What Are Pinking Shears?
Pinking Shears are large scissors designed by Samuel Briskman in 1931 with serrated blades which, when cutting a material, leave a notched edge, the blades are sawtoothed instead of straight. They leave a zigzag pattern instead of a straight edge. This edge does not easily fray and, therefore, it is not necessary to hem or oversew it. The word “pinking” is of Middle English origin and originally meant making holes in something, piercing, pricking or stabbing.
The cut produced by pinking shears may have been derived from the plant called a pink, a flowering plant in the genus Dianthus (commonly called a carnation). The color pink may have been named after these flowers, although the origins of the name are not definitively known. As the carnation has scalloped, or “pinked”, edges to its petals, pinking shears can be thought to produce an edge similar to the flower.
Later it came to mean the action of decorating cloth or leather with holes, perforations or eyelets and, later still, ornamenting edges by cutting into jags, scallops or narrow points and, finally, the regular triangular notching we know today. Every home dressmaker counts pinking shears among her most useful equipment.
Shears should be from seven to eight inches long with a bent shank and one finger hole larger than the other. They should be kept only for cutting material, never paper because paper dulls the cutting edge. Pinking shears have a utilitarian function for cutting woven cloth.
Cloth edges that are unfinished will easily fray, the weave becoming undone and threads pulling out easily. The sawtooth pattern does not prevent the fraying but limits the length of the frayed thread and thus minimizes damage. These scissors can also be used for decorative cuts and a number of patterns (arches, sawtooth of different aspect ratios, or asymmetric teeth) are available.