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What’s The Difference Between Tailors and Dressmakers Shears, Snippers and Scissors

What’s The Difference Between Tailors and Dressmakers Shears, Snippers and Scissors.

Everyone involved in the textile trade be they Tailor, Dressmaker, Upholsterer, Carpet fitter, or Crafter needs shears and scissors.  This post will endeavor to explain some of the differences of these basic cutting tools so as to aid your understanding of them, before giving careful consideration to the purchasing of shears and scissors that should remain with you for a lifetime career.

Of course price enters into everyone’s buying decisions,  however, quality is so important for an item which could be used regularly over a lifetime and some names stand out in the shears and scissors department i.e Wilkinson and Kai.

Tailors’ Shears

Tailors shears and scissors

Wiss W20 264mm / 10-3/8in Heavy Duty Industrial Shear with Bent Handle


Tailors 12” and 10” shears are ideal for heavy duty work like the cutting of thick woollen tailoring cloths, heavier soft- furnishing fabrics, heavy and napped upholstery fabrics or numerous layers of finer fabrics.   There are a variety of shears available on the market some with steel blades and hand grips, others with chrome coated blades and shanks to protect the steel from rusting. Can be used for Tailoring, Dressmaking, Upholstery, some finer leather cutting/sheepskins, Soft furnishing and carpet cutting. Opting for 10” shears is recommended for those with smaller hands


  • The longer blades give a good, clean cut fabric edge.
  • Can be sharpened (Such as the serviced offered by William Whiteley)
  • With care taken, these shears should give a life time of use.


  • Not recommended for small area cutting.
  • Smaller hands could find it difficult to open the blades to their fullest capacity.
  • Professional sharpening services are difficult to find.
  • All steel shears will tarnish with age – just keep clean, dry and sheathed when not in use.

Soft Handled Shears

Soft handled shears

Kai 5210 20cm Dressmaking Shears


The N5210 with the soft handle is an excellent design to aid comfortable cutting out by hands which are sensitive. These 20cm shears can be used to cut out soft woollen fabrics, two /four layers of cottons and linings, soft glove leather, regular weight of soft furnishing and upholstery fabrics, fur fabric/felt.


  • Stainless steel blades which stay shiny and new looking.
  • A comfortable hand/fingers grip.
  • Light in weight.
  • The micro serrated blade allows for easier cutting out of soft, silky, slippery fabrics such as satin and silk.
  • Can be used to cut out soft woollen fabrics, cottons, linings, soft glove leather, some soft furnishing and upholstery fabrics and fur fabric/felt.


  • Will not cut out heavy weight fabrics e.g. thick leather, thick fire proofed coated upholstery fabric.

Pinking Shears

 KAI 9" Pinking Shears - N5350 Ergonomic Pinkers Sewing Scissors


Pinking shears use a saw-toothed blade to help stop cut material from fraying which leave a zig-zag pattern along the edge of the material. These can be used for both reducing the fraying of material when the size is key and to provide a decorative finish cut.


  • Can help stop cut material edges to fray.
  • Provide a decorative finish to cut edges.


  • Limited/specific use.
  • Difficult to find sharpening service.

Multi-Purpose Scissors

Kai 7250L Allround Scissors 10 Inch 250 mm Linkshandve Version


Multi purpose scissors can be used from kitchen to craft table, ideal for cutting paper, card, patterns and some light fabrics including felt/craft fabrics. The most common use in craft would would be for cutting intricate or small shapes.


  • Ideal for cutting intricate or small shapes.
  • Smaller blade for greater accuracy.
  • Easily sharpened.
  • Variety of uses.


  • Not ideal for cutting large areas of fabric.
  • Not to be used for button holes.
  • Not recommended for thick and heavy fabrics.

Embroidery and Needlework Scissors

Needlework Scissors

Fiskars Needlework Scissors,13 cm


Needlework or Embroidery scissors are ideal for smaller areas and fine work and can be used for thread cutting, fine trimming or delicate cutting work e.g. on lace, lingerie or embroidery. The handles on these scissors come with a plastic handle for comfortable cutting, that often come in bright colours to make them easier to find when you drop them down the back of the sofa.


  • Comfortable handle.
  • Ideal for fine work.
  • Can be used for button holes.


  • Not for use with heavy/thick fabric work.
  • The fine points need protecting at all times when not in use.

Buttonhole Scissors

Button Hole Scissors


Button Hole Scissors are designed specifically for cutting of buttonholes:  tailoring or dressmaking. The blades are small so as to eliminate an accidental ‘too long a’ cut, something which can easily happen if using long blades. Ideal for heavy weight tailoring fabrics and are designed specifically for tailored buttonholes but will work equally as well for dressmaking. Could also be potentially be used for lingerie lace cutout work and embroidery cut out work.


  • Very specific use.
  • Excellent for button hole cutting.


  • Limited use.

A Fellow Tailor’s Tips:

  • Keep your tailors’ shears in a leather sheath both for health & safety reasons as well as for the protection of the shears points.
  • From personal usage, 1 pair of 11” Sheffield all steel shears lasted 40 years until stolen. The shears were replaced with 12” Wilkinson, Sheffield steel, chrome plated and still going strong after 21 years. Also, now using 10” ones for general use with lighter weight fabrics.
  • Blades should be in contact with the table at all times when cutting out fabric. To be assured of accurate cutting lines the cloth should not be lifted from the table surface. Therefore the side bent shears are designed for that purpose.
  • Before using, mark your tools with name/initials and postcode.
  • A sharpening service is offered by PRO SHARP.
  • For interest or study see the video about hand-made shears at whiteley,

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