Tag Archives: scissors

How Many Pairs Of Scissors Do You Need For Dressmaking?

scissors for dressmaking

My column for this month’s Love Sewing magazine is all about scissors. Not like me to be going on about scissors is it?!

Here’s a little edited version of the column:

Anatomy of a pair of scissors.

anatomy of a pair of scissors

Scissors or shears?

What is the difference between scissors and shears? A good question as fabric cutting scissors often appear to be interchangeably called dressmaking, fabric or tailor’s shears or scissors. Well, apparently when scissor blades are longer than 15cm or 6 inches, they become shears.

Commonly used scissors and shears for dressmaking:


dressmaking shears

Have handles set at an angle to make it easier to ensure the fabric is lifted as little as possible from the cutting surface. The lower handle is larger to accommodate your fingers and handles are often molded to be a more comfortable fit. They come in different sizes, which refers to the length of blades. I like to work with 10” shears, but 8” are also useful and probably easier for beginner dressmakers.


paper scissors

Make sure you have a reasonable sized pair of scissors for cutting paper patterns. I prefer to use a similar style of scissors to my fabric ones, ie. angled handles and long blades. Cheap poor quality fabric shears actually make great paper scissors!


thread snips

For snipping thread ends when working on your machine, these specially shaped thread snips fit onto just your 2nd or 3rd finger and sit inside your hand to give you more control. They can take a bit of getting used to if you haven’t used them before, but many sewers love them and won’t use anything else.


embroidery scissors

An alternative to snips which I tend to prefer. Choose a pair with large bows (handles) for comfort and make sure they have super sharp points. Keep them for snipping threads when working on your machine, for unpicking and for removing tacking.


buttonhole scissors

Unusual shaped scissors, with short blades and often with an adjustable screw between the handles. The screw is adjusted so that the scissors can only cut the length of your buttonhole! Much more accurate and tidier than cutting buttonholes with a seam ripper.


duckbilled scissors napping scissors

Another pair of unusually shaped scissors, I honestly don’t know what I did before I got my pair they are just so useful. Interchangeably also referred to as duck-billed or napping scissors. In dressmaking I use them most for layering seams. That wide blade on the bottom and the angled up handles allows you to layer seams with no danger of accidentally cutting through the fabric underneath. They are also useful for cutting into reverse appliqué.

Which ones you really need and which ones are “nice to haves”:

As a bare minimum aim to have a pair of each of the following in your sewing tool kit. Save up and buy quality and you will only need to buy them once.

  • Fabric shears (at least 8 inch / 20cm)
  • Small scissors OR snips
  • Paper sicssors (a cheap pair of fabric shears are best, not a 50p pair of tiny craft scissors!)

As you start to do more sewing, you will find these useful so invest in them as and when you can (or stick them on your Christmas list!), but again, quality only and they’ll last you a lifetime of sewing…..

  • Appliqué scissors
  • Buttonhole scissors

A big thanks to Nick Wright of Ernest Wright & Son (one of the remaining Sheffield scissor makers) who is responsible for a lot of my scissor knowledge!

Last Posting Date for MIY Collection Orders


Chop chop! If you’ve had your eye on some MIY Collection goodies this Christmas,  the last posting date in the UK is Monday 21st December…..

If you have a crafter, maker, stitcher to buy for, have a look at my kits, tools and accessories and give them a gift they’ll treasure and keep on using way beyond Christmas!

A Visit to Ernest Wright & Son Ltd – Sheffield Scissor Makers

Sheffield has been a centre for manufacturing various forms of “blades” since the 14th century thanks to the many hills, valleys and rivers powering its industry. Stainless steel was actually invented in Sheffield and you’ll still find a large percentage of your cutlery will proudly state “Made in Sheffield”.

sheffieldLook at them luverly ‘ills….

Ernest Wright is one of the last remaining traditional scissor manufacturers in Sheffield and is a family run business that has been hand making scissors since 1902. As a Yorkshire lass who hails from Sheffield aka the “Steel City” and home of the scissor, I was really happy to meet Nick Wright of Ernest Wright Ltd at the Knitting & Stitching show at Alexandra Palace in October. The original Ernest Wright was Nick’s great grandfather. I kept Nick chatting for far too long at the show and he invited me to go and have a look around the factory the next time I was in town. So, recently I was in Sheffield and finally went for that long overdue visit. Here’s what I found….

big scissor signThe factory is on Broad Lane in central Sheffield and if you look up you won’t miss it!

mepamnickA big thank you to Nick and Pam for being so welcoming and letting us take up precious time in their day. Pam wasn’t even supposed to be there, she came in specially to meet us!

ernestwrightshop-dadI knew my dad would find it an interesting place, so I took him along too!

ernestwrightshop-oldscissors kitchenscissors ernestwrightshop-scissorbox As soon as you walk through the door there’s no shortage of scissors….

OK, so down to the nitty gritty,


Let’s start with a quick whistlestop tour of a pair of scissors:

scissorpartsScreenshot image from Little Less Known’s brilliant film of the Ernest Wright factory. 

When are scissors called shears? This is a question I have been pondering as fabric scissors are often called Dressmaking, Fabric or Tailor’s Shears. Well, apparently when scissors are bigger than 15cm they become shears!

All Ernest Wright scissors (and shears!) start with a forged Sheffield steel “blank”:

scissorblanks-raw scissorblanks

a kind of rough and ready scissor shape that needs to be refined.

The first step in achieving this is…… therumbler ….the rumbler! Where the scissor blades are rattled around with tiny super hard pebbles (of I forget what material!) overnight to remove the rougher parts from the blanks. Next, a bit of grinding is required, first by machine:

machinegrinding2and a scary looking machine it is too!

machinegrindingBut look at that for a before and after pic!

 After the machine grinding, some finer grinding is done by hand:


These grinding wheels literally get ground down over time and shrink in diameter. This process puts the sharp cutting edge onto the blades.

Every part of the scissors is hand worked, including the insides of the handles (or bows):


The last stage of the process lies with the “Putter”.  The job of the Putter is extremely skilled and it actually means the “putter-togetherer” ie. the person who finally assembles the scissors.

Here’s Cliff, Ernest Wright’s most charming of Putters:

cliff the putterWho also happens to be an amazing story-teller!

Cliff’s job involves assembling the scissors and hammering the perfect curve onto each scissor blade.  I’ve made that sound way easier than it is – it’s a highly skilled job which takes years of training to master and watching Cliff work is an absolute pleasure.  You can also watch him in this film by Shaun Bloodworth.

medadcliffMe and my dad with the lovely Cliff.

cliffshammerCliff’s hammer, worn down over the years to fit his thumb and the precise angle at which he works. I love tools like this that tell their own story in the marks left by the craftsperson using it.

The curve and the setting of the blades by the Putter are what gives handcrafted scissors the ability to cut along the full length of the blade, forever. When the scissors are assembled they are slightly sprung against each other and if you hold your scissors up to the light you should be able to see a gap between the blades along the length with the tips tightly touching. Only machine made scissors have perfectly straight blades without a gap and they won’t cut at the tips for long once you start to use them.

I’m super proud to be stocking Ernest Wright & Son scissors. If you fancy your very own pair for life, here’s what I’ve got in stock at the moment:

8inchshears8 inch Tailor’s Shears with comfortable angled handles to allow nice flat cutting. These shears measure 8″ in total including the handles. Right handed. £40

10inchshears10 inch Tailor’s Shears with comfortable angled handles to allow nice flat cutting. These shears measure 10″ in total including the handles. Right handed. £60

embroideryscissorsSuper sharp embroidery scissors with large bow (handles) making them really comfortable to use. These scissors measure 3.75″ in total including the handles. The ideal thread snips for dressmakers. £24

duckbilledscissorsWonderful duck-billed scissors variously called Napping or Appliqué scissors. The large blade underneath and the angled handles make these scissors perfect for trimming around appliqué or machine embroidery and for layering and trimming seam allowances without accidentally chopping a hole in your garment! £29

These scissors and shears are only available in person at MIY Workshop, they won’t be going into my online shop and I won’t be able to do them through the post. If you would like a pair, give me a ring at the workshop on 01273 693451 email me on miyworkshop@gmail.com or pop in to MIY Workshop at 33 North Road in the North Laine area of Brighton, just up the hill from Infinity Foods.

Not content with having a look around his factory I asked Nick if I could interview him about how you should look after your new scissors. Gent that he is he agreed and I’ll be posting the results soon.

Sewing & Pattern Cutting – equipment & materials

As I’ve started sourcing various bits of equipment and materials for MIY Workshop and been asked by students if I can get various things for them, I decided to put together a price list and sell a limited range of things.

These items are not available through my website, just at the workshop.  I won’t be holding masses of stock, so if you would like something let me know and if I don’t have it I can order it in for you.

L Square (the long aluminium set square I have at MIY Workshop – very handy for pattern cutting and making cushions & curtains) £25.00
Small embroidery type scissors (Mundial) £  5.70
Large fabric scissors (Mundial) £13.50
Bondaweb (per ½ metre piece) £ 1.30
Duck feather cushion pads:
30cm x 30cm £ 4.50
41cm x 41cm £ 6.00
45cm x 45cm £ 8.00