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How I Care for My Fabric Scissors

The Great Scissor Rotation - how to get the most use out of every pair of scissors

Everyone knows not to use your good fabric scissors on paper, right?


Today I thought I’d go beyond that very basic info with some extra detail on how I manage all my scissors – including my fabric scissors. This is going to answer a few questions that I get all the time.

Do you use expensive scissors?

Nope. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big fan of high quality tools. I KNOW that quality scissors are better than cheap ones. But I also know that I am terrible at things like. . . bringing scissors in to get them professionally sharpened.

Good quality scissors that are painfully dull because I don’t know how to sharpen them myself and I can’t seem to coordinate my life well enough to get them professionally sharpened are worse than cheap scissors.

I can get a decent pair of Fiskars sewing shears at any big box fabric or craft store for under $20 – and then replace them every year. More on that replacement in a bit. . .

Which scissors do you use for cutting fabric and paper together – like with fusible adhesive or freezer paper?

Ah – that brings me to The Great Scissor Rotation.

I keep three pairs of big scissors in my fabric room. (This is only about the big scissors (shears, if you want to get technical) – I also have spring-loaded snips at the sewing machine and an assortment of tiny scissors for precision work.)

My newest pair of scissors is for fabric only.

When I bring in a new pair, the old fabric scissors become the scissors I use for fabric fused to paper.

(Update! I’ve discovered some specialty scissors that I REALLY love for cutting applique pieces, so now I use these for that purpose exclusively, and I leave this step out of my rotation)

The old fabric-fused-to-paper scissors become my paper scissors.

My old paper scissors move into the kitchen for snipping herbs, cutting waffles into dipping strips, cutting open packaging, etc.

And my old kitchen scissors move into the toolbox for real heavy duty work.

The scissors that were in the toolbox are usually totally destroyed by this time and they finally go in the trash.

I buy a new pair of scissors about once a year. While that may seem wasteful at $20 a pair when I could buy a quality pair that will last a lifetime for just under $100 – every pair of scissors I bring in gets used for about five years. Not bad at all! And I never need to coordinate bringing them in to be sharpened. 🙂

I mentioned above that this rotation only applies to basic shears. I do have some other specialty scissors that I love and am very particular about.

By the way – because I know someone is going to ask. I do sharpen my kitchen knives – but sharpening scissors is a different matter, one that I’ve been told repeatedly is best left to professionals. The angle of the sharpening is very different and you need to get both blades to work together. It’s more complicated and beyond my rudimentary knife-sharpening skills.

Here are handy links to all the posts about quilting tools and supplies.

Sewing Machine


Rotary Cutting Tools


Other General Sewing Room Supplies

One More Hugely Popular Post that Seems to Fit Here Better than Anywhere Else

Return to the Let’s Make a Quilt main Table of Contents.

Move on to the posts about choosing your quilt pattern.

Happy stitching!


  1. penny nabers SAYS...

    I have read that you can sharpen scissors by using them to cut aluminum foil.


    • I’ve heard that – and I’ve also heard that that’s the worst thing for them. I’ve heard the same thing about sandpaper. On the very same post I’ve seen thrilled comments that say they tried it and it works great, and others very angry that they tried it and completely ruined their scissors. I think it probably depends on what your scissors are made of, and what condition you’re trying to get your scissors to. If you want them to cut fabric I’d go for new scissors or professional sharpening. If you’re a teacher and you’re looking for a quick and easy way to remove clumps of glue, glitter, etc that builds up on classroom scissors, with the end result that they’ll cut paper well – I’d say go for the aluminum foil/sandpaper trick.

  2. Tanya SAYS...

    Thanks for this post. I wondered if others used their non-fabric scissors to cut the iron on fusible or freezer paper. I felt a little silly continuously switching out, but am very, very protective of my Ginghers!

    • If I had Ginghers I’d be very protective of them too! 🙂

  3. cat SAYS...

    Aluminum foil will work if you get a little burr on the blade, like from trying to cut through a pin or a staple.

    I love your idea for rotating scissors — plus while we have a designated “pizza” scissors at our house, I never thought of waffle dipping sticks! Brilliant!

    • We started the waffle thing when Jo was a toddler. She didn’t like having too much syrup on them and dipping sticks let her dip just a little. 🙂

  4. Cherie SAYS...

    After reading this post I want to go and buy me some new scissors. 🙂 Actually, I’m like you. I like to buy less expensive scissors. Plus, some of them are kind of pretty!

  5. Susan SAYS...

    Any advice on sharpening pinking shears? I have my Gram’s nice ones and would like to keep them in good shape.

    • I’ve never had pinking shears sharpened but I’ve heard that it’s a complicated job that’s definitely best left to a GOOD professional. I have a scalloped pair that belonged to my husband’s grandmother and I’m very VERY careful with them 🙂

  6. kc SAYS...

    Believe it or not, we have found the Dollar Store scissors to be super duper sharp, and that’s what I’ve been using to cut fleece & fusible. In fact, I’ve been using the same pair for about 3 years now! And I have one for fabric (Fiskars, I believe) that I’ve managed to keep sharp for, let’s see….about 27 (!!!) years. Noooo, those have never had paper cross their blades, that’s for sure..nor aluminum foil, nor sandpaper.

    I have one tiny pair I keep for my machine embroidery snipping, and they were expensive, but they’re also over 25 years old, and they’ve never been sharpened either. But those are my only 2 expensive pairs…all others are straight out of the Dollar Store, and I never mind it when they finally split apart (which they always eventually do!).

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  8. cath t SAYS...

    Good ideas, and cautions. I recently decided to label my scissors that are scattered about the house for different purposes. I did it because one set of Friskars looks like another, and DH would never know the difference. I used a Sharpie to write on the blade what the scissors are to be used for. I also use Ronsonol lighter fluid to clean sticky gunk off scissors. Maybe not the healthiest alternative, but it works well (and I use that brand and not a cheap store brand because the one time I bought that it smelled awful). If you read about it, it can be used for cleaning as well as removing stickinesses. And when it’s time to repurpose the scissors, you can clean the Sharpie labels off with it.

    • ruby newman SAYS...

      a tip I learned eons ago was o tie a piece of ribbon / fabric to the scissors. and then EVERYONE in the house knows fabric means FABRIC ONLY. It works.

  9. Sandi SAYS...

    I have one pr. of Ginghers, cuts like going thru butter.

  10. Barbara SAYS...

    I never use fabric scissors on paper or fusible interfacing or anything but fabric. I keep a ribbon tied to the handle of both my other than fabric scissors. I also circulate the scissors to less crafty things and down the line as I buy new ones, which isn’t often at all.

  11. Carmen SAYS...

    I have 2 pair of the spring loaded Fiskars, that I use all the time for the past 15 years, they’ve been sharpened once, although they were still plenty sharp just had a burr on one, but I use them both to cut paper and template plastic.