In search of the perfect sewing kit

These days, I’m spending a good chunk of my time traveling to and from classes and private lesson and every time I’m teaching, I need to have supplies with me that I can rely on! When working with new-to-sewing students, the following are my very basic suggestions for a starter sewing kit:

  • Fabric scissors
  • Straight pins
  • Small pincushion or magnetic pin holder
  • Measuring tape
  • Marking pencil, pen, or tailor’s chalk

But… for new sewists, this list can be overwhelming, especially at a large fabric and craft store. So, to help break this list down, and draw attention to some of my particular favorites, I thought I would expand this a bit further. First up… scissors!

Fabric Scissors

My personal scissor collection consists of

For die-hard sewists, there’s one cardinal rule related to fabric scissors and shears: Don’t use them to cut anything except fabric. Ever. There’s probably hundreds of memes on this subject:

Like this one…scissor meme 1

Or this one…

scissor meme 2

Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way… here’s my terrible confession. I do love my ‘good’ scissors that are listed above but I have far more ‘everyday’ pairs that I use for cutting in my sewing room and while out teaching. I’ll use them on everything including tissue paper patterns, printer paper, and yes, fabrics like linen and fleece or quilting cottons and silk jersey. Many would ask how I can let such a travesty occur.

My answer? It’s one part laziness, one part frugality, and one part clumsiness.

The everyday scissors I keep close by? Fiskars 8″ scissors.

scissors fiskars 8 inch

Let’s touch on the three parts behind my everyday scissor choice:

Laziness

I keep two large weekender-size bags packed with sewing tools and supplies that travel to and from teaching locations. Those bags (and whatever is in them) make it to every class and every lesson. This also means that things, including scissors, get pulled out of the bag haphazardly to start a new project and thrown back in as a class rushes to finish. I’m too lazy (and often in a hurry) to put scissors back in cases or even double check that every pair makes it in and out of the bags each day. I should also mention that I have about 10 pairs of these scissors (and 5 of the smaller youth-sized version with a purple handle), so that I always have a pair on hand no matter the size of the class. And should too many pairs disappear over the course of traveling and teaching, they’re easy to replace at my local Jo-Ann Fabric store. No remembering to order online and then waiting for deliveries to arrive…  (I mentioned the lazy part, right?)

Frugality

Okay, so maybe you don’t need 20+ pairs of scissors the way I do. But especially when you’re just getting started, it can be tough to get in the habit of using ‘good’ scissors just for your fabric and switching between pairs when cutting patterns or paper. I also tend to travel a bit with my sewing (even just my personal projects) and I don’t want to bring multiple pairs with me or risk losing a more expensive pair while I’m out and about. One of the reasons I also prefer the Fiskars for much of my everyday sewing and while teaching, is that a companion desktop sharpener is available. The sharpener doesn’t work with (or rather doesn’t fit) many other brands but it’s amazing for sharpening edges on Fiskars!

scissor sharpener

The sharpener (about $12) allows me to extend the life on the already quite affordable scissors I use all the time. It also means that if I cut some paper or some rough linen, I can undo the damage pretty quickly with a pass through the sharpener. Throw in some coupons and this can be a huge savings when you’re buying one pair… or fifteen! (As a side note, I do have my more expensive ‘good’ scissors sharpened professionally when necessary – for me, that’s about every two or three years.)

Clumsiness

And for better or worse, here’s the real reason I don’t rely solely on my more expensive so called ‘good’ fabric scissors. I drop things. A lot. I knock tools off my 42″ high cutting table. My hand gets caught in the lanyard or ribbons I use to identify scissors as mine and they’ll shoot across the room. I have learned I am not a calm and collected sewist. And while professional sharpeners can sometimes repair the damage to a steel pair of scissors that have smashed into my hard studio floor, I don’t want to take that risk. The Fiskars are lighter weight – and while hardly crash proof, they are a bit more resilient to my type of fast-moving clumsiness. Heavier steel scissors and dressmaker shears can become so nicked and out of alignment that there’s no bringing them back after a hard fall.   When that happens (and it has happened to me more than once) there a few options:

  • Contact the manufacturer about warranty and hope they replace them (but my laziness often kicks in here)
  • Throw them out and vow never to buy expensive scissors again (frugality has a tough time with this one)
  • Rely heavily on my sharpen-at-home more-affordable scissors and save the good shears for the times I’m paying attention and having one of my more zen sewing sessions!

As with all things sewing…. your mileage (and stitch length) may vary. I share my own experiences and preferences in the hopes that they will be helpful, but don’t worry, I know everyone has their own set of fabric sewing tools… and scissor rules! Happy stitching!

Edited May 17
Additional note: Most dressmaker’s scissors including my reliable Fiskars are molded (or forged) to fit a right-handed user. If you would normally use your left hand for cutting, I recommend the red Fiskars that are designed for left-handed users. Trust me… it’s worth taking the time to find scissors that are comfortable in your hand. In addition, the alignment of the blades will change if you regularly use your left hand with standard scissors and you won’t be able to cut fabric as precisely.

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