Thursday, December 6, 2012

hey, Larissa, what do you use to cut felt (and fabric)?

You can thank Maggie for this post. Hi, Maggie! She asked me yesterday what tool I use to cut felt and then I wrote a novel back to her and she kindly suggested I use it for a blog post. I think yes.

So what do I cut stuff with?

First of all, for cutting larger pieces of woven fabric or felt you just can't beat a good pair of Gingher dressmaking shears. Period. They've made cameo appearances in many of my sewing tutorials:

They are weighty, feel great in your hand and make a very satisfying *swack* as they close. The *swack* indicates that they Mean Business. Also they are very shiny and pretty, so. Bonus.

I've had this pair for 12 years and had them sharpened only once. (There's a whole story there where I think my sister 'accidentally' switched my new Ginghers with her older ones when she was visiting, but it would be petty to mention it. Again.) The entire length of the blade delivers a clean cut right down to the very (sharp) tips, so it makes cutting interior acute angles and clipping seam allowances a breeze. They don't come cheap, they run about $30ish from various places (save your coupons), but if you work with fabric or felt they are a must-have.

BTW, never, never, never use your Gingher shears on paper. Paper will quickly dull the blades and their magical properties will be lost. Hide them away from grabby children and their construction paper projects.

A shorter pair of scissors is needed for detailed fabric/felt cutting and these MS Precision Scissors (see late note below) are my faves. I cut scads of small pieces so I use them a LOT. They are lightweight with comfortable rubberized handles. Crazy sharp all the way to the thin tips. They make it easy to cut tiny shapes and details. They come with a nice protective cap for the blade. I confess I use them on paper too, but despite this abuse they still bite cleanly through felt.


I bought a backup pair a while back during a sale because I worry they'll be discontinued for whatever reason*. They fit my hand just right and I'd miss them. That's always what happens to my lipstick color too. I find one I like and then whamm-o it's gone forever.
*Late note: Looks like that was a legitimate fear. You might be able to find them from 3rd party sources if you search. These EK Tools Precision Scissors look like they might be a great substitute.

I also have two pairs of EK Success Cutter Bees, a regular pair and also a Honey Bee pair that has a non-stick coating on the blades. I bought them as an alternative to the MS pair because they have a longer blade. (The nonstick coating on the Honey Bee makes for easy cutting of sticky labels and tape, if you do a lot of that.) These are very economical for the quality you get. I use them to cut felt and paper. Watch your fingers, these things have precision blades that come to a wicked point so it's easy to jab yourself pretty good. Which is why they come with a handy protective plastic cap for the blades that I always forget to put on.

If it's a long, straight cut on fabric or felt I use my Olfa rotary cutter and a ruler on a cutting mat. You get a much cleaner cut than with scissors and quicker too. Use a metal ruler as opposed to plastic if you can. I've actually shaved off the edge of a couple of my plastic ones. Oopsie.

Now for decorative edges. I have two kinds of shears for that, scalloped and pinking.

Pinking shears (pointy teeth) are widely available. I picked up mine at my local fabric store. Sorry, I can't find a brand name on them. They power through several layers of fabric when needed and cutting felt is a cinch. Pinking shears are a practical and quick way to finish a seam allowance so that it doesn't ravel, but also they are great for giving items a decorative zig-zagged edge.

Scalloped fabric shears are harder to find and they can be more expensive. I got mine via ToolTron and I'm very pleased with them. The brand name might be Nikken, it's really hard to tell because it's so tiny. They are marked "Made In Japan".

Note: Please do not confuse good pinking and scallop shears with similar looking paper edging scissors. NOT the same. Attempt to use paper edgers on fabric or felt and they will make a big ol' hash of your project.

I also have these nifty things I bought online, Sizzix paddle punches. I thought they were going to revolutionize my felt crafting but I can count the times I've used them on my hand. If they came in a nice range of sizes I think I'd use them more. A few whacks on the top with a rubber mallet and the blade on the paddles cuts through the felt, resulting in a perfectly clean shape. They don't work as well on woven fabric, I find.

Of course I also have myriad pairs of cheap IKEA scissors laying around for cutting out everything else like paper patterns, lengths of ribbon, wrapping paper stuff... It's great to keep several pairs of those cheapies within easy reach so you are not tempted to pick up your expensive Ginghers to cut a pipe cleaner.

That's the 411 on my fancy fabric cuttin' tools. If neat, precision cutting matters to you, having the right tools will help you get there. Good hand cutting skills are also essential. That sounds like another post.


  1. I have a little pair of burgundy handled Sears brand scissors that I have been using for my paper cutting crafts for about 10 years and I couldn't craft without them! I got them from my Gramma who had already had them for years. I bought a pair of those little MS scissors a couple of years ago thinking maybe they would be a comparable set, but they really aren't as magical as my other pair. I have often looked at the Bee ones and thought about buying them, but haven't yet. I'm always worried I'll misplace my favourite pair!

  2. I have a Sizzix Big Shot and have used it very successfully on both woven fabrics and felt. Obviously the down side to this is needing the dies, but I have used dies from other systems very successfully also. It's especially helpful when I need LOTS of the same shape (like felt for 30 sets of mickey ears!)

  3. Michelle, sounds like your Sears scissors are a treasure. I wonder if they are available on ebay or something?

    Sandy, yeah, the dies are very limiting because you can't customize the sizes. But you are right, it must be pure gold for cutting multiples.

    Mama Pea, my pleasure! :-)

  4. Great post! I would love to see more "behind the scenes" posts here. :)

  5. Excellent post, Larissa - you do so much for us sewists & crafters, and you are much appreciated!

  6. Love the post- I have quite a decent collection of one-purpose scissors also. But...I have developed nasty arthritis in both wrists and my right thumb, so cutting with scissors is quite painful- enough to make tears come to my eyes after only about 5 snips. Therefore, I'm after a pair of rechargeable electric scissors- seen any in your travels??

  7. Hi, Kay! I didn't know there WAS such a thing. How cool is that? Sorry I can't be a help!

  8. Thanks for the really thorough post! I just got a few items off Overstock at pretty competitive prices. You gave me the confidence to drop the coin, though. :)

  9. Thanks for this Larissa. Despite being in the U.K. I managed to hunt down and treat myself to a pair of MS Precision Scissors, a pair of Honey Bees and a pair of the Scalloped Fabric Shears. Would never have known about them without this article so thank you very much!

    1. Hi, Aunty Stitches! I'm so glad. I hope you like your new tools! I know I love mine. Big hello across the pond!

  10. hai, i wonder... can i use paper puncher (flower shape) to cut fabric like tulle or organza?
    thank u very much

  11. Where did you buy Sizzix paddle punches in Singapore?

    1. Hi, Vylette, as I recall I bought them on Etsy. Not sure from where.

  12. Thanks for sharing this beautiful piece of information.scissor shears are popular with hair pros due to their quality and durability. In order to assist all of their clients, a salon needs to have a variety of professionalhairdressing scissors, on hand for their easy to use.


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