What Is the Purpose of Pinking Shears?

Updated February 21, 2017

Back in 1893, a woman named Louise Austin received a patent for what she described as "pinking scissors." During that period, quilting was all the rage. No doubt, that Ms. Austin was a quilter extraordinaire. Today, there are two main purposes for using pinking shears instead of regular scissors. Pinking shears make a zigzag scalloped cut that's ideal for crafts and sewing projects. They are also used for the purpose of keeping fabric from fraying, especially on hems and garment seams.

Use Pinking Shears to Keep Fabric from Fraying

Pinking shears are a handy tool for those who sew and just to have handy for other purposes. Unlike regular scissors, the blades on pinking shears are sawtooth instead of straight.

This makes pinking shears useful for sewing projects such as hemming a garment. For example, hems on blue jeans often unravel and fray with dangling threads. Pinking shears are the solution to keep this from happening. After measuring the hem, use pinking shears to cut the fabric. They will make a cut that's short and sharp to keep the hem from fraying. They are also the perfect solution for woven fabrics such as cottons and wool to lessen fraying and ravelling.

Create Decorative Cuts and Patterns for Sewing Projects

Regular scissors make a straight cut, and pinking shears make a cut that looks like a continuation of zigzag triangular lines. This feature can add creativity to sewing projects along with keeping the fabric from fraying. The cut is critical to use for quilt making to keep squares and other shapes connected after sewing them together.

Pinking shears also add a nice decorative cut for sewing projects where you are layering other patterns, shapes and different fabrics to create an applique. The cut will give your designs more interest value and creativity. You can also find pinking shears that make curved and rounded scallop cuts.

Make Interesting Shapes for Crafts

Crafters love using pinking shears to add a special touch to the cuts. The shears can be used on paper as well. However, most craft "pros" keep two pairs of pinking shears. They use pinking shears specially created for fabric, and a separate pair created to use for paper. This keeps blades sharp to make smooth cuts, and extend the life of pinking shears.

Taking Care of Your Pinking Shears

Check and remove lint periodically, and oil them every 4 to 6 months, depending on how frequently you use them. As much as possible, cut one layer of fabric at a time to get nice clean cuts. If fabric starts to bunch-up or jam inside the blades, it's probably time to get your pinking shears sharpened.

Popular Brands and Prices

Fiskars, the popular sewing notions company, makes several types of pinking shears and is probably the most well known manufacture. It offers a variety of pinking shears and features, including soft-grip handles, left-handed shears and ergonomic designs. Other popular brands include Mundial, DuraSharp and Westcott. Stainless steel, professional brands of pinking shears are manufactured by Gingher, Hawk, Allary and Mudial.

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About the Author

Cheryl Munson has been writing since 1990, with experience as a writer and creative director in the advertising industry. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism with a focus on advertising from the University of Wisconsin in Madison.