Strangely enough, my first time trying pinking shears was only a few months ago when I ordered these Italian made beauties. I grew up with a serger in my house (thanks to my Mom’s nicely appointed sewing and craft room) and, even as a complete novice, used it to finish my seams. Not everyone is that lucky! Or perhaps not everyone wants a second machine gathering dust and leading to hours of frustrated attempts to change the thread color! I guess that depends on perspective…
Anyhow, you might like to consider pinking shears: An excellent and traditional way to minimise the fraying of woven fabrics.
Pinking shears were invented by Samuel Briskman in 1931. He was inspired by the serration on a bread knife that he had bought for his wife. His invention was patented and used enthusiastically by textile manufacturers and home sewers alike until the development of serging. You can read Mr. Briskman’s obituary for more details on his invention here.
The simplicity and effectiveness of pinking shears for finishing woven seam allowance is really appealing to me, even as the owner of a brand new serger. I like how pinking shears can be used to both finish and notch curved seams simultaneously. I think a pinked seam allowance looks quite charming! And I love pinking fabric samples when I create mood boards or scrap books (or send fabric samples to you guys when you are wishing to feel the fabrics that we have in our shop!).
The Gingher pair that I have just added to our shop (and my own sewing kit!) are exceptionally nice. They have blunt tips that will not snag delicate fabrics, very sharp blades, and a hard wearing double-plated chrome-over-nickel finish. Plus…they have a lifetime warranty!
Another classic tool that I have added to our shop and have used far more frequently throughout my sewing career is a set of french curve rulers. This clear plastic set by Bohin features the three most common shapes and sizes of french curve. I find it really handy to have this set in my toolbox to pair with my large dressmakers curve (which is a metal ruler with one gradual curve…it looks a little bit like a very subtle lower case “r”). The smaller curves found on these french curve rulers allow you to draft or adjust a greater variety of details – for example, when a side seam is moved forward or backwards on a garment (such as the Goldstream Peacoat), the bottom of the armhole features a pretty sharp curve. My dressmaker’s curve does not match something like this, so, without my french curves I would be left to imprecisely draw the curve by hand! French curves are also useful for drawing pocket shapes, collars, armholes, necklines and hem curves.
Moving away from traditional tools, the last item I want to show you today is my favourite – a flexible curved ruler!
It is amazing for fitting and adjusting existing patterns. You can bend it around your body to get an accurate representation of your crotch curve, hip curve or any other curve. Then, simply lay that curve on the relevant pattern piece to see if the pattern matches the shape of your body! If it doesn’t, your curved ruler is all ready to go…it is firm enough that you can use it just like you would a metal or wood straight ruler. Push your pencil against it and draw your new curve.
Aside from visually representing curves, you can also use this ruler to measure existing curves. For example, if you would like to check that the armhole and sleeve seams are the same length just bend the ruler along the seams and measure in either metric or imperial.
Here is a great post (filled with photos) during which Becca demonstrates how to use a flexible ruler to perfectly fit a trouser pattern to her body.
Well, there you go – I hope you’ve been introduced to a new tool or perhaps reminded of an old one today!
Head to our shop to peruse our growing collection of sewing tools. They are 10% off this weekend if you use the discount code USEFULTOOLS