Crafting Through History: Scissors

April 3, 2014

Welcome to my new blog series, crafting through history! I thought it would be fun to put together a mini series based on two topics that interest me immensely: history and crafting. Each week I’ll be sharing about the history of important crafting tools or techniques that are still used today. Please keep in mind, the information researched on these topics have been gathered from many internet sources so anything I say could be inaccurate at anytime. This is mostly for fun!

Week 5: The history of scissors

It is most likely that scissors were invented around 1500 BC in ancient Egypt. The earliest known scissors appeared in Mesopotamia 3000 to 4,000 years ago. These were of the ‘spring scissor’ type comprising two bronze blades connected at the handles by a thin, flexible strip of curved bronze which served to hold the blades in alignment, to allow them to be squeezed together, and to pull them apart when released.

Spring scissors continued to be used in Europe until the 16th century. However, pivoted scissors of bronze or iron, in which the blades were pivoted at a point between the tips and the handles, the direct ancestor of modern scissors, were invented by the Romans around AD100. They entered common use not only in ancient Rome, but also in China, Japan, and Korea and the idea is still used in almost all modern scissors.

Pivoted scissors were not manufactured in large numbers until 1761, when Robert Hinchliffe produced the first pair of modern-day scissors made of hardened and polished cast steel.

During the 19th century, scissors were hand-forged with elaborately decorated handles. They were made by hammering steel on indented surfaces known as bosses to form the blades. The rings in the handles, known as bows, were made by punching a hole in the steel and enlarging it with the pointed end of an anvil.

In 1649, in Swedish-ruled Finland an ironworks was founded in the village of Fiskars between Helsinki and Turku. In 1830, a new owner started the first cutlery works in Finland, making, among other items, scissors with the Fiskars trademark. In 1967, Fiskars Corporation introduced new methods to scissors manufacturing.

Interesting facts:

  • Scissors have a widespread place in cultural superstitions. In many cases, the specifics of the superstition may be specific to a given country, region, tribe, religion or even situation.
  • In parts of North Africa, it was held that scissors could be used to curse a bridegroom. When the bridegroom was on horseback, the person enacting the curse would stand behind him with the scissors open and call his name. If the bridegroom answered to his name being called, the scissors would then be snapped shut and the bridegroom would be unable to consummate his marriage with his bride.
  • In Pakistan, some believe that scissors should never be idly opened and closed without purpose. This is believed to cause bad luck.
  • In New Orleans, some believed that putting an open pair of scissors underneath your pillow at night was a sound method for sleeping well, even if one might be cursed.
  • It is believed in some Eastern European countries that leaving scissors open causes fights and disagreement within a household.
  • Throughout Europe, including the nations of the British Isles, it was believed among even experienced by uneducated wisewomen and midwives of the Middle Ages that placing a pair of scissors beneath the bed or the mattress of a woman in labor would “cut” the labor pains in half.
  • It is believed in China that giving scissors to a friend or loved ones is to be cutting ties with them.

Source: Wikipedia

See Week 1: The Invention of the Sewing Needle
See Week 2: Yarn Spinning
See Week 3: The History of Crochet
See Week 4: The History of Knitting

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