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.
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.
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.
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).
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?