Pinking shears are scissors with a sawtooth or zigzag edge. Variations are available that are can be used to cut paper into decorative patterns or edges. Good quality pinking shears are an essential part of any sewing box. With care and occasional sharpening, your pinking shears should hold up and cut neatly for years to come.
Pinking shears were patented in 1893 by Louise Austin. While earlier devices existed to pink fabric, shears were a significant improvement. The original use was to cut decorative openings in the body of fabric or cut a decorative edge for squares and blocks for quilting. A 2nd patent on pinking shears dates to 1952 when A.W. Wertepny designed improvements to prevent damage and unnecessary wear to the teeth of the shears.
Pinking shears cut fabric into a sawtooth or zigzag pattern. Woven fabrics fray when cut on the grain, resulting in seams ripping out and loss of fabric. Cutting the fabric on the bias, as pinking shears do, reduces fraying. This is ideal for many applications, including seam finishes.
The term "pinking shears" may also be used to describe decorative scissors of various sorts, including those designed for paper. While the traditional pinking shears have a sawtooth edge, scallops and other patterns are also available. Better quality versions of these pinking shears may be used to cut fleece, felt or other non-fraying fabrics.
If you do not have a serger and do not want to spend the time on carefully sewn seam finishes, pinking shears can properly finish seams in very little time. You can even use pinking shears to cut out your garment, saving a finishing step. Bulky fabrics, like fleece, may benefit from pinking shears to reduce seam bulk. Try using pinking shears for a decorative effect as well. Pinking shears can be used when doing reverse applique, to neatly trim an edge or accent a non-fraying item.
If you use your pinking shears often, you should care for them properly. Dressmaker's pinking shears should not be used on paper. If you want decorative scissors for paper, purchase a separate pair. Use a small brush to remove lint and have your pinking shears sharpened by an experienced professional regularly.