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I am new to sewing. I have a box of old sewing stuff (+ other stuff) from an older relative, which includes the two pairs of scissors below. Sewing tutorials say you need to use fabric scissors to cut fabric or it will fray. I am curious if these scissors are fabric scissors or regular scissors? Is it a good idea to get different scissors to cut fabric?

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    @fixer1234 Straight-bladed scissors are the norm for cutting fabric for most purposes. The kind with scalloped blades are called pinking shears, which are a specific kind of fabric scissors.
    – csk
    May 23 at 1:47
  • @csk, thanks. My education continues. I'll delete the comment.
    – fixer1234
    May 23 at 1:51
  • @csk ah I see. So there are fabric scissors and pinking shears. These are different things I guess. Thanks!
    – Bernie2436
    May 23 at 2:09
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Basically what makes good sewing scissors is that they are nice and sharp, and will make a clean cut. So the simplest way to find out if your scissors are good for cutting fabric is to test them on some fabric. Take a scrap of fabric (not a large piece that you want to use for a project) and try to cut it. If you can cut a nice clean line in a single snip, then your scissors are good for cutting fabric. If you get frayed edges, or you have to open and close and kind of saw at the fabric, then your scissors are not good for cutting fabric.

Here's my take on the three pairs of scissors you have, but definitely the best test will be to try them out.

  1. The first pair, with the brand name Farr on the side, is probably a pair of fabric scissors. Farr made a variety of good sharp scissors, including barber scissors and fabric scissors. So even if they're now dull, it might be worth having that pair professionally sharpened.

  2. The second pair, the ones with no brand name and black handles, reminds me of scissors I used in school art classes. Instinctively I assume they won't be sharp, but it's possible that type of scissor can be good quality when new and well-maintained, and the ones we had in school were just really abused.

  3. The last pair, also with no brand name, look like sewing scissors to me. They look a bit like a pair of Sears brand scissors I own, that are quite good quality. But mine have the brand name and country of origin embossed. The lack of brand name doesn't seem like a good sign in terms of quality. But the handle is well-worn, which might be an indicator that they were the original owner's favorite scissors, which is usually a good sign in a tool.

Once you have some nice, sharp scissors that do a good job at cutting fabric, don't use them to cut anything other than fabric, even (especially) paper. If you decide to have your scissors sharpened, make sure you take them to a reputable sharpener who knows how to do scissors; don't just ask your friend who likes to sharpen their own knives. If you do it wrong you can ruin a pair of scissors.


Pinking shears are a type of fabric scissor. Pinking shears have scalloped edges, so they leave a scalloped edge on the cut fabric, which reduces fraying. That's useful when you're cutting large pieces of fabric, or in particular types of fabric that are extremely prone to fraying. But you do have to make your seam allowances a bit larger to compensate. I've definitely seen sewing tutorials where they do everything with pinking shears, though. Your scissors are not pinking shears.

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  • Good scissors, used only for fabric, do not need sharpening. My mother bought a pair of Singer scissors with her sewing machine 65 years ago and they are still sharp. But drop a pair on their points and you can throw them out, ruined beyond hope on repair.
    – Willeke
    May 23 at 5:53
  • @Willeke That's an excellent point, but a good pair of fabric scissors can be dulled by using it to cut paper, or it can get nicks in the cutting edge. I've never actually had a pair sharpened, but I've definitely seen scissor sharpening services advertised at quilt shows. I don't know how effective it is, but I think it would be worth having a decent pair sharpened to get rid of the dull spots.
    – csk
    May 23 at 15:54
  • My mother would cut fabric, the paper pattern she used for sewing and our hair with this pair of scissors, but when it got a bit dull she would only cut fabric. And that helped. After about 40 years she replaced it with a new pair but the old pair got used as general pair and it is still good enough for fabric. As long as you are sensible in what you cut, no metal and not too hard plastics.
    – Willeke
    May 23 at 16:09
  • @Willeke there's paper and paper, i.e. cutting out patterns on fairly thin paper is far from hacking away at kids' craft projects or the cardboard templates I use making bike luggage.
    – Chris H
    Jun 7 at 15:26

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