What Is The Difference Between Fabric Scissors And Pinking Shears?

For anyone who works with fabric it’s incredibly important to know the role of each of your tools for your trade. The line of distinction kind of blurs between fabric scissors and pinking shears, though, so what is the difference between them, especially in their function?

Pinking shears are made with jagged edges and are used in order to add a decorative edge, minimize unraveling in loosely woven fabrics, and to finish firmer fabrics, while fabric scissors are made with straight edges and designed in various ways to cut a variety of materials.

If you would like to understand the purposes and distinctions between fabric scissors and pinking shears, please read on.

What are Pinking Shears?

Pinking shears are not quite what you would expect, given their name. They are a type of scissors where instead of two solid edges for cutting, like you normally see on scissors, they have serrated edges that look like the scissors have very sharp teeth.

“Pinking,” doesn’t refer to color in any way, but is actually a term from 1300 that means “pierce, stab, or to make holes in.” Before the invention of the pinking shears, seamstresses and tailors would have used either a pinking iron or a pinking punch to accomplish this work.

The pinking shears that we know today are not in its first design. Its first design was a pinking iron with some handles on it before the design was refined by Louise Austin in 1893 to the design we know today, before 1952 when Benjamin Luscalzo patented a design that would actually keep the shears blades aligned. 

What Do You Use Pinking Shears For?

So what do you use pinking shears for to begin with? Pinking shears are used to cut zig-zagging edges into the fabric you’re cutting, typically woven cloth, in order to minimize the damage of the frayed edges that woven cloth is so infamous for by limiting the length of the frayed thread length. 

It’s a common belief that they prevent fraying entirely, but unfortunately they aren’t quite that magical. They were also used to get a decorative hem design. Before the pinking shears, in order to get the same design you had to use the fabric on a hard surface and use a mallet on the punch to cut the fabric. 

When you use pinking shears today, you just use them like regular shears or scissors. There’s nothing special in their design in that way. And of course, you can use them to add cute edges like in the olden days.

Although pinking shears won’t prevent fraying, you can use them to finish edges on firmer fabrics that don’t fray very easily by first stitching along the fabric you’ve chosen ¼” away from its edge and then cutting along the edge. Finally, you can sew the finished edges all together and press those seams open.

What are Fabric Scissors?

Fabric scissors are the most necessary tool every tailor, seamstress, dress maker, and embroidery lover needs. You can’t do anything without this official best friend of yours. Fabric scissors are an incredibly old invention. Their original design could be dated back to Italy in 400B.C. as shears, and then improved with handles for the hand in about 600B.C. 

Fabric scissors come in different designs and sizes to accomplish specific tasks. The most common types of fabric scissors are:

  • Ambidextrous scissors
  • Buttonhole scissors
  • Dressmaker scissors
  • Embroidery scissors
  • Pinking Shears
  • Tailor scissors

That’s a lot, but there’s a very good reason there are so many. They each have distinct functions.

What Do You Use Fabric Scissors For?

Fabric scissors are the most important tool of the trade because they were made to cut any, or at least, most fabrics of different thicknesses, materials, etc. Whatever you need cut, a good pair of fabric scissors are what you need. 

They have a version for you whether you need a pair of scissors to fit both of your hands comfortably, cut the perfect holes for buttons, a long and tapered blade for dresses, small and curved scissors to fit in embroidery hoops, or heavy scissors to cut thicker material. 

What is the Difference Between Pinking Shears and Fabric Scissors?

It’s understandable why there would be confusion between these two seeing as fabric scissors have also been called fabric shears before. 

As we have seen, pinking shears have a limited range of functions, cannot take the place of other fabric scissors, and are a more modern invention. 

Fabric scissors cover a multitude of needs, are unbelievably old, and if you had the patience, could create the same pattern as pinking shears.

In Short,

While pinking shears are a type of fabric scissor, it serves specific functions while fabric scissors as a whole performs an array of functions. Both are useful.

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