Thursday, December 6, 2012

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

You can thank mmmaker Maggie for this post. 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?

For cutting larger pieces of woven fabrics or felts you just can't beat a good pair of Gingher dressmaking shears. Period. They've made cameo appearances in many of my sewing tutorials as shown below:

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 since 2000 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 small scale detailed fabric/felt cutting (like for my ornaments) and I use the three pairs shown below constantly. They are my faves. The green and blue pair are both serrated Karen Kay Buckley scissors. So worth it. My sister gave me the green pair and then I bought the blue because I liked the green so well. The blades are super sharp to the very tips and make precision cuts a breeze. I also have worn out two pairs of the creme handled Martha Stewart precision scissors shown below. They seem to be discontinued but I see them sometimes if I do a google search. I use them a LOT so it's a shame they are no longer readily available. 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 the MS blades on paper too, but despite this abuse they still bite cleanly through felt.)

Green and blue serrated ones are here
Discontinued? Looks that way. :-(

That's always what happens to my lipstick color too. I find one I like and then whamm-o it's gone forever.

Normally used for cuts on paper, this handy craft knife also makes quick work of cutting small interior shapes cleanly out of felt (like the windows on my All Through The House ornament). For straight cuts I use a nice new blade alongside a plastic quilt ruler. Curved cuts are best done with multiple tiny straight cuts as opposed to dragging the blade across the felt in one motion.

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. Unlike most folks, I prefer to use a metal ruler as opposed to plastic. I've actually shaved off the edge of a couple of my plastic rulers with the blade. Oopsie. 

(Note: if you use a metal ruler, which is thinner than plastic rulers, you need to be super careful to seat the blade firmly and go slowly so you don't jump the edge and cut your fingers! When in doubt, use plastic – it's better to shave your ruler than your fingers.)

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. Benzie Design sells a nice pair. 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 my first pair via ToolTron forever ago and I've been 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". I also now have two really nice new pairs of large and small scallop shears from Benzie Design, and you can find those here. It's so nice they have three scallop sizes to choose from!

NOTE: Please do not confuse good pinking and scallop shears with similar looking paper edging scissors. 100% NOT the same. Attempt to use paper edgers on fabric or felt and they will make a big ol' hash of your project.

Of course, I also have myriad pairs of cheap IKEA scissors laying around for cutting out freezer paper, ribbons, rough cutting card stock... It's great to keep several pairs of cheapies within easy reach so you are not tempted to pick up your expensive Ginghers or detail scissors to cut a pipe cleaner or slit open a package. Horrors!

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. Aloha, I have a small craft project that requires cutting small squares of a flimsy velvet material that I bought...what kind of scissors would you recommend?

    1. Hey there! I'd be tempted to fold it and use a ruler and cutting wheel. If it's too flimsy for that I'd just use super sharp, small shears and mark the grid on the wrong side of the fabric.

  13. Oh goodness! You really shouldn't tell people to use a metal ruler with a rotary cutter. You should advise people to use acrylic rulers (usually made for quilting) as they are thicker (allowing the blade not to go off kilter and clip off your finger (I was present when this happened to someone and it required an ER visit) and will not be cut by the blade (like a thin art ruler).

  14. I'm just starting on my felting adventure and I am so glad to have found this tutorial. Thanks so much.

  15. This is very informative post !! i am looking for this kind of's really appreciated.


Hello. Enough about me. Let's hear from you! If you post a question, I answer with a reply comment, so be sure to click the 'notify me' box as you post your question to receive the answer via email. Thanks!