Whilst fabric scissors have always been an essential item in any home-sewer's kit, the rising popularity of rotary cutters has seen many people contemplating the switch. Rotary cutters (as seen, for example, in the Great British Sewing Bee) appear to be much faster for cutting your fabric, however do require more practice to cut accurately. That, coupled with the additional costs using a rotary cutter requires, may put people off ditching their trusty scissors. But what really is the best tool for cutting out your pattern pieces? We've compiled a list of the pros and cons of both rotary cutters and scissors to help people contemplating in investing in a new sewing tool!
Fabric scissors are a classic; easy to use, relatively cheap and don't require frequent replacing as long as you keep them sharp! They're great for freehand cutting, and are a lot better for smaller, more fiddlier, pieces than rotary cutters. They're also easier to cut notches with, and are better for cutting through several layers of fabric. They can get a bit laborious to use, however, and when needing to cut straight lines require a lot of focus!
On the other hand, rotary cutters are a lot better for cutting straight lines, and can achieve an extremely accurate cut when paired with a metal/sturdy ruler. When using a rotary cutter, you don't need to pin your pattern piece onto your fabric like with scissors - instead you can use pattern weights, which save a lot of time as you can simply place them on top of your pattern piece and fabric. Whilst this coupled with the general speed of a rotary cutter makes cutting out pieces a lot faster, the various pieces of kit involved - not just pattern weights and a ruler but also a cutting mat and replacement blades in order to get the most out of your rotary cutter - can make using one pretty costly. Furthermore, whilst you can get smaller rotary cutters/blades intended for more detailed patterns, scissors are still your best bet for more fiddlier/intricate pattern pieces. Whilst you can cut curves with rotary cutters, this takes a lot of practice, with rotary cutters requiring a lot more focus in order to cut safely and accurately.
Overall - and this may sound like a cop out - rotary cutters and scissors serve slightly different purposes and thus cannot be subbed 1:1. If you're planning on cutting large, fairly simple pattern pieces, rotary cutters are your best bet, however for smaller more complex pattern pieces (when making underwear for example), stick to your scissors.