Best Sewing Scissors and How to Keep Them Sharp

Buying a new pair of fabric shears? Read our best sewing scissors recommendations and learn how to sharpen them so they stay with you forever.

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As you might know, for a quilter or a sewer, there is no life without their sewing shears. My Mom was never a big sewer, but she knew the basics, and of the things that she told me that stuck with me forever is that a sewer’s scissors are their most prized possession.

You have to guard them with your life  take care of them and keep them sharp. And if you’re buying a new pair, shears are always something that’s worth investing in.

We’ll take a look at some of the most common scissor-related questions and give you a clear overview of what you need, which brand you should get and how you should care for them to keep them nice and sharp for ages.

And we’ll begin this scissor adventure by answering some of the most burning shear questions. The first one being…

Do you need special scissors to cut fabric?

In short: YES. Cutting through fabric is harder than cutting through paper. If you have a dull pair of paper scissors, they’ll still cut through paper just fine, but if you try cutting fabric with them, you’ll see the difference.

This is especially true when you’re trying to cut through multiple layers of fabric or thicker fabrics (imagine cutting through leather with a pair of paper scissors). So I say get a special pair of fabric scissors and guard them with your life.

Which brings me to the next question.

Does cutting paper dull fabric scissors?

Yes, it does! It’s not a myth. It’s not something your Mom made up to keep you out of her sewing kit. It’s true. 

Well, the complete truth is that all materials will dull scissors, including fabric. That’s just what happens when the blades slide through a layer of material – they lose a tiny bit of the sharpness every time. 

But paper is composed of many different materials, including minerals that are very abrasive and dull the scissors much faster than fabric.

So if you want to keep your fabric scissors sharp for longer, do yourself a favor, and only use them for fabric.

Difference between shears and scissors

Before we get into which scissors (or shears) to get, I wanted to clear something up. Since English is not our first language I honestly didn’t have a clue there were two different words for what I thought was the exact same thing (scissors are scissors around here). So what is the difference between shears and scissors?!

To put it in simple terms, shears are the scissors’ big brother. Firstly, they have a longer blade. The definitions I’ve found state their blades are 6 inches or longer. Secondly, they have one smaller finger hole for your thumb and a larger hole for multiple fingers. The way they are designed makes it easier to cut fabric on a flat surface. This is what you’ll be using for all your larger fabric cutting.

Scissors, on the other hand, have shorter blades. They also have two symmetrical equally sized finger holes. They are handy to have around for cutting smaller pieces of fabric, cutting off thread, etc.

The best sewing scissors brands

As a sewist, you are going to be using your sewing scissors a lot. So if you’re looking to buy a new pair, this is something that is worth investing in. 

If you’ve done any googling about which brand to get, you probably know there are three sewing scissors brands that come up the most: Fiskars, Kai and Gingher. Choosing between the three often comes down to personal preferences, really.

Fiskars Sewing Scissors

In my house, Fiskars has always been THE scissor brand. We had a pair of their classic orange handled shears that never went dull (and I think my Mom still has them somewhere). Then, when I moved to my first flat, my Mom got me this pair with a patterned handle from Finland. (And as trained architects, we’re suckers for anything that comes from Finland around here). They are my go-to household scissors and I love them.

So you can imagine when – again, my Mom got me my first pair of sewing shears, Fiskars is what I got. I have this pair and they’ve been great to me. I especially love the long blades as it makes the cutting much faster.

If you’re going with Fiskars, keep in mind that they offer a huge range of scissors that include household scissors and even kids’ paper scissors. So make sure you’re looking at the higher end models for your fabric cutting needs.

Kai Sewing Scissors

Kai is a Japanese sewing scissors brand and if you know anything about Japan, you know that they love their knives. For that reason alone I trust them with the scissors as well.

They offer two ranges of scissors and you can see which range a model is by checking the code imprinted on the blade. If it starts with a 5, you’ve got your high-quality scissors for us mortals. If it starts with a 7, they’re their professional scissors which also come with a higher price tag.

I own this pair and I looove them. Seriously, I think they made me reconsider the whole ‘Fiskars is the only pair you’ll ever need’ that I got from my mother. The part I like the most is the rubberized handle which makes them feel really good in your hands. The blade is shorter on these, so I use them to cut smaller pieces of fabric and I have them around the sewing machine when I do the actual sewing for small cuts here and there.

Gingher Sewing Scissors

If Fiskars have their orange handles scissors, Gingher’s got the all metal scissors with a golden blade. If this was a style contest, we know who’d win, right?

Actually, Gingher was acquired by Fiskars, so it’s kind of the same company. But Gingher still offers their classic metal shears for all us sewing enthusiasts. They don’t have a large selection of models, but with sewing shears you don’t really need a selection. You just need one good pair. I don’t own a pair (yet – the golden handles are very tempting), but from what I read they’re high quality scissors that will meet all your needs.

Special Types of Sewing Scissors

If you’re just beginning to sew and don’t have a pair of scissors yet, you’ll want to start building your sewing kit with a nice pair of classic sewing shears that we’ve discussed above.

But there are other types of sewing scissors that come in handy, too. Let me start this overview of special types of fabric scissors by answering a common question.

What are pinking shears used for in sewing?

Pinking shears, zig zag shears or whatever you might call them, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

If you ever had a sewer in the family when you were little, pinking shears were probably what caught most of your attention when going through their sewing tools. I remember my Mom always taking them out of my hands (and me always getting them back to play with them).

Pinking shears are basically shears that have a saw-toothed blade. They make a zigzag pattern as you cut. You can get pinking shears that make different patterns (like scalloped, for example), but zigzag is your classic.

Zig zag shears are used for finishing the edges of cloth (whether it’s a garment or anything else you’re sewing). You see, if the edges of the cloth are left unfinished (which means you just cut a piece of fabric and do nothing to its edge), it will eventually start to fray. Fraying is when threads of the cloth start to fall out.

Pinking shears are basically used to minimize the damage. The zigzag edge does not prevent the cloth from fraying, but it does shorten the length of the frayed thread, so it frays more slowly.

Honestly, ever since I have a serger, I don’t use pinking shears at all. But they are great if you don’t have a serger or are just learning how to sew. Plus, I think edges finished with pinking shears give a great retro vibe to your projects (or is that just me?).

Left Handed Sewing Scissors

The name of these pretty much tells you everything there is to know. These are scissors that are specially designed to be held in your left hand. So if you’re a lefty and don’t feel comfortable cutting with your right hand you might want to take a look into these – like this pair by Gingher.

Embroidery Scissors

Embroidery scissors are small scissors that are designed to get really close to your fabric without damaging it. Their blades are slightly curved so you can get really close to the base of the thread without damaging your fabric.
If you’re looking to add something special to your sewing kit, these cute Gingher stork embroidery scissors are super popular.

Serrated Fabric Scissors

These scissors have serrated blades which hold onto your fabric when you cut through it. They’re handy when you’re cutting through slippery delicate fabric like silk for example.

How to Sharpen Sewing Scissors

Much like a knife to a chef, scissors are your best buddy as a sewist. And you want to keep them nice and sharp at all times.

If possible, I would always recommend you get them sharpened professionally if you find good scissors sharpening service near you. But if you’d prefer to do it yourself, there are different ways to sharpen sewing scissors, techniques you can do with household materials, and also special tools you can buy.

I’ll be completely honest with you. I’ve never ever sharpened my scissors myself. My father-in-law is the expert on this in the family, so I let him do his magic.

However, if you’d like to have a go at it (and if your scissors aren’t sharp, you should!), here are a few things you can try.

Sharpen Scissors with Sandpaper or Aluminum Foil

This is probably the easiest way to do it. All you need is a piece of sandpaper (the grit number should be around 150). Take your scissors and cut through the sandpaper. Depending on how sharp you’re trying to make them, make as many cuts as needed. You’ll want to make several narrow strips in order to make them sharp.

You can do this with aluminum foil, as well. Take a large sheet and fold it multiple times, so you get at least 8 layers of foil stacked together. Cut as many strips as needed to make your shears sharp.

Sharpen Scissors with a Sharpening Tool

There are many tools made for sharpening scissors specifically that you can buy, like this one. From what I’ve read you should be careful about which brand you get – generally speaking, getting the same brand as your scissors might be the best way to go.

These are fairly easy to use, so they’re a great option for a hobby sewer. 

Sharpen Scissors with a Sharpening Stone

You can buy a sharpening stone in any hardware store (or Amazon). They are used for sharpening all kinds of blades, not just scissors, but the technique is somewhat complicated if you want to get it right. 

If you decide to try this, I urge you to go through a few tutorials first just to make sure you get it right. You don’t want to ruin your precious scissors. 

How to clean sewing scissors

What? You need to clean sewing scissors? Well, I’m not saying you have to, but it might be a good idea.

I’m sure you’ve noticed sometimes small threads are left behind on your scissors after cutting fabric. This is especially true when you cut things like fur or some acrylic materials. Also, your scissors are in your hands a lot, so the handles will get dirty over time.

Don’t worry, there’s nothing complicated about cleaning your scissors. The easiest way to do it is to use some sewing machine oil (don’t use any other kind of oil, I beg you!). Spread a thin layer of oil over all the metallic parts of your scissors. You can use a toothbrush to really scrub it into all of the parts. Just make sure you’re careful when you work on the blades, so you don’t hurt yourself. Let that sit for a minute. Then take a microfibre cloth and wipe the oil (along with all that dirty residue) straight off.

If your scissors have plastic handles, you can clean those with a damp microfiber cloth and a little bit of dish soap. Just make sure you don’t get any water or soap on the blades.

Well, I think I’ve said everything I’ve had to say about sewing scissors. I know this is a lot, but since it’s our most prized possession, you gotta know everything there is to know, right.

So, tell me. Do you have a favorite pair of your own? Let me know in the comments below.

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2 thoughts on “Best Sewing Scissors and How to Keep Them Sharp”

  1. Do you use the aluminum foil/sandpaper method of sharpening on your Kai scissors? I guess I am a bit feint of heart at the idea. For years I was lucky to frequent the shop own and run by an elderly gentleman who professionally specialized in maintaining peoples sewing machines, vaccuum sweepers honing and sharpening knives and scissors and designing and growing Bonsai arrangements. I am totally lost without him. Now living in Sacramento I have given up hope of getting as lucky twice. Just finding a shop that actually knows how to handle Kai scissors would be great! I enjoyed your article, thank you. Oh BTW I think my mother gave me the same style of Fiskars your mom gave youLOL!

    1. Ula | Designed to Quilt

      Haha I love how Bonsai arrangements randomly come into the mix. But I can imagine this gentleman vividly hahah. As I’ve said, I’ve never sharpened my scissors, as I have a very handy father-in-law who is an expert in these things. And honestly, if possible, I would always recommend getting your scissors sharpened professionally. The aluminum foil/sandpaper technique is something I would resort to for an in-between touch-up. I hope you find a shop that can handle sewing scissors properly, as that’s your best bet at keeping them nice and sharp.

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