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The Way Sewing Used to Be: Scissors

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While Egyptians used basic, elemental scissors, it was the Romans who used modern day shears. Similar to today’s variety, they featured a handle at one end, blades on the other and some kind of joint in between. Their simple silhouette and clean lines were a reflection of how advanced they were – like Apple computers in the B.C. era. As the Romans traveled and expanded their reach abroad, so did scissors. Right behind the soldiers were traders who developed trade routes and markets, bringing their commonplace items to the civilizations they touched.

Didn’t think there was much history behind your simple, good ole scissors, right? Neither did I, and that’s why I’m becoming more and more passionate about my Instagram series, #thewaysewingusedtobe. In addition to ogling at the superb package design of sewing notions way back when, it’s also pushing me to research them. Okay, I didn’t have to go back as far back as I did in the case of scissors, but hey, I’m a total geek. I’ll admit it.

This month, I got specific and purchased a slew of scissors. The first pair I bought were Thor Speed Snips Electric Scissors, which according to the instruction sheet, were “intended for the 40 million women who sew creatively.” Um, who doesn’t sew creatively? The next were a pair of Griffon pinking shears that came in a Pepto Bismol colored box. Kind of yucky, kind of pretty. I’ve seen a lot of Griffon branded scissors for sale on Ebay, so I got my pretty little hands on another. My newest set, shown above, comes with an Austrian leather case and included metal thimble and seam gauge. The case is opened and closed with a strong metal zipper that has upheld nicely over the years. Let’s not forget to mention that blue color! What should we call it? Robin’s egg blue?

What happened to Griffon and who were they? Other than the scissors that cost next to nothing so that they can cut close to nothing, the only other brand I know is Gingher. With a little research, I found that The Griffon Cutlery Works was found in 1888 by Albert L Silberstein and manufactured razors and nail files along with pinking shears, nippers, manicure sets,“ladies button hole” scissors, embroidery scissors, poultry shears, barber shears and nose scissors. Originally located on Broadway in New York City, they moved to 74-76 Fifth Avenue, and then to West 19th Street. They remained there until 1968 and today, their faded logo is supposedly still visible if standing from 7th Avenue between 19th and 20th streets. Have any of my NYC sewing peeps seen this? Lola, Marce, Nette, Kelly… I’m hollering at you!

Do you know anything about Griffon that I did not mention? Did your mother have a pair? What about your grandmother?

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10 Comments

  1. Reply

    Victoria

    You’ve just reminded me of this video ‘The Putter’ of scissors being traditionally handmade where I live in Sheffield, UK.

  2. Reply

    Lola

    There’s a few really old vintage sewing shops that closed down in Gramercy. If I’m not mistaken you’re absolutely right. The area is right by my job and I walk around there every now and then to get to Trumart. The memory is so hazy in my head.. but I’ll probably take a walk tomorrow and see if I can post a picture

  3. Reply

    Lola

    There’s a few really old vintage sewing shops that closed down in Gramercy. If I’m not mistaken you’re absolutely right. The area is right by my job and I walk around there every now and then to get to Trumart. The memory is so hazy in my head.. but I’ll probably take a walk tomorrow and see if I can post a picture

    ETA.. google streetview of corner of 7th Ave and 19th Street

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      Keep me posted! I’d love to see what you find.

  4. Reply

    Amy

    What a beautiful little package! Definitely robin’s egg blue.I love that you are going to display these in your new site design. A collector’s world…

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      I love that I’m bringing these notions back to life.

  5. Reply

    ebony h

    Never heard of Griffon before, and am happy to have learned a little about them here. Made me wonder what the number of sewers (creative or otherwise!) in the US is today. Also, why don’t they make sewing gear + packaging as beautiful as this anymore?

  6. Reply

    susie qew

    Loved the ” Um, who doesn’t sew creatively?” comment, lol. I am quite new to sewing and just stumbled onto your blog, and am thrilled to see this post too – I like to surround myself with gorgeous colors and tools when I sew. Really really love the robin’s egg blue set, the painted thimble, and the bobbin case in the pictures!!

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      Really, who doesn’t sew creatively? lol

  7. Reply

    Shelley Pleger

    DAmn! I’d really love a scissor case like that for my kais. Wonder if it could be replicated.

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