Haberdashery including a great selection of scissors and rotary cutters.


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