How to sharpen scissors and other sewing tools

how to sharpen scissors

Hi Vicky here.  Sharpening scissors is a subject dear to my own heart. I am not the tidiest of people so over the years I have gained a few pairs of sewing scissors (whilst the original pair were lost somewhere in the sewing room!). Everyone knows that sewing scissors should only be used for fabric but I cannot guarantee my children have not borrowed them for paper….

The end result is three pairs of dull scissors, perfect for researching how to sharpen your sewing scissors. I tried three different methods of sharpening your sewing scissors yourself at home.  How would each of these methods work out?

How to sharpen scissors

1. Cutting through foil:

Fold several layers of foil. I folded the foil so I had six layers. Cut smoothly through the foil ensuring all the blade touches the foil with each cut. Repeat several times, check the sharpness of scissors and repeat if need be.

how to sharpen scissors

2. Cutting through sandpaper:

Fold your sandpaper in half, rough sides outwards so that as you cut the rough sides meet the blades.

how to sharpen scissors

3. Cutting through steel wool:

I used one of these pot cleaners and cut through it over and over. It was gentle enough to still sharpen but not actually cause damage and create a lot of very nasty sharp pieces of metal.  Take care if using something more harsh or metallic such as one of the older style original Brillo pads.

how to sharpen scissors

The results

I found them all equally effective, although the steel wool was decidedly messy in comparison to the other methods. Plus to my surprise, all three methods dealt with the odd notch caused by accidentally cutting into pins.

Sharpening other tools

So how about your rotary cutter? Cut through layers of foil (on your cutting mat!) several times over.  Same principle as with your sewing scissors – it worked for me and certainly gave me a little extra life in an otherwise dull blade.

how to sharpen scissors

And your pins and needles? Researching this post led me to Emery for pincushions.

how to sharpen scissors

Fill your handmade pin cushion with this powdered emery to sharpen your pins as you use them.

how to sharpen scissors

If you would like to see a step by step tutorial for the emery pincushion pop over to my blog.

How do you sharpen your sewing tools? Do you have a preferred method?


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I’m Vicky from vickymyerscreations. I learnt to sew through school, and was blessed as a child to have adults who nurtured my creativity. I love sewing, for others and for myself, and exploring other textile related crafts. See more on twitter, facebook and pinterest.

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57 Responses to How to sharpen scissors and other sewing tools

  1. Anna@tailor scissors says:

    Hey Mayra, Your three different methods of sharpening sewing scissors, so is very great idea. I love this site. I am a tailor. I tried your different methods use at home.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Anna, got a place where I can see your creations? Looooove the art of tailoring, the true sewing craft IMO.

  2. U G-son says:

    Linda G is correct. Cutting into hard or abrasive materials will not make a high quality scissor sharper – not in a way we want it, anyway. it CAN deform the cutting edges, basically folding the edges towards each other so they may cut a bit better for a short while, but it also wears/damages the inside of blades (the sides that slide against each other). The insides are quite hard to regrind so damages there may be terminal (the general advice is to NEVER mess with the inside of the blades unless you really know what you’re doing).

    When the scissor has become dull, the ~60-80 degree “corner” the edges should have has become rounded from wear. The only cure for that is to grind away some metal on (at least) one side, bringing out a new crisp corner.
    For expensive scissors, do hand them over to a professional – and by professional I don’t mean the local cobbler who also sharpens knives and makes keys.
    Cheaper scissors that you can be sharpened at home, on a hone. The basic idea is to regrind the “outside” of the edge at the same angle it had originally, until you’ve removed the rounded edge. (For someone who really wants to get into it there’s so much more to say and think about, but that single basic idea gets you in the right direction.)

  3. Linda G says:

    Research has shown that cutting through foil or similar materials (like the scrubbing pads) is ineffective for sharpening scissors or shears (scissors and shears are different and work differently). For knife edge blades, like on the finer scissors, using this technique can actually ruin your expensive blades. The methods presented here have been circulating for far too long and really DO NOT WORK.

    To properly sharpen scissor blades yourself, you need to use a sharpening stone or a sharpening steel (like what is used to sharpen your knives) and fine oil lubricant. Sharpening stones are used by artists, crafters, wood workers, fishermen, and hunters to keep their cutting tools sharp.

    Look for the sharp blade on your scissors; it usually has the widest bevel along the cutting edge. This is the blade that usually needs to be sharpened and have any burrs polished off. As mentioned in another comment, it is likely you will have to sharpen or hone the blade up and down rather than along the length of the blade, although this may be different depending on the type of scissors/shears you have. Often, a circular motion using small circles working along the blade is appropriate. It is critical to maintain the angle of the bevel and the original cutting structure of the edge when sharpening.

    Although I know how to sharpen blades, I leave sharpening of my scissors and snips to the professionals. I’ve made a big investment into having quality tools and it is foolish to scrimp on regular maintenance like sharpening.

    Pinking shears should be sharpened only by professionals.

  4. Ginnie Wilcox says:

    Leave the sharpening to the professionals.

  5. Jen S says:

    I read a review online on sharpening scissors and they specifically said that cutting through foil is of NO USE WHATSOEVER. Don’t do it, it will just blunt your blades! Get them sharpened professionally!

  6. I use a ceramic sharpener that came with my scissors. I would never use tinfoil, steel wool, etc., that will ruin your scissors.

  7. Annabellouise says:

    These tips are so useful. I no longer have children borrowing my scissors, but still have managed to get a burr in my best pair. Going downstairs to get the foil now.

  8. flossmojo says:

    Hi would these work on pinking sheers do you think

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      No don’t think so.

    • Jo Ann Anthony says:

      I have a pair older than me i would like to try on. My newer pair is loosing their edge, for them, i will just replace them. I asked a person who sharpened scissors how much it would cost to do pinking sheers. He said $100

  9. Fergus Naugler says:

    Stop the madness! I would never use these make shift methods to sharpen my precious scissors. Go the extra mile and use a qualified crafts person in the sharpening trade. Thanks

  10. Dimitra says:

    My methode is, use a “sharpning round steel” as if you would cut it in peaces, easely open and close your scissors as long as nessasary, I think it’s the same as sharpning with a bottle as Deborah suggested.

  11. Joan says:

    The bottle method was used by my grandmother and mother by puttung the scissor blades in the opening of a bottle and using a cutting action. Preferably one with a smooth rim. We used to use a milk bottle when we had them.
    I tried cutting foil with my rotary cutter and it made it more blunt.

  12. Joanne Roots-Rochon says:

    Absolutely DO NOT cut tin foil or sand paper or steel wool with your good Gingher, Kai, or other expensive scissors. This is the fastest way to ruin the blades. These scissors have tiny serrations that grab the fabric to prevent it from slipping while cutting, and doing any of these suggestions will ruin those serrations.

  13. Mila Kette says:

    Fantastic! I’m going right now to my kitchen in order to sharpen my scissors using the aluminum paper method. Thank you so much for sharing this info.

  14. Where did you find the Emery powder??

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Try to Google a supplier in your area, some dentist supply companies carie it as well.

  15. Marion Foster says:

    I bought a rotary blade cutter and it left the blades feeling a little rough. Will try the tinfoil, or maybe a combination of the two would do the trick.

  16. I’ve tried the foil method also to no avail but I will certainly try it with my pinking shears – so true that to have them sharpened is almost as expensive as just buying a new pair! I did invest in an electric rotary blade sharpener but have yet to try it out. I’ve heard they work quite well which I’m hoping because these dull REALLY fast! 🙂

    • DiAnna says:

      If the foil does not work I used those foil pans that we put in the oven to get the mess. I was doing a craft where I needed to cut those foil pans and I was surprised. That was the pinking ones.

    • Rosamunda says:

      I would never try to sharpen pinking shears myself. There is a good reason it costs more to sharpen them – it’s a lot more involved and delicate.I have used tinfoil on rotary blades frequently as my sharpener for them has gone “walkabout”. I am thinking it is permanently lost in the last move … I also do not sharpen my own scissors that have the serrations. I look at it this way – I paid good money for them and I am not qualified to do this. I don’t do things to the insides of my sewing machines, computer or cars, for the same reason. Interestingly my first brand new car was cheaper than a top of the line sewing machines is now.

  17. Judy says:

    I used the foil sharpener for my rotary cutter, and cut very thin strips….now I’m bagging up those thin strips to use for party confetti table deco. Double bonus!!!

  18. Deborah says:

    Our family has always used the glass bottle technique. Use your scissors like you are going thecut the neck off a glass bottle..Just keep doing the scissoring action on the neck several times and then give the scissors a wipe and they will be sharp.

  19. Rose Symonette says:

    Thanks for the tip I will certainly try them, I have a few rotary blades that I was about to throw away, now I can reuse them. Thanks a lot.

  20. Lisa says:

    So far my preferred method is a professional to do it for me. I let my daughter try the foil and sand paper methods after hubby got hold of my sewing scissors and it killed them. Those scissors wouldn’t cut melted butter when she finished. I now have a new pair I keep hidden! LOL I do need to get some pin cushion sand, however.

  21. Ashley Ceasor says:

    Thank you for the tips! 🙂

  22. Pingback: Amazingly Astounding Uses for Aluminum Foil! - The Creek Line House

  23. There is another type of shears and how to sharpen them that I learned from my boss that wasn’t even mentioned, seriously – for Gingher Shears and other fine shears, use ONLY a fine Arkansas stone> Only one blade~~ This is so critical! You can purchase a fine Arkansas Stone in bait shops because fine fishermen use them to sharpen their fine hooks. And, you should not scrape blade length-wise, only using up and down movement, and only the larger of the two blades should ever be sharpened. Thank you, and I hope this helps everyone!!

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Karen, thanks for the tip. No i never heard of Arkansa’s stone but if it is a proven method, why not try!

  24. Grandma Sue says:

    I sharpen my scissors with a pen-shaped, diamond grit sharpening tool. It’s rounded but has a flat side that is perfect for scissors. I wear VERY strong glasses when doing this (I’m old and can’t see for sh*t anymore) so that I can see the correct angle to “plane”. It works like a charm! Turns the blades razor sharp. It won’t do for pinking shears but for any other type it’s pefect.

  25. Rebekah says:

    I tried the foil and it made the problem worse. Then I started playing around with the tightness of the blades. First I tightened them and it didn’t help. Then I loosened them and it got a little better. I kept loosening them about a quarter turn and then testing them. When I found the right tightness, the scissors still wouldn’t cut at the last 1.5 inches of the blade. Then I tried the foil again and like magic, the scissors are as good as the day I bought them!

  26. Noooo! I tried the sand paper method and now my scissors are even MORE dull! ?

    • Katie says:

      The sandpaper must be the fine grit stuff. I really don’t remember the fineness of the grit but if you go to the hardware store just get one of the finest sheets and you won’t go wrong.

  27. geeta says:

    how to do go about sharpening a pinking shears.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      I have never done it, but i would try the first two methods, let us know what you find out.

    • Pam Kasky says:

      I was wondering the same thing geeta. I have a pair of VERY dull pinking shears and to get them professionally sharpened is as expensive as buying a new pair! I will have to try one of these methods.

      • Hoffman says:

        Sharpening stone is the best way to sharpen pinking shears. You do have to sharpen each tooth separately— that’s why it is so much to have a professional do them for you

  28. Dawn Roper says:

    Thank You so much I will share these helpful hints with the girls at our sewing group they will be so exited to sharpen their own scissors and cutting tools Dawn

  29. Barb Nicoll says:

    Thank you, Vicky! This was very helpful.

  30. crystal freeman says:

    remember. you can use the used rotary blades for paper projects. this works fine.

  31. Caroline Hathaway says:

    Although there are many knife sharpening tools to but at very reasonable prices, there aren’t so many readily available scissor sharpening gadgets about. I’m using one that I bought 25 years ago, but last year I bought a simple gadget in a gardening shop that sharpens all blades. I think the key is not to let your fabric scissors get too blunt.

  32. Mary Harris says:

    I will try the techniques you have suggested..

  33. Doreen S says:

    Thanks for the tips. I definitely plane on trying the one on the rotary cutter blade, after all, that have I got to lose, it is already ready to get rid of! I haven’t tried these methods but I used to use an old glass Pepsi bottle to sharpen my old scissors on. You “cut” the neck of the bottle at the top with the scissors. It worked good for my paper cutting scissors and my kids’ scissors but never tried it on my good scissors as they never need sharpening.

  34. happygirl says:

    Use full, thanks. Will definitely use the foil on my rotary blades and small utility scissors, I have few of these, but not on my fiskars!

    • Jan MacKay says:

      I always send my Ginghers in to be sharpened professionally. If you spend the $’s for a good pair of scissors than be prepared to spend an extra few $’s to keep them in good shape. My opinion for what its worth.

      • Patty P says:

        I agree. I have a pair of Gingher dressmaker shears I got for a very good price on Amazon. They are truly as sharp as a razor blade and came with a warning and hard protective sleeve. Best scissors I’ve ever owned, and under $25. They bite into the sheerest fabric without it slipping away from the blade. I use only on fabric (keep them hidden!) and they have never dulled in the three years I’ve had them, but if they do, I would only have them sharpened professionally. I tried the sandpaper way back on my pinking shears. Fail. I am a dedicated DIY person but this is one I can’t seem to do.

        That having been said, I have used all the methods above, plus glass bottle and ceramic sharpener, but not Arkansas stone to sharpen my paper scissors successfully. My husband uses a set of stones for his straight razor, high quality German steel that holds an edge for at least six months though used daily. Maybe I’ll try on a pair of scissors I used to use for fabric and see if I can master the technique of using a stone.

        Thanks for the info – not only the OP, but the helpful comments.

  35. PAYSMAGE says:

    Very helpfull ! Thank you !

  36. louise belisle says:

    Wow this is great, I live in Panama where it is impossible to find sewing tools and forget finding someone to sharpen scissors . Just saved me an internet purchase with especially high shipping fees. Going to try it out right now! Do you think this would work on zig zag scissors?

  37. I’ve used the foil on my rotary blades and it extends their use by a lot. I don’t think I’d dare try this on my good Ginghers though.

    • Janelle Thietje-Dunn says:

      I was thinking the same thing. It only costs a couple of dollars to take them to the fabric shop & to let their guy sharpen them – and he was able to grind out a really big, mysteriously begotten, notch out of my dressmaker shears. The supplies to sharpen them would cost about the same.

  38. Good to know! I’ve got a Craft Gossip post scheduled for later this morning that links to your tutorial: http://sewing.craftgossip.com/?p=84788 –Anne

  39. Whollyfool says:

    That is extremely useful! Thanks!

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