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 Talk: If You Had but One Pair of Scissors…


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Do you have but one pair of embroidery scissors? I know many embroiderers who do – one pair of scissors, exclusively for embroidery, that they cherish, protect, and defend with their lives.

I used to have one pair of embroidery scissors that I used exclusively for surface embroidery. For goldwork and wire, I had a pair of snippers that eventually died the death.

But that was before I started Needle ‘n Thread. I’m not sure what happened, but over the past many years, I’ve accumulated a few pair. I blame it on the blog.

Off the top of my head, I couldn’t even guess how many pairs of embroidery scissors I have right now.

But I can tell you this: embroidery scissors are not all created equal.

Embroidery Scissors from Ernest Wright & Sons

Recently, after about a month of expectation, three new pairs of embroidery and needlework scissors arrived by post.

(I call it the “post,” because they came from England. If they were from America, they would have come in the mail.)

You may recall that, at the beginning of August, I shared with you a video about the making of scissors in Sheffield, England, by Ernest Wright & Sons, LTD.

Around that time, I placed an order for three pairs of needlework scissors from Ernest Wright & Son. Not only did I want to support the company, but I also wanted to try them, see if there’s much of a difference between these scissors and any other pair of scissors, and eventually review them for you.

I ordered their rounded lace scissors, their antique pattern stork scissors, and their large bow embroidery scissors with straight blades.

Embroidery Scissors from Ernest Wright & Sons

Until you actually have a product in hand and know what it’s like, you can’t really say whether it is “reasonably priced,” but at £20 each, (about $32.50 / pair), I figured they were in the range of what I’d pay for a good pair of scissors that weren’t an elaborate pair of scissors.

For those of you who know scissors and are familiar with prices, you can find DOVO (German) scissors from about $35 upwards to a whole (a whole) lot more. You can find Bohin (French) scissors from around $17-$20 (for their “fun” scissors) and upwards, PreMax (Italian) around $30 for their better scissors (around $20 for their light, but fun, scissors), and Kai (Japan) scissors from around $13-$15.

All of these are ok scissors, and some of them are “excellent” scissors.

In my mind, ok scissors are scissors that are great while they’re new, but in reality, we don’t really expect them to last our whole lives. In many cases, we buy them because, yes, they cut, but often it’s more because they’re attractive in some way. They add to the collection. They’re fun. They’re most likely light in weight, they might have plastic components.

And while initially sharp and usable, we don’t hold them and say, “Oh. You are my Life-Long Cutting Companion, and I will hand you down to my children and my children’s children.”

Excellent scissors, on the other hand, are the type of scissors you hold in your hand, you open and close, you use, and then you let out the most contented of sighs, because they just feel good in every respect.

They’re always a pleasure to use, they fit on your fingers, they have enough weight to them that they feel real, and you could legitimately say to them (and mean it), “You really are my Life-Long Cutting Companion. If I take care of you, you will serve me all my stitching days.”

Embroidery Scissors from Ernest Wright & Sons

So the question is, where do the Ernest Wright & Son scissors fall?

Here are the lace ones, with the rounded tips – they’re a super-duper handy tool to have, and if you do any kind of needlelace and even cutwork (they can be handy for long edges in cutwork), you should have them in your tool box.

Embroidery Scissors from Ernest Wright & Sons

Here are the stork scissors.

I only ever had one other pair of stork scissors – a little pair of Gingher stork scissors from a local fabric store. They weren’t Gingher, as in made-in-Germany Gingham. They were Gingher, as in made-in-China Gingher. They lasted, oh, a year, maybe? They were never a pleasure to use – the finger holes were small, their blades were relatively thick. They weren’t snippy. And the finish didn’t last. They put me off storks for quite a while.

The Ernest Wright storks have restored my faith in storks.

Embroidery Scissors from Ernest Wright & Sons

These are the large bow scissors. The finger holes are a bit larger, making them quite comfortable to use.

Embroidery Scissors from Ernest Wright & Sons

While the blades on the large bow scissors are wide, they are also nice and thin.

Embroidery Scissors from Ernest Wright & Sons

Here are the three new Ernest Wright scissors (left) next to a pair of Bohin scissors (far right). You can see that, over all, the Ernest Wright scissors are noticeably larger than the tiny little fad scissors with decorative handles that we’ve become accustomed to seeing everywhere these days.

Not only are they noticeably larger, though, but once you hold them in your hands, you will conclude that they are noticeably more substantial in every conceivable scissor-related way.

As far as comparing the three Ernest Wright scissors, they’re all three excellent scissors. The stork scissors have a little more snip to them than the large-bow scissors and the lace scissors. It could be the smaller blades or the position of the fulcrum – they just close with a noticeable snip. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just a different feel, compared to the large-bow scissors or the lace scissors.

Embroidery Scissors from Ernest Wright & Sons

To sum it up, the Ernest Wright scissors are smooth as glass. They are weighty. They are substantial. They’re balanced – they feel good and they feel right in your hands. They fit well. They’re mechanically perfect, in their opening and closing. There’s no wiggle, there’s no vibration, there’s no catching, there’s no uncertainty.

The scissors open and close with that perfect precision that softly hisses the delectable sound of a faultless meeting of the blades.

Ernest Wright & Sons in Sheffield produce scissors as scissors were meant to be. They are real scissors. They are scissors that will be your Life-Long Cutting Companion.

Yes, I’d say they’re reasonably priced – after all, you will never need another pair of embroidery scissors.


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(41) Comments

  1. Dear Mary

    I’ve been waiting for you to review these scissors so I can decide whether to purchase another pair of scissors, although I haven’t as many pairs as some people still I have a few pairs and my favourite are the ones I use all the time that you wrote about a while ago Sew Mate tiny scissors from Tanja Berlin I love them because of their smallness and they can get into small spaces but I don’t think they are life-long cutting companions like the ones above thats why I contemplating the purchase. Ah decisions “sigh”. I love your tool talk and thanks for reviewing these Ernest Wright & Sons scissors from England, It’s nice to see small businesses in the UK, I hope you have a great weekend.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  2. I wanted to get a pair after watching the video, they really do look like something that will last a long time. But I wasn’t sure which one to get. Now that you’ve seen them in person, if you had to buy just one, which one would you get?

  3. Hi Mary. I watched the videos you posted about Ernest Wright and Sons, and I read your assessment. As as result, I just put in an order for a pair of the antique stork scissors. I have a pair of probably not very expensive stork scissors that I received as a gift many, many years ago. They have given Trojan service, and continue to do so, but since I’ve started to think about different types of needlework, I decided having another pair in my arsenal probably wouldn’t hurt. You may as well buy a decent pair while you’re at it, then you won’t have to buy another. Thanks for the recommendation.

  4. Hi Mary–Thanks for the post about the scissors. I think of scissors as a very personal tool. They need to feel right in MY hands, and what feels right to me might not feel right to someone else (chopsticks are the same way). I’ve been scissors shopping and sampled three or four sets of the same scissors from the same manufacturer, but only one feels right. I suspect this is less true as the quality and the manufacturing consistency goes up, but even with the highest quality scissors there can be some difference in the final product. Is the scissor maker having a good day? A good pair of scissors is likely the result. Did he have a flat tire on the way to work? Maybe not quite as good.

    These scissors show promise.

    What is the size of the scissors you bought? I saw the comparison photo, but those little fad scissors come in such a variety of sizes that it really doesn’t help much.

    Thanks for the great information! I may have to make a purchase…

    1. Hi, Carol – they have the length of each of the scissor types on the website, so you can compare them. I think the large bow are 3.5″ – maybe 4″ – can’t remember off the top of my head, but it’s close, anyway…

  5. Hello, Mrs. Corbet! Well, I’m convinced, I will by hook or by crook be buying myself a pair of these Stork Scissors! I’ve always preferred a very narrow bladed snippy pair of scissors for stitching and I’m keenly aware my dying manicure scissors are a disgrace!

    I’m not the kind of girl to collect tools like this. First, finances are an issue, Second, storage is ALWAYS a pickle, third, I want to make sure I USE what I buy. The thought of buying something just to have it doesn’t sit well with me.

    That’s why choosing scissors had been such a challenge! Most seem very pricey and the of buying something like that ‘blind’ on the I-net scared me. Especially since I knew I’d be a two pairs of scissors girl, MAX!

    But nothing you’ve ever recommended that I’ve gotten, (my hoop, and ‘The Left-Handed Embroiderer’s Companion) has failed me. If you say these are “Only pair of scissors” good they are! Thank you!

    PS. My mom said the mid-west might get dumped with a ton of snow! I hope you’re not in the danger zone. If you are BE SAFE!

    1. Hi, Kristina – I like the large bow straight blades better than the storks, if I had to choose between the two. Nope, no snow here – that must be the upper Midwest. But at about 53 degrees right now and rain, I have to say, it’s a bit chilly for the middle of September. But I love it, so I’m not complaining!

    2. It’s good to know you’re not in the blast zone! Although I live in VA and they’re saying WE might get snow soon! The “bow scissors” look like the finger-loops might be a tad too big for my bony crooked fingers. But, I’ll keep that in mind. I have very odd fingers, they’re skinny, crooked and not short, but not long. I wish I had my sister’s fingers…

  6. I do love my Dovos but have temporarily (I hope) misplaced them. If they do not reappear shortly I will need to look into these. I appreciate what you say about the “feel” of quality embroidery scissors. There indeed is a difference and something the serious needle worker should not skimp on.
    Doreen from Maine

  7. Sweet! Just wondering – can they be sent back for renewal if something bad happens to them? Like they get dropped and out of joint or used to cut something they shouldn’t have been?

  8. I too have many pairs of embroidery scissors but my go-to pair is made by Henckel (the knives company). I use these all the time, have had the same pair for over 30 years, they never get dull, and they cut well. I had a problem with a slightly larger pair of their scissors and they replaced them for free!

  9. What about those CHEAP Cotton Candy scissors? I’ve used a pair for the past 2 years, on a daily basis, and they are just now going dull. They don’t look fancy, but sure keep going like the Energizer Bunny. At $7 per pair-they are fantastic.

    1. Yes, I use something similar for goldwork. They go “bad” a little faster if you’re doing a lot of metal thread cutting. But they save my good scissors from the same fate. And I have ordered two pairs in the past that were not quite up to par – the very end of the tip was broken off on one pair, and the other had a burr. So I think it’s hit and miss with the little cheap “throw aways” – though I don’t like the idea of throwing away scissors in general. They’re always good for something even when they’ve been gored or chipped or what have you.

  10. I’ve never liked the look of Stork sissors. I always felt they looked cheap and tacky however much they were, but I think you could have changed my mind!

    I really like the look of the Ernest Wright & Sons ones – may have to order some!

  11. Thank you for the review. I did see that video and the website. I hardly need more scissors. I even have some that while not life long companion scissors are still in the beginnings of long term relationships, but it’s good to know where to look when next I need to look.

    Scissors are like cooks’ knives. The best advice I’ve ever heard when asking about knives was that the best knife is the one you will use. It does no good to spend lots of money on “the best” or “the highest rated” if it’s not comfortable to you and it will just remain in the knife block. Except, of course, that some scissors we own for their looks and the collection, unlike knives (or so my husband claims…. I’m not convinced, he has an awful lot of them….)

  12. One of the things I remember from way back, but I never see mentioned any more, is that traditional stork scissors have rounded blades, so that when the scissors are closed, you can use them as an awl or stiletto. I have sen some cheap Chinese stork scissors recently that don’t have this, but traditional stork scissors are still made this way. I think I learned this from Marion Scoular back in the 70’s or 80’s.

  13. Thank you for this review, Mary. I have been patiently waiting for it. I will order the large bow based on your recommendation. But I have one question. I would like a curved embroidery scissors. Would you recommend the Curved bow curved http://www.ernestwright.co.uk/catalogue/browse.aspx?productId=277&breadcrumb=13_56
    or the Swiss Style Curvedhttp://www.ernestwright.co.uk/catalogue/browse.aspx?productId=330&breadcrumb=13_56
    And thanks for your wonderful posts. I always look forward to them and have learned so much from you.

  14. Mary,

    I have never been overly excited bout scissors until this summer when I was given all of my mother-in-law’s sewing supplies. She had several scissors, some in sizes and shapes I had never seen. Some of them were still in the boxes they came in. Kanips, Henkels, and a Golden Age,that is actually gold toned from Richards of Sheffield, England. These scissors truly lasted a life time(Mom is 94 and still living)and are fun to feel the weight and hand and how they work compared to the handy Fiskars, that are readily available for little money. I can honestly say I can understand why people pay extra for these scissors. I probably won’t use these, but will continue to use my Ginghers, Simplicity and my little stork.

  15. I’ve been waiting for your review of these scissors ever since your first post about them. I wanted to order a pair, but convinced myself to wait and see what you thought. One question – I do a lot of Hardanger and other drawn thread work, so thin blades are really helpful. I’ve been using a pair of Dovos, which work quite well, but I’d like a backup pair. Which do you think would be better for this type of precision cutting – the large bow or the stork scissors?
    Mary in MN

  16. Another interesting post! I do like nice scissors. I think it was about 20 years ago that I bought my stork scissors that I use for embroidery. I totally love them. They are Ginghers and are stamped inside the blade with “Gingher Italy”. I never even noticed that until reading this and wondering if mine were made in China! While you have me curious to check out the ones who ordered, I am happy with my favorite pair. They are super sharp and I have never had them sharpened. Do you get your scissors sharpened often?

    1. i have purchased many many scissors in my life and they were the cheapo kinds. I have three pair of Gingher scissors that i have purchased within the last year (fortunately with 50% off coupons…lol..as budget is always an issue); a 4″ curved blade, 4″ embroidery straight blades and a 7/8ish inch pair of shears and i love love love them. they have weight in the hand and they feel good. when i purchased my first pair i was totally amazed at how good they felt. i’m not selling for them, just saying. my question is that two of them are stamped Gingher Italy and one is stamped Gingher Germany. Anybody know the difference?

  17. Is is possible to sharpen small scissors? I have a little pair that belonged to my grandma. They used to be really sharp, but don’t hardly cut anymore. I tried one of the little scissors sharpeners, but it doesn’t seem to do anything. Is there a way to sharpen them or someplace I could send them to (I live in rural Alaska…no shops near here unless you want a fish knife sharpened)?

    1. Have you asked the knife sharpener? I’d guess that they sharpen things besides knives, although maybe not normally things that small and delicate. If all else fails, buy a set of sharpening stones and try yourself. I’m sure there’s probably videos on how to do it yourself.

      I tried a couple of those scissor sharpeners – one did help, the other I think make it worse. Also, I *think* those are best used before the scissor gets too dull?

      2nd thought – are the blades still in alignment and the hinge snug? I’ve had some small cheap scissors that didn’t cut – the blades were still sharp, but the blade alignment was bad and so didn’t cut well at all.

  18. All my embroidery scissors (5 pr.) are cheap or hand-me-downs (as opposed to heirlooms) or both. However, I have a pair of Gingher 7″ bend dressmaker’s shears which my father bought for me when I was in college (30+ years ago . . . they even cut tenting canvas). Those, I’m keeping forever; I’ll never need another pair. I’m now saving up for a pair of embroidery scissors as good as those Ginghers; I may now be saving up for some Ernest Wrights.

  19. As the granddaughter of a Sheffield steel worker it has been a treat to see theis recommendation. My 94 year old grandmother still uses her Sheffield made scissors. As an ex Brit I maybe a bit bias but I do believe England makes the best needles and scissors.

  20. G’day there Mary,
    Being a subscriber to Inspirations for many years I was stunned to learn yesterday that all pre-paid subscriptions are now invalid and will not be honoured.

    The first I knew of any change to the way subscriptions were handled was the newsletter we all got recently on the subscription drive and urging non subscribers to seriously consider subscribing, as you mentioned in a recent post.

    An interesting message in the newsletter that piqued my interest was the urging of everyone to contact Inspirations to check if their subscriptions were up to date. I hardly know why I did this because I knew my pre-paid subscription was current. I included an encouraging few words and praised our magazine.

    Yesterday I received a reply, with appropriate apology, stating that my pre-paid subscription was with the previous company and the new company only provides pay as you go subscriptions. Also that any pre-paid for magazines are not available and I have to start a new subscription with the current company, losing any monies paid.

    These things happen, but am wondering if there are others out there who don’t know their ‘current’ subscription payment and magazines are now nonexistent. That to be a current subscriber you have to now subscribe with the new company on a pay as you go basis.

    The bizarre way in which I found out was very disappointing.

    Pleased to read your important info here on the scissors.
    I was given, just last week, a pair of very old stork scissors. They have the darlingest little fabric dolly attached to them with ribbon. They stick at the last bit of closing and do wonder about getting them sharpened and fixed for use or just keep as a treasure. I knew the family they originally came from.
    Cheers, Kath.

    1. I don’t know of any US distributors, but the shipping is included with purchase. So, it’s just a matter of waiting a longer, rather than paying expensive shipping.

  21. Thank you Mary for a very interesting article. I am English and know of the celebrated product. However shopping in the U.S. for such items can be a chore. Are you going to stock these scissors to make it easy on us embroiderers ??

  22. Thank you for another scissor review Mary! Just wanted to respond to Gail who inquired about scissor service for dull or damaged blades. Sharpening & adjustments are generally available from a reputable sharpening service. Here in NW Pennsylvania, there is a kitchen supply company that has a knife sharpening service & they accept scissors as well. Another place to get service is thru EGA. Many chapters have a service for members to use & if not, service is generally available thru Regional Seminar. When people ask what membership in EGA does for them, this is another resource!

  23. I’ve wanted scissors from this company since they featured on Paul Martin’s programme. They keep getting put further down the list for one reason and then another. I’m hoping you don’t have the Delia effect of making the scissors have a really long waiting list! They’re on my birthday list, so maybe this year.

  24. Most fabric shops will have one day a month where they bring in a scissors sharpening man (there MUST be a real title for such a person). I gathered up all my embroidery scissors once in preparation to taking them in, but had so many dull scissors that it would have been cost prohibitive. I put them all back in the drawer and bought a new pair. Does anyone ever actually throw away dull scissors?

  25. Hi Mary. I went to ‘the handmade fair’ at Hampton Court last weekend and saw that Ernest Wright scissors had a stand. I stopped to chat to the man on the stand and mentioned along your name and asked what effect the publicity had had, he said ‘Phenomenal’

    Of course I bought pair, and they are as you said, very good scissors. I was even given 3 pairs to test and choose from. Excellent service

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