How Pinking Shears Can Save Your Fabric from Fraying - (2022)

Another Quilting Tips and Tricks information post – this week from creative contributor Paige from Quilting Wemple. She’s sharing lots of detailed information on how pinking shears can help with your quilt and sewing projects.

How Pinking Shears Can Save Your Fabric from Fraying - (1)Hi all! My name is Paige Lisowski and over at my blog Quilting Wemple, I like to share tons of different quilting tips, tutorials, free quilt patterns, and even show a bit of my geekier side with specialty quilting calculators!

Today I’m giving you all the information you ever wanted to know, and all the information you never knew you needed on a more elusive notion: Pinking Shears!

What are pinking shears, how they can help you in your sewing and quilting adventures, and are pinking shears even worth investing in as a quilter to begin with?

So let’s get started! We have a lot of ground to cover!

What are pinking shears?

Pinking shears are a pair of scissors with a zig zag edge to the blades. When you cut with them, they will actually cut a sawtooth line instead of a normal straight cut.

Before pinking shears existed, dressmakers and other seamstresses would actually use a die cut and mallet to cut this zig zag line into the edges of their fabrics.

The invention of pinking shears was certainly a convenient upgrade from keeping a mallet in the sewing room!

What’s the difference between scissors and pinking shears?

You might be reading this and saying ‘Why would I need specialty shears when I have six pairs of regular ones? What’s the difference?”

The only difference between the two is the pattern that is produced by the blades. All else considered, they are simply a pair of scissors that cut a specialty pattern as you use them.

So why couldn’t I just cut a zig zag pattern with my normal scissors? Why bother spending money on a pair specifically for a zig zag.

How Pinking Shears Can Save Your Fabric from Fraying - (2)

The zig zag pattern that the pinking shears cut is less than ⅛” deep to make sure the pattern does not go beyond any seam allowance you might be sewing the fabric into.

By cutting the zig zag by hand with a pair of regular scissors, you risk a few things:

  • Cutting a zig zag pattern so deep that it shows as a raw edge in your final project
  • Cutting a zig zag pattern off the original cut line causing it to not be square
  • Getting carpal tunnel from the amount of time it would take to make all those little snips

Cutting little zig zags by hand sounds like a nightmare, what does it even do for me? Why do I need to pink a fabric edge any way?

I’m glad you asked 🙂

How Pinking Shears Can Save Your Fabric from Fraying - (3)

What are pinking shears used for?

The zig zag pattern that pinking shears produce is used along the edges of fabric in order to drastically minimize the damage caused by fabric fraying.

When you cut a piece of fabric along the grain, the fabric is more likely to fray because there is nothing stopping the fibers from falling out of the weave along the edges.

(Video) How to Stop Your Fabric From Fraying

By using pinking shears, you are taking that “on grain” cut and making dozens of smaller bias cuts where the fabric can no longer fray along the full length of the fabric. If it will fray, it will only fray along the tiny little point and stop at the next valley.

Using pinking shears will not necessarily prevent fraying all together, but it will help significantly in making sure fraying does not spread across your project.

This is why in the quilting world of small precut fabrics, the mini charms, charm packs, jelly rolls, etc. will often be manufactured to come with the zig zag edge to them instead of a straight edge.

When you have your own small precuts or scraps at home, using pinking shears for the edges will help ensure the fabrics stay at that original dimension as much as possible instead of fraying beyond use before they can be sewn into a project.

How Pinking Shears Can Save Your Fabric from Fraying - (4)

Why are they called pinking shears? – A quick detour through history

The technique has been around so long that the true origin of the name “pinking shears” isn’t definitively known, however most people credit the name pinking shears to have been taken from a garden carnation called the “garden pink” that has a sawtooth edge to its petals.

The pattern that the scissors cut mimics the edge of the petals of the garden carnation so it eventually made its way into the name of the technique: To “pink” the edges of fabric.

Different sizes of pinking shears

When it comes to the depth of the teeth on true pinking shears, you can find them in three different sizes, 3mm, 5mm, and 7mm.

Rule of thumb for choosing a size is to match up the teeth depth with the thickness of your fabric. The thicker the fabric, the larger teeth you’ll want to have.

If you are looking for a general use, mostly-going-to-use-on-cotton kind of pinking shears, the 5mm size will be the best to keep on hand. Either of the other two sizes would be for drastic changes in fabric thickness such as flannel or chiffon.

You will also likely find pinking shears with patterns other than a zig zag. Scalloped edges or other more decorative patterns for example.

These types of pinking shears are typically made for cutting paper and scrapbooking where it is actually intended for you to see the decorative pattern, not necessarily for cutting fabric.

If preventing fraying is what you are after, sticking to the regular zig zag pattern is your best bet.

How Pinking Shears Can Save Your Fabric from Fraying - (5)

Drawbacks to pinking shears – Why are pinking shears so stiff?

Pinking shears are stiff because of the specialty blade pattern on them. To get a clean perfect zig zag cut, the blades have to interlock and pass perfectly in two different directions where regular scissors have a smooth pass and do not need to interlock to make a cut.

Since pinking shears have to interlock, all of the edges of the peaks and valleys have to have a tight fit which means there are a few more places where the blades can get hung up.

As your scissors get older and more dull, it is more common for the rougher dull blades to get hung up more often, requiring more effort on your part to open and close them.

Can you adjust them?

Depending on the model of pinking shears that you own, you may be able to adjust the tension on them.

Look at the screw that keeps the two sides of the scissors together, if your pair has a screw you can take a screwdriver and gently tighten or loosen the screw as needed to adjust the tension.

(Video) Finish Edges of Fabric: Pinking Shears (Sewing for Beginners)

If it is simply a set screw like mine in the photos above, you may not have the flexibility of adjusting your pinking shears.

You may also be able to use a sewing machine oil at the connection of the two blades to help relieve some of the tension. Just be sure there is no lubricant still around when you go to cut your next project!

Alternatives to pinking shears

So what if you want the fray preventing power of a pinked edge without the use of pinking shears? Is it possible?

Sure is! May I introduce to you, the rotary pinking blade.

Rotary cutters do actually have pinking blades. While this method may not be any cheaper than purchasing traditional pinking shears, if you have bad hands or arthritis, this may be a perfect alternative.

There may be a few drawbacks to using a serrated blade to your rotary cutter worth considering though:

  • The zig zag is not as pointed at pinking shears, so you might see a bit more fraying compared to traditional pinking shears – still better than no pinking at all though.
  • The safety guards on regular rotary cutters are made for straight blades, not the thicker pinking blades. Extra care in storage will be key to make sure no one gets cut accidentally.
  • Unless you have a dedicated rotary cutter just for a pinking blade, you may find yourself switching out the blades multiple times during a project.

So depending on your personal preferences, there are options!

How Pinking Shears Can Save Your Fabric from Fraying - (7)

How to care for pinking shears

I know, I know, they are JUST a pair of scissors. Can’t I just throw them in the drawer and call it a day?

You absolutely can, and they will likely last just fine. But there are a few care related things you can do to keep them in commission longer, prevent rusting longer, and just make them easier to use overall.

And when caring for your shears costs a small fraction of a new pair, it is definitely worth the effort to keep them in tip-top shape, especially if you use them often.

Cleaning and oiling

To start you’ll want to grab a damp paper towel or a scrap of fabric and clean away any dirt or grime that’s on the surface of the scissors.

This could be left over basting spray, dust, lint, even sweat. If you have an adhesive build up on them, you will likely need some sort of cleaning agent other than water to help clean it off.

As you are cleaning the surface of the shears, be sure to open and close the blades to make sure you get as much grime out as possible where the blades overlap at the screw.

Once they have been cleaned thoroughly, it’s time to determine if they have become dull.

Take the thinnest piece of fabric you have on hand and attempt to cut it with the scissors. If the fabric just bends between the blades instead of cut, the scissors are due to be sharpened.

(Video) Glammascreations - stop fabric from fraying with a pair of pinking shears

If you do need to sharpen them, make sure to give them a good wipe down afterwards to get rid of any potential metal debris left from the sharpening process.

Now to make sure they stay easy to use. Using the steps we talked about earlier, determine if you like the current tension of the scissors and adjust if necessary.

Using a standard sewing machine oil, open the scissors as wide as they go and dab a few drops on either side of the screw holding the blades together. You can also put a drop on top of the screw head on either side.

Open and close the scissors to work the oil in between the blades until they are relatively easy to open and close.

If you live in a more salty area where exposed metal may be prone to rusting, you can actually wipe the oil along the full length of the blades and leave them stored that way. The oil will help keep them from rusting. Just be sure to clean it off the next time you go to cut fabric with them so you don’t get oil everywhere!

How Pinking Shears Can Save Your Fabric from Fraying - (8)

Can you sharpen pinking shears?

Yes! You can sharpen pinking shears just like any other knife or pair of scissors. With the specialty cut pattern though there are a few caveats to keep in mind.

Sharpening of pinking shears occurs on the flat underside of the blade, not in-between the peaks and valleys of the teeth.

By attempting to sharpen each tooth between the peak and valley, you are actually changing the cutting pattern of the scissors. Instead of a sharp zig zag, you may end up with a more scalloped pattern on the blade.

If you file the teeth away, they will no longer interlock perfectly, making it difficult to actually cut the original pattern.

Your best bet is to bring them to a fabric store to be sharpened.

A fabric store typically charges much less to sharpen a set compared to what a new pair of pinking shears would cost, and they’ll be sure to sharpen them correctly so they cut like new!

How Pinking Shears Can Save Your Fabric from Fraying - (9)

Are pinking shears worth it?

Absolutely. By trimming your scrap fabric edges with pinking shears instead of a traditional straight cut on the grain, you can drastically reduce damage to your fabric caused by fraying.

This is a fantastic method to use when you are working on a long term project that will get moved often, or if you are working with fabrics that are prone to fraying in a particular sewing project.

I love using my pair when I am working on a quilt that I know I’m not in a rush to finish. The pieces will likely get moved around the room as I do other projects which means fraying can really get out of hand.

Using my pinking shears on the edges of my quilt pieces helps me tame the fraying as well as the mess!

If this is a problem you face regularly too and are looking to put it to an end, pinking shears are the way to go!

How Pinking Shears Can Save Your Fabric from Fraying - (10)

(Video) The Ins-and-Outs of Pinking Shears

Just grab them from the drawer, trim the very edges of your fabric and save your project pieces until you’re ready to tackle it again.

The best pinking shears

Alrighty, down to business. Now that we know exactly what pinking shears are and how they can make our lives much easier in the sewing room, let’s talk about which ones are worth owning.

Hands down my go to pair is made by Jistl. They aren’t super heavy, and while they don’t have a screw to adjust with, they are naturally smooth to handle so I haven’t needed to worry about adjusting them.

This pair is actually no heavier than a traditional pair of metal scissors so you can use them on a whole project without your hand getting too tired from using them.

If you want a pair of dedicated pinking shears, these are the ones to go for.

You can shop them on Amazon here!

The best alternative to pinking shears

Just in case the sound of “Pinking Rotary Blade” caught your ears earlier in the article, Olfa makes a pinking blade kit that you can get!

Olfa is one of the more popular brands of rotary cutter so if you happen to already own a 45mm one and don’t mind switching out your blades when you are ready to pink your fabric, the Olfa pinking blade kit is the way to go.

How Pinking Shears Can Save Your Fabric from Fraying - (11)

The Olfa rotary cutters aren’t terribly expensive either, so if pinking your fabrics is something you find yourself doing often, you can even purchase a second Olfa rotary cutter to dedicate just to your pinking blade!

You can shop the Olfa Pinking Blades on Amazon here!

How Pinking Shears Can Save Your Fabric from Fraying - (12)Wrapping this all up

Can you get away without pinking shears? You absolutely can, but if fraying is a constant battle that you fight, a pair of pinking shears will quickly become your favorite notion investment.

For those of us who seem to always have overflowing fabric stashes, pinking shears can definitely go a long way in making that stash last as long as possible. And in a world where the fabric lines don’t seem to stay in print too long, having the ability to extend the life of your favorites is always a plus in my book.

So now that we’ve spent far too much time talking about a single set of scissors, I hope you found this article helpful in learning what pinking shears are and how they can be super useful in the sewing room even as a quilter.

And if you liked this post and are interested to see more of what we have going on over at Quilting Wemple, be sure to come check us out sometime!

Thank you so much to Amy for letting me hang out today!


Thank you for all of this detailed and helpful information about pinking sheers, Paige.

If you’re looking for more Quilting Tricks and Tips check out these handy posts here.

(Video) Quick Sewing Tip: Why Use Pinking Shears?

Related

FAQs

What is the benefit of pinking shears? ›

Pinking shears are the scissors with the nearly mystical power to prevent fraying on raw hems by cutting fabric in a zigzag pattern. They also are useful when you need to reduce fabric bulk on seam allowances, and they make a great pattern that can add flavor to the edges of sewing or even paper projects.

How do you keep fabric from fraying? ›

Apply some nail polish!

It works just as well on fabric edges, stopping fraying by coating the raw edges. Either choose a clear nail polish, or match the colour to your fabric. Apply a thin line along the very edge of the material. Take care not to drop any blobs on the fabric or nearby surfaces.

How do pinking shears work? ›

And outs of pinking shears. So a pair of pinking shears is a pair of scissors with a zigzag blade

What can you put on material to keep it from fraying? ›

You're going to take your fabric throw it underneath. And you're going to start sewing the straight

How does pinking prevent fraying? ›

Pinking shears are a type of scissors with a zig-zag serrated cutting edge. Because it cuts the fabric on the bias, it stops some fraying. Pinking shears to stop fraying is best suited to cotton and crisp fabrics with a tight weave. Loosely woven fabrics may still fray so you may want to try another method.

What is the purpose of pinking? ›

Pinking is a technique that dates back to the 18th century, at least. Back then, it involved using a special chisel to cut the fabric with a zigzag edge. Today, pinking is easier, as you can use pinking shears (specialized scissors) to cut with. If done correctly, pinking reduces fraying.

Will pinking shears stop fraying? ›

Pinking Shears are used for cutting woven cloth. Cloth edges that are unfinished fray very easily– the weave becomes undone and threads begin to fall out. The sawtooth pattern from the Pinking Shears does not prevent fraying, but limits the length of the frayed thread and thus minimizes damage.

How do you stop fraying without sewing? ›

Using nail polish to contain fraying fabric edges is an easy, effective and quite inexpensive technique. It works best when used with thin, lightweight fabrics. As you'll see below, a thin layer of nail polish is applied along the fabric's cut edge.

How do you sew edges so they don't fray? ›

The best zig zag stitch to stop fabric fraying - YouTube

Will pinking shears stop flannel from fraying? ›

Pinking Shears will help stop flannel from fraying in the immediate future, such as while you are sewing it, but it will not permanently prevent it from fraying and is not a good solution unless that is the look you are trying to achieve, such a flannel rag quilt.

Should I use pinking shears? ›

Quick Sewing Tip: Why Use Pinking Shears? - YouTube

Do you really need pinking shears? ›

Okay, so pinking shears aren't an absolutely necessary tool when sewing, but they can certainly make life easier. For those of you unfamiliar with this tool, pinking shears have serrated edges and they leave your trimmed fabric with a decorative edge.

Does Hairspray stop fabric from fraying? ›

When there's no needle threader in sight, reach for a can of hair spray. Spray the end of the thread, then pinch it with your fingertips to compress stray strands and prevent fraying. The hair spray will also stiffen the thread, so that it's easier to pass through the eye of a needle.

What fabric will not fray when cut? ›

As a general rule, nonwoven materials don't fray—certainly not as easily as most woven or knit fabrics. This non-fraying property is one of the main reasons nonwovens are preferred over those easily-fraying counterparts.

How do you bind the edges of fabric? ›

How To Sew Binding - YouTube

Can you use pinking shears instead of hemming? ›

When you don't want to hem or bind a seam allowance, but you are worried about fraying, pinking shears come to the rescue. Once you have finished sewing your seam, iron open the seams and then use your pinking shears on just the very edge of the seam allowance.

Why are they called pinking shears? ›

The shears were named pinking because the pattern they cut into the fabric resembled the ruffled edges of a flower, a Dianthus plumarius, pink.

What is fraying on fabric? ›

Fraying occurs when a fabric is cut and the threads that make up the fabric begin to unravel. The speed and extent to which a fabric frays depends upon many factors, including the tightness of the fabric's weave, how much wear the fabric endures on a day-to-day basis, and the age of the fabric.

What is the characteristics of pinking shears? ›

shears that have notched blades, for cutting and simultaneously pinking fabric or for finishing garments with a notched, nonfraying edge.

What do the zig zag scissors do? ›

The primary purpose of these zigzag-tooth shears is to trim fabric and keep it from fraying. When you cut a straight-grain line with the shears, each of the little zigs and zags has bias edges, and bias doesn't fray or ravel under normal conditions.

Where do you use pinking shears? ›

How to use Pinking Shears - Seam Finishing Technique - YouTube

How do you stop elastic fraying? ›

One easy way to stop elastic from fraying during sewing is to sew it to the fabric with a zigzag stitch. This will secure the elastic and prevent it from fraying with multiple stretches. You don't necessarily need a machine to do this, either!

What material does not fray? ›

Knit fabric doesn't fray, which means that you don't have to finish seams, which you would do with woven fabrics. Keeping suede leathers from fraying is fairly easy and will extend the life of your clothes or shoes.

How do you fix frayed sheer fabric? ›

Fixing rips in sheers can be tricky and it's inevitable that it won't be totally invisible, but you can get close. The easiest way is to use a mending product like BoNash Bonding Agent, powdered fusible, to adhere the torn edges together. When the product dries, it creates an almost invisible mend.

How do you keep polyester from fraying? ›

How To Stop Fraying Fabric - 60 Second Sewing Tips #5 - YouTube

How do you stop towels from fraying? ›

Place the no-sew iron-on tape on top of the edge you just folded down. Fold down both the towel and the tape so that the tape and the rough edge of the towel are not visible. With your iron, press the edge you have just created to stop the towel from fraying.

How do you keep chiffon from fraying? ›

Trim any existing frays with sharp scissors. Squeeze a small amount of no-fray product onto the edge of the chiffon, spreading it evenly. Once you have covered the entire edge, allow it to dry.

What is the best tool for cutting fabric? ›

Fabric scissors (or dressmaking scissors) are also known as fabric shears. They have sharp blades that can cut most fabrics with ease. Fabric shears usually have longer blades than all-purpose scissors because they need to be able to cut through thicker materials like denim or leather and through many layers of fabric.

What to look for in pinking shears? ›

Make sure that you get pinking shears that are of the best quality. You can check its quality through its ball joints and if they have handles that are not hard to grip on. Their sizes are about eight to nine inches long. Once you choose quality pinking shears, you can be guaranteed of their durability.

Can you use pinking shears on silk? ›

Pinking is a lovely seam finish for silk because it is soft and fluid and doesn't require any special machines. It's not as polished as a French seam, and it might still fray a bit over time, but it is still very effective.

Do pinking shears work on denim? ›

Preparing your fabric

Before pre-washing, sew an overcast or zigzag stitch to prevent fabric fray. Pinking shears can also be used. Raw denim, not sanforized (pre-shrunk) will shrink anywhere between 2 and 5 per cent.

Can pinking scissors be sharpened? ›

How To Sharpen PInking Shears And Scissors - YouTube

How do you use a fabric fray check? ›

How to Use Fray Check (Fast and Easy Tutorial) - YouTube

Do pinking shears actually work? ›

Absolutely. By trimming your scrap fabric edges with pinking shears instead of a traditional straight cut on the grain, you can drastically reduce damage to your fabric caused by fraying.

Should I use pinking shears? ›

Quick Sewing Tip: Why Use Pinking Shears? - YouTube

Where do you use pinking shears? ›

How to use Pinking Shears - Seam Finishing Technique - YouTube

What is the best tool for cutting fabric? ›

Fabric scissors (or dressmaking scissors) are also known as fabric shears. They have sharp blades that can cut most fabrics with ease. Fabric shears usually have longer blades than all-purpose scissors because they need to be able to cut through thicker materials like denim or leather and through many layers of fabric.

Will pinking shears stop fraying? ›

Pinking Shears are used for cutting woven cloth. Cloth edges that are unfinished fray very easily– the weave becomes undone and threads begin to fall out. The sawtooth pattern from the Pinking Shears does not prevent fraying, but limits the length of the frayed thread and thus minimizes damage.

How do you keep fabric from fraying without sewing? ›

4 No-Sew Ways to Fix Fraying Fabric [Cross Stitch Tutorial for Beginners ...

Will pinking shears stop flannel from fraying? ›

Pinking Shears will help stop flannel from fraying in the immediate future, such as while you are sewing it, but it will not permanently prevent it from fraying and is not a good solution unless that is the look you are trying to achieve, such a flannel rag quilt.

What is the characteristics of pinking shears? ›

shears that have notched blades, for cutting and simultaneously pinking fabric or for finishing garments with a notched, nonfraying edge.

What do you mean by pinking shears? ›

Definition of pinking shears

: shears with a saw-toothed inner edge on the blades for making a zigzag cut.

Why is it called pinking shears? ›

The shears were named pinking because the pattern they cut into the fabric resembled the ruffled edges of a flower, a Dianthus plumarius, pink.

How do you cut fabric with shears? ›

How to Use Scissors When Cutting Out Pattern Pieces Tutorial - YouTube

Which of the following tool used to keep fabrics securely together while sewing? ›

Used to secure fabric together when sewing.NIPS
Sewing tool used for measuring short spaces such as hemsGGEAU
Notion used to sew a garment together with a machine or needleDTEHAR
Needed for cutting fabric; have a raised handle and uneven holesRESASH
Used to protect your finger while you are hand sewingEBTLMHI
5 more rows

How do you cut the fabric properly? ›

How To Cut Fabric Properly - YouTube

Videos

1. Pinking Shears: stop fabric fraying
(Sew Fay)
2. How to stop your fabric from fraying without an overlocker || Zig Zag scissor || Pinking shears
(Antrang Creations)
3. Skill Builder series: Pinked Seam - what is it and how you can use it to prevent fraying
(Claire England)
4. How to stop fabric from fraying ( HINDI ) || Zigzag scissor || Pinking shears || Antrang Creations
(Antrang Creations)
5. How to Sharpen Pinking Zig Zag Shears | Bonika Shears
(Bonika Shears)
6. Using Pinking Shears
(Colleen G Lea - FSBTV)

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