Sharp Snips, a Scissors Review
I could not write this blog without mentioning my home town or rather closest city Sheffield which is still world renowned for its quality steel manufacturing. With all my pairs of scissors I have yet to own a pair from Sheffield, where they are still being made today and a quick google brings up a few companies that look like they are making distinctive and superior products such as Earnest Wright, William Whiteley, Blade Runner. I will one day have to go and pay a visit to find something extra special!
You know I believe that you can just look at a pair of scissors and have a good idea of how they are going to feel in your hand and how they will feel when you cut into fabric, the noise they are going to make and what they will be like in 15 years’ time……. I don’t know how I know this, perhaps it is muscle memory or intuition or just my imagination. For me scissors are not just a means to an end but they define feeling and usually depending on what I am making I will reach for the scissors that will add to my mood.
People collect scissors, it really is a thing! That’s what they say these days isn’t it!
How many pair of scissors do you need to have to consider it a collection?
I recently upgraded my scissor collection (I’m thinking more than three or four pairs takes you into the collection zone). When I started to look at the options available I sort of narrowed it down to a couple of brands, but only through internet reviews, I am sure that there are many brands out there that are worth buying. I must say at this point that I have no affiliation with any manufacturer or even gain income from any name mentioned here and for what it is worth I am certainly not suggesting you go out and buy what I prefer as it is simply my own opinions that I am stating here.
So recently I got a little disheartened by my scissor of choice that I might add I have used for many many years, and I guess that moving more into the professional realm of dressmaking/alterations, bridal and formal garments it has necessitated a rethink of many of the tools that I use.
Over the years I have listened to the experienced, taken note, and tried out for myself many tools required of this passion for thread. So I guess it is time to give a little back. So I lay out my scissor collection for you to see and give you my thoughts on my own experiences.
OK before I give you a picture of the few scissors that I do now call my own, I must confess that they are not all here, I do have a few other scissors lying around, such as embroidery scissors, I also have a pair of pinking shears (you know that create a zig zag) that I think about upgrading all the time but the simple fact is that I don’t really use them so often so can never justify the expense (they are Fiskars by the way).
Oh yes I just dropped the word shears in there so a little confirmation; Scissors usually have equal sized handles for your fingers and thumb and are under 6” for the blade. Shears are usually larger and different sized handles, as they are basically large scissors so you may need more fingers in use to apply more force to cut through whatever fabric you are cutting.
So in fact shears are really simply extra strong scissors and because of this they tend to be much larger, heavier, robust, and usually used in more professional environments, but who’s to say you can’t be professional in your own home.
But of course having said that both scissors and shears can both be different in design, shapes and sizes and both can have adjustable screws to determine the blade positions for comfort and cut precision.
As you cut fabric with either scissors or shears the fabric is propelled forward a little so the best scissors/shears will be sharp enough and maybe angled or serrated to reduce this effect.
Needless to say you will need to look after whatever scissor/shears you own so the ability to sharpen then is a must.
All scissors/shears then are not created equal. The type of fabric you are working with will determine the style of scissor/shears you might wish to use. Therefore if you have different applications in your work then you will no doubt need different scissors/shears for the best working results. I might also add that I have different work stations so I also double up on some scissors/shears around the place just for convenience.
Right so back to that photo I promised you…..
I know I’m teasing now but I just like the photo!
Here they are….
Sorry it’s a little out of focus but we can look at them individually now….Not in the order shown….
When I was a child I used to use any old scissors I could find in the house, I'm talking about when I was 5 and learned to crochet and knit and subsequent embroideries and dressmaking as a child. Luckily however those scissors may have turned out to be very good scissors having dressmaking and embroidery etc. in the family, and I’m sorry I can’t tell you more about whatever I found but I have long since forgotten except that I do know that I have a pair of my grandmas embroidery scissors, not shown in the photo. Apart from this information not being particularly useful, I guess what I am saying is that you can just get on with it, don’t wait until you have perfect tools to get started, and don’t give yourself any chance to make up excuses!
Of course affordability is a big driver for what scissors you do buy so for many years I used a household favourite, Fiskars. I can tell you that I have lost count of the pairs of these scissors that I have had, like pens they seem to walk out of the house. If you are looking for a reasonably priced pair of scissors then you can’t go wrong in buying a pair for general dressmaking.
They now come in various shapes, sizes and colours. I would say go for 8” to 10” initially and just a straight forward pair, nothing swanky and get used to them, they will go strong for many years and Fiskars do supply a sharpener which I do own and seems to work to some degree.
Ah I hear you say but you have shown us 2 pair of Fiskars in the photo and the smaller pair has swanky blades! Let me tell you I have quite a few pairs of Fiskars, not because I prefer them but they are well priced and adequate for everyday sewing. I do use them for teaching as they are affordable to replace when they are dropped, or lost and I am precious about my personal scissors.
I wanted to show you two pairs because I use the coloured blade pair for cutting paper, patterns etc. You never want to use your fabric scissors for your paper, but you still want a sharp pair to cut out patterns, these smaller blade 8” ones do the job and having the different coloured blades lets me see at an instant which ones I am picking up. Fiskars will tell you that they are special because they use a different metal, but when sharp they both seem to grab and cut fabric equally well in my view.
Let’s talk about the white scissors in the photo, manufacturer unknown. These were given to me for a present by my daughter so they are sentimental a few years old and wearing a little now as they were used as a standard household scissor for cutting paper and patterns, but now I use them for cutting boning for gowns as they work well for that purpose and this saves me damaging some of my other scissors. So think about the application of the use for your scissors because that will drive you to your choice.
The silver pair of scissors I have are 8” Gingher from Italy. Now anyone who knows me knows that I love anything Italian so……
These scissors are lovely they come with a sheath and are shaped so that they cut flatter to the table, and therefore not lifting the fabric up so much, which does help your hand/wrist when you have a full cutting session.
When you use these scissors they make a beautiful grind snip and whoosh sound every time you cut and open them, which makes you feel very dressmakey. Being totally metal they feel more dressmakey too. Which for me is romantic. They cut very precisely and so are great for cutting armholes and necklines etc. where you want lots of control.
They are very reasonable in price too, I would say a cut above the Fiskars in style and performance.
My next pair of Ginghers would be the Micro Serrated ones to help grip better on silks and satins etc. However I tend to use a Rotary cutter for these fabrics as I feel I get more precision and less fabric movement so my next Ginghers may never come about.
Moving on to the shears. I have two pair, the Kai and Mundials both 10”. Even though they are both the same size they are so very different in application.
The Kai are very executive looking, like the sort of shear you would imagine in a high end Japanese designer workspace I imagine. They are reasonably lightweight for their size, something I have to consider for my constantly sore hands and fingers. I have large hands so my fingers fit very nicely into the handles without being squashed in and there is an outside groove for me to place my index finger which helps with cutting pressure. They also are shaped.
They certainly don’t disappoint either with the cutting action. They are silent like an electric car when you open and close them and even when cutting through fabric it sounds like the noise is reduced somehow. They cut long and accurately and I feel very scientific and mathematical when I use them which adds to the flavour of origami patterns! I mean business when I am using these scissors.
The Mundials are a different kettle of fish altogether. Just looking at them they look like they mean business, they look very industrial and look professional you would expect to see them in a factory and they look like they cut through leather like butter, although I have never tried it, so you could certainly cut through a few layers, I just tried 8 layers and although pressure needed to be added they did the cut. They are shaped and heavy to hold so you would not be using them for a long time. The noise they make is like they are the daddy of the Ginghers, it is deep and purposeful. However I feel that the fabric travels forward with these scissor. So these shears in my view are to use when you have a job that needs it such as denim, multiple layers or something meaty to get your teeth into.
Jumping back down to the smaller end, I use smaller scissors for embroidery, snipping thread and cutting applique etc. My favourite ones for cutting fabric are my baby 5” Ginghers, and I actually have a smaller pair for embroidery on their way to me as we speak. Although they do tend to get unbalanced, because I drop them constantly, I still love them and they have pride and place next to my TV seat which is my favourite relaxing place to stitch.
In addition to these small scissors I have a few pairs of embroidery scissors most of which are packed with individual projects in my work in progress sink hole!