FAQ’s

What Are Knife-Edge Scissors?

On knife-edge scissors, the cutting edge of the upper blade is sharpened at a more acute angle than that of the bottom blade. By contrast, standard-edge scissors are sharpened at identical 90┬░ angles on the upper and the lower blades. The advantage of knife-edge scissors is that they “slice” rather than “chop” through fabric–they’re the kind you can cock half-open and zip through a length of fabric. The disadvantage is that they must be sharpened more often than standard scissors.

What Is The Best Way To Sharpen Scissors?

Our response is courtesy of Mr. Roby O’Brien of Southern Supply and Manufacturing Company, makers of Gold Seal industrial cutlery since 1927:

“Two things are very important in sharpening shears or scissors. The first is to keep them sharp by frequently ‘touching them up’ with a hand held ceramic hone or other suitable handheld sharpener. The second is always to resharpen at the same bevel angle as the shear had when manufactured.

“To hone the blade, place the open shear on a table with the cutting edge up and the inside towards you. Angle the shear so that the hone is working at the existing angle of the bevel and hone with a motion that is along the blade and away from you. Proper honing will keep the blades sharp and extend the intervals between sharpening significantly. Keeping the blades sharp extends the useful life of the shear and is important ergonomically, as it requires significantly less effort to cut with a very sharp tool.

“When it becomes necessary to regrind, it is best to use a sharpener which has a means of adjusting and holding the angle so that the blades can be reground at the factory-established angle. Several bench-type scissor sharpeners have this feature. Another feature worth looking for is the ability to polish the blade after it is ground. It is essential that this be done at the same angle as the grinding, and the sharpener should be equipped so that this is assured. This feature is particularly beneficial to ‘knife-edge’ shears where a very sharp edge can be guaranteed in this way. Try polishing only the knife-edge blade and leaving the other “as-ground” so that it has some grip to it. Be sure to understand and follow all safety instructions and to wear eye protection when grinding.”

How Can I Sharpen Thread Snips?

Like scissors, quality thread snips certainly can and should be sharpened regularly to maintain a smooth cutting action. However, thread snips must usually be taken apart before sharpening because the blades do not open wide like scissors’ do.

To disassemble a snip, hold the blades together with one hand while you unscrew the stop screw with the other, then slowly allow the blades to open, being careful not to lose the ball bearings and opening spring, which you’ll need to put back in afterwards. Then use a hand-held hone or a sharpening wheel to follow the bevel, just as you would with scissors.

How Can I Make Disappearing Marks Disappear Quicker?

You may have noticed that the marks from Vanishing Ink Pens–as well as Disappearing Tailor Crayons and Disappearing Stamping Powder–seem to last longer in the summer than in winter.

The reason is two-fold–warm temperatures and humidity. When the special dyes become saturated by humid air and then warmed, they simply evaporate. Thus, to remove the marks most quickly, just apply moisture, especially steam.

By the way, since disappearing tailor crayons are very expensive, make sure you close the box each time you pull one out, and put it back in the box after use. The sawdust-looking stuff in the box helps keeps the crayons dry, so don’t dump it out!

What Kind Of Pattern Paper Should I Use?

When it comes to patterns, you’ll get different answers from every patternmaker and cutter you talk to about how they ought to be done, so there are no hard and fast rules about which type of pattern paper you should use. But here are some guidelines on the various types of papers we sell at Southstar and how they are best used in patternmaking:

KRAFT PAPER: This is the brown paper from which grocery saces are made (that is, if you choose paper, not plastic!). The weight we stock is 40# (read: forty pound). That’s not how heavy the roll is. It is a measurement of the thickness of the paper. 40# kraft is roughly the thickness of a paper sack you’d get at the dime store, not the heavy duty bags in the grocery store. It is great for wrapping things, for using as filler paper in packaging, and for using as an underlay below a spread of fabric. It can also be used as one of the cheapest options for pattern paper, especially if the patterns are being made for temporary use.

PLOTTER PAPER: This is a 30# bleached plain white paper, used by computerized cutting rooms for their pattern plotter to draw on, but also a popular alternative to kraft paper for folks doing patterns “on the cheap” because you can see your marks easier than on kraft paper.

ALPHA-NUMERIC PAPER: Also known as “1-to-5”, “Alphabet”, or “Dotted” marking paper, alpha-numeric paper is like plotter paper which has been printed with a grid of light blue numbers and/or letters and/or dots spacedone inch apart which make it easy to line up pattern pieces straight for tracing outlines. The paper is also thin enough that you can see through it to trace a pattern lying below it. It is often laid right on top of the fabric spread and cut right along with the fabric. It is too thin for most people to use for making master pattern pieces, as the edges are not rigid enough to trace around.

SELF-DUPLICATING PATTERN PAPER: Also known as “Multi-Mark” or “Redi-Roll”, this is basically three or five sheets of carbonless dublicating paper (the kind that makes a copy of what you’re writing on the sheet below it without a sheet of carbon paper) rolled together into one roll so that you just grasp the ends of the sheets from the self-dispensing carton (like an aluminum foil dispenser box you’d have at home, only much larger) and pull the paper down your cutting table. Then draw your pattern pieces on the top layer (which has an alpha-numeric grid on it) and presto-change-o, you’ve made yourself extra copies on the lower layers. It’s expensive, but it saves tons of time when you need to make multiple copies but cannot afford a pattern copying machine.

MANILA PATTERN PAPER: Now, when you’re making your patterns out of manila paper, you’re getting professional! Also known as “Granite Tag” or “Oak Tag” paper, manila paper is the type of paper that makes the manila file folders you use in the office. It is bright, so marks contrast well with it, and smooth, for easy, accurate marking. We stock the 2X (0.010″) thickness, which is hardy enough to last through more than one season, but thin enough to yield a lot of yardage per roll.

PATTERN PLASTIC: When you are more interested in the durability of your patterns from year to year than in cost–for example, if you are making timeless upholstery patterns rather then frequently changing fashion apparel patterns–pattern plastic, also known as “Duraplast”, is the ticket. At 0.020″ thickness, it is flexible yet strong, about like the plastic used on report covers. Note that we stock it only in sheets, not rolls.

HI-YIELD SEPARATING TISSUE: This is NOT pattern paper tissue. This tissue is very light and coarse. It is not good for wrapping and not particularly good as packaging material. It is used for separating layers in a spread of fabric. For example, if you want to mark every twelfth layer of a fabric you are spreading, you spread a layer of tissue so that you can separate your dozens easily after cutting. We stock it in pink only.

WAXED PAPER: This is also NOT a pattern paper. Also known as “Lubritex”, it is spread between layers of heat sensitive fabric to reduce fusing when cutting with a high speed straight knife.

How Can I Stop Synthetics From Fusing When I Cut Patterns?

Friction generates heat in the blade of a straight knife as it slices through synthetic fabrics, causing the cut edges of the fabric to melt–or “fuse”–together. Sometimes, the fusing only happens, or happens to a greater degree, when the knife is turning in the fabric (as opposed to cutting a straight line) because the turn creates greater resistance. There are several possible solutions, some or all of which can be combined:

USE A DUAL SPEED OR VARIABLE SPEED KNIFE: A single speed knife is always high speed. A dual or variable speed knife offers low speed as well. Running a knife at low speed will reduce the friction and thereby, the heat. If the fusing occurs only in the turns, you can kick it into slow speed just on the turns and back up to high speed when cutting straight. Otherwise, it often happens that you must run at slow speed all the time. We stock the SuperStar II dual speed straight knife among other brands we offer. Drawback: buying a new knife is expensive.

USE WAXED PAPER: When spreading fabric, lay a layer of waxed paper between plies every so often. The amount will vary according to the situation–you’ll have to experiment. When you cut the spread, the wax on the paper will rub off on the blade, thereby lubricating it and reducing friction and heat. Drawback: you throw away a lot of paper. It’s expensive.

USE WAVE-EDGE BLADES: As the name implies, the cutting edge of these blades is wavy, which reduces the amount of blade surface cutting through the fabric, thereby reducing friction and heat. We stock them for Eastman and Wolf and can special order them for other brands. Drawback: The knife’s sharpener is useless with them and they’re expensive.

USE TEFLON-COATED BLADES: Your automatic sharpener will work on these. We also have these available for Eastman and Wolf and can special order them for other brands. Drawback: The Teflon rubs off after a while, reducing their effectiveness. And guess what: They’re expensive!

REDUCE YOUR CUT HEIGHT: The smaller the stack you are cutting, the less friction and heat builds up. Of course, this reduces your production, so the drawback: You know…

What Kind Of Spot Remover Should I Use?

First of all, most spots on fabric are made by sewing machine oil, so make sure you are using a “stainless” or “white” sewing machine oil. This is simply a colorless mineral oil which will leave a much less noticeable stain than regular motor oil, and it is just the right weight for sewing machines.

The rule of thumb for removing spots is that you want to use the least powerful cleaner that will get the job done. This way, you minimize expense, potential harm to your product, and potential harm to yourself or your employees. Also: ALWAYS experiment first on a waste piece of fabric whenever using a new cleaner, or using an old cleaner on new fabric!

Janie Dry Stick Spot Remover is very effective on oil spots and is probably the safest cleaning product we sell. It is made out of natural earth clay compounds, so it is non-toxic, non-odoriferous, and won’t affect the dyes in your fabric. What it will do is lift oil stains right out of your fabric. It looks like a piece of sidewalk chalk and you simply rub it on the oil spot, wait a few minutes, then brush it away with the dispenser’s built-in brush. We have several customers who use Janie specifically because they are working with fine fabrics and can’t afford to have them damaged by a more aggressive cleaning agent.

Albachem Spot Lifter Spray contains a more aggressive, solvent-based cleaning agent which penetrates the fabric when you spray it on, breaks up the stain, and then dries to a powder which can be brushed away. This type of cleaner is effective on a wider variety of stains, but because of its strength, it has the potential to harm certain fabrics and/or dyes, and some people may find the fumes obnoxious. Test on a scrap piece first and always use in a well-ventilated area.

For higher volume, tough cleaning where a solvent is necessary, a cleaning gun with cleaning fluid is recommended. With this setup, your cleaning gun, which plugs into a regular wall outlet, creates pressure just like a paint sprayer to force the solvent through the article you are cleaning. If it is a sensitive fabric on which a ring might be left by the solvent, the gun can be equipped with an air hose (if you have compressed air) to dry the article more quickly after it has been cleaned with the gun. Again, it is important to test on scrap pieces first and always to use this type of system in a well ventilated area.

When Should Thread Lubricant Be Used?

Whenever you’re sewing particularly dense or difficult fabrics–especially synthetics–or sewing at high speeds, heat can build up in your sewing machine needle. Your needle will break easier because the steel will be “detempered” byt he heat, and you may experience more thread breakage because your thread becomes more brittle as it passes through the hot needle eye.

Try coating the needle with silicone thread lubricant prior to its passing through the needle. Some people do this by soaking whole cones of thread in lubricant overnight. A more efficient method is to attach a thread lubricator box (via its built-in magnet) to the machine head somewhere along the path of the thread. The thread passes through the box over a sponge inside and picks up lubricant before it passes through the needle, helping keep both the needle and the thread cooler.

For the same purpose, some sewing machine needles are available with a Teflon or similar coating to reduce heat build-up. These are not showing on our web site but we can quote them to you.

What Is A Walking Foot Sewing Machine?

Walking foot sewing machines have a feed mechanism consisting of two presser feet working together and so arranged that they press down alternately upon the work, appearing to “walk” across the surface of the fabric. This type of feed is also known as “alternating presser feet”. Walking foot sewing machines are especially useful in situations where the materials being sewn together are difficult to feed through the sewing mechanism consistently, for example with thick fabrics and leathers where the upper ply tends to drag on the presser foot and move more slowly than the lower ply, which is being moved forward by the feed dog. Upholsterers, canvas workers, and jeans manufacturers use walking foot machines extensively.