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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101 Responses to How to Sharpen Scissors and Other Sewing Tools

  1. Annie Love says:

    Copying this off a different page: If you cut sand paper, foil or wire wool with your scissors, you will damage the blades. To sharpen anything is a two stage process, you have to expose enough new metal and create a burr, you then need to remove that burr.

    There are a number of different ways to do that. This applies to anything which is sharpened, fabric shears, chainsaws, knives, hair salon scissors etc. If you are looking for a properly sharpened edge this is the only way.

    You also have the geometry of your scissors to consider. There are 4 basic lines of geometry on a scissor, get any of them wrong or ruin any one, your scissors wont ever work again. We see handed down fabric shears made fit for the bin after having been home sharpened by cutting sand paper, foil or wire wool. Only this weekend I saw an amazing pair of pinking shears ruined because of an attempt to self sharpe

    • Carol Yates says:

      You talk about the proper way to sharpen the scissors but you don’t say what to do. What is the way you are advocating for.

  2. Robyne McKeown says:

    When pins don’t slide through fabric I slide them through my hair!!
    It seems to work every time. Easy slide pins.

  3. Joanne says:

    This should also work for pinking shears? They are expensive to have sharpened.

    • Frema says:

      I was preparing to trash my Fiskar pinking shears and remembered reading about the foil trick. Well, to my most pleasant surprise, they cut better than new..

  4. DeAnn says:

    I tried the foil method, but didn’t know it was to be layered, so will try again. The emery pincushion sounds like another solution needed at this time. Thanks!

  5. Joy says:

    Only use this advice if you have inexpensive scissors that you can discard if they won’t cut anymore. Good scissors that you have paid well for will only be harmed by cutting foil or sandpaper. Scissor edges should be maintained at the angle the manufacturer gave them when created – somewhere between 11 to 35 degrees. They should only be sharpened by a professional. They will last your lifetime and beyond.

  6. Melissa says:

    Thank you Vicky

  7. Cindy says:

    I cut into aluminum pop cans.
    Sharpened quickly, and not wasting new material.
    Plus, I use interesting pictures and colors from the can for jewelry. Just file a bit.

  8. Katie says:

    Thank you so much for these homemade tips! I completely forgot about the sandpaper – dah!! I haven’t heard of the Emery aluminum oxide for the pin cushions. Absolutely great tips! Thanks for sharing. 😉

  9. Sandy says:

    Will these methods work for pinking shears?

  10. ruth harling says:

    Thanks very much for these tips, especially the rotary cutter blade. I’m fed up with throwing the things away when they are quite expensive to buy. Much appreciated.

  11. Jan says:

    I’m not sure of the logic to explain this. I never cut paper with my dressmaker shears because cutting through this fibrous material will eventually dull them. Now they say cut through through paper with sand (!) glued to it and this sharpens them rather than dulls them? Scientists out there: try looking at a blade edge before and after cutting sandpaper, etc. What is happening here?

  12. I have found that a fine to wet n medium graded paper is much better and leaves a much finer edge than using sandpaper for scissors

  13. Sharon W says:

    I take my scissors to a professional to be sharpened. If you don’t have a fabric or sewing store nearby, look for a local conformation dog show. Dog shows usually have a vendor sharpening scissors onsite for show exhibitors.

  14. Joyce Andreasen says:

    This reminded me of the solutions my mother used to use . She could repair and keep everything working in the most amazing ways.. I enjoyed being reminded of homemade solutions that really work and are very usefull to know.

  15. Amanda Botha says:

    Thank you so much for these tips – just what I always needed!

  16. Elaine Johnson says:

    I think foil would work. I use foil; to sharpen my paper crafting punches. Some require more passes, but they all work in the end.

  17. Arlene Burke says:

    If they tell you to cut only fabric with your scissors why would you cut foil, Brillo and nut shells?? Think about it, it doesn’t Make any sense. You buy cheap ones for cutting paper and invest in a really good pair for fabric. When they start to feel dull go to Joann’s when they have a guy who will sharpen them for you. Not cheap but good!!

    • Pamela Hochstrasser says:

      Why pay someone when these methods work great, plus you can buy a scissor sharpener on Amazon for $10. I am not paying anyone to do something that I can do myself.

    • Carol Yates says:

      Don’t have a Joann’s I Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

  18. ruby newman says:

    I make pin cushions for gifts and fund raisers, and stuff them with a little bag filled with crushed nut shells ( almonds I think) You bay a big of it at the pet store, reptiles like it apparently for bedding etc. Cheap and good.

  19. Vickie says:

    I found sharpening scissors by cutting aluminum foil to work very well on the less expensive scissors. I would not suggest using it on your very expensive shears.

  20. Barbara Vandewalle says:

    Would cutting through foil work for knives?

  21. Nellie Teo says:

    Cut through tin foil. It work very well.

  22. Sacky says:

    This awesome ..kind a big help for idea love it…thank you so much for sharing us

  23. Julia D says:

    So Sew Easy, Thank you for this scissors sharping tip ; D Your tip saved me replacing 4 pair of scissors. you are on my board Good to Know.

  24. Carol Salisbury says:

    Thanks for these tips. I have purchased many scissors sharpeners both expensive and not so expensive. Nothing has worked especially on the tips of the scissors. I am very anxious to try these tips.

    • Nancy says:

      I recently purchased the emery online through Was reasonably priced and could be picked up in the store with free shipping.

  25. Jane says:

    I will look again for the emery powder if that is all that is available. My old pincushions had large sand-like pieces of emery that worked quite well.
    I looked in Joann’s, Hobby Lobby, Most chapel’s, and A.C. Moore because those are the stores I think of. There are two(?) Sewing/fabric stores I could check. Where do you suggest I look for the emery?
    Thank you for your insight and I formation.

  26. Lovinah says:

    Thanks a lot Vicky

  27. stuart glass says:

    Thanks for your tip about foil to sharpen hairdressing scissors, my partner will now cut my hair again!!

    Very good and helpful website.

  28. Kham says:

    Good and save money

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