What would we do without a cutting edge? Scissors. I mean scissors, shears, snips, all of the tools we use in quiltmaking. Well, no not rotary cutters, just scissors. But “scissors” covers a lot of ground (and without them, I don’t think we’d have ever gotten rotary cutters!). Have you ever thought about them?
Scissors have been around for a very long time, and they are virtually unchanged from the beginning. The earliest known scissors looked something like these:
These are slightly different from what we typically use, but were you to find them, I am pretty sure you’d still call them scissors. Supposedly, the cross-bladed scissors we are all familiar with were invented by the Romans ca. 100 AD. They weren’t in popular use until much later. As I understand it, they were considered the norm, though, by around 1800.
These bits, from an article at The Daily Kos, fill out the story a little:
In Sheffield, England, William Whiteley and Sons was manufacturing scissors by 1760. In 1761, Robert Hinchliffe began producing a modern-style pivot scissors made with hardened and polished cast steel. Hinchliffe, who lived in Cheney Square, London, put out a signboard proclaiming himself as “fine scissor manufacturer.”
In 1840, Thomas Wilkinson & Son, Manufacturers of Tailors Shears and Scissors, was appointed Manufacturers of Scissors in Ordinary to her Majesty Queen Victoria. In 1875, the firm was acquired by William Whitely.
Those familiar orange-handled Fiskars that most of us own (although probably not with orange handles) came into being around 1830 (although the company itself started in 1649). I do own several Fiskars products, to include garden shears that I love. These spring-handled shears seemed like the perfect solution for me years ago when I was fighting with numbness from carpal tunnel syndrome. Sadly, though, I seem to destroy the blade locks on them pretty quickly. I still own two pair of them, but I don’t think the locks work well on either. They are both quite old, though, so perhaps there is a better model now.
I have several other pair of scissors too, but am by no means a collector. I do know several people who have large collections of scissors (and also sewing kits, needle holders, thimbles, and and and). My friend Edie has a huge collection of both and antique scissors, hundreds of pairs. I don’t think she set out to collect them, just picked up pairs of them here and there over the years. You do know how things can multiply, right?
So, yeah, the number I have is nowhere near that. And I use most of the ones I have regularly. My favorites are these:
I adore these Havel’s shears. Mine came from a drawing that Patrick Lose Studios had. I won! Lucky, lucky me. They are sharp, sharp, sharp (and yes, will cut fingers, ask me how I know). Sadly, I had to borrow this photo from Havel’s website since mine have mysteriously gone into hiding somewhere on my worktable. I think they might be camera-shy. Nonetheless, if you are looking for a new pair of shears that work for cutting any kind of fabric, these are $19.99, and worth several times that. I’ve had mine for a couple of years and they are every bit as sharp today as they were when I got them. If I thought I would ever need another pair, I would not hesitate to buy them.
My bitty little Gingher thread snips. These stay by my machine for cutting threads, of course. They are always there.You might notice that there is a bead and charm hanging off of them. One of my girlfriends gave me that years ago, so it’s a constant reminder of her. (These snips are availble at Amazon, but also at Walmart. Who knew?) It’s interesting to see how much these look like the Turkish and Chinese scissors above, isn’t it?
And lastly, I really like these little Bohin scissors. They’re small and very lightweight, and they live on my ironing board. That may seem strange, but I keep these, a pincushion/thread holder, a wooden point turner/seam presser, and a hem gauge in a cup on the end of my board. These are perfect for snipping off those gunky thread barf wads after you prewash fabric. (You DO prewash, yes? If not, we’ll talk.)
I do have other scissors that I don’t use very often (pinking shears, anyone?). I said I’m not a collector, and that really is true. But. Would I like to own a pair of these? Ahem. Yes.
There is some really interesting information about embroidery scissors in this article at Sajou. And the folks at Gizmodo have this about scissors in general…although they might stretch the definition just a bit. For a serious rabbit hole, pop over to Pinterest and look at antique scissors. Yikes!
You, like me, might never have spent much time thinking about scissors. Without them we couldn’t do what we do, though, could we? I mean sure, we could rip fabric, but that would seriously limit our use of patterns. You can’t rip fabric on the bias, so no triangles, ever! That would be sad.
Honestly, though, it’s really fascinating to realize that we are using the same basic tools that people have been using for 4,000 years. I guess you can’t improve much on what works!
How many pairs of scissors do you own? Which are your favorites?
**Pop back by tomorrow for the third and final part in “Gathering up the Fragments,” using up your scraps and bits! You will love it!**