3 useful tips for cutting out

scissor collection

Do you enjoy cutting fabric, or do you find it anxiety-producing?

I know not everyone enjoys cutting out; I quite like it though. Although I trained as a patternmaker, I started my career as a junior cutter, and worked as a cutter on and off for about 9 years.

The most expensive fabric I ever cut was $700 per metre (for a mother of the groom). The highest number of layers I’ve cut, by machine, is 120 (chiffon shirts). I don’t know how many pairs of scissors I’ve used but I did wear one pair out with 5 years of everyday use.

Here’s my top three cutting/scissor tips:

1. Pull away the trimmings as you cut

If you’re right-handed, pull away the trimmings with your left hand as you cut. At the same time, maintain a very slight tension on the trimmings so they pull cleanly from the scissors. It makes it easier to cut a smooth line.

Cutting and scissors tips Pull away the trimmings

To avoid a choppy edge, stop cutting each stroke before the blades fully close.

Keep the bottom blade of the scissors in full contact with the table and try not to lift the fabric from the surface of the table.

2. Take care of your wrist and hand

When cutting around the corners of pattern pieces, try and keep your wrist straight. It’s very bad for it to flex either way as you cut.

Cutting and scissors tips Flexing the wrist
Bad, bad, bad.

Keep your scissors sharp; sharp blades fatigue the hand and wrist less, since you don’t have to work as hard to cut.

The handles are as important as the blades. Handles that fit your hand badly put pressure on your fingers when you cut. Ergonomic handles are a joy to use. Having said that, clothing cutters develop a lump on the middle knuckle of their middle finger from the pressure of scissor handles. My aunt thought mine was a wart. It goes away eventually.

Cutting and scissors tips Choosing good handles
On the left are Mudial’s dressmakers scissors and on the right is a pair of Fiskars. The Fiskars have far superior handles; I can cut all day with these. This is actually my favourite pair of scissors and featured on the cover of The Dressmaker’s Companion.

Scissors shouldn’t be too heavy to use. Shorter blades and lightweight plastic handles are preferable if you’re using scissors all day long. Long-bladed, all-metal shears look like you’re a cutter who knows their business but I always found them too tiring on the hand. Sometimes I could barely lift them.

3. Take care of your scissors

Keep your scissors hidden from family members who may be tempted to cut metal guitar strings with them etc. I have a separate pair of scissors for lending. Dropping scissors on a hard surface is also bad, as is running sharp scissors through the fabric without moving the blades – it tends to blunt them in one spot (even though it’s a really quick way to cut a length of fabric).

Cutting and scissors tips Wipe the blades
Wipe the blades after using them – all that dust and fluff will dull the blades.
Cutting and scissors tips Oiling scissors
Put a drop of sewing machine oil near the screw to keep them moving freely.

Scissors that are cared for should last many years, even a lifetime. You might have an old pair of scissors that just needs sharpening to bring them back to everyday use.

Do you have a favourite cutting tip? A favourite pair of scissors?



  1. Barkat on March 30, 2021 at 1:03 pm

    Very nice trips use for Scissor. Cutting g Scissor. I like. I want to all scissors.

    • lizhaywood on March 30, 2021 at 4:09 pm


  2. Eleanor on April 4, 2021 at 7:50 pm

    I bought some hand sewn feather fabric in Berwick st London once. It was an outrageous amount of money (I can’t recall exactly but well over a hundred pounds a metre….perhaps something like 250?) and the poor shop assistant was confused by the fabric and cut it the wrong way across the bolt. She only realised when she had proceeded at least a meter into cutting it (I was only buying 40cm) and the boss caught on. It was certainly the most expensive cutting mistake I have ever seen…

    • lizhaywood on April 4, 2021 at 8:20 pm

      What a story! I bet everyone felt terrible.

Leave a Comment