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 from 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?
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!”
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.”
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.”
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
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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?
I never never use my fabric scissors for paper and my family has all been well trained! I don’t even use them to cut paper (printed from digital) patterns, except for the tissue paper patterns, those I will cut with the fabric.
I was hoping for some scientific comparison by cutting different materials to see if some dull blades faster than others. Definitive proof versus expert opinions, that kind of thing.
Growing up with a grandmother, mother, mother and aunt who were expert seamstresses, our lives were constantly threatened if we even looked at their sewing scissors, lol!
Now that I sew, I can appreciate their threats, and have passed them on to everyone in my family, lol!
I recently sold my mother’s home and was going through and sorting through some things, when I ran across a pair of black Gingher shears mixed in with her paper-cutting scissors! I was so excited about this find, because I had heard how wonderful Gingher was! They still seem to be extremely sharp and I will take very special care of them.
My grandmother, mother and aunt would be so proud of me! 🙂
You have stumble upon a great treasure:)
Ever since my sister and I were little the early 60s we were taught by our mom that paper dulls sewing scissors. We were great kids for cutting out paper dolls from a catalog. And we found out first hand she was absolutely right.
I get the 2 for a dollar scissors and try to keep at least some for sewing and not other uses. When they disappear from someone else borrowing them, they just have to buy me more. I do, however, have stricter rules for the rotary cutters. That’s a ‘hands off’ tool! Used to have good fiskars, but since they were from the original batch, they’re pretty worn out. Cleaning blades off does make a big difference in ability to cut well. Thanks for the post.
I had a set of el cheapo titanium blade shears that I’ve used about 2 years and they worked just fine.
Couldn’t find my paper scissors anywhere so used the el cheapo to cut two little snips of newspaper (how bad could two little snips be???).
A little later used those same el cheapos to try and cut fabric…guess what didn’t happen?
The part of the blades that snipped the paper wouldn’t cut the fabric at all – it just bent the fabric – even though the rest of the blade cut the fabric just fine. Those el cheapos are now in the trash and I purchased a new, more expensive scissor…hopefully it will get here soon!
I’ve learned my lesson – fabric shears DO NOT touch paper even if it’s just two little snips.
I got lost in translation since Titanium and cheap do not go together at all :)I had to google “Cheapo” thinking it was a brand a did not know, until my teenage daughter set me straight LOL!
Lol! Whoops, sorry about that.
When I said el cheapo I meant cheap. Actually they work quite well before needing to be replaced (roughly 6 months to a year for each scissor depending on what I’m cutting – and I’ve purchased these multiple times). But, as I said, I just got some higher quality ones – Karen Buckley Perfect Scissors and they are so much better than the el cheapos.
If it helps, here’s the link for the el cheapo scissors I’ve been using since I started sewing: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B000P0LNRE/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1
wow! they are cheap for such an expensive material. I have in my possession 12 pairs of scissors. If I did not have so many I would give yours a try.
After my husband has ruined several pairs of my sewing scissors, and was severely reprimanded, lol, I started tying a piece of ribbon around my sewing scissors so he would know these are not yours to touch or use for anything. I also keep cheap scissors around in case he gets tempted. Seems to have worked, we’re still married 🙂
One reason to keep the scissors for strict purposes is just lazy human nature. If a person starts using the fabric scissors on paper, then they start using them on other things (just one time in a pinch!) then expensive fabric scissors become general use and then the best scissors are mislaid….
Even if it’s just a myth, it’s a good myth that keeps scissors in their location and well cared for.
Wish I knew the padalock trick years ago when one of my inlaws would come and insisted she was only cutting a little bit of paper and did not want to run into the kitchen junk drawer to use the paper scissors. She would run into my sewing room instead even when I said not to use them on paper.
The image insert says it all “It says right here – ‘Using her fabric scissors to cut paper IS grounds for divorce'”. And if it’s the kid, it’s grounds for disinheritance. LOL.
But, seriously, I keep sewing scissors in a cup on my sewing desk, and everybody knows not to touch them unless they have fabric in the other hand. The *paper* scissors, are in various *other* locations.
I agree, don’t use your sewing scissors to cut paper! My Mother taught me that. Mother knows best! From my experience paper does dull your sewing scissors.
I always have kept my sewing shears exclusively for fabric. I too, tried both cutting sandpaper and foil as a quick sharpener neither was an adequate choice. I have found that a few cuts through wax paper will help if dull or sticky scissors are making cutting difficult a very short term solution, however.
I have my shears and scissors professionally sharpened once per year. It is well worth the cost in time saved and the damage to fabric from dull tools
By the way rotary cutting blades need the same protection and care.
Once per year we gather up our tools kitchen, workshop and sewing studio and send them out to be sharpen. My Ginger shears are still lovely and sharp after over 40 years of use and have been sharpened only a few times. Which has taught me to buy the best tools I can afford and to buy throw away scissors for paper cutting.
Cutting sewing pattern paper does not dull your shears or scissors because they are not coated with chemicals… so the ink will run if they get wet, or your iron is too hot!
Too much info maybe, but buy the best you can and then take care of your tools.
My husband did use my good shears to cut wire. He even cut up my yardsticks to make shims when doing home repairs. Eventually my shears disappeared and I never have found them, although over the years I’ve found a lot of things in odd places, like on the roof or buried in a pile in the thick grass. I wonder if he destroyed the scissors so thoroughly that he had to throw them away.
My Ex-husband borrowed without asking my pinking shears to cut cardboard for a model house he was building. When I went to use the shears they shredded the material, threads pulled and wrecked it. So he decided he could sharpen them for me. Not sure what he used but he then managed to curve the blades and they would no longer cut anything. It cost him $50 to replace the shears and he never touched them again.
I have to hide my sewing scissors. He never asks , he just takes. He once took my Victoria Knox kitchen knife, Swiss Army knife cutlery, and was cutting a car radiator hose with it.
It needed to be sharpened after that stunt.
There is e good reason for having several scissors and knifes. They are best in doing what they are made for. Somehow men are often (always?) not capable to distinguish a potato peeler from a screwdriver and wirecutters from sewing scissors.
I have sewing scissors that I use for sewing cutting paper patterns, cutting paper when I can’t find my paper scissors, they stayed sharp enough, never thought anything about it until…I finally opened the Kai scissors that I bought when I purchased my Bernina sewing machine more than 6 years ago. I never used them because they were so expensive I did not want to ruin them. But recently I needed to cut large amounts of projects out at one time. Oh my gosh I have never used such a wonderful tool. They are very special and as such will only be used for special projects. I need to keep them around for a long time and will probably gift them to someone special in my will. LOL Cut anything you want with any other scissors, you can’t use my Kai scissors because they are MINE.
The cruch of super sharp sewing scissors on cloth is simply delicious, isn’t it?
Many types of paper, especially white, and especially printed contains china clay. I believe this is to give the paper a bit of body and to help set the printing ink quickly, to reduce smudging. This china clay behaves as a slight abrasive, and it is this which overtime will dull the blades. If there’s almighty emergency and your best scissors must be used on paper, make sure to wipe the blades afterwards. Otherwise the abrasion may continue until it wears off.
I just wish I knew how to sharpen the very tips of embroidery scissors. I’m dangerous with an unpicker, so I use embroidery scissors. (Btw, cutting tin foil, sometimes said to sharpen scissors, made them worse.)
I started using a KAI scissor in 2008 when I bought my first Bernina machine. It is now 2020 and they are still sharp as from the start. A reason for me to have invested en 2 other KAI scissors.
I geuss I’m in love LOL
As far back as I remember when a little girl, my mother warned us NEVER to take her good sewing scissors to use on anything – paper, other cloth, it didn’t matter. Being caught with her scissors in hand brought about severe consequences in the form of a very sore backside. Needless to say, we quickly learned to leave hers alone. She gave us each our own pair of child’s scissors and we made do with them.
Today, my husband knows that he risks death if he takes my good scissors. Mine are high-quality, all metal Gingers. So he knows if the handles aren’t orange plastic, not to use ’em or he’s dead meat! ?
OK, I’m joking, but he DOES know that using my scissors will drastically upset the balance of harmony in our home, so he always makes sure to look for orange handles.
I believe in being safe, not sorry. My fabric scissors are “sacred”. I sew, I garden, I cook and I sew, plus I do other things, and I have different scissors for all of it. I have scissors available all over my home. (But no little children around, either.) The scissor companies must love me! But when I want to cut something out, I absolutely love a heavenly sharp pair of dressmaker shears. I only recently allowed myself the luxury of a good pair of small sewing scissors to use at the machine, but my thumb kept getting stuck in the handle. In desperation I grabbed a pair I had used for cutting out rubber stamps that had large handle holes. They were as sharp as the expensive sewing scissors, and are now ever at hand as I sew. Comfort is important, too.
Using the right tool for the job always made a difference. Kitchen shears aren’t for paper or fabric and vice versa. However, I prefer to have a pair of scissors for paper, ones for cutting loose thread on sewing projects, kitchen, craft etc. instead of swapping one pair amongst those different tasks. I will probably misplace the paper scissors when sewing and therefore having a separate pair for each job ensures that I have always have the tool for the job handy. As for paper dulling fabrics scissors…the material being cut is probably not as important as the material made for scissors. A good quality pair of scissors will stay sharp longer. I run a business sharpening knives, scissors and other edge tools and know that the type of steel makes a world of difference. Buy the best you can afford and have them maintained regularly.
I am in my 60’s, my boys picked on me forever don’t touch mom’s scizzors. She Will Kill You! or Your allowence will be saved by Mom to buy her new ones.
Been sewing 61 years 40 of them professionally. I made patterns from paper, before rotary cutters were the rage. I could only afford one pair of scissors, so they did double duty. NEVER HAD A PROBLEM!!! I took my scissors in to be sharpened, maybe once a year, which I chalk up to normal maintenance the same way as I now take my sewing/embroidery machine in for a going over once a year.. But I never took them in because the blade was dull after cutting paper. SSSOOOO……..thats my experience!,
I believe you! Sadly, They don’t make things like they used to…
I think this is just an old misconception. I have been sewing for decades and have never quite believed the idea that paper dulls scissors. Over time and usage, all scissors will dull. Paper is not necessarily harder on scissors, it is just that they are being used more often. There is a vast difference between fabrics as well, so depending on what is being cut will determine the duration of the sharpness of the blades. Old wives’ tales are hard to put to rest but a little common sense goes a long way and will make life a lot easier.
well said and I totally agree!
My mom taught me to never cut paper with sewing scissors, so I’ve followed her rule. I have a pair of Ginger 8″ bent trimmers that I’ve used for over 30 years, and they’ve only been sharpened twice. Both times after someone had cut paper with them!
I can’t tell you the number of times I have had to yell at my grand-daughters for using my ‘good’ scissors. They constantly go for them to cut paper, plastic tags off clothes, or those god-awful plastic hold downs they put on toys….why do toys have to be so secured in the first place? I mean…its not like we don’t have at least 20 pairs of scissors all over the house. The worst thing however was when I found my scissors out on the deck with some wire they had decided to cut to make one of their many ‘creations’. Needless to say, there was a huge gouge in the blades. That was the last straw…they had to use their own money to buy me new ones! Did it stop them from using my good scissors? Nope! I still find them out on my sewing table with schnibbles of paper and plasic and other various things that AREN’T fabric!!! Darn kids anyway!
I added a small padlock to my best scissors to keep them safe from the kids and husband, works like a charm!!!
Hi Nancy, thanks for that. You might like this article too: https://so-sew-easy.com/sharpen-scissors-sewing-tools/
“…These minerals are abrasive and dull the scissor”, but one of the ways to sharpen scissors is to cut the very abrasive “sand-paper”, no?
I have never heard of this, but why don’t you try and let us know. I really would like the answer to this.
Number 2, here:- https://so-sew-easy.com/sharpen-scissors-sewing-tools/
“Fold your sandpaper in half, rough sides outwards so that as you cut the rough sides meet the blades.” No indication is given as to what number grit is required, (ie how coarse or fine the “sand” should be); and the more astute readers might also be aware that “paper” is an integral part of the sandpaper. Perhaps the scissors are at once both blunted and sharpened 🙂
Number 1 is cutting through tin-foil
Number 3 is cutting through steel-wool
I’d really love to know how affective these are. I did try cutting foil in order to sharpen my best embroidery scissors, but for me it was more than a little counterproductive 🙁 So now I am somewhat shy of trying any other homespun sharpening techniques without tangible evidence as to their effectiveness.
Can any real people out there vouch for them?
I’d say that unless the technique actually removes metal, it’s not sharpening.
I was taught to only use emory paper to sharpen scissors in a pinch. Very smooth emory paper. 200 grit or higher. It’s an emergency solution, far as i know. Nothing beats professional sharpening.
I think this was much more of an issue in the past when all we were cutting was natural fibres; modern paper is much finer today than the rough pulp available in the early 20th century. I only have to look at how often I need to replace the knives on a serger, to realise that some synthetic fabrics are much harder on blades than modern paper. If your sewing machine needle blunts quickly, it is a sure sign that the fabric was abrasive on your scissors as well.
As with kitchen knives sharpening little and often is more likely to keep your scissors sharper for longer. I cut most fabrics with a rotary cutter and sharpen the blade between each project.
I have a pair of Fiskars micro serrated scissors which are great for cutting out slippery fabrics. I think there is more of a case for different pairs of scissors for different types of fabrics; maybe a special pair just reserved for quilting cottons.
Maybe distraction is the best way to protect your scissors; I have a Skil multi cutter which can also cut tough stuff like cardboard and plastics, such fun that no one wants to use my old fashioned scissors anymore.
I agree with you completely, Helen. I dislike the term “old wives’ tale” but it might be accurate in describing the scissor myth.
i would like to know if scissors can be sharpened,i have a lot of them but don’t to throw them out.
Hi Maryann, yes, scissors can certainly be sharpened and good ones probably should be sharpened as often as possible. It probably isn’t as easy to find a place to do this anymore though. Back in the old days, there would often be people who come by your house to sharp all the knives and they would do the scissors at the same time. In today’s more “disposable” culture, this doesn’t seem to happen so often. You can probably ask at your local cutlery shop. Hope this helps and kind regards, Mayra
My husband keeps the good hair shears in the leather pouch they came in out of the reach of children. One to keep them from wandering away and to keep them from being used on paper, plastic and other things that the kitchen shears are meant for. The kitchen shears have thicker, heavier blades designed for rough cutting. The hair shears have narrower blades and have different cutting angles. He does have a lansky sharpening kit that he uses to sharpen knives, my sewing scissors and the kitchen scissors. So if the shears are dulled, they can be resharpened, but it is better to use the right tool for the right job. So his hair shears are kept sharp to trim my locks, not the kitchen shears. And the kitchen shears open packages, cut paper and other rougher chores.
I have a breast cancer flower glued to mine that means–THIS IS SPECIAL
I have lots of sewing scissors. I work with all different fabrics from fine silks,denim, home decor,stiff netting and every thing else. I have different scissors for the fabrics. My family shares them but know witch ones not to use unless working on the fine fabrics.
As I was working on a bag pattern this weekend, I will admit to using my cloth scissors to cut the paper templates. I kind of chuckled to myself for feeling guilty about using my own scissors inappropriately! On a different note, after making many mistakes on this pattern, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your pattern writing! This one hahas been so difficult to understand! Who uses numbers to differentiate the pattern pieces as well as the fabric pieces?! #pullingmyhairoutinAlabama
Okay, I also never let anyone use my GOOD scissors, but here is another question for you. Does cutting thread also dull your scissors? I had this told me by another lady and couldn’t really believe it either. Anxious to hear your answer to this one also. Thank You Karen Allen; email@example.com
Hi Karen, I’m sure if you cut enough thread it would eventually dull the scissors. But given how little material there is each time you cut thread, I think this would take a long, long time for the scissors to dull. Also, if the thread were made of some material other than standard cotton or polyester, that might accelerate things as well. Hope that helps and kind regards, Mayra
Thanks for this – it’s a very useful article. I’ve spent many years trying to train my family, with varying levels of success, never to touch my sewing scissors. A year or so ago, I was able to buy a set of several very good scissors which have coloured handles and so can’t be mistaken for common scissors. I do have another pair that I use for non-fabric cutting.
Having read the article, I think I’ll have to find another set that I can dedicate to the fabrics that are harsher on the scissors.
Good fabric scissors are expensive and you need them to cut fabric. You can buy scissors that will do a great job on paper for $1. So, why even have the discussion? Keep the high-priced sewing tool for fabric. Use $1 scissors on paper and throw them away when they break or get too dull for paper.
My hubs & 3 sons knew to never touch my fabric scissors – all Ginghers. I bought them each good scissors – but not as expensive – and I never had a problem with family scissor abuse. Really cheap scissors are a waste of money. Buy quality and you will always be happy with the product and yourself, and be ahead financially in the end.
I have 3 kids and a husband. From experience I can say using my fabric scissors on anything other than fabric will make them dull. I have one fabric scissor that I keep tuck away and had it for several years now, and I have a box of dull scissors in the garage from when my kids were home and going to school.
Deby, Once again you have written a wonderful and informative article. I am glad to hear that fabric scissors are still defended from paper cutting! What I did learn here, though, is some fabrics such as denim & wool, etc. will dull fabric scissors faster. Thank you for that!
I have owned the same pair of Fiskar sewing scissors (orange handles) for 30+ years (2 sizes) and they are still as good as new and I sharpen them occasionally with the little oval Fiskar scissor sharpener. Works for me!
I’m with Susan! I never use my really good sewing shears on anything but fabric, something learned way back in junior high home ec classes. I keep plenty of pairs of cheap scissors around for paper and stuff. I had several good pairs of scissors ruined by my kids when they were little, causing much yelling on my part and apologies from them (“I didn’t know…”). I learned to hide the good ones and leave the paper ones out in plain view. Now that they are grown I indulged in a very expensive and good pair for sewing, and I keep the paper scissors and the kitchen scissors where they belong. My husband even has several pairs of all purpose ones in his desk where he can find them. That way no one uses my “good” ones!!
My husband used my sewing scissors to cut adhesive backed foam weather stripping because he “didn’t know where the other scissors was”! Worse yet, he did this about a week before Christmas when I still had several sewing projects to complete for gifts! I must admit, that was almost 40 years ago, but I still remember my shock. Thank goodness for a friend who knew of a place that sharpened scissors “while you wait”! A good sharpening fixed the problem, and he hasn’t done anything like that again!
My late mother had her sewing scissors hidden in her sewing cabinet (not that we couldn’t find them) and a household pair in the kitchen. We knew better than to even think about cutting paper with her sewing scissors!
My great-grandfather was a professional tailor, and my grandmother and her sisters were professional seamstresses. They taught my mother to sew. All of them cautioned me to never use good sewing scissors for anything except fabric.They all kept their sewing scissors securely with their sewing equipment, and had what they referred to as “household scissors” handy in a drawer in the kitchen or a desk elsewhere for general tasks. My great-grandfather had his good scissors all tied to his cutting table and tailoring sewing bench, with long strips of fabric, so they couldn’t “wander away”. My mother painted the handles of the household scissors, so we’d never be confused which ones were okay to use.Unpainted, NO! Painted, OK! I do the same as they and she did, trusting their judgement. They also kept a pair of household scissors in their sewing equipment, in case there was something they didn’t want to use their good scissors to cut. Nowadays inexpensive household scissors can be bought with various colors of handles, so I don’t paint mine, but do keep household scissors in various parts of the house where they’re often needed and handy to find. And my husband knows to never use my sewing scissors, period, even on fabric, not that they’re ever anywhere easy for him to find. LOL