"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, 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 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.
Embroidery scissors are sharp! They have short, narrow blades and finger holes that are large enough to use them comfortably. They need not be expensive, nor elaborate, but as long as they cut cleanly they will make your work so much more pleasurable.
However, there are exceptions to every rule, and the same is the case here. You can purchase speciality scissors that have their own special uses.
In the photograph, the top pair of scissors are useful for Hardanger embroidery. The 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 and are my favourite for everyday work.
You may prefer those with fancy bows that resemble storks or cranes. Traditionally found in vintage workboxes, modern versions are still available.
If you are travelling, you may find a Clover Thread Cutter Pendant an ideal alternative to scissors. This novel item contains a sharp circular blade inside an attractive case that you can hang around your neck.
If your fingers are too big for many of the smaller embroidery scissors handles, then you might like to look at snips instead.
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.
They work by squeezing them together, making them easy to use one handed.
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 treasure my Gingher Embroidery Scissors and snips. No-one else is ever allowed to use them! They are so sharp you have to use them to understand why people love them.
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!