Thursday, April 11, 2013

Reader Question: Will Tissue Paper Dull My Shears?


Yesterday I wrote about using tissue paper to stabilize slippery fabrics for cutting. A few readers brought up the question: "Won't using this method dull my shears?"

It's come to my attention over the years that my attitude on this subject is more lax than others'. I would never use my shears for the purpose of cutting regular paper, but cutting tissue with them does not bother me one bit. Here's the reason: any use--short of leaving your shears sitting unused in a drawer--will dull them. Think about kitchen knives. Even if you only use them for their intended purpose--slicing and chopping food--they dull considerably over time.

In the same way, even just cutting fabric dulls your shears. That's why shears (and knives) must be sharpened periodically. (You can actually take your shears to a knife sharpener, FYI.)

Yes, cutting tissue paper will contribute to the gradual dulling of your shears. But it will not make them irreversibly dull. Get them sharpened, and they'll be as good as new! In my opinion, using tissue paper makes cutting silks about 1000 times easier and more accurate, which is worth the slight extra dulling of my scissors. Though, honestly, I haven't noticed them getting any duller than usual with the use of tissue paper.

My problem is remembering to take my shears in periodically for sharpening! But it must be done.

What do you think, readers?

48 comments:

  1. Cutting tissue paper or even copy paper will NOT dull your scissors any more than cutting fabrics and much less than some fabrics, ie raw silk, polar fleece, heavy denim.
    My suggestion is you keep this fact a secret from anyone who lives in your house that might consider using your sewing shears for something other than sewing.

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  2. Everyone who sews cuts through tissue paper every time a paper pattern is used -- it's part of the process!

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    1. No I use my pattern scissors for that and then the fabric scissors to cut the fabric once the pattern is pinned down. I have a lot of scissors but I'm a hairstylist as well as a fashion designer so I take them seriously! haha

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  3. I agree, a little tissue paper isn't a big deal--more help than harm when cutting silk. But I do keep a separate pair of scissors specifically for cutting paper patterns in order to prolong the sharpness of my fabric shears.

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  4. Jen of Grainline Studios regularly cuts through tissue paper and silk and has pretty much the same attitude as you, Gertie: http://grainlinestudio.com/2012/12/11/tips-tricks-cutting-silk/

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  5. I'm on your side - dulling shears is so much better than the pain of cutting slippery fabrics without tissue paper.

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  6. They dull *faster* with sloppy use... the point (no pun intended) is to use mindful care in order to make your shears dull at as slow of a pace as possible to economize a visit to the sharpener...

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  7. I've got a question...can you sharpen those gingher micro serrated shears at a normal knife sharpener?

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    1. No. Sharpening serrated scissors (according to my scissor sharpener) does no good because it takes off the serrations so actually damage the cutting edge. He refused to sharoen mine, although most knife sharpeners will take your money and do it any way. It does sharpen smooth blade scissors.

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  8. Worth it. I love taking my shears to the sharpener, I love starting a project with just-sharpened shears. I go to the same guy for my shears, my kitchen knives and my lawnmower!

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  9. I'm a big fan of tissue paper, because otherwise you get a sloppy cut. And while you may have "saved" your shears, what's the point in having beautifully sharp shears if it does nothing to help you achieve a beautiful cut of your pattern.

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  10. cutting tin foil sharpens scissors fairly well, great for sharpening pinking shears!

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  11. I'm glad you brought this up as I have always wondered if I use my nice shears on pattern paper will they be ruined. it's been drilled into us that scissors on paper is so forbidden but I'm glad to hear a pro, such as yourself, is quite reasonable about that rule. thanks for the tip! now, wonder where the knife sharpener is in my area.....

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  12. Well I try to never cut anything that the scissors I am using are not intended for, but when it comes to cutting difficult fabric cut the tissue paper!

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  13. And there is not a single person who can sharpen decent shears in this town! argh. Everywhere I ask they say, oh yeah we used to have a guy but he doesn't do it any more. I tried the Tin Foil thing and while it made a bit of a difference, I need them actually sharpened. Do I just buy ANOTHER pair (I already have 2 for this very reason) until I can move to a place with decent services?!?! heheh k.

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  14. I just got my shears sharpened a few days ago (for $3! At a sharpening place within walking distance of my house!) because they had two notches in the blade that were driving me nuts. Probably from me accidentally dropping them on the floor, oops. At least at the place I went, they can also sharpen rotary blades, too. Wish I'd known that before I bought a new rotary blade, but it's good to know now.

    Anyway, if cutting a little bit of tissue paper makes the job easier, I say go for it. They're tools, so as long as you're not throwing them around the room wantonly (like me), that's what they're made for.

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  15. I never use sheers for cutting fabric, I always use my rotary tool, even on sheer fabrics. Is that lazy?

    Also, my local "big box" fabric store offers scissor shopping, but it isn't something that is advertised. I only found out when a lady was in front of me in line, and she was picking her freshly sharpened sheers up!

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  16. sharpening, not shopping. You know what is on my mind! ;)

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  17. I use scissor sharpeners: http://www.amazon.com/Fiskars-98617397J-98617397-Scissors-Sharpener/dp/B0019N4X8C/ref=pd_bxgy_ac_img_z

    Very effective!

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  18. All scissors and knives should be sharpened regularly. If you have Gingher scissors you can send them back for sharpening to the factory, others can be sharpened locally where they do knives. One old man who used to do my cutlery before he passed on told me I should put a drop of oil on the blades where they cross...the inside... because it is metal on metal and it will make them work better. having an extra pair of fabric scissors makes sense so you can have one pair always ready if one is out for sharpening.

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  19. I often just use a rotary cutter on everything and then change the blade from time to time. For whatever reason, it's just easier to me to deal with that than to figure out where to take my sewing shears to sharpen them.

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  20. I can't see it doing any harm after all it is only tissue paper! If I'm using thicker paper or even baking/freezer paper, I use my paper scissors instead!

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  21. Hi,

    I think the most important advice is, make sure you get them sharpened by someone that knows what they are doing. The advice I picked up on years ago, ask your hairdresser!! There scissors cost a small fortune and they would only trust the best with the job of sharpening them!!

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    1. Excellent advice! You are right. I will ask my hairdresser. Thanks.

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  22. You are so right! and I will not mind if my shears dull I can always buy another set! They are not that expensive!!! LOL

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  23. What a timely post! My scissors need sharpening. They are a vintage pair of Singer scissors and I guess I will have to hunt down a place that sharpens them in my city.

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  24. I took my beautiful Singer scissors to a fabric store to have them professionally sharpened. The idiot decided my scissors had too sharp a point so he reshaped the tip! It was so upsetting as the point allowed me to get into small areas easily and furthermore the rounded tip was ugly with the chrome removed. I was totally speechless as he handed my precious scissors back to me. I still have them but don't use them for sewing anymore.

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    1. He would have bought me a new pair.

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  25. I have taken my scissors to the local Cobblers- who also sharpens blades- for about 15 years. He also sharpens serrated blades and the edges come back to me glinting in the light and razor sharp!

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  26. Thank you for this common sense post!

    Whenever people freak out about their shears dulling from cutting the odd bit of tissue I just look at them. Shears can be sharpened - and they should be sharpened regularly! They are tools and will dull even if you only cut fabric.

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  27. My good scissors need sharpened so bad! I looked up the knife sharpening guild in my area and found a guy really close by. I called him and he said he'd do it for $5 which is great. The problem is he just does this on the side at his house, and I immediately got a little creeped out. "Hello young lady, do you want to come to my house, alone? I sharpen knives, you know." So now I'm trying to convince my husband to come with me, but he's weirded out, too. Haha.

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  28. Hi. This might be a really stupid question, but what the heck is tissue paper? Is it the same as pattern paper or maybe silk paper?
    I'm asking because I'm about to make a dress for my friend and she wants it made of silk and chiffon, so this advice comes at just the right time for me. I've been trying to translate it into danish, but neither my oldfashioned dictionary or the online ones seem to be able to give me an answer.
    From the pictures online it looks as silk paper, but you never know, there might be some difference which doesn't show on pics, so now I'm asking you clever ladies: what the heck is tissue paper?
    Thanks!

    Mette

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    1. Tissue paper is very thin paper a lot like the Big 4 use for pattern paper. If I couldn't find a roll of it, I could go to the gift wrap area of a general goods store and get some sheets of it folded up in a package. That can be way more expensive than a roll of it, but good if you hardly ever use sheer fabric.

      I don't know what 'silk paper' is, unless you mean a handmade or decorative paper that is made with silk fibers. Here in the US that is an expensive item and available in art supply stores - so I don't think you mean that.

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    2. In german, tissue paper is called "seidenpapier" (silk paper), but only because it' s as thin and delicate as silk. I'm guessing it's the same in danish?

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    3. Thanks so much!
      Yes I think tissue paper might be what we would call silk paper, exactly because of its thinness.
      I had no idea that silk paper in English actually means paper of silk fibers.
      Oh well, you live and you learn.

      Thank you again!

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  29. While I fully understand that fabric scissors needs sharpening from time to time, there's no reason to cut paper pattern with them. Same as with a kitchen knife, the trick to keeping them sharp is to treat them right. That's not hysterical or neurotic, that's common sense! A good pair of scissors doesn't need to lay unused in a drawer to be treasured, but one can avoid dulling them for no good reason. For example, I cut my patterns with paper scissors and my toilefabric with scissors set aside for that task.

    But to save myself from off-grain silk, I'd certainly use my good scissors and then have them sharpened. Or maybe just use my rotarycutter and change the blade? I've planned a few projects using silk this year, maybe I'll just try different methods and see what works for me =)

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  30. My mom was a professional dressmaker and draper. She always sharpened her scissors before working with gauzy, silky, or "funky" fabrics (such as sequins).
    And yes...scissors DO wear out. Usually a professional sharpener will say, "it's time for a new pair."

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  31. I was told once that not using fabric scissors on paper was a myth! At one time paper contained something (seem to remember it was something like chalk?) to make it white, and that did dull scissors really quickly. However, modern paper doesn't contain this so is no different to fabric in the amount it dulls scissors. I think the myth is passed down in families as women want to make sure thier kids and husband don't walk off with thier expensive fabric scissors (my mum certainly put the fear into us as children as to what would happen if we dared to even touch her fabric scissors...)

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  32. How often do you have to sharpen your shears? And can you sharpen a rotary blade?

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  33. I am one of the people who read the original post tip about tissue paper and silk and thought, "Genius!"

    I never spared a thought for my scissors. Because if you've ever sewed with charmeuse or chiffon, you know how shifty things can get. The last time I sewed with silk I starched it. That works OK but I got some color bleeding. So I am all over this revelation with tissue paper. It's well worth ever-so-slight dulling of my scissors, which after all can be sharpened (and ought to be, periodically, anyway). So: thank you, Gertie!

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  34. You can sharpen Gingher scissors yourself if you're feeling adventurous, you just have to have a good sharpening stone, a wrench and a steady hand. Still good to send them in once or twice a year for sharpening and balancing though. That's what we did when I was sewing professionally. Gingher will also sharpen their pinking shears.
    I see cutting tissue with fabric as "proper use". I'd much rather be able to easily cut a thing in just the right place than worry too much about keeping my scissors perfect, it's cheap to have them sharpened and I budget in new scissors every year or so. $60 a year for scissors is almost nothing when you use them almost every day.
    I've found that a lot of sharpening guys like to cut the tip of your scissors to get them to line up properly rather than remove metal from the handles (where they touch), special instructions are often called for when it comes to special tools. A lot of these guys mostly do knives and lawnmower blades and are more concerned will function than art.

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  35. Cut the tissue paper and get them sharpened, I say! LOL Christine
    - ChrisW Designs

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  36. I attended a class by Louise Cutting recently, and she said that cutting paper does NOT dull your scissors. It was the first time I ever heard that. Maybe it is an old wive's tale.

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  37. I use Fiskars shears and they've been great. They have a sharpening tool so I bought that and use it once in a while.

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  38. You can actually keep your shears pretty sharp by periodically cutting up a folded piece of aluminium foil. I often do just the tips to keep mine super sharp. For my fancy ARS Japanese shears I send them out every few years to a pro sharpner but this trick keeps me in good shape.

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  39. This spring a vendor showed me how to sharpen shears. I could not believe that was all there is to it!

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  40. my theory is that steel [ie what scissors are made from] is stronger than either cloth or paper...so i use mine for either, but i keep a tiny whet-stone handy to freshen the edge whenever i think it's necessary [not very often at all, i use it more often on bone-carving tools!].

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Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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