Scissors vs Rotary Cutters — Which Should I Use?

Item # X-HT-300478

When it comes time to cut your fabric for your DIY sewing project, there are a few different options you can use. Two of the most common ways to cut and trim material is with scissors or a rotary cutter. Luckily, we offer both of these products at Sailrite® and we’re going to explain when to use them. Let’s get started!

Our wide variety of cutting products.

Scissors

Scissors are generally considered the gold standard when it comes to cutting and trimming fabric. They’re ideal for cutting straight lines and tight curves in fabric. We offer popular brands such as Gingher® and Fiskars®. Scissors are a great tool that you can grab out of your sewing box and use right away. You’ll need to make sure you purchase a left-handed, right-handed or an ambidextrous option depending on your preference.

Over time, the blades may get dull and cannot be resharpened unless you choose high-end knife-edge scissors, like Gingher scissors. To keep your scissor blades in the best condition possible, mark your fabric scissors as “Fabric Only” and do not use them for anything other than cutting fabric. As far as price goes, scissors will usually be less expensive or equal to a rotary cutter (minus the purchase of a cutting mat for the rotary cutter, but we’ll explain that later). The only major drawback to using scissors is that after cutting for some time, you may experience hand fatigue.

When you’re patterning and cutting, scissors will lift up the fabric slightly. This means that the pattern on top of the fabric could slip off if not properly secured. You’ll need to pin your pattern to the fabric being cut with scissors to prevent this from happening. You can also trace the pattern outline with a marking pencil or chalk before cutting. We’d classify this as a downside to using scissors, as some sewists dislike using pins or marking pencils because they can be time consuming.

Scissors are a standard cutting tool.

Pros

  • More commonly used so you won’t have to teach yourself a new tool like a rotary cutter.
  • Less expensive than rotary cutters and a cutting mat.
  • Gingher knife-edge scissors can be resharpened if they become dull.
  • Don’t require a cutting mat for use.
  • More portable because they do not require a table or solid surface to work.

Cons

  • Can cause hand fatigue if used for too long.
  • Cutting long lines can lead to error and takes longer than a rotary cutter.
  • When cutting patterns, you cannot use pattern weights and must pin your pattern to your fabric which can be time consuming and painstaking.

Rotary Cutters

In case you’re not familiar, a rotary cutter is a circular blade on a handheld tool that cuts fabric in a similar fashion to a pizza cutter. These blades come in a number of sizes depending on how large or small you need and quickly slice through fabric without any hand fatigue. Unlike scissors, you’ll need a cutting mat and table beneath your fabric when you use these so you don’t damage your cutting surface.

If you’re placing a pattern on top of your fabric, a rotary cutter might be a better choice for cutting out the shapes. That’s because rotary cutters will not move your fabric while you cut it, allowing you to easily secure a pattern to your fabric by simply using patterning weights. You won’t have to fuss with securing pins, which will save you time and frustration. You also won’t have to bother tracing the outline of your pattern with a marking pencil!

Rotary cutters are better for cutting long, straight lines compared to scissors because they’re faster and easier to hold. When you factor in the purchase of a cutting mat with your rotary cutter, this duo can exceed the cost of scissors. These handy notions can be used by anyone regardless of whether you’re left- or right-handed. Keep in mind that just like with scissors, these blades are sharp and should not be handled by children without supervision.

Unlike scissors, you can purchase replacement blades when your rotary cutter gets dull. You can also purchase a number of different rotary cutters depending on the diameter of the blade. A 28mm blade is best for small projects that have a lot of shapes. Examples include cutting small appliqué pieces, dog/cat fabric toys and more. A 45mm blade is a perfect general-sized blade that will cut most projects with ease. The 60mm size blade is best for larger projects that have long, straight cuts, but this size won’t cut small curves or shapes as easily or accurately as a 28mm blade. Rotary cutters can generally cut the same types of fabric as scissors, and you will more accurately be able to cut multiple layers at once with a rotary cutter. That’s because, as we mentioned earlier, a rotary cutter can cut without lifting or moving your fabric, so multiple layers will not have a chance to shift while they’re being cut.

Rotary cutters are great for fatigue-free cutting.

Pros

  • Will cut material more quickly than scissors without causing hand fatigue.
  • Multiple blade sizes available for cutting straight lines or smaller projects.
  • When cutting patterns, you can use pattern weights for faster cutting. No more fussing with pins or marking pencils!
  • Better for projects with varying curves and sizes.
  • Blades can easily be replaced to retain a sharp edge.

Cons

  • Purchasing a rotary cutter and a cutting mat together will cost more than scissors.
  • Cannot be properly used without a cutting mat and a table/solid surface underneath your fabric.

To Sum Things Up

We hope this guide helped you in your search for scissors or rotary cutters. To summarize, both scissors and rotary cutters are great to have on hand when you’re sewing. They can cut fabric with ease and we offer a number of them here at Sailrite. Scissors are generally a more economical choice and can (in some cases) be sharpened again and again when they become dull. You don’t need a cutting mat to use scissors like you do with a rotary cutter. In terms of cutting ability, scissors and rotary cutters are both recommended for cutting fabric.

Rotary cutters don’t cause hand fatigue like scissors and are best for long, straight cuts. They’re available in a number of different sizes depending on your sewing needs and the blades can be replaced when they become dull. You will want to purchase a cutting mat with your rotary cutters to avoid damaging your table or floor when cutting. Either way, we offer a number of quality options at Sailrite that will make your next DIY project a breeze!

Which do you prefer — scissors or rotary cutters? Let us know in the comments below.