From The Work Box – Scissors

I started writing a From the Work Box series of posts a last year, but never finished them to post. With a recent question about scissors coming up in a particular FB group, followed by a reply from an exceptional merchant pointing out which scissors are most popular with reenactors, I decided I really need to finish this post for the sake of balanced accurate material culture interpretation.

Do I have I have a bias against stork scissors? Yes. I am just not a fan. I just don’t see the point of having an asymetrical bird hanging out on my scissors. I also just don’t understand why they seem to be everywhere. They are like the poly-cotton tomato’s best buddy. They are, without a doubt, over represented in historical settings. Why are there so many of this one kind of scissors when the 1851 Great Exhibition has 230 different pairs in a single display? Um, proportional variety please?

Okay, enough of my whining.

At the minimum, every interpreter’s sewing kit needs at least a pair of scissors. According to Miss Leslie, everyone in the mid-nineteeth century should have three:

You will find it necessary to have three pairs of scissors; a large pair for cutting out things that are thick and heavy; a smaller pair for common use, and a very small pair for work that is nice and delicate. They should all be sharp-pointed. When your scissors begin to grow dull, have them ground at once. The cost will not exceed six cents for each pair, (even if ground at a surgical instrument shop,) and haggling with dull scissors is very uncomfortable work. (Miss Leslie’s Lady’s House-book. 1850)

What did these scissors look like?

What I would love is an 1850 catalogue filled with illustrations of each and every household item someone would have needed. Wouldn’t that be nice. Instead, we can look at a few other places for glimpses of scissors: Paintings, museum collections (inside sewing cases), and occasional illustrations. Just keep in mind we want the scissors an ordinary person in the US would have had; we don’t need the uber-pretty pair that we could not have afforded. Here is a catalogue illustration of scissors that would be plausible for a working class impression: http://collections.musee-mccord.qc.ca/en/collection/artifacts/M930.50.3.132/  

 

What do I use?

IMG_7487When sewing on the go, I am doing one of two things: Either I am sewing small things with pieces already cut or I am sewing straw. This means I need two types of scissors – One for cutting thread and one for cutting straw. To the right are some of the scissors I use in my various sewing kits for the thread snipping part and the occasional ribbon cutting. Two are reproduction. Three are antique. My straw cutting scissors are roughly 5″ long, an estate sale find. To have a rounded visual interpretation I should carry a larger pair of scissors as well.  Admittedly, I remember these when I take my large box, but tend to forget them when I have my smaller kits.

Looking for your own?

(Liz posted some of her picks in said FB thread)

wpid-2015-06-14-10.16.48.jpg.jpegSmall Scissors options:

Full Size Scissors Options:

More information:

Published in: on January 2, 2018 at 7:00 am  Comments (2)  

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thank you — this is very helpful. I’m upgrading my sewing stuff by a century, from 18C to 19C and have a repro 18C pair of scissors but that’s it.

    Inherited stork scissors from my great-aunt who had them from some elderly relative of hers. They may be vintage but they are, as you point out, ubiquitous. At least now I have some different ideas. Thanks!

  2. Great information. I’ll have to see what I can find! Thanks.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: