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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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Tool Time! Chatelaine Scissors… & Then Some

 

Scissors here, scissors there. I know I put my scissors … somewhere!

Does that ever describe you? I’d like to say it doesn’t describe me, but there are times, you know – times when I fuddle about, looking for my scissors.

There are all kinds of devices to help us avoid Fuddling About for Scissors. For example, I wrote about this wooden tool caddy that serves as a scissor, pencil, and tool holder. I use it all the time!

Another example: Scissor Pulls – I wrote about them here, and I’ve got instructions to make several varieties of them in my Lavender Honey & Other Little Things e-book. Scissor pulls are handy – I love them! They make great gifts, are fun to personalize, and they’re easy and quick to embroider.

There’s another kind of decorative device that’s been used for years and years, for keeping your scissors (and other tools) close to you. It’s called a chatelaine.

Chatelaine Scissors

This is a scissor chatelaine by Simply Scissors. It’s made of pewter, hangs from a chain about the neck, and houses a 2.5″ pair of embroidery scissors. The scissor casing is intricate and very pretty, mimicking Victorian sewing tools and accessories of old.

What’s a Chatelaine?

In a nutshell, a chatelaine was a serviceable device usually clipped at the waist that became fashionable in Victorian times (but that existed as early as Medieval times), on which women hung their tools of their trade, lifestyle, or hobby. Nurses; seamstresses with sewing tools; the lady of the house with keys, watch, and notebook; sports fans and participants; the local fishmonger’s wife with a blade and a pencil – chatelaines were used across all classes to tote tools.

One of the best online articles on chatelaines, their history, types, and uses is The Killer Mobile Device for Victorian Women from Collectors Weekly. In the article, Collectors Weekly interviews Genevieve Cummins, who co-authored Chatelaines: Utility to Glorious Extravagance, a book which is out of print now, and quite pricey if you’re looking for it. It’s a good book – if you ever come across a copy of it reasonably priced and you are interested in tools and collecting them, it’s worth getting.

Chatelaine Scissors & Other Tools

Today, we don’t tend to be-drape ourselves with all our tools. We have boxes and baskets and bags and holders and pockets and so forth.

But it’s nice to have pretty tools, and it’s nice to be able to hang them around the neck, where they’re easy to find!

Chatelaine Scissors

Enter: chatelaine scissors. They’re pretty. They’re serviceable. And they hang around your neck.

Chatelaine Scissors

What I really like about these particular chatelaine scissors is that they are “hearty” – that is, they don’t feel cheap and tinny. They are well made. They have a decent weight to them that keeps them in place, and the scissors fit right within their casing, practically snapping in place (though they don’t literally snap – they just fit and stay).

There are similar neck-case-scissor-items on the market, but the Simply Scissor ones are the prettiest and best-made ones that I’ve come across.

Chatelaine Scissors

Simply Scissors (which is located in England, but their goods are carried in shops around the world) makes other tools, too.

In the photo above, you can see my collection (left to right): a magnet that works as a needle minder or a chart holder, the chatelaine scissors, a seam ripper, a thimble chatelaine, and a laying tool.

Chatelaine Scissors

All the tools are weighty pewter. And they’re well made, with attention to detail. The seam ribber has a nice rubberized tip protector.

I find myself playing with it a lot.

Chatelaine Scissors

I don’t really use thimbles, but I love this thimble cage.

My plan? I’m going to make a egg-shaped piece of beeswax and fit it in there, instead of a thimble.

Chatelaine Scissors

Gravity and the chain keep the egg closed. It would be very easy to slip a thread in there and run it through a little chunk of beeswax. I’m going to try it, anyway! If I make a mess, I’ll let you know!

Where to Find

Although you can’t buy directly through Simply Scissors (they’re a wholesale company), you can find their goods in various places online.

In the UK, check Golden Hinde – the same folks own both companies. Warning: they carry some neat goldwork supplies – a beautiful selection of colored purls and the like – and, for mixed media enthusiasts, the metal mesh fabrics will grab your eye.

If you’re in the US, check Silent Stitches for the chatelaine scissors. They have them listed on their website, and you can probably special order from them.

Another US source is the website of Carol Ahles – you can find the chatelaine scissors listed here.

But, depending on shipping and currency conversion rates, you might get a better deal purchasing directly from the UK.

 
 

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(23) Comments

  1. Evidently this is your week for typos.
    From above: clipped at the waste…. The word waste should only sparingly be used in an embroidery blog article. πŸ™‚

    As for wondering where I left my scissors, no, I cannot say that I do. I usually embroider sitting on the sofa, and my embroidery tools and whatnot are in a grab and go (wooden) that sits on the floor next to where I am sitting. I keep my project floss (just DMC stranded) on flat plastic bobbins in a divided (store bought)box. When I am working, I take what I need out of the box and close the lid. Then, I open my bobbin box and set it down on top of the lid of my grab and go (conveniently it fits!) and lay my tools in the flat lid, including my scissors. And because I have cats, I have to be vigilant so I can’t leave that stuff all over. If I have something else to do, (getting the mail for example) I pick up all my tools, pincushion full of needles, scissors etc, put them in the grab and go, and close the lid on that and the bobbin box (1 minute or less). Then I can come back, and my kitties can’t fool around with my tool kit.

    I suspect that the more room people have to misplace their scissors in, the more frequently it will happen. I also imagine that the more pairs people have the more frequently it will happen. You know, two pairs, twice the likelihood of playing hide and go seek. My kitties keep my crafting space to a boxed minimum, so I rarely have to look for any of my tools.

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    1. LOL! Well.. I catch a lot before I hit publish, too. I’ve become very lazy with this whole auto spell check world we live in. Must correct that!

    2. Please explain, what is a grab and go? I gather it is some kind of container that holds your stuff so you can take it with you but what is it made of, what does it look like and where do you get such a thing?

      Also, Mary, I have found after many years of frog-stitching that buying pretty (and relatively expensive) seam rippers is false economy as they do not stay sharp. Do you have this problem or do you never need actually to use yours, it’s just for playing with? I bought a silver one but now it languishes in a drawer somewhere all alone – because it isn’t sharp any more.

    3. This one works! And I do use seam rippers….though sometimes, I find it easier to just use my scissors. It depends on the extent of the stitching I have to remove.

      Grab and go isn’t actually a “thing” – it’s the nature of the project. A project that is easy portable, can be housed in a single bag for quickly grabbing and going out the door, can be worked on anywhere with minimus equipment, is a grab and go type project. πŸ™‚

    4. Christina: You are right, in this case I was referring to the wooden box that holds my tools and projects. My storage space is limited, even at home, so I just keep all of my projects etc in this box, so when I am a home I can just pull out my projects, or when I am headed out, I can just grab the whole box and go. πŸ™‚ In this case my father helped me customize (added handles) and paint a plain wooden box from a craft store. It holds a plastic lidded container (with compartments) for my tools, a plastic craft box full of my in-project floss bobbins, plus my projects. πŸ™‚ I had to customize my own wooden box because the rectangular plastic baskets they sell at craft stores have extra skinny handles (the box is usually covered in fabric to be pretty) with a tray inside and with two, the handles snapped. If you just type sewing basket into a search engine you will see what I am talking about. When I made mine, I bought a wooden box the right size, added a handle on each side, and painted the outside.

    5. Thank you for your explanations – that would have been my guess, but I thought, what if there is something new and different and I’ve never seen it? Can you tell I am a tool junkie??

      I am lusting after some of those gorgeous scissors on Silent Stitches but as we have just taken delivery of a new car I have to rein in my spending for a while until the Chancellor says it’s OK again.

    6. Mary should (if she has not already) do an article including a tool list. πŸ™‚ I know that I have 40 or so items (most small) in my box, and all I deal with is stranded DMC, the universe only knows how many tools Mary has for all of her embroidery types…… πŸ™‚

  2. Dear Mary

    What a lovely selection of needlework accessories I love the decorated handles and I especially like the thimble or (beeswax holder). I’ve just been on Golden Hinde website and they have a great selection of gold work and they have just introduced mesh which I’m tempted to buy I’m sure would be great for tambour embroidery, but they are limited in the selection of pewter needlework accessories, but I’m sure if you were to email them they would be able to supply you with them as they own both companies. Thanks for sharing these delightful accessories with us.

    Regards Anita Simmance

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    1. Hi Anita
      I have listed some more of the pewter items now, sorry about that.
      Thank you
      Sarah
      Golden Hinde

  3. I have often looked at the beautiful tools found around the web, but although very tempted, I haven’t ordered anything…yet. I usually end up buying more thread or more fabric. I have decided to get that wonderful floor stand though, can’t remember the name just now. I find that your reviews are instrumental in my decision making for the new things I get. And I lose my scissors too many times! I have two favorite spots in my house where I work, and a pair of scissors at each place. But I am too constantly picking them up and taking them with me about the house to use on other little sewing or crafting projects – which is why I haven’t sprung for the Dovo scissors you showed some time ago, I am afraid I will ruin them on yarn, or paper!

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  4. Mary, I loved seeing and reading about these beautiful accessories…thank you so much for this! I always have one pair of small scissors handing on a strand of ribbon, tied around my neck. Of course these days we use many kinds of scissors for various jobs, but at least I can always fine one pair for cutting threads. My other scissors can hide if they want to…I’ll find them eventually, but this one pair can’t get away from me : ).

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  5. I have chatelaine scissors from Golden Hinde, I use them a lot. Actually, I had them round my neck last time I visited the Kitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra palace, and they generated a lot of comment in my workshop. Because Golden Hinde had a stall at the show, I was able to send people to them to buy their own! then when I went to the stall myself in search of spangles and kid, Sarah from Golden Hinde looked at me and said “I remember selling those scissors to you last year!” They are such lovely people, and very helpful. If you do a lot of goldwork and need to buy in bulk, materials are much cheaper if you buy direct from Benton and Johnson, the manufacturers (who are also lovely and very helpful). But for individual projects, or little bits to try out to see what works, and if you like your goldwork supplies with free creative tips and tricks, service with a smile and owners who remember your name and your preferences year on year, then I heartily recommend Golden Hinde πŸ™‚

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  6. Nice post! I made a quilted chatelaine years ago that I often have around my neck. But in recent years like to use those retractable scissor keepers similar to this
    http://www.embroidery.com/product.ec?productsetID=182486
    I do have a pretty pair of stork scissors, but the silver set you have showcased it beautiful!! I like that idea of the cage for beeswax. I just use the blue box of thread conditioner.

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    1. Hi, Joyce – yes, those retractable scissor keepers are the scissor pulls I’m talking about at the beginning of the article. I think the ones from the Little Things book are more attractive! (But I might be a little biased…)

      I started molding my beeswax egg yesterday. I’ll let you know how it works!

    2. So when you explain to us about how the egg and wax are working will it be a discussion about the birds and the bees?? πŸ™‚ Are you going to have to melt it or can you buy it in round wads the right size?

      I have some beeswax in a drawer here, but it is a flat cake about 2 inches across. It was given to my by my granma a couple of decades ago and I have no idea how long she had it. I would have to melt some to make an egg shaped wad to stick in there. I only use wax (or that Thread Heaven stuff)when I am using the metallic flosses from DMC, they tend to unravel, and the wax helps that a bit.

  7. Dear Mary,
    thanks for this article on needle work tools. I am fascinated. I inherited a few tools from my grandmother, and like to check out vintage sewing tools on ebay from time to time. I do appreciate your knowledge and dedication to all things having to do with embroidery,I have learned and been reminded of so much!
    thanks, Janie, crazyvictoriana.blogspot.com

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