"Bring sharp embroidery scissors with you!" I would implore my students before they attended my classes.
Did they listen to my plea? Sadly not!
They turned up with large dressmaking or kitchen shears, children's safety paper scissors, craft scissors, and pairs with blades that no longer met or were so blunt they chewed the thread rather than cutting it cleanly.
This was bad enough when trying to cut a length of embroidery floss, but for Hardanger or cutwork it was frustratingly impossible, and I ended up having to lend a pair of my own to almost every student in the first lesson.
Happily, by the time they returned the following week, most had invested in their own equipment that was up to the job.
We use embroidery scissors to cut the thread when we're sewing or stitching something together. They also come in handy if we want to cut small pieces of fabric, such as snipping corners or trimming seams.
Sharp embroidery scissors can make all the difference to your cross stitch or other stitching projects.
Have you ever experienced frustration when you try to cut your floss and the blades chew it instead? Have you then tried to thread those fluffy ends through the eye of your needle? Impossible!
Here's the good news: It doesn't have to be this way. Using the right tools will help you get the most out of your embroidery projects. And sharp scissors are definitely part of that toolkit.
Ideally, they will have short, narrow blades and finger holes that are large enough for you to use them comfortably.
You can also purchase specialty scissors that have their own distinct uses.
In the photograph, the top pair of scissors are useful for Hardanger embroidery. Their angled blades enable you to keep your fingers above the fabric while cutting the fabric threads. They have pointed tips, making it easy to cut a single thread.
There is no reason functional scissors cannot also look attractive. The pair at the bottom of the photo above, have pretty marbled mauve handles.
You've heard that storks bring newborn babies to their families, I'm sure? This idea may have come from the contents of midwives' medical bags. However, the stork-shaped, blunt instruments found there were actually for clamping the umbilical cord after a baby was born.
As any mother will know, birthing a baby can take time! A long time in my case! The midwives often carried a needlework bag with them when on delivery duty so they could stitch when nothing was imminent on the baby front.
Over time, the midwife amalgamated her medical and needlework bags, and she changed the clamps to sharp, pointed blades for cutting thread.
Often made from gold and silver-colored metals, the blades represented the beaks of the stork, while the handles served as the legs.
We can still find stork scissors (sometimes also called crane scissors) available nowadays.
If your fingers are too big for many of the smaller embroidery scissors handles, then you might like to look at thread snips instead. They work by squeezing them together, making them easy to use one handed.
These are also great for arthritic hands and work equally well for right or left-handed stitchers. They normally come with a safety cover, ensuring you don't stab yourself when dipping into your workbox.
There are many brands available, but I have found you get what you pay for here. The cheap options from online auction sites do not always stay sharp for long.
On the other hand, Ginghers is a name to be reckoned with in the scissors world. I have treasured mine for years. No-one else can use them! They are so sharp you have to use them to understand why people love them.
If you are travelling, you may find a Clover Thread Cutter Pendant an ideal alternative to snips. This novel item contains a sharp circular blade inside an attractive case that you can hang around your neck. Most airplane companies will normally permit these on plane trips, as they do not consider them dangerous.
There is a golden rule for keeping your scissors sharp. Don't use them for anything else!
Cutting paper or other materials can cause them to blunt quickly. If you enjoy stumpwork, for example, have a separate pair for cutting paper patterns and snipping wire.
Even if you are super careful, it is possible that other household members may "borrow" your scissors for tasks such as clipping nails: keep them away out of sight to reduce such risks. I discovered my husband found my Hardanger scissors very convenient for beard trimming!