Sewing Scissors Myth

12:07 am General

How many people have heard their mother yell Don’t cut paper with my good sewing scissors! It will ruin them!

I personally think this is a wives tale passed down from generation to generation and that it simply isn’t true. I can already feel the emphatic disagreement from women who are reading this — but bear with me. I’ll explain why I think this.

Little White Lies

As adults we often tell our children little white lies for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes we don’t want to take the time to explain the answer in detail (Annika, you can’t get to your websites because daddy is re-routing IP traffic through a firewall that does statefull packet inspection and he hasn’t had enough time to get the filters configured right as well as the DHCP server vending out the correct addresses). Sometimes we know the child won’t understand anyway so we say something that will make sense to the child (Annkia, we don’t pull our dresses up above our heads in public because you might catch cold and get sick). Sometimes we just don’t care (Annika, the sun is hot JUST BECAUSE!).

We tell children things all the time in some terms of right and wrong because they tend to remember those things (wrong means a timeout or spanking). They don’t do well with you have inconvenienced me greatly and thwarted my efforts to accomplish this task instead you say Don’t touch any of my stuff because it can hurt you!.

Alterior Motives

I believe it is much more likely the scissor dulling claim goes along those same lines. Let’s be honest here. Women who stay home have the herculian task of keeping the house from being totally destroyed by children while loving and nurturing them at the same time. It’s an impossible task and I marvel that they can do it. When looking ouside the home the only comparisons I can make is to our criminal justice system of law enforcement, judicial process and punnishment enforcement — and let’s face it, prison guards focus solely on damage control and containment. It is inconcievable that a SWAT team would be required to both protect, enforce, judge AND love. My hats off to you ladies — you are true superheros.

So these mothers and women have little respite in their lives and many turn to sewing as a needed diversion to help keep their sanity. Of course, some just love to sew. But in any even when they find those few fleeting moments to work on sewing, the last thing they want to do is go find where Thomas has left them. Not only that, sewing scissors are sharp and can hurt and kids do run with them. A mother isn’t going to explain to a child Sarah, it really frustrates me when you get into my things, play with them, then don’t replace them because they are valuable to me and creates more work. Plus, they can be dangerous and you could hurt yourself if you use them incorrectly. Nope! They are going to say something else that will just make the kids leave them alone … something like: Don’t cut paper with mommy’s good scissors because it will ruin them.

For a kid, there are really only two things to cut with scissors: hair and paper (who wants to cut cloth — although I have cought my daughter making shorts our of her pants for no good reason). If you scare them out of the hair thing, and the paper thing, there is nothing left to cut — they will leave them alone (except to run with them, of course).

Hard As Steel

A good man is hard to find, and a hard man is good to find. When a woman firt coined that phrase she could have been talking about scissors. The Bessemer process (first patented in 1855) was the first industrial process for the mass-production of steel from molten pig iron, inexpensively (thank you Wikipedia).

I believe that steel scissors are not susceptable to dulling by cutting paper at a different rate than by cuttong cloth. I also believe that other matrials that had been used before the mid 1800s, such as pig-iron, would dull at different rates based on the materials cut. To me, this falacy has perpetuated through our culture for more than 100 years!

Nat, You Are So Wrong!

I have been told numerous times, by lots of different women that I am totally crazy and even that I’m stupid. One time I asked an employee at a local fabric store if she really believed the myth of the dulling scissors. Not only did the employee chastize me, but patrons in the store converged out of nowhere to tell me how wrong I was! One lady even pointed her finger at me and asked menacingly didn’t your mother ever teach you that cutting paper with her good scissors would ruin them?

When I asked them why they thought that they said things like because it is true! It didn’t see to matter that I brought to light that there are many fabrics, such as crepe, that is very hard, stiff, and dificult to cut. Surely given the wide variety of fabrics available today there must be some, if not many, that are thicker and stiffer than traditional paper. I never got a reply, only more chastisement.

Where’s The Beef!

I’m open to the possibility that the legend could be true. It is possible (though I think unlikely) that cutting paper with good sewing scissors can dull them faster than cutting cloth. But where is the proof? Has there ever been a study done? What credible evidence is there to support this statement?

Well, the most telling of all statements on this issue comes from Gingher. Gingher has been producing what very well could be the world’s premier cutting implements for more than 55 years. Don’t believe me? You can call them toll free at (800) 446-4437. Or call your local fabric store.

I’m now going to quote from the Frequently Asked Questions on their own website:

10. Is it true that I should never cut paper with my Gingher scissors or shears?

No, this is not true. It is true that paper has a dulling effect on cutting edges but so do all fabrics, especially synthetic ones. In addition, paper produces a lot of lint which collects on the blades and quickly makes the scissors or shears feel rough when opening and closing them. This paper lint should be frequently wiped off of the blades in order to restore a smooth feel. You can cut paper with any Gingher scissors or shears but we don’t advise cutting paper with our knife edge scissors or shears because the knife edge is not necessary for cutting paper and since paper lint needs to wiped off the blades frequently it is better to use scissors and shears which don’t have a knife edge as this very sharp edge presents an extra need for caution in handling.

I took the oportunity to call the Gingher national headquarters (toll free number on their website) and I asked the receptionist, a nice male with a southern accent. I asked if he had herd the wives’s tale and he affirmed that he had. But when I asked if it was true, the claimed not to know. Even he, an employee of Gingher, was unaware that on their very own website it answered that question.

Don’t Touch My Good Scissors

Just by way of interest, you may or may not have noticed that every time I paraphrased someone explaining that they should not use the scissors, I used the phrase “my good scissors.” This is deliberate and I belive points to the heart of the resiliance of this persisting myth. These scissors ARE expensive, often costing $30—$50 or more! I wouldn’t want my good tools disapearing on my either, nor used for things for which they were not designed.

I believe the whole thing perpetuates today because of several reasons. These scissors are expensive and can be easily ruined (not by cutting paper of course) by children. They can also be dangerous (you wouldn’t let your kids play with two butcher knives whose handles are bolted together to provide a pivit, would you?) And because everyone needs to have something that is only theirs and something they don’t have to share.

5 Responses

  1. Ginger H. Says:

    Sorry Nat, Been sewing since I’m eight, I’m 46 now. I’ve put it to the empherical test. Two pairs of fabric scissors. One cuts only fabric, the other fabric and paper. My only fabric scissors give a much cleaner cut than the pair that also cuts paper. The paper pair still works but just not as well.

  2. Ann Says:

    Paper is basically wood, pulped and reformed into nice thin sheets, but basically wood. You wouldn’t go and try cutting wood with “my good scissors” would you?

  3. Amanda Says:

    Anytime I succumb to the temptation to use my GOOD sewing scissors to cut paper because I can’t find the paper scissors, they always get dull faster. I’ve gone through many a good pair of sewing scissors by making this mistake (I never let the kids see me doing this) It must be true!

  4. George Says:

    Thank you for all the information, I am doing a school project about paper dulling scissors. I am 11 and i agree totaly with you ^_^.

  5. Sandra Dodd Says:

    Nice piece of writing. Thinking is never popular among those who like to parrot. Fear is more comfortable to some people than learning to trust their own observations and thoughts.

    I’m giving a dozen pairs of scissors to friends who are getting married, with a note reminding them that an expensive pair of scissors costs less than one visit with a marriage counsellor. But in the case of mothers and children, those lies can last a lifetime, and that lack of generosity is passed on to the next generation.

    Luckily, there are nice kid-scissors now and kids aren’t stuck with those ratty little things that never did cut well. Mothers who love their scissors should get their kids some good scissors and some things to cut!!

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