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Fabric Scissors vs. Rotary Cutter – What’s the difference?

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How do you know if fabric scissors or rotary cutter are better for fabric cutting? Cutting fabric is the first step in sewing, it cannot be skipped and performing with the right tool is important. 

So what is the difference between fabric scissors and rotary cutter? Scissors are a comfortable cutting tool with a hand motion that most people are familiar with, they require no tabletop surface or extra accessories. Rotary cutters look like a pizza cutter with a round blade attached to a handle, they require a tabletop surface and large cutting mat to cut on. 

Fabric scissors are great for detailed cutting, but the hand will tire after extended use. Rotary cutters are perfect for cutting long straight and curved lines with ease, however you will need a durable ruler to maintain an accurate cutline.

Furthermore, selecting the best sewing scissors that cuts every fabrication, maintains a sharp edge and offers high-quality long-lasting warranty is the key to succeed.

While fabric scissors have generally been considered as a vital item in the sewing kit, having a rotary cutter on hand is quickly becoming a popular choice and a lot of people have shifted towards it. 

Rotary cutters can be a faster option for precisely cutting the fabric, however they require more practice for getting sharp and accurate curve and straight cuts.

What would be the most vital tool to carve out the sewing pattern pieces you want or when cutting the amount of fabric you need for a pattern. In this article, we’ve mentioned some major benefits and disadvantages of both scissors and rotary cutters.

Detailed below are the frequently asked questions about both rotary cutters and fabric scissors. Continue reading to learn everything you need to know about cutting fabric with these essential sewing tools.

tips using fabric scissors or rotary cutters

What are Fabric Scissors?

For almost all types of trimming and cutting jobs, fabric scissors are considered the gold standard. They work well for cutting out tight curves and straight lines in any fabric. 

Fabric scissors are simple to use, classic, are relatively affordable and don’t require frequent replacement if you’ve kept the edges sharp. They’re really great for freehand cutting, and they’re a lot better for small and finely detailed pieces compared to the rotary cutters. 

They can easily cut down notches, and cut smoothly through different fabric layers. They can be a bit laborious for using, and cutting straight lines require extra focus.

What are Rotary Cutters?

Rotary cutters aren’t as popular as scissors, but widely used in quilting. These are circular blades on a handheld tool that works well for cutting fabric, similarly in design and shape to a pizza cutter. 

Rotary cutters are renowned instruments for cutting straight lines, and achieve extremely precise cuts when paired with a sturdy/metal ruler. 

When you’re using rotary cutter, you won’t have to pin down pattern piece in the fabric similar to scissors – rather, it would be good to make use of pattern weights. Save you a lot of time as you’re simply able to place these on the top of fabric and pattern piece then cut. 

Generally, rotary cutters speed up the process and make cutting pieces faster. However, different kit pieces are involved – not only a strong ruler and pattern weight, but also cutting mat with replacement blades.

Therefore, getting the best out of a rotary cutter can be a bit more costly.

Furthermore, purchasing small rotary cutters/blades that are intended for detailed patterns ensure that scissors still remain the best bet for intricate sewing pattern pieces. While you’re able to cut curves with rotary cutters, it would require a lot of practice as it needs more focus for cutting in a safe and accurate manner.

Is rotary cutter better than scissors?

If you aim to cut long straight lines, then you’d probably consider a rotary cutter as it can be held easily and cuts fast. 

There are many factors due to which you might want to have a rotary cutter instead of a scissor and vice versa. Let’s go through the important ones!

  • Price: Fabric scissors are more economical in the long term. Only require sharpening at home or professionally once or twice a year. Rotary blades can’t be sharpened, and continuously replacing blades on the cutter is pricey.
  • Speed: Rotary cutter is must faster than scissors, but without much practice it can easily cause serious injuries.
  • Comfortability: Fabric scissors tend to result in hand fatigue due to repetitive motion, however a rotary cutter is less likely cause hand fatigue as you zip and slice through fabric.

When cutting, fabric scissors are great for small curves and cutting details with tight angles. On the other hand, rotary cutter is perfect for cutting long straight lines and wide curves. 

Also, rotary cutters are able to cut through multiple layers of fabric precisely and cleanly. 

different size rotary cutters

Advantage of rotary cutter

Traditional scissors have always won the recommendations of sewers but the rotary cutters work well if you wish to get more detailed cuts without catching fatigue. Lengthy cutting hours can get be reduced with the help of a rotary cutters.

If your job involves cutting many straight lines, having a good quality rotary cutter would be a really great thing. It works really fine and is able to cut just like you’re measuring with a precise ruler.

When using a rotary cutter, you’ll always have ultra-straight and clean cut lines.

While cutting out patterns, users can make use of pattern weights to get quick cutting. They don’t require fussing with marking pencils or pins, and the replacement of blades is simple for retaining sharp edges.

Disadvantage of rotary cutter

People generally wish to save on costs for something as simple as cutting, however the alternative options also work fine. In addition to a mat and weights, the costs can spike up. 

Besides the cost let’s check for some other disadvantages as well.

With fine quality scissors, a fabric scrap or ribbon tied around the handles can mark the scissors for only fabric usage.

However, for the rotary cutters, you would require a cutting mat to use underneath the blade. This is the hidden cost alluded to above.

So technically, having a pair of scissors along with mat would help you in increasing the accuracy of cutting. Using an affordable cardboard along with nice pair of scissors will work well for a long lasting sewing station.

For any cutting job, a larger rotary mat is considered as better.

It is always preferred to have scissors handy while for cutting the notches and fine features. The rotary cutters on other hand fail to work well on the little details like this.

cutting fabric with fabric scissors

Advantage of Fabric Scissors

The conventional cutting method with scissors is not only good, but they can work well on complicated cutting designs as well. You just have to grab the handles and follow the mark line.

Scissors are frequently used so you won’t need to get familiar with it like you would with relatively new tools such as rotary cutters. And it is a lot less expensive compared to rotary cutters. 

In addition, they don’t require a cutting mat for usage, nor does it require a solid surface like a table for working because you can suspend the cutting in the air.

After the knife-edge gets dull, fabric scissors can easily get sharpened at home with basic sharpening stone or professionally sharpened in local stores or by the manufacturer.

Disadvantage of Fabric Scissors

Precise cutting requires either steady hands or a machine, but scissors are just hand tools and eventually you’ll show fatigue. As your hands tire, an accurate cutline becomes harder to maintain. 

Let’s find why scissors are not perfect for every job!

When you’re doing jobs like cutting and pattern drafting, scissors can slightly lift the fabric up. Meaning the pattern on the scissor top can slip off without securing it in the  right manner. 

Therefore, you’ll have to pin the pattern to fabric before cutting. This will help maintain consistency and even cutline that don’t shift if the pattern moves.

Scissors are also known to induce hand fatigue after long usage, especially with medium to heavyweight fabric. When cutting long lines, scissors consume a lot of time and have a higher chance of errors compared to rotary cutter.

While cutting out patterns, you won’t be able to use the pattern weights. You will need to pin the pattern to the fabric, which is really time consuming and painstaking.

Fabric Scissors vs. Rotary Cutter: Final Thoughts

Both fabric scissors and rotary cutters are useful tools for making DIY clothing. They’re known to cut out the fabric with ease and also provide budget benefit over other cutting tools. 

Scissors are typically a lot more economical and you can sharpen them again and again when they become dull. Also you won’t need a cutting mat for using scissors like with rotary cutters.

Scissors are a tool that we are all generally familiar with. On the other hand, a rotary cutter is a brand new cutting motion that we will have to get comfortable using.

Rotary cutters are slightly more expensive, however the investment can be worthwhile. They easily cut through multiple layers at the same time, and rotary cutters cut super straight lines when paired with a sturdy ruler.

In terms of cutting ability, rotary cutters and fabric scissors are highly useful to cut through fabric, but both work well on different jobs. Thus, the requirement would generally depend on the type of cutting job you’re performing when making the final decision to use a pair of fabric scissors or a rotary cutter.

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