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Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Sharp and Small: Scissors for Hand Embroidery

 

If you take hand embroidery remotely seriously as a hobby, one of the first tools you should invest in is a decent pair of embroidery scissors. Now, please don’t get me wrong – I’m not a scissor snob! I realize that a $5 pair of scissors from your local craft store will still cut thread. Still, do indulge me, while I talk a bit and rave a little about good scissors!

There are scissors for embroidery… and then there are Scissors for embroidery!

What are the most basic criteria for embroidery scissors? That they be small and sharp. Beyond that, people have different preferences in scissors: different styles they look for, different price ranges they can afford, and so forth.

I like scissors that reflect quality workmanship, that perform well (the blades fit together, the mechanical opening and closing is smooth and easy), that are comfortable, and that will stand up to the ravages of time and hard work.

I’ve not spent a real fortune on scissors, though I have collected a few over the years. You can purchase good quality scissors, actually, without spending a fortune. A decent pair of Gingher (made in Germany and very widely available) embroidery scissors run from $15 – $30, depending on the type and where you find them.

I have a total of 6 embroidery scissors, three of which are used for goldwork and three for threads. I also have a pair of sewing shears and a pair of applique scissors, which are handy for cutwork. All except one pair are Gingher – this isn’t so much due to preference as it is to affordability and availability. Most of my scissors, I bought on sale at local needlework shops or sewing shops.

Scissors for Hand Embroidery

However, I don’t use them all most of the time! Here’s the array of scissors presently inhabiting my tool box. They’re all Gingher, except for the greyish pewter looking pair, which I’ll talk about in a second.

Scissors for Hand Embroidery

These two scissors are my favorites. Notice that they are both the same size as far as length goes. The shiny pair is by Gingher and the pewter-looking pair is by Dovo. They both have decent-sized finger holes. I’ve never had big hands (they’re more like… paws), but I can’t stand forcing my phalanges into small-holed scissors, especially the ones that have decorative nobby lumps all over them!

Scissors for Hand Embroidery

Of the two scissors, the Dovo scissors are by far my favorite scissors ever! They are finer than the Gingher scissors, they are light and comfortable, sturdy, the movement of the blades is smooth and exact, the tips are perfectly pointed, and the blades are quite thin.

Scissors for Hand Embroidery

When the two are stacked on top of each other, it’s obvious that they are the same length, but notice that the blades on the Dovo scissors are smaller. I always feel as if I have more control with the Dovo scissors and can be more precise, and I think this has to do with the size of the blades. (And it might just be because I’m infatuated with these scissors, so I imagine every good thing about them!)

Scissors for Hand Embroidery

Here’s a close-up on the blades, with the Dovo on the left. If you compare the thickness of the blades, you can see that they are close, but the Dovo scissors are just a bit finer than the Gingher.

Scissors for Hand Embroidery

Strangely enough, if you take the ever-popular gold-handled stork embroidery scissors by Gingher (among their smallest scissors) – pictured on the left – and compare their blades to the Dovo blades (on the right), you can see that the Dovo blades are significantly finer than the Gingher stork’s blades. (My stork scissors have been through it! They need to be sharpened!)

I love Dovo scissors, and this pair especially. They are excellent for small detail work. They’re perfect when cutting out stitching (oh, yeah – I do that!). I love them for any kind of work where one or two threads in the fabric must be cut (for drawn thread work, for example), and they’re great for cutwork and needle lace.

The Dovo scissors are a bit more expensive than Gingher, though, and hence, I only have one pair! This pair runs around $40 – $45, depending on where you find them.

I’m convinced, though, that if you are going to spend time and effort and money on a hobby, then you should have the right tools. At least one good pair of embroidery scissors is really essential! And they don’t have to be Dovo, necessarily! Your budget will most likely dictate your options. But, here’s an idea! If you have a birthday coming up, or some other occasion to receive a gift (um…. I wouldn’t necessarily want scissors as a Valentine gift or a wedding anniversary present – the message could be wildly misconstrued!), consider dropping a subtle hint for good scissors if you don’t already own a pair.

So what’s your favorite brand of scissors? Do you have a faithful, favorite pair that you would be loathe to lose? If you were recommending scissors to another stitcher, which would you recommend, and why? Please tell us! C’mon – there’s nothing quite as fun as talking about tools!

 
 

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(34) Comments

  1. Mary, my favorite embroidery scissors are from Japan. They are the normal embroidery size and have fake tortoise shell handles. They came in a plastic sheeth with a red back side. They are light in my hand and very sharp. Unfortunately they do not have a manufacturer’s name on them and I only have my local shop’s word they came from Japan.

    Still, I love them and have two pairs. I’d tell folks to watch for scissors that fit this description and try a set if the shop allows. Nothing tells you what scissors work for you better than handling them.

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  2. Oooh, but I love my surgical scissors!! Fine tips, narrow blades and sharp as an unexpected winter draft.

    Choose carefully but these are nice tools. You can also pick up amazing scissors in some of the ‘airport screening’ scissor auctions. Wow. Talk about a lot to choose from… hehehe…

    For goldwork, look at the serrated very small bandage scissors. They have grip and leverage as well as light weight and easy use.

    PA

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  3. This was very helpful to me, Mary. I’ve been wondering why there are so many scissor options and how to choose among them. Thanks!

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  4. I’ve found that cuticle scissors are often excellent for embroidery applications. I’ve even seen styles that I KNOW were produced for nail work, re-labeled and sold in needlework shops.

    My favorite pair (and I have a couple of these) is Henckels’ Twinox Nail Scissor. They’re not only *wickedly* sharp, they’re pointy beyond all reason – I guess that’s to get into tiny hangnail crevices with, but it works GREAT for snipping a single stitch.

    My favorite trick – I get scissors from Ebay that have been abandoned at the airports. There are a couple of sellers who carry them. I’ve gotten some *fantastic* scissors, all different kinds, for pennies on the dollar. I used to have a horrible time losing them, but now I have scissors in every project bag, every convenient drawer. And I have plenty to pass around at workshops, in case people didn’t bring their own.

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  5. One other thought – be careful with giving scissors and knives, particularly for Valentine’s day! Many people have folk traditions regarding sharp gifts, like knives and scissors – it is believed that the gift of a sharp implement can sever the friendship. A lot of people will include a penny with a sharp gift, so that the recipient can “buy” the scissors. Some cutlery (usually knife) sets even have the penny included in the packaging.

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  6. you are so right, you know that! I have had terrible scissors and cut up my work with them, now I have lovely scissors (not all), and I watch out if nobody in my house uses them for anything else but thread or fabric!!!

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  7. Hi Mary,

    I am very fond of my Pony embroidery scissors and also love the pair of embroidery scissors from Singer.

    I agree with Micheal. In Indai it is customary not to give any needles or scissors as gifts as it might sever relationships

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  8. I adores scissors and have a large assortment of all makes and sizes. Most are Ginghers and Dovos with my favorite embroidery scissors being the Dovos you pictured. However, I also have a very small pair of curved blade Ginghers that I find wonderful for embroidery. The curved blade makes it possible to clip very close without fear of a snip in the fabric.

    The Gingher factory in Greensboro, NC, sharpens their scissors for $7 a pair but I have yet to find a source for sharpening Dovos. Do you know of one, Mary?

    Cissie

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  9. Thanks, all, for your input on the scissors question. When it comes down to it, I’d say that, besides a needle and thread and fabric, this is the tool that all stitchers have in common!

    Thanks for the input, Michael and Jayashree, on the cultural customs associated with giving scissors or needles as a gift!

    Cissie – I go to a rather “generic” scissor-sharpening-fellow who has a little shop for sharpening things (scissors, knives, ice skates, etc….) Maybe you could find such a service through a local sewing center?

    MC

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  10. I have a very old pair of inexpensive stork scissors that are sentimental for me…My (now deceased) dad used to sharpen them for me, and could give them a wonderful edge, much better than they had originally…I use them for snipping threads and general use…my favorite scissors for Hardanger are a pair of Ginghers with fine blades and a black finish. I was using chrome finished ones, but when cutting threads, the thread reflected in the high polished blade…I can see exactly what I am cutting with the white threads on the matte black blades. My fiancee just mailed them to me (I left them in Colorado) and I was sooo thankful they arrived…I can`t find them on the Gingher site anymore.

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  11. Mary,
    What Jayashree said is correct and applies to knives, too. I gave my dear BIL a most beautiful set of carving and chef’s knives for his birthday (he’s the family barbecue chef par excellence!), but he said that was bad luck and had to give me a penny to “buy” them from me. Then he proceeded to use them to carve up and grill a most delicious chicken….Indian style.
    My favorite scissors are all Gingher and I own probably a dozen different varieties for sewing, embroidery and applique, but I will have to look into the Dovo brand. Those blades look deliciously thin and fine. I wish we could get Pony scissors and needles here in the US as I’ve heard very good reports about them. Does anyone know of a US source?
    Tess

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  12. Hi Mary,
    Many thanks for all the information that you give so generously. I look forward with great anticipation your wonderful posts. Up until today I have never really given scissors much thought other than some are pretty, and I have been embroidery for years self taught. After todays post I have decided to shout my self a pair of Dovo scissors. But am unsure as to what lenght your scissors are. Could you please let us know what lenght in your up and coming posts. Many Thanks Judy

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  13. mj – the black scissors sound like a fabulous idea!

    Tess – A while ago, Michael Cook was in touch with a supplier of pony needles. He sent me some samples of the 10, 11, and 12 gold eye embroidery needles. They’re shorter than most needles and rather fine. I’d like to find a US supplier, too. If I come up with one, I’ll let you know….

    MC

    Update 2012: after using Pony needles for a while, I’ve become somewhat disappointed with them. Burrs on the tips of the needles and in the eyes of the needles are common, and the needles don’t hold up long. I’ve had more than my share break on me. Look for Bohin needles! They’re magnificent!

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  14. Dear Mary, I just came across your wonderful site while looking for tutorials on stitches. I haven’t embroidered since high school many years ago. Our city has a wonderful store, The Silver Needle, Tulsa, OK, and they carry many scissors including Gingher and Dovo in all sizes. You can order directly from their website. Thank you for all of your suggestions. I will check back often.

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  15. I do applique and my favorite scissors are the Dovo Lace scissors with only one blunt end. I use the sharp end to help turn corners, etc and the blunt end to trim the back fabric away. I got them at Quilt Market several years ago from the Dovo booth, but have never been able to find them again. Dovo's are very good scissors.

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  16. I have a very cheapy pair of embroidery scissors with sad plastic handles. They do their job very well, but I would love a nicer pair, simply because Ilike wellmade tools of any sort. I used to have a much nicer pair, until my husband “happened” to them, and picked them from the table, and used them to open some hard plastic packet of screws from the DIY store. When caught red handed in the act he said he did not know they were special scissors!!! What is it with husbands that they can tell you at a pinch the difference between a separate condenser and a multitube firebox, between a fusible plug and a snifting clark, but they can’t tell embroidery scissors from common kitchen scissors? I haven’t got round to get my niceold scissors resharpened yet. When I do I will sew a superdecorative weight to attach to the handles, just to mark the territory! 🙁

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  17. I like my Karen Kay Buckley scissors that I use for applique but not sure about embroidery scissors. I appreciate your discussion very much!

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  18. Mary, I have at least 10 pair of embroidery scissors, most of them are Dovo, which I love alot and use often. I have a pair of Wassa that I love, but I don’t use them on wool. I have a pair of solingen storks that I love also. I would like to see what Bohins are like. I will never use Ginger I don’t like them at all. For a cheap pair that cut very well and are under $10 I find that the preemie thianium are the best. I buy them for the grandchildren.
    Sharon K.

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    1. Thanks, Sharon! I think most solingen scissors are fairly good – I haven’t tried any I haven’t liked, anyway! I, too, would like to try the Bohin scissors, just to know how they are and review them, but I haven’t had the chance yet. I’ll seek some out soon, though, because I’ve been itching to try them and see how they measure up. Bohin makes good quality stuff – it would be nice to know if their scissors hold up to their reputation. I’ll let you know what I think when I try them!

  19. Ji! Mary! Happy New year!… Don’t even of asking for my PONY shears!, I guard these shears with my life. I have 2 pair of the long shears, and one pair of the small size. My daughter, terri, did two tours in India, brought back silk floss, silk fabric, jewelry, and several pairs of PONY shears, I gave my very close embroidery buddies each a pair for their Birthday. There is no shears to cut precious fabric like a PONY!!!

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  20. I have a little pair of Ghingers that has short, fine blades, almost like razor blades. They have no finger holes. They look like a small, slim black rectangular box. The top comes off the blades and the bottom becomesthe blades.

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  21. Hi Mary!

    Thank you so much for writing about your scissors–this post has been quite helpful! Would you mind telling me what size the little Dovo scissors are? I think they have two sizes of this design, so I was wondering which of the two you had. Thank you!

    Danielle

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  22. Mary, I love you website and blog. I found you about a year ago. Do you have a store in Kansas? my niece and her family live in Leavenworth, KS and we visit several times a year. I want to buy a better pair of embroidery scissors. I don’t do cut work ,but I use good silk threads,DMC etc. you reviewed Ernest Wright scissors but I can not find a U.S. shop that sells them. are the Dovo scissors worth the money? I can order them from the Silver Needle in OK. I live in WV and love to stitch and knit/ crochet. thanks for doing a great blog. I wish you a happy holiday season and a happy winter of stitching, Karen

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    1. Hi, Karen – thanks for your email! No, I don’t have a retail shop. The Ernest Wright scissors have to be ordered directly from England. If you’re looking for a pair of very fine, very good scissors, you just can’t go wrong with DOVO. They are excellent, and they withstand the test of time. They are worth the money. Another pair of scissors that I find equally as satisfying – these Premax scissors: http://www.needlenthread.com/2012/08/embroidery-scissors-by-premax.html, which come with a slightly curved blade and also with a straight blade. I don’t like all Premax scissors as much (most of the decorative pairs that I have by Premax squeak when I use them), but these Ringlock ones are really good. I’d put them on par with the DOVOs. So you might do some price comparing. You can find them through Anita’s Little Stitches: http://www.anitalittlestitches.com/scissors.html You can also find DOVO scissors there, which would make it easier to compare prices. Hope that helps! ~MC

  23. I need a pair of embroidery scissors Mary. Can you please give more detail on size, etc… so I will order the right pair please? Thank you

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    1. You can’t go wrong with the Premax ring lock scissors, Jennifer. You can find them different places. Anita’s Little Stitches carries them – they run about $30 there: http://www.anitalittlestitches.com/premax.html – if you scroll down, you’ll find them. They’re available with straight or curved blades. Stitcher’s Paradise in FL carries them as well (I think they’re about 28.50 there). Here’s the link: http://www.stitchers-paradise.com/tools/Scissors.html The straight blade, 3.5″ “ring lock” Premax are the ones I recommend. (Or the curved blades, if you like curved blades.) Other Premax scissors are “ok,” but they are kind of hit-and-miss. I’ve had a few pairs that squeak and that catch when opening and closing. But I have three pairs of the ring lock ones and they are consistently fabulous.

      Another option for really good, fine, sharp scissors are these Dovo scissors: http://www.hedgehoghandworks.com/catalog/TLS443500256.php They’re a bit more expensive than the Premax mentioned above, but they have longer, very fine blades (and a great feel to them), which you might want, depending on the type of work you’re doing. Hedgehog’s price on those is good – other places, they run $50 and in some places $52.

      Those are both good, “life time” scissors – they should last you, if you take care of them, so they’re worth the investment.

    2. Mary these are the three that I saw at Anita’s Little Stitches. Can you tell me which of these is shown in the picture in this blog post please? Thank you

      Dovo Hardanger 3 1/2″ Thin Blade Tips 44350526
      Dovo 3 1/2″ Forged Stainless Satin Finish 44350026
      Dovo 4″ Forged Stainless Satin Larger Handle 44400026

    3. Thank you so much Mary. Please disregard my last comment. Bless you, you were quicker to answer than I was to finish.

  24. Scissors, like most of my sewing are usually duplicated. I have 2 pair of the Dovo as I use one solely for wool and cotton and the other is for silk. Then there are the ones for gold and metal work. Gold has a pair just for all gold. The toothy ones. I use another pair for the other metal threads. All marked accordingly.

    What I like about the Dovo is that they are so smooth. Millennium like. I would like the finger grips a tad larger, just so they fit a bit high near the arthritis. But hey I can still use them so no complaints.
    I have found over the years that it is horses for courses. So the Dovo is. It does the job a lot smoother than the usual steel ones. They never catch and they cut out the little bits of fabric for the Hardanger neatly right to the tip. Now that is what I call a beaut pair of tiny scissors.
    Because they so good they get treated more tenderly than the others. My scissors have a leather holder to live in. No one and I mean NO ONE uses these scissors.
    I did have surgical scissors. Some with a blunt flat side that was used suture removal. Now they use a little hook that has the inside edge of the hook sharpened. Then they are tossed away. Total waste.
    Using a thimble the bane of my life. Don’t use one. I have a small steal nail file and use the to push the needle through as the rough surface of the nail file stops the eye end from slipping.
    I am amused that we are constantly told that we should have this or that to make life easier. Rubbish. Total rubbish. I am not saying all, as boiling up a copper for the whites and the work clothes ain’t a lot of fun when it is cold and raining. But surprisingly it works better than the washing machine as we were forced to separate our loads. White was white, not grey or a faint pink, blue or grey. I can’t say that the past was the good old days but there was certainly some good things to be considered.
    Another old saying… look after your tools and they will look after you.
    Have a great weekend Mary and all.

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