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079: How to sharpen fabric scissors

As a passionate sewist and dressmaker, I'm sure you'd agree that having a sharp pair of fabric scissors is like having a magic wand in your toolkit.

When you are busy cutting your gorgeous fabric they bring you joy and precision in every snip. In this blog post, I want to share with you the secrets of keeping your fabric scissors in their best shape.

In this article:

So let's explore different sharpening methods and some essential tips to care for these beloved tools to make them last longer and work better!

What's the difference between Scissors and Shears?

So what's the difference between scissors and shears? According to Ernst Wright, who have been making scissors and shears since 1902, the difference between scissors and shears lies in the length of the blade and the design of the handles or bows.

Scissors have symmetrical, equally sized finger holes and are generally under six inches in blade length while shears have one smaller and one larger finger hole and are over six inches in blade length.

Why use fabric scissors/shears?

When you're sewing and dressmaking, you're often cutting out quite a few pattern pieces in one go, which can mean you're using your scissors a lot in one sitting.

You're also cutting fabric, which ideally we want to keep as flat as possible on our table or work surface, and so fabric scissors and shears were developed to make that specific task easier, more comfortable, and more accurate.

There's a few key differences:

Fabric shears
Fabric shears with distinctive shape
  • Sharpness - The first is in the sharpness. Fabric, scissors are usually made from higher grade steel than all purpose scissors.

  • Handles - The handle design is more ergonomic for cutting on a table with a larger handle opening at the bottom for your fingers and a smaller hole on the top, for your thumb. The handles can be coated or metal for personal preference.

  • Blades - The blades on fabric scissors are not symmetrical. The one on the bottom is usually longer and more pointed, and the one on the top is usually slightly wider and rounded at the end. Some do also have a serrated edge, and these are better for gripping thicker fabrics, but not great for use with finer fabrics.

  • Length - And fabric, scissors are usually longer than all purpose scissors, ranging from eight inches up to as much as 12 inches. These longer blades are designed to allow for smoother continuous cuts.

  • Cost - And finally, one reason why you might want to make sure that you look after your fabric, scissors, and shears is that they're often more expensive than all purpose scissors. So you do wanna make them last.

Why do we need to sharpen fabric scissors/shears?

As you spend time sewing and dressmaking you will spot that a good proportion of that time is spent cutting your fabric.

And that continuous use sometimes with challenging fabrics can cause the blades of the scissors to dull. Dull blades make them more difficult to use and can put more strain on your hands.

It's also really hard to make accurate cuts with blunt scissors so to give the best chance of creating great fitting clothes make sure your scissors/shears are in the best condition.

Which fabrics blunt fabric scissor blades?

There are some fabrics that are likely to put more wear and tear on your fabric scissors so if these are fabrics that you are commonly using you may need to sharpen more regularly.

Denim and canvas are tough to cut
Denim and canvas are tough to cut

Denims & canvases - thicker, more densely woven fabrics like denims and canvases can take a toll on the blade of your fabric scissors/shears

Silk - some fibers like silk, which we use because they're strong that's one of the reasons we pick them in our fabrics, but this does also make them a little tougher on your shears.

Synthetics and plastics - some upholstery fabrics that have synthetic backings or any fabrics that have a high plastic or vinyl content can definitely dull the blades of your scissors.

Sequins & beads - Obviously things like fabrics with sequins or beads will definitely give you blades a challenge, and wherever possible, even though it can be time consuming, it's definitely worth trying to smash beads to remove them along the lines where you're gonna cut before you cut them.

Other fabrics that I found to be quite wearing on my blades are things like fleeces, velvets, faux furs, and faux leathers.

If you do want to work with real leather and are going to do that on a more regular basis, then it can be worth investing in a pair of leather scissors. These specifically have a shorter blade and a longer handle, which makes them more comfortable to use when working with thicker fabrics. They often also have a serrated edge option, to help with a grip.

Types of sharpening methods

So let's talk about what options you might find if you did a search on how to sharpen fabric scissors.

The options that I found fell into three main categories.

Fiskars Scissor Sharpener
Fiskars Scissor Sharpener
  1. do it by yourself, by cutting through something PROs: commonly recommended method because the pros seem to be that you can do it yourself, at home, often with items that you might have lying around the house, such as sandpaper or tinfoil CONs: The cons are that these methods often only give a short-lived or temporary improvement, if any at all. If you use the wrong thing, such as the wrong grade of sandpaper, they can also damage the blade or cause small nicks or maybe even sharpen it unevenly

  2. do it yourself with some kind of device or tool (e.g. scissor sharpener) PROs: you can do this in your own home. If you do it well and it works, you can repeat it without any additional cost once you've invested in the original tool. It might be more cost effective than getting it done by a professional. But my caveat to that is that some of the tools and devices are quite pricey

  3. get them sharpened professionally PROs: it's being done by somebody that's done this for a profession, so they'll have the right tools and expertise to do it properly CONs: you will have to find somebody, take your scissors to them and pay them some mon

Pros, cons and recommendations

My favourite fabric shears
My favourite fabric shears

I have a few pairs of fabric shears that I use, and I use them a lot. Also in the past, I have tried sharpening kitchen knives that I cared way less about with a variety of different tools and devices, and I've been completely rubbish at it.

So when it comes to my shears, when they need sharpening, I'll be looking for someone professional that has experience with fabric shears to sharpen them for me.

But I don't want you to just take my thoughts on this, so I brought together a few other viewpoints for you and lots of links in the blog post for you to check them out too.

Singer Outlet

The Singer Outlet website, which has an article with five ways to sharpen your fabric, scissors.

Singer do sell their own fabric, scissors, and this was the only scissor manufacturer that I found recommending to try sharpening by cutting through things like sandpaper.

"Use high quality, fine-grit sandpaper between #180 and #220 to sharpen your scissors!"

They recommend folding it in half and cutting it with your scissors.

They also recommended

  • cutting into steel wool soap pads, the kind that you use for scouring when washing the dishes.

  • using a knife sharpener and they suggest that you unscrew the scissor blades from one another and sharpen them individually.

  • using a sharpening stone.

And there's lots of other blog posts out there recommending cutting into things like tinfoil too.

When I tried the tinfoil with a rotary blade to see if it made any difference, whilst it did give me some immediate small improvement. It didn't really last for more than one project and I had to keep doing it to get any benefits.

Home sharpening tools

The Fiskars Sharpener is relatively low cost at around £15-£20.

They do recommend using this to sharpen their scissors on their website in their FAQs, But they don't make any mention of any of the other home-based options that we've mentioned.

A YouTube video from Bridal Sewing channel reviews the Chef's Choice Scissor Pro Electric Sharpener, which you can get in the UK from around £125.

She seems to like it for sharpening her fabric scissors. She uses it on some applique scissors and some other smaller scissors as well. If you have lots of different pairs of scissors and you are making lots of garments, then that kind of tool could definitely be a good investment, but personally, that's outside of my own budget.

Scissor Manufacturers

I checked the advice given by the scissor and shear manufacturers, William Whiteley and Ernst Wright.

Ernst Wright specifically instruct you not to adjust the screw that holds the blades together as over tightening or loosening this can affect the cutting action. They both also recommend getting the scissors professionally sharpened.

Threads article

In a really good Threads article by Sara Maker, she contacted Ernst Wright and LDH Scissors, who both manufacture scissors and also Pro Sharp, who are in the Guild of Master Craftsmen and provide professional sharpening.

Their feedback was that if you do try it yourself

  • you might sharpen at the wrong angle, which seemingly is specific to the particular brands of blade and scissors.

  • you might remove the hollow against the blades, which is meant to be there.

  • you might accidentally nick the blades or

  • overtighten the scissors, causing the blades to grind together against each other.

Now with that said, they are also companies that make scissors and do, or have previously offered professional sharpening services, so it would be less likely for them to advise you to pick the do it yourself option.

Care tips for fabric scissors/shears

Me and my fav fabric scissors
Me and my fav fabric scissors

I just wanted to leave you with a few care tips for your beloved fabric scissors to help them feel appreciated.

  • Ideally, store them where there isn't too much moisture or humidity.

  • When cleaning them use a dry cloth and pay attention to the insides of the blades as well as the outsides.

  • William Whiteley and Son also recommends that, fabric scissors that can have a buildup of fibers between the blades near the screw, they advise wiping them after every use and regularly applying a small amount of machine oil near the screw and nut to keep them in their best condition.

  • Try not to drop them because we know that this can affect their alignment. So try and keep them on the table where possible.

  • And if you want to make them last, I would avoid letting anyone else near them so that you don't end up finding them in your kitchen drawer being used to cut open Amazon packages

Links and Resources

And if you would like more help with any of the aspects mentioned in this article or this podcast episode then I would love to hear from you so do please email me at

Thanks for taking the time to read this article and I hope you find some useful tips that you can apply.

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Thank you so much for listening and for all your support. x

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