Ah ha – the age-old question. Should we keep our sewing scissors just for cutting fabric? Will cutting paper somehow ‘dull' the scissors, make them less sharp, or less able to cut fabric if we dare to cut paper with them as well?
Is this just an urban myth? Did seamstresses of old simply pass on this mantra to stop the family endlessly borrowing their sewing scissors? Was it just told to make sure the sewing scissors were always there when they needed them? We've all seen the funny memes on social media warning of the dire consequences of using our sewing scissors to cut paper.
It's discussed from time to time in the sewing chat group, and there will always be those who say yes they cut with paper occasionally and still have nice sharp scissors. We all will often cut out our tissue paper patterns with the sewing scissors, or lie the pattern out on top of the fabric and cut both layers at once, tissue and fabric. I won't lie, sometimes I find myself reaching out and picking up the wrong scissors when I'm cutting out my PDF sewing patterns from regular printer paper. The sky hasn't fallen in on me yet!
I did once discover hubby cutting mosquito netting with them, but I don't think that would have done too much harm. We've all heard the horror stories of what other reckless husbands might have been caught doing – cutting wire, opening cans, removing screws and other such horrors! Yes, that might just be grounds for divorce!
But is it all just hearsay and doom and gloom, or should we really lock those scissors away?
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So I asked some scissor experts:
Jackie Webster, Sales and Marketing Manager at Havel's Sewing – “That is an excellent question! You will receive a different answer from experts and artists that use their scissors daily. I certainly have!
The technical answer is, do not use fabric scissors on paper, and vice versa. I stand by this for one reason. I was a hairdresser and if I used my hair cutting scissors on anything else, they were useless! I think there is a difference in paper grain and fabrics. Even denim is different than that of paper grains.
I have an artist that swears she has used our scissors (Sew Creative Line) on paper, leather, denim, and all other types of fabrics, including silk!”photo credit: scissors via photopin (license)
Kris, Customer Service at Kai Scissors – “Yes, using your fabric scissors on paper will indeed dull them, this is why: Various clays, and/or calcium carbonate, are a component of many papers, including cardboard. They are there to make the paper stiff. These minerals are abrasive and dull the scissors.
I would recommend never using your fabric scissors or shears to cut any kind of paper because they will become blunt and make the whole process of cutting fabric slow and a chore and can ultimately damage the cloth.”photo credit: Project365/Day 132: Las tijeras gigantes via photopin (license)
Marta P. at Fiskars/Gingher Customer Service and Warranty – “All items dull scissors. Paper is cellulose and has finishing agents, fabric is natural or manmade fibers. So if you cut denim, wool, polyester, nylon, spandex etc, those fibers will dull scissors faster than regular light and medium weight cotton. If you are only cutting cotton with your scissors, cutting paper will dull them faster. If you are using them on all different materials, cutting paper with them will not necessarily dull them faster than those other harsher fibers. All scissors become dull with use, and you can cut paper with them, you will just need to get them sharpened more often.
Paper does produce a lot of lint, which collects on the blades and quickly makes the scissors or shears feel rough when opening and closing them. This paper lint should be frequently wiped off of the blades in order to restore a smooth feel.
You can cut paper with any Fiskars or Gingher scissors or shears, but we do not advise cutting paper with our knife edge scissors or shears. Because the knife edge is not necessary for cutting paper, and since paper lint needs to be wiped off the blades frequently, it is better to use scissors and shears which do not have a knife edge as this very sharp edge presents an extra need for caution in handling.photo credit: Nähküche Closeups via photopin (license)
The last word about paper versus scissors
Here is a good explanation from the ‘ask the scientist' forum:
“Various clays, and/or calcium carbonate, are a component of many papers, including cardboard. They are there to make the paper stiff, to adjust the absorption of inks, to keep the paper hard when it is wet (wet strength), and as a filler (Clays are less expensive than wood fiber in many cases, depending upon the quality of the paper.) These minerals are abrasive and dull the scissors.”
Our reader's thoughts and experiences
If you are a member of the sewing chat group, you can catch up on the earlier discussion here in this thread. If you aren't a member yet – why not! It's the best sewing chat group on Facebook – apply to join right away and start asking, answering, sharing, learning and having lots more sewing fun. See you there.
Your turn – so now tell me what do you think. What has been your experience with cutting paper – or not! And what was the craziest thing you caught someone doing with your best sewing scissors?
Like this article? You might find this earlier one interesting too – all about sewing scissors. Do you get what you pay for? Does a higher cost mean a better cut?