Favorite Tools: Scissors I Couldn’t Live Without

two favorite scissors | Cloth Habit

In my younger sewing years, I hated cutting. All those chores from ironing a tissue pattern to laying out the fabric were the boring tasks I had to do before getting to the fun job of actual sewing, sitting down at the machine and stitching. Then something shifted over the last few years and, dare I say it, I might love cutting more than the sewing!

The whole cutting/fitting/tracing process goes down a lot smoother if you actually like the materials and tools you are using. I discovered I didn’t like tissue paper, or Swedish tracing paper, or pinning tissue to fabric. I didn’t like using wax paper and wheels to transfer markings. So I went looking for better methods and tools, or ones I’d enjoy using. At the very least, a good pair of scissors went a long way toward pleasurable cutting.

I have quite a stash of cutting tools, including a few truly out-there scissors–like a ginormous pair designed for cutting oak tag pattern paper but feels more like hedge trimmers–but these are the two I use and love the most:

Kai 9” professional shears

Kai Scissors | Cloth Habit

For 20 years I’d been using the same pair of Gingher dressmaker shears which my sister bought me as a college gift. They’re great scissors, but after 30 minutes of cutting with them my wrists got very fatigued.

These fit my hand perfectly. I love the angle of the handles, the material grip around them, the weight. They come in different blade lengths and I almost could have gone with the 8″ because I can’t open these all the way with my small hands. (Good things to think about before you buy those ginormous length tailor shears!)

Tailor point scissors

tailor point scissors | Cloth Habit

These kind of scissors have a sharp point ending which makes them very useful for snipping into tiny areas (bra seams!). I keep these by my machine or on my cutting area to snip notches, cut loose threads, and trim or grade seam allowances.

The Ginghers are more common in shops but Kai makes a very similar pair called “rag quilt scissors”. I recently added the Kais because I’m often misplacing my other pair, and I’m glad I tried these out. They have the same blade length and style but are a bit lighter and less slippery in my hands.

clipping threads | Cloth Habit

Y’all probably know this but even the best cutting tools make for frustrating cutting when the blades are dull. I was cutting with my original Ginghers for years before I thought to sharpen them and what a difference it made! It doesn’t matter if you cut paper with one pair and fabric with another, your fabric scissors are going to dull eventually. Do you remember what it was like when you bought your first *real* kitchen knife and cut down a tomato? Like cutting through soft butter. I really need to sharpen my knives more often, too…

Have you found a favorite pair of shears, and did it make your cutting a lovelier experience?


  1. Anne says:

    I won some Gingher shears in a PR contest, and while they cut very nicely I still prefer my 28mm rotary cutter! I feel like it is more accurate and it makes working with silks and other slippery fabrics soo much easier. The Ginghers are usually reserved for thick fabrics, or for when I’m cutting out something so big I can’t fit it on my 3’x5′ rotary cutting mat.

    • Amy says:

      Fascinating! I have tried to love the rotary but I can’t get with it. I completely understand why others swear by them but I think it’s the angle at which I have to stand to use it, and I felt like I was spending big bucks on blades all the time.I’m wondering if there’s good, better, best rotary cutters?

  2. Margo says:

    t’s neat to see what other sewists use when they sew. I use a pair of Fiskars spring loaded scissors. I find that they are the easiest on my hands. You article reminds me that I should probably have them sharpened soon! Thanks 🙂

  3. Mariann says:

    It’s so funny to see you using your right hand for cutting. I remember surprising your Kindergarten teacher with the news that you needed a pr. of left handed scissors. She hadn’t realized your handedness. But it was too late. You already figured out how to do it with your right hand.

    • Amy says:

      hey mom! I know, I’ve tried to use left-handed scissors and it feels so weird. I also got used to using a computer mouse on the right hand side and trying to reverse it was really awkward!

      • rita says:

        ha ha! I know about the mouse. I’m left handed,yet do a lot of things with my right hand. It took me a long time to realize that I wasn’t a doof with the mouse; I was just using the wrong hand. By that time, it was too late. I use right handed scissors with my left hand but mostly I use a rotary cutter (the more expensive kind with an ergonomic handle) and that, I use with both hands.

  4. emily says:

    YES! I started life working in costuming where gingher is king. after switching to fashion production I realized KAI is where it’s at. I won’t use anything else now.
    Universal Sewing has pretty decent pricing and a wide variety.

  5. Sabrina says:

    I used Fiskars and would like to take my mother’s ginghers when I find them since she doesn’t sew anymore. I will have to try out the KAI. I have never heard of this brand so I am willing to add it to my arsenal.

  6. Virginie says:

    I swear by Kai too. Actually I enjoy cutting, I do have the 11” Kai professional scissors as well as the same small Kai in your picture (aren’t they great?). I agree with you that the right tools make all the difference in the world. I would like to get the Kai pinking shears to add to my cutting tools.

    • Amy says:

      Hi Virginie! I might have to add more to my arsenal. I haven’t used pinking shears in ages and I wonder how they are sharpened… hmmm…

  7. zilredloh says:

    I’ve been dealing with ginghers b/c I thought that’s what sewists are supposed to use, ya know! I know have a weird callous on my index finger from cutting with them.
    I’m ready for a scissor upgrade/change! Just added these Kai’s to my amazon wish list. 😀 Thanks for sharing all of this great info.

  8. Lynne Summers says:

    I would really like to try these out. I’m curious why you chose the 9″ over the 8″. I’ve used 8″ gingers for years and have a 9″ pair of tailors sheers I use only for paper. Do you like the extra length for cutting fabric? It would make the cutting go faster.

    • Amy says:

      Great question, Lynne. I have small hands and I remember waffling over whether to get the 8 or 9″. Maybe some day I’ll try smaller ones and see how they feel. When cutting fabric I like taking long cuts rather than short snippy ones so I think the longest I can handle is best.

      • Lynne Summers says:

        Thanks, I actually have big hands. I was using my Ginghers today and I can see why the 9″ would be nice. Yes nice long cuts are great when cutting garments out. So I’m going to get the 9″, can’t wait to try them out.

  9. Elle C says:

    A pair of Kai scissors has been on my wishlist for awhile now, but I want to feel them in my hand before buying a pair and no one locally sells them. 8-(

    However, I just bought a pair of Gingher duck billed applique scissors, and wow, how to make a job of trimming soooo much easier. I really am amazed how easy they make a fiddly job. Can’t recommend them enough.

      • Amy says:

        I have the duck-billed type and they are great for snipping buttonholes. I don’t love them for trimming little SAs, though–that’s what those little Kai’s are for! It’s funny what we get used to using, right?

  10. Naomi says:

    I really dislike the cuttung and preparing part! Hearing that you actually CAME to like it gives me hope though. Maybe you could share some of your techniques with us? I’d love to love cutting! 😀

  11. Din says:

    I have a pair of Finny Alpha shears that I bought so long ago that I don’t even remember buying them at all.They make cutting a pleasure but I should probably get them sharpened soon. I also have a few pairs of Ginghers (tailor points, pinking shears and embroidery scissors). Perhaps I’ll try out Kai next.

  12. Sarah says:

    I’d love to hear about what you chose in preference to the tissue, Swedish tracing paper, etc. I don’t feel comfortable with any of thenpattern options yet. Ooh, was it oak tag?

    • Amy says:

      Hi Sarah, in this post I was writing about scissors, but are you wanting paper for patternmaking or just want to trace home sewing patterns for posterity?
      Indeed, my favorite is oak tag for patterns I want to re-use. There’s nothing like it. But it’s a pain in the butt to trace every single pattern to it.

      My other favorite is kraft paper by the roll. I really dislike tissue but if I buy a tissue pattern and don’t want to take the time to re-trace it out I’ll use it. I’m also not a fan of swedish tracing paper. I’m an accuracy nut so I really like patterns I can trace with chalk and which keep their edge. I use weights and then tailor’s chalk or a chalk wheel to trace around a pattern. Both tissue and swedish tracing paper have no edge which drives me insane. 🙂

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