Sewing tips

Common Sewing Tools1

Regardless of what kind of sewing projects you like to sew, you will need to cut fabric. Common sewing tools to accomplish this task include sewing shears, plinking shears and rotary cutters.

Sewing shears, rotary cutter & ergonomic rotary cutter (Sewn By Tanya Sewing Tip - Common Sewing Tools1)
Sewing shears, rotary cutter & ergonomic rotary cutter

Sewing Shears

Sewing shears have been a common sewing tool for centuries. While scissors have two handles that are the same, shears have a smaller handle for your thumb and a larger handle for multiple fingers. Sewing shears often have an angled blade design allowing the bottom cutting blade to be parallel to your work surface. Plinking shears have a series of small triangles along the blade and leave a zigzag pattern along the cut edge of the fabric.

Rotary Cutters

Rotary cutters are like pizza wheels for fabric. Both are round, rotating blades attached to a handle. This common sewing tool is a relatively recent invention. The first rotary blade cutter for fabric was invented in 1979 (Birth of OLFA cutter). Rotary cutters are available four sizes: 18 mm, 28 mm, 45 mm and 60 mm diameter. Models are available with both straight handles and ergonomic handles. Some brands even include a wavy-edged rotary blade that I suspect may replicate the cuts made by plinking shears.

Wavy blade and straight blade for rotary cutters Sewn By Tanya Sewing Tip - Common Sewing Tools1)
Wavy blade and straight blade for rotary cutters

If you are going to be cutting a lot of straight lines, a rotary cutter is a good investment. When used with a self-healing mat (to protect your work surface and the blade of the rotary cutter from each other) and straight edge, they are an excellent way to cut straight lines. A sharp rotary cutter blade can cut multiple layers of fabric at once. Keep this in mind if you are using a plastic quilting ruler as your straight edge. You can accidentally cut your ruler.

Self-healing mats

Most people who use rotary cutters will use them with self-healing mats. Self-healing mats are made of PVC vinyl and come in a variety of sizes. I use a 36 x 24” mat to protect my 39 x 24” tabletop. A variety of sizes ranging from 7” square up to 48 x96” are available. Often they have a 1” square grid (smaller mats may have a smaller grid) marked on the top surface to assist you in making accurate cuts.

Closeup of a self-healing mat with 1" square grid lines Sewn By Tanya Sewing Tip - Common Sewing Tools1)
Closeup of a self-healing mat with 1″ square grid lines


In the same way that sharp kitchen knives are more effective at chopping food, sharp sewing shears and rotary cutters are move effective for cutting fabric. I use my stainless steel sewing shears to cut canvas, so they dull fairly often. I find the best way to sharpen them is with a sharpening stone. I use the same one that I use for my kitchen knives. has a fairly good tutorial on the topic (how to sharpen fabric scissors). I use a titanium-bladed pair of sewing shears to cut quilting weight cottons and upholstery weight fabrics. Thus far I’ve not needed to sharpen them. I do plan on using a sharpening stone when the time comes to do so.

The first time I tried to sharpen the blade of one of my rotary cutting tools, I used the aluminum foil method (see  sharpen rotary cutter blade). It did not work. The store where I bought the rotary cutter was sold out of replacement blades and I ended up buying an ergonomic rotary cutter from a fabric store. When I looked online for replacement blades for my rotary cutters, I discovered the Colonial Dual Rotary Blade Sharpener. I purchased it and some replacement blades from Amazon (as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases): Colonial Needle 5790 45mm Rotary Blade Sharpener  

Both of my rotary cutters use 45 mm blades. I find it more economical to buy generic replacements glades like these: 45mm Rotary Cutter Blades Set, AGPtEK Rotary Replacement Blades, Pack of 12, Fits Fiskars, Olfa, Truecut, Martelli & More, Perfect for Quilting Scrapbooking Sewing Arts Crafts

In addition to the Colonial blade for 45 mm diameter blades, Colonial also sells sharpeners for 28 mm and 60 mm blades:

Colonial 28mm Rotary Blade Sharpener

Colonial 60mm Rotary Blade Sharpener

I successfully used the Colonial Rotary Blade Sharpener to sharpen my exceptionally dull rotary sharpener. While I’m not sure rotary blades can be sharpened indefinitely, this tool does increase the length of time a blade can be used before it needs replacing.

Colonail Dual Rotary Blade Sharpener packaging (Sewn By Tanya Sewing Tip - Common Sewing Tools1)
Colonial Dual Rotary Blade Sharpener

Sewing shears, rotary cutters, self-healing mats, and sharpeners are examples of common sewing tools. Which ones do you use?


Sewn By Tanya Sewing Tip - Common Sewing Tools For Cutting (shears, rotary cutter, self-healing mat, sharpeners)
Sewn By Tanya Sewing Tip: Common Sewing Tools for cutting fabric

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