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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111 Responses to How to Sharpen Scissors and Other Sewing Tools

  1. Jen says:

    I only use the above sharpening methods for my scissors I use to cut out my traced off patterns e.g. only for paper use as cutting paper dulls the scissors very quickly.

    My expensive Dressmaking scissors get professionally sharpened and I have only had to do that once in 40+ years because I have multiple pairs of varying blade lengths.

  2. Squigit says:

    I have used the tinfoil trick several times and it works well…however I have never had the money to buy expensive scissors as the ones Chris mentioned….so maybe if your scissors cost lots of money you would be right in using a professional sharpener….but I purchased mine at Walmart so I find the tinfoil works for me.

  3. Stephanie says:

    Wouldn’t scrubbing the scissors with the steel wool be as effective & less messy than cutting through it? You would still have to take care to not cut yourself on the blades.
    I use some paper scissors when cutting through sandpaper. I have not noticed any improvement with sharpness, though. Perhaps the type of sandpaper would make a difference? Like emery cloth, maybe?

  4. Joan Shriver says:

    Thank you – will try out these methods for sharpening my tools!

  5. Chris Casey says:

    I don’t intend this as a personal attack. HOWEVER’, This is the WORST ADVISE possible! High quality scissors will be TOTALLY RUINED! It will take a PROFESSIONAL SHARPENER hours to re shape the blades and then put a good sharp finish on the cutting surfaces! PLEASE DO NOT PUBLISH THIS TERRIBLE INFORMATION AGAIN! I understand you mean well. You are a great sewist! This information is from the 1800’s ! The cost of pro sharpening is small compared to new pair of Ginger scissors !

    • Mayra Cecilia says:

      Hi Chris, not all people have or can afford Ginger not there is a pro sharpening service available, In fact, in most of the world they are not available. In many places in Africa, Asia and South America scissors come from a very cheap distributor, from India, Pakistan or China. and the pro sharpening services are found by the side of the road of the textile market in the cities. I agree if you have a top-rated scissor and a sharpening pro near you the last thing you would be doing is trying to sharpen the scissors on your own using the above mention techniques.

    • Susan says:

      Sing it Chris! This may work for paper scissors… but before you try this on any scissors who are fighting you, give them a really good clean; Soapy damp cloth, Good rinse. Good dry. Alcohol wipe – looking carefully to make sure any adhesive is also wiped off . Finally a good oil – with high quality oil – machine or silicone – not WD40 – from tip to handle. Wipe off excess. Make sure the bolt and nut is tight. Cut some scraps to make sure the oil won’t stain good fabric.

      If the scissors still balk then get a professional to sharpen them.

      What I’d really like is a tutorial on how to sharpen Seam Rippers. They seem to come to me dull.

  6. Delores says:

    These ideas for sharpening scissors will do nothing except ruin your scissors. Use the tool designed specifically to sharpen scissors, take them to your sewing machine repair person. They’re trained to sharpen scissors, or use a whetstone and sharpen your own.

    • Janet says:

      I bought the special tool to sharpen my scissors. I was not at all impressed with the results. My scissors were almost worse after sharpening than they were before. I would prefer to have a professional sharpen them but they aren’t easy to find. I haven’t tried these methods but when you need sharp scissors in a hurry and limited sewing time, you take what you can get. I don’t have expensive scissors, so I’m not interested in spending a lot of time in finding a professional or spending a lot of money to get the job done, only to have to do it all over again because they don’t stay sharp. A cheaper option for cheaper scissors sounds pretty good to me.

  7. Lorraine Rose says:

    Thank you for this post. If I’m truly honest when I’m in a hurry I’ll grab the closest scissors and use them. I really like the tinfoil and sandpaper options.

    • Mayra Cecilia says:

      Hmmm, yes this happens more times than I like to admit, but for my best pair, I keep them in a box away from myself.

  8. J Bryan says:

    Could someone please explain why cutting paper with your dressmaker’s shears is bad, bad, bad, but cutting sandpaper is good?

  9. Carmen Montmarquet says:

    Thank You for these scissor sharpening methods. Can’t wait to try them!

  10. Carol says:

    Can’t wait to try the scissor sharpening tricks – thank you, Vicky

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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..

  14. 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!

  15. 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.

  16. Melissa says:

    Thank you Vicky

  17. 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.
    Free!

  18. 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. 😉

  19. Sandy says:

    Will these methods work for pinking shears?

  20. 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.

  21. 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?

  22. 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

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. Amanda Botha says:

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

  26. 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.

  27. 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

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. Barbara Vandewalle says:

    Would cutting through foil work for knives?

  31. Nellie Teo says:

    Cut through tin foil. It work very well.

  32. Sacky says:

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

  33. 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.

  34. 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 Staples.com. Was reasonably priced and could be picked up in the store with free shipping.

  35. 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.

  36. Lovinah says:

    Thanks a lot Vicky

  37. 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.

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