Duck Billed Applique Scissors


Thank you all so much for your birthday wishes. Aren’t you a lovely bunch? Ooh, my mood hasn’t half improved!

I thought I’d stop by to mention some of my favourite sewing scissors, these duck billed scissors that I bought here. I own four pairs of sewing scissors now, but these are my favourite. They’re applique scissors with a paddle blade. You know, I’m still never entirely sure if I’m making best use of that blade! I believe it’s meant to keep one layer of fabric away from another layer for safe trimming. For example if you wanted to grade a seam. But I never know if the duck bill blade is meant to be on the top or bottom of my cutting action!

What I DO like about these scissors are that they are very sharp, very light and extremely easy to get into the nooks and crannies of your sewing. You can do some very precise cutting. The handles curve away from the blades, so that your meaty little fingers aren’t getting in the way of your work:


I really, really recommend these things! And if any readers can give me tips on better usage, launch in.

My mum’s general household scissors are the same scissors I remember from my childhood, which puts them at 30+ years old. I don’t believe she’s ever had them sharpened and the hinge is so loose that the blades rattle when you pick them up. They can barely cut through butter, yet she insists on still using them even though I bought her new scissors a few years ago. She says she’s sentimentally attached to them. Are any of you the same? Do you have household pieces of equipment that you would never throw away? Are you attached beyond all logic to a pair of scissors?!

STOP PRESS! There are two new Pattern Pyramids here in California (with my sewing teacher, Beth) and here in New Zealand. Wendy’s giveaway is down to four patterns. Has one of the threads nearly run its course?! Beth’s giveaway includes a vintage wedding dress, underwear and utterly divine dress patterns – plus a pair of dungarees I remember from my original giveaway. Come on. Someone has to make the dungarees!

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35 Responses to Duck Billed Applique Scissors

  1. Sam says:

    I don’t have a pair of duck billed scissors, but several times I’ve considered buying some. I think you’re supposed to use them with the duck bill blade underneath what you’re cutting – kind of between the 2 layers of fabric – but that’s not based on anything other than my own logic, so it could be wrong!

    I might just have to treat myself to some now!

  2. Amie M says:

    There is a thread coming my way! From Felicity of

  3. maddie says:

    I needed those scissors this morning! I’ve been sewing lingerie recently and I have to trim my 1/4″ seam allowances to 1/8″ (or slightly less) at several spots. This can get hard early in the morning when my mind is fuzzy and there is not light out. I’m headed to NYC next week to stock up on supplies and I’m adding this to my list.

  4. LLADYBIRD says:

    I think the duck bill blade is supposed to sit at the bottom, so it can properly push the fabric layers away while you’re trimming, while the top tiny blade makes those precise cuts. At least, that’s the positioning that works best for me. I LOVE my applique scissors; at the time of buying, I thought they were soo frivolous but they’re actually quite handy for most of my sewing projects 🙂

  5. Trisha says:

    Agreed! I use my duck bill scissors all the time. Like you, I sometimes wonder if I’m using the larger side appropriately, but they are the best for all sorts of small snipping on garments.

  6. I was given some ages ago and I’ve never really used them I’m going to change that now!

  7. I bought some of these scissors some time ago but haven’t really taken them to my heart. They are out on my shelf so that they are at hand – perhaps I ought to try them for more jobs? I have also used them ‘bill’ down.

  8. Sewer from across the Pond says:

    I bought a Gingher brand pair from a few months ago. I like them a lot. I’ve always assumed that the “bill” blade is supposed to be in the down position.

    They’re a fun little tool, aren’t they?

  9. Gaynor says:

    Belated Many Happy Returns for yesterday! I have a pair of huge dressmaking scissors that my Mum gave me – they belonged to her grandmother who was a tailor. They are so loose & blunt that I can’t use them, but I treasure them anyway.

  10. I love scissors! Lost count of how many pairs I own….large, small, appliqué, snips, pretty, functional……one pair for nearly every project! The duck bill is definitely on the bottom – enjoy using them.

  11. Ahhh, I have a pair if those scissors too… I lurve them ;)! I trim/grade seams with them like this pic . I place the larger rounded blade lowest, with it resting on top of the fabric that is NOT to be trimmed (the bigger blade is needed I guess because it kind of keeps that piece of fabric held down flat, protected and out of the way). Then, with the “normal” blade upper-most I cut away (or grade) the fabric that I DO wanted trimmed off 🙂

  12. oonaballoona says:

    you’ve prompted me to pull my duck bills out and learn how to used the cursed things. just found a great action photo from nikki:

    i think it makes sense. i’m goin cuttin.

  13. Miriana says:

    Ha! My mom is like yours, in that she’s had the same pare of scissors (that in my opinion stopped cutting anything years ago) since before she got married in the early 70s! And there’s no way topersuade her to get a new pair…

  14. Marie says:

    Never thought I’d say this about scissors, but these are beautiful!

  15. NotenoughtimeTeresa says:

    Are these suitable for left handed people too, does anyone know please? They lookreally handy!

    • Dixie says:

      You’d need to purchase left handed applique scissors, Teresa. The handles on the pair shown here are for right handed users, and they cannot be turned over for use.

      I, too use my duck-billed scissors frequently, but rarely for trimming appliques!

      • I don’t have any of these scissors (but then again, I don’t do applique work, either), but your comment about the left-handed issue got me thinking. If Karen uses them, and she’s left handed, how does she do it?

      • don’t know about Karen but i’m left handed and use “normal” scissors held in right hand!

      • which I guess makes you verging on ambidextrous, so that’s very clever (if, I’m guessing, often quite frustrating).

      • its bred from necessity – we never had left handed anything at home/at school when I was growing up. It can be sore, I switched to rotary blade for most cutting (which now that I think of it is also held in right hand – I think its because of the position of the blade!)

      • Left handers know how to adapt! So many challenges we face because we have no other version of the world. I can’t see that the duck-billed scissors are especially one way or the other – the handles aren’t curved to a certain grip.

    • Heidi says:

      I recently tried these scissors but being a left hand cutter (otherwise a right hander) I found they just don’t handle comfortably . I want to cut around from the left side and that puts the duck bill on the wrong side.

  16. symondezyn says:

    I’ve been looking for a pair of those duck billed beauties forever!! No one here sells them! lol ^_^

  17. Funnygrrl says:

    I have never seen duck billed scissors. Interesting…
    As a kid, I never understood why my mom got so mad when we cut construction paper with her sewing scissors. Now I can’t believe she didn’t lose her mind!

  18. Molly says:

    I love my duck-bill scissors! Mine are Gingher and beautifully sharp. I use them mostly for grading the allowances on flat-fell seams before folding them over, and wouldn’t be without them now. I can get right down to 1/8″ allowance without fear. I also use them for slicing out tacks. I recently draped a jacket with pleats and hand tacked the pleats down so they wouldn’t shift during the construction. When it came to remove them, I just skimmed under the pleats with the DBs, the sharp blade caught the threads and the paddle glided across the fabric, tacks were gone in seconds, so easy. I remember the first time I used them, they felt so awkward and I was disappointed. After trying out different angles, etc I found what worked for me and I use them slightly differently according to the task in hand. When trimming seam allowances, I hold mine almost upright with the paddle pushing the bottom SA down (if I’m grading) – narrow blade on top of fabric – and angle my hand, the photos I’ve seen make it look like they’re being used sideways, but I think it could be personal preference.

    I also have double curved Trim Stars applique scissors which I highly recommend, they have very fine, sharp points and I tend to favour them instead of seam-rippers, the curves prevent digging into the fabric, they’re designed to snip threads under the machine foot. I need new ones now, after two years + constant use, they’re blunt. I’m finally clearing out my bad or blunt scissors, many have gotten wrecked from lending to other people, I threw three pairs in the bin last month and have just disposed of my ruined 11″ dressmakers and cheap 8″ tailors shears and bought a pair of Kai 9″ bent trimmers to try. They’re nice but I quickly realised I favour my hefty tailors scissors so I’ll be getting a decent pair of those this time. I’d love to try a pair of Gingher spring action scissors but it would be frivolous to have those and the Kais. Meh. i have Gingher micro-serrated and pinkers, love the brand.

    As for our “general household” scissors, they are several years old but so sharp I used them last year to cut through four layers of thick hessian and accidentally at the same time through the leather strap of a handbag without even noticing! Unfortunately it wasn’t my handbag either….

  19. Jen (NY) says:

    Hmmm, I have been eyeing some of these myself. I have to limit the little tool purchases though, or they could easily kill my budget. Just got a buttonhole cutter, so applique scissors will have to wait a little while. Thanks for sharing–I’m glad to hear that they are as useful as I thought they must be.

  20. ooh i like the shape of them… restocking with better scissors is on my to do list. I always find that i’m purchasing at last minute and get whatever passable thing i can get my hands on in a hurry

  21. I have two pairs – as after buying a pair i discovered that these are the only scissors I’ve found that actually matter if you’re left handed. I then had to find left handed ones, which was harder than it seemed, I linked to where i found left handed ones here:

  22. I go duck bit on the bottom as I’m sure that’s what Gertie does in the bombshell course. As a child I loved snipping so much so my friend Andrew and I took it upon ourselves to open a styling shop at the back of our class. We cut our own and several classmates hair into triangles at the front so we would look like pixies. It was however the school photo the next day. We weren’t allowed scissors for a year. The End.

  23. Dee says:

    Just found this article, I have my grandmothers dressmaking scissors, they must be at least 60 years old and were from Sheffield, England, the blades are a bit blunt and rattley, wouldn’t part with them, they are currently in storage until I can get them sharpened. Love your site, you are very talented.
    Dee Australia

  24. Dennis Lucier says:

    they are carpet installer carpet seam nappers, you use the duck bill to raise the nap of carpet and level out the seam at an even height……hope this clears things up

  25. Pingback: Madalynne's Favorite Bra Making Supplies

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