Earlier this week I needed to order some new scissors. Looking for them on Amazon, I discovered that I got so many hits that were for different kinds of scissors that I thought I’d give you a guide to scissors. Here are the three main types of scisscors and when you use them.
Shears is the proper term for longer, heavier scissors that are used to cut fabric. Fine shears for cutting fabric, such as those from Gingher are not something we use often in stitching needlepoint. If you do finishing, you’ll use shears for cutting fabric. In common use, “shears” is also used for other scissors, such as kitchen shears or garden shears.
When you cut canvas, you do not use shears because the rough texture of canvas will ruin the blades. Instead use kitchen or garden shears. My current tool for this is a pair of OXO kitchen shears, which I guard jealously.
Scissors in a generic sense cover all cutting tools that cut with two blades that come together.
Sewing scissors differ from shears because they are shorter overall and have thinner, lighter blades. They come in a huge range of prices and in sizes from 1 to 5 inches. Scissors are used for a wide variety of tasks: cutting open packages of thread, cutting off thread ends, or enlarging holes in the canvas.
There are some specialized types of scissors. One type, with serrated blades, is used to cut metallic threads. Another type, with a notch at the end of one blade, is used to lift up threads from the canvas in order to cut them for frogging.
Scissors can differ widely in how pointed their tips are. The more pointed scissors can also make it easier to cut threads and small areas of fabric (in Hardanger for example).
Many stitchers keep a pair of scissors with every project or keep one at their stitching place.
Snips are probably the most unusual of the three types of sewing scissors. They work differently because you squeeze them to cut. They also look unusually because the blades are extremely short. Unlike other kinds of scissors, these blades do not open very widely.
When I was growing up, these were only used by professional tailors and seamstresses. You can find them more widely now, but my first pair was inherited from my grandmother. They are used to make small cuts and notches in fabric, to cut out buttonholes, and to snip off thread ends.
Because snips work by squeezing, they are a good choice if you have arthritis in your hands. Squeezing is a less stressful motion.
Take a look around, the many types of scissors are fascinating.